Thursday, 30 October 2014

Derek Moore 1943 - 2014

It is with great sadness to tell you that Derek Moore passed away on October 23rd after battling a long illness against cancer.  His funeral will be held at 1pm on November 7th at Narbeth Crematorium in Wales.  A Memorial Service will also be held in Suffolk sometime in the spring next year.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Fighting On

It has been a long while as I have spent a lot of time in hospital dealing with the dreadful side effects of chemotherapy.

Juvenile Tawny Owls - photo Roger Tidman

Not much on the bird front but groups of Blue Tits are active in the garden as are Blackbirds goring themselves on rowan berries.  The highlight was juvenile Tawny Owl which spent an hour creaking in the garden a night or two ago.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

A Small Expedition

I am delighted that my son Jeremy is over from Canada for a week so this afternoon in wonderful sunshine he suggested a little drive out.  Heading through Cwmdu a female Redstart flew into a hedge and Common Buzzards soared overhead.  We stopped at Talley Abbey and scanned the lake.  Only a couple of Greylag Geese were noted.

Grey Wagtail

We also stopped at Edwinsford in the hope of a Dipper.  No luck but a beautiful Grey Wagtail.  Abergorlech was more successful with a pair of Dippers and at least one young.  Another Grey Wagtail and a Red Kite were added and we stopped to look at some orchids too.


A wonderful experience of seeing the Welsh countryside at its best even though I was totally exhausted on my return.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Enjoying The Sun

Male Blackcap

I have sent some time in the garden sun this morning trying to string a singing Blackcap into a Garden Warbler.  Without success I should say.  Not much birdwise although we do appear to have a pair of Bullfinches but no sign of any young.  Lots of silaeage cuttung up the hill so Red Kites and Buzzards are passing over.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Good News All Round

Wendell Thomas discovered Mediteranean Gull feeding a chick at Penclacwydd this week which constitutes the first known breeding record for Carmartharnshire.  Good stuff Wendell.

Mediterranean Gull

I managed my third chemotherapy session yesterday and that seemed to go OK.  I am back home but need to go back for a morning on Tuesday for a blood transfusion as I am a bit anaemic.  Now for a CT Scan to see whether wwe are beating the lymphona which I am sure we are.

Friday, 13 June 2014

A Bit Of A Setback

One off the more severe side effects of chemotherapy is mouth ulcers and oral thrush.  I have developed a bad case of the former in recent days which has led to my chemo session this week being postponed until next Friday.  Such a nuisance.

House Martin

Still I did get to see a House Martin yesterday.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Some Time At Home Again

Good to be home from hospital again and now waiting for my third chemotherapy session next Friday. Grey Heron became species number 13 seen from my hospital window this week but it has been the large numbers of Jackdaws nesting in the hospital buildings that have caught my interest lately.

Grey Heron

Their vocalisations have been very obvious and I must admit I had not bothered to take notice before.  Young in the nest produce a very high pitched strident call which an sound a bit like a group of parakeets in the distance.  Once they have fledged they do sound more like the adults. It is stimulating what you can learn from a common bird when you spend a lot of time watching them.


What has been depressing is to hear of news that Natural England are dealing with requests to shoot Buzzards to protect commercially reared pheasant poults and Red Kites at an RAF base.

Monday, 26 May 2014

A Book You Will Need If You Are Birding In Kenya

Birds of Kenya's Rift Valley by Adam Scott Kennedy.  Princeton Wildlife Explorer Guide.  £18.95 ISBN 9780691159072       264 pages    500 colour illustrations.

This volume is a sister book to two titles already covered on this blog but one which deals with the birds of Kenya's Rift Valley an area very popular with Europe's birders.  The area officially covers the major National Parks of Lake Nakuru, Lake Bogoria, Mount Longonot and Hell's gate but this book can also be used at Masi Mara, Lake Navaisha and Lake Baringo.

As in the previous volumes there are good introductory chapters dealing with the habitats and in this case the important lake systems within the Rift Valley.  These sections also deal with the significant bird species to be found in these areas.  Excellent maps are also present which will help to plan routes etc.

By far the most impressive thing about this book is the wonderful collection of bird photographs assembled by habitat types covering well over 300 species most of which you might add to your list if visiting this region. I wish I had the opportunity to have this book in my bag on my trip to this bird paradise some years ago.  It would certainly have made identification much easier.  The layout of the photographic guide is so helpful.

Adam Scott Kennedy is once again the author of this splendid guide and his great knowledge of the birds comes through in the concise but helpful text.

You should not visit this area without a copy of this book.

A Big Thank You

It has been remiss of me not to thank everybody for all the emails, twitter messages, cards and telephone calls wishing me well and encouraging me in all sorts of ways.  There are far too many for me to respond to everyone but they are all equally appreciated and have helped me enormously in facing up to my ordeal.  Again THANK YOU SO MUCH!

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Battling On

I am home from hospital again after my second chemotherapy session shattered but OK.  I suffered complications after the last sessions so back in hospital on Tuesday for observation and monitoring.  I am making progress and on plan with the next session on June 13th.

My friend Bob Abrams sent me this shot of a superb Scarlet Tanager from Ohio just to cheer me up

I have missed the spring and birds terribly.  A few Swifts from my hospital window keep me interested and the occasional Red Kite and Buzzard pass by.  Young Jackdaws are everywhere in the grounds.  I will report more when it happens.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Off The Radar Again

I will be silent again for a while as I am going back to hospital this afternoon in the Chemotherapy Unit.  I expect treatment to begin soon and also expect to be there for a while.

In better days at BirdFair

I am pleased to be moving on with this as the sooner it is over then the nearer I am to recovery.

Friday, 25 April 2014

The Madness of the Slaughter of Birds in Malta

Many of you will already have picked up on the herculean efforts being made in Malta with Chris Packham and his team highlighting the disgraceful behaviour of the 10,000 hunters on this Mediterranean island.  Here birds are not shot for food merely for fun and to put stuffed into glass cases.  Nothing escapes the incessant hail of lead with Swifts, Little Bittern, Little Egret, Kestrel and Montagu's Harrier all seen killed by Chris.

Young Montagu's Harrier - one of the species slaughtered annually

All this happens with Malta being a member of the European Union where laws govern shooting and list protected species which include all of the above.  The majority of Maltese people must find it difficult to enjoy their countryside with a hail of bullets in the air daily.  Chris Packham's efforts are at least highlighting these tragic events and with effort by all of us we may be able to help. Firstly we can write to our MEPs and demand the EU enforce their own laws and stop the killing. Secondly we can make a donation to the beleaguered BIRDLIFE Malta to ensure they can get a nationwide referendum on hunting in Malta. A NO vote would put enormous pressure on their government and the EU.

Little Egrets are regularly slaughtered by the hunters

Check out how to get involved and watch the emotional videos made by Chris and colleagues at

Even Bee-eaters are blasted out of the sky

Malta is not alone in the illegal killing of birds but it is the worst example.  Cyprus is still a disgrace with liming and illegal netting and some illegal shooting still happens in Spain, Italy, France and Greece.  It is therefore time for the EU to step up to the plate and do its legal duty.

Blackcaps are trapped in thousands in Cyprus as they are considered a delicacy

A word of caution though even the Maltese hunters are aware of the slaughter of birds of prey in the UK which also goes unpunished by our authorities and seems to be ignored by this UK Government.  We need to get our house in order as well. A number of years ago when Malta first applied for membership of the EU I was a signatory on behalf of The Wildlife Trusts in a letter also endorsed by RSPB, BirdLife etc sent to Peter Hain then a Government Minister requesting that Malta be asked to guarantee dropping their hunting laws in line with EU legislation before being granted entry.  The reply was typically lily-livered politician speak.  No said the response once they are members of the club it will be easier to get them to comply.  Well that worked then didn't it?  What do you say now Peter Hain?

We also need to stop the illegal slaughter of our own birds of prey.

By the way I am still at home awaiting chemotherapy and not feeling too bad. At least this Malta business has raised my hackles.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Good Garden Bird - Calgary style

Still enjoying the sunshine and home comforts and lots of goodwill messages.  Thanks everyone.

Merlin with Waxwing prey

My son Jeremy sent me this picture taken in his Calgary garden yesterday. Merlin would be a good tick in any garden but with a Bohemian Waxwing as prey is something else.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Hello Everyone - I am still here

I know it is over a month since I last posted and have received some email about where I have been. I know I had mentioned from time to time that I have been unwell and this ended up with me being rushed to hospital on March 21st in great pain.  After scans it was revealed I had a severe blockage of the small bowel.  Surgery alleviated the pressure but showed that I have a malignant lymphoma causing the problem.  I have just returned home after a month in hospital and now wait to begin a course of chemotherapy.  I am assured I should recover OK.

Red Kite

What a shock and a month without birding. Glangwili Hospital in Carmarthen must be one of the few places where you are guaranteed a Red Kite from your window so that was nice.  I also managed to see 6 Sand Martins flying by as well.

Sand Martin

I am glad to be home for a bit and look forward to home care, food and sleep. Thanks to everyone who has sent messages of encouragement. I hope to blog again soon.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

The Mediterranean Comes To Wales

The Great Spotted Cuckoo at Penally

I finally weakened and feeling up to it drove down to Penally near Tenby in a quest for a Mediterranean visitor.  The bird in question was an adult Great Spotted Cuckoo.  A spectacular creature which should be in Spain, Portugal or Mediterranean France just now.  These are really interesting birds migrating north from Africa in February and laying eggs in the nests of Magpies.  Having done that most of the adults have moved back to Africa by June.  An extraordinary life history.  This visitor to Wales must have lost its bearings and overshot Europe to arrive near Tenby to delight many people birders, golfers and walkers alike.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

A Walk At Talley Lakes

Talley Upper Lake from the hide
Talley Lakes is just ten minutes or so from my house and is a Wildlife Trust of South & West Wales Nature Reserve.  The lakes are probably made by man and maybe the monks from the nearby Abbey ruins.  There is a pleasant walk through a lovely old churchyard and then along the western shores of the Lower Lake to the a hide in woodland overlooking the Upper Lake.  Today in more glorious weather I managed a very pleasant time.  There are always wildfowl and that made up most of my observations.

Talley Lower Lake

On the Lower Lake there we 15 Tufted Duck and 7 Goldeneye.  There were two males in the latter group and they were displaying by throwing their heads backwards.  There were also 9 noisy Greylag Geese and a couple of Mallard.  Overhead two Buzzards soared over a nearby larch wood.

Captive Great Scaup male photographed at Slimbridge

I soon made my way to the hide and must say I was very impressed by the new padded seats.  More Tufted Duck this time 20 but with a splendid male Great Scaup which I have only seen here once or twice before.  About 20 Teal kept to the reedy areas and a Little Grebe sailed into view calling loudly.  A pleasant walk and the Scaup a new bird for the year.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Is This Our Summer?

Red Admiral

Continuous warm sunshine which allowed us to have lunch outside.  Lots of bees and other insects obvious including this super Red Admiral soaking up sun on our woodshed.

Monday, 10 March 2014

More Great Weather

I found this Frog whilst pottering about in the garden this morning.

Common Frog
After lunch I drove up to Mynydd Llanllwni but not as good as usual despite the brilliantly sunny weather.  No raptors at all just 6 Ravens a couple of Meadow Pipits and the glorious sound of 2 Skylarks singing.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Glorious Warm Weather


I sat outside in the garden this morning enjoying very warm sunshine and hoping to hear a Chiffchaff singing.  No luck there but lots of birds feeding in the garden including Siskins, Goldfinches and a single male Greenfinch.


Blackbirds also building a nest near the house and Buzzards calling all around us.  Pity about about the rugby result the only downside of a great day. Incidentally the pictures are again with the new camera.

Friday, 7 March 2014

A New Toy!

Whooper Swans

A week or so ago I was at Penclacwydd and I met a a group of birders all using the amazing small Nikon Coolpix P520 camera with its extraordinary 42x zoom lens.  I was so impressed by its quality and specification that I went and bought one.  My recent ill health has meant I have had few chances to try it out but today I spent an enjoyable hour on Cilsan Bridge in warm sunshine.

Four youngsters from 2013

There were 30 Whooper Swans present really quite close to the road.  Also a male Goosander flew over.  I got a little practice with the camera and am not disappointed.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Please Help Our Welsh Seabirds

Guillemot colony

The recent storms have not only devastated the lives of many people but now it seems our seabirds as well.  Over 25,000 auks have been found dead on the Atlantic coast of France alone and those bearing rings suggest most are from British colonies.  french fishermen describe the sea as being filled with rafts of dead birds.  Puffins seem to be the most numerous with Guillemots and Razorbills next in line.  This natural disaster could have a serious effect of the breeding populations of our Welsh islands particularly on Skomer where there have been large and thriving colonies.

Puffin - perhaps the worst affected species

The big problem is Natural Resources Wales have decided to cut the money normally available for monitoring these and other colonies.  A really daft decision for a body responsible for our wildlife and given the exceptional circumstances.  The Wildlife Trust of South & West Wales now have to find £10,000 each year to continue this vital work.  It will be essential to keep this monitoring going over at least the next five years to see how the colonies have been affected and whether they begin to recover.

Razorbill - another species suffering from the storms

Please consider making a contribution to The Appeal to raise enough money for this to happen by clicking on the following link

Monday, 24 February 2014

Maybe We Should Cull Fishermen ?

I have just read a most outrageous piece in The Carmarthen Journal where some fishermen are calling for a cull on Goosanders and Cormorants.

Fisherman - photo David Miller

When are this minority of the public going to understand that these birds are not "damaging fish stocks" it is what they do.  Unlike us where game fish are a luxury for the few, they have to eat fish to stay alive.  In other words they should come first.  These birds and many other species have been eating fish for thousands of years and because of the predator prey relationship there is always sufficient for both to survive.  It is only fishermen who interfere with this balance.

Pair of Goosanders

Now I have nothing against fishermen who go out to get a few trout, salmon or sea trout on the Tywi.  I know many of these people and they are happy to observe the extraordinary wildlife around them as they fish.  They find that all part of the experience.  What I do object to is those who call for the slaughter of our wildlife to further their hobby or sport as some call it without any scientific back up for their actions.  In the article it is stated that these birds eat one to two pound of fish a day. I would not argue with that but where do they get the figure of 1,000 tonnes from and is that for Carmarthenshire or the UK.

Otter on the Tywi River

Through the Angling Trust these ignorant people are lobbying for relaxing the licences for killing these birds.  I hope the many more conservationists and wildlife fanatics will similarly lobby for maintaining the status quo.  In the Tywi Valley fishermen are a minority and must remember that far more people really enjoy watching Goosanders on the river.  How long will it be before these people turn their attention Otters or even Kingfishers?  No you chaps are going to have to enjoy your fishing alongside the wildlife that is being restored at a great cost to wildlife charities and indeed the public purse. If you care protest at every opportunity the killing of wildlife for financial gain.

Merlin by Colin Jones

Merlin by Colin Jones

Here is a photo of the Mynydd Llanllwni Merlin taken by Colin Jones which I failed to get on my last visit.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

New Bird For Carmarthenshire

I decided to spend the morning at WWT Penclacwydd as I was feeling in need of some air.  I made my way to the Heron's Wing Hide where I met up with Wendell and others and then we proceeded to the Scott Hide to see if there had been any Bittern sightings.  Well there had and we did not have to wait long before a Bittern appeared on the reed edge but keeping pretty much concealed amongst reedmace and small bushes. We must have watched it for ten minutes at least.  I found my 150-500mm lens would not focus on the bird because of vegetation but my learned companions with their bridge cameras seemed to get good results.  I must get one.

Bittern photographed at Minsmere, Suffolk
Not much else to report except that ducks were looking good in breeding plumage and beginning to gather in pairs.  Gadwall, Tufted, Pochard and Teal all looking good but a male Shoveler was especially superb showing off his enormous bill.

Shoveler - What a bill!
The Bittern was species 199 on my Carmarthenshire List - what will be number 200 I wonder.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Essential Books if you are heading for the Serengeti

Animals of the Serengeti - and Ngorongoro Conservation Area by Adam Scott Kennedy and Vicki Kennedy. Princeton Wildlife Explorer Guide  £17.95  ISBN 9780691159089  152 pages, 146 colour illustrations.

Anyone who remembers the BBC black and white TV wildlife programmes headed up by Armand & Michaela Dennis will have heard of the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater in Northern Tanzania.  Now Princeton University Press bring us two excellent guides to help experience that fantastic place.

This new title describes and illustrates the 89 species most likely to be encountered in this splendid area of Tanzania. It is very much a photographic field guide and there is a section on how to use the book and a real first in a section of biographies with photos of the "Top Six" safari guides in the region. The book also contains a helpful section of the geography of the area and a helpful seasonal map of the animal migrations. Another large map shows the context of Serengeti and Ngorongoro with the Masai Mara in neighbouring Kenya. The preliminary section of the book ends with a gazetteer of the best places to look for wildlife in the area.

The book deals not only with the mammals of the area but also reptiles as well.  Each species is lavishly illustrated with superb photographs as well as information on size, gestation, identification, habits, location and food. I particularly loved the inserted comments from the safari guides already mentioned.

You will find all the familiar species such as the Big Five of Lion, Elephant, Black Rhinoceros, Leopard and Cape Buffalo but also smaller and less familiar creatures too.  Aarvark would really be worth catching up with.

A full index and suggestions for further reading complete the book.

Birds of the Serengeti - and Ngorongoro Conservation Area. by Adam Scott Kennedy. Princeton Wildlife Explorer Guide £17.95  ISBN 9780691159102 224 pages, 480 colour illustrations.

This slightly bigger companion volumes is structured in the same way but has some differences.  There is a section on the habitats of the birds which is also utilised when setting out the species order in the book.  I found this slightly irritating to begin with but can imagine that in fact this method would be helpful when actually in the field.

Once again the photographs are of the highest quality and cover more than 270 species of birds likely to be found in the area.  The habitats dealt with are in the main predictable but I loved the separate sections on Birds in the Air (species you always see flying above you) and Night Birds.  The book concludes with a list of all scientific names of the species included as well as a full index.

East African birds are truly spectacular with chances of amazing raptors as well as other interesting wetland, grassland and forest species. 

The experienced authors Adam Scott Kennedy and Vicki Kennedy have managed remote safari camps in Tanzania and now work as private safari guides specialising in photographic and wildlife safaris in East Africa.

If you are contemplating visiting this wonderful area of Tanzania then you will find these handy sized guides essential.  They will easily pop into a small bag or a jacket pocket. All the wildlife you are likely to come across will be included and the additional information will add to what will be an unforgettable experience.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Up high in the Sunshine

Mynydd Llanllwni

I am feeling much better just now and sunshine after lunch enticed me up onto Mynydd Llanllwni and area of high moorland.  I was hoping for raptors and was not disappointed.  On arrival I found a female Merlin sitting on a stone pillar but she would not pose for a picture.  Further on the sky was very busy with 10 Red Kites, 7 Ravens and a Common Buzzard.  Two of the Red Kites were sparring above the road.

Red Kites sparring

I moved on to Talley and found 6 Goldeneye on the lake, a Grey wagtail by a farm and  5 Red Kites and a Buzzard soaring above the village.  So nice to be out.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Glutton For Punishment

A beautiful day!  Bright sunshine and little wind. After breakfast we packed some lunch and set off once again for Aberavon Beach.  The Ross's Gull had performed well on Saturday so we were very hopeful.  We arrived just after 10am to be told it had been seen just before 9am but had flown off.  It is bound to return like it did yesterday was the advice.  We decided to sit it out.  We saw a Little Gull, 3 Mediterranean Gulls, c20 Turnstone, 6 Oystercatchers and 15 Lapwing. I met lots of birders I had not seen for a while and lots of inquisitive locals who wondered what several dozen people with optics were doing.  They seemed very interested in their rare visitor.

Adult Mediterranean Gull photographed last year

By 3pm exhilarated by the sunshine but tired of waiting around I finally gave up and left.  I have not heard of it being seen since that time.  Now I have a big decision. Shall I get up really early and hope that little bird is hanging around that beach before 9am again?  Maybe third time lucky.  Maybe not.  By the way 3 Lesser Redpolls on my feeders early in the morning in my garden.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

I Really Should Know Better

The last two days have seen improvement again with the pain now just about gone.  I had to go and give a blood sample at the local surgery this morning and having done so successfully got back home and the sun came out.  Beryl and I agreed that if we were to have a chance to see a Ross's Gull now was the time to go.  It took us less than an hour to get to Aberavon Beach near Port Talbot and the news was promising as the Ross's Gull had been seen around 10am.  We walked out on the jetty and saw plenty of gulls but not the one we were looking for.

Juvenile Little Gull

We returned and I spent a couple of hours with many others in the lea of the jetty hoping the Arctic waif would appear.  False hopes were raised by the appearance of 2 juvenile Little Gulls together with an adult.  An Oystercatcher and 20 Turnstones briefly showed themselves and a few Kittiwakes were also around.  At 3.20pm and with squally showers now established we left no wiser as to what a Ross's Gull looks like in the flesh.  Getting home I read online that the gull was seen briefly at 4.02pm.  When will I learn?  I did appreciate the 2 Lesser Redpolls on the niger seed in the garden this morning.  There's always another day!

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Frustration Galore!

I spoke too soon about my improvement last week.  Fierce stomach pains have returned as have Doctors and I have been confined to home for the last few days and the foreseeable future.  I am due to see a consultant in Carmarthen next Thursday.  Thoughts, dreams etc of birds have kept me sane but all I have seen in the garden apart from the residents is a super Treecreeper climbing up a cherry tree outside my bedroom window.


Talking of dreams like many people I have longed to see a Ross's Gull.  This diminutive and attractive species rarely wanders from its Arctic home and when it does I am rarely in the right place.  I once twitched one to Holland but arrived too late.  Another time I was in Holland when another was found at Cley but returned to late for that one too.  Again after I moved to Wales one was found briefly in Lowestoft Harbour.  I seemed destined never to see this species.  But now the astute Mark Hipkin has found one in nearby Glamorgan.  Will it winter?  Will I recover enough to try and see it?  I have no idea but that little bird will be much on my mind in coming days.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Back in the Real World

At last I am feeling much better and so decided to go to Cardiff for the first meeting of 2014 of the RSPB Wales Advisory Committee meeting.  It was a really nice cold sunny morning driving to Cardiff and as I walked between the car park at the Cricket Stadium and the office I was struck by the birds singing in the park.  I heard Dunnock, Robin, Great Tit and perhaps most gladdening of all a couple of Goldcrests.  Good news too that hearing the latter means I am not going deaf in advanced years.

Dunnock - one the species whose song brightened up my morning

It was good to meet my colleagues on the committee and get stuck into discussions on issues of nature conservation and management of the charity.  The process was stimulating and I hope will keep me on the mend.  Now for Gary Harper's talk on Iceland at the Carmarthenshire Bird Club tomorrow evening.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Another Jewel to Cheer Me Up

Male Lesser Redpoll - photographed last year.

I glance at the bird feeders this afternoon and amongst the greens and golds of the usual species sat a vision in pink.  A gorgeous full breeding plumage Lesser Redpoll feeding on the niger seed.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Joy in the Fog


The weather today is as miserable as it can possibly get.  Steady rain, thick fog and nil visibility.  Even so driving out of village on the way to the Doctor this morning the first Snowdrops were beginning to appear bringing some Joy to an otherwise awful day.