Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Roll up! Roll up! For the great birdrace!

My lovely friend Kathy recently posted a challenge on her blog. A team based birdrace, over one 6 hour day between the 1st and the 7th of February, details can be found here. Seeing as I'm working down on the Humber, I'll totally be going in for it. I hope you do too.

Good luck. See you on the battlefield!

Attenborough Heaven

Who else has caught BBC One's new ad with David Attenborough reciting the Classic "What a Wonderful World"? No? Look for yourself and hear Sir Dave voicing my own and many other people's opinion of the world outside their door.

Natalie x

Monday, 5 December 2011

Out of My Area: "Working" Part 3 - Horseshoe Point and Cleethorpes Discovery Park

Well I've been playing on the Humber again folks, this weekend it was Horseshoe Point and Cleethorpes Discovery Park.
Leaving the house at 5 30 I arrived in North Coates at around 7 15, spotting two barney's ranging by the roadside on the way (unfortunately the car behind was so far up my boot I couldn't stop to take pictures). Saturday's survey period started with a lost seal pup, washed off the beach at Donna Nook, causing me to spend the early part of my day redirecting dog walkers. Wet and bedraggled, it decided to try to nip at my ankles and forge on toward the steep sided, newly cut ditch rather than back onto the salt marsh.
The weather was classic maritime Humber, chilled but sunny, and I had wonderful chats with local kite surfers, dog walkers, bait diggers and birders (a big thanks to the guys from Retford who returned at lunch time with a surprise gift of PIE AND CHIPS! I seem to meet the best people!). The Little Egrets were super showy, keeping to the dykes and pools close to the car park, and there were large numbers of Golden Plover, Lapwing and Linnet. Then, just before lunch, a female Hen Harrier put everything up before heading off north along the embankment. All day Redshank alarm-called from the dykes as the walkers strolled obliviously past, and as the evening closed in a Kestrel hovered overhead in the last of the daylight and the Lapwings "whiiired" in the nearby fields.
My last interview of the day was of a local who informed me of the recent trapping and relocation of the water-vole population whilst the dykes are being re-dug. I'll have to go back with my camera and a large stock of coffee and patience when they are returned to their haunts.

Grey Seal s have no fear of blondes or clip boards, do not attempt to use them to shoo pups away from hazards

The light is so wonderful in here in the mornings

A great end to a great day.

Sunday was spent by the boating lake at Cleethorpes Discovery Park, a site that would never be my first choice for a day out. However, the locals were great once again. Keen to hear what I was up to (and why I was stood for 9 and a half hours in the drizzle). The boating lake provided a large flock of Greylag Geese, Mallard, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Muscovy Duck, and what I believe to be three Gadwall/Mallard hybrids (although I'll happily be corrected on that, they were around 40 cm in length). As the families fed the ducks and their attendant pigeons and gulls a Sparrowhawk flashed overhead (unnoticed by everyone except me and the least distracted birds), and settled in one of the pines by the water.In the afternoon I had great views of battling Moorhen and as the light waned a flock of Barnacle Geese dropped in, accompanied by a particularly lovely Ross/Barnacle hybrid. No free food, but a lovely slice of Victoria sponge at the cafe saw me through the worst of the rain.

And don't they just know it...

A Coot in need of a good scratch

and Moorhens having a good scrap

MallardxGadwall? They're teeny!

Tufty 1 and 2

Pochard 1

Pochard 2

Ross cross
Ross Cross 2

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Out of My Area: "Working" Part 2 - Rimac and Donna Nook

I came, I saw, I stood around and asked people questions from dawn 'til dusk (and a little either side). Only getting half hour breaks means I cant never be more than 15 mins walk from the car, but sometimes that's all you need!

Saturday was spent at Rimac. A lovely area of Saltmarsh and dunes south of Saltfleetby. As soon as I arrived I could here the calling of fieldfare overhead and as I set up for my first 2 hours work the dawn chorus was finishing with a flourish of robin song. It was a fairly foggy morning and the air was crisp (so I was freezing), but as the sun burnt of the remaining mist and the dog walkers began to appear I was suddenly surrounded by buntings.

Just after mid-day the habitat managers, in the for of 12 cows, were delivered to the site. No sooner were they out of their trailer than they came over to meet their new friend with the clipboard, so keen were they that I considered hopping over the fence out of the way. But they soon lost interest in me and wandered away.

The rest of the day proved to be enjoyable bird-wise, little egrets on the saltmarsh at lunchtime were joined by lapwing, curlew, whimbrel and redshank. A hobby shot over at around 3pm and I had numerous sightings of peregrine, one flashing through the car park as I went for more sheets. Skeins of geese were also seen high overhead - I presume these were Brent Geese, however the retired warden, on site for the month's WeBS counts informed me that this year had also bought barnacles and white fronted.

I spent Sunday with the seals, Grey Seals to be exact. And fell in love with Lincs. Wildlife Trust, who took me under their collective wing and ensured I was never short of hot coffee, food, and let me (and my parents when they stopped in) use the warden's parking, and the super secret facilities. When I arrived the "dawn patrol" had been there since 6, herding the over enthusiastic photographers away from the saltmarsh and back onto the marked path. Not only was this tramping amongst the seals horrendously thoughtless, it was also downright dangerous as the fog was so thick you could barely see the end of your own nose.
The first break I could get I headed down the path to see the seals, then, fed up with the crowds, I turned back to get a hot coffee and chat to my lovely new warden friends.

Never short of Brent geese during the stay a few dark individuals could be seen mixed in with the rest of the flock.

There are always a few that think they have the right to go where ever they like (annoyingly they often get a better experience than more careful individuals)

Big boat, big birds

Geese and Greys, a GREYt weekend.....
All in all this weekend I met great people, ate greasy hot food in the cold (bliss), drank big cups of cocoa and got paid to chat wildlife to interesting people (I even met some friends from my time at Spurn). I cant wait to see where I end up and what I see in the first weekend in December!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011


Just a quick note to you all, fellow Midlands escapee Kathy James has just started up a rather wonderful blog called naturebites: that covers her adventures in and around Anglesey. Well worth a look (just don't forget me in the process!).

Monday, 24 October 2011

Out of My Area: Cairngorms National Park

When you've had a tough couple of weeks and you feel like you've had no time to yourself what so ever you have a number of options, carry on regardless like there's nothing up, take some time for yourself to truly relax, or (like I decided to do) stress yourself completely by having 3 early morning calls ups, driving 600 miles, meeting complete strangers, and tramping off into the unknown.

My antidote for the last fortnight's frustrations was to pack up the car and head first to meet friends at Pitlochry to check out the dam and fish ladder (now known as the "Damn Fish Ladder"), then up to Lossiemouth on the banks of the Spey, then down to the Ladder Hills to conquer a couple of Corbetts, then back to work this morning. And you know what, It was damned good fun. Here are some pictures. I'm going to bed!

The "Damn Fish Ladder"!

My wonderful hosts for the weekend, Lou and Daz

R. Tummel

Me and the Fish Counter 9000

Out over the Ladder Hills

Lou and Glen Livet
The Motley Crew

A Cairn on a Corbett....

Elusive Sunshine

And the Black Grouse...

Thursday, 20 October 2011

The Best of Autumn (so far)

I know, I know, I've been lax on the posts recently. This has been one hell of a busy time with loads to do at work and the onset of the rain keeping me indoors, but the sunny days have been good, and the migrants have begun moving through en masse giving plenty of excuses to run away on a lunch break and get out on the boats with the boss.

So in no particular order, here are some of the highlights of the last two months!

The spate of wet miserable days has bought plenty of birds to the feeders

They're so used to me now I can fill the feeder next to them and they don't move a muscle
There have been great foraging opportunities particularly the wild blackberries and mint

And boat trips continue to turn up feathery friends including guillemots


A couple of Uni groups gave me excuses to escape the office and enjoy good weather

providing great views even if we occasionally had to lure the birds in

Many of the younger birds are all too keen to get up close for a free meal...

...their curiosity are general cheekiness mean that the gulls still star in most of my pictures
Going to Ballochmartin Bay after a tip off from the Boss of big group of Merganser yesterday I found 8 Little Grebe foraging along the shoreline

.... along with the Merganser themselves

Saturday, 15 October 2011

New Friends and Name Dropping...

Hello from the South! Today's update comes fresh from the first ever Wildlife Xpo, exhibitions and lecturers organised by the wonderful Wildlife Extra.

Setting out this morning with my wonderful assistant Rachel, cameraman Matt and a huge packed lunch we made a beeline for Alexandra Palace. 

If you fancy going along next year be prepared for a range of stalls from well known charities, tour operators, optics manufacturers, artists and local interest groups as well as wonderful talks from Chris Packham, Andy Rouse, Mark Carwardine, Nick Baker and Bill Oddie. Wear comfy shoes and bring enough liquids as its blooming warm inside and the park is well worth a walk round (we spotted jays, green woodpecker and numerous others just on the way to and from the train station). 

Keep your eyes peeled as you wander round, you don't know who you'll bump into

There's also the chance to get involved in debates about current issues in conservation (if you can get a word in edgeways)...

...and to make a few new friends.

Unfortunately we missed the moment where Nick Baker photo-bombed the picture...