Monthly Archives: April 2013

White Stork nest in Castilla y León

White Stork

The habit of the White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) to nest on buildings (when they can’t find enough trees around of the right type) began in the Middle Ages and is likely to be the reason behind the legend that they would bring babies in blankets. In this photo, the only baby visible is a young stork poking its head above the top of the nest.

Birding and blogging frustrations

I had intended to celebrate my first anniversary of blogging by looking back at some of the things I had photographed over the past year.

My intentions were frustrated by a technical problem with my external hard drive (where I store the 40,000 or so photos I have taken in the past couple of years). [*Yawn]

So, not only did I miss my own anniversary, I have also not posted anything for three weeks.

Technical issues drive me up the wall – patience is not one of my virtues – but my passion, birding, can also be frustrating…

Birders travel all over the world to feed their habit: the constant urge to spot ‘new’ species of bird and add them to one of their lists: life/country/window (these are the three I keep). Birders will often visit remote and exotic locations. The other day I travelled to … [dramatic pause] … Staines. For those of you who are not familiar with the South East of England, to put it kindly, Staines is not a town to attract many visitors for its beauty or culture.

Staines recently became Staines-on-Thames. It was a bid to sex up or add class to a town mostly famous for the location of the fictional Ali-G.

Staines does, however, have a set of large reservoirs that are famous in the birding community…

Staines reservoir

Only two of the reservoirs can be viewed by the public via a narrow causeway that runs between them…


Staines reservoir is famous amongst birders because of the large number of rare birds that visit it. I spent nearly two hours travelling across London with the hope of spotting something like… a Long-billed Dowitcher, or a Collared Pratincole, or Whiskered Tern, or how about a mighty Osprey, or Montagu’s Harrier, or the more delicate Bee-eater, or Icterine Warbler. All of these wonderfully named birds have been spotted at Staines Reservoir over the years.

But I was not to be so lucky. I well and truly dipped.

Oh, I’m sorry did I just spring some birding terminology on you there without explaining it?

To dip (v.) to miss a bird that one had hoped or expected to see to add to one’s list

The common birds I did see, and the beautiful views, made up for any real disappointment. Birding wouldn’t be as fun if you always saw what you hoped for.

Mute Swan (Cygnus Olor)
Mute Swan

Gadwall (Anas strepera)

And finally, a rather wistful looking and slightly blurry Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba)
Pied Wagtail

A tail of two tits

Alright – enough sniggering there at the back!

Titmouse is from Old English meaning small (tit) bird (mase). It is an apt description of one of the most popular British garden birds, the tiny Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus):


Equally tiny, is the Blue Tit’s distant cousin, the Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus):


Watching these energetic (constantly on the move) and acrobatic birds in a park in Nottingham was a joy. They have survived a long, cold winter, but many of their numbers will not have been so lucky. It is estimated that up to 80 per cent of all Long-tailed Tits will die in a cold winter.