Monday, 17 March 2014

Blogging via email

Because iPads (and, to be fair, not just iPads, tablets in general) are generally useless for everything except browsing the net, collecting email (it's happy to receive them although its ideas differ from mine about sending them), reading electronic books and listening to music, if I want to update the blog during the three weeks I'll be away I'll have to use email. Blogger doesn't have an app (why?) which would make life a lot easier and the regular browser interface is practically unusable in Safari.

I think I can add photos, so I'll attach one to the email and see what happens. The photo is of a Rainbow Bee-eater from my previous visit to Australia. I hope this works, so far the Gmail mobile site isn't great while the mobile app is plain old shite!

I am setting off tomorrow and will return home on 9th April, unless idiot politicians get us all nuked over Crimea...and the moronic willy-waving over that land-grab is getting ever more serious.

It seems as if email blogging works okay although I have to go in and edit out all the email-related crap.

NB - I've added in old imported posts from my old travel blog, these relate to my previous trip to Australia and SE Asia and can be seen under '2009' (links on right). The formatting's a bit screwed but I'll sort it out at some point.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Culver Down

Photos from Culver this morning, on a glorious warm early spring day. As usual, click on them for largest sizes.


Herring Gull



It looks as if one is getting an earful from the other, but there was no sound and it was most likely part of their courtship display as the left bird appeared to be begging.

Meadow Pipit

There was no sign of the reported male Black Redstarts on the cottages, or on the fort either, where I've seen them in the past. A quick visit to the little housing estate in Sandown also drew a blank and I think Black Reds are avoiding me this year!
Skylarks were singing, a sure sign of the approaching season and Chiffchaffs were calling from scrub. After an hour, Culver was getting crowded as more people arrived (although, to me, more than about half a dozen people is 'crowded'!) so I left.

Glossy Ibis pics

This was the first opportunity since Sunday to get another look at the Adgestone Glossy Ibis and hopefully a closer view than I had last week. The Ibis was feeding on a field adjacent to the marsh, and I was able to get a few photos at the long end of my 100-400mm zoom. They are huge crops because the bird just wasn't close enough to get better ones, but a lot better than Sunday's woeful extreme range effort.

Click for the largest size

Following the Glossy Ibis visit, I then went up to Culver in the hope of some early migrants. There weren't but I did get a few photos of common species which will be in the next post.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Glossy Ibis

Today, a fabulous, warm early spring day with loads of sunshine, began with a birding group walk at Binstead, a village near Ryde on the north-east coast of the Isle of Wight. As I left home, a Raven was perched on a fence post at the top of the road.
We met close to the church and, after watching the local Nuthatches (Binstead is one of only two places on the island where these occur; why more haven't made their way across the Solent, no-one knows) we went to the beach. Out on the Solent was a Great Northern Diver, while a Sandwich Tern was sitting on a buoy close in, although there was no sign of the Black-necked Grebes.
We made our way back to our cars - Binstead, away from the grotty bits, namely the main A3054 road that takes you through to Ryde, is incredibly pretty - and into Ryde itself for the Black-necked Grebes, because we guessed they would be around the point and easier to see from Ryde. They were, or at least one was, which was coming into its summer plumage.
The new - well, new to me that is, as it's secondhand - Swarovski ATS 65 is superb and, despite obviously having seen a lot of action, being a bit scruffy - totally destroys my old Kowa TSN 601 in the image quality stakes as I knew it would. It's a lot easier to look through, you get 'into' the view, rather than feeling as if you're looking through a knot-hole in wood, and the colours are so much better.

While we were in Binstead, those of us signed up to the local rare bird text alerts got messages about a Glossy Ibis on the marshes at Adgestone, a village near Sandown. I decided to see if I could see it - via trips to get some petrol and a side trip to see if I could spot a Black Redstart which is frequenting a particular address on a small housing estate in Sandown (I dipped on the Redstart and didn't really want to loiter suspiciously on a housing estate while searching for it) - and I duly did, from a hill top overlooking the marshes. I took a long-distance photo and have cropped the hell out of it, leaving only a tiny part of the centre of the photo, so the quality is abysmal, and heat shimmer doesn't help either, but you can see the bird on the dead tree at centre. As with all the photos, click for the largest view.

The view from the hill overlooking the marshes.

I decided to see if I could get closer views, so I went into Adgestone itself and walked around the muddy footpath where I joined another birder. He said the bird had been scared by dog walkers and had gone the other side of thick reeds. We waited for a while - and heard a Cetti's Warbler and saw a Chiffchaff - but, apart from a split-second view as it flapped about, we didn't see it again.

A pair of Mute swans flew over

Daffodils at home

A ladybird

Nice to see spring here, although it's early days and there'll be a few cold, wet days before winter is finally banished.

Good wins for the Saints in the  Premier League (although looking at the line ups for the FA Cup semi-final matches makes it all the more galling they cocked it up at Sunderland last month; it was a fantastic opportunity to progress and maybe win) and England rugby in the Six Nations.
Terrible news about the - at the time of writing - still missing, suspected crashed, Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 and, on a personal level, it's all the more sobering as I'll be travelling with them next week, via Kuala Lumpur to Sydney. That said, it's one of the best airlines for safety and the cause of this accident will no doubt be discovered in due course. Whatever the cause, it's a truly dreadful thing to happen.

Last week in that factory, thank goodness. I'll miss the money of course, and a couple of the people I get on with well, but I won't miss having to get up at stupid o'clock to be there at 0700, especially in winter.

Saturday, 1 March 2014


Today was a nice early spring day (March 1st is the start of meteorological spring in the northern hemisphere) so I went to Ryde for a bit of sea watching. It was nice to get out after a few days of feeling ill with a bad flu-like cold - people might laugh at colds but they can make you feel worse than crap.

Click on photos for largest size, because I mostly saved this lot at 1500 px on the longest side, to show the birds better, but they're too large for the blog template width.

Plenty of gulls about, as usual

And, again, here are Sanderling for your viewing pleasure. These are such cute little birds and passing old ladies were cooing over them: 'Ooh, aren't they sweet?!' and, indeed, they are dear little birds. These photos show a small fraction of the 150 or so that were there. Some of the Sanderlings had colour rings and flags on their legs, and these are part of a project by the International Wader Study Group to track the migration of these birds.

A Pied Wagtail or two were about, such as this young one on the beach

An interesting sight was a couple of Ravens, which flew over the canoe lake and town; these have been seen in Ryde a lot recently. I have to admit it was a surprise to see them, I'd only ever seen them on Culver Cliff, at Newtown and other less-populated places. Here, on the Isle of Wight, these once scarce birds of wilder places are coming into towns and I wonder if it's the same elsewhere?

Two spectacularly crap photos of one of the Ravens seen this morning. I hate photographing jet-black birds.

A Chiffchaff was calling, from the scrubby plants on the top of the bank on the north side of the canoe lake. It was also fly-catching. We have resident Chiffchaffs here so I'm not sure this was one of these or a recently-arrived one from further south. I tried to take its photo but failed. It was too quick and the bushes gave my 6D's AF a problem.
Also, there were two Great Northern Divers out on the sea, along with three Great Crested Grebes. A Grey Wagtail was on the wall of the south side of the canoe lake which itself had the usual population of Mute Swans, Canada Geese and 'Yuck Ducks' (various Mallard x AN Other hybrids).

I headed for home, via a quick look at Seaview, after an hour as I have one of those classic post-viral thingies where you don't feel so much ill as merely trampled by a herd of elephants.

The other purpose of the outing was to meet up with local birder Derek Hale as he has an old 65mm Swarovski ATS spotting scope for sale, which I'm interested in. I've been meaning to replace my old beat up Kowa for a while and have been looking at Swarovski scopes, but the prices for new ones are hideous and I can't really justify spending well over a grand (nearly £1400!) on one, especially with a trip to Australia just two weeks away. It's certainly seen some action and is a bit scruffy itself but, optically, is in good condition and, comparing it and my Kowa side-by-side it blows the Kowa - itself a nice little scope - out of the water, especially with clarity of the view and the colours in the Swarovski are much better, neutral, rather than yellowish. For me though, the superior eye relief of the Swarovski eyepiece is the main reason for getting one, as I wear spectacles and, unlike some people, I can't be doing with taking them off and putting them on again; even putting them on my head means they tangle up in my hair.

Bloody football. Monday at work's going to be even more of a drag than usual, with the plastic scousers there giving it the large one.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Seawatch, Ryde to Seaview

What a difference a day makes! Today was positively spring-like, with plenty of sunshine and mild temperatures, a total contrast to the hurricane conditions of nearly 48 hours ago. We even saw a Chiffchaff fly-catching in trees next to the Ryde-Seaview footpath. It started off cold, with a bit of a frost, but warmed up quite quickly.
I joined the Isle of Wight Ornithological Group's (IWOG) walk and seawatch between Ryde and Seaview, led by Derek Hale, who runs a website with the latest Isle of Wight bird sightings.

Here's the route on Google maps. It's good for woodland birds (Appley and Puckpool Parks) as well as seawatching at the right time of year, generally winter, for waders, gulls, grebes, divers and the occasional auk species.

View Larger Map

I parked my car in Appley park where you get free parking for 5 hours (the sea front, on the other hand, has got year-round parking charges) and met the others at North Walk. The tide was low, although it was starting to turn, and there were plenty of waders and gulls out on the sandbanks. Unfortunately there were plenty of dogs and their walkers on the sandbanks too, why do they feel the need to go so far out among the birds? There's plenty of room further in. Not only that, they let their mutts chase the birds thus disturbing their feeding activities and their rest. When confronted it's invariably 'But he's not hurting them!' No, but the harm isn't a result of a dog biting or killing the bird, it's the stress caused.

N.B., I am a dog lover, I come from a dog-owning family, I just hate the minority of dog owners who behave like total pricks - birds chased, dog shit uncollected so you step in it, dog shit collected but in plastic bags left hanging from trees because, of course, the Dog Shit Fairy will take them away, letting their uncontrolled dogs jump up at you, etc., it's all totally self-centred and unnecessary.

Anyway, when they were left undisturbed by dogs and ignorant owners, there were c.100 Sanderling, a Bar-tailed Godwit, a Guillemot (there have been a lot of storm victims, some living, others dead, washed up along the south coast recently; happily this one was alive and not in bad shape) and the usual gull species (there were no Little Gulls today, sadly).
Walking past Appley Park, we saw Redwings which had been inadvertently flushed by people, they flew up into the trees, disturbing a singing Song Thrush. I've barely seen a Greenfinch all winter - it's been so mild, the garden has been quiet - but there were a few around today.

Out on the Solent, as seen from Puckpool Park, were a group of Red-breasted Mergansers (3 male, 3 female), at least 2 Great Northern Divers (sorry, but I am NOT going to use the atrocious American term 'loon' which, apparently, we are supposed to call them these days. Apart from the fact I can't stand the word and it's yet another Americanism, it's also a very unpleasant term my nasty-piece-of-work stepfather used for the - very sweet - learning difficulties kids who were passengers on his school bus back in the 80s. Therefore I won't use it!), a Slavonian Grebe and a Great Crested Grebe plus six Shags. Shags used to be a rare sight in the Solent, Bembridge Ledge was as close as they ever got, but these days they're being seen in the Solent more often.

The Chiffchaff mentioned at the beginning of the post was fly-catching in trees behind the beach huts at Puckpool while further along at Springvale, a Grey Wagtail was by a temporary pond on a field on the landward side of the road. A Grey Wagtail isn't out of the ordinary, but I haven't seen one for ages and they are such smart little birds. A group of Curlew were on the fields while a Fox trotted across, well out of camera range unfortunately.

Moving onto Hersey Nature Reserve, there was no sign of the Kingfisher which often sits by or on the sluice gate but we did hear a Water Rail calling, it sounds like a pig someone's attempting to kill. From the hide, we could see at least six Snipe fondly imagining themselves unobserved among the reeds, 25 Teal, a Lapwing, a group of Oystercatchers, a Shelduck, three Greenshank, 4 Buzzards and a Peregrine.
The tide was in by now and Sanderling were gathering on the beach, in the same place I photographed them yesterday, there were no Turnstones today. I thought I'd try and improve on the photos I took yesterday. No chance. Why is it that one day I can take decent shots, but the next day not a damn thing is in focus?!

By now it was time to head back to the car and home. Thanks to Derek Hale for leading the walk.

Here are the photos...


Grey Wagtail - a massive crop of the only pic which came out

Oystercatchers at Hersey NR




After I got home yesterday, I listened to Southampton's FA Cup match away at Sunderland. It was piss-poor, to say the least. Saints lost and the assistant manager, Jesus Perez, was quoted saying 'We are not disappointed'. No, but the fans are! What was the bloody point, if you're not going to sodding bother??!! There's not much to play for in the league, we're not going down, we won't make the top six so trying to win the FA Cup, a major trophy, should have been a high priority. Our best chance in years to progress and, maybe, get to a final (we were a couple of wins away) and actually win something - for a team of their size, Saints have won practically f-all over the years, with the exception of the FA Cup nearly 40 years ago and the League Trophy in 2010, yet they couldn't be arsed. Insulting for the fans to say the least.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

After the (latest) storm

We had yet another storm yesterday, which lasted well into this morning, and it was the most intense storm yet with Violent Storm Force 11 winds gusting up to Hurricane Force 12 at times. At midnight the gusts were so violent, the house shook! Luckily we got away with no more damage at home than lop-sided fences (they were mostly destroyed during the stormy Christmas period) and overturned bins.
There was flooding all over the Isle of Wight, debris everywhere, trees down and structural damage. Part of Undercliff Drive, between Niton and Ventnor, has been/is being evacuated due to the serious risk of landslides and a section of the road collapsed last weekend. Other roads have also been damaged by small landslides and/or the tarmac breaking up; the surface of one road near me has been destroyed and it's not safe to drive on so they closed it.

I went out today to photograph the aftermath of the latest, and worst, hammering in a long line of hammerings this winter. I have also got a few bird pics, they'll appear later in this post.

Shingle was deposited along Springvale Road at Seaview

Flooding on the Eastern Yar

Flooding at Alverstone (near me), it had been across the road but had receded a bit.

Because of the damage, the Isle of Wight is one of the places getting assistance from the armed forces; a Chinook helicopter dropped soldiers, vehicles and sandbags, etc., at Newport this afternoon.

On to the birds...

Sanderling at Ryde

Sanderling at Seaview

Turnstones at Seaview

Turnstone and Sanderling

Carrion Crow at Seaview

Rook at Sandown