Thursday, 31 March 2011

Redefining disability

This is a brilliant TED talk and definitely worth the 10 minutes it'll take you to watch.  I strongly recommend Aimee Mullins and her 12 pairs of legs.   There are one or two hearty laughs in there, too!

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Injury time

Today, just 45 minutes after starting at the bird reserve, I pulled a muscle in my lower back.  Decades of painful experience dictated that I down tools immediately.  I lay on the floor of the nearby hide for 10 minutes to let everything settle down, then did a few back exercises, then went to find Doug to tell him I was finished for the day.


But in fact, not only was there no need for me to go home,there was actually a good case for staying on the reserve, walking gently around and gently flexing my back, so that's what I did.

I saw two tree-creepers where yesterday I saw just one, a buzzard being mobbed by rooks, lots of the usual, great tits, blue tits, long-tailed tits, possibly a coal tit, though I really didn't see it for long enough to make a solid identification.  From the Reedbed Hide I saw a red kite very briefly, but I've seen enough of those to recognise one instantly, these days.

And, to my great delight, a goldcrest.  Tiny bird darting about an ivy-covered tree, chattering away continuously.  I was entranced.  Tried to take photographs but just got blurred leaves or silhouettes.  Tried to record the chatter but just got wind roar on the camera microphones.  I did have to come home and check the book before I was confident that I knew what it was, despite talking to Doug about it, since goldcrest and firecrest are very similar. The key difference is that the firecrest has a bright white supercilium (eyebrow), but if you only get glimpses, it's hard to be confident.  Anyhow, the book confirmed it: female goldfinch.  Hoorah!

Anyway, this is a picture of a repoll, just for JennyTA who commented on yesterday's post.  I should have put the links in, but just didn't think.  As usual.  As the saying goes "Trying to think; nothing happens!"

Oh yes, when I got home, I put my back in a hot bath for really quite a long time, and it's feeling much more relaxed now, thank you!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Some great birding!

Jenny bought me a wonderful pair of binoculars with image stabilisation for my birthday the other week, and today was the first opportunity I had to really use them in anger.  I've been watching the birds in the garden every day, of course, as part of the BTO Garden Birdwatch project, but haven't been able to get out into the field so far.  For the image stabilisation, you hold a button down, and after about a second, suddenly all your hand-shake vanishes and you can see clearly.  It's particularly useful for small birds far away, of course.

So today I went to Fowlmere to actually watch some birds, instead of the usual head down slash and burn I've been doing for the past several weeks.

I walked anticlockwise around the nature trail, calling first at Drewer Hide, where to took the trouble to look up the greylag geese I could see there.  I'm pretty poor at identifying water fowl, so looking them up is a good thing to do.  There wasn't much else there, so after a while, I wandered on. 

Very soon, I heard a commotion in the bushes and stopped to see if anything was visible.  I saw a couple of great tits, a blue tit and several long-tailed tits, but then, to my delight, caught sight of a tree-creeper, hopping up a completely unobscured tree trunk not five metres away.  Fabulous!  If I'd not seen anything more, it would still have been worth the trip!

On I walked until, near the watercress hut, I could hear another cluster of birds giving it some, so investigated.  These proved to be half a dozen goldfinches, obligingly staying still for long enough for me to focus the super-whizzo bins on them.

Next, I went to Reedbed Hide, which is on stilts and overlooks a mere, arriving about 1.30.  There was a teal there (which I also had to look up!), three coots, a moorhen and five greylag geese.  As I was about to leave, I spotted a barn owl settle down far across the mere, near the end of the boardwalk.  There were half a dozen rooks in a nearby tree, and they took turns to mob it until eventually it got fed up and flew away.  I heard it calling later, as I neared the car park.

From Reedbed Hide I went to Spring Hide and as I did so, heard a curious call, which I thought must be some kind of tit, but it was completely unfamiliar.  I couldn't see the bird, nor get closer to it, so gave up.

At Spring Hide I saw only coots and moorhens for a while, but then saw a small flock of little birds land in the tops of some alders beyond the mere.  The mighty bins enabled me to see them, but I didn't recognise them.  I thought they might be bramblings, but looking them up disproved that.  Then, on the reverse of the brambling page, I saw a picture of a redpoll, which matched perfectly.  And to solidify the ID, someone else had put 'redpoll' on the sightings sheet in the hide, dated yesterday.

While I had the book open, I looked up tits, and found that the call I'd heard earlier matched that of a marsh tit, described in the book as 'very distinctive', so I hope I've heard a marsh tit, even if I haven't seen one.

And that makes the best day's birding I've had in a long time!

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Is Tim Minchin being sarcastic?

You need to listen all the way through, but I think he just might!