Saturday, July 19, 2014

Birding England, July 12-18, 2014

Eurasian Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula
Dunnock Prunella modularis
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
Linnet Carduelis cannabina
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus
Common Magpie Pica pica
Common Whitethroat Sylvia communis with nesting materials
Common Whitethroats Sylvia communis
Common Whitethroat Sylvia communis
Eurasian Wren Troglodytes troglodytes
 Last week I was camped out in the tall weeds on the bank of the River Misbourne (more of a trickle, really), just waiting for something to happen. After 20 minutes of unadulterated nothing, the quiet scene exploded into chaos. I glanced to the left and my jaw dropped as a Eurasian Sparrowhawk flashed past my face at eye level and a distance of perhaps two feet. Its wings were pulled in tight, and it radiated power and speed, like a menacing hood ornament. By the time I turned my head back to the right, a life-or-death struggle was in full swing on the riverside ten feet off. The Sparrowhawk was half in the water flapping wildly, and was being attacked by a shrieking Moorhen. The altercation lasted only seconds, but as the Sparrowhawk lifted off I noticed a small set of extra legs dangling beneath the raptor. The Moorhen called nervously for its missing chick for another few minutes, until amazingly, I noticed chunks of feather with bone attached floating down the river from the direction the Sparrowhawk flew. This episode ranks highly on my list of intense birding experiences.
  On July 12th, I went on a trip to Dunstable Downs, and was very impressed with the array of 'small bird' action on the scrubby downs. Whitethroats were observed still feeding juveniles that looked large enough to feed themselves, while other Whitethroats were engaged in nest-building activities. I'm guessing Whitethroats have two broods in summer?
  Nearby, a dead tree was the locus of activity for a dizzying collection of finches, including Eurasian Bullfinch, Linnet, and European Goldfinch, with some Great Tits and Willow Warblers sprinkled in for good measure.
  Yesterday in Amersham, I spotted a flyover female Mandarin Duck, which seemed odd, but apparently there's a feral population in the area.

59. Linnet (Dunstable Downs, Bedfordshire, July 12, 2014)

60. Eurasian Bullfinch (Dunstable Downs, Bedfordshire, July 12, 2014)
61. Long-tailed Tit (South Bucks Way, Amersham, July 13, 2014)
62. Eurasian Sparrowhawk (South Bucks Way, Amersham, July 13, 2014)
63. Goldcrest (Wendover Woods, July 16, 2014)
64. Mandarin Duck (Amersham, July 18, 2014)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Butterflies of Buckhinghamshire

Marbled White Melanargia galathea
Meadow brown Maniola jurtina (with Honeybee)
Meadow brown Maniola jurtina
Peacock Inachis io (with Hoverfly)
Ringlet Aphantopus hyperantus
Ringlet Aphantopus hyperantus
Small tortoiseshell Aglais urticae
Silver-washed fritillary Argynnis paphia
Common blue Polyommatus icarus
I don't profess to possess a lot of butterfly knowledge. In fact, everything I know about English butterflies I have gleaned from a glossy 4-page fold-out guide Helly recently bought. She seemed into it, so I've been aiming my lens downward into the weeds a lot more recently. It's quite a bit easier than trying to get a record shot of a bird, as one can usually lope and blunder after a fleeing butterfly with relative ease. In any case, as interesting/distracting as it is, I don't see myself becoming a serious butterfly-watcher ('flutterer'?) any time soon, for the simple reason that butterflies are not birds. One winged addiction should do fine for now, thanks.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Birding at the pub

The Eagle, Old Amersham
Merlin's Cave, Chalfont St. Giles
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla 
Oi! You gonna buy me a drink or just stare?
Binos in one hand, pint of lager in the other. Heh, this is living. Two things that the Amersham area is blessed with are gorgeous walking trails, and centuries-old pubs that smell of wood and history. Happily, at the end of most of the former, you will find one of the latter. A cold pint of Magners does wonders for sore tendons and shoulders, worn ragged after hauling a load of superfluous birding gear up and down the Chiltern Hills.
  The birding gods have smiled on me of late, and given up a bit of birding gold to go along with the pub at the end of the rainbow. Birds! And lifers at that. Admittedly, it's not too hard to get lifers (or at least UK ticks) during my first couple of weeks here, but I still get a cheeky grin when I see a new bird for the first time while sipping a cold one (or lukewarm, in the case of ale).
  Last week at The Eagle, in Old Amersham, I was sipping a Stella Artois when an LBJ fluttered onto the back deck and proceeded to peck at chip crumbs on the ground, at the feet of the punters who were shedding them. The bird was only a few feet away, so I saw clearly it was a Dunnock, a species I had, up until that moment, not seen yet. 'DUNNOCK! DUNNOCK!' I cried, grinning like an idiot. Most around me were confused until I explained my affliction passion for birds, and then most were still confused.
  Yesterday in Chalfont St. Giles I had an even more satisfying 'Birds n Beers' moment. In the sprawling gardens behind the Merlin's Cave, Helly and I were enjoying a couple of regenerative pints after a two-hour hike in the blazing sun. The far corner of the garden overlooks a small stream lined with scrub, and we were enjoying watching the Swifts, Blue Tits, Magpies, Mallards, Goldfinches, and a Wren interact with our shared landscape.
  Suddenly, an LBJ (yet again) popped up on a branch just over the fence. I got a quick bino view and cried (silently this time) 'BLACKCAP! BLACKCAP!', before getting a couple of record images. More grinning like an idiot. Life is good.
  Here's hoping that there are still a few more rainbows and a bit of gold waiting for me at the end of my future birds walks through the sweltering and gorgeous English countryside. Cheers.
  Yellowhammer. Still the best word ever.

Birds of South Buckinghamshire, July 1-11, 2014

Common Blackbird Turdus merula
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus
Black Swan Cygnus atratus (from Australia, feral)
Black Swan Cygnus atratus
Canada Goose Branta canadensis (feral)
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra with chick
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos duckling
Common Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus
juvenile European Robin Erithacus rubecula
Song Thrush Turdus philomelos
juvenile Mute Swan Cygnus olor
Mute Swan Cygnus olor
Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella
Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella pair
1. Red Kite (Amersham, July 1, 2014)
2.     Western Jackdaw (Amersham, July 1, 2014)
3.     Common Blackbird (Amersham, July 1, 2014)
4.     Common Wood Pigeon (Amersham, July 1, 2014)
5.     European Robin (Amersham, July 1, 2014)
6.     Eurasian Wren (Amersham, July 1, 2014)
7.     House Sparrow (Amersham, July 1, 2014)
8.     Rook (Amersham, July 1, 2014)
9.     Common Magpie (Amersham, July 1, 2014)
10.   Common Swift (Amersham, July 1, 2014)
11.   Common Buzzard (Amersham, July 1, 2014)
12.   Common Starling (Amersham, July 1, 2014)
13.   Common Kestrel (Amersham, July 1, 2014)
14.   European Greenfinch (Amersham, July 1, 2014)
15.   Song Thrush (Amersham, July 1, 2014)
16.   Common Chaffinch (Amersham, July 1, 2014)
17.   European Green Woodpecker (Amersham, July 1, 2014)
18.   Eurasian Jay (Amersham, July 1, 2014)
19.   Carrion Crow (Amersham, July 1, 2014)
20.   Blue Tit (Amersham, July 1, 2014)
21.   House Martin (Chess Valley/Latimer, July 2, 2014)
22.   Common Pheasant (Chess Valley/Latimer, July 2, 2014)
23.   Little Grebe (Chess Valley/Latimer, July 2, 2014)
24.   Grey Heron (Chess Valley/Latimer, July 2, 2014)
25.   Great Crested Grebe (Chess Valley/Latimer, July 2, 2014)
26.   Mute Swan (Chess Valley/Latimer, July 2, 2014)
27.   Canada Goose (Chess Valley/Latimer, July 2, 2014)
28.   Common Skylark (Chess Valley/Latimer, July 2, 2014)
29.   Eurasian Coot (Chess Valley/Latimer, July 2, 2014)
30.   Common Moorhen (Chess Valley/Latimer, July 2, 2014)
31.   Mallard (Chess Valley/Latimer, July 2, 2014)
32.   Tufted Duck (Chess Valley/Latimer, July 2, 2014)
33.   Yellowhammer (South Amersham Fields, July 3, 2014)
34.   Great Tit (South Amersham Fields, July 3, 2014)
35.   Collared Dove (Old Amersham, July 4, 2014)
36.   Barn Swallow (Shardeloes, July 4, 2014)
37.   Gadwall (Shardeloes, July 4, 2014)
38.   Pied Wagtail (Shardeloes, July 4, 2014)
39.   Black Swan (Little Missenden, July 4, 2014)
40.   Grey Wagtail (Shardeloes, July 4, 2014)
41.   Greylag Goose (Shardeloes, July 4, 2014)
42.   Whitethroat (Shardeloes, July 4, 2014)
43.   Dunnock (The Eagle Pub, Amersham, July 5, 2014)
44.   Common Tern (Tring Reservoirs, Hertfordshire, July 6, 2014)
45.   Great Cormorant (Tring Reservoirs, Hertfordshire,July 6, 2014)
46.   Common Kingfisher (Tring Reservoirs, Hertfordshire,July 6, 2014)
47.   European Goldfinch (Tring Reservoirs, Hertfordshire,July 6, 2014)
48.   Eurasian Hobby (Tring Reservoirs, Hertfordshire,July 6, 2014)
49.   Little Egret (Tring Reservoirs, Hertfordshire,July 6, 2014)
50.   Black-headed Gull (South Bucks Way between Amersham and Chalfont St. Giles, July 10, 2014)
51.   Mistle Thrush (South Bucks Way between Amersham and Chalfont St. Giles, July 10, 2014)
52.   Blackcap (Merlin’s Cave Pub, Chalfont St. Giles, July 10, 2014)
53.   Eurasian Treecreeper (South Bucks Way between Amersham and Chalfont St. Giles, July 10, 2014)
54.   Common Whitethroat (South Bucks Way between Amersham and Chalfont St. Giles, July 10, 2014)
55.   Chiffchaff (South Bucks Way between Amersham and Chalfont St. Giles, July 10, 2014)
56.   Willow Warbler (South Bucks Way between Amersham and Chalfont St. Giles, July 10, 2014)
57.   Pochard (Shardeloes, July 11, 2014)
58.   Lesser Black-backed Gull (Shardeloes, July 11, 2014)

Birding England, July 1-11, 2014

Tring Reservoirs
Chess Valley
Chess Valley
Birding with a Yorkie at Shardeloes
Tring Greylags
Grizzled at Tring
Hills of Amersham
Best birding partner ever
I've been in England for almost two weeks now, birding regularly. Summer is quiet here, but I think I've picked up a respectable number of local birds in my time here so far. Bumping into a few other birders has been a bit strange for me, coming from Korea, where each birder is issued their own province, ha ha. The weather has been mostly gorgeous, but notoriously susceptible to sudden and dramatic change.

  The charming little town of Amersham, in Buckhinghamshire (Bucks) is where I'm based, and all of my birding has been in and around this area. The plentiful and low-flying Red Kites are lovely to watch, and apparently they've been reintroduced to the area relatively recently.
  Other than highly recommending the Collins Bird Guide, I have not much else to report. Oh, I'm in love with the word 'Yellowhammer'. Yellowhammer. Yellowhammer. Yellowhammer.