Have you ever dismissed December as the dullest month of the year for wildlife watching? I certainly have. That’s why this year, 2013, I have decided on a challenge: to see 500 species of “things” in the month, be they birds, mammals, plants, insects, fungi, seaweeds… anything. It’s an opportunity to see what a variety of wildlife we really have, even this close to Christmas. Follow progress below…
As of yesterday, there is a Penduline Tit at Longham Lakes, on the bulrushes at the southern end, on the edge of the small pond.
Welcome to day 9 of the Crossley Blog tour. The idea of this tour is to publicise the new Crossley Guide to Britain are Ireland, written by Richard Crossley and myself. We are very excited, because we think it is revolutionary, and personally I’ve already been very excited by the response, especially of people I have been teaching in the field.
Don’t take my word for it. Instead follow the Blog Tour and see what others have thought – details below.
Meanwhile, here’s the front cover:
And here’s one of my favourite pages, the MEDITERRANEAN GULL:
The page captures the essence of what many perceive to be a tricky species to identify, and there’s no doubt that gulls terrify many birders. However, when you see all the images together of a bird, even a gull such as a Mediterranean Gull, you perceive the features – bruise around the eye, heavy bill, blood red legs and broad, blunt wings – almost without thinking. Hopefully, it will work for many:
This post is part of the Crossley Blog Tour, so to find more reviews and articles please follow the links to other bloggers. Tomorrow it’s:
For a chance to win a signed copy of this fantastic book please visit:
If you wish to see a list of contributing bloggers please visit:
Finally, if you have any questions for either Richard Crossley and me then we are holding a live video call on November 21st on:
The Crossley ID Guide
Britain and Ireland
Paper flexibound. £16.95. ISBN:9780691151946
304 pages. 300+ colour plates. 250 maps.
There’s nothing quite like a good autumnal dose of bat-box checking. Last Saturday I enjoyed a trip to Hurn (near Bournemouth International Airport) to see what was lurking in their boxes. As it turned out, a lot was. The Brown Long-eared Bat was a first for the site, and it’s always fun to see these “ears with bats attached” as Chris, bat-ringing trainee, commented. The other boxes were pretty much replete with Soprano Pipistrelles, of which there were about 10 in all. This species has the distinction of
being Britain’s smallest bat, usually very slightly more minute than the Common Pipistrelle, but both could fit in a matchbox as long as their wings were closed. Jan Freeborn, from the Dorset Bat Group, was delighted when we found a re-trap (a bat previously ringed), again the first from here. Meanwhile, we had a discussion about distinguishing the two almost identical Pipistrelles. Apparently they have different wing venation, and the Soprano Pipistrelle has several bodily parts that are orange or yellow, at least in the breeding season. One is the buccal glands, in the mouth, but for reason of decorum I will leave the others, dear readers, to your imagination.
…so why not book a birding session with me in the next few months? All are welcome, but please pre-book by e-mail.
FULL DAYS (10.30am-4pm) £15 per person.
Tuesday 8th October – Pagham Harbour
Friday 18th October – Calshot Spit, Hampshire
Tuesday 22nd October – Tundry Pond and Greywell, Surrey/Hampshire FULL
Tuesday 29th October – Hayling Island, Hampshire
Friday 15th November – West Wittering, West Sussex FULL
Tuesday 26th November – London Wetland Centre, London
Friday 6th December – Slimbridge, Gloucestershire
Tuesday December 17th – Wisley Gardens and Papercourt, Surrey
FULL DAYS (10.30am-4pm)WITH MAXIMUM 10 PERSONS £25 per person
Tuesday 19th November – Finches in the New Forest FULL
Tuesday 10th December – Gulls Galore (Weymouth, Dorset)
DORSET AND HAMPSHIRE WEDNESDAY MORNINGS (10.00am-12.00pm) £7 per person
9th October – Ham Common, Hamworthy
16th October – Blashford Lakes, Hampshire
23rd October – Swineham area, Wareham
6th November – Sandbanks, Poole
13th November – Arne, near Wareham
20th November – Maiden Newton, Dorset
27th November – Durlston Country Park, Swanage
My newest book is now out, and it’s a field guide ideal for beginners and improvers. Sales so far have been excellent, and you can order a signed copy from me to collect on a field trip.
Cost: Just £16.99. You can also place an e-mail order using this website and add £3 postage.
“ID Insights” is based on the long-running series in Bird Watching magazine, which uses Dave Nurney’s wonderfully clear paintings to separate tricky species, everything from Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush to first winter Yellow-legged Gulls.
This summer I have a terrific set of trips lined up. There are spaces on all of these, if you fancy coming along. More details included under “What’s On”. You can enquire through this website or e-mail email@example.com
Day Trips (10.30am-4.00pm) £15 per person
Titchfield Haven 10th May – a classic migrant spot
Pagham Harbour 21st May – another migrant special, always a chance of a rarity
New Forest off the Beaten Track 7th June – for specialities like Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Hawfinch, Wood Warbler and Firecrest
Marsh Common, Stockbridge 11th June – stunning warbler-filled countryside walk
Cissbury Ring (nr Worthing) 21st June – new for us, downland birds such as Corn Bunting
Kingley Vale, West Sussex 27th June – classic midsummer wildlife walk
Selborne 5th July – walking through history in a perfect setting
Evening trip (4.30pm till late) £15 for both parts, £7.50 each
Frensham Ponds and Thursley Common 11th July For a range of heathland birds and Nightjars and Woodcocks at dusk
Small groups limited to 10 people – £25 per person
Keyhaven 17th May – this is a superb place for exciting and scarce birds
Raptor Rapture 18th July – for Honey Buzzard and Goshawk, among others, at well known sites
Rainham Marshes 23rd July – for returning waders
Yeah, I know this isn’t a great picture. The light was poor and these birds were almost on the moon’s surface, they were so distant. But take a look at it and it doesn’t half show up the difference between Bewick’s Swans (left two) and Mute Swans (right three). Notice how much smaller the Bewick’s Swans are in direct comparison, see how they hold their neck straight when the Mutes usually hold theirs in an S-shape, and see how the breasts of the Mute Swans tends to bulge, while those of Bewick’s don’t. And by the way, see how both species, even the Bewick’s are very much larger than the birds in the middle, which happen to be Tundra Bean Geese.
The swans were found by Chris Parnell, stalwart of Longham Lakes.
After seeing two species of bats on Sunday, I’m feeling sorely tempted to have a go at seeing 40 species of mammals in Dorset this year, just for fun. Today I took a quick lunchbreak and drove towards Blandford, where a large field close to Tarrant
Keyneston looked suitable for Brown Hares. The hunch was right, and I soon spotted two animals keeping very low and statuesque in a field of winter wheat. It’s extraordinary that they don’t live in burrows, but simply hunker down into vegetation or make a scrape (“form”) for shelter and rely on their speed to escape from predators. If a fox shows up, they simply get up on their hind legs, as if assuming a “ready, steady, go” posture to show the predator that they are alert and too fast to chase.
Apart from the Hares, a small group of Roe Deer does appeared on the horizon (above). With the 2 bats, plus Red Fox, Rabbit and Grey Squirrel close to home in 2013, that’s SEVEN species so far.
Britain’s bats are in the middle of hibernation right now, but that doesn’t mean that they need be out of mind, or out of sight. In fact, if you know the right people you can join up with monitoring hibernation sites, which allows you a glimpse into a little known aspect of the bats’ lives – their long winter sleep. Thanks to Pete Banfield, of the Dorset Bat Group, the kids and I travelled to North Dorset yesterday to see slumbering Lesser Horseshoe Bats. At the first site we crawled through an excitingly narrow gap to check a blocked railway tunnel. Happily, there were 10 Lesser Horseshoes and 1 Brown Long-eared Bat there. The Horseshoes were hanging from the ceiling in their customary
manner, with wings folded around the body – a posture peculiar to Britain’s two Horseshoe Bat species. They were also hanging freely, while the Long-eared Bat was inside a box, its ears folded and tucked under the wings. At a gorgeous rural church, its lawns studded by snowdrops, there were a further 20 or so Lesser Horseshoes hanging from the roof of an ancient cellar reached for us by slippery, uneven, moss-covered steps. Bats don’t have unbroken stints of hibernation, but will have recently been encouraged by the mild weather to go out and feed on and off, filling their tummies before bedding down again, often switching hibernation sites afterwards. If you think a bat flying around on a mild winter’s night is somehow confused or disturbed, that isn’t actually the case. It’s routine for the bat, but a surprise for us.