Saturday, 31 December 2011

Friday, 30 December 2011

Cholsey Marsh.

Overcast, rain, 8º, light W.

15:00 – 16:30

Just under 80 Corn Buntings coming to roost, all came in between approx 16:00 to 16:20.

A Water Rail flushed whilst collecting litter! Also a Kingfisher in one of the Alders along the riverbank.

2 Cormorant flew downriver.
Redwing and Fieldfare in fair numbers, a single Great-spotted Woodpecker seen to flyover. 100+ Geese on an adjacent field (mainly Canada and 3+ Greylag), also 4 Mute Swans in the field and 1 on the river as well. The usual Song Thrush singing nearby.

Another birder was down at the marsh yesterday at dusk but did not see any Corn Bunting but it was very windy. Maybe they flew in low?

Around 50 Golden Plover seen flying over (per Tom W).

A Grey Heron frequenting the brook in the meadow for the past few days and a couple of Pheasants in the meadow today.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011


Overcast, 10°, light SSW
A walk around the meadow and playing fields today produced 5 thrush species amongst other stuff.
Around 5 Blackbirds, 2 Mistle Thrush a Song Thrush, c50 Redwing and c80 Fieldfare.
Also a small tit flock with mainly Long-tailed Tits.

Friday, 23 December 2011

There are Redwings

After my previous comments, there are Redwings in Cholsey.

Last Sunday they were all in the hawthorn bushes along the green track
leading to the Bunk line off the Wallingford Road, (next to Brook House).
There was a very large mixed flock (very difficult to count as they were
very spread out, but probably well over 400 birds) of Fieldfares and
Redwings and a very high proportion of them were Redwings. This is a bit
unusual along there as the flocks are usually predominantly Fieldfares.
Per Bob Dryden.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Winter Solstice.

Sunny, 12º, light SSW, very mild!

This time for the past 2 years we have had a fair bit of snow around but it appears to be staying away so far this year, have only seen snow on some of the high points on the downs recently but none at the moment.

Still some insects on the wing.

Lollingdon Hill

The hill was very quiet today, 1 Red Kite around and approx 100 Fieldfare and a few Redwing present, also 3 Corn Bunting.

Cholsey Marsh

Just over 100 Corn Bunting coming to roost, approx 12 Reed Bunting on the marsh and 5 Yellowhammer, possibly roosting as well.

2 Kingfisher along the river also 2 Water Rail heard on the marsh. More Fieldfare (c80) feeding on Hawthorn on the opposite river bank but no Redwing seen, although Redwing heard overhead later. Redwing numbers very low around the Cholsey area?

A Mute Swan on the river and 4 in an adjacent field (2 ad and 2 juv).

Great-spotted Woodpecker also seen and a Song Thrush singing at Little Stoke.

Several Roe Deer on the marsh.

2 different Treecreepers in garden recently and the Goldfinches are now getting through rather a lot of nyger seed.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Birds without Birding

What could be more boring than watching bowling? Watching golf? Playing golf? Watching birding?

I have not seen the movie, yet. I will tomorrow. My wife and a friend have coaxed me into the investment.

Birders have debated the movie for months. A few birders went so far as predicting an epiphany for the American public. Here is an example from Texbirds a few weeks ago:

Seriously, now, I am sure that this movie will…prompt thousands (millions?) of non-birding moviegoers to investigate birding via the internet…Every birding group on this continent will benefit if we have "bird stuff" ready for these potential new birders.

The Big Year has grossed a wretched $6.5 million. The movie cost $57 million to make. March of the Penguins grossed $127 million worldwide, and $77 million in this country. Penguins cost $22 million to make. Avatar, an anaemic movie about fake nature, has grossed almost $3 billion worldwide. Facebook and Twitter references to The Big Year are nonexistent. There are no millions rushing to the web to learn about birding. How could so many be so wrong?

People are just not that into us. The tens of millions of bird people love birds without birding. The public can be reached through birds. Birding is a different matter.

Consider the skills needed to be a birder. Start with a grasp of science, geography, and the written word. Field guides and articles in Birding are written for the literate. Most Americans are not.

• Only 15% of Americans are fully literate, functioning at a level equivalent to a university undergraduate degree. The "average" American reads at a 7th or 8th grade level.
• Approximately 28% of American adults currently qualify as scientifically literate.
• 70% of Americans cannot read and understand the science section of the New York Times.
• Nearly two-thirds of Americans aged 18 to 24 cannot find Iraq on a map.
• Half or fewer of young men and women 18-24 can identify the states of New York or Ohio on a map [50 percent and 43 percent, respectively].
• 27% of American adults read no books last year.

Birders use brains as well as eyes and ears. Birding is part sport and part mind twister. You become an accomplished birder through study, not training. Birding is learned and earned.

Watching birds is free. Becoming a birder is not. Birding takes time, money, and commitment. Look at any of the demographic studies of birders. Birders are well educated (the average being over 16 years of formal education) and relatively affluent.

Birding is also tied to the ability (or willingness) to think critically, to analyze the evidence and come to an independent conclusion. Birders gather evidence in the form of size, shape, colour, pattern, sound, and action, and arrive at a conclusion about the identity of the birds. If the bird is rare, we offer our evidence to other birders who make their own independent conclusions. A measureable number of Americans believe that Neil Armstrong did not land on the moon.

Birding also demands that you leave your cocoon and face the world outside. Between 20 and 30 million Americans (men, I am sure) play fantasy football, far more than are birders. There is no fantasy birding. There is no creature comfort that a birder will not forgo to see a target bird. How many recreations can you name where retching over the side of a boat is part of the rite of passage?

Birding is not for the masses; birds are. I am not concerned about the degree to which they care about us. I do worry a great deal, whether or not they care about birds and habitats. Birders should be advocates for birding. No one else is going to fight for someone else’s hobby. But birders also can introduce birds to the masses, to open that door slightly so that our neighbours can peek into nature and, perhaps, become bird people themselves. That, I suspect, is the best we can do.

Are we doing our best to invite our neighbours into an appreciation of birds sans birding? I love Marda Kirn's bus birding in Denver. Ted Floyd has expanded bare-naked birding to help people watch birds without the accoutrements of birding. Organizations such as the Black Swamp Bird Observatory invite the public to events such as banding days. The World Birding Centre conducts weekly bird walks at many of its locations. All of these efforts introduce people to birds.

Perhaps I am off base, but I see value in shifting the focus from birding to birds. Let's focus our outreach on connecting people to the resource, and let the recreation fight for itself. I am not worried about the future of birding; I suspect that it will continue to move forward, movie or not. But let's not lose the public's interest in birds, their emotional link to the outdoors.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Not the usual species normally seen feeding around a garden feeding station!

Showery, 4º, light WNW. Snow on some of the high points on the downs today.

Not the usual species normally seen feeding around a garden feeding station!
Picking up fallen seed.

Hare coursers spotted recently just over the river in South Stoke. Police informed. Look out for a beatern up black suzuki vitara and/or an old style red vauxhall cavalier.
                                   Carrion Crow


Thursday, 15 December 2011

Hen Harrier

Sunny, 7º, light E.

Arrived on the hill to see a Kestrel hunting over the south face of the hill, in the distance I could see another raptor heading towards the hill coming from the direction of the downs. As I got my binoculars on it I could see it was a Hen Harrier (ring tail), as it skirted the western end of the hill and disappeared. I got to the western end of the hill and scanned the area but could not relocate it.

In the distance from that point I could see 250+ Lapwing in a field loafing with 2-300 gulls.

2 Corn Bunting on the hill and a few Blackbirds (noticed a slight increase in Blackbird numbers recently, suggesting immigrants from elsewhere?).

A steady flow of corvids and gulls over the hill.

                                 Corn Buntings: Lollingdon Hill

                                   Little Grebe: Farmoor

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Not much.

Not much to report on as I have been rather busy in the month coming up to Xmas.

The garden is becoming a lot more active now winter seems to have set in.

For the first time since I have been here I am getting House Sparrows visiting on a regular basis, a maximum of 6 together so far but they have been here most days recently. They have a tendency to feed on the ground around the feeding station with the Chaffinches. I guess they will eventually start using the feeders in time.

Other visitors include a pair of Coal Tits and possibly 2 separate groups of Long-tailed Tits that have become more frequent lately.

Other species visiting the garden on a regular basis are: Robin, Dunnock, Wren, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Collared Dove, Wood Pigeon, Tawny Owl, Treecreeper, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Carrion Crow, Moorhen, Mallard, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Goldfinch, and Greenfinch.

Hopefully will get some scarcer species once cold weather sets in.

I have also seen the Treecreeper again (the one with the dodgy leg (s)), managed to get some better views and it appears to have both legs but is crippled in some way. It uses its tail to stabilise itself due to some weakness in one or both legs and the tail is always out at an extreme angle to compensate.

Went out the other day to Farmoor where a Great Northern Diver was present and also a Goosander and then to Sutton Courtney and amongst many other waterfowl there were 2 Red-crested Pochard and a few Pintail.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Cholsey Marsh at dusk. 7th Dec

Sunny spells. 7º, fresh to strong WSW.

Approximately 50 Corn Buntings coming in to roost, also 12 Reed Buntings and 2 Yellowhammer.

Good numbers of Corvids and Winter Thrushes flying over heading to their own roost sites elsewhere.

A Kingfisher seen flying upstream and 50+ Canada Geese grazing on a nearby field.

Have heard some disturbing evidence of illegal hunting going on at or near the marsh, if anyone sees anything like this going on or any disturbance please contact the police!

On Sunday a Raven was seen flying from the area of Goldfinch Lane where it caused the resident Crows some grief before it flew off directly over Cholsey Church where a service was taking place. (per Tony Rayner)

How to report animal crime

  • Call 999 in an emergency. It is an emergency when: a crime is being committed, there is a risk of injury, or there is a risk of serious damage to property.
  • If a crime has already happened or you want to give information to the police, call 101. This is the 24-hour Thames Valley Police non-emergency number.
  • If you do not want to speak to police or give your name, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

·       Important points to remember

·       The vast majority of animal crime offenders are not local. They often travel some distance to commit their crimes in rural areas.

·       Pay attention to people who you are unfamiliar with or suspicious of. Make a note of their appearance and the details of any vehicles that they are using. If you can, note registration numbers, any damage to the vehicle or other distinctive features.

·       Travelling criminals sometimes use hire cars. If possible, make a note of any hire company details. All of this information can be a great help to police if there is an incident in your area.

Monday, 5 December 2011


Sunny spells, 6º, light WSW.

Woke up last night around 03:30, looked out the bedroom window to see a Badger shuffling around the meadow, visible for a couple of minutes before losing sight of it in the darkness.

Lollingdon Hill.

Rather quiet today, had to get out briefly as I have been stuck in with a cold for the past few days.

Nothing on the hill only a few corvids, gulls, 3 Yellowhammer and 2 Skylark as flyovers.

Several Black-headed Gulls loafing at the far end of the meadow today.

The garden getting busier lately with Blue and Great Tits in fair numbers, also more Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Chaffinch seen in garden. The pair of Mallards are regular visitors now.