Sunday, 19 December 2010

2010 that was - bird ringing

Was looking through some picture files, and found various pictures of birds trapped for ringing, so I successfully managed to put them all in one file, and reproduce some of the more interesting here, as a sort of review of 2010


Great Spotted Woodpecker

Lesser Whitethroat

Common Redstart, a female if I recall correctly

'nother view, same bird

A Ring Ouzel from 2007

Tree Sparrow, 2009

Grasshopper Warbler

And this mystery bird from a memorable morning in autumn 2004

It's a somewhat aberrant Robin, boy, did it confuse us all. It (or another) was apparently still around on Wanstone the next spring

Slightly less cold

After the first lot of snow, and before this lot there was a brief, marginally warmer spell. It enabled me to do  that BTO atlas survey I blogged about. Incidentally, if you dont know what Romney Marsh proper means, try Jill Eddison's superb book "Romney Marsh - survival on a frontier" I thoroughly recommend it as being well worth your Xmas book tokens.
It was also warm enought to put the heater on and disappear into the shed to play trains for a few hours, it's coming along ever so slowly, I'm afraid

Carrying coals to Newcastle

We received word from Vancouver from my Aunt, who had seen all about this snow we been enjoying, asking if we have any, as St Margaret's wasn't mentioned on the world news she had been viewing! Well, yes we have, same as everyone, so here's some snow pics from our 'ouse - to be seen in Vancouver where they get loads of snow (except in winter olympics years, of course). As you can see we and our neighbours beginning to get all Christmassy, Betti


On Friday afternoon I drove up to Stodmarsh to see the harriers come to roost, reflecting thats it's some 35 years since I first went there with Phil Smith. In those days the prescence of Marsh Harriers there was an improbable fantasy, with only 2 or 3 pairs at Minsmere. In the later '70s during a visit to the Pas-de-Calais with Neil Frampton, by bicycle !,  we were so excited to see a female hunting over fields out towards Les Hemmes, wow!  Who would have believed a count of more than 34 harriers to roost to the East of the Lampen Wall on Friday, of which 3 were Hen Harriers. Best of all for me was one superb male Hen Harrier, one of my favourite birds to see. Who also would have imagined today's digital cameras, these pics were taken with my puny bridge camera, think what you could make of the photo opportunities with any of the better cameras!  These pics just covey a sense of the spectacle, but at least there was a decent sunset to picture as well. One brief Bittern sighting from the reedbed hide was a bonus, too


I was suprised how much water remained "open", and by the huge numbers of Teal present

Friday, 10 December 2010

British Trust for Ornithology - Bird Atlas

Before I start, this blog entry don't have any pictures of birds in it, 'cos to all intents and purposes there weren't many birds!! Also, my routes through the tetrads weren't equal, but covered all the habitat typical of each.
On Thursday last, the weather being sunny, I took the opportunity to do the first winter atlas survey on the two squares I volunteered to do on Romney Marsh proper. Here they are, TQ02 J & P on the map, the routes I walked have dotted red lines alongside


As the frost was just coming out of the ground, it was heavy going on the bare earth as I followed the footpaths across stuff like this

and this is how it clagged up my boots - blimey it was hard work, and if I had stopped for more than a few seconds the chances are I could not have set off again!!

The snow was still lying on the hilltops, and believe me, this is a serious hilltop for Romney Marsh!

and also on the steep valley sides, just the sort of terrain where the Romney Marsh Mountain Rescue squad are busiest this time of yesr

Anyway, off I set alongside the Brenzett Sewer, which is a serious drainage waterway, and probably dates back 300 years or more


This dyke runs fairly straight for a half-kilometre or so, then kinks, at a spot where the ground is about a metre higher, I wonder why?

Birds were few and far between, no doubt due to the recent severe weather, for even allowing for its low altitude, on Romney Marsh the weather often doesn't take prisoners. This is illustrated by this telegraph pole, a relic without doubt of the night of 16th October 1987, but there is also a glimpse of the habitat across the marsh, hedgerows with mature bushes, and isolated gardens

And a few lengths of denser, more mature hedges with trees, home today for most birds recorded - winter thrushes

Then there are the reedy dykes, home in many places to the rare Greater Water Parsnip (Sium latifolium) and, I hope come the spring, Reed and Sedge Warblers

Although the hedges are an important food source for winter birds, these sloes seem to be past their best and look very unappetising to me


Here's a glimse of another magnet for birds on the marsh, sheep feeding stations, where today I recorded a Lapwing and a Yellowhammer!!

 Now, here's a grumpy old moan -
The BTO atlas is apparently based on a sample of Tetrads across the UK, and statistical analysis of what we find therein during a one or two-hour walk through each, recording what we see. From this I believe the BTO can then calculate a statistical representation of relative abundance. This survey did not need EVERY tetrad to be surveyed to achieve this to a statistically relevant degree - but most of the County-based ornithological societies have since decided to try and survey every tetrad across the UK. Added to this, surveyors are being asked to look for "under-recorded" species, and go out of their way to "get" rare or uncommon species - WHY??. To do this immediately introduces a  bias into the relative abundance calculations - I dont know the proper statistical term for this, but it seems to me best described as buggering up the coupon, and I detect an element of "overgrown trainspotting", often prevalent among twitchers and listers in this. I wonder why the BTO is going along with this, maybe they are happy with the raw data it will produce but I can't see it being statistically significant somehow.
Having read this, you are entitled to ask why I have done the extra tetrads - well, I enjoy doing this kind of  birdwatching, it's fun and good exercise - especially yesterday - provided you dont take it or yourself  too seriously!
Now then, what did I find? Well, not a lot -
Carrion Crow 9
Yellowhammer 2
Common Gull 6
Snipe 1
Woodpigeon 34
Meadow Pipit 1
Blackbird 16
Fieldfare 35
Great Tit  3
Blue Tit 5
Chaffinch 1
House Sparrow 10
Tree Sparrow 1
Song Thrush 4
Starling 1
Pheasant 1
Redwing 35
Jackdaw 2
Dunnock 1
Lapwing 1
Wren 1

I look forward to seeing what I find in February, and again in April/May, and June/July, when I shall blog again, but will I then be grumpy once again? - wait and see!!


Monday, 6 December 2010

Christmas Cards!!

Having been, like Phil Smith, stuck indoors a bit, there was no real way of getting out of doing Xmas cards, which often have Waxwings on them as a suitably Xmassy bird to make a change from Robins. Imagine my pleasure to hear from the said Phil that there was a group in Prospect Road at Hythe, so off I went just as the sky cleared, and there they were, just down the road from No 13 where there were problems many years ago with squatter hippies!!
Super group of lovely birds, beautiful aren't they?

Hope this antenna is strong!

What a pleasure to see, and those yellow and red splashes on the wings, super!
Whatever you think of these pics, do have a look at Steve Ray's pic of a drinking Waxwing on the Sandwich Bay website, its brilliant! - look at Ian's posting for the 6th at

Friday, 3 December 2010


You may have noticed or heard about some cold weather and snow!! After a lengthy period when I was too busy, or injured, to blog, it was nice to walk out this afternoon and take some arty-crafty photos of the unexpected cold and snow - David Bailey? Who's he??
As you can see my cuts are healed enough for me to work a camera but the 2 fingers involved react very painfully to the cold, so I was glad to be home in the warm later. My brother-in-law Michael is safely moved to Capel. If Nancy needs to visit him it's now only 19 miles instead of 92 for the round trip. Oh, and the decorating in the livingroom is finished. When it warms up I shall be able to finish painting the bookcases presently bunging up the shed and move them back indoors, but not until the new carpet is laid. Arrghh!! I have such a pain in my wallet!
Enjoy the pics, and ignore the dates, the battery went flat in my camera and I didn't re-do the date thingy before rushing out into the cold!!