Tuesday 29 March 2022

Bits and Bobs from Last few days

Not too much happening lately and with the end of the False Spring and a spell of Northerlies, things will probably slow down further.  At the Old Vic the birding highlight was a flock of Fieldfare (rare this winter locally)  but otherwise very quiet. The Blackcaps, Bullfinches, Siskins, Brambling and most of the Redwings have gone and replaced only by a couple of Chiffchaffs so far (interesting that the wintering Blackcaps didn't stay to breed and will be replaced soon by birds that move in for the summer). Elsewhere on the Old Vic front the moth list has been creeping up slowly, the mini-farm is ticking over (put another raised bed in) and a few developments on the mini-zoo including some Aquarium dramas. 

I managed to get over Beddington Farmlands last week and met up with Zach (the first time this year). We've kicked the local election campaign off (more on this to follow). Spent the weekend recording the campaign song. We had the Hackbridge Neighbourhood Development Group AGM yesterday. Also completed on the new flat in Hackbridge last week and work commences tomorrow to get it ready for rental. 

Goldfinch collecting wool for nesting material from the Sheep Field
Brindled Beauty- NFY
Early Thorn (above) and Red-green Carpet (below)- both NFYs

Had a few of these caddisfly over last few days- hope to try and get a name on them as soon I can get a chance. It’s a stenophylax sp (but requires under carriage examination ). Possible Stenophylax permistus. 
Black-tailed Godwits at Beddington Farmlands last week. Also had Little Ringed Plover, Blackcaps and Green Sandpipers. 
Weekend at the studio with Harrison
At the Mini-zoo, the Madagascan Marbled Mantis (above) is doing well. Not so good in the Aquarium with the Angelfish, a Black-finned Cory, a Glowlight Tetra and a Platy all dying since we started a day night light cycle in the tank (as novices we'd had the light on 24 hours a day which can lead to problems). Presumably changing the cycle caused too much stress? We've ordered the new Paludarium tank with the plan to create a little bit of tropical swamp in the village. 

Monday 28 March 2022

Upper Thames Moths Website


Exciting development in the local moth world with the launching of the Upper Thames Moths web Atlas developed by the same development team behind the excellent Norfolk Moths website. 

and some Blurb HERE

Flying tonight pages HERE

Wednesday 23 March 2022

The Old Vicarage latest

A few bits of bobs in last few days including a few NFY moths and year tick birds including Yellowhammer flying over, Curlew over the garden, Water Rail on the noc-mig and also Barn and Tawny Owls. Ebird year list here
Oak Beauty
Small Quaker (right) and a bit of Common Quaker variation
A bit of Clouded Drab variation (one on left might be Lead-coloured Drab, waiting for reply from CMR) Update 290322- the Irecord validator agrees with LCD but not consensus on opinion (see comments) 
Satellite- a new for year
This male Pheasant is now a daily feature
A flyover Yellowhammer 
Barn Owl calling- was around most of night so might be breeding locally (in Sheep Field?) 
Curlew flying over

Saturday 19 March 2022

The Old Vicarage- first moth lifers of the year

Things are picking up at the Old Vicarage with the doldrums of winter fading away. Moths are picking up with 14 species for the year now (most in the last few days) including a couple of lifers. The all time Old Vic moth list is now on 487, hopefully we will now be picking them off regularly towards the 500 milestone. 

There's been the odd migrant bird (52 species for the year) and the first butterfly - Brimstones. I'm trying to get a photo or sound recording of every bird species recorded in the garden this year SEE HERE

It's that time of year so the noc-mig recorder has been out. Best so far has been a couple of Little Grebes. 

Winter male Brambling- been around for a few days. Also been a small influx of Goldfinch, Chiffchaff still singing, Blackcaps were quiet this morning, most of the Redwings have cleared out the Sheep Field now and more raptor action in the high pressure with Red Kites, Common Buzzards and Sparrowhawk around. Tawny Owls calling at night and had a Barn Owl on the way to pick up Jacob from a party this evening. 
The male and female Bullfinch still around- stripping the fruit tree buds. I've finally re-subscribed to some photo editing software (Lightroom) as part of hoping to improve photography quality this year including upgrading gear to Canon mirrorless system (once I've saved up).    

Drumming male Great Spotted Woodpecker on the Poplars
Male Lead-coloured Drab, a lifer (above and below). The feathered antennae of the male is a good identification feature compared to other Drabs.  

Probably Mompha jurassicella but can't rule our Mompha bradleyi without dissection. The default in the area is jurassicella. (above and below)

March Tubic
Twin-spot Quaker
Early Grey
Variation in Hebrew Character ground colour 
Small Quaker (bottom) and Common Quaker
Got a new PhoneSkope adaptor for my Iphone XR and scope. First results below. Also subscribed to Lightroom and planning on making a few other photographic improvements in the near future

Little Grebe on the night recorder - two calls during the night, separated by several hours so presumably two birds

Tuesday 15 March 2022

The Old Vicarage- early Spring

Spring is slowly unfolding at the Old Vic with singing Chiffchaff and Blackcaps, Bullfinches feeding on the Cherry Plum buds, a Robin building a nest in the porch, Blue Tits checking out the nest boxes, Redwings in the Sheep Field sub-singing, Woodpigeons eating Poplar catkins, Siskins singing, Greenfinches butterflying, Mallards in the neighbours pond , flowering Daffs, Crocus and Snowdrops and humans (i.e Bryan, Jacob and I) out with the rotavator putting in the first early potatoes. 

Updated Ebird for 2022 HERE.

On the moth front, looks like I missed out on some mild evenings while away in Az but have had a couple of micros in the house or side of the house including Agonopterix heracliana and Acleris cristana. I put the Robinsons actinic out a couple of nights ago but absolutely nothing.   

A couple more additions to the mini-zoo with two new glass catfish for the aquarium and a Madagascar Marbled Mantis to replace the Giant Asian Mantis that died of abdominal collapse. 

Male and female Bullfinch on the Cherry Plum
Singing Chiffchaff- no winter records so presumably these are local wintering birds that have moved into position. Two male Blackcaps singing this morning but one of them did winter in the garden.
A Pheasant has been in the garden recently.
Up to nearly 50 Redwings feeding in the Sheep Field until a couple of days ago. There was lots of sub-singing going on but seems like most cleared out now with fewer birds feeding on the field and no singing now. This rear bird in this image looked darker and heavier streaked than the others- perhaps an Icelandic Redwing? 
Acleris cristana
The first potatoes have gone in the mini-farm with winter crops Onions, Garlic and Broad Beans still going and yesterday we harvested the remaining Beets and Cabbages which remarkably survived in good edible shape all through the winter- it was a particularly mild one. 

Less Siskins in the garden now but the few that remain are singing and holding territory- will be great if they stay to breed after a bumper winter presence. The zero counts reflect my trips abroad. 

Monday 14 March 2022

Omid Update

So it finally happened. Omid started migrating from Iran on 8th March and was eventually discovered five days later at Shirvan in Az yesterday (13th) . A few WP birders were still in Az and managed to twitch it but the majority of people had left by Saturday. It was only present a few hours in the morning at Shirvan before continuing on it's lonely migration north. 

Interesting to learn that Emin Yogurtcuoglu (Top Turkish Birder) has been in discussion with various authorities to launch an Omid Conservation project involving the reintroduction of captive breeding birds from a zoo in Belgium into the wintering area of Omid in the hope it pairs up with a female and takes her on the long migration to Russia. Will be fantastic if that gets off the ground.  Apparently a similar project in the Volga Delta involving a dozen or so reintroduced birds failed to connect with Omid so locating another attempt within Omid's wintering ground could be a better focus. I did hear that Putin himself has expressed previous interest in Siberian Crane conservation in Russia so 'Omid' (Persian for 'Hope') could help with future 'healing'. Fingers crossed. 

Video by Orban Zoltan

Omid beginning it's migrating in Iran on the southern shores of the Caspian Sea, approx 500km from where it was located in Az (Video by Camping/Birding Azerbaijan HERE. This site is owned by hunters (you can hear the guns) and part of the reason Omid is the only Siberian Crane in the WP left is due to hunting pressure. Any Siberian Crane conservation project in this region will highlight these issues.

Friday 11 March 2022

Azerbaijan Other Wildlife

Last post for our trip to Azerbaijan. Omid, the Siberian Crane did eventually start migrating north (4 days ago) but the guys who stayed have still to find him in Az with only today and tomorrow left. Fingers crossed. 'Omid' means hope in Persian, a name that captures the fate of the last of it's kind. Every year the bird follows the path of it's ancestry population alone and despite the bird being alone, unable to pair up or breed when it arrives in the ancestry breeding area, it still carries on this tradition, frozen in time destined for extinction but with unwavering hope (reminds me of people who still use Birdtrack instead of Ebird :-) ). Omid is an inspiring yet sad character, a victim of habitat changes, hunting and climate change, a lone traveller that bares a warning.  I hope the guys still in Az manage to see him soon. 

Here's a few other wildlife pics from the trips. On the scoreboard front we had 151 bird species in total, one new WP lifer (Caspian Tit) and a nice selection of subspecies ticks (Siberian Buff-bellied Pipit and Caucasian Dunnock the most likely future splits), four mammal lifers (Goitered Gazelle, Greater Horse-shoe Bat, Marbled Polecat and Willaim's Gerboa) and two herp lifers (Hircanian Wood Frog and Caspian Turtle). It was a brilliant trip and many thanks to Diedert Koppenol from Dutch Birding for organising it. Would love to go back and explore the Talish Mountains in the summer (for leps) and do some more herping, maybe some vagrant hunting and definitely some vis-migging at Besh Barmeg and also still need the regional speciality Shikra (and of course Siberian Crane). Right out on the edge of the Western Palearctic and with improving ease of travel there's some great exploration opportunities in Az.  

Marbled Polecat with Red Fox (Photo by Vincent Legrand)
Williams' Jerboa (Photo by Vincent Legrand)
Marbled Polecat again (Photo by Vince). The highlight of the trip for me. 
Caspian Turtle
Hyrcanian Wood Frog, Rana pseudodalmatina 
European Pond Turtle 

A few early flowering plants. PlantNet suggests Early Dog-violet, Cyclamen (Sowbread) and Ornithogalum 

Darryl in action
Group pics

This thermal imaging set up was a great way of finding mammals at night (much less intrusive than spot lighting)