Thursday, 31 December 2009

Well, what a year it's been!! Almost near the end of 2009 - had some amazing days birding recently and just been relaxing in Bristol getting some good online bargains with outdoor clothing!!

Highlights in the past few days have been red-breasted goose with brents at Topsham, alongside spotted redshank and scaup. While at Cheddar, three black-necked grebes and a goosander where definitely worth driving through the heavy rain! A trip to Slimbridge was also amazing with large numbers of Bewick's Swans, pintail (including one that I ringed) and an awesome display of 70,000 starlings coming in to roost! While I was ringing the pintail, a huge black cloud of them gushed past!!

Female teal preening at Slimbridge

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Let it snow!

After an incredibly snowy and icy day yesterday, today remained icy but beautifully sunny!

I managed to drop the car off at Ford to get a problem checked out before pigeon walking into work along the harbour. Despite the fog it was a very atmospheric walk. Had a great lunch with friends at Goldbrick House before heading off home at 4pm to get the car and travel home. Heard two separate song thrushes singing close to the river which was nice - still amazed they have enough energy to sing on these cold, short days!

Monday, 21 December 2009

Snow in Bristol!

Woke up and looked out to see everywhere covered in snow!! Wow! This wasn't forecast for Bristol so what a bonus. Everywhere looks so pretty and perfect! Looks like getting into work may be impossible though - all roads in are blocked at the moment so may just have to work from home.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Had a brilliant day yesterday filming for my new show reel. At minus 4 degrees Celsius in Bristol, four of us set off for Bath to do a piece about peregrines. Arriving there in minus 6 degrees Celsius it was a cold start to say the least but a lovely place to be first thing. The peregrines had eaten a woodcock the evening before - a fresh head of one lay on the ground below. The male peregrine arrived around 9am with a pigeon which it was tucking into. We left a sunny Bath for Chew Valley Lake - the smaller pool was frozen, with the mallards and coots skating around when people came to feed them!! I interviewed Robin Prytherch, a renowned ornithologist about the lake before setting off to Chew Valley Ringing Station nearby to film some ringing. We had a lucky morning and got to see two great spotted woodpeckers and a male bullfinch in the hand!
Ready for lunch we set off back to Bristol, grabbed some food and then went looking for berries on the Downs as part of a challenge sequence - I quickly found ivy, rose hip and white beam. The sun had gone behind the clouds and it was feeling pretty wintry, esp as some snow began to fall (didn't come to anything sadly!!). Our last sequence was down at Severn Beach - a Countryfile style piece talking about the pros and cons of the Severn Barrage. No kidding, it was a chilling experience as the wind cut through us all but we had all the pieces in the bag by 3.30pm and finished off for a celebratory drink in the nearby Boar's Head in Aust!

Friday, 18 December 2009

Last night's talk went well - I love being able to see all the New Zealand wildlife I saw all over again!!

Had an early start this morning for a phone interview on BBC Radio Bristol about not feeding birds turkey fat!! Apparently it can kill them which I hadn't even realised until I saw the press release from the RSPB - the juices that often get mixed in can go rancid and cause bacterial death! Nice!

I then ventured out into the sub-zero temperatures and went into the BBC Radio Bristol studio to do the newspaper review, focusing on BA's strike (now called off until the new year), Copenhagen (and Hilary Clinton's halo), the death of two soldiers in Afghanistan and the display of a famous painting that was stolen in 2003 and refound in an office earlier this year!

Time for a quieter morning at work!!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Off to speak about my trip to New Zealand tonight to the Bristol Ornithological Club! Despite it all being so close to Christmas it's quite nice giving talks - it makes it all feel very festive. Off to Coleford in the Forest of Dean tomorrow to talk about peregrines too - my last one for 2009!

Talking of peregrines, both adults were on St John's Church in Bath yesterday - sitting on opposite sides of the spire (hopefully, they've not had a falling out!). A very cold day but warming by the fact my brother was graduating with a PhD in physics! Various prey on the ground around the church - water rail, woodcock, jack snipe, fieldfare, redwing (at least 4) and a fresh teal!! Amazing to think many of these birds would have travelled thousands of miles to get here for the winter (seems rather sad they then get eaten but that's mother nature for you!).

I wonder whether this snow will come to anything in the Bristol area over the weekend. I'm filming various things on Saturday to update my showreel so hoping for clear, sunny weather (even if it's freezing!!).

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Appearance on One Show still on iPlayer

My One Show appearance on Thursday is still available on BBC iPlayer! This shows me colour ringing robins - it's around 20 minutes into the programme!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

One Show appearance!

Keep an eye for me on the One Show on Thursday this week (10th) sometime between 7pm -7.30pm. There's a 4.5 min piece all about me colour-ringing robins for the BTO and looking at who's who in gardens.

Diving at Babbacombe, Devon

Wow - what a week it's been. Last Tuesday I gave a talk about peregrines at Bristol Zoo for Mandy Leivers with a full house. The rest of the week was busy at work and X-mas parties in the evenings! Friday evening was a real highlight - it was the opening of Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition with over 200 visitors and guest speaker Charlie Hamilton James. Charlie gave an excellent speech, supported by his wife Phillipa Forrester. It was also a great chance to catch up with people I've not seen for ages! Finished off in a lovely South Indian restaurant on the Triangle with some of the judges and key people involved with the exhibition.

The next day, after getting myself a shortie for diving, I headed up to Beachley, a village on the Severn by the old Severn Bridge. My target was a pomarine skua which has been living on the foreshore for the past week left over from the storms. I saw the bird within 5 metres of so, but not before sinking knee deep in black, smelly mud - a marshy area I hadn't predicted! I slopped back to the car and shyly had to get some petrol at a service station before heading home!

Sunday just gone was a real highlight - it was my first sea dive. After getting all the gear together, 13 of us heading down to Babbacombe beach in Devon. It was a beautiful day - the wind had dropped and the sea was pretty calm. I got to show fellow divers various birds while we waited our turn - highlights included shags, kittiwakes, a Balearic shearwater, a little auk and three great northern divers. My turn came and it was such an exhilarating experience. It wasn't cold like I had imagined - instead it was an amazing immersive experience seeing crabs, murk, and bioilluminescing seaweed (glowing a neon blue!). We headed back around 3.30pm after an incredible fun day.

This week's back to work and beginning to think more about Christmas which seems to have crept up on me very quickly. Just got my Christmas cards so that's a start!!

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Wow - what a week! Wednesday evening I was a guest at the Bath RSPB group's 40th birthday. Around 700 people turned up to listen to Chris Packham and Peter Holden. Was a brilliant evening and had the chance to mingle and chat with everyone including most of my old colleagues from the RSPB's south west office. Chris was on top form and did a great presentation of some of his, and his daughter's photos. Thursday evening I was talking myself at the Somerset Ornithological Society's meeting about peregrines and Friday went to meet my mum in Bath and had dinner in Jamie's Italian - very nice too!! Been a mixture of relaxing and working over the weekend - yesterday I was testing some sound recording equipment at Bristol Zoo Gardens with friend Nadege for BBC Wildlife magazine. Great place for animal sounds and the black-faced lovebirds and red-ruffed lemurs didn't disappoint! Today has been a mixture of birding and relaxing with Mike Dilger on the Severn Estuary with highlights including kingfisher, jack snipe, snipe and wigeon!! All just ten minutes from my home - perfect!!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Didn't have to go far to work this morning - just up the road to Blaise Castle House Museum for a meeting about next year's Bioblitz which will be held at Blaise estate. After discussing some logistics and a look around the grounds I was back to the City Museum to work through e-mails and discuss some things with colleagues. The wind is ever persistent outside - I wonder if it'll ever ease off!!

Submitted details of the grey phalarope to the Brecon bird recorder today with help from Hannah Rose who found the bird. Here's a photo of its foot - they have unusual, lobed feet typical of phalaropes and similar to those of coots!!

Monday, 23 November 2009

grey phalarope

Well, the grey phalarope made it through the night - phew!! Very relieved.
I fed it some more mealworms before hurrying out to film the results parts of the colour-ringing robin project I had been involved with for the BBC One Show. This went well with some nice results (to be aired before X-mas). I got home to find the grey phalarope, a female, had been pottering around and seemed quite bright and lively. I fed it some more mealworms and hoped it would keep going from strength to strength. Sadly, however, when I got home at the end of the day the phalarope was sat huddled, closing its eyes. Never a good sign. It was weak and although I managed to feed the delicate bird, it wasn't responding well. An hour later it had died. Examining it in more detail the bird was incredibly thin and too far gone to save.
What a busy week it's been!! Had a great evening out with friends at the Living Room on Thursday evening - lovely chance to just chill and relax. Friday was awesome - had 50 minutes in the pool scuba diving with buddy Dan and instructor Elena. Despite the torrential downpours and strong winds in Bristol (and the UK) on the weekend, I still managed to lead a walk looking for short-eared owls at Aust, Severn Estuary. No luck with the owls (not surprisingly) but a kestrel and some curlews. Sunday I was leading a bird identification course at Folly Farm in the Chew Valley - great place to showing people birds. Highlight was a marsh tit. Half way through I got a text from friend Hannah asking what a bird was (in a photo). Incredibly, it was a grey phalarope!! She almost ran it over in the road. That evening I picked it up from her and managed to feed it some mealworms. It was very thin and exhausted but hoped it would survive the night.

Friday, 13 November 2009

A quiet night last night - mainly sorting out the Bristol Ornithological Society's website and preparing for a presentation I am doing next week in Plymouth on raptor migration. Then chilled and watched a bit of tv!

Nice drive in this morning - a few mistle thrushes in Clifton at the top of some lime trees and a squirrel that couldn't quite decide what side of the road it wanted to be on - fortunately it made the right and safe decision!

Just heard from a journalist at Bristol magazine wanting to do an interview about the Avon Gorge peregrines - it's coming up to their 20th anniversary of nesting the Gorge which is remarkable!!

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Ah, the delights of bird song. Heard the evocative song of a mistle thrush this morning reaching out across Clifton. Perhaps not as melodic as song thrush or blackbird but still very wonderful on an overcast November day.

Chaired a great presentation last night by Ian McGuire ( for the bird section of the Bristol Naturalists Society - brilliant stories and images of birds of prey on the Isle of Mull. Especially good photos of short-eared owls.

Hoping there are some short-eared owls at Aust in the next few weeks - leading a walk up there to see them but I think this mild weather has meant they haven't all migrated here yet!! There's been the odd one though seen! Ever optimistic.

Quiet day at work - catching up on e-mails! Preparing a talk tonight on the migration of raptors for the Plymouth RSPB group next week - should be a nice adventure down.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

news on the origin of the Swedish peregrine

A grey day in Bristol so far but enlightened by the presence of a fab cormorant drying his/her wings down by the Floating Harbour. Impressed today that Bristol City Council have put forward a reward of £500 to catch the people who dumped a household's worth of furniture by the Portway. Be interesting to see if someone comes forward.

Some feedback so far on the young peregrine found in Somerset. It was ringed as a nestling female on the 8th June 2009 at Arvika, Varmland, southern Sweden. She was one of four at the nest. I wonder how many other peregrines here this winter are actually from Scandinavia!!

Swedish-registered ring (you can just make out the name Stockholm as part of the return address) placed on the bird's leg in June this year.
Rupert Griffiths, RSPCA, Westhatch

Monday, 9 November 2009

Swedish-ringed peregrine in Somerset

Yesterday was a rather chilly day here in Bristol but a nice feeling as winter approches. Heard today from the RSPCA that a peregrine brought in over the weekend was wearing rings that showed it had flown here all the way from Sweden!! Remarkable!! The Swedes have a detailed colour-ringing programme so we should be able to find out lots about this young bird which was ringed as a chick this year. Sadly it had an infected broken leg and had to be put to sleep. However, I like to think that despite this it has still contributed to science and that its flight here hasn't been in vain! I wonder if any of my colour-ringed robins will make any long journeys south this winter!?

Image: Rupert Griffiths, RSPCA

Sunday, 8 November 2009

A quiet day today! Just relaxed at home and then went to the Bath Spa with friends this afternoon to enjoy some steam, heat opportunity to chill out!! No sign of the peregrines on the church which can be seen form the roof pool.

Two mistle thrushes outside flat this morning - they seem to come and go, always nice to see them when they're around. The misteltoe is looking good this year on the lime tree outside so will no doubt will be a good winter food supply for the thrushes.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Colour-ringing Robins

Wahey!! Two more robins colour-ringed this morning which brings the total to six - enough to present on a flyer to the local neighbourhood and to get them watching out for robins!! There were more to catch but some were just not taking the lure!!

Thursday, 5 November 2009

The last few days have been very eventful and fun. Yesterday was the second round of robin colour-ringing - although sadly we didn't catch any robins!! We did however catch three wrens in the same area of one garden - all young birds hatched earlier in the year. After a few hours of trying before work, I quickly got to Clifton and grabbed the next bus (after watching two zip past me before I could get to the stop) and arrived on the platform at Bristol Temple Meads just as the guard locked the doors of my train!! I just missed it and waited another hour at Bristol before the next train - although I did enjoy a nice cuppa in the cafe on platform 12 and took a few notes prior to my meeting in Exeter. Had a lovely train trip to and from the city, meeting went well and enjoyed a snooze on the journey back - not before spotting a pair of shoveler ducks on the flooded fields with the swans just outside of Exeter. Plenty of redwings flying out of the trees and over fields too. Looking forward to some more robin ringing tomorrow morning - fingers crossed we catch at least another 2!

Monday, 2 November 2009

Colour-ringing robins for the BBC One Show

What an amazing morning!! After a late evening getting back from scuba diving training, it was an early start today to be on site in Westbury on Trym, Bristol, to catch and colour-ring robins for the BBC One Show and help promote the British Trust for Ornithology. While everyone was getting ready with the filming gear I was getting traps set and mist nets up with one of the researchers Sophie. It was a slow start and by 8am we still hadn't caught anything. Then, one robin went into a net in a garden followed by some great tits, a coal tit and a dunnock. The robin was successfully colour-ringed and filmed, with friend and presenter Mike Dilger. It was then released, ready for studying who's who in robin world of this neighbourhood. We then moved to another garden where a robin quickly became interested in robin song (we were playing) and a decoy, stuffed robin we had next to the CD player. The robin was right by the net, feeding under cover. In the end the decoy and some mealworms were just too tempting and the robin made a dash straight into the net. Robin number 2 was successfully colour-ringed and released. Before midday we caught another two robins which was brilliant, four robins in total - we return on Wednesday and Friday to catch some more. Eight colour-ringed individuals would be ideal for the neighbours to look out for and to build up a picture of what territories are where.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Even with the balmy, mild temperatures at the moment (16 degrees C this morning on the car!), autumn is definitely here and everywhere looks stunning. From my flat window I can see all shades of yellows, oranges and greens as the trees across the neighbourhood and beyond to Blaise estate get ready for the winter. Had a nice flock of tits passing through this morning - bluetits, great tits and long-tailed tits all busily gleaning the leaves and checking the window sills and brick mortar for any tasty morsel. I've seen them doing it a lot this week. The view out to Wales isn't too bad too - it feels very calm outside despite knowing wind and rain is on its way. After a hectic week working and playing hard, I've got a nice day to myself. I need to get some bits ready for scuba dive training and colour ringing robins for the BBC on Monday but the rest of the time is mine! Bliss!!

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Robins for the One Show

All set for colour-ringing robins as part of an experiment for the BBC's One Show to be shown before Christmas. We're seeking to find out more about the soap opera of robins living in a suburban neighbourhood in north Bristol - who knows what we might discover! Under my licence with the British Trust for Ornithology I'll be catching some robins in a mist net and Potter traps (small cages) and then carefully putting colour rings on their legs so we can identify them as individuals. They will then be released to carry on their lives as normal. Hopefully we can find out who's who, what territories are being set up and where, who may be passing through and how many are visiting the gardens. The unset traps are in place to allow the birds to get used to them in the gardens. Hopefully they will use them when we film on Monday - we're hoping to ring at least 6-8 robins if not more.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Communicate 2009

Well, what a conference. Communicate 2009, excelled itself. It had some amazing speakers, a relaxed atmosphere, much more time for audience participation and great content. It felt like a true shift from perhaps the stodge (in Jonathan Porritt's words!) of environmental messaging which we were grappling with the year before to a true move forward, bulldozing some of the communication barriers and entering into a new world of engaging people through spirituality and enjoyment. There were some brilliant delegates there too - while there were many who had been before, there was a really great assortment of newcomers. I look forward to helping develop Communicate 2010! Here's to it! Look out on the website for content, features and photos of this year's conference.