Friday, 26 April 2013

The photos on my last post are of a male Alpine newt and a male large tortoiseshell. New critters are hard to come by these days so they took a bit of work. The newt has been introduced to several sites mainly in and around London but (like the one I visited) they're generally private and kept under lock and key - I was lucky enough to get permission to visit this site where I also saw pool frog, common wall lizard and all 3 native newt species.

The tortoiseshell was seen on a visit to the Isle of Wight with Mark Hows. We left early at 5.30am and were on the island by 8.40. The weather was kind to us but the butterfly proved elusive in the extreme - it took me 4 hours to see it and a whopping 7 hours to get decent views and this photo! Long-tailed blue is probably now the only annually occuring butterfly I haven't seen - fingers crossed for a twitchable one soon! Also seen on the day were common wall lizard, red squirrel, a few bats and birds came in the form of 10+ med gulls, little owl and a reeling gropper. Finally got home at 1.15am after a great day out.

It's already been a fantastic year for me for wildlife sightings but there have been no new birds as I've been lucky enough to have seen pine grosbeak, harlequin and rock thrush in the UK before. So here's hoping for a calandra or crested lark, slender-billed gull or blue rock thrush this spring!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Rumours of New Field Guide Ruffles Feathers - a sneak preview

I found these illustrations in my son Ben's possession this morning. They were actually contained within a goody bag he brought home from a cousin's (4th) birthday party in London at the weekend. I suspect it to be the sole leaked plate from a revolutionary new field guide which could result in a major shake up of classification and phylogeny as we currently understand it and I have been delving deep to find out just what is going on. The plates themselves are to such a high standard they will leave the likes of Lewington & Jonsson heading for the benefits office with their tails between their legs, crumpled P45's in hand and a trail of ripped up canvasses and broken paintbrushes littering their wake as they contemplate their future alongside many other hitherto much praised wildlife artists. In fact to all intents and purposes, these pictures are photographs, the birds just come to life, each one carefully constructed feather by feather and beautifully offset against a slightly offensive yellow background. And representing perhaps the biggest revolution in bird art style since Jean Jacques Audubon first stuck a bit of wire up a cowbird's jacksie in order for it to pose correctly for his brush. (Hang on, I've not tried that method...)

There are some major taxonomical decisions affecting the new order - some no doubt likely to cause more than a little controversy - such as the lumping of Falco tinnunculus and F. peregrinus, the new taxon known simply as 'Rergrine'. In fact the extent of lumping involved will make listing considerably easier and is therefore distinctly more birder-friendly. Rumour has it even the Dutch are being won over. In a radical shift the vultures have been lumped with the buteos, the Luscinias with the orioles and the skuas have been incorporated into the family Lariidae. There are fascinating behavioural observations such as the use of precious metals in nest-building of barn swallows. And as for Parus major - well I'm not sure where to start. (though possibly by replacing the nut feeder in my garden with a larder of carefully impaled small vertebrates).

We've been doing it all wrong lads, the reign of Collins is over - it will be missed by some but science is about moving forward. Miss this top new title at your peril and go and go find yourself a 'Rergrine'. Your life-list will never be the same again but never mind, you'll only have to make it into the UK9 club to get a bit of kudos from fellow listers. Sweet!

JAH 04/13