Tuesday 29 June 2010


Ok so the photos are not the greatest. Taken on my mate Phil's camera phone that he had borrowed from Noah ( out of the ark - come on, keep up) They show you how close to the stage we were at Wembley Stadium last weekend when seeing GreenDay.

I jammed in on a ticket the day before the concert when Phil emailed to say he had a spare. Having seen GreenDay at Wembley Arena last year I jumped at the chance as they certainly put on a great show, plus having not yet been to the new Wembley Stadium as I am waiting for West Ham United to reach a major final, yeh I know, it's going to be a long wait..... it was a good opportunity to see the new stadium.

About an hour before the main act was due to take the stage we went for another beer and found ourselves at the entrance to the "Golden Circle"; a section right in front of the stage.

If you don't ask, you don't get.

I asked the steward at the entrance how people had got in and they informed us that it was for competition winners, fan club members and the first 3000 few the doors on the day. Apparently people had been sleeping on the steps outside overnight to secure their spot.

"Ok, fair enough" I said "I suppose they deserve it". A quick look around to maker sure no one was ear wigging and the steward whispered to me "don't tell anyone I told you, but they are about to release 150 more spaces so wait here and you might be lucky".

Wait we did and 10 minutes later sure enough we were having wrist bands put on and ushered into the Golden Circle. Superb! As you can see we were just feet from the stage, with around 80,000 people behind us.

Stag Weekend

Following hot on the heels of the hawk moths last week, I had my first Stag Beetle of the year in the garden on Sunday night. There I was in the garden, cold beer in hand, trying to work out why England's World Cup had gone so horribly wrong, when I heard the unmistakable and loud whirr of a Stag Beetle as it flew/hovered towards me. Ducking out the way, it thudded against the conservatory window and fell to the ground. I rushed in to pick up the camera and call the Mrs and kids but by the time I was back the bleeping cat had seen it and was closing in. The cat has killed a couple of Stag Beetles in the past, so despite not getting back out in time to take a photo I was glad to see it whirring its way up and away over the garden fence and out of harms way.

A further 45 minutes or so also produced a bat sp. presumably Pipistrelle and one passing unidentified very large moth.

Sunday 27 June 2010

Take me to your leader

Flying saucers? As we left our friend's house in the wee small hours this morning we noticed up to 20 bright red orbs floating silently across the Essex night sky. As my imagination kicked into overdrive I imagined a fleet of alien space craft heading down the Thames to destroy London. In view for a couple of minutes they passed silently overhead and into the distance and out of view. But what could they be? Answers on a postcard please.

Friday 25 June 2010

Privet Hawk Moths

The school run came up trumps again this morning, with Julia finding two Privet Hawk moths just 100 yards from our front door. Elephant Hawk Moth next please!

Monday 21 June 2010

Lime Hawk Moth

Walking to school today, Jamie (my 10 year old son) and Mrs Monkey (Julia) found this stunning Lime Hawk Moth. Unfortunately this was the only photo Julia could muster on her phone, and there was no sign of it at 3.30pm on the way home from school. And I've still never seen one!
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Friday 18 June 2010

Olympic Viewing Gallery

I was lucky enough through my work last week to get up to the Olympic Viewing Gallery in Stratford. My office over looks the site with the stadium about a 1/4 of a mile as the crow flies. The Olympic Viewing Gallery though provides a much better view of the whole site. It is built on top of a 21 story Council tower block providing sheltered accommodation for elderly residents. Many dignitaries have been up there including the Queen, the now ex- PM and Seb Coe.

Above you will see the main 85,000 seater stadium, the curved roof of the Aquatics Centre and the main body of the new Westfield Shopping Centre, which will be the biggest shopping centre in Europe and house top end stores John Lewis, Selfridges and the biggest M&S store in the UK.
Olympic village and the arch of Stratford International Station on the left.

West Ham's new ground back left!!

Thursday 17 June 2010

Plastic or fantastic? - Blue Winged Teal (Cambs)

Home early from work today I headed up to Cambs for the smart drake Blue Winged Teal at Berry Fen. Yesterday it was discovered that the bird is ringed, prompting much speculation about its origin, but needing BWT for a life tick after dipping a female, again in Cambs, just a few weeks ago on the way home from Merseyside for the White Tailed Plover, I decided being just over an hour away it was worth going to see.

This is where I must apologise for the lack of photos on this post. I must admit I made a basic school boy error on my behalf. If you know me, you probably know that I have recently purchased my first SLR camera (Canon 30D with 300mm lens), well this was to be its first trip out and the BWT was to be its first subject. Not knowing what I was doing I gathered my bins, scope, ruck sack full of camera equipment and small dogital camera, and headed off to find the site/bird. Ten minutes later unable to work out which of the few metal gates to go through I huffed and puffed my way back to the car and decided to leave the scope and try again. This time I was lucky, I found another confused birder, and between us we managed to work out where we should be heading. Ten minutes later we found the site and a couple of other birders, neither of whom had found the BWT.

At this point I realised the lack of scope was going to be a major hinderance in locating the bird, but my luck was in as it was located around 150+ yards in front of us, associating with two European Teal. I must admit it was very smart and I am glad I went for it, too far to try my new toy out and with the scope in the boot, not even an attempt at a digiscoped pic possible. Who knows if the record will be accepted? We'll just have to wait and see, but until it is scubbed I'll assume (as is right in all civilised societies) that it is innocent (wild) until proven guilty (escape). Life tick 372)

Sunday 6 June 2010

Welsh Rare Bit - Mamora Warbler Twitch

RBA done us proud and put out a very early message at 4.05am on Saturday to confirm that the very rare Mamora Warbler was still present in Gwent, South Wales. By 5.15am Shaun had picked me up and via Barking, for Hawky, we arrived at Bradders to switch motors and make our way to the land of our fathers. Being early for once the usually horrendous M25 and M4 were plain sailing. We arrived just over 2.5 hours later to find an already large gathering of birders. We were lucky to find the very smart, vocal bird on show on a dry stone wall. Long and clear views were had from the off with the bird holding territory, singing loudly and generally showing off to all the very pleased tourists who had travelled to see it. The lovely location was made even better with a back drop of up to 5 Whinchat, 2 Tree Pipits, a couple of passing Ravens and a distant calling Cuckoo. Again heat haze proved the undoing of my digi-scoping efforts as you can see. After an hour or so we decided to move on and headed to the Nags Head RSPB reserve for a leisurely walk around the Forest of Dean. Great views were had of 4 Pied Flycatchers (2 male), a Spot Fly, Wood Warbler and Nuthatch. A pair of Redstarts very briefly crossed our paths but could not be relocated.

A lunch time pint and a ploughmans was our next quarry. We put Dave's Best Pub Guide to the test and opted for The Ostrich, just 10 minutes away. All I can say is wow! A cold pint washed down an amazing ploughmans, that included local cheeses and home made chutney. 10/10 from me!

We set off home mid afternoon, via Gloucester and Cheltenham to Oxford and the M40. We smashed our Red kite count on the M40 wit at least 36 birds counted!

All in all it was another great day, great tick, great lunch and great company. Nice one lads! Thanks to Hawky for Pied Fly and Wood Warbler pics.

Wednesday 2 June 2010

Top Trumps

"Get arrf my land"

News that reformed (er, hem) dirty twitcher, Jono Lethbridge and Shaun the lepidopterist, were heading up to norf naarfak for a smart male Trumpeter Finch mid afternoon yesterday had me making plans to leave work early at 3pm and make my way over to Jono's place for a 4pm off. Having already seen Trumpeter Finch some 2 years earlier at Blakeney Point (on exactly the same date), it was actually quite nice not having the stress of "needing" the tick. News that there was also an adult male Red Backed Shrike, a Marsh Warbler and then later an elusive Thrush Nightingale, all within 5 minutes of each other, did however get the juices flowing.
Suited and booted, I was not exactly dressed for a hike along the shingle east bank at Cley, but just like Mr Benn, I went into the changing room (Jono's house) and viola, I came out looking a prize prat, trousers tucked into wellies and a well used wax jacket.

Jono kindly lent me some bins as going straight from work I had no scope, camera or bins to hand. Master Henry; Jono's bird obsessed young son, joined us as it is half term for the long journey north with the lads. We met Shaun on route along the M11 and we were off. On route I manage to year list Little Owl and Shaun spotted a Stone Curlew at Lakenheath.

Arriving around 7pm we made our way to where a small group of birders could be seen in the distance to see the very smart Trumpeter Finch. It treated us to good views on the deck and on the fence wires. It was now approaching 8pm so decisions had to be made. Shaun needed Thrush Nightingale so naturally he joined the crowd hoping to see or at least hear the elusive bird, but it was not to be. Jono, Henry and I travelled the short distance to where the Red Backed Shrike had been reported and we were not to be disappointed. It showed really well down to 30 yards or so and I really regretted not having my scope and camera as I would have been able to get some cracking digiscoped shots. You just can't knock a shrike, no matter which species, they are all smart and I never tire of seeing them. Can I have an Isabaline next please!

With the light starting to go and hunger starting to take its toll we decided to not to stand around starring at an empty bush but go and find some fish and chips instead. As it happened, an open chip shop at 9pm on the north Norfolk coast is about as elusive as a Thrush Nighingale (wearing a false moustache and carrying a fake passport). After a tour of Sherringham we headed empty handed (and bellied) to Cromer where we eventually found a chip shop open. And that was that, 2.5 hours later I arrived home, very tired, but very happy with a great evening out with the lads seeing some top birds.

Thanks to Jono for the bird pics!