Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Framing of the Shrew. Reprise

Squeeeeeezed in an hour's sewatch before work. 05:35 to 06:40, calm and sunny, not the best for seawatching, although there were some entertaining tight feeding flocks of Herring Gulls and Black-legged Kittiwakes on the water attended by Northern Fulmars, and 3 auk spp.

Four Manx Shearwaters went north (at a distance), 1 Great Skua north, and 1 south. 4 Arctic Skuas (Parasitic) went north, 3 together in a team picking on a single Kittiwake. 5 Arcti
c Terns south and 3 Sandwich Terns. 2 Common Scoters north and 37 south, in one flock. 69 Northern Gannets going north, and 1 Red-throated Diver north, followed by 12 Red-throated Divers going south, in 2 flocks. But I've been watching so many Bratz cartoons recently i was... like... so, what-EVER!!! Call the fashion police we have an outLAW.

Look at this Common Shrew, a fresh addition to my series. Note the interplay of light and shade on the rocks and its cold dead limbs.

..and I know how much you like a good Shag

European Shag
(the one on the left is going down)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

it's official

Your Score: Crackpot - INTJ

20% Extraversion, 66% Intuition, 80% Thinking, 53% Judging

People hate you.

Paris Hilton hates Nicole Richie. Lex Luther hates Superman. Garfield hates Mondays.

But none these even rates against the insurmountable hate, people have for you.

I mean, you're pretty damn clever and you know it. You love to flaunt your potential. Heard the word "arrogant" lately? How about "jerk?" Or perhaps they only say that behind your back.

That's right. I know I can say this cause you're not going to cry. You're not exactly the most emotional person. You'd rather spend time with your theoretical questions and abstract theories than with other people.

Ever been kissed? Ever even been on a date? Trust me, your inflated ego is a complete turnoff with the opposite sex and I am telling you, you're not that great with relationships as it is. You're never going to be a dude or chick magnet, purely because you're more concerned with yourself than others. Meh. They all hate you already anyway.

How about this- "stubborn?" Hrm? Heard that lately? All those facts which don't fit your theories must just be wrong, right? I mean, really, the vast amounts of time you spend with your head in the're just plain strange.


If you want to learn more about your personality type in a slightly less negative way, check out this.


The other personality types are as follows...

Loner - Introverted Sensing Feeling Perceiving

Pushover - Introverted Sensing Feeling Judging

Criminal - Introverted Sensing Thinking Perceiving

Borefest - Introverted Sensing Thinking Judging

Almost Perfect - Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Perceiving

Freak - Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Judging

Loser - Introverted iNtuitive Thinking Perceiving

Clown - Extraverted Sensing Feeling Perceiving

Sap - Extraverted Sensing Feeling Judging

Commander - Extraverted Sensing Thinking Perceiving

Do Gooder - Extraverted Sensing Thinking Judging

Scumbag - Extraverted iNtuitive Feeling Perceiving

Busybody - Extraverted iNtuitive Feeling Judging

Prick - Extraverted iNtuitive Thinking Perceiving

Dictator - Extraverted iNtuitive Thinking Judging

Link: The Brutally Honest Personality Test written by UltimateMaster on OkCupid, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Flaming June

Went to bed last night listening to the rain. Woke up this morning listening to the rain. Went out, listening to the rain, and getting wet by it. We must be due ONE nice summer day soon. And cold as well, a chilly northerly.

And it's been raining in them thar hills as well. Look at the Elsick Burn. It's a bit swollen.

That yellow brown colour you can see is finest Scottish peat being eroded into the sea. Not industrial effluent. What you can't see is, tucked away in the vegetation on the right, a mother Mallard and her single ducking, which was cheaping desperately as it tried to stop itself getting washed away downstream. Unfortunately, as I watched it let go and was flushed down underneath me on the bridge and away. Mum was caught in two minds as she wasn't too keen on launching into the flood either, but maternal instinct got the better of her and she went off after it. I don't want to sat anything melodramatic like 'I never saw either of them again.'
But I never saw either of them again. I'm sure mum was OK, but duckling is probably being looked after by Buddah or St Francis of Assisi or the great Sky Turtle by now.

D0wn on the beach, there was a White-breasted Dipper on the tideline, no doubt foraging there cos it couldn't get a grip anywhere on the burn. Poor thing was forced to subsist on dead duckings and welly boots and anything else washed down onto the seaweed. A couple of predatory Rock Pipits her
e too.

I mention Rock Pipits cos there was one carrying food on the clifftops (actually a nasty looking brown
moth). This must represent a second brood. I dunno why, but that surprised me. I know they're pipits and should have more than one, but I'd always assumed Rock Pipits were single brooded. I look in BWP tonight and find out I was wrong. That has NEVER happened before. :-O

The Rock Pipit cheeped annoyingly at me while I tried a despearate 30 minute seawatch, still in the rain (43 Northern Gannets, lots of auks 3 spp. and a feeding flock of 150 Black-legged Kittiwakes), so now I suspect it's even the same nest site as last time.

A new Willow Warbler was singing in the rain at the Retreat as I went past, but I went on Jim Royle on it... 'Flaming June my arse!' Occurred to me that it was one of those days when the best sort of birding is looking out the window at the bird table, so I went home and did that with Lizzie. In the afternoon I put on my leather pants and treated the family to Pizza Hut. Will this unabashed decadence never end?

Have some Common Eiders

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Male gonads

Cyberthrush quite rightly thinks that I may have been oversimplifying. Guilty as charged... but I'll say here what I've said in the comments section there (once it goes through moderation).

This was after comment 1 was losttttt In..... SPACEEEEEEEEE

I'll try to remember what I said, but my original comment was a lyrical triumph of chemical insight, of which this is only a pale grey shadow of ineloquence. I'll try my best though. As I recall, it went a little like this...

OK I'll admit I skirted perilously round the edges of reason in that post, and oversimplified at best. Maybe the point was very much like a point I think you made a while back, viz. that the birds don't care what we think. They'll continue to do what they are doing, even if that is rotting and dissolving to oil, irrespective of our opinions and irrespective of the identity of any video or individual sighting. but fact 1 (maybe FACT 1 - it depends on how hard a day it's been) stands. I will agree that IBWOs were never that easy to see either, but fact (FACT :-)) is that they could be seen, well and repeatedly, with patience, and that there were people who could live and work among them even when their population must have been perilously, perhaps terminally, low. FACT/fact/lie 2 is an oversimplification, but IBWOs could certainly be very conspicuous at times without aspiring to this mythical will-o-the-wisp type level where you can only see them if you're not looking straight at them. I will accept FACT 3 is a little frivolous :-), but will contend that if IBWOs went extinct a few seconds ago, we still wouldn't hear them.

As of OCtober last year I was prepared to believe that although the Arkansas video was a PIWO it miught have inspired some birders to go out and find the real birds in Florida. I absolutely accept the contention that the American birding community gave up on IBWOs too soon. I think it stretches credulity to think that birds, including these hypothesised Florida 9 pairs, could escape the combined digital imagery of all the hair-trigger search teams and goodness knows who else for another search season. Except of course if they aren't there.

Where the heck do those Brits learn English anyway?!

Well I for one learnt it at Swiss finishing school of Upper Class girls. The first sentence of Swiss German they translated into English for me was 'Sir, if you don't stop looking through the window at the girls, we will have to arrest you.'

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Those who live by empiricism will die by empiricism...

:-) Note smiley, and add smilies throughout. I'm not having a go at anyone here.

Bill came up with sensible comments below in the 'painting the ceiling' post. He ends...

I do wish Cornell would come back up to the plate on this. After all, it's their video, not mine. I've never even claimed to have seen one of these freekin' birds yet I've still been awarded an honorary "crow."

Seems a bit unjust to be given a crow-tag. Maybe someone at Cornell will come up to the plate (is that the same as assuming responsibility for a penalty kick in the shoot-0ut?). But let's face it... it's futile because it is GAME OVER for Ivorybills. Sure it is possible to pick holes in analysis of video artifacts, wingbeats 4-8, deinterlacing, but it does nothing more than delay the obvious which is that Luneau bird was not an Ivorybill. If anyone hangs their hopes for Ivorybills on things that weren't explained in previous papers then those hopes will only last until someone publishes evidence that addresses wingbeat 4-8, deinterlacing and video artifacts. At this point, with the 'double knocks' taking a hammering from gadwalls, the 'kents' being made by anything and not even matching IBWOs very well, all the robobirders picking up extant species of woodpecker, nobody being able to see an IBWO properly, IBWO searchers having to doublethink their way round IBWOs being impossible to see because they are nomadic AND impossible to see because they have very restricted ranges in vast habitat AND have become more difficult to see since they were on the verge of extinction 70 years ago. FACT - IBWOs were never that difficult to see. FACT - their calls were incessant and carried over half a mile. FACT - their calls do NOT carry over 60 years echoing round the woods since the last ones died! No amount of technical rebuttal of any paper will change those things. There is nothing left except a series of sight records that, in isolation, are starting to look like a series of very understandable misidentifications. It was a nice dream while it lasted, but it's time to wake up now. There, I said it. ;-)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The creaming of the shrew

Phwoargh! Look at this beauty I found by the side of the A90 on my walk home from the bus.

And look, I'm not the only one with this perfectly normal fascination...

Sunday, June 17, 2007

I'm meant to be painting the ceiling.

Cyberthrush asks on his blog, and independently another (the other) reader has asked... whether Cornell have published that rebuttal they promised for my paper? And if they will be doing so?

Answer is (are) 'no', and 'I don't know'. But I hope they do. Deal was... my understanding is that the Fitzpatrick et al team were invited to publish a reply alongside
my paper at the time of publication, but the ms was not received in time, or at all. BMC Biology Editor has told me that if the rebuttal arrives, I will get chance to reply. So I expect to hear if something is in the pipeline, and I haven't heard anything yet. Of course maybe the rebuttal has arrived and is undergoing peer review before I see it. That is possible. I hope they go for BMC Biol, rather than somewhere easier like the end-of-term report. I've got a few things left behind for replies to replies, and Soggy-bottomed Bill and Dave Martin deserve acknowledgements to their comments, but I have wanted to wait until all the opinions are in.

While we're on the subject... here's another sketch called... YOU CAN'T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS. I thought Ivory-bills were meant to fly with shallow rapid wingbeats, unlike the deep floppy rowing beats of Pileated. Seems to have been a big thing made about that on the recent sightings from Florida and elsewhere, and several people comment on the Luneau bird flapping in an unusual manner for PIWOs. I've argued that all birds, especially big ones, PIWO and IBWO included will bow their wings and flap hard on take off, gaining speed and altitude, and a trip out birding (try it - it's fun!) will confirm that.

SO then you go here (Cornell video analysis site) and click on that video, representing the last clear wingbeat of the Luneau bird. It's meant to be showing the white on the back. I'm not sure what to make of the white. If you believe (as you have to if you want the Luneau bird to be an IBWO) that white bleeds when you want it to but doesn't bleed when you don't, then it's conceivable that this represents the dorsal stripes of an IBWO. Equally (as proposed by Sibley and colleagues) it could be white from the head, or light reflecting off a black back, or some other weird artifact. But ignore the white for a second. What the video has done by putting that last wingbeat on a loop has shown how the bird flies as it is relaxing into level flight. And looky here, it's flying like a PIWO?? Deep and floppy, and wings extended. So either IBWOs can fly like PIWOs, or that isn't an IBWO?? Comments please.

Before Bill starts... :-) I'm not yet committing on whether its me that wants it both ways, or the True Believers.

All this, and birding too

It's been a busy blogging day... and it's getting busier, cos I've been birding too. I was out birding on Wednesday morning (13th June) but have to face it, spring is OVER and I didn't really get a decent migrant on the patch. I was only asking for an Icterine Warbler or something, nothing like a Calandra Lark or anything flashy. Wednesday was too boring for words and I was a bit dispirited.

However, Sunday morning, today, after a good sleep, 50 kg of Fathers' Day chockies and a delivery of high quality Colombian cocaine (lying about the cocaine, in case you were wondering), I was reborn... the pep is back and I went out at 9 am... to see not much, but this time it didn't matter.

Must be hard work being a Common Blackbird - one with an crippled foot was hopping along the track by the burn, still seeing off a rival male in spite of his injury. A Blackcap was singing from the bushes exactly where that Garden Warbler was a couple of weeks ago. They have ver
y simialr habitat preferences and compete for territories, in a mutually exclusive manner. I know it must be true cos I made it up myself/read it in a book. Decide for yourself which of those options is likely to be true. Tbh, not sure that even I know any more.

Offshore, from 10-11 am (when the sun got in my eyes, I spied3 Red-throated Divers going north, and 1 south. You can't beat summer divers. I guess by now these are non-breeders, for whatever reason? 4 Manx Shearwaters north. 2 Arctic Skuas (Parasitic Jaegers) north, 4 Sandwich Terns south. Also a bit of a passage of Common Scoters (IOC: Black Scoters, now there's a mad m
ad mad decision) with 96 north. Occurred to me that one day I'll spot a Surfie from here, given that I see 1000s Common Scoters over the course of the year. It'll be a McEwans Export day when that happens.

In the gardens at the corner of Newton Road, there was a fresh hybrid Carrion x Hooded Crow high in the pines. And hungry. It actually looked very hoodie... smooth grey bits, not speckled or very dark like most of the hybrids round here.

I didn't get a photo of it... but I did get this snail. Phonecam again.


Grrr.... that Scumsucker McKinney. I was preparing a hilarious and not-too-reverent piece, imaginatively entitled '100 years of British Birds - the TRUTH', or maybe 'Everything you ever wanted to know about British Birds but were too afraid to ask'.

But to my dismay, I find that Tom has beaten me to it. Reasonably funny too, but not as good as mine, except I can't do mine now cos it will look like I copied. I was in a better position to dish the dirt too. I'm going to claim this title for my new series

'The Secret Diary of Bernard Tucker (deceased)'

before that Manc gets it.

I agree with Tom... there is SO MUCH information available for free on the internet (that's this, in case you didn't know) that it becomes increasingly difficult to justify printing a magazine. BUT most months, I find that pretty much everything I see in the other British magazines was pretty much available in some form online, whereas British Birds publishes things you can't get anywhere else.

Ad-break over.

Lest we forget

Cyberthrush, in comments, asked if Diane was aware of my fascination for drop-dead-gorgeous penguins. Unfortunately, yes, thanks to the British press and its Sunday newspaper exposés.

Go here for the full horror.

Very old, but surprisingly near the top when you google me. I think it gets a lot of hits from people looking for penguin prostitutes.

Birdchick is amusing

White wading superciliously through the festival of twee that is Birdchick, I came across this one that was uncharacteristically amusing. Not one of Sharon's inventions, but all the same, nice one. I almost regret all the culinary-related thoughts I had about those rabbits.

This is VERY educational

This one...
IBWOs not particularly wary. Rarely possible to stay onto them for more than an hour at a time!

A Little Cracker

In Cage and Aviary birds this week...

... not much about cage and aviary birds. There's rather a lot about wild birds - these folks are genuine bird enthusiasts. So there's news about birds' intelligence, Song Sparrows suppressing sickness during breeding, declinign wild birds and conservation, Black-billed Magpies and their undeserved bad reputation, White-breasted Dippers, and a page about bill morphology and adaptations. Three cheers.

Bird joke of the week... a boy took his parrot to the vet because it was unwell. The vet said: "Yes, I can see the problem. It has a millet spray up one nostril, a carrot stick under its wing and sunflower seeds all over its head. It's obviously not eating properly."

For sale:
Not much of interest to us. Except...
Long-tailed Rosefinch, cock, £70
(I wonder how much the rest of it costs? - boom BOOM!)
I might have said this before, but I think L-t rosefinch is a potential vagrant. breeds in the Western Pal, follows an E-W migration - bound to overshoot into Western Europe some spring.

Also, for reasons I can't begin to imagine, they have given enormous prominence to this photograph of a gorgeous young Humboldt Penguin. A phone number too, if you want to get more information.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

'Self-proclaimed hobbyist'

Yay! Discovery Channel. More on this later.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Sunday 10th June

Another dull morning, with a surprisingly chilly NW breeze, and a Roe De
er feeding in the 'Reed Bunting' bushes at the top of the track. I've never known a year as good as this for jamming into Roe Deers. In fact I guess there's 4-5 of them around (2 m and 3 f), and they're all pretty much used to me. This one was unconcerned by me standing 10 m away. If I'd broken into my Ian Paisley impression or blasted out a rousing chorus of 'Jerusalem' it might have objected, but I didn't so it didn't.

Pishing produced no Reed Buntings out of those bushes, but did brin
g up a pair of Song Thrushes carrying food. Another new successful breeding was at the Mill Garden where I saw a Pied Wagtail carrying food, and then a fluffy juv Pied Wag with a pathetically small tail. I raised* a juvvy Pied Wag once. It came out of a nest in the vents of the Medical Research Council building in Edinburgh. We called it 'Chisick', cos that's all it ever said. Infested with mites that crawled out all over my hands.
*I say raised... I mean killed. It didn't live.

A pair of Black-billed Magpies were systematically working the hawthorn bushes along the track, looking for nests and nestlings, I'll wager.

2 broods of Mallards on the burn down by the beach - 5 v small (1/8) duckings and 1 bigger (2/8) effort.

Half an hour looking offshore... smells like summer, but the sea was dead quiet... 52 Northern Gannets north, and 22 south, 3 Manx Shearwaters north (1 south) 1 Red-throated Diver north, and 1 Arctic Tern. Also another display (see below) by 3-4 Bottle-
nosed Dolphins, including what I think was a mum + calf (big one swimming in synchrony and v close to a little one). An Atlantic Grey Seal off the rocks too.

The allotments were even more boring, but there was a Sand Martin/Bank Swallow (some sort of wanderer/mibrant) over the fallow field south of there. Also 2 Northern Lapwings still nesting, annoyed at local dogs and quite rightly.

Remains of dead vole (sp.) looking surprised. Mostly surprised that I had managed to set the phone to video.

Friday 8th June

The pair of Reed Buntings still present in the bushes by the burn at the top of the track, and a Roe Deer in the bushes at the railway bridge. 22 Common Eiders in the bay, a juvenile Common Starling feeding among the seaweed on the beach (they learn fast) and wtf - a fresh juvenile Common Stonechat in the vegetation up the cliff sides - where the hell did THAT come from?

Offshore, 06:30 - 07:00 (exactly - I used the atomic clock), there was 1
Great Skua going north, and a gorgeous adult Arctic Skua (Parasitic Jaeger) giving its full and undivided attention to a feeding flock of Black-legged Kittiwakes. 13 Common Scoters went north, 3 Red-throated Divers, 5 Manx Shearwaters, 4 Common Swifts (eh?) and 17 Northern Gannets. Better than that, a pod of Bottle-nosed Dolphins including one breaching, going almost entirely out of the water several times, turning in mid-air and slamming back into the water on its back. I guess it could have been removing a particularly troublesome parasite, but I prefer to assume it was having fun.

Northern Marsh Orchid

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Wednesday 6th June

Headed out early this morning again - getting a bit late in the spring for serious migrant action, but you never know... might be a tart's tick like a White-tailed Lapwing or something kicking about. Eh up... a couple of Reed Buntings, a pair, in the knotweed at the top of the track. We do have them breeding at low density around here, but to me this looks like they just moved in... maybe a late attempt at a nest. Will keep an eye out. They went NUTS when I pished them out. Give them a few days and they'll be used to me.

Otherwise it was all very dull EXCEPT 30 min looking offshore when there was quite a bit about, i.e. 4 Manx Shearwaters, an Arctic Skua (Parasitic Jaeger) harassing the Black-legged Kittiwakes, 46 Northern Gannets north , 6 Arctic Terns north , 1 Sandwich Tern, 10 Red-throated Divers north (where the hell did they come from? been none around for a couple of weeks), 3 Common Scoters north (with a flock of Puffins!), and a Bottle-nosed Dolphin out feeding.

Eagle Owl stops international football (soccer) match

... and the crowd sings its name

Well worth a look at Tom Nelson's blog just now. here

As Jesus said to the Pharisees, there's just no pleasing some people :-)

btw, re earlier postings, I'm also forced to state that 'by the same taken I think it's unlikely that our paper girl's bike is made from baby deers.'

Monday, June 04, 2007

Unqualified praise...

...from the comments... re the 24th May compelling Ivory-bill contact
Ford Madox Ford Madox Ford said...

Quite a comparison there between the IBWO and the WTD, apart from the WTD squiggles being shorter, and thinner, and differently shaped. Damned conclusive, I'd say! Good work!

I like it when people praise my work, and I am too naive to spot sarcasm. FMFMF must have been too impressed by my kents to check the scales of the WTD bleat and FL 'kents' because they are the same length. Thinner is just the parameters of the sonagram contrast and brightness, prob nothing to do with the calls. Different shape I will buy. But then again... here is a sonagram of some real kent calls from the archival audio here. Thanks to Syrinx

Don't get me started, but I'm really not sure that these are a better match for the FL kents than the deer. The shapes are better, but the frequencies are wrong and the calls of the real IBWOs are too short. I'm happy to accept that the WTD bleat is not the same as the FL kent, if by the same token we accept it is unlikely that the FL kents are the same as the IBWO kents.

While I'm here... I said don't get me started, but now I've started... look at the now-infamous wingbeats at 1.6-2.6 seconds. There is NO WAY that bird is tanking away from the microphone like the Luneau video bird. Think of the ground it would be covering - the flaps would fade away to nothing, but instead what there is here is 9 flaps of relatively equal amplitude, that stop suddenly. I think it's very likely that this bird was just fluttering its wings, or at the most going between 2 branches in a tree. Not comparable to Pileateds or IBWOs in level flight Apples and oranges :-O

Btw, if I remember my 20 year-ago lecture notes properly, as birds get bigger, mass increases as a function of length to the power three, whereas wing area only increases as a function of length to the power two, so bigger birds, all things being equal, tend to have more mass to be carried per unit wing area than smaller birds. To compound that, my understanding is that most of the lift provided by a wing is a function of the length of the front edge. That's why bigger birds eg IBWOs have proportionately longer wings, narrower to reduce drag, than smaller birds e.g. PIWOs. They gain lift at the expense of the manouevrability afforded by broader shorter wings

A big bird like IBWO has a mechanic problem about how to maintain lift cf a smaller bird like PIWO. According to Gill's textbook, 'Ornithology', what I was reading the other day, in general birds increase lift by increasing flight speed - not by flapping faster. There are exceptions when there are other constraints on the wings (e.g. Auks) but in level flight energy considerations mean that in general big birds will in fact flap more slowly. The bones and tendons for the wings act as a pendulum which resonates to minimise energy use during flight. Long wings are longer pendulums with an inherently slower natural frequency. So intuitively I would expect an IBWO certainly to fly faster than a PIWO, but I can't think why it would flap faster. Indeed this would go against the trend for other N american woodpeckers, for which (as I remember - correct me if wrong) the Tobalske work showed that in level flight the flap rates slow down with increasing size.

Other things... if the 2006/7 Florida search really has failed (6th June update) , I think that reduces the chances of Ivory-bills being alive to about 0.1%. if I'm generous, which I am.
I was reading Hill's 'Ivorybill Hunters' and enjoying it very much, from a birding perspective - can't fault the effort. Can't help but like the folks involved either. Future ornithology archaeologists will sift through the bones of that book and try to reconstruct how expectation alone could bring a bird back from the dead.

Double knocks could be Gadwalls smacking into each other in flight, apparently. Now that would be funny to see.

Other things that would be funny to see - I did see them, but you didn't so I will describe. On the way back from Peterborough on Saturday night, two blokes got onthe train at Dundee and one of them was so drunk he hadn't noticed his pants were on fire! He'd been smoking on the platform, in contravention of Scottish law, I might add, and stuck the butt in his back pocket, and walked down the carriage with smoke coming out of his arse. Excuse me mate, you're on fire! And he was sober enough to come up with a funny gag - 'I'm just wearing my smoking jacket!' Then his pal, we shall call him bloke 2, lay down across the seats with his big fat hairy stomach poking above the level of the table for all to see. I was ending myself and texting Diane to tell her what was going on. Just as it couldn't get any worse, bloke 2 farted! At Arbroath they both dashed out, relit that cigarette, took one puff and got back on the train. Only in Scotland. Mind Bloke 1 was Irish. Not sure what to make of that.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

I can see Hayley now Lorraine has gone

I've had that 'I can see clearly...' song in my head all day and its driving me nuts a) cos I don't like it and b) cos I can only think about it in terms of the punchline of a weak joke about a man who leaves Lorraine to start going out with Hayley. Hence the title today.

I've been busy, and am a bit behind on the ol' blogoid. So here's the low-lights of the past week or so.

Sunday 27th May
Shite. A fresh cold NW wind. A pair of Sedge Warblers w
ith nest material in the dead Willow, being bugged persistently by a female House Sparrow for no obvious reason, unless she can't be bothered collecting her own nest stuff. Family parties of Starlings all over the shop, filling the air with their annoying scratchy vocalisations.
The Garden Warbler sang briefly from the bushes down the track.

I startled and then grilled a juvenile Rock Pipit freshly out along the clifftops. Distinctive appearance- heavily streaked below, no supercilium, white eye ring, tail short, constantly bobbed.

Offshore very boring but a few Northern Gannets and Sandwich Terns.

Wednesday 30th May.
Wet wet wet! I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my boots. My DMs have developed a massiv
e slit along the side. Not ideal for puddles. Seeing very little apart from the stuff I really can't miss. A female Mallard with 1 1/8 duckling were trying to shelter from the rain under the sleeper-bridge. But I flushed them and made them go out in it. Hell, if I'm miserable, so should they be.

A few Common Scoters going south today (22 in 20 min offshore); 1 Man
x Shearwater north, and 50 Atlantic Puffins moving past north - constant trickle.

Friday 1st June
Bit of an SE breeze and some fog - this is more like it! Except it isn't. A Willow Warbler carrying food in the Mill Garden has got a move on. I pished up a Roe Deer from th
e bushes down the track to the beach! On the beach, a juvenile Grey Wagtail being fed by the male. Two Peregrine Falcons flew by in formation. A tasty-looking dead juv Starling at the allotments, where a Dunnock was hauling a fecal sac round for fun. Everything soggy.

For the perverts out there.
Saturday 2nd June.
This is more like it! Down at Steve Dudley's house, Farcet Fen, near Peterborough. Top Secret BOURC meeting at an undisclosed location (observer's name withheld) nearby. Hauled myself out of bed an
d wandered off down the road pre-brekkie. Almost immediately a Eurasian Hobby flew over, carrying something that looked like a Barn Swallow, and probably was. About 5 minutes later, a Barn Owl floating over the road, also carrying prey. Also delighted to hear some Corn Buntings singing (and got a recording and sonagram) and even better (with apologies to southern softies who don't understand this) recordings of calls of a pair of Yellow Wagtails (still not on my Scottish List). (Although, tbh I don't have a Scottish List). (But if I did, Yellow Wag ain't on it).

Yellow Wag flight call - as also figured in BWP.

Other things I wouldn't normally get in sunny Newtonhill included Reed Warbler and Red-legged Partridge (walking along the road - not so strange, that's what I was doing too).

Was disappointed not to get Turtle Dove (had to make do with Tree Sparrow) but at least heard one at Egleton later.

International criminal known only as 'El Toadsnatcher' is wanted for the cruel murder o
f this Winter Wren. If you have information about this crime, please write in. Or if you can guess the weight of the Wren, it's quite possible you will win it.

Note that the bird is much less barred along the back than our northern Scotland jobbies. Maybe Phillip Clancey was right about T. t. indigenus.

Sunday 3rd June
Back to normal. Arrived back late last night. A Red-backed Shrike at Girdleness. Couldn't be bothered going 5 miles out of my way, so resolved to find my own. Bad move. I was left looking at a couple of Willow Warblers in the Mill Garden. Y'know, WWs do bob their tails like Common Chiffchaffs. Often accompanied as part of a wing-flick action, but not always.
A nice yellow-billed Common Eider on the beach, paired with a female (the best way
to achieve successful fertilisation). Offshore - in about 30 min were 5 Manx Shearwaters heading north, 100 + Northern Gannets, 3 Sandwich Terns and a Common Tern. Plenty Puffins, + the other 2 auks, Kittiwakes and Fulmars. See although I complain about my patch that I don't get Corn Buntings, Yellow Wagtails etc, I bet Steve struggles for Puffins and Gannets on the Fen. The ideal combined patch would be a piece of continental-climate lowland farmland, sticking out into the North Sea. I think they call it N0rfolk.