Saturday, 17 November 2012

Ich bin ein Berliner

Like Kennedy, I do not consider myself personally to be a jam doughnut, but I do feel a certain solidarity with the citizens of that great city. This is because since Wednesday this week I have been mostly walking round Berlin in sub-zero temperatures and making abortive attempts to order bakery products in German, under the sympathetic eyes of shop staff.

There will be some birds, but first a few words about Berlin. It is a fantastic city, and we didn't get round anywhere near all of it. I reckon you could probably manage with no German at all in most places. In particular I'd like plug Insider Famous Walk tour which cost a mere 9 Euros, lasted 5 hours and felt like half that time, even at -2C all the way round. Very interesting, very worthwhile. Go there, be cultural. You won't regret it.

Birdwise Berlin is less spectacular, but since we walked everywhere we were able to find ourselves a regular Grey Heron which fished the bridge opposite the Hauptbanhof and Reichstag. I was also a bit surprised (which shows how much research I did) to find that Hooded Crow was the local corvid alongside the ubiquitous Magpies.

Hooded crow doing 'bigger than you'.

Since I only saw my first one of these up in Scotland earlier this year from the window of a moving car, it was rather cool to get a closer look and not worry about the tick.

Most encouraging were the House Sparrows. They may be dying back in London, but in Berlin they're like Pigeons - dozens of them underfoot at every city square hopping round the tables and mopping up crumbs. The only place I've seen anything like it is Tower Bridge, and if anything these were more tame.

And did I mention the beer? Excellent beer. I mean really excellent beer.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

New patch, Rainham frogs' legs and stupid balloons

Bit of a catchup post - beware the overload of photos.

First up, work have moved me to Islington for the forseeable, so the bad news is that this is no longer my local work patch.

Would you believe after 3 years working here I don't actually have a photo of Tower Bridge? This was nabbed from the Flickr stream of jrawle.

The better news is that this is.

Right next to the eastern entrance of Regents canal. Lots of canal, lots of potential - just staring at that photo I can almost see the Garganey Kingfisher Coots. Beautiful.


Today was booked out for twitching that Wheatear, but since there's been no news I decided on a consolation trip to Rainham, which has been turning up some good winter regulars over the last couple of weeks. It was also the first time I've taken the girlfriend out 'proper' birding with scope and DSLR. She's long been aware of the geekiness, but has only experienced it so far in diluted form. What I needed was for some kind of charismatic bird to put on a show...

First up - Wigeon. Who doesn't love Wigeon? Cuteness overload.

Had a bit more fun scoping up birds I usually ignore, like Lapwing and Grey Heron, and managed to pick up a distant Black Tailed Godwit when the Lapwing flock went up in a panic.

Star of the show today though was... *drum roll*

Lots of Kestrel love at this point, but it got better. The bird went into a stoop and came up with a frog. It then landed on a pylon and proceeded to eat the frog in front of a large crowd of sadistic birdwatchers.

If you look closely at the second photo you can just about see the feet disappearing.

A short wander round the path and another group of birders was staring at a patch of field about 20 yards away. "We think it's a raptor of some kind, but we're not sure what."

For once, rather than asking the questions, I was able to put them straight and let them know that they were looking at another stunningly showy female Kestrel. We watched for at least 5 minutes and it hadn't moved. Very odd behaviour for a Kestrel, but perfect for photography.

Other birds which resisted photography were a Snipe from the Butts hide and a very flighty but perfectly marked pair of Stonechats.

The non-bird sightings were topped by a Marsh Frog sat in the open on the path.

It's been too long since I took the camera out. I hope you appreciate the restraint I've shown in narrowing down to a mere seven from today's trip.

The downer for today? DON'T RELEASE YOUR BALLOONS. This one will be picked up, most of them just end up littering.


I miss blogging. I need to do this more often.