Izzy Wizzy Let’s Get Busy

Before you think I’ve gone all Sooty and Sweep here’s actually another blog about birds… I know, amazing! This time a celebration of all things Isabelline Wheatear from Seaton Snook near Hartlepool. Isabelline Wheatear is one of my bogey birds, a few years back I even dipped two in six days so this time I wasn’t going without news. Andrew Kinghorn kindly messaged me early morning with Colin Green, Steve James and Dave Gray also texting and The Rare Bird Network getting twitter messages out.

Bundling Minnie into the car I headed North. I arrived about 11.00 to smiling faces heading off the beach… on the beach however the news wasn’t so good. The bird had been pushed a lot and had flown off and not seen for 30 minutes. 30 minutes turned into an hour with no sign. I walked to the Snook and almost to The North Gare. No joy.

Seaton Sands

Seaton Sands

It looked like atmospheric landscapes and industry would be the only photos I took.

I decided to head back to the car, give Minnie some food and water and have a quick drink myself. On the way I bumped into Rob Lambert, newly arrived and looking chirpy. Rob’s demeanor changed as I told him the sorry tale. Undaunted he strode off purposefully to the beach.

Back at the car another birder was heading down the road and as I updated him he casually said there’s a Wheatear on that telegraph post (next to the bloody car). There weren’t any other Wheatears around, surely. I got my bins on it and asked him, why he hadn’t considered Izzy… this was it! As I set my scope up it flew the 100 or so yards back to the beach! Isabelline Wheatear! I rang Rob and left and answerphone message to then receive calls from Andrew Kinghorn and Rob to tell me what I already knew. It was back on the beach.

Once again there was a danger of birders chasing and harrying the bird so after we’d all had a good look and it had moved, I suggested to the crowd we all back off and allow it to return to it’s favoured tree stump where we could all get great views and photos. Despite one woman having to be coaxed off the log after stopping for a sit down the bird soon flew in.

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)

Even Minnie managed to get in on the act and made it to Twitter!

Minnie & Me

Minnie & Me

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Manchester United Retain Red Devil To Appease Satan

In a widely anticipated move Manchester United have decided to retain the Red Devil on their club crest after extending their sponsorship deal with the Devil for another two years. Manchester United famously angered their fans when they dropped the title Football Club when the first entered a deal with Old Nick. At the time a spokesman for the club said that Manchester United and Hell were looking for synergy and did not want to alienate those consigned to eternal damnation who had previously not followed the club.

Satan At Yesterday's Press Conference

Satan At Yesterday’s Press Conference

The new deal thought to be worth £3bn involves a tie with all the World’s major banks and was hailed as a strategic alliance between the club and Hades.  A spokesperson for the Manchester United Very Independent Supporters Association (VISA) Lucy Furr said the deal would safeguard the future of the club and would help them once again to battle the white knights of the Christian Cross, thought by many to be a reference to Real Madrid, on equal terms again in the Champions League.

Book Review

Britain’s Habitats: A Guide to the Wildlife Habitats of Britain and Ireland (Wildguides)

Sophie Lake, Durwyn Liley, Robert Still, Andy Swash

Princeton University Press

ISBN: 9780691158556

£27.91

Britain's Habitats

Britain’s Habitats

This splendid new book from the Wildguides stable is something that has long been missing for many years, a book on the habitats of Britain and Ireland, what to find in them and when. The introduction discusses the ten main habitat types found in Britain and Ireland. It is interesting to note that across the whole of Britain and Ireland 30.8% of habitat is formed from ‘other habitats’ (arable, brownfield and orchard) and 40.5% grassland, of which 34% is improved. Look at the map on Page 8 and you will see instantly that this percentage is very different if we separate Britain from Ireland with a much greater percentage of grassland in Ireland. This may well account for the reduced diversity certainly in terms of birds, mammals, Lepidoptera and Odonata.

There follows a discussion on climate, topography and geology and their effect on habitat. Tellingly there is a discussion about man’s influence and also on climate change. Pages 16 & 17 feature a very informative and at times (where mankind has been involved) timeline of habitat development. Also discussed in detail is the natural process of succession, nothing to do with the Royal family but natural and man’s influences on changes to habitats over time. This informs the need to manage succession at times.

The bulk of the book is broken into the 10 major habitat types and these are further subdivided, as after all woodland can apply to 12 subcategories. Each subcategory is then looked at in detail. Each one starts with a brief description of the habitat types then goes on to discuss similar habitats, origins and development, conservation and what to look for. Separate text boxes look at distribution and extent of the habitats, how to recognise it and when to visit. Each section is beautifully illustraded with photographs of the key habitat features and crucially some of the wildlife to be found there.

At the end the habitat correspondence tables are of limited and interest and the list of species mentioned would have been better indexed but these are minor niggles. Overall this is a superb book and is for anyone who loves wildlife and discovering more about why they are seeing species where they do. It is truly a ‘field’ guide.

Book Review

The Birdwatcher’s Yearbook 2015

Edited by David Cromack

Buckingham Press

ISBN  978-0-95698-768-1

£18.50

BYB2015

Now in its 35th year BYB continues to go from strength-to-strength. In today’s climate of e-books and smart phones I still find it has a place… and that is not on the bookshelf but in the car. If I’m out in Norolk and want to know the tide times for a wader roost at Snettisham you can bet I can’t get a 3G signal on my phone, I can barely get a signal most of the time so checking tide times is impossible. Not so if I use BYB, a few quick calculations and I know exactly when to be in place. This is the beauty of BYB.

As usual BYB packs a lot on its 328 pages Starting with the features and this year there is a great feature on the NGB or Next Generation Birders. These young people are going to produce the next Martin Garner and Killian Mullarney and their story is heartening. Birding does have a bright future. There are short articles on topics such as saving the Spoon-billed Sandpiper and advances in tagging that reveals new information about migration. Wildlife artist Michael Demain (whose fabulous Black Grouse painting graces the cover) discusses the future of the Hen Harrier in England and story that has proved very popular this year and has divided a lot of opinion. There then follows a quick run through of 2012’s best bird books and a look at what’s hot on the internet.

Next follows the Diary, something I find extremely useful as I can quickly add species to a day, i.e. my first Swallow of the summer or a peak date for the emergence of the Hornet Moth which save me time looking for key dates to get out and about. The log sheets are similarly useful as you can build up a picture of what you see and more importantly when. There are up-to-date list for birds, the latest BOU update is included, and dragonflies and this year the Butterfly list gets a long wished for update and includes all the regular and rare migrants.

The bulk of the book is made up of the directory, which includes details of just about every local national bird group/club in the UK as well as many international organisations, details of speakers, photographers, and equipment dealers – the works. Of great use are the tide and sunrise/sunset tables so you’ll never miss that killer photo of waders against a setting sun ever again.  There is also a chapter on selected bird reserves and though limited is very up-to-date and fact checked (I know because I’ve fact-checked some of the Leicestershire sites)

All-in-all, I cannot praise the Birdwatcher’s Yearbook highly enough – long may it reign!

John Hague

Penny Buns

This afternoon I took a bit of TOIL, I had planned to take the whole day but decided with the prospect of a night game in the FA Cup Second Round a possibility not to use up too much leave. Came home and decided I’d take Minnie for a walk on Beacon Hill.

Almost the first Mushrooms I found were Ceps Boletus edulis. The first lot were pretty small and a bit dog-eared but the next one was a whopper! I don’t have small hands but I got my hand in for scale.

Cep (Boletus edulis)

Cep (Boletus edulis)

Cep (Boletus edulis)

Cep (Boletus edulis)

Cep (Boletus edulis)

Cep (Boletus edulis)

Further round were plenty of Fly Agaric Amanita muscaria… my favourite!

Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria)

Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria)

Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria)

Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria)

Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria)

Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria)

Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria)

Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria)

Wari, Wari, Wari, Warrington!

It was great to see Warrington Town win 1-0 at home in the First Round proper of the FA Cup last night. I was trawling my memory banks and whilst I’ve driven past Cantilever Park on visits to Wilderspool or The Halliwell Jones Stadium to watch Rugby League in the town I’d never dropped in. I must change that.

I have, however, seen Warrington Town play once in The FA Cup when they beat Denaby United FC 0-2 in the Preliminary Round in 2000/2001 at one of my favourite lost grounds. Tickhill Square. The photos from that day taken using an APS camera (remember that format?) are lost, probably thrown out by my ex wife but here’s a photo nicked from the Internet.

IMG_9933.JPG

Brotton Borough

News came through on Thursday, as I was ill in bed with the Jimmy Smitts, that an Eastern Crowned Warbler had been seen at Brotton in Cleveland (North Riding of Yorkshire). Arses! Literally…

Still not being 100% right I thought I had to risk it and thankfully Greeny was driving the next day so here goes… bung myself up and hope I don’t give the others a dose of the Brads.

Arriving early it was like a scene from Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’ but in reverse as numbers started to build up and unnerve the locals.

141031_Brotton_2

The Birders

The Birders

The Birders

The Birders

Soon enough though the bird was found and led by El Presidente chaos soon reigned as anxious birders crashed around the woods.

The Birders

The Birders

Finally and by staying reasonably patient I managed my first views of Eastern Crowned Warbler Phylloscopus coronatus and eventually got a few photos and i bit of video on the iPhone by iPhonescoping.

Here is a still from the video grabbed using the StillShot app.

Eastern Crowned Warbler

Eastern Crowned Warbler

Finally I managed a couple of record shots with the DSLR.

Eastern Crowned Warbler

Eastern Crowned Warbler

Eastern Crowned Warbler

Eastern Crowned Warbler