My first ‘Siberian’ Chiffchaff – 18th Jan 2015

Having walked up to the paddocks on the north side of the railway line crossing the Itchen Navigation on Friday afternoon, the former ‘twitching’ part of me (clearly dormant but not altogether extinguished) was more than a little pissed off with a report of ‘Siberian’ Chiffchaff (p. collybita tristis) not 250m further up the path! And among an impressive 49 birds of the nominate, familiar race Phylloscopus collybita as well!

I’m not one for Latin names as a rule, but subspecies and races deserve an exception.

Siberian Chiffchaff (the eastern race) is a rare bird in Hampshire (maybe one a year?) and not a bird I ever recall seeing before. At least not since I started to think I know what I’m looking at…

I’m not a great one for swotting up either. I know the basic gist of the race and prefer in the field to rely on that feeling of “just knowing”. I have several times experienced questioning the identity of each bird trying to find a rarity amongst them, and every time when you do see the right one “you just know”. If you’re not sure that what you are looking at is one of them, then the chances are that it almost certainly isn’t!

Beautiful afternoon for a shot at this bird I thought, crisp winter sunshine and excellent afternoon light so I knew the sun was behind my shoulder and falling on the hedgerow and trees favoured by birds around Eastleigh Sewage Farm. Access via Chickenhall Lane off the Bishopstoke Road – driving as far as you can to the very end passed all the factory and office units. I arrived at 14:30, so two hours ahead of sunset.

First Chiffchaff picked up at Bishopstoke Fishery, in some vegetation at the base of an elder. Nice bright yellow one. Easy peasy. Two Goldcrests here as well. Over the course of the next half hour I picked up 10 – 12 Chiffchaffs, mostly calling and all seen fairly well. There was a call, too. Just something ‘odd’ and I could not see the bird making it. Scribbled in my notebook “drier, wheezier” than  chaff. Not quite Bullfinch, or Dunnock? Anyway…
3 – 5 more by the paddock where the Itchen Navigation path joins the surfaced track, bordered by five lovely ‘copper’ beech trees. But heading the wrong direction for the best light, so I walked down to the railway embankment at a pace and then turned round so I could work up the path the right way, get decent views and take my time. Rare for me to focus so intently on one objective – and so practise my rather shoddy field observation skills.

So doing, walking very slowly and stopping all the time to watch over the fence to the east and look at each bird. 15 – 20 Chiffchaffs this way. Amazing numbers, often three or four together in crab apple trees and ivy. At least 5 more Goldcrests too, and 30 -40 Long-tailed Tits. NUTHATCH called briefly too – a first for the Patchwork yearlist and so up to 62 species.

(61 was the Tawny Owl on Saturday morning, at Riverside Park)

At about 15:45 I came back to the beeches by the paddock, where there were Chiffchaff even in the long grass and on the ground. Light still perfect, and most showed classic yellow/green/olive – especially on the side of the rump and breast. One bird came up out of the grass and landed on the side of a concrete shed briefly, hanging onto a cable. Immediately to its right another bird popped up and did the same thing, but this time spending more time on the cable and in some kind of exposed joist / steelwork. And this was “the one” – I knew instantly. From underneath, which showed most often, it was pale and white, totally lacking any yellow. Same when it faced me and hung off the wall in the shape of a Wren – its underparts were completely unmarked and the back and wings looked much ‘greyer’ and atonal than the previous bird. Watching it closely as it moved into some sheets of corrugated metal and a barbed wire fence, it’s head was also lighter, browner and generally more buff looking, but with a quite distinct white eyestripe and eyering. I am pretty sure this stood out because the bird had quite rufous-looking brown cheeks. As I watched, it showed yellow on the edges of some wing feathers, creating a panel that seemed to be the only genuinely ‘yellow/green patch on the whole bird. Dark legs.

Brilliant, and like I said above, I “just knew” and it seemed to stand out quite easily so that I could pick it up amongst 3 – 4 nominate birds as they moved off again through the grass.

Watching them led me to my first TREECREEPER of the year too, in an oak tree, dropping down to the base as it parachuting and then spiral-climbing back upwards. Thrushes appearing in numbers by now as the light started to fall – 4 Song Thrush, 10-12 Blackbirds and one Mistle Thrush in the same paddock.

I’d say at least 35 Chiffchaff in the area, and one of the SIBERIAN RACE that I feel counts as ‘self found’ so I am quite pleased with myself. I’m always anxious of looking for Someone Else’s Birds and especially of going out with intent to see something that is hard to identify when you know it’s there. Somehow I feel this prejudices not only my chance of seeing it at all, but secondly any credibility I might have of anyone believing me if I do actually see it.

Hence I have long since given up submitting records. I know what it was, I had good advice from a contact I trust and so it’s in the bag. Not a ‘tick’ because it’s a subspecies, but definitely A Good Bird and an important experience for me as I get better in the field and gain confidence with each time out.

Patchwork yearlist = 63 species

Patchwork birding – Itchen Meadows 16th Jan

Lovely afternoon for a walk, but unseasonally warm for the time of year. 8°C and bright sunshine. Light W breeze that picked up later. Temperature dropped rapidly by five degrees after 3.30pm

Parked up at Mansbridge reservoir at 1.30pm and collected 15 common garden species round the lake, including 2 COLLARED DOVES my local ‘bogey bird’. Also counted three pairs of COOT which is encouraging. One man fishing in silence, and a woman in a bright red coat having an agitated conversation on her mobile. Irritating.

Lots of ROBIN, BLACKBIRD and tit activity around Mansbridge Lock (2 MOORHENS) but otherwise quiet going under the motorway and out on to the pools. A couple of STOCK DOVES overhead (the first of eight birds) and then the familiar “chack-chack-chack” of a FIELDFARE just over the border stream. At least three birds here, probably five or six, but they moved around very quickly. First Patchwork yeartick of the day. These and the 20 REDWING in the same area, along with a calling male BULLFINCH looking great in the sunlight took me up to the first 20 species.

Little else around for the next twenty minutes or so. Chose to walk up the west side today, inside the Meadows beside the Navigation path. Exceptionally muddy of course, but nothing like the surface water that covered the whole area for six weeks this time last year.

First ‘surprise’ of the day was a single MUTE SWAN one on of the channels – very unusual here – and by the time I saw this I could also here BUZZARD calling and a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER drumming in the distance up near Decoy Wood. It was after 2.30pm by the time I got up to the wood and saw the first MAGPIE of the afternoon on the grass.

Thence up the Navigation, dodging the puddles and the brambles. The Airport crossing can wait till later – keep straight up the path scanning the Sanctuary on the right. At least 4 ROE DEER in here this afternoon, and great views again of the regular greying FOX. We acknowledged our customary nods of fellowship and he ambled off towards the river.

GREEN WOODPECKER and GOLDFINCH up by Lock House Lock, as well as more SONG THRUSHES and another Bullfinch, and then turning at the crossing paths towards the Fishing Club.


Always a place of beauty and peace. Feels like Turner should sit awhile and paint the tranquility with light.

LITTLE GREBE on the water, among Moorhen, Mallard and Mute Swan. Geese int he distance as I hoped – 4 GREYLAG among at least 20 CANADA Goose the latter bringing the patchwork yearlist onto a healthy and encouraging 60 species. Nothing unusual yet, but its good to connect with the more familiar, regular species. Highlight here was a charming GREY WAGTAIL (one of three I saw during the walk). He delighted me with a song-flighting display, with which I am quite unfamiliar. A thin, broken song, delicate and hopeful of spring.

I took the wooded path from here northwards, round behind the reedbed, among the familiar songbirds and looking out for the  elusive Goldcrest. No sign, and I noticed here too that up until now I have not met Long-tailed Tit this afternoon…

Emerge from the shade here blinking from under the railway bridge, ten or fifteen minutes shy of Eastleigh Sewage Farm. Lots of Gulls and corvids on the paddocks of course – well over 60 Carrion Crows around, raucous and bullying. Here a flurry of ‘day list’ birds : a male PHEASANT among the crows, with 20 or so STARLINGS and the first CHIFFCHAFF calling from somewhere on the embankment to my left. While scanning for that (with no luck) a group of three GREENFINCH went over. These have declined rapidly in the last twelve months and could now only be described as ‘occasional’ on these walks. Chaffinches have picked up and seem to have reversed their populations trend…

The Chiffchaff on the railway convinced me not to go up any further, and so turned back from here, taking in the reedbed this time. Paused to scan and sit, watching for movement among the grasses to see the elusive Reed Bunting. No luck – just a  couple of busy, scolding Wrens. Over towards the Fishing Club another Chiffchaff sang, and overhead Jackdaws now in larger groups are moving to their roost.

Light is fading, temperature cooling fast. The sunset starts to blaze away to the southwest


ROOKS appear from the west, crawing and grunting, squadrons of tired birds heading home to Allington Lakes. 40 species for the day, and out on the grass land north of the airport there are two more Roe Deer and small numbers of MEADOW PIPITS also heading to roost. Pied Wagtails going the other way, to the Airport car park where they gather in the warmth of the light.

Gulls too are moving south. Black-heads in formation, to roost at Weston Shore five miles south. Watch the larger ones more carefully, for LESSER BLACK-BACK and see five easily. A family group no doubt – two adults and three of last year’s young.

Back at Decoy Wood, I will head east around the meadows to be at the Country Park entrance by 4.30 and thus in with a chance of meeting the ‘regular’ Barn Owl. Sadly only one survives. His mate was found dead on the Sanctuary sometime last summer, and all three young were killed in collisions with aircraft. They do not learn… ‘Heard only’ STONECHAT in gathering dusk. Two birds, one glimpsed some distance off among the otherwise deserted Snipe-favoured grasses.

For twenty minutes I sat watching the Meadow, waiting, and he didn’t show. Never does when I wait in expectation. I do not learn…
Head down then and head for home. Half an hour at a brisk pace from here back to the car, picking up only the solitary GREY HERON I have met before, taking up its regular spot in an old dead tree to roost – a shaggy ‘blob’ on spindly legs making a quite ridiculous silhouette.

Back at the reservoir among lots of singing Blackbirds there was a party of LONG TAILED TITS fussing around, and I realised I had not seen any others today. Perhaps an oversight, but ticked with a flourish as I took of my muddy boots and drove off with a very satisfying 45 species in the bag and another inspirational walk in my favourite landscape

Patchwork birding – Jan 15th. Some thoughts.

Added quite a few odds and ends in the past week, bringing the total so far on the patch this year to 58.
Which sees me now 11th out of the 30 people taking part this year in Hampshire. That’s the best I have ever finished, but it would be nice to make top ten.

It’s so easy to overlook birds, even with my experience. Simple observation seems to be my biggest downfall – I can identify things well enough, but it’s seeing them in the first place that I must be struggling with. It also has a lot to do with luck and being in the right place at the right time.
I have a theory that for every bird reported to the various committess there are at least as many that aren’t, like me – seen by people who don’t submit records. And if you add that to the number that probably just don’t get seen I reckon that bird reports and committees etc only have about 30% handle on what actually goes on out there…

For example, this year already others have reported on my patch:

Great crested Grebe
Water Rail
Barn Owl

That’s 10% of the number of species I have seen myself. I’ve been ‘out’ on four or five days, that’s less than 30% of the time.

Probably means little of any significance, but I do find the arrogance of some Bird Alerts and rarities committees etc quite amusing…

The most recent addition came at lunchtime today when I added CHIFFCHAFF at last – one popped into the Christmas Tree we potted out last weekend. Also recently added Curlew, Redshank, Pheasant

It’s important to get the basics, so it’s been interesting so far.

But it really seriously needs to get cold. Where are all the winter thrushes??

Metamatic – A ‘Meta-Review’ Analysis

Melody Maker 19-Jan-1980 Steve Taylor 1 POSITIVE 42
Record Mirror 19-Jan-1980 Mike Nicholls 1 POSITIVE 35
Sounds 19-Jan-1980 Dave McCullough 1 MIXED 22
Smash Hits 7-Feb-1980 Red Starr 1 POSITIVE 40
NME 9-Feb-1980 Paul Morley 1 POSITIVE 35
Trouser Press 1-Apr-1980 Stephen Grant 1 6 POSITIVE 45 219


Above is the results of the MetaReview I carried out of John Foxx ‘Metamatic’ in 2010.

The idea was to look at each review that was published of the album on its original release in January 1980 and upgrade the star rating to a common system against which I could measure all the reviews. That’s the figure in the Column 7. It’s based on positive or complimentary phrases used, buzzwords and a general air or feeling expressed by the reviewer. The mark is out of 50.

Using that score, I then simply divided by the number of reviews considered and came up with an average.

That average is shown in the top line, and determines the banding I applied to the album

41 – 50 = Considered EXCELLENT

31 – 40 = Considered GOOD

21 – 30 = Considered FAIR

11 – 20 =  Considered POOR

0 – 10 = Considered RUBBISH


Of course, this is all for fun and based mostly on my own judgement. I like to think it is a fairly objective system but who knows.

But it seems to have worked out. After Metamatic, John Foxx was largely condemned in the UK Music Press in the 1980s, though he did fare much better overseas. Germany and Japan in particular gave him high regard As I can only read English, the only reviews I have considered are those published in the English language (from UK, Australia or US), so there is some bias there I suppose.

I just want more foreign language reviews.
So if you have any, please submit them to form part of the official archive at Metamatic . com






Patchwork birding – Jan 5th

2015 Patch Year list = 50 species

Year list for the patch progressed to 41 since last post with the addition of GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL and KINGFISHER

Added another NINE today on a walk from Cobden Bridge to the north end of the Airport at Lockhouse Lock on the Navigation

Overcast and dull, light SW. High tide. 13:00 – 17:00
An encouraging 42 species

Kestrel – 2 hunting around the Meadows
STONECHAT – first-winter bird just north of M27 and inside Southampton UA before border stream to Eastleigh
Good bird for Southampton UA list
An hour later adult male and female together up near My Bridge
Grey Heron
CETTI’S WARBLER – one calling near the Two Bridges area
Stock Dove – at least 8 flying around
Rook – c400 overhead at Airport towards Allington Lakes roost
Greenfinch – these are becoming hard to find??? 2 flew over Lockhouse Lock
Meadow Pipit – about 10 over to roost
Buzzard – just one today, over Owl Meadow


Listening Station developments – update 03.01.15

Meanwhile, due to unforeseen complications involving a ghost, services to Gazelle Twin and Tara Busch are temporarily suspended.
Passengers requiring I SPEAK MACHINE, UNFLESH and THE ENTIRE CITY are advised to change at EXPONENTIALISM

While considering how best to accommodate developments at ‘Old Street’ (putting the B MOVIE – BALLARDIAN VIDEO NEURONICA project in between D.N.A. and INTERPLAY) things started to look a bit sticky given the fragile geology in that area. Especially that it has such a ridiculous long name and requires investment in a new drill…

So User Statistics relating to the nearby ‘Analogue Circuit’ line have been re-assessed and some discrepancies were discovered in the labelling of Listening Stations on the south-east branch. Further questions were then asked of their associated relevance and the involvement of Birdsong Developments in their future

Over the last 18 months, visitors in particular to Gazelle Twin have increased significantly, establishing an independent subset of service users that no longer connect directly with Foxx. This has lead to significant developments in the Gazelle Twin sector and the emergence of Self-replicating Architecture. The time machines on the Trans-Foxxy Express were no longer being used with enough frequency to keep the Listening Station open. With Tara Busch Ltd operating the I Speak Machine franchise effectively overseas during the same time period. Birdsong Developments felt it no longer necessary to maintain that Listening Station either, though the company will maintain (at least in the short-term) a stakeholder presence in both enterprises.

So the decision has been taken to close both GAZELLE TWIN and TARA BUSCH Listening Stations, with all services on Analogue Circuit eastbound going to direct to EXPONENTIALISM. Cost savings as a result of these closures will be invested into the exploration of the ancient tunnel recently discovered at Old Street…

New escalators, elevators and improved signage will direct users to a state-of-the-art Interchange Portal enabling a direct Fusion Link to Pilfershire Lane and subsequently The Entire City

New life at Old Street

Plans have just been announced to re-open the derelict Listening Station at OLD STREET on the METATRONIC Line.

The site (which has been overgrown since 1979) will be re-developed and mobilised by infracolour as ‘B-MOVIE’, a pseudo-dubstep analogue pathogenome later this month.
B-MOVIE is to be one of two new Listening Stations being considered for the NEW KIND OF MAP John Foxx Infographic developed by Birdsong Developments in 2013.

The company intends to install a multi-million dollar Loop Extension to the perpendicular service currently operating on the COLLABORATOR’s Line as a result of a significant increase in traffic over recent months. This will involve re-purposing the current facilities at D.N.A. to accommodate visually-enhanced users. The new Loop Extension will connect the Listening Stations at ‘A SECRET LIFE’ and ‘D.N.A.’ In accordance with terms of the D’Agostino Agreement, a brand new time transfusion will be opened on the Loop at ‘EVIDENCE OF TIME TRAVEL’. Designed by D’Agostino, and using over a million pixels of hand-painted film, the Station will span forty years of Sinister Architecture in a moment and open simultaneously with the re-developed facilities at B-MOVIE just a mile to the south-east.

Time travellers, audiophiles and Foxxhunters should expect some minor disruption to services on the METATRONIC,  METADELIC and COLLABORATOR  Lines while the facilities at ‘D.N.A.’ are upgraded, and inevitable delays at A SECRET LIFE and INTERPLAY as a consequence of this upgrade.
Birdsong Developments offer no excuse for this and hope instead that visitors to A SECRET LIFE in particular will find their Foxxian molecules enhanced by a prolonged stay. The company is installing a temporary Art Gallery and Water Feature at this Listening Station to entertain delayed passengers. INTERPLAY will remained unaltered, but A Guy Called Roland from down the market has agreed to come in and play a few tunes on request.

Do not adjust your set. The author is beyond psychiatric help.

Here is a picture issued by Birdsong Developments that shows the proposed changes


New Year’s Day – Patchwork birding

Overcast and dull, light SW. High tide. 07:10 – 09:20
An encouraging 38 species

Herring Gull
Mute Swan – 55
Mallard – 70
Carrion Crow
Song Thrush – flew across footpath by The Glimpse
Black-headed Gull
Dunnock – Compost Corner
Chaffinch – Compost Corner

Coot – 3
Great Tit
Long-tailed Tit
SPARROWHAWK – low over Golf course, upsetting crows
Blue Tit
Pied Wagtail
Mistle Thrush – top of poplar along Riverside Walk
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Feral Pigeon
Green Woodpecker

House Sparrow
Bullfinch – 2
Collared Dove

Also GS Woodpecker drumming here, lots of Blackbirds and Thrushes etc
More Long-tailed Tits, but NO Chiffchaff or Greenfinch

Little Grebe – 3
Common Sandpiper – one flew up river from bank by the oak tree (35th species)
Grey Wagtail
Common Gull – adult with BH Gulls on Cobden Meadows
Lesser Black-backed Gull – adult over Cobden Bridge by Pettinger Gardens

A really good, encouraging start to the year. Picked up most of the regular species.