I thought this would be a sensible idea, as the 'main news page' can get a bit cluttered - so if anyone has something clever to say, then say it now & go down in history : ) (JR 04/07/2017)
Nobody will ever contribute to this page of course, which rather makes my heart swell with pride : )
Goldcrest vs Firecrest - Which is Britain's smallest bird ?
Well, they can't both be absolutely the same size - the observatory staff measure & weigh these birds with meticulous precision - down to millimeters & grams, so they should know - I would say that Goldcrests are smaller & lighter, while Firecrests appear to be slightly more chunky, or is that because they 'puff' themselves up in winter? (JR 17/7) - Afterthoughts: The measurements do seem to be interchangeable, with Goldcrests 'clocking in' at as little as 85mm in length, but Firecrest only weighing as little as 4.0 grams (presumably, these are wintering birds & less food is available). I thought this would be an easy comparison to unravel, but it has me rather perplexed (JR 21/11)
Do female birds sing?
Yes they do. The easy one is Robin. Are the songs different? - yes - go into Xeno-Canto for audio examples, other species include Dipper. In Historical terms, more female species used to sing, but this has died out over the years & the reason for this has not really been verified as of yet (JR 12/7)
What is the most boring bird on the British list?
Twenty five years ago, I would have said Ring-billed Gull - I remember being dragged out of bed for one in Uxbridge in 1991, but only participated in this venture because a Ruff (found by the late Pete Naylor) had been seen on the same field - this was 100 times more interesting. I got the gull, but missed the Ruff. Seven years passed & I was doing the weekend rounds with Tony Stride at Staines Reservoirs in 1998. Someone's pager went off & "Caspian Gull at Twickenham" was announced - we all looked at each other - what's that? - It was a bird so boring that I don't even bother to report or count them anymore - I'll take a Coal Tit over a Caspo any day & to applaud this possible sub-species makes us all look as dull as the 'test card' (BBC2, 1970's & early 80's) - Okay, perhaps I have been a bit unfair on Caspos - It's American Herring Gull that I now loathe (with a DNA sample often required) - I mean seriously, would you travel all the way down to Dorset for one? - only to find out it was a European Herring Gull!? - well I did warn them both not to go! (JR 29/7)
Which bird stimulated the impetus for each of us to all start?
Every answer here (if any declared) will be different. This exemplifies that no two birders are the same - a relief I think : ) For me, It all started in the late 1970's & it was the first day of the summer holidays - we were all packed into the back of this appalling "A" reg (1963) Austin Cambridge car & it chugged off down to Cornwall at a hair raising speed of 30 mph - cyclists overtaking us were common place. The car soon packed up & we were all stuck in a lay by waiting for the AA - I suddenly noticed a bird just feet away & it just looked so amazing - but what was it? - It was a Lapwing - a bird that changed my life & still sends a shiver of excitement up my spine after nearly 40 years (JR 14/07)
London's deadliest Accipiter - a manoeuvre almost beyond comment
I am of course referring to Friday's (14/7) female Sparrowhawk - How was it done? taking out a Woodpigeon & Collared Dove simultaneously?. No, I didn't witness the strike, just the victims pinned down on the field behind the garden - I was greeted by an assemblage of Carrion Crows in rapturous applause over the incident. Possibly one of the resulting victims was caught up in the cross-fire of the melee, but in keeping with an old Chinese proverb - "he (or she) that tries to catch two rabbits, catches neither" & both the pigeon & dove escaped (JR 28/07)
Collective bird names
Being on a long car journey for any bird can be awfully tiresome - so we invented ways to make the pilgrimages more entertaining & passenger friendly - one of the more popular topics was 'collective bird names' & there are more nouns for bird names than birders might think. I'll go straight for the jugular here - What avian species is a 'hill' the collective term for?, or a 'whisp'?, or even a 'building'? - no cheating : ) (JR 19/07)
The answers are: a 'hill' is the collective term for Ruff, a 'whisp' is the collective term for Snipe & a 'building' is the collective term for Rook - & in keeping on the topic of lengthy excursions, for good measure I will also include a 'trip' - the collective term for Dotterel - but you all knew that anyway : ) (JR 19/07)
I am wondering if there is a collective noun for Swifts? - yes, I have found two - a 'flock' & a 'scream' (JR 29/07)
Whimbrel? - by heck, I was praying for a Lapwing!
I knew straight away what it was & was slightly shocked - a huge endorphin release ensued - this is a garden record after all & not the farm - I'll calm down in a couple of weeks : ) - throwing the towel into the ring is not within the realms of my constitution or psyche. The White Stork was also on the 19th as well ~ a new lucky number perhaps? : ) (JR 19/07)
Holy Cow! - I have just noticed that on the farm, Red-backed Shrike, one of my Wrynecks & Woodlark were also all found on the 19th of the month - also, my very first Black Redstart from the garden in October 1984 was on the 19th (JR 19/08)
No Red Kites this week?
Ah, "Speak of the devil & he will appear" - I am employing this old theatrical idiom on purpose in a last ditch attempt to generate some reports this weekend - will it work? - we'll find out I guess (JR 28/07)
Of course it worked - but there were none over the garden today - but I know something you don't : ) (JR 29/07)
After several reports over this weekend, I finally got over the line at 15:50 today - salutations to Milvus milvus (JR 30/07)
Predictions for this Autumn
Obviously I run the risk of making a complete fool of myself again - but I've already done that 100 times over, so who cares? (JR 31/7) - I'll talk more about this on Wednesday. Well, that was the plan before I twisted my neck sitting in the 'migration chair' - only I could have an accident doing nothing. I could barely walk on Wednesday - was it divine retribution over my rant on the LWC?
Fasten your seat belts - I still think this autumn will be a killer & just hope to be a part of it. (JR 04/08)
Autumn expectations after a shaky start
I should have kept my mouth shut - now we are condemned to a lifetime of Feral Rock Doves & Caspo's - well, there have been some goodies - an adult Sabine's Gull, Temminck's Stint, Goshawk, Wood Warbler, several Tree Pipits now & a Pied Flycatcher... well there are still three months of this left so hold on to your hats! (JR 19/08)
It is looking better now
A little Meropidae anyone? - sorry mate, you should have been here yesterday...well, at least it wasn't a Blue-cheeked Bee-eater - (now there's a birding question that would drive most birders nuts in the car!) - which bird on the British List has two hyphens in it's name?) - not that I twitch much these days, but seven European Bee-eaters would have just about dragged me over to Bayford which appears to hold multiple accolades for being 'best kept village' - I must take inspiration & make a start on some garden beautification (JR 20/08)
Is a juvenile passerine the same as a first-winter?
No & this one can be complex, so if you can't solve the 'Rubik's Cube' in less than two minutes, then don't even bother to read this - but I will try to simplify it - OK, let's take Whinchat, Pied Flycatcher, Wheatear & Red-backed Shrike - none of these species (unless suppressed) breed in London anymore. These birds go through a 'post-juvenile moult' before migrating. If we were seeing these birds as juveniles, it would imply that they bred locally! - secondly, the plumage does not necessarily reflect their true age due to the state of advancement or transitional development in their moult - occasionally some juvenile feathers are retained (particularly in the body) because the synchronicity in body moult is different to the flight feathers. I would therefore strongly suggest these individuals are tardy in their development, but are not retarded & certainly not juvenile - I once recorded what I thought was a juvenile Wheatear in London on July 25th 2005, but now realise it was a first-winter bird in slightly unmoulted juvenile plumage - confused yet? : ) (JR 25/08)
Silence is golden
A big day is coming & I can feel it - you read it here first : ) (JR 7/09)
A 'big day' at Staines
Yes, I would have loved to have gone - but with the gas pipes being upgraded this week, I am slightly stuck at home in the mud again - perhaps I'll get another shot in 2036! (JR 14/09) - well, the site turned out to deliver an impressive London selection of waders - thankfully, I didn't need any of them, but it still would have been great to catch up with some of these guys. So into October we go - a month of many disasters awaits - perhaps another Storm Petrel will turn up on one of the large reservoirs ~ the last I missed by three minutes after it was gobbled up by a Peregrine at Queen Mother Reservoir in 2003 - I should have cajoled JG to jump the bike over the fence 'Steve McQueen' style! Looks like my Red Kite project has disintegrated into tatters after yesterday's count of 85 at Iver (JR 9/10)
Viz mig from the garden - more harsh lessons
I am still waiting for this spectacular bird & I need it for The London Borough of Harrow (JR 05/11) - Time is running out & excuses ran out weeks ago now. To make matters worse, not a single day so far this November has passed without a London record, with a healthy amount of 'stop-over' birds to add insult to injury - how could I get it so wrong? I am of course talking about the enigma that is Coccothraustes coccothraustes - we used to get so excited about this species in the 1980's but by the 1990's, they had become harder to find than 'Smurf Village' - sure - I've seen a few, but perhaps one or two over the garden is just too ambitious...
To be honest, the whole 'Viz mig' garden project was a bit of a disaster, with just one good day (Oct 29th: with Yellowhammer, Lesser Redpoll & Red Kite recorded). To my horror, I was then looking at the London recording area map on Sunday evening (19/11) & drew a line between Staines Reservoir & Hilfield Park Reservoir ~ The 10 Whooper Swans recorded at both sites would have probably flown directly to the east over Pinner from approx 10:40 - Doh!! - I've done it again...(JR 21/11)
This has all certainly bought me back down to earth with a bump, like I've been kicked out of the back of an aeroplane or something - I am guessing good numbers of Hawfinches are here for winter now, so I still have a few silly ideas left (JR 16/11) - Still too ill to do anything at the moment, but I did dream about a fly over bird the other day (Pamela Ewing, you are not alone!) ~ It was a good two minutes after I awoke that I realised that it didn't bloody count! (21/11)
North American Horned Lark at Staines
Even the European counterpart is rare enough in London already, without an example with transatlantic embellishments & credentials ~ how many of us have seen Shore Lark in London anyway? - exactly...even recent records here are few & far between, so 'splits' aside, we have something a bit special here. The attitude adopted by some 'birders' refusing the bird as it is not currently 'a species in its own right' is a bit ridiculous ~ we all go & see shrikes & waders when they are split - well most of us anyway. So with the bird seemingly departed, reflections over the bird will probably focus more on 'those who didn't see it than did'. Have we seen the last of it I am wondering? & can it be 'ticked' as a 'regular' Shore Lark if we don't have a DNA sample? well, with this all in the round, it leads rather pertinently to my next topic (JR 05/12)
Birders, Listers, Twitchers & Dudes
This will be a difficult topic to address & tackle without upsetting someone somewhere whether I wrote it or not - so can I feel a disclaimer coming? - there is no point - trouble loves me. So whether this is will be another surreptitious glance into 'Pandora's Box', or a mere dalliance into the realms of classification over the aforementioned categories in the heading we'll have to see....I have elected to post it 'bit by bit', as this will be quite a lengthy essay.
Birders: This is probably what most of us aspire to be - someone who is switched on to birds 24/7 ~ always listening, watching & making mental notes - wherever we are (& I mean wherever!) - I always notice the birder that pops out for a pint of milk & returns with a fly over Skylark or Lesser Redpoll ~ that can really make ones day : ) I've managed this with Waxwings, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker & probable Alpine Swift. Even farting around on Ebay can produce a White Stork! ~ so the consensus here is that 'birders are vigilant'. All birders should keep records - when was the last time you saw a Wood Warbler? ~ was it really the last century that you had a Lapwing over the garden? (yes - one west on 14/06/1992 at 17:40 - scribbled on a cigarette stained 'post it' note) - I keep all this stuff. The Local Patch is very much a birders geographical 'starting point' & 'staple diet' - hard to shake off & if I had been more inclined to being exclusively a lister, then it would have cost me a large amount of scarce birds...but I don't care - I'll take a Treecreeper on the patch over a Nightjar at Thursley. All birders keep lists, or they simply would not know what they had & hadn't seen - now there's a thought!, it's just that some birders lists are far more complex than others - I used to keep lists of Hoopoes & Great Grey Shrikes seen in London, but this seemed to upset rather a lot of other birders when I revealed I was on my fifth & they were still on zero, so I just stay quiet now. There are some species in which no amount of records seem to satiate the desire - for some it is a Caspian Gull, but for me it is often birds where they shouldn't be - like a Storm Petrel in someones back garden, or a rarely seen plumage in a wader ~ [This essay could take a while!] TBC (JR/28/12)