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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Unlucky for some...

Thirteen Grey Herons sit it out on the ice waitng for the thaw.

Friday, January 22, 2010

My iPod Nano

I acquired my16 gigabyte iPod Nano just over a year ago, paying about 125 pounds in an airport duty-free shop. Although I was at first doubtful if I would be able to master all the jargon and technology surrounding iTunes software, playlists, podcasts, and so on, with a little help from my elder son (who is really into this sort of thing) I got to grips with it and I would now be at a loss without it. I have loaded it with some 50 CDs (mainly classical) and innumerable podcasts from the radio, a few pictures and over 200 bird calls. It is still only half full.

My little blue iPod Nano playing a podcast from the BBC

I bought a stereo speaker system for about 65 pounds into which the iPod neatly docks.
The sound volume would not fill a disco but it is perfectly adequate for domestic use
and the quality of the sound is good.

It comes with a mains adapter, but also will run off six AAA batteries which slot into the back.

Just look how thin the speaker system is when folded up. It slips easily into the pocket of a suitcase and takes up no space at all - it goes everywhere with me on my many travels.

Having nearly lost my iPod twice during fieldwork, I have invested in a little leather case with a lanyard which goes round the neck or can be attached to a belt

An important use for my iPod is in fieldwork. I have some 200 bird voices loaded on which can be used for attracting birds for ringing them. The little speaker cost under six pounds from Tesco, runs off 3 AAA batteries and delivers sufficient volume for most fieldwork purposes.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

How to make Drip Coffee

Drip coffee seems to be a Japanese invention. My nephew Jack, who lives in Tokyo, keeps me supplied with consignments from time to time.

Remove the filter from the air-tight sachet (the green thing on the left). I have conditioned a reflex to make sure it is the right way up, or else the ground coffee ends up on the floor. Spread the filter using the tabs provided and seat the filter above the receptacle in the slots . Pour boiling water into the filter. I do this twice to increase the volume and to extract the last microgramme of caffeine.

While the filtration takes place, foam up some milk in a saucepan using a milk-frother supplied by Jack's mother (i.e. my sister, Lorenzo the Llama). Whisk until really stiff.

Pour the froth into the coffee. Sprinkle chocolate powder over the froth and drink

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Meanwhile, back in icy England, I was lucky to catch a Woodcock during a bird-ringing session.

My Woodcock - noticed the large eyes for nocturnal feeding

Woodcocks are not particular rare birds in Britain but they are not often seen. They are very secretive, feed at night (notice the large eyes!) and roost by day on the ground hidden under some thick undergrowth vegetation on the floor of a wood. They are not easily disturbed because, being so well camouflaged, they prefer to 'sit tight' and let you walk on by. The most likely people to see a Woodcock are dog walkers, as the dog may sniff one out and flush it. They fly off silently through the trees and easily escape attention.

The brown dappled tones of the Woodcock gives excellent camouflage and easily escapes notice as it sits tight among the leaves of a woodland floor

The best time of year to see Woodcocks is spring, when they undertake their remarkable display flights (called "roding") above the tree tops at dusk. They are regarded by some as a "game bird" and are sometimes hunted for the kitchen. I preferred to ring and release my bird, we may get some information about his travels.

The Woodcock's very long bill is for probing into soft ground for worms and other delicacies. They have a difficult time in winter when the ground is frozen
and they will migrate to warmer places. Notice the ring on its leg.

During winter, conditions are icy, birds will migrate to places where the ground is softer to probe with their sensitive bills. There is a massive influx into Britain from the continent each winter and it is very likely that my bird was one of these. Now that it is ringed, there is a chance that we will find out.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010


Now that Great Britain is gripped in winter's icy grasp, I thought I would remind myself of warmer times. In September last year I was in Andalucia participating in an ornithological expedition (original post here). On my way back to the airport I found myself with a few hours to spare in Sevilla and, there being not much in the way of wildlife to photograph, I tried my hand at buildings.

On the banks of the Guadalquivir. This is the river that flows down to form the delta that is the Coto de DoƱana, where I had been undertaking the bird studies.

The cathedral square. I was arrested here once (a long time ago) and was taken away in a police car to the railway station and dumped on the train to Madrid.

The cathedral itself. Its most noteworthy feature is that Lesser Kestrels
and Pallid Swifts nest in the tower.

A closer look at the tower where the Lesser Kestrels and Pallid Swifts nest

There - just to show that it wasn't all beer and Magno!

On the way home. Ryanair, where would I be without you!

Friday, January 01, 2010

Winter Tetrad

I described in April 2008 a nationwide bird survey organised by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), in which I am participating. The Birds Atlas Project establishes the distribution of birds throughout the British Isles by means of two-hour counts in mapping Tetrads, namely 2 km squares in the ordnance survey grid. Four 2-hour counts in each tetrad are required, two in winter and two in summer.

The 1st January marks the beginning of the second winter survey period, and so it was with birding friend Pam that I set off early on the first morning of the new decade to survey one of my tetrads. Despite the wintry conditions we managed to locate 25 bird species in the tetrad (SD28T).

Daybreak on the first day of a new decade (1st January 2010) over ice-bound Cumbria fells

The sheep look surprised - what could have alerted them?

Oh, it's just Pam negotiating a style over one of the stone walls

Despite the wintry conditions we recorded a very respectable 25 bird species in the tetrad

The 22 tetrads (2 x 2km squares) in Cumbria which have been assigned to me for survey. Each square needs four ticks, each representing a two-hour timed count, two in winter and two in summer. The map above shows the 30 ticks (34% of the 88 total) that had been accomplished in April 2008.

January 2010, showing 75 surveys completed (85%)
The remaning 13 are due to be completed by the summer of this year

A Happy New Year to all my readers!