Sunday, 27 March 2011


I was asked last week by John Brown if I would be interested in assisting him doing his Ringing at Whitburn Coastal Park. His usual helper, Walter, is now in his 70's and hasnt been in good health lately so John is looking for somebody to step in and maybe take over from Walter. Always up for broadening my skills I absolutely jumped at the chance! And that was despite the ridiculously ungodly starting time. So, Saturday morning I was at the Coastal Park at 5.30am (yep, thats right, half past five in the flaming morning!!!). We started by putting out the mist nets around the mound. We only put up four seeing as its still early in the season, but later in the year there could be as many as ten nets up. He then showed me the tools and equipment he uses to ring the birds and then we went over how to record the details of what we catch. First we have to record the species of bird, then try to determine the sex and age of the bird. Finally we weigh the bird and measure the size of the wing. All fascinating stuff and I couldnt wait to get started. So after 20 minutes we went to have our first check of the nets. Amazingly there were six birds trapped. I must point out that the birds are not harmed in any way whatsoever. John delicately removed them from the nets and we took them back to the cabin to record their details. The species caught were 2 Dunnocks, 1 Wren, 1 Robin, 1 Great Tit & 1 Blackbird. John showed me the correct way to hold the bird without harming it, and I wrote all the relevant details down. I got a great surprise when he allowed me to hold the Robin and one of the Dunnocks as he checked the sex and measured the wings. It was an incredible experience seeing the birds so close up. After recording their details we released them safely one by one. It was a fantastic start to the day. We checked the nets every 20 minutes (any longer would start to be bad for the birds) and went on till around 11.30 but at this point it had died off. In total we caught around 20 birds and the undoubted highlight was a stunning male Sparrowhawk. Amazingly John had trapped the same bird in 2009. It was a superb morning and I had an excellent time. John said if it was something I was genuinely interested in I may as well apply to become a Ringer myself. Its definitely something for me to think about.


With the Spring weather gently warming up it inevitably entices the Butterflies to take to the wing. Which then brings a smile to my face and a glow in my heart. I love Butterflies. No, I ADORE Butterflies. They are such beautiful creatures. Every time I see one it never fails to bring a lovely big grin. I saw my first four species of the year this week, all at my lunchtime Southwick patch. Included was my absolute favourite British species, the Orange Tip. No prizes for guessing how it got its name!!!

1st - Orange Tip
2nd - Peacock
3rd - Green Veined
4th Small Tortoiseshell

Sunday, 20 March 2011


Had a couple of hours out today which was a nice break from working on the house. I started the morning at Hendon South Docks to see if there were any spring arrivals. Unfortunately it was really quiet, the highlight being a small flock of Stock Doves. I then had an hour or so at Herrington Country Park. Again, unfortunately, the place was absolutely packed so the main pool and wood was pretty much birdless. Thankfully though a little walk round the less popular grasslands produced my first Meadow Pipit and Skylark of the year. Small mercies and all that! To be honest it was just nice to get the chance to have a bit of fresh air.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Wonderful Chill Out Music -- Vangelis - Ask The Mountains [HD]

More exceptional images from the television series Planet Earth, this time accompanied by the beautiful music of Vangelis.

Sunday, 6 March 2011


Maria very kindly gave me permission to play out today, something I've not done for a while because of the ongoing work on the house. So I decided to take up an invitation from Derek Lawrence to travel down to the Nottinghamshire area with his son Kieran and Derek Charlton in the hope of seeing one of the UK's most elusive birds - LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER. Up at 6.00 am, picked up at 6.30ish and on the motorway shortly after, it only took us 1hr 30mins to get to our destination, Rufford Abbey Country Park. Derek C had been told of the most likely area to see one of these shy birds so we immediately headed there on arrival. We looked and listened intently for over half an hour but all we had were a good mix of common species, the highlight being an extremely close Nuthatch. So we decided to split up and cover more area. After another fruitless 20mins Kieran thought he heard one not too far away. As we headed towards the area Derek C called out excitedly. We hurried over to where he was and after a frustrating few moments the bird in question showed itself. It was a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. Within seconds Derek L had joined us and we all enjoyed some great views of the bird calling and then drumming. We were absolutely ecstatic. And then it was off! We all looked at each other with a huge grin, and even more huge sigh of relief! I think deep down we were all a bit doubtful whether we would seen one as they are so difficult to find, but today our luck was definately in. We decided to stick around to see if we could get some more views and we rewarded with another two sightings. In fact the third sighting was outstanding. The bird was on show for over 15mins and was constantly out in the open. It was superb. We even managed to put a pair of American visitors onto the bird for which they were extremely grateful. Myself and Derek L had a great bonus bird while searching for the Woodpeckers in the form of a gorgeous female GOSHAWK flying overhead. We eventually decided to move on, so we went to a place called Clumber Park in the hope of seeing another extremely elusive species, Hawfinch. On arrival though we knew we had no chance of seeing one as the place was absolutely chocker! What we did see was an amazing TWELVE Mandarin Ducks on the river. It was an amazing sight. As we still had a bit of time left we thought we would try another place on the way home, Lyngfield Lake. On the approach road we saw a pair of Red Legged Partridges on the side of the road, my first for a couple of years. The Lake itself took some finding but it was definately worth it. We saw three males and a single female of an extremely attractive species of Duck, the RED CRESTED POCHARD. I hadnt seen one since the one at Bowesfield Marsh so was delighted to see them today. It was an excellent finish to a superb day.