Showing posts from May, 2014

The Move

Last month, my friend Jack suggested that we go and see a Rolling Stones tribute band called 'Rollin' Stoned'. I went along not expecting too much and had a brilliant evening. So when he suggested that we go and see 'The Move' this evening, I readily agreed. After all, what's not to like about seeing people dressing up in kaftans, wigs and shades pretending to be Roy Wood? But on arrival at the venue I was genuinely surprised (and excited) to find out that this was no tribute act - it was the genuine article - still boasting two founder members - Bev Bevan and Trevor Burton. They were joined by a trio of additional Brummies - Phil Tree, Tony Kelsey and Abby Brant. The audience was largely comprised of blokes over 50, (overweight, bald, bad dress sense), with the odd wife or girlfriend in tow, who were looking around them wondering if they had stumbled into a convention of blokes whose sole connection was being on the sex offenders register. In fact in reminded

A new rant King in town...

And I thought that I could 'go off on one'... If you haven't already read his posts about BBC's Springwatch , please visit Paul Trodd's Plovers blog ( click here ) to be thoroughly entertained and schooled in the ways of 'rant'. I couldn't do better myself! I hope he carries on with his analysis of the presenters presentation skills, the dumbing-down of natural history and the sheer joy that only middle-aged men in grumpy moods can give to others who are just like them. Just ignore the Blyth's Reed Warbler grip-off!


Fly Orchid at Yockletts Bank in Kent - one of the better ones 665. The number of Bee-eaters that Martin Casemore has missed at Dungeness this spring? How many managers Tottenham Hotspur have employed in the past 10 years? Or is it the number of plant species that I have taken photographs of in the UK? Yes, proving that I've got more time on my hands than is healthy, I counted up the number of plant species that I've photographed across the UK. Most (but not all) are half-decent, some have come out rather well and a few of them are just record shots (have you tried taking a photograph in pouring rain and force 6 winds on top of a Scottish mountain?) With thousands of images just resting on a hard-disk, waiting to be opened and looked at irregularly, I thought it would be worthwhile letting them out into the big wide world. So, if you (or somebody you know) wants to use any of them for personal means, to illustrate a talk or presentation, or just use as wallpaper for y

Wot, no rant?

It's been some time since I've posted what could be described as an 'angry' post. There would always be something that had 'got my goat', annoyed me or something would happen that I would then consider to be preposterous. Try as hard as I can, there's nothing at the moment that is bothering me. And this is after two weeks being spent in the company of that most weird branch of humanity, the birder... I know, I am one of them too. Is this a sign of contentment? Mellowing with age? Running out of ideas? Maybe. But there is one area that has helped me to find a sense of calm and that is reorganising my Twitter account. Some time ago I was following 200-300 people, mainly birders from southern England. I did this to get a good feed of breaking bird news. Maybe 50% of the tweets I received were relevant to that aim, with another 20% being re-tweets of what I had already read and the remaining 30% a combination of drivel, inane humour and bollocks. A lot of th

Miscellany from the shingle

Rare moths With a few scarce migrants being trapped just to the north-east of the peninsula, the MV traps sited at Dungeness might have been expected to also come up with the goods. They largely didn't, except for Barry Banson's which produced a single Striped Hawk-moth and this Dusky Hook-tip - his third - greedy beggar! Stinking Hawk's-beard This hairy pendulous bud might look fairly unimportant, but it belongs to one of the rarest plants in the UK - Stinking Hawk's-beard. At its only wild locality I was lucky enough to be invited along to see it by the owners of the land on which this plant has made home. Their anonymity is preserved to ensure that they do not have a constant flow of botanical twitchers to their door. I spent a lovely half hour in their company being told a bit about the steps that are taken to ensure that the species has a sympathetic habitat in which to survive. Ring rusty I called the gull above as an Iceland before being corrected

Quality not quantity

Today illustrated a couple of things - how chance plays a large part in what you see, and also how a late spring day can provide but a handful of migrants whose rarity composition can be disproportionately high. I was sea-watching by 05.30hrs, due to the knowledge that several Pomarine Skuas had been seen west of Dungeness yesterday. It was really no surprise when a single flew east at 05.35hrs - a good start. I recorded a further 11 birds (1, 3, 3 and 4), the last flock including a dark-phase bird. Most were close and oozed class and menace, the only way that this species can. As back up there were 4 Arctic Skuas. By 08.30hrs all had slowed, so I left my fellow sea-watchers and headed to the observatory for a spot of breakfast. Now 'luck' or 'chance' played its hand... I was ready to check out the pits at Scotney when Dave Walker showed me a micro moth which he wanted to see if my identification matched his own. This was a hand lens and book job, so I settled down

Sand Catchfly bonanza

After an evening of football, Neil Young, beer, music, olives, garlic, chilli and pasta (thanks Mark!) this morning needed to be on the tranquil side. A botanical foray was called for and I was joined by Nick and Russell Gardner on a whistle-stop tour of the floral wonders of the peninsula. The observatory area yielded plenty of Yellow Vetch, Subterranean Clover and Nottingham Catchfly, whilst further out on the shingle there was plenty of Bur Chervil and Small-flowered Buttercup. A small amount of Sea Pea was in flower close to the new lighthouse. Littlestone was checked for several specialities, although it is stil early for some of them, hence only a few leaves of Sea Holly and no Sea Rocket (although we shunned the best area for this as it was knee-deep in grockles on the beach). Best of all was a fine show of at least 300 plants of Sand Catchfly (above), the raking of the site to encourage seed germination by Owen and his team paying dividends. Hare's-tail Grass wa

In the 'now'

My Dungeness stay has settled down into a most agreeable form of 'plodding' (sorry Martin!). After a couple of days of tearing around seeing all that was on offer, I'm now content to amble about and accept what comes my way. No pressure, no expectations, just contentment. It's a good place to be. This time of year, the 'fag-end' of Spring, is a strange time. Most of the migrants have been through, although there are still enough to come to warrant being at the ready. Late falls are not unknown. And at this time of year there can be an arrival of just three migrants, with two of them being rarities. This morning is a case in point, with the only 'migrant' activity being 4 Lapwings out to sea and a Bee-eater! I only saw the Lapwings with Dave Walker the only person to connect with the Bee-eater. But in my place of calm, that's all good... Yesterday found me in northern France with a bunch of Dungeness-based birding pals. It is sobering to see so mu

Look who came back to say "Hello"

If you want to see some proper images, rather than this digiscoped dross, please visit Ploddingbirder , who is most probably, as we speak, uploading some on to his blog.

Spot Flys before the storm

If you live just north or west of Dungeness then you have my commiserations, as I watched several inches of rain fall on you this afternoon (above) from the comparative safety of the peninsula. That's not to say that we didn't get wet, because we did. The photograph above shows off the red-coloured Sheep's Sorrel a treat. I spent a fair amount of time scanning eastwards from the 'Harry Cawkell Memorial Bench', something that relaxes me greatly. A steady trickle of hirundines moved through this morning, along with a Hobby, and there was a modest arrival of Spotted Flycatchers (10+). With plenty of rarities turning up around the country, we haven't given up hope of getting our reward down here. This is a tester for anyone brave enough (or foolish enough) to have a go. What is it? The winner will receive a year's free subscription to North Downs and beyond . Second place will get two year's free... the old ones are he best ones.. In other new

Stilt does a runner

A day of glaring sunlight, buffeting WSW wind and a most uncooperative Black-winged Stilt that didn't have the decency to hang around and say hello. All was not lost however as the RSPB reserve always has something to offer, whether that be Marsh Harriers, Bearded Tits, Little Egrets, Hobby, Peregrine, Greenshank and LRP. Not bad for a day that the locals were calling "tedious". Back at the bird observatory the highlights were botanical, with a couple of good patches of Small-flowered Buttercup (above), Bur Chervil and the start of one of my favourite plants - Nottingham Catchfly. Couldn't help but getting all 'Simon King' and digiscoping this Great Crested Grebe chick getting a free ride on Ma (or Pa's) back. All together now - Ahhhhhhh! In other news: my eyesight is definitely on the slide. The need for reading glasses in low light is now official. And for small print. And looking at insects. My hearing ain't what it used to be either. L

Dungeness and beyond

My wife: "Isn't it about time you went down to Dungeness?" Me: "Oh, alright, shall I go for a day or two?" My wife: "How about a week?" Me: "That'll be good - if you don't mind me being away for that long" My wife: "On second thoughts,how about a fortnight..." So here I am, freshly arrived at a very windy Dungeness Bird Observatory, full of childish excitement at the prospect of a week's (or fortnight's) birding. And DBO has now got WiFi, so I can blog as well!!


Is there any flower that is more representative and evocative of the month of May than Hawthorn? I don't think so - its frothing, foamy flowers positively light up the month. That's enough 'psued's corner' from me...

Dense-flowered Fumitory for a dense-brained botanist?

A late afternoon wander over to the 'new' Surrey Wildlife Trust reserve at Priest Hill, Ewell. I haven't been too kind about this reserve in the past, suggesting that it is the UK's first such site dedicated to the preservation and propagation of fencing. However, my two visits this week have yielded some good local birds and, today, a plant tick! Well, I think it is what I think it is.... Dense-flowered Fumitory. The flowers were only 6-7mm long and black-tipped, the leaves were narrow and channeled. To my admittedly un-scholared eye, they look good to me. The plants were all found on an area of scraped chalk, where some old tennis courts and changing rooms used to stand. This land used to be part of an enormous municipal school playing field complex, used by various schools of North Surrey and South London. Some time in the 1960s most of it was abandoned, and since then has been the domain of dog-walkers, dirt-bike enthusiasts, teenage smokers and, now and aga

We are of our time

Dungeness Bird Observatory The subject for this post is one that has bothered me for some time. When I say 'bothered' I don't mean that it is a subject that has disturbed me, rather one that has used up far more time in thought than is probably healthy. I even find a description of what it is all about difficult to settle on and describe. Simply put it is my relationship with Dungeness. I have a deep-seated affection for Dungeness. I have visited far more picturesque places, but it is a site that I adopted early on as a regular haunt. It was where I cut my birding teeth, where I met inspirational people and experienced moments of ornithological elation. I also forged friendships that still exist 30-40 years later. And, as a keen-as-mustard and impressionable teenage birder, there was nowhere that I would rather have been on Earth. As a youngster finding my way, to have encouragement from older and vastly more experienced and knowledgable individuals was a massive c

Scottish independence will wreck your list

In a move that will provoke much discussion and soul-searching among birders, the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) have announced that, if the referendum to leave the UK is successful later in the year, then all Scottish birds will be removed from the BOU list. In a rousing speech given in Fort William, SNP leader Alex Salmond said, "English twitchers have for too long been crossing the border into Scotland and plundering the birding finds of Scottish birdwatchers!" He was quick to point out that the best birding in Britain was "Scottish" and that "species like the Ptarmigan, Crested Tit and Capercaillie have no place on an English list". In scenes bordering on high farce today, a small group of UK500+ listers were sailing to Fair Isle in a dinghy in an attempt to annexe it and keep that island "British" - whether or not Scottish independence is gained. "I've spent thousands of pounds - English pounds - going to Fair Isle down th

Green-winged Orchid

Following a tip-off from a local botanist, I went to seek out a rare plant in Surrey - Green-winged Orchid. I found a very healthy plant on a well-botanised piece of calcareous grassland, where this species has not, as far as I am aware, been recorded before. This begs the question as to whether or not the orchid is only here because of deliberate planting. Regardless of its provenance, it was a cracker! I also spent some time at the 'new' Surrey Wildlife Trust reserve at Priest Hill, where I was amply rewarded with single Peregrine , Hobby , 2 Common Buzzard , 5 Common Swift , 3 Skylark , 2 Northern Wheatear , 10+ Whitethroat , 2 Blackcap , 1 Willow Warbler and 1 Chiffchaff . Only a ten minute stroll from my front door, this reserve might be worth a few visits this year.

Local mooching

An eight-hour stint in the Canons Farm - Banstead Woods - Chipstead Bottom area. The NE wind was chilly, the light constantly dull and the drizzle kept off until late afternoon. This did nothing for bird song or migrants, so it was just as well that my main aim today was to look for plants. There was an awful lot in flower, with some species, (Bluebell, Ground-ivy, Crosswort and Germander Speedwell) carpeting the ground in some places. I was pleased to come across a single Solomon's Seal and the Fames Rough Fly Orchids were already in flower. It wasn't a day for inverts, but I did come across the uncommon (but expanding) Bryony Ladybird . Bryony Ladybird - if a duffer like me can stumble across this species twice locally then they must be increasing Ground Ivy - carpeting the ground in many places Dryad's Saddle - if only all fungi was this big and obvious