Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Monday, December 29, 2008

Website Work...

It's hard to keep going in the Christmas-New Year-Festive Season period. I mean, work wise. And I like to keep busy. But there is too much food and drink about... So, thesedays I am working on up-dating the Probirder website In particular, I am adding lots of nice new photos. Ttake a look in a few days and let me know what you think.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Boxing Day Black Woodpecker

This morning I accompanied my father-in-law down to his weekend house at Lake Balaton where a little winter maintenance was needed. When checking the building we noticed some holes on the wooden walls and doors. This is not the first time we have found such holes. They are made by Great Spotted Woodpeckers boring into the wood every winter, when no one is around, looking for hibernating invertebrates. I told my father-in-law how this was a major problem in some parts of Scandinavia and that there Black Woodpeckers were often the culprits and how the holes they made are so big that home-owners can sometimes get permission to cull these huge woodpeckers. As soon as we stopped talking about this there was a call overhead and, believe it or not, a Black Woodpecker swooped into the large oak tree in the neighbouring garden. I gave a few calls and the bird responded, came back, landed briefly on another tree, and then headed off again. Now I have seen 4 species of woodpecker by that weekend house but never a Black Woodpecker. It was a weird few moments. Sometimes truth IS stranger than fiction...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Now if there is ONE animal that I would really like to see it's the Wolverine Gulo gulo. This fantastic carnivore, a member of the Mustelidae family (weasel, martens, polecats, badgers and the like) is something of a mystery even to those who live and work in the boreal and Arctic regions where is lives. I have heard that some researchers in Canada, people who spend almost every day in Wolverine habitat see "one a year". But I am working on this! I am in contact with experts in the wilds of Finland who regularly see Wolverines and we are going to organise a short trip for a few keen folks there next year. This photo of a Wolverine was taken by Reino Turunen who is author of the book "Karjalani, Carelia, My Carelia", at Erä Eero's Wildlife Lodge in Lieska, Finland, April 2007.

Monday, December 15, 2008


I went out briefly at the weekend. There were the usual suspects on the bird front in the woods in Buda... Hawfinch, Common Crossbills and a few woodpeckers. A surprise was this Common Puffball mushroom Lycoperdon perlatum. It's a bit late for this, they are usually over by November. But it is mild and damp with no snow at all. Common Puffballs grow on the ground and are white at first, getting greyer and even yellow later. The experts say it is only edible when the spores are fresh and white...

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Urban Birder

Are you an urban birder? I know that many of you are. David Lindo is, too, and his local patch is Wormwood Scrubs in London, UK. Check out his excellent website The Urban Birder:
In particular, look at Budapest in his "cities to watch" section... written by yours truly.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Dead Water Shrew

When out and about I find more dead shrews than any other kind of mammal. They often starve, as their finely tuned metabolism means they need to eat regularly and they are seldom eaten by scavangers due, apparently, to tasting obnoxious. These are some of the reasons why they are often found dead and intact. The species in my hand in this photo is a Water Shrew Neomys fodiens. By the way, it is a common misconception that shrews are rodents, like mice and voles, etc. But they are not, they are insectivores (order Insectivora) as are hedgehogs, desmans and moles.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

NEW Tracks and Signs Blog

I have set up a new blog! I do like to keep myself busy. It's entitled TRACKS AND SIGNS and will be a place that I can post photos and notes on one of my favaourite subjects. That is, finding the evidence and identifying the clues that betray the presence and activities of Europe's wildlife. That's right, lots of stuff on hoof and paw prints, claw marks, all kinds of dung, droppings, scat, sprait, also pellets, feathers, fur, nests, dens, sets, holes, bones... anything and everything. If you have any photos, comments or suggestions, please send them to me. And please take a look:

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Beaver Dam

The European Beaver Castor fiber is the largest rodent in Europe. They really are busy animals making dams, forming channels, making trails along which to drag timber. In Poland recently we found dozens of places were they were active, with felled trees, gnawed stumps and tree after tree with tooth marks. This photo shows one of the best dams we found where a deep pool had been created from a tiny stream. I recall a friend in the Czech Republic telling me that the water authority kept destroying a particular dam as it blocked a drainage channnel. But every morning of the next day there was the dam again, freshly built during the night.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Not a lot going on...

It's Sunday morning and there is not a lot going on... indeed, it actually has that "Sunday morning" feel to it. A Syrian Woodpecker called and some Common Crossbills flew over the garden, but that was it. I put some sunflower seed out but nothing has really taken it. Sometimes it is like that, maybe there is a lot of food around, elsewhere. Yet, I reckon that quite a few species will visit once it really gets cold...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Winter Work

I think I can say that my guiding work for this year is now over. Winter is here, there are good birds and other wildlife about but the weather is unpredictable and can be harsh. So in winter I spend my time writing, up-dating my websites, blogging more, dealing with "admin" and checking out new places for future trips.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

This autumn has been really great for fungi. The forests I have visited on my recent travels, in Hungary, Poland and Serbia, have been full of toadtools and musrooms. This fresh Hoof Fungus Fomes fomentarius (this photo taken in Poland shows why it is called HOOF fungus) was about 20cm across, but they can grow to well over 30cm across. When Hoof Fungi age they darken and harden. They usually grow on beech, at least in this part of Europe. It is not edible.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Long-eared Owl roosts: an up-date

My friends Milan Ruzic and Katarina Paunovic went out to count the local Long-eared Owls at their roosts in NE Serbia yesterday. As soon as they got home they sent me these photos taken by Katerina. They show parts of the biggest roost which held an amazing 534 birds! Several other roosts nearby had around 250 birds each. Now that's a lot of owls by any standards.