January 31, 2006

Birds are all around...

Borrowed from my other blog, Bogbumper...

There's a male Firecrest hiding somewhere at The Lodge at the moment, so this lunchtime I spent some time looking for him.

'Looking' suggests some sort of active searching, but to be honest, I spent more of my time standing dead still and waiting for something to happen.

It wasn't entirely fruitless, though. I found an area among the rhododendrons and sweet chestnuts where there seemed to be a lot of bird activity, and stood there in hope.

I don't think it was too unreasonable, to hope that I could just bump into the Firecrest. And staying still was much quieter than tramping about among all those dry, rustly chestnut leaves and noisy twigs.

I've thought for a long time that time spent standing in one place, listening and looking around you, is actually time well-spent, especially in woodland. If you wait for long enough, birds don't notice you, they forget they're supposed to be afraid of humans, or decide you're not worth bothering with.

Looking down to a small woodpile about six feet away, a Wren flew from a bush and perched on top of a log. I'd already been standing there for five minutes when it arrived, and it carried on its business, poking about for insect food, even though I was only a short distance away. Yes, only a Wren, but I enjoyed the encounter. I heard the leaves rustling as it moved about on the ground.

From ahead of me, on the hill, came a sound like children kicking autumn leaves for fun. A litter-picking gang of Blackbirds, searching for food among the fallen leaves.

On a horizontal branch a short distance away, an upside-down Treecreeper inched its way along. With its stiff tail propping it up against the tree, it inspected the bark for moth eggs or something equally microscopic (but obviously nutritious).

High up in a tall, dead tree in front of me, a flash of black, white and red came into view - a male Great Spotted Woodpecker. Working his way quickly to the top, he selected a chunk and began some gentle, exploratory pecking - perhaps auditioning it for a possible drumming post for a few weeks' time. To my untrained ear, it sounded good and rotten.

Some slightly less heavy-duty pecking sounds were those of Nuthatch on chestnut. Always a fantastic bird to watch - like a mini-woodpecker. I heard some quiet song (or sub-song?) that I didn't recognise from the top of a pine tree... Coal Tit the likely culprit, I think. A Goldcrest - yes, just a Goldcrest - appeared in a holly bush to taunt me.

No Firecrest, but not a waste of time, either.

photo taken with Nikon Coolpix 995

What are you looking at?

Another morning at Ferry Meadows and a disctinct sense of déja-vu whilst I was counting Snipe. An elderly couple enquired what I was looking at and again, I asked if they would like to have a look for themselves. That's now three people in the last week that I've managed to get Snipe on their yearlists for them. They were all terribly impressed by the birds though- and why not- they are handsome creatures.

A little further on, a group of three (elderly) ladies asked me: ''Excuse me, what is that duck? Its different.''

''They are Shoveler.'' I replied. ''So-called because of their shovel-like bills.''

After thanking me and upon everyone agreeing what a fine-looking bird the male is, one lady proceded to ask if I'd seen all the 'Ring-necked Ducks' on the main lake. I politely corrected her and pointed out that they were Tufted Ducks, despite what her bird book may have indicated. Ring-necked Ducks.......flocking in North Cambridgeshire.........as they do.

I really don't mind being questioned by folk if it adds a little extra dimension to their walk and perhaps provokes an interest in the birds around them. I just wish the same were true of the majority of today's youths. They just don't seem inquisitive and wander around smoking, spitting, littering and swearing- the **** ing little shits.

My small act of kindness was duly repaid a while later as I managed to relocate the long-staying Hawfinch, sitting majestically sentinel-like atop a tree as all the other lesser finches hurried about in the branches and leaf litter below- he certainly did seem to have a haughty look about him.

January 29, 2006

Woodwalton Fen

Woodwalton Fen is a great place, but visiting it can be somewhat hit-and-miss. Yesterday, Richard Patient found an Arctic Redpoll in a finch flock which also contained Lesser and Mealy (Common) Redpolls, plus a load of Siskins. I thought a visit might be useful - not only to try to see the scarce redpoll species, but there could also be a chance of Woodcock, Bittern, Hen Harrier or even Goshawk...

Of course, we didn't see any of the latter four species, but we did find a big flock of finches. It comprised mostly Siskins (which were really, really hard to find last winter, incidentally) with a few Lesser Redpolls along for the ride. Then there was a bird which we thought might have been a Mealy, but the views we had weren't good enough to clinch it.

Hmmm. At least we don't need it for the year-list! I keep telling myself, but it's a bit annoying not to have seen it well enough. It's hard work, craning your neck to look in the treetops, but even harder to see the birds when they fly off out of view entirely.

It was a nice, frosty morning, though.

January 24, 2006

Wader of the woods

It's true, I've had a year-tick today, too. One that would have counted for the year-list effort as well, had we both been present.

I was pottering about in the leaf litter during my lunchbreak, as you do, looking for something interesting to photograph. It was obviously very cold last night, and it stayed that way, so all the leaves on the ground wore a coating of ice, even in the middle of the day.

Anyway, I was squinting at a frosty branch when there was a sudden rustle of leaves from behind the tree and then something biggish and brown shot low across the ground and down the hill. It moved fast.

So that's how I've got Woodcock on my year-list and Darren hasn't. Yet. All in good time...

Enough blue to make a pair of Dutchman's britches

It was almost Spring-like today: no wind to speak of and as the day wore on, the sky was filled with enough blue to make a pair of Dutchman's britches. So, with Katie working, I walked down to Ferry Meadows Country Park, hoping the overnight frost would have tempted something good in and that the blue skies would have tempted whatever it was I was hoping for to stay put. I had no idea what.......

It started off promisingly with the first Chiffchaff of the year, calling constantly (a female?), my highest count of the winter for both Wigeon and Great-crested Grebe- the lakes were like glass and it was interesting to observe the grebes in their various winter plumages.

I stopped off at Heron Meadow for the habitual counting of Snipe. I'd reached twelve when a voice behind me asked ''Hello, may I ask what you are looking at?'' I turned round to be greeted by a lady of advanced years and answered ''Hello, Snipe.''

''How exciting!'' she observed, clearly excited. ''Have you seen one before?'' I asked. ''No! I haven't!'' she replied, excitedly. ''Let me get them in the 'scope for you.....''

She was only about 4 foot four, so I lowered the scope and got three birds in view for her. ''Here you go......''

''Oh yes! aren't they striking!'' she noted a few seconds before the whole lot got up and flashed off east on account of the female Sparrowhawk that had just decided to wake up from a nearby tree.

This made counting them easier- 21 in all, another high count, but the highlight was certainly the expression on this venerable old lady's face. ''Oh, Snipe!'' she said, as if to confirm to herself that she had actually just seen them. ''Well, thank you so much young man.''

''My pleasure.''

''Well, I say, Snipe! Good day, I must continue my walk now.''

''Good day.''

I continued round the lake, scanning frequently, but not very much was happening on the larger of the two lakes. 33 Lapwings fed in an area known as Coney Meadow and I scanned the distant scrub, which I think looks good for a Great Grey Shrike- I say that about a lot of habitat I visit, and lots of areas do indeed look like a good place for a G-G Shrike but this winter visitor has yet to reveal itself to me. Continuing on, a few more Tufted Ducks were feeding in sheltered bay area and as I watched, two birds flew in. At first I thought they might be small grebes, but when I had them in sight, there was no mistaking......two superb redhead Smew. They had clearly just arrived because for the next ten minutes or so they preened constantly, submerging heads and flapping wings. A shame perhaps that a drake wasn't accompanying them, but still a very beautiful bird, and a nice bird to find oneself, especially as I'd managed to miss the species during 2005.

Its a non-breeder so wouldn't have counted for our list, but I think Katie may have seen a species today that I do need to catch up with. Watch this space.......

January 19, 2006

Woodston Ponds Nature Reserve

There's a sign as you approach the reserve that says Warning - Dangerous Ponds. Using the word dangerous is a bit misleading: it implies a certain excitement.

In truth, it really is rubbish. The only danger is of losing your footing on the boardwalk or seeing a Reed Bunting. You could hardly fall into one of the ponds as they are surrounded by barbed wire fencing and patrolled by guard dogs.

OK, I made that bit up but it has to be one of the most pointless public safety warnings ever. I'll take some photos next time and you can see what I mean for yourselves.

But hey, I've chosen it as my local patch, and that is where I'll go as often as possible to monitor populations.

Yesterday, an incredible 12 Bullfinches were recorded there - the highest ever total of Bullfinches ever recorded at this site since time began and since Bullfinches speciated from Archaeopteryx.

Probably because I am the only person who ever goes there. But that's the way I like it.

Today there were only 11. Which may have something to do with the Sparrowhawk that was calling and displaying over the reedbeds. I watched for ten minutes or so as the bird went about its flap-flap-stoop-rise-flap-flap-stoop-rise routine. The local Black-headed Gulls were clearly unimpressed.

I've changed my mind. Woodston Ponds rules!!

January 16, 2006

Tu-whit to-whoooo

Got a year tick up on Darren - Tawny Owl heard from the car-park at work this evening. I think I'm only three behind him now... he saw Shag (suppressed) and Little Owl (missed because I was driving) in Norfolk and I didn't, and got his Grey Wag/Green Sand fix in Bedford.

January 15, 2006

Arse over tits

As K said, no surprises that there were no Willow Tits but some great views of up to five Treecreepers together, several Marsh Tits and a Nuthatch were almost enough compensation. Looks a likely spot for Nightingales so we are sure to return. The surrounding fields (rather downs-esque IMHO) might also hold a passage Ring Ouzel, Wheatear or Black Redstart in Spring- we look forward to finding out.

Seeing her fall on her arse would have been amusing, but as it was, I was walking in front, saw only the aftermath and thought ''What are you doing down there?''

She then proceeded to kick mud at me like an embarrassed child.

Aversley Wood

Didn't fancy going far today so we decided to visit a site I'd been meaning to for a while - Aversley Wood, near Sawtry. I thought we might see Woodcock there, and the mythical Willow Tit (believed to be extinct in Cambridgeshire).

Well, we might have seen a Woodcock - something big got up off the ground as we approached. Inconclusive views. Definitely no Willow Tits. No surprises, but plenty of Marsh Tits.

For Darren, the highlight was probably seeing me fall on my arse on the walk back down the very muddy, steep hill...

January 14, 2006

Secret site

Short-eared Owl

As the above image shows, Saturday has been yet another grey, miserable day. We've been to a top-secret site in Bedfordshire, which shall remain nameless, to look for a few year ticks and stuff... We were only partially successful but managed to add two more species to the year's list. It's a shame it never really got light...

Species added today:
104. Stonechat
105. Short-eared Owl

January 10, 2006

Chip allegation

that shouldn't be too difficult if she stands by the swimming pool during her lunch break instead of stuffing chips in her face in the staff canteen.
I haven't eaten chips at work for months.

Dole Scum

Katie was back at work yesterday. I am, for six months of the year at least, and in the words of Pauline from League of Gentlemen, dole scum.

K was able to drop me off and pick me up in Bedford so I had the whole day for birding and decided on a visit to a couple of the old haunts, Priory CP for Grey Wagtail, Chiffchaff and Blackcap, Willington for Common and Green Sandpipers and then Fenlake Meadows for a general mooch around. This also gave me the opportunity to grip off Katie as we both have to see the bird for it to count towards our target.

But what else am I supposed to do? Spend my afternoons sitting in front of the TV flicking myself off to Tricia and not looking out of the window or not going out in case I see a bird that K can't?


Eight hours in the field and some nice birds in the bag. No wintering warblers but a couple of super close-ups of the resident Grey Wagtails on the canoe slalom at Priory- my favourite bird by a country mile and these birds are incredibly confiding, so used are they to dog walkers I was viewing down to 20 feet or so. I just wished that K were there to get some pics.

A flyover ''vwist''-ing Water Pipit at Fenlake and a wintering Green Sandpiper in exactly the same spot that I saw one last year at Willington. The last two are non-breeders and don't count anyway so K only needs to find a Grey Wagtail before we can add it to the list. Working at The Lodge, that shouldn't be too difficult if she stands by the swimming pool during her lunch break instead of stuffing chips in her face in the staff canteen.

January 09, 2006

There's nothing to see here

Due to work commitments, no birding done today by me and definitely no additions to our joint list... Roll on the weekend.

January 08, 2006

Cruising for Crossbills

Male Crossbill, Southey Wood

With news of Crossbills a few miles away, the opportunity to catch up with these notoriously difficult birds in our home county was too good to resist. So after breakfast, we headed for the gay-cruising capital of north Cambridgeshire - Southey Wood.

It was disappointingly easy locating them - we could hear them crunching on the pine cones - so for an hour, we enjoyed very good views of up to eight birds, at least five of which were males. They are amusing birds to watch as they clamber parrot-fashion along branches and are surprisingly acrobatic for such chunky finches.

First Kingfisher of the year! Ferry Meadows

After lunch, went for a quick walk around the nature reserve at Ferry Meadows as it would be our last opportunity to go birding together until next weekend. We were duly rewarded with our first Kingfisher of the year. This species is especially vulnerable to cold spells so the recent freezing conditions will have claimed a few lives. It was good to see that this bird (a male) had survived.

Species added today:
101. Common Crossbill
Coal Tit
103. Kingfisher

January 07, 2006

Kite Country

The sun hasn't shown itself for about three weeks now, it seems.

Took a drive into the rolling hills of east Northamptonshire - Kite Country - in search of raptor action. Hadn't reached Oundle when the first Red Kite of the day drifted over the road, with a Carrion Crow in hot pursuit. Nice...

Between Upper Benefield and Deenethorpe we came across several more kites - sitting in trees together and flapping lazily around in the sleet. At Blatherwycke Lake, there were good numbers of Teal and Lapwing on the mud (the lake has been drained again), and a Common Buzzard in flight close by, but nothing else.

Species added today:
99. Red Kite
100. Common Buzzard

January 06, 2006


Hunstanton Cliffs - home to Fulmars and Feral Pigeons

Sometimes, when it's cold, grey and miserable, I wonder why it is I bother to go birdwatching. Wednesday was a good [bad] example. Crap weather and no birds.

I think the setting must make all the difference, because today Norfolk was cold, grey and miserable - the sun never came out - but there were some great birds to be seen and I wasn't quite as grumpy as normal.

We hadn't even reached our first planned stop when long skeins of Pink-footed Geese began crossing the skies above us. Birds going from their night-time roost sites to their daytime beet-field feeding hang-outs. It's a Norfolk birding cliche, but always an awesome sight, not to be sniffed at.

On a cold January Friday morning, it was quiet on Hunstanton seafront and Turnstones scuttled around in the gutter, in the manner of Starlings, while Herring Gulls lurked in gardens and car-parks.

But they weren't our 'sunny-Hunny' target birds. No, we wanted Fulmars, and we got them, as they glided stiffly around the cliffs on their mini-albatross wings.

Below, family parties of Brent Geese indulged in a little breakfast-time surfing and pecked at the seaweed which encrusted the boulders below the cliffs. More Turnstones, Oystercatchers and Redshanks there, but sadly no Purple Sandpipers.

Time to look out to sea. Well, into The Wash, anyway. With no wind, seawatching conditions weren't exactly ideal, but it made it a lot more comfortable.

It wasn't too long before one Red-throated and one Great Northern Diver came into view. Not close by normal birding standards, but good for seawatching. Much closer was a Guillemot, to Darren's great delight. They don't get many in Bedfordshire so he hadn't seen one before.

Darren's first Guillemot

I think that means he owes me a pint.

Darren is quite derogatory about 'Titchwell Zoo', as he calls it, but I reckon you can't knock it too much. Wander down the track to the beach and there are Spotted Redshanks feeding, unperturbed, virtually within spitting distance.

Spotted Redshank

On the sea, a slick of Common Scoters was forming. Trails of birds from further offshore made up a flock of around 3,000 birds - another impressive sight which included about eight Velvet Scoters. Slightly closer, a couple of smart, piebald Slavonian Grebes (another lifer for DO-M, and it wasn't even lunchtime) pootled about, and a small group of Red-breasted Mergansers bobbed around on the waves.

The scoter flock off Titchwell beach

A drive up to Choseley found a flock of around 400 Corn Buntings and some very pleasant, canary-yellow Yellowhammers. Titchwell drew us back again, with news of a Bean Goose with a flock of Pinkfeet on fields by the entrance. More than an hour's scrutiny of the flock, in terrible light, failed to nail the bird conclusively... Still, it's not a British breeding species so we don't need it for our list anyway.

Species added today:
Pink-footed Goose
78. Herring Gull
79. Oystercatcher
Brent Goose
80. Fulmar
Bar-tailed Godwit
81. Guillemot
82. Red-throated Diver
Great Northern Diver
83. Shelduck
84. Curlew
85. Little Egret
86. Cetti's Warbler
87. Egyptian Goose
Spotted Redshank
88. Black-tailed Godwit
89. Ringed Plover
90. Dunlin
Grey Plover
91. Common Scoter
Velvet Scoter
92. Slavonian Grebe
93. Red-breasted Merganser
94. Avocet
95. Corn Bunting
96. Grey Partridge
97. Merlin
98. Barn Owl

January 05, 2006

Nene Washes etc.

This morning we got out to Eldernell, on the Nene Washes. It's still very cold and overcast today, which might be why there was a distinct lack of raptors on the wing. We only saw one Kestrel, which is pathetic by the Washes' usual, high standards... Peregrine, Marsh and Hen Harriers, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Merlin are all possible, plus Barn, Little and Short-eared Owls.

Moving on...

On a more positive note, we did see Tree Sparrows around the feeding station. About five birds eventually revealed themselves - they like to hide in thick cover, out of sight.

We took a walk to just west of Lord's Holt and looked over the floods on the end of the RSPB reserve. Plenty of Pintail, Wigeon, Teal and Shoveler there, plus a lonely-looking juvenile Bewick's Swan. A herd of nine Whooper Swans flew east towards March Farmers, whooping as they went.

Possibly our best find was a Water Pipit on the edge of the floods by Morton's Leam. Picked it up on call as it flew in, and then watched it paddling around among the reeds and grasses - pretty good, prolonged views of a species that can often be hard to see well.

But it's not a British breeding species so it's not going on the year list!

Chilled to the bone, it was time to leave. Darren decided that he hadn't had enough of being cold for one day, so he forced me to take him to Serpentine Brick Pit (otherwise known as Orton Pits SSSI) for a trudge around in the mud. Those wily Polish lads have had good stuff there lately - Short-eared Owls and Peregrine - but we saw sod all. Wrong time of day, I suppose.

Species added today:
75. Tree Sparrow
Water Pipit
77. Whooper Swan

January 04, 2006

America Farm, Eggs and Chips

"Where today then, Katie dear?" says I.

"America Farm'' says she. ''Last time I went I had Tree Sparrow, Short-eared Owl, oh yeah, and Merlin!''

"Sounds cool" says I.

So off we set via the petrol station, ostensibly to grab some lunch but with the baguettes retailing at a rage-inducing £3.19, we decided on a pub lunch at a little establishment we had found a few months back - the fabulous Three Horseshoes at Wistow. But first some birding.

Katie was right about America Farm: it looked superb for Tree Sparrow, Short-eared Owl and Merlin. The shame was that there was bugger all there save a few Yellowhammers, Skylarks, Kestrels, about 1000 Woodpigeons and about the same number of corvids. We couldn't even string a buzzard-shaped object that was sat in a distant tree into a Buzzard. We left.

Next stop: Polebrook Airfield Nature Reserve... or so the map said. Upon arrival, the following sign greets us:

''Anyone found picking flowers will be prosecuted. Entry by appointment only. Trespassers will be executed.'

I could go on to tell you about our visit to Woodwalton Fen, where we hoped for owls, harriers or Bitterns, but we saw none of those and I really can't be arsed. In fact, we saw nothing but Redwings and Reed Buntings. 17 fat 'finch/buntings' flying over in the gloaming and circling in the nervous manner of Corn Buntings were surely Corn Buntings, but the little bastards couldn't even be arsed to call for us so we couldn't confirm this.

Lunch was very good and excellent value. Katie had the Thai Fishcakes (and Chips) and I had Egg and Chips and some of Katie's chips. Unfortunately, now she has a headache and has gone to bed without eating the Tesco's Finest Milk Chocolate with Praline that I bought her (lunch and headache are unrelated). This is strangely ironic because I promised to give up smoking on New Years Day (and haven't smoked since) if Katie promised to give up chocolate as of tomorrow. Hahahahahahaha!!

Species added today:
73. Yellowhammer
74. Jay

January 03, 2006

Rain stopped play

We didn't get out today. Lousy weather...

January 02, 2006

Willington was wubbish

Green Woodpecker, Willington.

So, not a bad start to the year, with the notorious Hawfinch safely in the bag, along with a good selection of common stuff.
Today, since we were in Bedfordshire anyway, we paid a brief visit to Willington GP, where Darren used to trudge around endlessly (aimlessly?) in search of good birds.

Jackdaw (at last!) and Red-legged Partridge were added to the list on the way to Willington, but a detour down Wood Lane did not bring us the hoped-for Yellowhammer, Little Owl or Grey Partridge.

Sadly, Willington itself was not much more productive, in terms of the year list effort... No sign of the recently-reported Water Pipit, Common Sandpiper or even a Kingfisher. A Water Rail squealed from the settling lagoon (where the Great Reed Warbler was last year) and a handful of Skylarks flew over - none of those seen or heard in yesterday's murk.

The main lake held good numbers of wildfowl (Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Mute Swan, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Pochard etc), but the only new additions were a Great Black-backed Gull and a Redshank.

Obviously, the highlight of the visit was the magnificent sight of around 280 grazing Barnacle Geese - tickable now they've been recognised by the BOU as self-sustaining! A sight and sound to lift the spirits of any birder...

Best bird of the day was probably the Red Fox which ambled across the meadows, ignored by Barnacles and sheep alike, before disappearing, followed closely by the white tip of his tail, into the undergrowth.

Species added today:
64. Jackdaw
65. Red-legged Partridge
66. Linnet
67. Stock Dove
68. Barnacle Goose
69. Skylark
70. Great Black-backed Gull
71. Water Rail
72. Redshank

January 01, 2006

Starter for ten...

Tame Robin, Bluebell Wood.

Happy new year, everyone. Let the listing commence.

Unsurprisingly, Robin was the first in the notebook for 2006, with one singing in the wee small hours.

Several hours later, the first proper birding destination of the year was, predictably, Ferry Meadows Country Park, Peterborough. With Hawfinches on offer - a species which could be devilishly hard to catch up with later in the year - there was no competition.

We gathered common species as we walked from the car-park to the Hawfinch site. So far, so good. Would the target bird play ball? The answer was a resounding 'YES!' - and it was the first finch species on our list for the year, with Siskin and Lesser Redpoll hot on its heels. Amazing...

After enjoying good views of the Hawfinch, as it perched in the treetops, we took a walk around other parts of the park, adding new stuff all the time. Isn't January 1 great?

A visit to the Bluebell Wood feeding station was in order, where the tame Robins tried to scrounge crumbs from us and Nuthatches made lightning-fast raids to the bird table. A Marsh Tit pitchood and a Treecreeper... crept up a tree. So far, so good.

Later, a visit to Orton Brick Pit and a good scan through the assembled wildfowl got us Ruddy Duck and Goldeneye, while a rather dull Eldernell had Wigeon and Marsh Harrier for the list (and also Bewick's Swan, but that's not a British breeder).

Species added today:

1. Robin
2. Blackbird
3. Starling
4. Black-headed Gull
5. House Sparrow
6. Magpie
7. Woodpigeon
8. Carrion Crow
9. Mute Swan
10. Green Woodpecker
11. Moorhen
12. Long-tailed Tit
13. Common Gull
14. Coot
15. Canada Goose
16. Greylag Goose
17. Mallard
18. Great Crested Grebe
19. Song Thrush
20. Great Tit
21. Blue Tit
22. Hawfinch
23. Siskin
24. Lesser Redpoll
25. Goldfinch
26. Feral Pigeon [Rock Dove]
27. Bullfinch
28. Redwing
29. Goldcrest
30. Cormorant
31. Wren
32. Chaffinch
33. Fieldfare
34. Greenfinch
35. Great Spotted Woodpecker
36. Mistle Thrush
37. Grey Heron
38. Shoveler
39. Pochard
40. Pied Wagtail
41. Snipe
42. Lapwing
43. Teal
44. Pheasant
45. Rook
46. Gadwall
47. Kestrel
48. Little Grebe
49. Dunnock
50. Marsh Tit
51. Nuthatch
52. Treecreeper
53. Sparrowhawk
54. Meadow Pipit
55. Tufted Duck
56. Golden Plover
57. Reed Bunting
58. Goldeneye
59. Ruddy Duck
60. Lesser Black-backed Gull
61. Collared Dove
62. Wigeon
63. Marsh Harrier
Bewick's Swan