Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Holiday notice.

Hi folks. I'm off for a birding trip to the Scilly Isles which is a small group of islands about 30 miles off the south west of England. I leave at 2am Friday morning so that I can catch my helicopter flight which leaves at 7.30am! I hope to take some photos for blogging of course! I'll be back the following Sunday, so just over a week out of touch with you all! The photo above is of a Little Egret taken the other day while on the Somerset Levels. shame about the blade of grass! (-:

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Birding at Portland

Last Sunday I went with a couple of birding friends down to Portland Bill for a day of birding. It was a beautiful crisp autumn day. Portland Bill is a great place for migrating birds both in Spring and Autumn as it sticks well out into the English Channel (the stretch of sea between Britain and France).Every Sunday whatever the weather, they test the foghorn at the lighthouse for 1/2 an hour at around 10am. The terrific noise is not exactly condusive to relaxing birding! I wish I could somehow get the sound here on my blog for you all to enjoy!!! (-:While we were wandering around searching out possible migrating birds, this fox trotted out of the ivy.He didn't notice me at first, but then clocked me and within a second, had slipped back into the dense Ivy behind.The next bird is one I've shown before in previous posts, but Meadow Pipits are often kind enough to pose on prominent perches and so are difficult to resist.Notice the long hind claw on this bird which is a diagnostic feature. The tail seems short, but maybe it's had an encounter with a cat or something.I was really confused by this next bird below. Usually its not too difficult to tell what a bird is straight off. The size, shape, the way it is flying all add up to being able to identify a bird pretty quickly usually. This bird was about the size of a Buzzard, but didn't look right in shape or style of flight. I was at a loss for an ID> I banged off a couple of shots in the hope of getting something on the camera that I could recognise. When I looked later, I could see the remains of Jesse's. This was obviously an escaped falcon from somewhere, likely a Saker Falcon which isn't native to Britain.Here's another bird that I love to photograph. They nearly always pose so beautifully, no skulking with a Northern Wheatear.There were several Wheatears on Portland Bill just waiting for the right conditions to make that flight across the English Channel and on down to Africa for the winter.After spending some time at the Bill, we drove back off Portland to bird at the RSPB reserve of Lodmoor which is just east of the town of Weymouth. This is a great spot for migrating waders (shorebirds). We saw Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwits, Curlew Sandpipers, Common and Green Sandpipers and just one Avocet which I caught in flight in the photo at the end of this post. I don't know what this red stuff was, but it was a lovely colour against the channels of water.Dragonfly activity seems to have slowed down quite alot, but I did manage to catch of shot of this Migrant Hawker (looking a bit tatty).Here is the flight shot of the Avocet. We had only just set up our scopes to enjoy this bird when it took flight (there was a Peregrine in the area which put up all the birds). They are graceful birds that are now doing quite well in this country. All in all, a nice days birding on the south coast.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Sky Watch Friday - mothing night.

Click on the Sky Watch Friday icon on the right to see lots more skies from around the world.

This was the sun setting over my local nature reserve a week or so ago. Our group that manages the reserve decided to buy a moth trap so that we can survey what moths are using our reserve throughout the year. This was the second try out of the the equipment and ourselves!We set the trap which was driven by a small generator and then we sat around in the dark for about 3 hours chatting while moths zeroed in on the pulsing light. Around 11pm we finished up and then tried to photograph what had been caught in the trap. Here are some of the results. Quite a few photos didn't come out too well. It's hard to take photos in the pitch dark with bugs fluttering everywhere and the camera getting confused. I need to keep learning!
This one below (I think) is a Autumn Green Carpet.This one is called Angle Shades.I wish I could have got a better photo of this one called Burnished Brass, it was iridescent and amazing in the light of a torch!There were a couple of options for the name of this one, but I think it is a September Thorn. Beautiful!The last one that I had a reasonable photo of is called a Setaceous Hebrew Character. If anyone knows different with my naming of these, please feel free to let me know! I can't wait to do more moth trapping. I've got the bug! (-:

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

A day at the beach!

I'd promised Chris a day at the beach once the kids had gone back to school. Last Friday's forecast was for a nice sunny day and for once it was right! One of our favourite places to visit since we'd first started going out together back in 1980 was Charmouth on the south coast of England.We hadn't been here for years, so it was lovely to revisit this old haunt for the day. This stretch of England is part of what is called the Jurassic coast. It is famous for its fantastic fossil finds. These crumbly shale cliffs are filled with fossils. This particular spot is where we decided to spend our time.There is something very soothing and relaxing just sitting and watching waves. We don't often get the chance to just sit together and unwind in the fresh air with the sight and sound of the sea. It was wonderful!It wasn't really a birdy day, but I spotted this Black-headed Gull sitting amongst the sparkles on the sea and couldn't resist snapping a shot.Just a couple of weeks ago, this beach would have been swamped with families on a day out. Today it was sparsely occupied. This particular cliff is famously called The Golden cap.As we were sitting there minding our own business, enjoying the waves, we, all of a sudden, became aware of the muted but distinct noise of a Chinook helicopter. We were both astonished to see this large army helicopter bank over the far cliffs and start heading in our direction along the beach.As it got closer and closer, I couldn't believe how low it was flying along the beach. I guesstimated it was flying at about 60 to 100 feet! The noise was incredible!
I'm not sure what it was doing, whether it was on some sort of official maneuvers or what.
But it was a pretty amazing experience none the less.We did decide to try and find a fossil to take home with us. In the past we've found some beautiful fresh iron pyrites ammonites, but on this occasion, this is the best we could find! You can just about make out the shape of an ammonite there......can't you? (-: Hmmmm!On the walk back to the car I noticed the quilt like shapes in the sand that the water had made around the small stones on the sandy part of the beach. It was a lovely day trip out together. I'll have to make sure it's not years before we come here again!

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Mallard musings.....

Hmmmmmm......well now.....what do you think? Which is my best side? Maybe I don't have a best side, maybe I'm most handsome head on.Or maybe this way?Or this? Tut! Sigh! This is sooooooo difficult!How about a side on view? Left side?Or right? Make your mind up, I'm getting dizzy!This is MY favourite one below! (-: I took these photos whilst waiting for the Osprey to turn up at Stourhead last Sunday. A nice bunch of Mallards waddled up to check me out. Just goes to show that even the most common of birds can be fun!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Birding at Stourhead

Last Sunday I didn't have much else on so I decided to revisit an area that I'd surveyed earlier in the year for the British Trust for Ornithology. Stourhead is about 15 minutes south of Frome and has been one of my favourite areas to survey so far.When I arrived there were a couple of blokes with bins looking out over the lake. Apparently an Osprey had been seen fishing here for the past 10 days. The Osprey wasn't there when I arrived so I settled in to wait. After about 1.5 hours I saw the bird fly in to the far side of the lake where it settled in a dead tree. The scope views were great, but I hoped to see it dive for fish.That wasn't to be, but after sitting there for about 5 minutes, it lifted off and started to fly towards me. The light was pretty terrible, but I managed to get a couple of OK record shots.It flew off strongly to the south and that I believe, is the last time it was seen. I was very lucky to have seen it at all. It will now be well on its way to Africa by now I'm sure.Another migrant on its way south was this Northern Wheatear. They spend the summer in this country and breed mainly in the north and west of Britain. It is another bird destined for Africa.
One of our resident birds is the Grey Wagtail. They like to breed on fast flowing rivers and streams.Maybe this bird spotted the Osprey before I did!It appears to be a young bird due to the slightly buffish colouring to its upper breast and white throat. It has the longest tail of all our three Wagtail species.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Birds birds birds.

Here's another bundle of fluff that I came across while walking around the reserve. This Long-tailed Tit was unusual in that it was on its own. They can generally be found flitting through the trees in quite large parties, often with other Tit species.I love the light in these photos which is emphasising the fluffiness of these lovely birds.That is easily the stubbiest bill of any of the Tit family.There was a Common Buzzard circling over the reserve. It never got very close so this is a pretty heavily cropped photo, but it had some great markings in the wings. Common Buzzard can be very variable in it's plumage.I was lucky to get this photo of a Reed Warbler. They are generally quite skulking birds, often preferring to stay deed down in the reeds. This one was making its way up and down this lot of vegetation looking for tasty morsels. It will soon be making its way down to Africa for the winter.