River Mole Twitching Update
Wang's Upon a Time 14 Sep 22 09:49
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Pair of egrets, one in the river fishing, the other perched high in the branches of a dead tree.  Ducks, obv.  Ducklings now all grown up.  

Highlights were a fleeting sight of the kingfisher zipping along just above the water and a pair of bullfinches in an alder tree.

Also a flock of swans.  They may be elegant in the water but they look fooking stupid when they try to take off.

(I believe they are the heaviest flighted birds, but Merxc will correct me I am sure if this is wrong.)

since I’m roffing from the shitter in a contemplative mood I Googled that for you m7

heaviest flying bird is the Great Bustard appaz

That's a properly good name that.  Has to be said in a yorkshire accent for me Clive, even though (I believe) the last wild ones in the UK are found on the plains of Wiltshire.

I have befriended a male Kingfisher at my local river swimming spot. On Sunday I was in the water and got to within 6-8 feet of him before he gave me a glance and bounced off downriver. He was happily dipping in and out catching tiny little fish.

I'm also trying to track down a recent spot last week. I could have sworn it was a Swallow Tailed Buzzard, but... they don't come here, seemingly ever. I'm now working on the theory it may have been an albino buzzard with a tatty tail.

Yep, just in my apple packers m7. River water up here swinging wildly depending on rainfall. Sunday's dip was 9C which felt thin when air temp was 18C. 

Coldest was Windermere last NY Day, had to crack the ice, water was 2C. That was a quick dip.

99% of the time I'm just launching myself in. But have been doing it for so long my cold water reflex isn't unpredictable. When properly cold though I will do a bit of Wim breathing

Interesting.  Sadly bowhere near here to try it though I would like to.  Went for a lake swim / indlatable assault course in just trunks in july but the water was quite warm (as I repeatedly found out thanks to my 11 year old judo specialist who kept pushing me in)

If it was a swallow-tailed kite (not buzzard) every twitcher in the country would be there.  Maybe it was a red kite - can resemble a buzzard with those long broad wings, and has the most distinct forked tail of any British bird of prey. 

The hobbies in my area were successful this year - saw one of the youngsters flapping after an adult and receiving a food item in mid-air - but now seem to have disappeared.  They stayed around till the last week of September last year, but the long drought might have affected the number of insects on my patch.  I'm sad to see them go as they are the most elegant flyers and, more than that, their departure, just like the swifts that are mostly already gone and the swallows and martins that will soon leave, is the surest sign that another summer has gone for good.  

But every season has something to look forward to, and I'm hoping to see some of the spectacular flying I saw in October last year: the old male peregrine from the pair near my office soaring up hundreds of feet, then accelerating into spectacular stoops at groups of finches.  On one day he had so many near misses, at times on targets I felt certain he could have caught, that I wondered if he was flying for the fun of it - and what could be better than exercising your supreme mastery of flight on a bright clear autumn day?  

I saw my first swallow of the year on Sunday, and a fortnight before that my first house martin.  They, along with the swifts and hobbies that are soon to follow, are the truest birds of spring for me.  I would once have welcomed their arrival, and still do to an extent - it's just that my older self now also laments the passage of another winter as much as the onset of spring.  

Peregrines are hatching out all over London now, and the progression of their youngsters from diminutive balls of fluff to the avian equivalent of teenagers who have been given the keys to a Porsche is one of the great highlights of my year.  The chances for my local pair, alas, are poor thanks to nesting material not being provided (they need gravel or sand to excavate a depression that helps keep their eggs together - they can do this on a natural ledge, but not on bare concrete).  But quite a few pairs, including two or three near my office, have been so aided, and I wish them much success.  

Lots of goldfinches about today.  My fave finch tbh.  Bullfinch a close barrel chested second


There's a big tree at the station where crows and jackdaws nest year after year. Every year one or two fall and get left to fend for themselves. For the last 2 ywars they've been jackdaws, but this year it's a proper gnarly crow fledgling. He's called Malcolm now, responds to calling him, eats from hands, likes being stroked. I'm going to keep him.

@Elephant they are such exquisite little things.  Whenever I get a good view of one I just think what a brilliant little bird they are. 

There's a bird feeder outside a fourth floor window around the corner from me, and in hard winter weather there's a veritable procession of goldfinches flitting from the feeder to the trees across the road and back again.  They brighten up the day with their twittering and liveliness.  A charm of goldfinches indeed.  

Mylor church grave yard community garden was teaming with life and small birds. magical spot next to the sea. Wet weather had made it go wild and birds were clearly thrilled. So green and vibrant with 18th Celtic grave stones over run with plants, wild flowers, trees and birds. 

If I wasn’t so tech illiterate I would post a picture of the Long-eared Owl we caught at the weekend - an absolutely beautiful bird which you really wouldn’t expect to find in a mist net during the day

Have spotted a blackbird nest in the garden.  Mr B is busy in and out with grubs.  Can't hear any chirruping of chicks, so assume mrs B is sat there on the eggs.

In sad bird news, I just saw a whole fallen egg in the bushes by a car park.  About 3 cm long, bright white with dark speckles.  The woodland trust egg ID'r seems to suggest collared doves and I have seen these around this area.  

Went for a lovely river walk yesterday.  #3 was bemoaning the lack of ducklings this year (some weeks ago, we had watched a pack of properly tumescent mallards at their coercive sex games).

And then lo and behold, an entire flotilla of marble-cake cuteness came right up to us, to much motherly scolding.

Those of you who are interested will receive pix

Yay 4 duckings.

Had a swim in the River Wharfe yesterday after my shift. Up paddled one of those fancy oriental crested ducks with 10 duckings, such cool little things. Paddling like the clappers, having a great time

From the archives... putting 2 kestrel chicks back into their nest after they fell out. The nest was in the space a fallen stone left on a 900 year old ruin innthe Dales. Mother kestrel left scratch marks on a colleague's visor as he climbed and replaced them, swooping in and trying to knock him off the ladder. We were pissing ourselves.



During the pandemic the river was packed with wild bird families and there came a point on a very hot day I had been in the water so much drifting past families of swans and their goslings, that I had become part of their world and their kids grew up around me. The water was very very green and a blues trio had set up on a hidden part of river and were playing the blues and it was like I suddenly crossed over into their world through a portal for a few moments that the colours and sounds and I could understand their calls. 

@Trombs - that's some pluck from a bird weighing what... 200 to 250 grams and mainly feeding on mice.  Then again, I suppose if King Kong picked up your kids, you'd have to have a go... 

This morning's audit: 

blue tits galore

very busy pair of thrush




grey wag tails

a large heron flying past seemingly in contradiction of the laws of physics

lots of roach in the very clear water

No unusual updates for the last week, but some good spots...

3 crows crowding a buzzard, was like Battle of Britain up there.

A family of yellow wagtails happily bopping around on a rock next to a river I was swimming in.

A great fat thrush on the floor seemingly guarding, presumably a next. Beautiful (but aggressive!) chirping.

That's about it. The massive dog otter has been spotted by the canal next to the fire station over the last week and I've never seen it, though I have seen piles of crayfish armour under the bridges which is its main food source. Have a day off today, may have a sit and read around where he's been seen.


Forgot to add this from a few weeks ago. A barn fire and as we arrived, about 20 mins before this photo was taken, we saw a barn owl quickly foxtrot oscaring out of the eves with something in its mouth. I wondered if it may be a chick, but was all too fast to see really. That's me on the right, looking obvs epic (and not doing any work, natch.)

Wang's Upon a Time14 Sep 22 10:19

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That's a properly good name that.  Has to be said in a yorkshire accent for me Clive, even though (I believe) the last wild ones in the UK are found on the plains of Wiltshire.



well almost. There is a group of Great Bustards that were reintroduced on Salisbury Plain in Wilts, but they were hunted out of existence in the UK by 1832 when the last one was taken. 

There must be some there still, i've deffo seen them on a wiltshire tourist info flyer.  Tbf news does spread slowly out that way...

in other bird news, the swifts are having amazing high altitude dog fights over where i live right now

I have no interesting species sightings but I am astonished at the bird activity in the new garden, a mere 5 miles from where we were before, but all totally different. This is prime red kite country and we are well used to seeing them, but the behaviour around this new garden is a real eye opener. It is like the Battle of Britain. Crows buzzing kites and kites with each other in combat over the skies. Constantly. I posted a little while ago about a sparrowhawk(?) taking a starling on the wing, dive bombing down from behind the roof and practically grazing my head as he moved in for the kill. Since then we have found a few dead birds around the garden.

Trombo, I heard about your new career from a visit to a mutual friend near your new station last weekend.  Apparently we just missed you at your new posting.  How did I miss you had become a fecking fireman?  Surely you are too old for that gig?  ;-)

Have all the twitchers on here found the Cornell Lab Merlin bird app?  The sound ID bit is amazing.  We are in the woods here so hear a lot of bird song but can't see where it is coming from.  To sit out in the garden and be able to identify what is around is lovely.  God we are all old now.

This morning: rabbits, egret, ducks, painted ladies, robins, magpies, baby coots and a giant cormorant on the mill pond

Herons, even when you see them often (nesting pair near me), are always surprisingly fooking massive.  Very dinosaury

I have seen a few couple of yards away fly past at eye level (or could be same one ) in a roof conversion with Velux windows. Great sight. I like them and if I see one and realise it’s been watching me for a while in the water I feel we vibe a bit. Very different to the aristocratic swan , normally in a pair, ignores me completely and cygnets have public school vibes. 

Two young peregrines stretching their wings over the City midday.  Watching them mastering (and it's a lengthy process) the skill of flight is one of the highlights of peregrine-watching at this time of the year - like seeing trainee fighter pilots getting to grips with the full capabilities of what they've got under them.  If you saw them mock-attacking each other - diving, chasing and evading at speed - you'd think they were fine flyers, and so they are.  But in their enthusiasm they got too close to the Cheesegrater, where the owners of the adjoining territory regularly perch up, and the old tiercel sitting up there was not amused.  Up he went - just by the manner of his flight as he left the building you could tell this was a totally different proposition to the two juveniles - and in a matter of seconds drove both youngsters away.  

It's been pretty quiet otherwise, the pair of hobbies near me have become very difficult to find after the big blow last weekend.  But that was great to see.  

Pez, did you pick your flat specifically for bird mithering?  Good work if so.


This morning I spent a happy fe minutes watching a pair of grey wagtails swooping across the river by the weir.  There seemed to be a profusion of midgey looking things just above the weir - I assume something tasty had lodged in the jam of twigs and the midges  were suffering from a very skillful aerial bombardment.

I have no idea how wagtails can stack multiple insects in their beaks (a bit like puffins with sandeels).  You would think the moment they open their beak to catch a second (or third) the first prey item would drop out.  But they do.  Binoculars really help to see detail like this but I've had them come so close you could see it perfectly well with the unaided eye. 


This afternoon two young peregrines (a different brood to the ones in my last post) were playing around the top of TwentyTwo Bishopsgate.  Using the updrafts around the enormous building like an elevator or a ski lift - diving down, getting into the right area that the wind was hitting, zooming up over the building and diving down again.  I can't attribute any other reason for this playing around than sheer joie de vivre.  

I didn't choose to live in a good birding location (although if I could do it all over again, I'd certainly pay more heed to such things).  I suppose I'm lucky in having a pair of hobbies not far from me (although there are at least a few pairs around the outskirts).  But tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people must live or work within easy distance of peregrine locations, and all that's needed to see them is a bit of patience.  

I am anroad in greater london today.  Tottenham hale station is surrounded by a susseration of female starlings.  They seemed rather partial to my pret ham and cheese croissant.

The Merlin app tells me we have a goldcrest in our woods but I have yet to see it.  However you can't miss the bloody great buzzard that comes and perches on the big tree stump in our garden.  

Goldcrests are the tiniest little buggers - you're looking for a six gram bird that measures 9cm.  The punky gold crest, so visible in photos, is surprisingly difficult to see in real life, and they're insect-feeders, so tend not to visit bird feeders.  They're charming little birds and worth tracking down, but maybe later in the year when the leaves are off the trees.  I have no idea how birds that tiny survive the British winter.   

Hobbies high over the Wetlands on Sunday - rising high into the sky, using the wind and thermals so skilfully and economically that they would coast around for seemingly ages with nary a wingbeat;  then seeing a target, closing those long elegant wings tight to their bodies, and stooping.  To those who have never seen it, a falcon's stoop is one of the great sights of the natural world - absolutely thrilling in its speed and suspense.  You hold your breath as the bird, tucked into a perfect teardrop shape, comes hurtling down, and don't release it until the target, suddenly coming into view, either flashes away or is caught in the blink of an eye.  The outcome seems inevitable - how could anything escape when the attacker has such a great advantage in speed and surprise?  But the quicksilver shimmy of a martin, or the balletic swerve of a swift, are marvels in their own right, just as much as the hobby's dashing downward stoop.  

One hobby went up incredibly high, diminishing into a black speck against white cloud, then moving away upwind, making me think it was on its southward migration until its steady straight flight path changed into a rapidly accelerating downward parabola.  The falling shape, made tiny by distance, seemed to be moving almost slowly; only when gauged against the layer after layer of cloud it was plummeting past did its true speed become apparent.  Pulled up abruptly about halfway down; then down it came again.  A rapid upward hook just above the distant treetops and it stalled almost dead in the air, turned, and went away, low down, soon disappearing behind a row of houses.  I never saw its target, but in the last few seconds the manner of its flight, dipping up and down, suggested a bird carrying prey.  

It's not given to everyone to see sights like this; but it humbles and amazes me that with patience, effort and understanding, beauty and wonder can be found not that very far from most of us.  

Report from the alps: GOLDEN EAGLE BABY!!!

plus one very large stork like thing, but black.  It did a spectacular poo on a bentley coming the other way