Just go for it!

We all have those little voices in our ears that tell us to do things. Most of the time the things are just sensible, normal things, sometimes they can be a bit wappy. So what do we do about those messages form those anthropomorphised crickets called Jiminy? Take, for example, the continued presence of a Gyr Falcon at a place called Joggins, Nova Scotia and the constant nag that we should go and see it. We can call Joggins 500km away from home, more or less and the falcon has wings so might not sit on top of its regular pole all day waiting for you and there is the issue, what if we went all that way and dipped?

Google Maps offers two routes from Clam Point to Joggins. One is the traditional way, whereby you drive all the way, pausing only to refuel or unload and where you pass dollars to a smiling barrier attendant on the toll road. The other, and here is where the Internet is insidious, has you taking a ferry from Digby to Saint John, New Brunswick and coming at it from a more obtuse angle. Do you suppose that somewhere, by chance, money has changed hands to promote a service? I digress.

As if the Gyr Falcon wasn’t enough of a draw, a Townsend’s Solitaire had been found (well done Chris) in the area of Porter’s Lake, another Nova Scotia tick and another ear-whine. Still I prevaricated, then, when it was made clear to me that Sandra needed a new paintbrush and it could only be obtained from an art supplies store, the like of which we know not in southern Nova Scotia, well that was the proverbial straw, we had to go and get a paintbrush. The plan was simple, get the most important part of the trip done, that being the purchase of a $5 paint brush, then push on for the solitaire. If the news on the Gyr was positive, we’d go on from the solitaire, if not then, at least we’d have the paintbrush and maybe the solitaire. Thinking ahead we took an overnight bag.

The brush purchase was less stressful than expected and completed in short-order, now for the tricky bits. The solitaire had been on view for most of the previous day but the weather had cooled somewhat and fog was prevalent. The solitaire location was easy to find but the habitat a mosaic of yards with the best patches of berries behind the houses. Some of the home owners were fine for birders to search their yards so we did. At this point the news on the Gyr was that it had not shown the day before, despite four birder groups touring and looking for it. The one factor we hadn’t heard about was that there had been dense fog around Joggins all that day.

The solitaire didn’t show, and there were several folks looking, so we repaired to Sullivan’s Pond in Dartmouth photographing a female Tufted Duck and answering question about the funny bird with the white beak, an American Coot (see below). Both were year ticks for the year list I’m not doing and some small compensation for not seeing a solitaire and not risking the Joggins trip on the grounds that it may have gone. It was time to take stock, so we thought for a second or two and went for a curry. The curry House was at Bayer’s Lake on the way home and is possibly the nearest one to home. We had just dabbed up the remaining butter chicken sauce when a text announced that the Gyr was back.  A few minutes later we had paid the bill and were heading toward Amherst and an overnight stay.

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Hawks are generally slow risers, well perhaps Rough-legged are the exception but mostly hawks want the rest of the birds up and about and available before taking to the air, also known as waiting for breakfast, It was -5°c when we left Amherst and everywhere was either frozen or had that frostiness that tells you it is nippy out. We got to Joggins and the pole was devoid of falcons, to confirm he absence, crows and starlings were gambolling freely so clearly the falcon was not there. We drove along to Lower Cove, along Lower Cove Road as it happens, and passed a birder sat by the other pole, she waved. Out on the low tide the gulls were fractious, a good sign, so we did a U-turn and headed back to the other birder, it was Liz. She was stood on the cliff edge looking out through her bins as we pulled up and the Gyr flew past within feet of her and under her line of view. Much activity then took place as we explained that she’d just had her hair parted by it and that we’d lost it as it flew past. A five second view was not going to cut it!. We decided to head back to the other pole by the sewage works and set off, Sandra and I to the fore. Then I noticed it sat on a cliff-edge stump 400m along the road, I stopped but Liz just sailed past us.

Not wishing to alarm the bird we snuck a glance and grabbed some record shots, meanwhile Liz had sensed something was up and had stopped 150m up the road. Frantic waving was all the explanation needed and she quickly joined us viewing the bird. With some judicious manoeuvering we both managed to get some shots as the relaxed bird contemplated killing something. That something was probably somewhere else though and it launched off heading towards the sewage works. It took a few moments for composure to be recovered, then we headed back after it. These are our first shots:

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For once it all went perfectly and we parked on the rough track to the sewage works and peeped out taking photos, happy to have got something. After a short while we drove a little closer and changed the angle, getting better views and shots as the bird sat there casting a shadow over the nearby houses. These are the second batch of shots:

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Liz and I decided to try to get a better angle, using a tree belt as cover. If the Gyr showed signs of irritation we would slowly retreat and back out carefully. We go to tree one and it was utterly disinterested in us. The gap to tree two was bigger but still no indication that we even existed in the falcon’s world. By tree four we were relaxed, had great light and views and the Gyr just did a bit of light sitting and glaring off into the distance. We repositioned again, not even noticing that extremities were of a blue-hue and just stood in full-view sharing a moment. The Gyr stretched, pooped, yawned and, eventually, decided it really was time to snack. That was the last we saw of it although we were slightly delayed in getting back to Lower Cove by a local lady who told us all about it and how her friend had stood directly beneath the pole and other stuff I tuned out. Here are the better shots, just cropped sorry the flight shots are dodgy but we birders find them instructive:

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Back in Lower Cove the Gyr had obviously been around as the gulls were in a state of apoplexy, but we didn’t see it again although the icy wind might have influenced the degree of enthusiasm by which we searched. The Gyr was not a life-bird for either of us but the photo opportunity was and it was duly enjoyed, that may sound understated but wow, what can you say to do it justice?

Now you might think that this is the end of the narrative but no, as we had resolved, if time allowed, to visit a long-staying Red-headed Woodpecker, not too far off the route home. Well we did have time and we did see the woodpecker and it is nearly red headed too, which was nice.

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Nova Scotia highway driving while effective, can also verge on the dull so we thought we’d go back taking a different route part of the way which meant leaving the highway before Halifax and heading across country on less direct roads. We were 7km short of Rawden when news that the solitaire was showing came through, news which required a re-pick across nice looking habitats back to Porter’s Lake. Had we stuck to the highway we’d have been perfectly placed for the detour, as it was it took an hour to get back on track. Making a lengthening story shorter, we dipped again. Liz had recovered her composure after the Gyr and gone solitairing and scored, such dedication deserves its reward. We joined Diane in the search but our roll and come to an end. I think we’ll just have to wait until one finds CSI now, although I have been cleared to join a car going that way from our area next weekend if anyone fancies it!   

If you get the chance and the Gyr stays, go and see it, with luck you won’t be disappointed, or you could try for the one hanging out on Cape Breton, it is still there so obviously not the Joggins bird: http://www.capebretonbirds.ca/rarebird.html

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Some you Lose

Anything that brightens a February day has to be a good  thing so, when a text from Mike MacDonald told us that he was watching Eastern Bluebirds at Overton, we were quite enthusiastic as more by luck than judgement, we were watching Horned Larks not too far away at Sunday Point. We skipped over, pausing only to admire a Northern Mockingbird on the way and parked up at the spot. Very shortly after arrival a bluebird flew into a backlit tree, then another. We settled in and waited and watched as five birds milled around, drinking from puddles and feeding in the scrub. Eventually we got them right side for the light and here are a couple of them.

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The Horned Larks were right by the road at Sunday Point, always nice to see, especially as they were a year bird for Sandra.

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Not long after having seen the bluebirds, Alix called – the eBird reviewers didn’t like the Gyr Falcon we’d reported from CSI, based on the day two photos.  I have no problem at all with eBird reviewers rejecting records, even when it means I lose a tick. My personal view is that they are not strict enough at times but that is another discussion. The crux of the matter is that the bird seen on February-20th by four of us was now considered to be a heavily marked Peregrine. That, for me, reconciles the head pattern to some extent although not a couple of other plumage and structural features noted and, because it is the most likely scenario, I’m treating the bird seen by just Ronnie and me on Feb-19th as the same individual as the 20th.

Just to wind back to the 19th. After flying in, that falcon fed on the ground and the face showed no white pattern visible through a good scope, albeit at 1800m. True the light was difficult, but I could see the cheek patch on Canada Geese at a greater range with the same scope. It also showed short wings when viewed with snow behind it, they came to roughly half-way down the tail. The flight shots, poor though they are, showed a two-tone underwing pattern with the flight feathers contrasting with the underwing coverts, a feature of Gyr. Having said that, I still presume it to be the same bird as the 20th.

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Now to the events of February-20th. Had the falcon Ronnie spotted on the shingle bank, again at range, just got up and flown away down the bank and gone forever then we wouldn’t be having this conversation as I am pretty sure, given the size and structure, that all present would be happy it was a/the Gyr. The fact that we got rough flight photos was what screwed it all up but good I say, better to be right in the end.

I know nothing of what a brown and grey Gyr pairing would produce. Grey Gyrs tend to have some moustachial stripe, similar to some Peregrines. On brown forms any stripe is generally lost on the overall hooded effect of the head colouring. But I do know, because the field guides tell me so, that Gyr wings fall short of the tail tip on the closed wing. Here is a photo of the Feb-20th perched bird from behind, you tell me where those wing tips are.

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The other thing I know is that the Gyr underwing is so very different from Peregrine, especially on a brown form, different as to be diagnostic. Alix has a shot of the bird from Feb-20th and the underwing looks very Gyr-like indeed. I think we can accept that the falcon was not a Gyr, even though there appear to be some inconsistencies. I haven’t even mentioned the structure although female Peregrines can be huge and male Gyrs can be Peregrine sized although none of that accounts for the way the bird of Feb-19th (in particular) flew.

I’ll end by saying that the four observers who saw the bird on Feb-20th are no dummies. Three have seen Gyr before, all are familiar with Peregrine. In many areas (think gulls) birding is not an exact science and birds like the putative Gyr are learning tools that hone your skills. It may be that there is more to this bird than we think and I’d certainly like better views and photos. Perhaps there is some Gyr involvement somewhere, the large falcons are easy to crossbreed, or perhaps some Peregrines have not read the field guides and are just behaving badly, plumage-wise. I don’t doubt that there will be a Gyr around southern Nova Scotia at some point in the foreseeable future and that some of us will get to fill that list-gap, I just hope it sits on a pole like the one currently calling to me from Joggins, that will do nicely.

No so Close Encounter

Update – eBird don’t like the Gyr so it’s off. I’d like to know why the wings are short, ending half-way up the tail and why the underwing s so Gyr, also why is it so big, oh well, c’est la vie.

Before today this was my best photo of a Gyr Falcon, two words for me or just Gyr will do. After today it is still my best but today’s shots of a bird, 1800m away, come in a close third!

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The fun started when I was birding from Fish Plant Road parking lot, so called because there is a fish plant on the road and it has a parking lot adjacent, but enough scene setting, this isn’t Hollywood! I watched a largr hawk, which I quickly realised was a Falcon, come at a leisurely pace along the shingle ridge between Ratcliffe, to the left and The Cape, to the right. I started to thing Gyr pretty quickly, mostly because it was one but also because I began to rule out Peregrine however, such things cannot be rushed. The falcon then whacked a bird and kept whacking it until it gave up, I couldn’t see what species but as American Robins are everywhere it seems a fair bet.

Ronnie had just been there moments before so I texted him re a large falcon, can’t rule out Gyr. Then I called Mike but his transport was elsewhere. Meanwhile I’d scoped up the falcon as it ate, it was roughly the size of a small sheep. Ronnie got back and we tried to take some sort of doc-shot but we needed it to fly. After 45 minutes it did and the results are below, I’ll be sending the to National Inquirer shortly. It dallied for a minute or so then went off over The Cape, sending everything skywards, a dumb thing for them to do when Gyr is an aerial predator but there you are. It just shows that, when it is quiet, it pays to keep trying. To that point I was happy with the 94 Brant out on the far shore.

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Addendum: We went back the next day, saw the bird again and got more lousy photos.

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The lousy weather, some call it winter, has seen a huge influx of American Robins, in fact such a group is henceforth known as a sadness of Robins. They are picking away at anything and everything fighting to live. The thaw should save most although I expect a few more will end up as finger, or should that be talon buffet for the Gyr.

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On Daniel’s head the storms have messed up the beach gap, not a formal access but we all use it. The road is strewn with rocks and debris and the parking spot is rougher than a Badgers, well let’s just say ‘back-end’. Oddly sparrows seem to like it here. The recent Lincoln’s has not reappeared but I did see this Ipswich Sparrow.

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On the inside at Daniel’s Head the tides have been high and up to six Common Loons come in to feed, usually on Green Crabs I think. Either way, if you sit in your car they come close.

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The colder weather has everything toughing it out, even the local Starlings. I don’t pay them too much attention normally but they are a belting bird when you take the time to look.

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The Gyr was my #250 for Cape Sable Island, 302 for Nova Scotia. Tomorrow we head to The Cape for the first time this year (surprise). It may be that my next blog post will have some better Gyr photos but most likely not. That is the beauty of birding, you just never know.

Let’s Nip to Baccaro

So we did (Feb-15th). We couldn’t find the Harp Seal that had been hanging around there but a couple of Snowy Owls were easy enough. On a whim we went off to Yarmouth, peanuts were needed anyway but they were the side show as we roamed around the birdy spots and enjoyed some luck.

No photos but both the Greater White-fronted and Pink-footed Geese were in a goodish sized flock of Canada Geese in the fields between Chegoggin Bay and the Pembroke Road. At Chegoggin Point we did find a thoroughly pissed off American Pipit. Yes my friend, the snow can go from whence it came anytime soon.

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American Robins are currently everywhere. As I write this I have a planning committee of 26 sitting below one of the bird tables. Their plan to strip the yard of the rest of the berries has come to fruition (pun intended) and now they are considering evolving quickly to be able to clear up the Sunflower Seeds that the wind has liberally scattered around the yard. I may try to nourish them with Sultanas, I know Sandra has some hidden somewhere. I mention the American Robins because this Cooper’s Hawk seemed keen on snacking on one, again at Chegoggin. They were having none of it though so perhaps junco for tea again, even if it does get samey.

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I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Sharp-shinned Hawk land on a wire out in the open, but Cooper’s do so regularly.

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The hawks in general were pretty good and, in the course of the afternoon, we had Sharp-shinned, three Red-tailed, two Bald Eagles and Turkey Vultures were omnipresent, ready to do the tidying up. The lone Brant is still hanging with the Canada Geese, makes you realise how tiny they are. Numbers of them are rising around The Hawk, Cape Sable Island, I had 40 there the last time I looked.

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Our last port of call was to try for a Ring-necked Duck, a year bird and joining the Hermit Thrush we’d seen at Overton earlier. The bridge to the old folks’ home at the north end of Lake Milo was the spot and there they were. In breeding plumage they always look odd, like they are not too good at flying  under low bridges, smacking their foreheads flat with repeated impacts. The same complex had a bunch of Bohemian Waxwings and one Cedar lurking in there. For a quick nip to Baccaro the day turned out quite well.

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Going back a day or so, in a gap between the snow storms, I did the CSI sites hoping for a Dovekie or similar. Not much happening but I did shoot a few pics.

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Male Mallard prevaricating.

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Most of the bunch of scaups around Swimm Point, CSI are Greater.

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A pair of Gadwall, we don’t get many on CSI.

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Our eastern Common Eider.

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I wonder why, when this American Herring Gull has moulted into summer plumage, the legs have stayed dull flesh, I presume they’ll catch up, just like virtually every other gull around at the moment..

Finally, I was in the deserted West Head parking lot when a silver spaceship landed. Out came an alien very similar looking to us. It said it was from the planet Larus where they lived a peaceful life studying gulls. It asked what gulls were around and I showed it this photo and I said that they were American Herring Gulls. It shook its head sadly and told me, possibly telepathically, that if we think these are the same species then we are not ready for contact, and left. Of course, I could have dreamed it but it has a point – see below.

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And now, shock, some wintery scenes from Daniel’s Head.

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Big tides with a storm surge, some beach an road damage but nothing that cannot, and will not be ignored.

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This is the view from the sea watching spot, looking south, then the other way.

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eBird in Notts

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The Bestwood Scop’s Owl

Some of you will know that I have been adding historical Nottinghamshire records to eBird in order for the county to have a searchable species county list there. The process is slow and not without its moral dilemmas, especially when you read a record and think, no, not really. Keen students of Nottinghamshire birds will know exactly what I mean, others will learn in time.

For those who do not know what eBird is, it is the system we craved when we had to write down our sightings monthly and mail them off to the county recorder. Once you get into the swing of it, it makes bird recording very simple. It is not without issues, one being that escapes when entered are counted as ticks, but that is just a minor issue (to be fixed) as eBird is a recording system, with list keeping a by-product. If you are interested enough to get through the next bit there is more of an explanation of what eBird is later.

I will not be adding the following records to the eBird database for the following reasons:

Great Bustard: Collingham, April-23rd to 24th 1906. This was not an identification by the observer but a ’best fit’ by Whitaker. There was also a tenuous link to a Norfolk re-introduction scheme, so the escape possibility has been raised, so if it was a bustard it was an escape anyway.  Either way it is not a strong record and should be considered interesting but not conclusive. This is the only Nottinghamshire ‘claim’.

Gull-billed Tern: Netherfield, five! September-6th 1945. These were seen by John Raines, the society has his original notebooks and the painting he did has them looking like Sandwich Tern, and five Sandwich Terns would be remarkable anyway. Everyone knows how rare this species is in the UK and the majority of people who read off this record know it is a load of old toot, at best a mistaken identity.

Greater Short-toed Lark: Nottingham Sewage Farm (Bulcote), July-30th 1950. Raines again, one observer of a July bird inland. There are precious few July Greater Short-toed Larks anywhere in the UK, this was a misidentification pure and simple.

Icterine Warbler: Colwick, July-13th 1945. Raines again, yes there is a theme here. Identified at a time when Icterine Warbler was considered very hard to separate from Melodious (and I’m sure that those who saw the Tiln bird will agree). A misidentification of a species, one with very few inland records and even fewer of singing birds.

Woodchat Shrike: Thoresby Park, a male shot in May 1859. Collected by a supplier of birds to the gentry. My position is that some of the old records based on collected birds, may have come from sources that supplied the collector with skins and that those skins may not have originated where claimed. There is no skin available to examine and the collector was prolific in supplying rare birds.

Spotted Nutcracker: There are two undated records of this species that did not occur during influxes. The two Clumber birds of 1883 may be good but the details are not and so, as they used to say, in square brackets for this record.

Little Bunting: Nottingham Sewage Farm, October-23rd 1950. Raines again and, while the date is good for what is a very rare species inland, the observer’s claim that it was with two Ortolans! give ample grounds for doubt (of both records).

Everything is open to reasonable debate although these records, along with a slew of other unsupportable ones, should have been dealt with by review years ago. Indeed the records of the 1940s-1950s should never have made print but it seems that nobody would question them fully at the time. The omission of these records reduces the Notts list in eBird, as compared to the last published annotated county list, by six.

I have entered a number of contentious records including the Egyptian Nightjar (saga) and others. These records will be removed from eBird if they ever get formally reviewed and rejected. I assume the pending avifauna will deal with these issues but have no information regarding the progress or publication date.

And now how eBird works: You get an account – free. You click on a map where you went, some sites will already be there as hotspots. You enter the date, how long you birded, how far you went (estimate, I do) and how many were in the group. The next click opens a checklist and you enter the birds you saw. If you saw a species but did not make a count, enter an ‘x’. If you took a photo, click media and add it to your checklist, similarly a recording. When you are done you can share it with the others in your party and they can edit the checklist to add or remove what they saw. You can do this at home or using a mobile app, easy.

What eBird gives you is a life, year and month list for anywhere you specify. It tells you how many checklists you’ve submitted, complete or incomplete, and it gives you access to everyone else’s public sightings too, great when you are visiting somewhere new, strapped for time and just want somewhere to have a quick wander and see a few birds. In Notts there is a small uptake in eBird use (I resisted way too long) but it is growing and will continue to do so. Traditionally Notts elects a county recorder, eBird has its own reviewer* for the county. At present there is no communication between the two and Notts misses out on eBirder records unless the observer sends the records separately. The Notts recorder does not accept eBird shared records, I have asked why but had no satisfactory answer, even though I am still, and always will be, a member of the Nottinghamshire Birdwatchers.

There is much more available via eBird, such as the ability to download records, make spreadsheets and pie charts/bar graphs etc., great for annual reports.

eBird is operated by Cornell University in the US but it is global, go and take a look and you will see what I mean. Just because it is American don’t let this put you off, you drive a Japanese car and look through Austrian binoculars, your shoes are Chinese and you love curry.

*The eBird reviewer checks checklists. Rare or scare species or out of date range or high counts trigger an alert. For rare and scarce species you have toad them to the checklist. The filters are a continual work in progress as the eBird database grows and population situations change, hence the need to add Ruddy Duck every time.

 

And finally you may ask why someone in Canada is taking such an interest in Notts. I am from Notts and the birds of Notts will always be close to my heart. I served my committee time and contributed, especially when I was at Colwick Park for fifteen years. Notts has some excellent and enthusiastic birders and, for an inland county, a bird list to be envied. It matters that progress is not ignored and my contribution via eBird is all I can offer, that and my continued support.

A Bit Snowy

Looking out the window the snow continues to fall, nothing too heavy just persistent and I’ll need to be out before dawn tomorrow to clear the feeders ready for the onslaught. As it is February it is quiet and with us experiencing ‘weather’ for a few days, the chances of something new being found are slim. The year list, such as it is, currently runs to 115 and I’ve not even hit 100 on Cape Sable Island yet but I do have gaps that I expect to fill before the end of the month. This time last year we were energetically scouring CSI for year list additions and with some success. Not that there has been any less effort on that front from me it’s just that every year is different.

We are fortunate locally to have free-access to the fishing wharves and, provided you are sensible and don’t block the way or get yourself killed, it is not an issue to drive down and use the car as a blind for photography. These Black Guillemots are a case in point, both taken from the car in pretty awful weather. The first is well on the way to summer dress, the second in full winter plumage. Why they should be so it perhaps down to when they began their first full molt after fledging, seems a logical theory anyway.

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The same wharves work well for gulls too, although the one you want to photograph doesn’t always come close, but then sometimes they do. Today (February-10th) I was sitting on a wharf on West Head, CSI, just hoping to photograph a Red-necked Grebe that was chugging my way. There were gulls but also a gale-force northwesterly wind with driving snow so they were not too enthusiastic, also the numbers were about a fifth of what they were two days ago. Looking through the windshield I saw a gull approaching, got the camera up and ready in the knowledge that the Thayer’s Gull was back on home turf. For the next wee while it flew past or bobbed just off the end of the wharf, and in the lea, and I managed this collection of shots. I make no apology for putting lots of shots of this bird up, it is a Thayer’s Gull and deserves the respect given the distance it has travelled.

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Also around were two Glaucous Gulls, birds of last year, here is one of them.

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The last shots were of a semi-pretender. I’ve written before about the muddled Kumlien’s Gull situation, well this one is not quite in-between but nor is it at the pale end of Kumlien’s. For what my opinion is worth I think Kumlien’s needs a rethink and split into light and dark. Thayer’s characteristics require some tight definition and any thoughts on lumping need to be shelved.

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For around 15 years I was a warden on a country park back in Nottingham, England. I can now reveal that I did a lot of birding while I worked there, perhaps more that was expected of a warden. I also set up a site-based wildlife group, with the aid of Mike Walker and Sandra, and it went quite well. A few years ago I wrote about my time on the park in ‘Park Life’ and I thought I might reproduce a bit of the book here for your enjoyment. Our wildlife group did newsletters and I wrote a large facetious ‘Warden’s Diary’, comprised of snippets of my brand of sarcasm and bits from the lodge incident book.

A Warden’s Diary – August-26th: A walker/ambler reports FRENCH KILLER WASPS in a plantation near a path. Unfortunately the FRENCH KILLER WASP siren is temporarily out of action and so the wardens just quietly destroy the nest and hide the bodies instead. Samples from the slaughter are sent for analysis and they are indeed FRENCH KILLER WASPS. Lock up your children, grannies, pets and especially any French folk around, and quick.

A Warden’s Diary – September-17th: In a radical new gorse management policy, ‘joy’ riders dump a stolen Ford Sierra on the roadside gorse near the Marina and torch it. This should result in thick, luxuriant growth next year but, it is going to get expensive in Sierras if we intend to continue the project in the long-term.

A Warden’s Diary – October-4th: The height barrier at the Racecourse Road entrance shows signs of severe impact by a high sided vehicle. Wardens recommend that eye tests should be mandatory for drivers of such vehicles. Pain-relief all round for that thumping headache.

A Warden’s Diary – August-17th: Three ‘kiddies’ playing in the central toilet block report that the hand drier keeps giving electric shocks when touched with wet hands. In the spirit of completeness, the warden persuades the ‘kiddies’ (well one of them) to show exactly what is meant a minimum three times, aren’t some ‘kiddies’ thick.

A Warden’s Diary – August-11th: Naughty children decide to break into an outbuilding on the park. Clues were left and the Police intend to send them on a severe tropical holiday, if caught and convicted. An un-named warden appears on the local TV News and inadvertently refers to gangs of swimmers in the Marina as ‘Kiddies’. For those surprised by this terminology, this was the actual word used with no expletive uttered and a less volatile phrase over-dubbed. Hopefully, with extensive training, such a pleasant, innocent word will never again be used by wardens to describe these local monsters in public again.

A Warden’s Diary – April-29th: A Mr. Grundy reported a shaved rabbit and headless dog in the river by the church ruins. “Something funny is going off there” said Mr. Grundy. The Police arrested Freddie Starr as a precaution (for this one you must be familiar with the headline of a national newspaper that read ‘Freddie Starr ate my Hamster)…

A Warden’s Diary – December-28th: A trout angler was hit on the head by the traffic barrier. No barrier damage was reported and the attending warden found the barrier to be working as normal, if a little spitefully.

A Warden’s Diary – December-26th: Mr. P Dixon had his dog attacked by a bulldog/terrier type. On trying to prevent the fight, he lost a finger to the attacking dog. Police are to interview the victim later to see whether he can finger the culprit. They will also search the attack area, hoping to find a few pointers.

A Warden’s Diary – August-6th: A Mr Ward reported three men spinning in the Colwick Lake. Wardens are to look out for the phalarope brothers. You need to know that the spinning is the using of illegal lures to steal trout and that a phalarope is a bird that spins to disturb food in the water.

A Warden’s Diary – June-1st: A youth fires shots at Head Warden Nigel Oram but misses. The rest of the staff club together for a shooting course for the assailant, clearly an attempt to enhance their promotion prospects!

A Warden’s Diary – July-19th: A lorry driver reported that someone had stolen his shorts, shirt, shoes and dog lead; Police are looking for a very crafty thief with a pet fetish.

A Warden’s Diary – July-5th: An Asian family was caught catching ducks by the West Lake with hooks and silk lines. A short educational programme ensued, was understood and the offer of a free meal at the Tandoori Palace, Carlton, accepted, Bombay Duck extra!

A Warden’s Dairy – May-26th: A naked man is reported around the West Lake. The area was searched but no one found. The lady reporting the incident only gave a brief description, it was, she explained, a cold day.

A Warden’s Diary – April 10th: A warden is attacked by a man in a Talbot Solara. The assailant had rammed through two five-bar gates to gain entry to the park, unbeknown to the warden who was asking the man if he was lost. Fortunately the Police chose not to prosecute the warden for getting in the way of the driver’s boot, a close shave all round!

A Warden’s Diary – August-22nd: Several carp are reported dead around the West Lake. An investigation reveals gill parasites and algae blooms are to blame. Watch this space to see how the problem is tackled by the highly proactive Council sick fish division. On the same day, a member of the public drives their car too close to the traffic barrier and damages a wing. Solicitors have been engaged and the wardens are to erect a sensor with the audible warning broadcasting “idiot, you’re too close”, purely as a temporary measure!

A Warden’s Diary – March 1986: Mr. Tizzard complained that he got hooked by a fisherman while riding past on his motorcycle. It was not the hooking that upset him, it was when the angler tried to belt him over the head and stuff him in his basket that really hurt.

A Wardens; Diary – mid-1990’s: An un-named angler decided to spend the day boat fishing, testing out his shiny new electric outboard motor. The day was fine and calm, the angler elderly and built for buoyancy!

Now, despite there being a rule forbidding anglers to fish standing up in a boat, Mr. shiny new engine knew better and spent the morning stood up and annoying the fish before disaster, he falls out of the boat. Given the water temperature, age and mobility of the individual it really should have been ‘Pearly Gates and ask for your wings’ time but, amazingly, a passing lifeguard was on hand to rescue Mr. shiny new engine, hauling his substantial frame to safety.

Enter the wardens into the fray. The angler is ferried (on dry land!) to the Fishing Lodge and given warm clothing and sweet tea. The boat (complete with shiny new engine) is recovered and parked on the jetty.

After a rapid and remarkable recuperation, the angler’s spirits are lifted and he decides, for he knows best, to fish on and from the boat, still using his shiny new engine. Off he strolls from the Fishing Lodge, steps into the boat, misses his footing and lands in the water.

One week later we had a hastily written note. ‘For sale, one shiny new electric engine, barely used, one careful owner!’  – a true story, I swear it.

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February Fortitude

Not many birders (in the north) like February. It is a dead month, the depth of winter and a time when nothing much is expected to happen in the bird world. We always have gulls to look at though, omnipresent around the bays and fish plants, loafing, feeding, looking nothing like those illustrations in the field guides in some cases but what’s new there? I’m not complaining though, I could still be in Quebec with snow up to my Ass (never keep a quadruped outside in the winter in QC) and nary a blade of grass to see until April. At least we still have the rare geese in our area to enjoy, when you can find them that is. The Yarmouth duo, the Pink-footed and Greater White-fronted Geese, had gone missing until February 2nd when Ervin found them in nearby Pembroke, hiding in with the Canada Geese. Sandra and I were in Yarmouth to pick up bits and so went along and got distant views. Just the pinkie here.

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While in Yarmouth we wandered along to see the two male Barrow’s Goldeneye that are lingering off Lobster Rock wharf, this Glaucous Gull looked on. It seems to be a good winter for glaucs.

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Nearby, House Sparrows were still present in their favourite tangle. In many parts of the world the House Sparrow population has shrunk, mostly due to the changes in houses, no spacious soffits to breed behind and folk are oh so fussy if a sparrow nests on their property. On Cape Sable Island where we live they are hard to find and that is with plenty of feeders around, still the Yarmouth area seems to be to their liking and long may it continue.

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Just as we arrived in Yarmouth, a text from Alix prompted us to pay our respects to his Red-bellied Woodpecker on the way home, always nice to add it to the year list.

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As a little surprise, nay delight, I took Sandra along to Dennis Point Wharf to look at gulls, she loved it. We didn’t see the hoped for Thayer’s, it had been on CSI earlier in the day but we’d looked and missed it, but we did get this hybrid gull which is a different one from the regular hybrids we’ve been seeing there, I feel a blog post coming on about hybrids.

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On Saturday (2/4) the weather was cold with northerly winds chilling the bladder. West Head, CSI was covered in gulls but, as Obe Wan Kenobi might say, “not the gull you are looking for”. I did see this though, a Herring Gull probably, in an odd plumage possibly or whatever, it really stuck out. A web trawl has not been too useful so far and I suppose I could post to the Facebook gulls page but, to be honest, it gets a bit wearing when some pasty-faced geek, who only sees gulls occasionally, tells me it is good for something common. I really must stop yelling “if it was common I wouldn’t be posting the damn thing now would I?” at the computer, although it does cheer me up when I do!

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Another Alix text later in the afternoon, followed by one from Ronnie, told us that the Thayer’s Gull was back at Dennis Point. Sandra missed it by three minutes on CSI last time so, as a very special treat, I took her along to the point where we had great views. If you look at the last photo you can see a clipped off P5, same as the CSI bird, absolute confirmation.

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And finally, a female Northern Harrier from CSI.

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