Category Archives: iPad

The Warbler Guide App – A British Birder’s View

Every autumn I have a recurring daydream… the dream goes that I’m birding the ‘dead pines’ walk on The Garrison on Scilly. The tail end of a hurricane has battered the islands for two days but now the sun is out and the birds are busy feeding up. A Blackcap is tacking and a couple of territorial (European) Robins are tic-tic ticking but then I hear a high pitched sip. It’s unfamiliar but soon I glimpse a bright yellow throat on a bird as it moves through the pines feeding. Bright yellow super, two big white wing-bars and I’ve bagged myself Britain’s first twitchable Blackburnian Warbler. Mayhem ensues and I dine out on it, literally, all week in The Scillonian Club.

The Warbler Guide App

The Warbler Guide App

The reality is I’m more likely to find a dull greenish-grey bird that stumps me. Is it a Blackpoll Warbler, Bay-breasted or Pine? I’m not sure, I can’t realistically take out every field guide going along with my bins, scope, camera etc so all I have is my phone. Knowing I have to sort this out before I make a fool of myself, oh I learned the hard way on Shetland. Buoyed by finding a Swainson’s Thrush I got cocky. Yes that Grasshopper Warbler had pale tips but a Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler that doesn’t always make.

So, I need to sort this. The Warbler Guide, see my review here, would be useful now. If only there was an app… with those calls. Well soon there will be.  Due for release in early 2015 The Warbler Guide App will be a major boost for the UK rarity hunter (I’m sure it will also be a major boost for birders at Magee Marsh or Point Pelee in Spring too or a lone UK birder in British Columbia (me)).

Calls are also something that we birders find very useful as I alluded to earlier. As I walk along with non-birders they are often surprised when I mention a bird without apparently looking… “how did you know that?” they ask and it’s often difficult to say by the call as they might not even have heard. Redwing at night is one that often gets non-birders and me as we walk back from the pub. The Warbler Guide did a great job at explaining sonograms and calls but now we are going to be able to put the song or call to the picture that can only increase our learning. The person who knows everything is usually the one who knows least. birding is all about learning.

I can’t wait to load the app and get using it and I will be posting a full review in due course. Meantimes you can keep following the blog tour by visiting Warbler Watch tomorrow for a Q&A with Tom and Scott.

Warbler Blog Tour



Yesterday evening Leigh and I went out into the garden with our Sunday Dinner just before 20.00. I was aware of a chewing noise coming from the garden fence. Aware that we have a Wasps Vespa sp. nest in the roof-space I was expecting to see a Common Wasp Vespula vulgaris chewing up the wood for pulp for their nest. what I wasn’t expecting was a European Hornet Vespa crabro munching away. as the sun was sinking behind nearby houses I ran in and grabbed my Nikon Coolpix P310, probably not ideal for the job but at least I could shoot some video.

European Hornet Vespa crabro

European Hornet Vespa crabro

My first attempt led to the Hornet flying off – I thought for good but it soon returned and set about our fence with an appetite similar to mine for my Roast Pork dinner.

On it’s return I did manage a short video clip and I decided to try a bit of Black & White macro photography.

European Hornet Vespa crabro

European Hornet Vespa crabro


Thunbergi Are Go*

After the brilliant day I had yesterday… Sheffield Wednesday staying in Division 2 of The Football League and a night out with my sister Rachel and old friends Phil, Debbie and Kathy, it was back home on the train and a twitch out to Thornton Reservoir. Wind back to Friday and a Birdguides message whilst we were at the LROS meeting of a Grey-headed Wagtail Motacilla flava thunbergi at the Reservoir, a first for Leicestershire following two at Rutland Water a few years ago.

Leigh, Minnie and I headed off there with a plan to meet Steve and Emma, tick the bird and head off for a beer at The Steam Trumpet in Thornton. Two and half hours later, including a walk and a Little Grebe, we cut our losses and headed for the pub.


Curses… the pub was shut! On a Sunday and a Bank Holiday weekend… damn, dip,dip and double dip.

Depressed we headed for home. Predictably as we got settled news that the bird had returned meant a return trip for me. As Lady Penelope would say ‘Parker, fetch the Rolls Royce!’ Well in my case the Ibiza. Back at Thornton and guess what? ‘It was here a minute ago.’ Aaaaaaarrrrrggh!

I amused myself with a couple of nice Yellow Wagtail before, thankfully, the Grey-headed Wagtail returned.




The bird was always distant, unless it flushed closer and into a Hawthorn, so digiscoping was the order of the day. Even then getting a good image was difficult.


So success at last. I really do feel the birding blues have been well and truly banished.

* Sorry Archie, I’d that pun in my head from Friday night I just couldn’t get the bird till today.

Storm Lights

Last night I braved the gale-force winds and squally showers (in my shorts I might add) to take in a midweek fixture in the East Midland Counties Football League. Barrow Town FC had travelled over The Beacon to NW Leicestershire needing a win to keep their slim hopes of the league title alive.


Despite taking an early lead the visitors were literally blown away in five second-half minutes as there hosts Bardon Hill FC ran out 2-1 winners.

Monochrome Owl

David Norgate prompted me to dig out this old shot of a Long-eared Owl taken in Quendale on Shetland back in 2008. He’d been trying to get some decent shots of a LEO from the Bure Valley in Norfolk. Normally when you find a roosting LEO it’s like doing one of those Magic Eye pictures just to see the damned thing let alone try a photograph.

Occasionally, just occasionally a migrant pops up in less than ideal habitat for an Owl and they can be photographed reasonably well and are often surprisingly tame.

Rather than repost the original image I thought I’d rework it a bit in Snapseed. I love working in Black & White and this image lends itself nicely to a conversion. I added a green filter to the image as well as a nice clean frame… B&W always deserves a frame I think.


Panorama II

When I took the dog out today I took the opportunity to have a more considered bash at creating a panorama on the iPhone 4S. The first shot I took using Microsoft’s free Photosynth app.


The second was taken using the Camera+ camera app, this allows me to fix focus and exposure for a more uniform and balanced photo, and then put together in the excellent AutoStich app.


The later method is a bit trickier but overall will give the best results. For panoramas on the fly then Photosynth might be more useful… and it’s free!


Just a quick update after testing my new AutoStitch iPhone app. The crop is a bit harsh as I did this post shooting and only took two images. Next time I’ll shoot a few more images to stitch together.