Thursday, 24 July 2014

Cottage list reaches 60

As the cottage list reaches the magical 60, I now learn from my neighbour, with whom I am most definitely NOT having a race hem hem, that his list is sixty-something, so sixty isn't good enough to draw level after all.

However that did not diminish my delight in hitting this milestone with, would you believe, a wader; Common Sandpiper.

Common Sandpiper. Gloucestershire, England. July 2012.

Using the scope the day before I noticed the oystercatchers down by the water's edge and with them a nearly fledged chick, great news that they bred on our humble little lake. I checked the next day, but although I could not see the oystercatchers I was unconcerned as there is a large area they can hide in out of my view. But, teetering along by the water's edge this time was a  Common Sandpiper, pumping its tail-end up and down like he was pumping something up!

Eurasian Oystercatchers. Bangor, Wales. September 2012.

A little later I looked again, once the heat haze had diminished, and found that there were in fact two Common Sandpipers.

Today we had a visit from a group of Long-tailed Tits, this little chap came right up to the back door; an adorably scruffy youngster. These have to be my favourite non waders!

Long-tailed Tit. The cottage Garden, Bucks, England. July 2014.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Volunteers beware!

If you are a foreign national and coming to the UK to volunteer, please check to see if you need a special visa before coming, otherwise you will be treated like a criminal, slammed in a prison cell and deported on the next flight back to where you came from by the UK Border Agency, as happened to our dear friend Odette when she came to volunteer at the British Bird fair.

I don’t normally write about things that don’t directly concern birds or wildlife, but this has made my blood boil!

I am not a great fan of uncontrolled immigration; immigration yes, but uncontrolled no, indeed I have lived as an immigrant for some years myself. I believe that defending our borders from those that mean us harm is an unfortunate, yet essential, facet of modern life, but recently, ladies and gentlemen, you’ll be pleased to hear that the UK Border Agency has protected you from a 58 year old lady from Brazil who had come here to volunteer at the British Bird watching Fair. This lady is one of the sweetest, kindest people you would ever have the privilege to meet (if the authorities had let her into the country).

Unfortunately she was unaware that she required a special visa to come to the UK to volunteer and at her exchange with the border control officer she excitedly told the guard what she was planning. Her feet did not touch the ground. Ironically if she had lied, she would be with us now; in fact she would be doing good work, for no pay, to help one of the UK’s biggest wildlife events to raise money for conservation, another of her passions.

She was able to ring us and let us know what was happening and I rang the border control to vouch for her. She pleaded that she would no longer volunteer which would then mean the tourist visa would be complied with and I, for my part, said that I would be responsible for her; I was told an officer would call me back, he or she never did. 

I cannot believe that senior border staff do not have the power to be compassionate in circumstances like this, or do the words "computer says no!" apply here where compassion cannot be shown to good people resulting in them being treated like criminals with no distinction being made between them and those that really do mean us harm; in which case we really are a small minded Little Britain!

Odette volunteering with children in Brazil
Even if you accept that she had breached her visa conditions, it was not as if she was trying to come here to fleece the British Government coffers and abscond with them or deprive a British (European?) worker of a job, she was coming to volunteer for crying out loud, to work without pay for the good of others! 

In addition she was the least likely person on the planet to outstay her right to remain here if that was what they were concerned about, she has property, family, a job and is part way through a veterinary course in Brazil all of which she loves with a passion, including the country itself, she is fiercely proud to be Brazilian and has no wish to live anywhere else.

Odette is a seriously scary serial volunteer!
What happened to her next left me feeling nothing less than ashamed here’s the story as it unfolded:

She arrived at about 13 hrs on Saturday from Brazil and was immediately detained in a small room, being interviewed for hour after hour, until 02 hrs when she was informed that she was being barred from entry to the UK and then bundled into a prison van with two people from Iraq and whisked off to a prison with razor wire on the top of the high walls.

Scared now and without friends, she was taken through several doors and gates, all of which were slammed shut and locked behind her as she progressed deeper into the prison. A last she reached a reception area where she was once more interviewed and underwent a medical examination. It was, she said, a nightmare that she never wants to go through again.

The next day she had the humiliation of being escorted through the airport and frog-marched, flanked by two policemen, to the door of the aircraft. There the police handed her passport to the flight attendants and instructed them to hand Odette, and her passport, over to the Federal Police upon arrival in Brazil.

We should all be grateful to the authorities for saving our skins from this real and present danger in the form of a generous, gentle lady who came to volunteer us to death!

She later wrote that happily she was back in her beloved Brazil. She doesn’t suppose she’ll ever be able to return to the UK (and why would she want to) and while she was enduring all that psychological pressure she resolved to write a poem in which she talked about the liberty of birds and how they freely cross frontiers and hoped that one day we humans could be this way too. She left the poem in the ‘Suggestions Box”!

Contrary to what the UKBA may think, volunteers are good people who do nothing but sefllessly contribute to society, science, conservation, humanity... the list is endless.
As if this tragic tale is not embarrassing enough, this poor lady had just had a cancer scare which thankfully turned out to be benign, but she had weeks of worry and fear before getting the good news and was so looking forward to her stay here, helping out at the Bird Fair to forget all her woes.

I don’t think that she will be rushing to return to our shores, Britain’s loss, and in the meantime we will give unfettered access to goodness knows who from heaven knows where, and we can do nothing about it, except pay for the consequences when it all goes horribly wrong and then to be told we cannot deport convicted criminals as they have a right to family life.

Odette on a previous happy visit to the UK

To the border control staff I say this. Do your job, but please do it with compassion and try at least to be selective about how you treat people, especially when you know that their only crime is being naïve and above all honest.








Saturday, 21 June 2014

Some garden stuff.

As mentioned in the dualling raptors and crow blog, we had three more new birds including our first Long-tailed Tits. These birds are always a welcome sight and jointly, along with Northern Lapwing, hold the accolade of my favourite bird. There was a small family party which included this youngster.

Young Long-tailed Tit.

The female Greater Spotted Woodpecker is still visiting regularly...

Female Great Spotted Woodpecker.

and the male is coming more often too...

Male Great Spotted Woodpecker.

today he brought along with him a young bird which sat on the fence while he fed it.

Males feeding juvenile with the red cap.

A Blue Tit was doing the same on the feeders.

Blue Tit feeding young.

Other young birds in evidence included this Greenfinch.

Juvenile Greenfinch

Other regulars to be good enough to pose for photos recently are the Dunnock, Blackbird and fine pair of Goldfinches.

Dunnock, love that red eye.

Male Blackbird as beautiful as he is mellifluous.

A stunning pair of Goldfinches gracing our feeders
I do love living in our little rose covered cottage.

Roses by the front door of our little piece of heaven.






Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Crows on the attack.

We sometimes get raptors flying over the cottage, a real treat for me as there were precious few about when I was a nipper. Today we had a new raptor species for the garden in the form of a Hobby although Elis was unable to get pictures of its short but sweet appearance, maybe next time? We have been half expecting this species as they are not that unusual in this part of England. This takes our garden total on to 58 with another new bird yesterday, a Pochard on the lake, and yet another, Long-tailed Tit, the day before that.

Anyway, the point of this blog was to show you the excitement that Elis captured the other day when a Common Buzzard flew over and a crow took exception to it...

Common Buzzard minding its own business.





Crow spots the buzzard and starts to rise up towards it almost surreptitiously.
The buzzard overtakes the crow which comes up from behind to make its presence felt.
The buzzard spots it coming...

turns first this way...

and then the other to try and lose its assailant.
The crow resumes its attack...

they almost touch...

the buzzard tries to out manoeuvre the crow...

and begins to look a little irritated.
Having lost some height the buzzard needs to gain some altitude again and catches a thermal...

but the crow is relentless in its pursuit...

it just won't give up...

it lunges again at the buzzard...

which flips and stalls, a trick that any Spitfire pilot would be proud of, and the crow now finds itself in front...

having now got the upper hand the buzzard drives the crow back into the trees, and it is over. The buzzard goes on its way and the crow lurks in the trees scolding its nemesis.

Then, later the same day when a Red Kite came over the over confident crow was off again.

A beautiful Red Kite glides into view...


the picture of serenity it glides on...

and glances up to see?
Yes! You guessed it... an in-coming crow!
Which wastes no time in clobbering the kite...
Unfortunately Elis then loses them as they tumble out of the sky but when she picks them up again the kite is now behind the crow which has lost a couple of tail feathers in the affray.
For the second time that day the crow now regrets its foolhardy lunge and tries to make off with the kite in hot pursuit.
The crow just manages to out flap the kite and make good its escape back once more to the trees...
and the kite lopes off, presumably feeling a little smug while the crow once more swears insults at the leaving victor whilst nursing its sore tail.

It doesn't do to mess with the raptors around here I can tell you.

Friday, 6 June 2014

A twitching we will go.

Irresistible; Spectacled Warbler in Norfolk and a lifer for Elis, plus a decent weather forecast. It was too much to bear, so we set off early and arrived around 08.00.

If you haven't been and plan to, here are some directions if you haven't already got them. Park at; 52°57'38.8"N 0°45'27.1"E and walk down the track to meet the sea wall or alternatively at; 52°57'38.8"N 0°45'27.1"E and walk north-east along the sea wall. The bird has been around this area; 52°58'36.4"N 0°45'50.0"E

The mile or so walk out to where the bird had been seen was pleasant enough and we enjoyed some waders with young, Redshank and Lapwing to be exact, and there were plenty of other birds singing along the hedgerows to keep us smiling and amused including a calling Quail.

Adult Redshank keeping watch.

Redshank chick


Redshanks take a dim view of a Kestrel flying over their chicks!










Adult Lapwing, the chick sat low in the grass and froze as we approached rendering it invisible.

When we got to the site there were only 9 people assembled and we soon saw the bird as it collected nesting material.

Spectacled Warbler with nesting material.

It seems this bird is making a second nest having finished the first one yesterday, but alas all in vain I fear.

The white mark above the bill is a cobweb he collected for a nest and then got stuck with!

The only other one of these I have seen in the UK was back in 1992 when there was one at Filey. I have also seen them in the Canary Islands, Spain and Cyprus, but not with Elis. The bird popped up to sing every now and then but you had to be quick as it soon dropped back into cover.

The cobweb did not seem to hinder his singing ability though.



We also had four Spoonbills fly over, I must admit my heart gave a leap when one of the crowd shouted "4 spoonies flying over!" my mind going back to Thailand. There was also a, what has now become commonplace, Little Egret on the marsh. I still can't get used to seeing these birds everywhere in the UK, even from my living room window, having had to twitch one in my early listing days in the 1980s to get one on my UK list.

Fly-by Spoonbill, not, sadly, a Spoon-billed Sandpiper.



Once we had had our fill of the bird we left the now swelling group of 40 or so people and had our fill at a cafe (full English with a mug of tea)...



... and then headed for Titchwell which was disappointing except for three drake Red-crested Pochards.


So we headed home taking the back road through Docking, along that road we had Lesser Whitethroat and Corn Bunting not birds we see every day in our neck of the woods.

What promised to be shot of the day until the bird turned its head before dropping from the twig out of sight.