Saturday, 21 November 2020

BTO on-line lectures


This year's British Trust for Ornithology annual conference will be a virtual one but with a full timetable of quality presentations of fascinating subjects as set out below. The majority of these lectures can be accessed via the Zoom process from your laptop or similar device by first booking your place via the BTO...

Monday 30th November

19:00 Tracking Short-eared Owls - John Calladine

Unusual amongst predatory birds, the numbers of breeding Short-eared Owls have declined markedly over recent decades. The talk will describe recent attempts to better understand what has arguably been one of the least understood birds in Britain and explore how that information could be used to secure their future. Included will be new and some very surprising findings on habitat use, movements and behaviour from ongoing satellite telemetry studies.

19:30 Cuckoos, conservation and the costs of migration - Chris Hewson

In this talk Chris will describe some of the extraordinary findings from our collaborative project tracking Cuckoos from their breeding grounds in Mongolia.

20:00 There and back again: A Shelduck tale - Ros Green

BTO research Ecologist Ros Green will present some fascinating new insights gained through tracking Shelduck.

20:30 Close

Tuesday 1st December

14:00 Curves for Curlew: Identifying breeding status from GPS tracking in Wales - Katharine Bowgen

It has proved near impossible to identify breeding status timings of cryptic species like Curlew without intense or expensive monitoring but this information is important to target conservation practices and management. Katharine Bowgen will share the insights gained from BTO’s work tracking Curlew in Wales. 

14:30 Curlews in the East - Harry Ewing

Across Europe, Curlew are declining as a result of unsustainably high rates of nest and chick failure. Harry Ewing will talk about his PhD studies monitoring Curlew nests in East Anglia. 

15:00 Using new technology to improve the UK winter population estimate of Jack Snipe - Colin McShane

BTO volunteer Colin McShane will explain how he and his colleagues have been using thermal imaging technology to improve our understanding of Jack Snipe. 

15:30 Close

Wednesday 2nd December

10:00 Red Sixty Seven: Art and Words for Britain’s Most Vulnerable Birds - Yolo birder/Kit Jewitt

Red Sixty Seven received a rapturous welcome when it was published earlier this year. The book contains 67 artworks and texts by leading artists, writers and celebrities, aimed at highlighting the plight of birds on the Red List of Conservation Concern. Kit Jewitt will explain what inspired him to start this project and what it has achieved. 

10:30 Chasing Skuas - Sarah Harris

The Arctic Skua is thought to be the most rapidly declining seabird species in the UK.  In this talk, BTO’s Sarah Harris will present the fascinating findings of a recent GPS-tracking project.

11:00 Can tracking Atlantic puffins at sea help us understand why they’re declining? Annette Fayet, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford

Annette Fayet will present some of her research tracking the migration and foraging movements of Atlantic puffins in Wales and throughout the North Atlantic, which has revealed new information about their ecology but also provides novel insights into the potential drivers of their population declines.

11:30 Close


19:00 BTO Youth Advisory Panel update followed by a panel discussion on engaging young people in science and conservation

20:30 Close

Thursday 3rd December

14:00 25 years of Garden Birdwatch - Kate Risely

The BTO’s year round Garden BirdWatch project started in 1995, and today over 10,000 participants send in weekly lists of the birds in their garden. This is an incredible dataset: we have records from over 50,000 gardens, and over 8 million species lists in total. In this talk Kate Risely will describe some of the findings from BTO’s garden ecology research over the last 20 years, particularly on the effects of bird feeding and disease, as well as our plans for the future of Garden BirdWatch.

14:30 Garden Wildlife Health - lessons from BTO Garden Birdwatchers - Becki Lawson

In this talk Dr. Becki Lawson from the Zoological Society of London will discuss some of the key findings from the Garden Wildlife Health scheme, showing how BTO volunteers and the wider public enable a better understanding of wildlife and how we can protect it.

15:00 Tracking the migrations of Britain’s wintering Blackcaps - Benjamin Van Doren

Over the last 60 years, the number of Blackcaps wintering in Britain has increased dramatically. Benjamin Van Doren will discuss the origins of these winter visitors, how they spend their time, and why they are here.

15:30 Close

Friday 4th December

19:00 Digital ears - using audio recorders to monitor nocturnal bird migration - Simon Gillings

Every spring and autumn, millions of birds migrate under cover of darkness, secretly passing over us while we sleep. Many of these birds are detectable by recording their flight calls, giving birdwatchers and researchers a unique insight into nocturnal bird migration. Simon Gillings will discuss his own journey to the dark side and share what we are learning about this fascinating topic. 

20:30 Close

Saturday 5th December

AGM, panel discussion & Witherby lecture by Prof Caren Cooper


Neil M

Short-eared Owl courtesy
of Robin Gossage.

Saturday, 7 November 2020

Lockdown 2 Local Birding

With lockdown 2 upon us birders are restricted to local birding again albeit without the rigid rules of the first lockdown. The Wildlife Trust BCN's reserves remain open meaning Summer Leys, Pitsford etc. can be visited without breaking any rules providing they are within reasonable travelling distance for exercise.  

Abington Park remains a popular choice for winter birding with Goosander almost guaranteed throughout the winter months. The 1st winter female shown below arrived on November 6th and is surely to be accompanied by more of the same species as winter progresses. Grey Wagtails and Kingfisher are occasionally seen along the stream between the two main lakes and Treecreepers and Nuthatch are present in the wooded sections. 

A Woodcock was seen in flight during the first lockdown and Ring-necked Parakeets are now breeding residents as are Grey Herons. 

Wherever you go and whatever you do keep safe and we hope to see you again whenever the Covid threat has diminished. 

Saturday, 26 September 2020



Take a look on the For Sale and Wanted Page.

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Presentation on the Goshawk.


Members may recall Conor Jameson who has visited the club and provided illustrated talks on two occasions. The Goshawk is a bird that invokes plenty of passion and Conor has kindly provided the below link to a fifteen minute presentation on the Goshawk which was one of the presentations at this year's virtual Birdfair...

Neil M

Thursday, 3 September 2020

The Pitsford Eurasian Shags

A juvenile Shag was found by Neil McMahon at Pitsford Reservoir on August 22nd from the Bird Club hide. Another, or perhaps the same individual, was seen later at the far end of the reservoir by the dam. A further 6 individuals were discovered on 24th matching David Arden’s 2008 record from the same location.


Numbers began to dwindle soon afterwards although at least 2 birds were still present on 3rd September where they rested by the causeway allowing close views giving perhaps the best opportunities for close study since the Abington Park bird from the last century! 


How long they stay will be anyone’s guess but records in the county are less than annual so there’s never been a better opportunity to get a photo or two of these obliging individuals.  


Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Creatures Great and Small pt 2

Well I hope you enjoyed looking at the images in part one and it has also inspired you to go out and take your own macro shots in this incredible, diverse and undeniably beautiful world of wildlife.

Taking macro images at a true 1:1 ratio would normally call for a dedicated macro lens. However your birding lens with a  good close focusing range can yield some great images of insects around the size of a Red Admiral. A lot of birder / butterfly photographers use these telephoto lenses.

Shooting smaller insects than a butterfly is a different kettle of fish and really needs a macro lens. A lot of insect photographers are happy with say just a small part of the image in focus, I like to get as much of the critter in focus as I can. To this end high f stops coupled with grim lighting makes this a much more difficult situation, especially with a lively critter.

Getting close to your subject through photography can make the creature much more personal, very endearing and very rewarding.

Marpissa muscosa              Jumping spider.

Take this spider for example, spiders are not one of those creatures that most people will relate to, but who could not fail to be inspired by such a gorgeous critter close up.

Misumena vatia           Flower Crab Spider

This spider may receive a slightly different response, dashing, robust and ready for action, 

Synaema globosum

I had never noticed this spider before i had visited The Camargue last year, aptly named the Napoleon spider.............for its abdomen pattern.

Comb-footed spider   Enoplognatha ovata

Another even smaller spider with a beautiful abdomen coloration. So you can see from just these few images the Spiders are very much something your photography will warm to.

About now lots of insects are mating, in doing so their single mindedness can give the photographer ample opportunity for some good images.

Guess who? Robberflies are another of the insect families i luv. They have wonderful hairy faces and barbed legs used for floundering prey protection and keeping hold of its meal. They hunt by sitting unobtrusively then dart after a near flying insect.  This is a pair of Kite-tailed robbers, quite common around Northants.

This pair of Hoverflies are probably Sphaerophoria scripta. They are quite common and have their slender bodies longer than their rested wings.

As above ...whispering sweet nothing.

Also about at this time are the 'Biters' Horse and Deer flies. They have incredible stealth by not being noticed as they fly and land on any bare parts of your anatomy, the first you know of it is when they insert their sucking parts into your skin. 

Most Biters possess beautifully coloured eyes which make them very photogenic.

The Notch-horned Cleg a voracious biter.

Quite a lot of insects have the colouration of a Wasp, a wasp mimic if you like. They can be very attractive and photogenic. The above is one of five similar beautiful Hoverflies this is probably Chrysotoxum verralli.

Another attractive and brightly coloured Hoverfly is Myathropa florea below it is very distinctive in its thoracic pattern. If you look carefully there is the mark of Batman.

Digger Wasps are quite impressive little critters but especially so the Bee-wolf. This is the only species of Philanthus in Britain.

Of course there are lots of wildlife macro subjects to try such as day flying moths for example. This is a gathering of Six-spot Burnet.

Wild Flowers, such as this Common Toadflax.

or a fabulous Reptile, the Common Lizard.

Dragonflies are in abundance now and can make some nice shots. 

Mating Black-tailed Skimmers, these were taken with my 500F4 .Above Ruddy Darter.

Lastly a couple of critters taken recently.

Weevils are great aren't they. This is fairly large for a Weevil and one of only two in its family Attelabidae  Hazel Leaf-roller Weevil. The other is Oak Leaf-roller Weevil.

Wasp mimic the Hornet Clearwing.

Thanks for viewing. If you have any questions about macro or critters why not drop me a line.

Also any images you have and would like shown on the blog again

Cheerz Robin.

Sunday, 16 August 2020

Bird Photographer of the Year 2020 Winners

It’s around this time of year when I’d be looking forward to a visit to Ruland Birdfair and one of the exhibits I always make a bee-line for is the Bird Photographer of the Year marquee. Sadly, Birdfair will not be going ahead this year, however the winning photographs can be viewed on the link below.


As we’ve seen in the Bird Club’s competition the winning shot doesn’t have to be a rarity and this year’s BPOTY winning shot of a European Shag is no exception although the impressionistic image and the manipulation to make it would not fit with the Club’s rules. So there!


Jealousy and joking aside it’s impossible to know which of the shots have or haven’t been Photoshopped in some way or another. I suspect a great deal of Gaussian blur has been applied to many of the images to create the smooth foreground & background as seen in the Highly Commended Oriental Darter image. It’s possible to get a similar effect by getting down low to water or ground level as can be seen in Matt Hazelton’s winning Sanderling image in last’s year’s BC competition.


It would seem that no bird photographic competition is complete without a shot or two of the photogenic Dalmatian Pelicans from Lake Kerkini, Greece. Bob Mason’s shot gained a 3rd place in this year’s BC competition and the species features in the Attention to Detail & Birds in Flight BPOTY categories. 


Mark Williams’ 2nd placed European Bee-eaters shot taken in Bulgaria may have given the BPOTY Commended Bee-eater shot a run for its money and may have been taken from the same hide! 


There are many exceptional shots that it’s impossible to choose a favourite. Some are WOW and others are HOW? 


When viewing photos, I tend to favour the ones I’d love to have taken and most of these are in the Commended & Highly Commended images. Guang Hua Chen's Great White Egret in the Birds in the Environment category is a masterpiece and one I'd hang on my wall. Having a penchant for waders the photographer I would've dearly loved to have been standing next to is Tim Hopwood. His Wilson's Phalarope, Marbled Godwit & American Avocet images are sublime. 

Georgina Steytler’s winning Best Portfolio shows the very high standards of the competition.



It’s encouraging to know that one no longer has to own a scuba-diving suit, a drone or a monthly Photoshop subscription to win a place in the competition. 


There are many talented photographers in the Bird Club, maybe we’ll see a local winner next year?

Green Woodpecker 

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Creatures Great and Small

So during lockdown many of us have spent possibly more time in our gardens than we would do so normally.
I'm lucky enough to have a small pond which has helped me to keep my 'hands on' at least with photographing some of the smaller invertebrates and my frogs of course.

Keeping the camera busy and observing the wildlife literally on our door steps has probably helped a lot of us during the last few months. Those of you looking at insects closely for the first time might be slightly daunted trying to put a name to these small invertebrates, especially as a lot haven't got an english name.

To that end I thought i should like to show a few of the commoner insects likely to be found and also to try and show how not only how rewarding but also how stunning invertebrate wildlife is.

Looking and finding insects is very easy,  basically all types of habitat can hold many tiny living gems. A nettle patch can hold a myriad of invertebrates, as can old rotting wood, etc, etc.
There are thousands of insects to be found although a large proportion of them will not be identifiable down to species level unless scrutinised under a micro-scope.  This should not put you off as there are many species that can be identified and named by good photographs. 

Green Nettle Weevil   Phyllobius pomaceus

A smallish weevil, very common on nettles. This one is slightly worn, but when fresh it's the turquoise blue green colour all over.

Thick thighed Flower Beetle   Oedemera nobilis

This is the beetle most people ask about. An obvious looking beetle with those thick thighs
is diagnostic. The female however does not possess this adornment.

 Larva of the Green Lacewing
As you can see it carries on spines on its back the debris of past meals for protection .It is a voracious  preditor.

Adult Green Lacewing  Chrysopera carnea

Green Shieldbug  Palomina prasina

This is a late nymph but closely resembles the adult. They turn a brownish colour before hibernation

Red-legged Shieldbug    Pentatoma rufipes

This was taken on the wooden rail fencing along Pitsford causeway. sometimes they can be found in numbers. The legs can be a bright or dull in colour.

Trichrysis cyanea

A stunning Jewel Wasp. Often to be found on old and dead wood, searching for the nests of hosts
 (other bees and wasps) in which to lay its eggs.

Ruby-tailed Wasp     Chrysis ignita

Another stunning Jewel Wasp, there are over 30 members of this family to find and well worth looking for! Look for an ant like creature exploring, running and flying off in earnest.

Great Diving Beetle   Dytiscus marginalis

Quite a common aquatic beetle, more often found in ponds of course.

Broad Centurion    Chloromyia formosa.

One of the commonest of forty odd Soldierflies, this is a male, females have a blueish abdomen.

Corizus hyoscyami

Becoming more common, being found in gardens and woodlands. A member of the Rhopalid Bugs.

Roesel's Bush-cricket  Metrioptera roselii

This Bush-cricket has become very common, it is easily identified by the light margin around the pronotun (saddle) and pale spots on its side.

Scorpionfly      Panorpa germanica

Frequently found resting in nettles, this is a female, the male has scorpion like upturned genitals. 

Black and Yellow Longhorn Beetle   Rutpela maculata

One of our commoner Longhorn Beetles, easily found feeding on umbellifers.

A Comb-footed spider      Enoplagnatha ovata

Quite small but common spider, its abdomen can vary in the amount of colour, showing several forms.

Marmalade Hoverfly     Episyrphus balteatus

The abdominal pattern is diagnostic of this very common Hoverfly.

Zebra jumping spider    Salticus scenicus

The Jumping spiders are gorgeous little things. Their front set of eyes are like the objective lenses on a pair of binoculars. They are sun loving creatures, so look on walls and fences in a sunny disposition.

Noon fly  Mesembrina meridiana

A distinctive fly with the orange wing patches.

Small tortoiseshell  Aglais urticae

I'm sure you are all familiar with this gorgeous butterfly.

A thick-headed fly  Conops quadrifasciatus

To be fair this isn't that  common but can be found with a little diligent searching, look near where Bumblebees are associating.

Common Dock Bug      Coreus maginatus

This is a very common bug on docks and nettles you normally see it as a brownish diamond shape on a leaf. Rarely you see under the wings sporting its orangey red colours.

Red-and-black Froghopper   Cercopis vulnerata

Common and obvious Froghopper. Britains only representative in this family.

Brown-lipped Banded Snail  Cepaea nemoralis

So I didn't want to forget our Snails and Slugs.

I do hope you like this tiny offering and that it will incite you into looking at these wonderful creatures
a little bit closer. Happy hunting Rob.