Only a couple of days remaining in August, and it's looking highly likely that this will be the first month of 2013 bird challenge in which my list hasn't been added to. There have been a couple of trips to Dove Stone and another to Whitby but I failed to find anything new there (loads of swallows and linnets though). Annoyingly, there have been reports of little owl, wheatear, whitethroat and redstart in the last fortnight, all within walking distance of my house. So stuck on 109 for now, and a peek at Akira's list shows he's up to 75.
Perhaps I can sneak out for a quick walk this weekend..
For the last few weeks I'd be been pondering a trip to North Wales to visit friends who do volunteer work at RSPB Conwy. Being far more skilled birders than I, that would surely be a simple way of boosting my tally. After getting in touch and mentioning that Akira was planning a trip to the Isle of May, it was suggested that I book on a boat trip to Puffin Island where I ought to be able to pick up lots of coastal ticks.
So setting off early in glorious sunshine, here's what I saw:
6th July (Beaumaris / Puffin Island, off Anglesey)
After the boat I had a couple of hours available to try and boost the list further, and had a couple of options: head into Snowdonia and try for a long-distance osprey perhaps? look for waders at Conwy? or travel across Anglesey where I'd be almost guaranteed to see choughs? Having only ever seen choughs once (briefly, in Cornwall a couple of years ago) the decision was obvious. Despite getting lost a couple of times, I made it to South Stack where I added three more species:
South Stack (Anglesey):
20th July (Huddersfield Narrow Canal, Stalybridge)
All of which takes me well past the century and onto 109 species. Many thanks to Rose and the rest of the boat team for pointing everything out and providing a great day. Without further trips afield my list is unlikely to get much longer so we'll see whether I manage to add to it in August.
As part of their efforts to declutter and remove all of the junk I've hoarded over 20+ years, my parents recently deposited two boxes full of audio cassettes. I couldn't bin them without checking them out so over the last couple of weeks I've been working through them on the commute. Spot the oddball / attention-seeker with the bulky walkman.
100 Hz legend: Need to optimise those sound levels son
I might write more about some of the unearthed gems (and turds) another time, but right now I'm considering sexually-transmitted diseases in music. Haven't we all.
I was prompted to ponder this while a burst of Mansun popped up, taped off the Evening Session. Stripper Vicar - what an odd record!
I'm not aware of anything STD related among the tragic tale of a deceased, cross-dressing member of the priesthood. But hearing it made me recall the delightful opening line of a previous Mansun single, Skinup Pinup:
'Syphilis, sniff on this'.
...which led me to Turin Brakes' line from Future Boy:
'Syphilis is a bitch, but contracting HIV is much worse'.
Err, yes, yes it is.
And then, like a post-watershed game of Mallet's Mallet, Beck's line on Milk & Honey, 'I can smell the VD in the club tonight'.
I had a similar experience once in the Cabaret Club, Oldham. Perhaps Beck has visited there too.
There's more. Plenty more once you start on hip-hop. For starters, here's the Wu-Tang Clan's 'Shame on a nigga', courtesy of Ol' Dirty Bastard:
I come with that ol' loco
Style from my vocal
Couldn't peep it with a pair of bi-focals
I'm no joker! Play me as a joker
Be on you like a house on fire! Smoke ya!
Crews be actin like they gangs, anyway
Be like, "Warriors! Come out and playiyay!"
Burn me, I get into shit, I let it out like diarrhea
Got burnt once, but that was only gonorrhea"
Last night I stuck on some L'il Wayne and within 10 minutes I'd collected two more. First, the opening lines of 'A Milli':
'I’m a millionaireI’m a young money millionaire, tougher than Nigerian hair My criteria compared to your career just isn’t fair I’m a venereal disease like a menstrual bleed Through the pencil I leak on the sheet of the tablet in my mind'
and then in the superb 'Dr Carter':
"Swagger tighter then a yeast infection
Fly go hard like geese erection.
Fashion patrol police detection
I stay tight like Chinese Connection"
Love the image of a goose flying with a lob-on.
While I'm at it, this website is very amusing in explaining rap lyrics.
Pondering this delightful issue yet further, I remembered 'So What' by Metallica, the source of much amusement during Sixth Form free periods:
"I've had crabs I've had lice I've had the clap and that ain't nice So what, so what"
There's 'Crabs' by 18 Wheeler. But that could be about the crustaceans.
So there we have it. Someone could write a thesis on that. Know of any more? Leave a comment. A gold star to anyone rhyming 'human papillomavirus'.
At the end of May my list was 75-strong, which at the beginning of the year I'd likely have been satisfied with as a final total. But the first week of June was to be spent in Norfolk which offered a good opportunity to boost the tally further. Here's how I got on:
June 1 - Sculthorpe Moor reserve
Red-legged partridge (both Cranmer)
Common tern (both Wells-next-the-sea)
Yellowhammer (both Cranmer)
Little ringed plover
Reed warbler (all Pensthorpe reserve)
Spotted flycatcher (Sculthorpe)
June 6 (Holkham)
June 15 (Dovestone)
TOTAL: 94 species.
The first day alone and I probably would have been happy to leave it at that, with cuckoo and barn owl both being lifers (I probably saw/heard cuckoos as a kid, but I don't remember it and definitely haven't done so for years). The other highlight was the spotted flycatcher that we watched close-up while in a beer garden. Lowlight was narrowly avoiding being mauled by two very aggressive dogs while having an evening walk (and picking up grey partridge and yellowhammer).
(pic from Wikipedia)
I still remain some distance from the real hardcore listers though. And talking of those, while at Sculthorpe Moor reserve on June 1st, we stumbled upon pro-twitcher Lee Evans leading a merry band of birders as part of his week-long round-Britain trip. Surely I ought to get a bonus tick for that?
Song thrush (Bowness-on-Windermere)
Common gull (Lake Windermere)
Yellow-legged gull (Lake Windermere)
Housemartin (Windermere village)
Reed bunting (Brockholes)
Swift (Leeds University)
Ring-necked parakeet (Sefton Park, Liverpool)
Year total: 75 species
A couple of rather unlikely additions in there, together with a couple that I might have expected to have ticked off earlier. I'm fairly certain that I've heard blackcaps several times over the last few weeks but had not managed to see one and wasn't 100% confident in my ability to identify the song. So it was a relief to finally get this one ticked off at the end of the month with some decent views.
A couple of stops at Brockholes reserve near Preston on the way to/from the Lakes proved fruitful (despite our daughter not allowing us to spend much time exploring the wider reserve), and I certainly wasn't expecting to see a black swan. The Swedish blue duck is definitely not a species that I was aware of, and it's thanks to Akira and Fiona's efforts on internet search engines that we achieved this group tick.
The big bonus for me though was the ring-necked parakeet as I wasn't expecting this to feature in my list this year, unless I could engineer a trip to London at some stage (although I believe there are some knocking around South Manchester). It turns out that there is a small population that regularly gather in Sefton Park.
A week in Norfolk beckons so I'm hoping for a few more to boost the tally further. Looking over the full list, I think I'm now pretty much at my upper limit for what I might have expected at the start of the year. I've certainly got all of the regular visitors to the garden and local area.