Monday, November 19, 2012

iBirder has arrived!

Virtual birding for the busy birder!

Incorporating MiBird software, applications include –

MiView – your human-eye view of your patch, local reserve, twitch site

MiBino – scan the scene for birds

MiScope – zoom in with your optics of choice - up to 200x magnification!

MiGuide – feature by feature voice over talks you through your virtual bird ID from TheBirdGuide featuring the voice of K M Ullarney.

WhereIsTheBird – GPS based mapping to find your twitch site

MiList – keep your virtual list up to date (options inc. BirdiBotch, BOO, BOO-BOO, BEE-OOO-YOO and aLaGoRiE)

iInTheSkye – your bird’s eye view from that flyover Ortolan Bunting (calls included).

iBirder on MiPhone
includes MiPhone MiniBins – pocket bins for your MiPhone.

MiWorld – the ultimate bird ID and listing pack for the World iLister. Contains MiGuides for all birding regions and OMG List of World Bird Names (English only).

We love Claire West!

Yes, we've fallen in love with Claire West's fabulous, vibrant, colourful, energetic artwork. We've bought two pieces recently.

The Bird with the Golden Ring,
acrylic on canvas, 30cm x 30cm,
Claire West, 2012. 

Foxy Foxy, 
acrylic on canvas, 40cm x 40cm,
Claire West, 2012 

We bought them from our new fave gallery, the Itch Gallery in Oakham. The owner blogged about our purchase of The Bird with the Golden Ring! See the blog on their website here.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Great White Egret, Wypes Dole, 16 Nov 12

A couple of record shots of this egret found by Charlie Kitchen yesterday. This was my third visit (seen also yesterday afternoon and this morning) but this afternoon provided the best chance of some images as the bird was much closer to the drove and more active. I was amazing just how well hidden a large white bird could be once it started feeding in the dyke. And it seemed to be catching plenty of very small prey items, presumably small fish.

Friday, July 27, 2012

New pond pulls in the drags

I'm just lovin' our new pond. It measures around 9m x 2.5m and at its deepest its around 1.8m.

We thought hard about the planting and the two sides of common reed at the 'formal' end of the pond are growing well and look great, and replicate the dykes around. The reeds themselves are great for perching damselflies.

We have plenty of ponds plants coming through now, bought, begged and stolen, and the pond is looking way better than I thought it would do at this point - its only three months old!

The open banks at the shallow end have been sown with a meadow mixture and will eventually green over.

The reeds on our pond are already way ahead of the reeds in the nearby dykes!

We couldn't walk on the sown areas until very recently so planting was restricted to where we could reach from the path and bridge! The area by the bridge is looking great with loads of different plants in here now and a real refuge for much of the pondlife present.

This maturing male Ruddy Darter is the 13th species recorded this year.

Emerald Damselfly is one of three new species of dragonfly seen in the garden in recent weeks.

This year we've recorded the following species so far :

Hairy Dragonfly - male regularly in May and early June
Brown Hawker - daily
Southern Hawker - seen on several dates so far
Emperor - most days
Broad-bodied Chaser - daily, pr present for the first time, only one previous record for garden
Black-tailed Skimmer - new for garden
Four-spotted Chaser - daily
Ruddy Darter - seen today
Emerald Damselfly - new, inc. ovispositing
Blue-tailed Damselfly - daily inc. ovipositing
Azure Damselfly - daily
Common Blue Damselfly - daily inc. ovipositing
Large Red-eyed Damsefly - new, seen on three dates so far

Friday, July 06, 2012

Garden pond - plants and drags

Its hard to believe looking out over the drive which is largely water thanks to nearly 24 hours of rain, but this was yesterday lunchtime and Jax (thats his curly locks in the bottom right corner) and I sat having lunch enjoying the sun in our new garden, and in particular how fab the garden pond is doing as we watched four drag species buzzing about.

The common reed planted down two sides of the section near the house is doing great and is already being used by Azure and Blue-tailed Damselflies.

Water plantain (flowering in foreground) and other pond plants in the shallow section doing great!

Common reed, water plantain and broad-leaved pondweed in the mid-water section of the pond.

The pond as from the first floor. Reeds clear to see and the back meadow area beginning to green and the near clover lawn beginning to come through.

Amazingly, this Broad-bodied Chaser is only the second I've seen in the garden in ten years! He's taken up territory in the garden and was one of four drag species present around the pond today - BBC, Emperor, Azure and Blue-tailed Damsels. Hairy Dragon also present until this last week.

Friday, March 09, 2012


Look what just winged in from sculpture Celia Smith - its the Bittern we commissioned for our new pond (currently under construction - see here).

Ain't it fab! It stands around 45cm high and is made from wire.

For more Celia Smith see here.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Northern Greece, February 2012

Dalmatian Pelican
Mandraki Harbour, Lake Kerkini
Uncropped, as it was in the viewfinder! You could almost smell it.

I'm just back from a long weekend in Northern Greece with fellow Peterbirders Brian Stone (The Natural Stone), Chris Park and Don Gardener.

As is usual these days, I take far too few photos as I would like in and concentrate on the birds. All of these bar the Grey-headed pecker (which was digiscoped) were taken with Canon 7D and 400 f5.6. 

Brian Stone has posted an excellent report here and I will link to specific species as I mention them below. His post will also become a trip report over time and will be infinitely more extensive than these notes!

Friday, 24 Feb 12
We flew out on Friday evening, 24 Feb, with Ryanair from Stansted, arriving at Hotel Morphi in Kerkini village at 2330 - spying a Wild Cat on route!

Saturday, 25 Feb 12
We were out before brekky for a short walk from the hotel down to Lake Kerkini and our first sight of Dalmatian Pelicans, Pygmy Cormorants, Hawfinch, Sombre Tit and the first of loads, and loads, and loads of Water Pipits.

After brekky we headed along the north shore of the lake to Mandraki Harbour where we spent a couple of hours enjoying masses of 40 Red-breasted Geese, White-fronted Geese,  Whooper and Bewick's Swans, Spoonbills, Common Cranes, Dalmatian Pelicans and plenty more waterbirds. Star birds were two grappling Greater Spotted Eagles - an adult and a first winter (2CY) bird - all spotty and a lifer! Unfortunately just too far away for a snap but good scope views. We also had an adult Lesser Spotted Eagle here - where did this bird winter to arrive back here so early?

Dalmatian Pelican
Mandraki Harbour, Lake Kerkini

Common Cranes
Mandraki Harbour, Lake Kerkini

With the weather being so good and the forecast for coming days not as good, we headed up the mountain NW of Kerkini for White-backed and Black Woodpeckers (a site I found in spring 2011). We had to abort though when the snow just got too deep for the 4x4 but the run back down was broken up with stops to look for raptors. more Hawfinches (turned out to be our second commonest finch of the weekend, Woodlark and butterflies. A Snake-eyed Skink was all too briefly seen.

above Ano Poroia

Clouded Yellow
above Ano Poroia

For the rest of the afternoon we headed back to the lake. We walked the Vironia woodland strips just north of the river but failed to find our hoped for woodpeckers. We did hear Moustached Warbler and decided on a suitable patch to head for pre-brekky the following day. So we headed down the eastern embankment of the lake to enjoy more waterbirds.

Large Tortoiseshell
Lake Kerkini

It was great to enjoy so many butterflies in February!

Lake Kerkini

Just before dusk we headed up to the quarry just north of Vironia where we were treated with brilliant views of a soaring Eagle Owl! We also saw and heard European Freetailed Bat here too.

Sunday, 26 Feb 12
Pre-brekky was spent back near Vironia and scoring cracking views of Moustached Warbler. With peckers calling all around us we headed back to the hotel for a quick breakfast and then straight back to the site where we again searched the wooded strips north of the river. This time we scored with four pecker species in quick succession - Grey-headed, Syrian, Lesser Spotted and Great Spotted.

Grey-headed Woodpecker
Vironia Woodland Tracks, Lake Kerkini

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
Vironia Woodland Tracks, Lake Kerkini

Syrian Woodpecker
Vironia Woodland Tracks, Lake Kerkini

We then began our full circumnavigation of the lake - and a cracking day it was! We walked a good deal of the Eastern Embankment which produced stacks of stuff. We saw six Greater Spotted Eagles, making it seven different birds over the two days, loads more waterbirds including Smew, Black Stork and a Little Ringed Plover.

Nettle-tree Butterfly
Vironia Woodland Tracks, Lake Kerkini

Feeding Dalmatian Pelicans
Lake Kerkini

Dalmatian Pelicans
Lake Kerkini

Happy chappies! Towards the end of a splendid evening meal of traditional Greek fayre (wild boar, big beans, saganaki, etc) at the fabulous taverna in the square at Ano Poroia
(photo courtesy Don Gardener)

Mon 27 Feb
We had all day at our disposal before heading off to the airport for our evening flight home. Pre-brekky was again spent along the lake at Kerkini. After brekky we headed north-east. We head great views of a roadside Syrian Woodpecker stashing a wallnut in a gash in a tree. Struggling (again) with some of the directions in Mills' site guide, we ended up above Angistro near the Bulgarian border surrounded by Hawfinches! Heading back down towards Promachonas we found an obliging roadside Middle Spotted Woodpecker before finding a nice peice of woodland which held Green, Great Spotted and Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers (and more Hawfinches!).

At Promochonas Quarry we found a large flock of feeding Corn Buntings which held several Woodlarks.

At a quarry near Sidirokastro despite the howling wind we were treated to an aerial display from a male Peregrine trying to impress his misses who was tucked up on a ledge out of sight (we saw her fly in - thats how we knew she was there!).

In Sidirokastro we again found the Mills' site guide inaccurate and eventually found the ice cream rocks but no Rock Nuthatch (if you go there his directions and map don't add up and the ice cream parlour(s) are north of the river bridge and not south as marked on his map - site 8 - there are rocks here but the ice cream parlour(s) are to the north of here with better Rock Nuthatch area here and just north along the field edge opposite site 9 on his map).

We ended our birding day up Mount Vontrou. We made it to the low-scale ski area at Lailias and tried to view some of the woodland areas but with the deep snow banked up along the road stopping was difficult and leaving the road impossible. On our descent we found a fabulous gully just above (west) of Ano Orini which held six very obliging Rock Buntings (one of my all-time fave species), Sombre Tit and Middle Spotted Woodpecker. Not to mention the signs of Brown Bear. We were very happy!

Total bird list was 116 species, with three lifers for me.

A great trip. Great birding with great company enjoying great banter and great food - what more do you want!

Full species list (by Brian Stone) here.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Odd-plumaged Blue Tit

A Blue Tit with a nice blue chest! Not the best photo but I'll attempt to get a better one if it sticks around.

Seen today in the garden - not seen before today and since I watch the garden constantly clearly a newbie driven in during this cold snap (other new birds arrived in the garden today too).

My contribution to the BTO's Abnormal Plumage Survey.

Not the first plumage oddity we've had here. Each year we get schizochroic Collared Doves like the one here.