Saturday, February 27, 2010

Illustrating the Grey Heron with pencil and paper

No sooner is the Ayrshire Bird Report out and it is time to start on the next one. To ease myself back into drawing again I began with another Grey Heron (while listening to Anjunadeep02). I’ve uploaded a larger version on the main website here:

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sounds I once heard...

From Bialowieza Forest in Poland, a Lesser Spotted Eagle (Aquila pomarina) in Krynica alder swamp: recorded early afternoon on 29 June 2009, calls of a perched bird, possibly a male close to the nest site.

At midnight in Finland in early July 2003, a whipping Spotted Crake (Porzana porzana) in the marshlands around Lake Siikalahti, Parikkala.

The huge spring staging site for Eurasian Cranes (Grus grus) at Hornborgasjön in Västergötland, Sweden attacted 18000 birds at the peak period in 2009. Listen to a sample of the 'Trandansen' below.

A more tropical sound follows with a pair of Coraya Wrens (Thryothorus coraya) engaging in antiphonal duetting where both sexes contribute alternative phrases in quick, coordinated succession to produce a ‘final’ song. Can you tell which part is being produced by which sex? I recorded this near Tarapoto in northern Peru during September 2009.

Finally closer to home, the nocturnal cacophony of roosting Whooper Swans (Cygnus cygnus) on the Folly Pond at Caerlaverock WWT reserve on the Solway Firth in Scotland. These birds were recorded late at night from one of the guest rooms in the farmhouse - a great sound to drift off to sleep to in late December.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Dusky Warbler - Walthamstow Reservoirs

London's first Dusky Warbler (Phylloscopus fuscatus) was found at Lockwood Reservoir last weekend by Lol Bodini. This little leaf warbler should be spending the winter in SE Asia after being being reared or having bred in C/E Siberia or N Asia. I managed to see it briefly before work on Wednesday and returned today for longer views. Still distant and hyperactive, I made some poor sound recordings. London is probably the most problematic place to make sound recordings with a plane overhead every minute of the day and numberous trains...ok, maybe not so many trains. The sonogram shows six broadband calls uttered while feeding/vertical flycatching along a bramble-strewn fenceline. It sounds softer than a typical Sylvia call and lower pitched than Wren. Robin and Blue Tit are also vocalising during the recording.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Fulmar calls from a ruined fortress

Last weekend I visited Lisa in Aberdeen and although Sunday and Monday were rained out, we did make a nice trip to Dunnottar Castle on Saturday afternoon - I was virtually back on the bus south again to Stonehaven after 12 hours overnight from London! Dunnottar Castle is probably best described on the castle's website ( as "a dramatic and evocative ruined cliff top fortress in a truly stunning setting". Seabirds have started returning to nest on the cliffs and I made some sound recordings of duetting Fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis). Below is small excerpt to listen to (with breeding calls from a distant Herring Gull in the background).

Photos: Dunnottar Castle, Stonehaven War Memorial, Stonehaven harbour at night.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Walthamstow islands of noise

Walthamstow Reservoirs are famous for their tree-nesting colonies of two large fish-eating species: Great Cormorant and Grey Heron. Here a couple of edits of some sound recordings I made there last weekend.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Great Tit song variation

Several species are starting to advertise by song as February progresses. Around Totteridge in north London today I heard both Chaffinch and Song Thrush uttering some less familiar plastic song. The young Chaffinch was essentially practising and all song deliveries lacked the terminal flourish. What was unusual was that it was sharing a branch with another male from which there was no response at all. Song Thrushes typically sing from an exposed vantage point at some height but the young male I recorded today was hidden in dense blackthorn scrub.

Great Tits have been singing full songs for a few weeks now but many birds are still roving around in winter feeding flocks. I recorded one individual with three song types as follows:

Song #1: single strophe (5-8 double elements) repeated at a rate of 16/min

Song #2: single strophe (4-11 double elements) repeated at a rate of 11/min

Song #3: single strophe (7-20 double elements) repeated at a rate of 11/min

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Breeding Herons in the Heart of London

Grey Herons in London are returning to their nests; building, repairing and stealing small branches from neighbouring nests while the occupants are away. General activity and courtship behaviour at the moment does seem to be less compared with previous years though the recent severe weather resulted in most birds deserting the frozen lakes. The males are looking superb as usual with striking pink-orange bills and sky blue lores. The second image below captures a ferocious territorial interaction between two males. A female is just visible in the nest behind them and when her mate returned to find a rival male on the nest, there was trouble. Brief copulation soon followed before he departed again for more twigs and branches. The males appear to do most of the gathering while the females do more of the actual arranging, at least on established nests that are being used year after year.

Bird Recording in Ayrshire

The Ayrshire Bird Report 2008 is now available from the usual outlets including:

·The SOC, The Scottish Birdwatching Resource Centre, Waterston House, Aberlady, East Lothian, EH32 0PY, Scotland
·RSPB Lochwinnoch Shop, Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire
·SOC Ayrshire meetings

·RSPB Central Ayrshire meetings
·Bookshops in Ayr/Troon TBA
·Ayr Tourist Board office
·By post from · Dick Vernon (priced £4 - cheques made payable to Ayrshire Bird Report with an additional 80p to cover postage) Contact:

Now for ABR 2009:

Thanks to everyone who has promptly submitted their 2009 records. Please send remaining records to by the end of February. Any species on the ABRC list should be accompanied by a description on the form available from the Ayrshire Birding website. SBRC description species should be submitted via myself. Most observers are submitting records direct to me in MS Excel which is ideal and the following layout of columns from l-r is recommended:

Species*, Date*, Count*, Location*, Notes, Observer*, Grid Reference, E-mail (*information being essential in these fields).

For those without Excel or compatible spreadsheet software, I've created a secure online Google Excel document where observers can enter their 2009 records via an online form. Each record has to be entered individually but should be fairly quick and is immediately sent to a secure spreadsheet where I can copy the records. I would encourage observers who do not formally submit records but casually post sightings on this group, to add your sightings using this form throughout the year. Use of the form would save me time formatting and compiling records from all sorts of sources. Even if you don't use a traditional notebook in the field, you could bookmark the following links on your mobile phone and enter sightings just as you see them!

The form for entering 2009 records can be found here:

The form for entering 2010 records can be found here:

I'm looking for at least two articles. Feel free to e-mail me with any ideas you may have. The deadline for completed articles will be the end of April.

Artwork & Images
Digital images of Ayrshire rarities and scarcities in 2009, or even interesting photos of common birds are welcome. A colour centre page of photographs may be a possibility this year in addition to b&w images throughout the text. Drawings or sketches of topical species are welcome and I like to see a range of drawings in the next Report, rather than just mine. Scans of your artwork at 600 dpi are preferred but all originals will be returned if you need to send them to me for scanning.

Butterfly Records
I don't have many butterfly records in yet so all remaining records are welcome. Please let any non-birding naturalist friends/colleagues know that they can send records to for inclusion in the 2009 Ayrshire Butterfly Report. The 2009 Report will consist of a bumper issue of both 2008 and 2009 records.

Finally, your thoughts and ideas on the ABR in general are welcome.
Fraser Simpson (ABR Editor/County Recorder)