Tuesday, 22 February 2011

I mentioned earlier I'd heard the key to a successful blog was to update regularly. So I've downloaded an app so I can easily do it from my phone. This is just a test really to check it works.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone
I've just heard something on the radio suggesting that to have a successful blog you have to post on it regularly so here I am.

Last week I got the urge to go do a bit of twitching, don't know why I bothered it pisses me off but I had an offshore survey cancelled (like they've all been this month!) and with the relocation of the Oriental Turtle Dove in Chippng Norton and access being sorted for the Tuesday but not looking likely for the rest of the week I decided to give it a go.

So Tuesday saw me picking Towel up and off we set, I think he must have been pretty excited about seeing this bird as when we got there I found this little accident on the car seat!  He denies it saying it was water but........

When we got there the bird had shown but had flown off all sorts of rumours were flying around about a guy from the local paper/BBC/News of The World/British Birding Association (delete as appropriate) hiding in the hedge between 41 and the next door garden and flushing it.  Who knows what the real story was but the result was it didn't show.  At it's peak I reckon the queue must have been 600 strong so we didn't join it instead preffering to walk round the neighbouring streets, it was pretty cold and miserable though so by 4pm we'd had enough and cleared off.  It was back the next morning, bastard thing I hope it gets eaten by a cat.

I am glad I went though because I overheard the funniest thing I've heard for ages.  Lee Evans had just come up to me saying he thought I didn't twitch anymore and what had dragged me out for this bird when a couple of blokes came up who had been checking the nearby streets.

It went something like this........

"Hey Lee"
"we've just been looking in the next road"
"Oh yes"
"Yeah there's some Collared Doves and Wood Pigs coming down to a birdtable"
"Really, Where's That"
"well you go left at the top of this road and then left and left again"
"OK great, what's it called"
"Webb Crescent...........oh you might not want to go down there!"

Absolute genius

I messed about at home on Wed and Thurs when I should have dropped everything and set off for Rainham for the Slaty-backed Gull, I didn't though so the urge to go for it got too much for me so Friday I was off.  I decided to go fro the Dove again on the way down as it seemed to be showing better in the mornings.

I arrived just as Mark Thomas stuck his head out of the door saying it's showing in the garden and we'll start letting people in.  After about 20 minutes queuing I got in and had pretty poor views of it in a fruit tree for 5 minutes of so, it was a bit distant to get much on with bins and was partly obscured by branches.
I quickly left to let others in for it and went up the road to the garden where you could look down on the garden it feeds in and got pretty good scope views for about half an hour.  It was always partly obscured but you could piece together all the features as it moved around.

Although I've seen them in China I was surprised how pale the tail tips were on the underside, especially the newly replaced partially grown ones.

So after scoring my first new bird of 2011 I set off for the Gull.  Bastard thing I hope it gets botulism.  There were a couple of claims during the day but it seems they were both single observer jobs and nobody I spoke to was believing them.  I nearly went to Pitsea on the off chance but decided against it as I had no idea where the birds roosted at this site and knew the tip couldn't be viewed so I elected to set off north and beat the traffic.  It was back the next day and unbelievably on the Sunday too.  I might go back if it starts to settle into a pattern but I'm not holding my breath.

Monday, 7 February 2011

I've received some more feedback on the Gull in my last post from a very well respected and knowledgeable guller.  Basically he suggests it could be a very dusky lbb!  He goes on to say he's seen one bird this dark before.  I'm very open minded about this bird to and it could well be a lbb, I've certainly never seen one like this but that doesn't mean they don't occur.  To be honest we don't get many of them around here in winter, in fact we don't get any, maybe the odd bird but they mostly come back in late Feb/March and then mostly adults so I'm not too familiar with juvs in mid winter.  I did think it looked like a 'northern' Gull though with a frosty appearance to the head and underparts and fully Juv scaps and mantle, I wonder how a late fledged northern bred intermedius might look?

Finally got off my arse the other day and went to see the Northern Harrier in Norfolk.  Here's my best efforts.

The light was shit and it was windy as hell making it impossible for someone of my dubious photographic ability to hold the damn thing steady, I really am getting sick of the whole camera thing I'm shit at it!  Mind you my stuff is better than the crap Robin and Pheasant pics Towel and Jack took whilst my back was turned, fuckin camera saboteurs!

Despite the terrible pics you can see how distinctive this thing is.  The most notable thing being the dark oily upperpart tone with rusty covert patches ( I didn't get a shot showing the uppers tho) but the peachy belly with limited streaking confined to the breast band and axillaries and the hooded effect were all obvious enough too.

After the Harrier we went to Cley seeing a Rough leg en route and the septic Wigeon.  The rest of the lads went to see the Shorelarks on the beach whilst I went to look at Scopes at Cley Spy.

I was surprised that the Cley Spy shop at Cley visitor centre has none of the top scopes in stock and you have to go to the other shop in Glandford where you can look at no birds and one Oak tree, it is a very nice Oak and to be fair probably offers a good subject to test how the scopes resolve detail with it's gnarly bark.

Anyway once there I got the Kowa 883 20-60, new Zeiss 85 20-75, Leica 82 and the Swarovski HD 80 both with 25-50's all lined up.  The first thing which struck me was the yellow cast on the Zeiss funny thing is I have a 65 Zeiss and have never noticed it.  Later I compared it to Jacks Swaro 65 and it's definitely there, in isolation you don't notice it but it's really obvious in direct comparison.

Anyway back to the big uns.  The other 3 are all pretty neutral in colour with the Kowa being the warmest.  All 4 of them showed some colour fringing when looking at branches etc against the sky but I've never used a scope that didn't show this and don't notice it unless I specifically look for it.  The Kowa seemed brighter than the others with the Swaro a close second and the Leica third, the colour cast on the Zeiss made it look the dullest.

When I looked at the Zeiss at the bird fair I couldn't get it sharp and commented on turdborem about this but nobody else had experienced it so I was looking forward to trying it again.  Well I still can't get it sharp sorry but this scope is a bit crap, so is the Leica to be honest with a washed out image and very fiddly focus due to no depth of field.  The problem is the depth of field, it's too narrow, even at the low end they are much narrower than the Swaro and Kowa, but wind on some mag and you'll spend more time fiddling with the focus trying to get a sharp image than looking at the bird.

I reckon you can get caught up in the minutiae of optics performance and lose sight of the bigger picture.  A scope has to be comfortable to use and the Swaro and Kowa are just that.  They both have large ocular lenses with good eye relief and the Swaro in particular has a massive depth of field which means it is in focus with no fiddling back and forth on the focus wheel.

I then tried the 30x Wide lenses on the Swaro and Kowa and Zeiss (although the Zeiss lens was second hand)  the Leica don't do one and so as it was pretty dull and very fiddly to get sharp I handed it back to be packed away.

The Zeiss still had a massive yellow cast and although brighter and much easier to get sharp than the zoom it has a very narrow eyecup which is much less comfortable that the others so I handed that back leaving just the Kowa and Swaro to fight it out.  To be fair it's not much of a fight with the 30's on as the extra 8mm of the Kowa really comes into play and it gives the Swaro a bloody nose.  It's a gorgeous piece of kit sharp as a tack unbelievably bright and I prefer the focus wheel position as it allows you to steady the scope whilst focusing with one finger.

So the Kowa wins does it?  Er no actually if I was buying one with a zoom the Swaro wins hands down, it's bright and sharp maybe only a percent or two behind the Kowa in this respect but the extra depth of field making it much more user friendly and the huge ocular making it just feel right from the off.  Then again although I've got used to a zoom I really like the 30 wide on the Kowa.......decision decisions!