Friday 29 June 2012

Collard Hill - Large Blue

Collard Hill in Somerset is probably one of the most reliable and accessible sites to see the Large Blue. Having 'passed' on a trip last year due to poor weather, a decent day beckoned and I was on my way.....

It was sunny which is usually a necessity for success, the only problem was the near gale force wind which was blasting over the top - the sheltered lower slopes were fairly sheltered and it wasn't long before I found one nectaring - the distinctive underwing pattern like no other blue!

The upperwing has large black spots, unique amongst the Blues of the UK....

There weren't many Large Blues on the wing, probably less than double figures so it was hard work for photography!

Another chance at the underwing shot was not going to be missed :-)

Marbled White were present in better numbers, flighty and skittish as ever......

Plus a few common species - Large Skipper.....

And a fresh emergence of Ringlet, female seen here.

One or two day flying moths included this Silver Y.

Even a dragonfly or two - mostly Common Darters, an immature female seen here...

I was hoping to check out the nearby site for Glanville Fritillary but the weather and lateness of season made this a pointless mission - oh well, there's alweays next year!

Tuesday 26 June 2012

Cley Marshes - Pacific Golden Plover

Fancy the PGP Jim? Oh dear, Ron Kinrade putting temptation in my path and one again it was only polite to say 'yes'! Bit of a trek though but after confirming it was still there, we were on site at about 11.30.

And so was the Pacific Golden Plover! Irritatingly, right at the far left hand corner of the North scrape :-( where it stayed for much of the day! At 4.00pm I staked out the Eye field and pool (where Andy Latham had seen it 'cripplingly' the previous day) You can probably guess what's coming - at about 4.15 I got a text from Ron - get back here now........

I did, after sprinting with my gear across the shingle and whilst it was still fairly distant in the North scrape scheme of things - it was 'close'! So I got my record shots :-)

Even a sort of reflection image!

Stacking the 1.4 + 2x converters got me a little nearer.....

The closed wing was hiding the upper part of the flanks and I waited ages for a wingflap, I got one eventually and the white on the upper flank was easily seen!

Flight shots too - toes projecting .....

There were cracking views of Spoonbill as well to be had later afternoon!

Friday 22 June 2012

Little Swift - a juvenile!

 A couple more images of the New Brighton Little Swift which became more and more elusive after the initial discovery. Spasmodic reports are still coming out but if you haven't seen it - an interesting article on Birding Frontiers from Martin Garner..... here

I'll let him tell the story but intriguingly, it's a juvenile bird but from where?

New Brighton - Little Swift !!!

I don't make life easy for myself! With several days of New England to catch up on plus a recent three day trip to the Farne Islands to sort, (and I was just getting down to it) when, I got a phone call...... It was Ron Kinrade - offering me a lift to New Brighton, how could refuse or resist this Little Swift?

I was expecting a bit of a rainy grueller with tantalising distant views and this was the case for some of the time but once the Swift had been ticked within five minutes of arrival, I was not prepared for the stunning show it was about to give!

Having spent three long sessions photographing Puffins on the Farnes the previous week, my eye was 'in' for flight photography and against my better judgement I opted for the 500mm lens initially and the reach certainly got me close to the bird but it was so agile - always jinking this way and that!

Setting the backdrop scene across the Mersey....

Eventually, I got away with a few shots which would normally have made my day as record shots!  The broad white rump patch always shone out and the normally short square ended tail was often fanned when banking.

Rump patch extending well onto the flanks......

Another head on shot....

A change 'down' to the 300mm lens was made more to lessen the burden on my now aching arms! All the shots seen here were hand held. Too many would be missed with the constraints of a tripod! The rewards weren't instant but the occasional close pass off the promenade by Pier House was more easily locked onto :-)

Whilst you could  hold onto the Swift with relative ease when above the skyline, I sensed that a shot against the sand would be the one to get? I lost count of how many shots were deleted until I jammed onto a few close straight line passes....

The green background is courtesy of the seaweed etc on the beach!

Then, one of those 'moments' of looking at the rear screen and thinking 'bloody hell' that will do nicely!

Nice to see a BIG Shropshire turnout! At least 12 birders were on site, at times nearly outnumbering the locals! The late evening gallery......

Smiling as it parted my hair once again!

I might even give this little stunner another go! Will it stick?

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Bishop Middleham - Northern Brown Argus

A trip to the North East meant I had a good opportunity to see a 'new' species at the Southern edge of it's range - Northern Brown Argus. A well known and well populated habitat is the Magnesium limestone quarry near Bishop Middleham, not far from Durham.

Arriving mid afternoon, this was one of the 'easiest' and quickest of finds. I found several Northern Brown Argus in the grass adjacent to the path within the first 60 metres after entering the site from the road!

They were easily told from a distance from the equally good numbers of Common Blue - these were noticeably larger, different in flight pattern and of course the males are blue!

Female Common Blue.....

The Northern Brown Argus found here belong to a separate race (salmacis) differing from the Scottish populations in not having a white spot on the upperwing. I wasn't expecting them to be very distinct from bog standard Brown Argus but the white halo on the upperwing from a distance was really noticeable - a white spot indeed!

They were quite variable and some had barely a white mark.....

Here's the underwing pattern......

This was the freshest specimen of the lot! The 'brown' in full sun had an iridescent sheen which was so striking. Unlike Common Blues, the Argus would spread it's wings immediately on landing!

Other butterflies seen included Wall and Dingy Skipper......

Job done, I wish they could all be this easy? Just 13 species to go now to complete the UK list!

Monday 18 June 2012

Farnes - seabirds etc

This is the life....... sun, blue skies and Grey Seals basking on the rocks

Anyone got a tissue?

Male Eider keeping a wary eye on the boat.

Fulmars gliding effortlessly overhead.....

And Herring Gulls looking for a free meal.....

A proud parent Kittiwake?

Here's why, resist the temptation to go Ahhhhhhh?

Razorbills looking dapper....

Getting in close but mind that bill!

The green-eyed monster rears it's not so pretty head?

It's such a nice day, I fancy a shag!

Well go on then!

Hard work so a well earned bask in the warmth of the sun.

Oh and I forgot to post this last time - Puffins have good reason to be nervous where a hungry Herring is concerned.....

Don't worry, there isn't a sad ending! Nothing got eaten :-)