Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Same Language

For the second time this month, I've met an interesting birder looking at waders down on the bay.  A postgraduate student, he's making a study of the effects of human disturbance on the birds.  The project itself is not remarkable and I suspect his results will turn out to prove the obvious; what's much more interesting is that he's from Iraq.  With the troubles far from over, we talk openly about the war, but conversation soon reverts to natural history.  We speak the same language of conservation. He tells me about the great devastation of marshes in southern Iraq and recent attempts to begin restoring some of the damage.  He talks about the effects of the war on the desert and much more.  He's hungry to learn about the conservation movement in the West and amazed at our sophisticated infrastructure and increasing political influence.

We watch the few shorebirds together.  A small flock of Ringed Plovers flies to and fro, restless in the face of several dogs running in and out of the sea.  We marvel at a quite exceptional summer plumage Black-tailed Godwit and my new friend can't get over the smart Oystercatcher flock resting on the sandbar in the mellow evening sunlight.  I'm struck by how the beauty of nature transcends culture; it belongs to us all and perhaps if we paid more attention to this, we might reduce conflict and get on with saving the planet for future generations to enjoy.

We exchange email addresses, but forget to exchange names.  No matter, we'll meet again soon.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Old Farm

There's a tiny hamlet near here. It surrounds a village green and an old pond; it’s a quiet place, just a few cottages, several houses and a very old run down farm.  In deep winter there are often Snipe by the pond, but little else; it’s transformed now, buzzing with spring life.  I retreat to the comfort of a wooden bench on the high, drier part of the green.  Lots of ‘In Loving Memory’ seats have appeared in recent years and they’re often good places to watch wildlife.  Only an occasional car passes and there are more Swallows than people.  There’s just the sound of spring; Blackcaps, Chaffinches and Goldfinches sing from hidden perches and a Whitethroat song-flights from the top of an emerging oak tree.

The old ramshackle farm buildings govern much of the birdlife visiting the pond.  Swallows and House Martins take mud and House Sparrows  carry straw into the falling down barns and into the farmhouse, which although occupied, is open to the elements at one end.  Pied Wagtails too nest somewhere in the chaos of the farmyard.

The small pond, with its residential feral ducks and geese, is a mixture of seasons; flowering Marsh Marigolds and Ladies’ Smock balance the greens of Yellow Flag and last year’s bent-over Bullrushes provide fluffy nest lining for Great Tits and a pair of Greenfinches.  Soon the pond will burst into life, with all the colours of spring arriving in turn.

I wonder what the villagers make of this untidy farm.  An eyesore it may be, but do they realize what an important part it plays in the community of wildlife they share? I walk down to the farm gate, purchase my free-range eggs, put my money in the honesty box and return home to enjoy yokes, the colour of which I remember as a child.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Hide and Seek

There'a a lush damp light to the garden. The sun tries to break through, the willow tree is an intense green; it feels almost tropical. After days of promise, the temperature has risen and maybe we’re in for some spring weather at last.

The garden Robins are leading me a merry dance. They built a nest a month ago in the wall of what was once an old stable block. It was never lined and I assumed that the cold conditions held them up. For days now they've been carrying food and I know there's another nest; it's time for our annual game of hide and seek. The odds are stacked heavily against me and I shall probably fail to find it again. I play the same game with Wrens and can usually count on winning, but this year they've decided to play in next door's garden.

There are eggs in the Blue Tit box; Dunnocks and Blackbirds are quietly sitting and I assume that the Woodpigeons have a nest in the high hedge next door. It will be some time before there's any sign of the Goldfinches breeding, but they do so every year. Great Tits and Coal Tits pop into the garden for a sunflower seed now and again and a Great-spotted Woodpecker drops by for a hack at the peanuts each day.

Colour is coming to the garden; Azaleas and Bluebells are at their best, Roses and Buddleia are in bud and for the first time this spring, we can have lunch in the garden and watch House Martins in the sky above. There are Swallows and Swifts there too; they disappear in cold weather and I wonder where they go. 

With temperatures near normal, evening cricketers dress in white on the village green and contest the great game in front of no specators. As usual Swallows are part of the game, but don't join in. They're much more beautiful than the often ungainly and overweight participants of the serious encounter played out on the 22 yards of hallowed turf.

Saturday, 12 May 2012


Although Cuckoos have been back for at least a couple of weeks now, the bad weather has prevented me from getting out much. Heard my first today - such a welcome spring sound. In some years we get several around here, but alas they're in serious decline in the UK and much work is being done by the British Trust for Ornithology to find out why.  

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Some Migrating Warblers at Magee Marsh

A selection of the wonderful warblers on migration at Magee Marsh in Ohio in May 2011. Undoubtably one of the best birding experiences the world can offer. Follow Tropical Birding right now on Twitter @TropicalBirding to follow this year's movements. 

Wilson's Warbler

Canada Warbler

Blue-winged Warbler

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Black and White Warbler

Magnolia Warbler

Chestnut-sided Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Cape May Warbler

Bay-breasted Warbler

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Some shorebirds of the Bolivar Peninsula, Texas,

These are just a few of the many shorebirds that we saw on our recent trip to the Bolivar Peninsula in South Texas. More photographs will follow!

Black Skimmer


Lesser Yellowlegs

Least Tern

Sandwich Tern

Royal Tern