Monday, September 29, 2008


Now I don't really have a problem with spiders but when you come across one on the stairs that's just about big enough to climb up each step on it's own, it doesn't half give you a start.

Quickly scooped up into a nearby jar and placed in the garden - it might be a house spider but at that size it could take out a few pigeons and my woodlice aren't that big!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Motorway Nature Spotting

One of the upsides of a long drive on the motorway is that you get to see a variety of birds and knowing that my route took me up the M40, I had red kites to look out for. They're now such a common site and breeding has been so successful, that there are over 1200 pairs now in the UK and they're easy to spot on the M40 around High Wycombe.

I spotted the first bird just after the A404 junction and then a short distance further on, half a dozen circling beside the motorway, then all the way up the M40 I was spotting either red kites or buzzards, four of those in a short distance. I wonder if the tarmac provides a source of rising air, as it was a warm and sunny afternoon.

Buzzards also having a successful year, as I hadn't soon so many - at least not on that route. On a journey westwards from Brighton they become more and more frequent but not so often going northwards.

Other birds often spotted alongside motorways are rooks and carrion crows, sitting on lampposts waiting to take advantage of roadside casualities or hopping along the side of the road when the traffic is light - flying up from the road itself, kestrels also take advantage of roadside vantage points for an easy meal. Either hovering at the edge or being ultra lazy and sitting on a lamppost peering down into the verge for voles or other small creatures.

You might see a heron flying across the road - again, easy to spot with it's large wing span and slow, heavy flapping, even when seen at a distance.

Jays are having a successful year if the number of birds flying across the A3 between Petersfield and the M25 is anything to go by. I saw four in quick succession around Hindhead and several more at regular intervals. They're also easy to spot - rounded wings and loping flight pattern as they fly across open ground from one patch of woodland to another.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Female Whitethroat

Now one aspect of what I do is helping people deal with their distractions throughout the day. I have a most delightful but no less distracting source right outside my window - it's a border of buddlieas.

I'll often post here after I've spotted something out there - butterflies usually but also small birds that fly in and out and hop along the branches. Today I'm sitting watching a female whitethroat hopping about on the branches and developing seed heads of the buddliea flowers. Viewed through the binoculars (I'll probably get arrested if I get spotted) I get a great view and rather than just fly in and fly off, she's been there for a while. No doubt finding insects to eat and fuel up her southward migration.

At least it gives my eyes a break switching from the computer screen to an outside view.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Autumn Clearance

Kerrnackered - been out all day on the first scrub clearance of the Autumn with the South Downs. What a great day though! Could be the start (and probably end) of the Indian Summer we've been promised after an extremely wet and windy Summer.

Working on the Downs below the Dyke so we were in danger of being landed on by para-gliders, although if they got that close, they were going to be in really trouble and about to collide with a hawthorn bush if they were lucky, or worse blackthorn. There was a loud shout and cry of b****cks at one point as one of them nearly crashing into the trees, disappeared out of sight and hopefully landed in the field rather than the top of a tree. We didn't hear any further cussing so assume he did. There were squeals every now and then as a tandem paraglider passed overhead and at one point

Back with the usual array of scratches on the arms - it was such a nice day and very warm, too warm for long sleeves. Plenty of loping and sawing and between the five of us we managed to start clearing a new area of scrub along the escarpment. The fencing along the edge of the field has been completely repaired since I was last there and the plan is to graze the area once the scrub has been cleared sufficiently. There was plenty of Devil's Bit Scabious on the slope - although not growing as thickly as the E-piece.

A buzzard circled overhead briefly before heading off eastwards and I heard both a green and spotted woodpecker call - probably in alarm at being startled out of a tree by a paraglider! A robin came to inspect our handiwork and probably wondered where it's singing posts had disappeared to as we hacked down some rather large hawthorn bushes/trees.

Friday, September 05, 2008

How To Watch Birds - Part 6: Calls and Songs

If you can identify a bird from it’s call or song, you’ll get to ‘see’ a lot more birds as you’ll often hear them before you see them or only hear them. It’s certainly not my strongest area of bird recognition. It helps to learn the calls of the more common birds so you can recognise and eliminate them when identifying a bird.

The best way to do this is to get hold of a CD or DVD and start to recognise the common ones and the difference between their call and their song which can be simple with little difference or incredibly complex and some species will even mimic calls of other birds or sounds. Starlings are well known for incorporating man-made sounds into their calls.

Reading the description in a book rarely helps except for the more obvious ones, the cuckoo is a sound that everyone recognises. – a chiff-chaff is easy as that’s what it sounds like … chiff chaff chiff chaff and a yellow hammer’s call sounds like “a littlebitofbread and no cheeeeeesssseee” … well, sort of.

Long-tailed tits are often heard first before you see them. The high pitched tsk sound as small flocks of them flit about in the tops of trees or even around garden feeders in wooded areas. The twittering of goldfinches flying overhead is also distinctive once you’ve learnt their call.

Repetition is essential – the more you hear them, the easier they become to recognise. This is when it’s a good idea to go out with an expert.