Thursday, 29 April 2010

Reporting for BBC Savings Species

I had an early start today but on a plus side managed to hear the full dawn chorus from my flat as I got ready! Blackbirds and robins were blasting away! I got picked up by Andrew Dawes, BBC at 6am and we travelled down the RSPB's Pulborough Brooks to record the release of some very rare insects, field crickets. It was a brilliant morning and I spent it interviewing contributors involved with the translocation project and met some very nice and passionate people at the same time. I hadn't realised it at the time but I released the very first field cricket at Pulborough for the first time in history!! An awesome moment indeed! The piece is aired on BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday 11am and again Thursday 9pm.

Meanwhile, a cuckoo called and flew nearby, the scratchy songs of whitethroats could be heard and great spotted woodpeckers drummed throughout the morning.

We then moved on to another RSPB site where we released some more field crickets, including two full adult females - the have a beautiful golden sheen! It was wonderful seeing them being translocated and successfully released.

Here is an adult female field cricket just after release - she's as rare as gold dust, which also looks like what has been sprinkled over her body! This translocated individual was soon looking for somewhere to live in the soft, spongy grass/soil.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Newport Wetlands

Just back from a lovely morning birding with friend Mike on the Newport Wetlands,

We saw a brilliant cuckoo sat on a pylon, tons of sedge warblers singing away mimicking other birds (including willow warbler), reed warblers grating from the reeds, whimbrels bubbling on the mud and whitethroats and lesser whitethroats singing from the hedgerows. We also watched redshanks displaying, while oystercatchers, avocets and lapwings sat tight on nests. Spring's definitely here! Other highlights included bullfinch, wheatear, little grebes and skylarks.

ringing baby ringed plovers

This warm weather has been great for our spring migrants. Now the prevailing wind has gone from north to south, many of our spring migrants should have an extra boost as they make their one into the UK.
After a wonderful bird ID walk I was leading on the Downs yesterday I had a lovely walk with a friend down at Chew Valley Lake. Reed warblers were singing away, busily setting up new territories - my first ones this year.

I then zipped back to Bristol to help Lyndon Roberts ring a family of one day ringed plover chicks - there were four eggs, but two disappeared, and the remaining two hatched!! They were incredibly difficult to see - their cryptic colours hide them very well indeed!

I then went off to try and ring some raven chicks in a quarry - sadly the nest was empty. We think the young may have been predated and saw the parents nearby but they weren't showing any interest. Got some good views of a peregrine though in lovely evening sunlight.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Adders and ravens

For my 30th birthday earlier in the week I took a trip with friend Jo to the Forest of Dean, hoping for some spring migrants. I wasn't disappointed and caught up with a most stunning male pied flycatcher singing and checking out a nest site at the RSPB's Nagshead reserve, Nearby a male wood warbler was singing while the muddy signs of wild boar were evident!! A family of 20 piglets (or are they called boarlets!) had apparently been in the muddy pool a little early. You could see where mum had rubbed her muddy body against an oak tree. We tried to follow their track but to no avail!

We then popped over to New Fancy View and spotted 7 or 8 female fallow deer and found a basking adder! My second ever and this time I didn't try to pick it up!!

Later in the week I organised two climbers from the British Mountaineering Council
to visit a raven's nest in the Avon Gorge with thanks to the National Trust, There were two chicks in the nest, around three and a half weeks old. They had unique ID metal rings put on their right legs and were then safely put back into their nest. They should leave the nest in two or three weeks time.

This morning I've just got back from leading a birdsong identification walk for Mandy Leivers and the Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project, Last night I was showing images and playing birdsong as preparation for then going out today and putting it all into practice. Blackbirds, songthrushes, robins, blackcaps, dunnocks and chiffchaffs were all singing away. Highlights included a treecreeper and a male roe deer sprinting across the Downs!!

Monday, 19 April 2010


It's surreal looking up to the sky and not seeing any planes or exhaust trails! A remarkable situation of how the effects of a volcano has ground all nothern European flights. It's fascinating following the stories of how people are coping, many taking long car or rail journeys across Europe to get back and also the impact on industry such as fruit and flowers which would normally be exported to the UK but instead are staying put. I've got friends stuck out in India, one's a teacher - no doubt many schools will be missing many of their teachers today. Apparently volcanic ash did settle on cars in the west region over night. I must have a look outside and see for myself!

Monday, 12 April 2010

Dawn Chorus 2 and Med Gull corpse!

Yesterday's dawn chorus went really well - 35 people turned up for 6.30am at Snuff Mills, on the river Frome and the birds sounded great. I arrived at 6am and the sounds were even more tremendous and also heard a few kingfishers. The walk was rewarding with plenty of wrens, robins, blackbirds and chiffchaffs singing away. The bonus bird was a dipper flying at canopy level upstream - they've been a bit scarce at this site in recent years so this was a good spot. Two crows were incubating eggs in nests, green woodpeckers laughed around us and jays accompanied us throughout.

Popped over to meet a friend in Bath for a cuppa before coming home via Chew Valley Lake (swallows over pool) and back home for a rest. Well, almost - I got a tip off that a Mediterranean Gull corpse was down by the Severn Estuary. I quickly nipped down, like a 10 year old all over again on an intrepid adventure to look for something exciting. I found the bird - well, the head and wings. It looked like it had been eaten by the local peregrines. A new species for my feather and skull collection. Amazing seeing the white wings, deep red beak and black head feathers (compare the black-headed gull's brown head feathers!). Finally, it was time for a snooze and a rest!

Tonight there is hazy sunshine across north-west Bristol and lots of lovely birdsong; robins and blackbirds singing away before day gives way to tonight! Time for dinner I reckon.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

dawn chrous

Just been out to lead a dawn chorus walk for the friends of Trooper's Hill ( - a heathland reserve (unique in Bristol) in St George. It was bright, sunny and mild with robins, blackcaps and blackbirds in full gusto! It was great to get out and connect with these birds. Others included wrens, dunnock, chiffchaffs, a green woodpecker and a willow warbler. Additionally, a pair of chaffinches were displaying and had it not been for us coming along, almost mating!!

Spring is definitely here. Off now to see what I can find on the foreshore down on the Severn Estuary - perhaps a sedge warbler or something.

Doing another dawn chorus tomorrow for the friends of Snuff Mills ( along the river Frome.


Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Porthkerris coastline

The coastline at Porthkerris:

Scuba diving at Porthkerris

It's been a busy few weeks - two weeks ago I was away for four days with the University of Bristol Underwater Club. We went down to Porthkerris on the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall to get our scuba diving skills ticked off and to enjoy some underwater diving. It was an amazing four days both with regards diving and socially with everyone from the club. I managed to get to down to 14.4 metres and saw everything from a conger eel to crabs, starfish and small corals. On one boat dive we went down to a sandy bottom and saw lots of hermit crabs, edible crabs, two thornback rays and collected a number of scallops to eat later. The weather changed by the hour and birds varied from gannets close to shore to fulmars whipping past the cliff edges. Stonechats sang in the bushes above and while getting one of the boats on to the sea a black redstart flew across the shingle.

Since then it's been busy at work, although this Easter weekend was a great opportunity for a well earned break. Did a little bird ringing on Good Friday seeing my first swallows of the year down by the Severn Estuary and ringed a chiffchaff, a willow warbler, a male reed bunting and a wren. This was followed by a really lovely friend's wedding on Saturday and a break at home on the Sunday and Monday!

Just watching some chiffchaffs or willow warblers, possibly the latter, in the sycamore tree outside my flat window before I get ready for work. They are busily gleaning insects from the trees which is just beginning to burst its buds.