Friday, 26 December 2014

Azores Review 2014

Here's a few personal highlights from the Azores this year:


In August Jaffa and I scouted out a trip that introduces the natural history of the Azores- looking at the geological setting, endemic plants, butterflies, whales and dolphins and of course endemic birds and rarities. Hopefully the trip will be of interest to nature tourists and students. The recce went well and we hope to run the first trip in Spring 2015. Here's a few pics from the recce.

 Sete Cidades volcanoes
 Fin Whale
 Great Shearwater 
  Azores Grayling
 Short-billed Dowitcher
 Azores Bullfinch (juvenile)
Azores Forget-me-not


Richard Bonser led the 2014 Pelagic trip. The group did well with the highlights including South Polar Skua, Swinhoe's Petrel, Sooty Tern, Monteiro's and Grant's Petrels and breaching Beaked Whales. 

 2014 Azores pelagic group (Martin Scott) 
 South Polar Skua (Richard Bonser) Discussion here
 Beaked Whales breaching (probably Sowerby's) (Richard Bonser) 

A few new publications this year including the first copy of the Azores Rare and Scarce Bird Report, a contribution to Wild Travel magazine feature on the Azores, an article in Birdwatch about the Azores Pelagics and a Azorean newspaper article on Corvo and Flores Birding. 

 CORVO 2014 (Ten year milestone) 

2014 marked my ten year anniversary to Corvo. Here's a few pics. 

More here from the Corvo birding team: Corvo blog 2014

 Ten year anniversary party. 
 Willet, Sao Miguel (personal birding highlight of Azores 2014)
 Buff-bellied Pipit
 Yellow-billed Cuckoo 
 Blackpoll Warbler
 Philadelphia Vireo (pic from Vincent) 
 Northern Parula (pic from Vincent) 
 Corvo birders
Vincent in the crater

Much appreciation to all friends and partners for another enjoyable and successful year on the foreign patch with special thanks/appreciation to Richard Bonser, Darryl Spittle, Gerby, Sofia Goulart and the local birders, Kathy Rita and family, Chris Townend, Vincent Legrand, David Monticelli, the regular Corvo birders (especially Pierre Andre-Crochet) , Ian Coates and Azores Choice and partners, friends at SPEA, the Birding Azores/Azores Bird Sightings team, Dominic Mitchell and Birdwatch, Rolando and crew, pelagic participants and of course to all the welcoming Azores people and amazing wildlife. 

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Last few days

 The obs feeders have been invaded
 Hackbridge NDG planted over 2000 bulbs as part of the local biodiversity improvements. Also good news on the nature reserve visitor's centre; we've been awarded 10K for a pre-feasibility study
A December moth- despite a few mild evenings this was the only species caught in the light trap

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Associate Members Day

 Female Kestrel

 Female Kestrel with prey (inset on lower right, area of pic is cropped and rotated to reveal a Short-tailed Field Vole)
 Male Shoveler
 Female Tufted Duck
Little Grebe 
On the Southern Mound looking over the Northern Lake (photo Lukas Becker) 

The weather held out for the associate members day winter birds walk. We concentrated on the waterbirds- good numbers of Teal (displaying again today), Shoveler, Gadwall, Pochard and Tufted Duck. A Redshank flew onto the Northern Lake and started feeding in the shallows. We also had a Great-crested Grebe and good views of a Kestrel which was seen taking a small mammal on two occasions. Rarest bird we saw was a male Blackcap by the gate entrance.
Other members of the bird group looked at other parts of the farmlands with 26 Snipe, 3 Jack Snipe, 2 Stonechat, 100+ Linnet, 1 Buzzard and 3 Water Pipit recorded.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Sunny winters day

 Male and female Teal
 An interesting large gull with heavy streaking around the crown and ear coverts, darkish mantle and scaps with dark centred juvenile feathers
Presumably this is first-winter male Gadwall? Other males nearby had clean grey vermiculated flanks. According to Madge and Burn, juvenile Gadwalls acquire adult plumage by the first-summer.
An interesting couple of days at the farmlands. Yesterday I had a third-winter Caspian Gull and an adult Yellow-legged Gull and today (I didn't see them all) there was a Black Redstart (the first one on site since April 5th 2008 found by Prof and Swift), Cetti's Warbler, the juvenile Garganey still (first December record), 1 Bullfinch, 11 Water Rail and 1 Green Sandpiper.
Hopefully a few things still around tomorrow (including the good weather) for the associate members winter bird day. 

Winter reading

The Beddington Farmlands Bird and Willdife Report- Annual wildlife review, conservation review, bird, butterfly and moth systematic list, photo galleries, ringing reports and Tree Sparrow report.   £10 (plus P&P). As the report is fully funded by sponsors all proceeds go direct to the local wildlife group.
The Azores Rare and Scarce Bird Report- a systematic list of the incredible range of rarities recorded in the archipelago in 2013 including the Western Palearctic's first Yellow-throated Warbler, packed full of stunning photos. £8 (plus P&P). 
Something for the kids? A musical story about the adventures of a naturalist in the modern world. £10 a copy for book and CD.

Please email me for a copy. 

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Rally for Nature

Went along to the Rally for Nature today. A good little day. Memorable speeches from Caroline Lucas and Mark Avery and then walked to parliament to meet our MPs. I met up with Tom Brake (our local MP )and mentioned the importance of the ideas behind the nature and wellbeing act proposal particularly in our local area where one of our most valuable assets are the Green Spaces (our only assets! :-)  )

I like all this campaigning and protesting stuff but often feel some of the higher level stuff is a bit of a blunt instrument that could do with sharpening. Would be good if there was a link to a local project- like trying to achieve one tangible and achievable objective (within a relatively short time scale) to give it more of a point.

The objectives of this rally were to 1) Defend existing laws such as the Nature Directives 2) Implement and enforce  the laws and 3) to establish a Nature and Wellbeing Act.I was left sort of thinking- so the objectives were to highlight the fact that laws are not being enforced and then to make another law to add to the existing ones that are already not being enforced?

Personally I would like the see the conservation movement doing more towards enforcing those laws ourselves, living the philosophy of the Nature and Wellbeing Act and defending protected areas- taking offending parties to court,  blockading, challenging, setting up alternative solutions, examining our purchasing choices and excercising our democratic powers, mobilising large numbers of people to target one problem at a time etc etc.

Would be good if there was a national movement that would harness energy and skills from a wide area and come to aid of local groups that are fighting on the front line- I hope this current trend in conservation towards more activism is heading that way. Could certainly do with some help round here!

Really enjoyed the day- met up with some local London birders and great to see the fight for nature taking to the streets and in Central London.

For BBC coverage click on below. 26 mins in:
BBC Daily Politics

Monday, 8 December 2014

Mitcham Common Parakeets

Did a rough count of the parakeets on Mitcham Common yesterday. About 3000 or so. Not as easy to count them this year as the roost appears to be spread out over a wide area. The largest numbers have moved to near the petrol station.
One of the flight lines takes them over the farmlands- been over 2000 on some of the counts recently.
There's certainly a lot of them.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

2. Songs of Praise: Llama

The second instalment of Songs of Praise, a 'family musical' story that I've knocked up about the adventures of a young naturalist.


So outdoors was great but there was grief out there. Perhaps it was better indoors?
That was grief too! Relatives would come round to talk and ask him strange questions. They would fret and fuss and bother and talk some more.
There was Uncle Tom, Grandad Bootsie and Freda and Lorraine who just not stop talking. But worst of all was Auntie Llama.
She had a very strange indigestion problem.

This is a song about family life in a working class home where health problems are part of everyday life. In order to cope with the horror of vomiting old people on a daily basis, we as kids used to imagine we were living with Llamas that used to spit everywhere. Instead of spitting out horrible things all over the house we used to imagine they would spit out cute baby Llamas everywhere they went. Everyone coped well that way.