Wednesday, 17 August 2016

St Mary's Garrison- Icterine Warbler!!

Teamed up with Dave Aitken again and it was a no brainer where we were going? The Icterine Warbler up on the Garrison had been showing again although it was pretty elusive and not showing well at all! A few birders were on the scene and with more arriving mid morning there were plenty of eyes, plenty of brief tickable views and plenty of frustration!

With two Willow warblers also present, the size difference was quite striking and it was
quite easy to pick - often sparring with the Willows and calling too! Here's the first real 'show' in the open!



Daring to emerge from the edge of the canopy!?


Wing panel showing nicely.... 


And then a lucky moment with that long primary projection nicely on show just as it was was about to fly!


Hand holding a short zoom took me back a few years but it was worth the wait and effort. I might even have another go??

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Porthellick -Wood Sandpiper

I've been waiting for one of these to turn up for my Venus Pool list to no avail but I wasn't about to turn one down during a free day on St Marys. Richard Stonier tipped me off (cheers mate) the Wood Sandpiper was showing well from the Stephen Sussex hide at Porthellick.....

Although it was being pushed around by the Greenshanks!



Sometimes in the right direction :-)


The brisk wind augured well for the evening pelagic??


Briefly finding the only patch of dark water which seemed to show it off much better?



And despite not coming closer than 25m, the use of reflection made smaller images loom larger!




 Calm water = more stable reflections!




Job done, another evening on the sea beckoned!

Scilly Pelagic No 6 - Blue Fulmar

When all else fails, Fulmar can be relied upon to be both ever present and usually photogenic on pelagic trips!

Normally encountered way ooop North, Blue Fulmar are a colour phase of Northern Fulmar and not normally encountered in these waters! This was the star act of a quiet evening plus 2 Sooty Shearwater and the usual 'following' of Storm Petrels.....

The pristine white head and plumage of Northern Fulmar in the late evening light....


Some individuals, not quite so pristine!


And with a bit a swell this evening, always obliging with head only shots!


Enter the Blue Fulmar, which just suddenly 'appeared', picked out by Joe and then present for 10 minutes or so.....


Unusual and certainly standing out from the crowd.....




One brief head on moment....


But most of the flight shots were rear on affairs before it (eventually) disappeared for good!


I'm going to aim to catch up with every day in chronological order so check back and scroll down to see what's new! Birding has to come first tho and with two evening pelagics coming up, opportunities to get on the laptop are limited!


Thursday, 11 August 2016

Scillonian Crossing - Manxies

I always have the camera ready on the crossing (just in case) but there were no birds of significance seen (apart from a Balearic Shearwater from the other side of the ship), a few Common Dolphins, a Sunfish and 100's of Manx Shearwaters, mostly on the Cornish side.

Some of the Manxies came close enough for record shots? They are always fun to try and capture......


Skimming the waves and using the wind so effortlessly!




 Upperwing sequence......









They will probably be ignored on the pelagics as we search for the more aristocratic cousins but for now, they got me into the swing of things and it's all systems go!

Scilly Pelagic No 1 - Stormies

A ticketless evening session to kick off, 5 - 10pm with a 15mph westerly wind. Shearwaters (apart from 1 Manx Shearwater) were conspicuous by their absence and just the 1 Great Skua having a look.....

There were plenty of European Storm Petrels however, to set the challenge of capturing a flight shot or two?

I never tire of seeing these amazing small birds which seem 'as one' with their environment out to sea


A sequence of underwing shots.....






Plus a couple of closer encounters!




Bring on a Wilsons??!!

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Book review - Britains Birds (Wildguides)

There are two of the 'Wildguides' series (Britain's Butterflies and Britain's Dragonflies) on my bookshelf and they are superb reference guides! I was asked some time ago to contribute images of Yellow-legged Gull for a forthcoming new book in the series - Britains Birds!! The same style was planned, with images tasteful montages on a page but covering the British (and Irish) Lists, as of March 2016, including all subspecies and main plumages likely to be encountered. Wow, I thought, hat was certainly going to take some doing!  A complimentary copy was being offered despite my late involvement, I duly sent the images off and let Brian Clews have my postal address........

I returned home recently to find a bulky packet on the mat and having forgotten I'd be receiving it, smiled as this Robin sang out from the unwrapped cardboard!



The book si the same page size as other 'Wildguides' (roughly 6" x 8") and with 560 pages, packs a weighty punch (1.2kg) - it isn't a 'pocket' guide but that's not the intended use! The team of Rob Hume, Robert Still, Andy Swash, Hugh Harrop and David Tipling have created a complete identification guide masterpiece. 

Using the Contents or Index it's easy to navigate and the order of species accounts utilises a very sensible system: eg Water birds, Wetland birds, Sea Birds...... Groupings within each section ensures families are intuitively found and then, when searching for 'similar species' they are on facing pages, so no flicking is necessary.  Whimbrel vs Curlew, Willow Tit vs Marsh Tit etc etc are admirably covered with excellent images denoting the key id pointers. A notable exception is Chiffchaff vs Willow Warbler where a thumbnail is used but that's only because a two page spread is devoted to the three races of Chiffchaff and Iberian Chiffchaff! If you are a beginner or intermediate agonising over a good bird identification guide - look no further?




Where this book really scores, is with the  montages of birds - not just portraits but flight and water shots either creating a surreal but often very natural 'scene' for comparison or simply hammering home an id pointer. There are a few other guides out there well illustrated with superb drawings but sadly a few which aren't! Photo-guides haven't always found universal appeal but surely this is a landmark achievement? The quality of the images and the awesome presentation just took my breath away.....




With the Scilly pelagic season in full swing, all the likely candidates are in the Seabird section and I'm just brushing up on the key id pointers and descriptive jizz. You never know what might turn up - Fea's Petrel last year and the possible Scopoli's Shearwater of 2013! They are both featured, amongst the more likely birds to be seen, with complete coverage from Fulmar to Red-billed Tropicbird!




Photographs have surely never been used so effectively within a book to convey the bird's appearance and identification. With more than 3,200 to drool over, my hasty snapshots here just don't do them justice. There are specialist publications out there covering specific bird groups or families in more depth. However, with the major rarities popping out of the page to satisfy the needs of big lister, plus straight to point descriptive coverage to suit the needs of beginners, this is a book for every home library! And it won't break the bank either - one for the bookshelf and car seat methinks?

I just hope enough copies have been printed to satisfy the demand? I've just scratched the surface here - this is one of those books that comes around just once in a while! Buy one for yourself so you can see what I mean, you will keep picking it up.......

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Minsmere - Western Swamphen

I was about to emerge from twitching rehab? White Stork apart, twitches have been few and far between but I was about to escape from the cocoon of Venus Pool and spread my wings wider once more - courtesy of the Minsmere 'Peter' (Please NO!) , 'Purple Chicken' (OK?) or 'Cookie Monster' (yeah) depending upon who's description you read? It 'seems' to have impeccable credentials too......

An overnight stop in South Norfolk was on the cards for me anyway, I just had to pick the moment for the right bird? And when I woke at 3.30am and couldn't get back to sleep, I just went for it!

What's about today then?


A lively gallery always some 30-40 birders strong and constantly rotated with new arrivals! Will Scott briefly down on his knees here after a frantic marathon previous 24 hours!


The path with a view.... That's an electric fence designed to inhibit pushy togs?


I'd ticked it some 15 mins after arriving as it skulked through the reeds barely breaking cover and after a while you just sensed where it would emerge into the open? The clump of Marestail along the left hand margin - and it here it comes - the Purple Phrag-shoot muncher or Western Swamphen if you like?





Munching on the soft Phragmites shoots whilst held down by the feet!



It's one impressive bird, I didn't hear one murmer of dissent from anyone present and it wasn't a gimme, some folk had to wait an hour for a glimpse, never mind a pic or two!



Deja view - I almost always got the same outstretched leg shot!




A few closer crops of this mightily impressive Rail....






Just as well there were no bags or sleeping birders in the long grass behind us when this heavy tackle went through!


And what about us? The Little Egrets felt completely left out of the event!


And the East scrape was the usual productive place for waders with Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Common sandpiper, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Ruff, Oystercatcher and Lapwing all seen from the East hide...

Also seen there: Little Gull, Sandwich Tern, Barnacle Goose amongst other decent birds whilst making a day of it all too far for photography.

Minsmere must have one of the busiest 'What's about' boards in the land?

PS I called in later afternoon at Swampies abode where it was close-show time but sadly directly into the sun! Should have been in this spot earlier and he could at least have eaten that emerging shoot!!!