Monday 15 June 2015

Cornwall - 14th June

I was up early this AM, covered the trap and then headed to Kenidjack. I sorted the trap later but here are some of the species caught in the garden (all the moth pics were taken on my iPhone):

The star, a Striped Hawk-moth the first I have ever caught

Striped Hawk-moth

Elephant Hawk-moth - Always a stunning species to see

Cream-spot Tiger - Three in the trap

Broad-barred White

Middle-barred Minor

Silver-ground Carpet

Buff Ermine

Brown Silver-lines

At Kenidjack it was very quiet and I saw little of real note. There were five Chough at the bottom of the valley and while I didn't get great views it appeared that they were two adults with three recently fledged young. Both Whitethroat and Swallow also had fledged young, a pair of Whitethroat had three fledged young and the male was in full song presumably hoping for a second brood despite his rather worn looking plumage while another male lower down the valley was nest building.


Recently fledged Swallow

Whitethroat - Male in full song while his mate tended three recently fledged chicks

Whitethroat - Kendijack

I then headed to Pendeen and birded for a short while around the lighthouse and the scrub just inland but again it was pretty slow going. A flock of 15 Kittiwake fed in the bay below, stunning with their crisp plumage against the blue sea but a little distant for any more than a record shot. The grassland sward was vibrant with Common Blue amongst the Common Bird's-foot-trefoil and Dyer's Greenweed. A brood of very recently fledged Stonechat flicked around the lighthouse grounds and adjacent garden and a pair of Chough fed along the roadside. Out to sea a large flock of 2,000-3,000 Manx Shearwater was feeding but they were just too far out for anything more than a record shot. I returned back to the cottage and headed out for an afternoon on the beach in the glorious conditions.

Kittiwake - Pendeen

Common Blue Pendeen

Common Bird's-foot-trefoil - Pendeen

Juvenile Stonechat - Pendeen

Chough - Note the heavy wing moult - Pendeen

Chough - Pendeen

Raven - Pendeen

Linnet in breeding plumage - Pendeen

Manx Shearwater - Part of flock of 2,000-3,000 birds feeding off Pendeen

Saturday 13 June 2015

Cornwall - 13th June

Sarah, Tobias and I were staying in our cottage just the west of St.Ives for the weekend, I intended to relax after a busy couple of weeks at work with some walking and a little birding thrown in. I had my moth trap with me and intended doing some trapping in the garden. Today we walked out onto Gurnard's Head and showed Tobias some of the wildlife of the Cornish coast, day flying moths, Grey Seal, gulls etc. He managed to point out a Peregrine that I missed. we spent the afternoon in St.Ives. All in all a pleasant day which was blighted by the news of an Eastern Black-eared Wheatear on one of my home patches - Acres Down, made worse by Trev texting me a back of the camera image, it pains me but here is a link to his blog write-up, bugger, no doubt a one day bird.

All the below images were taken on my iPhone:

Dusky Brocade

Small Square-spot

Thrift - Carpets in flower on the Gurnard's Head

Wild Carrot

Six-spot Burnet - Abundant on Gurnard's Head 

Six-spot Burnet

Cream-spot Tiger - Freshly emerged and in process of drying wings

Friday 12 June 2015

Fair Isle and Shetland - 1st June

I awoke at 04:00 to head out but it was pouring with rain and blowing a gale so I went back to sleep until 05:00 but it was still raining heavily, I eventually got up at 05:40 and headed out into the field in a now stiff south-west wind with occasional heavy, squally showers. Heading down to the south of the island this was my last morning to find a mega. I decided to mainly bird the road as after a nights rain the fields and ditches were very wet, I walked as far south as Shirva. At the shop a pallid looking bird flicked over the wall from the garden and circled around me to land back in the garden, a Common Rosefinch. One had been heard yesterday and seen briefly this morning at Haa, I presumed this was the same bird. A summer plumaged Black-tailed Godwit was mixed with the non-breeding flock of 61 Oystercatcher present in the field opposite the shop. I headed back to breakfast seeing very little on the way.

After breakfast I pretty much repeated my earlier walk with a diversion to Pund. When I reached the shop I had another look for the Rosefinch, I heard it singing and then eventually obtained good views of it perched on the boundary fence of the shop garden and on the road. It was flushed and flew to Lower Stoney Breck so I followed it to try and obtain some better photographs. It was showing fairly well feeding on Dandelion seeds so I rattled some shots off, some more birders appeared over the ridge and I waved them down and they joined me. The Rosefinch sang some more, quite a beautiful song for a bit of a heap bird. I then glimpsed an Acrocephalus warbler in the Rose beds in the garden, on my brief view I thought it to be a Reed Warbler but the next view when it was more in the open I was struck by its general palor and lack of rufous tones – it had to be a Marsh Warbler or Blyth’s Reed. Over the next hour or so we got brief in flight views and a brief view of it perched on a gate. As I was leaving for my 11:50 flight the bird flew and became 'trapped' against a fruit cage, I instinctively raised my camera and rattled off as many shots as I could while the bird flapped against the fruitcage. The wing formula in the shot below helped to nail the identification - the beauty of a digital-SLR.

Common Rosefinch - At the shop

Common Rosefinch - Feeding on Dandelion at Lower Stoney Breck

Common Rosefinch - Lower Stoney Breck

Marsh Warbler - Lower Stoney Breck. Note the cold yellowish tones, long primaries with pale tips and long bill

Marsh Warbler - Lower Stoney Breck

Marsh Warbler - Lower Stoney Breck. The lack of an margination on P4 
eliminates Blyth's Reed Warbler

My flight left more or less on time at 11:50 and I was joined by Keith Pellow who had come off early after seeing a poor forecast tomorrow which looked as if it would ground all off-island transportation. We picked up my hire car at Tingwall and headed down to Boddam towards the south of the island where a Corncrake had been present. Within 10 minutes or so the bird began calling and over the next 45 minutes we had great views of the bird which has been reported as being very showy although it wasn't as showy when we were there as others had reported.  We then headed further south to Loch of Hilliwell where up to two Ring-necked Duck had been present recently we scanned through the Shoveler (1), Pintail (2) Tufted Duck (8), Whooper Swan (6) and Wigeon (2) and eventually located the male Ring-necked Duck preening on the near (but still rather distant) shoreline. I picked up a Quail calling in the fields below but it was distant and difficult to pinpoint and despite trying to get closer we had to call it a day. I dropped Keith at the Sumburgh Hotel and headed for my flight to Aberdeen at 16:35, my onward flight from Aberdeen to London was delayed and I departed at 19:05 rather than 18:35, I was home by 21:30. While my list of birds lacked the mega I had hoped for I had a great trip and I have to say the Arctic Skua's on Fair Isle stole it as my birds of the trip - hands down!

Corncrake - In full 'crex'

Corncrake - In typical lurking pose

See Also:

Wednesday 10 June 2015

Fair Isle - 31st May

The forecast from last night came true and I awoke at 05:30 to a sunny morning and a stiff easterly wind blowing. The sun was shining and expectations were high. I bumped into David Parnaby as I left the observatory, David had had the nets open since the first hours of daylight and had caught a Blackcap and a Dunnock, both new birds in so I decided to head off south before breakfast. I birding along the road bumping into a chap at the plantation who was staying at the south light, he mentioned a Great White Egret he had seen at Da Water and we both wondered how rare the species was on the island although both of us assumed that they must be fairly rare so I sent a text back to the observatory and went to have a look at the bird. As I walked around the corner by the school I saw the bird being harassed by Lapwing and almost immediately it saw me it took flight circled above me and disappearing to the south over Malcolm’s Head. I decided to bird back to the observatory for breakfast via the east coast, Field Ditch, Bulls Park and the Gully seeing a couple of Redwing, Blackcap and Raven but little else. Back at the observatory my text had not been received and when I mentioned the egret not only was it the first Great White Egret but it was the first egret of any species recorded on the island, the observatory team dashed down the island and fortunately they had the bird fly north and disappear over Ward Hill. The bird spent the rest of the day commuting between various water areas in the south of the island.

After breakfast I birded Pund, Gilly Burn, Lower Leogh, across to Ha and then back up the eastern road via Da Water. The sky had clouded over and the wind was now a strong easterly and pretty cold to boot and it made birding a little difficult, I certainly got the impression that while the easterlies may have delivered a few birds they were definitely hunkered down. Numbers were low with four Chiffchaff, two Blackcap, a flock of 34 Oystercatcher and that was pretty much it. Huge expectations on an easterly wind but with nothing to show for it.

At 13:30 it started to rain and I had an extended lunch finding it difficult to get motivated after high expectations came crashing down with a relatively birdless morning. The rain got heavier and heavier and there was little motivation amongst the observatory birders. Eventually I headed out in pouring rain at just gone 16:00 and walked from the observatory a short way up the Hill Dyke. The birds that I saw were sheltering on the leyward side of the wall, Wheatear and Twite and a single Whitethroat.

And that was it, an easterly wind on Fair Isle, peak spring season and the highlight a Great White Egret, a first for Fair Isle but not quite what I had hoped for. There is always tomorrow……

Great White Egret - A first for Fair Isle and the first egret of any species on the island

And here are some shots taken on my iPhone of island scenery from the last few days:

Sheep Rock from the Observatory

Hjuknie Geo

North Raeva

South of the Island

Croft Land in the South of the Island

South Light


North Light from the Mast

See Also:

Saturday 6 June 2015

Fair Isle - 30th May

I was up at 05:30 and headed out to the south of the island before breakfast. As I left the observatory a female Ring Ouzel was feeding on the grass beside the observatory garden, it quickly flew high, circled and dropped back into the observatory garden. I then birded the gully, Bulls Park, Field Ditch and Chalet seeing very little other than the everyday species. I headed back for breakfast at 08:30 and then out again to the south of the island birding down the road and then out to Rippack, down Walli Burn out to the South Harbour and then back north. The weather was glorious, bright sunshine and a light north-westerly but birds were very thin on the ground beyond the resident and breeding species.

After lunch I decided to head to the north of the island for a change of scenery. First, I visited North Haven and spent time photographing the Arctic Tern and Black Guillemot, the latter were catching large goby of some type and were showing well from the jetty. I wandered up to the North Lighthouse via Wirvie Burn and Golden Water and chilled out at the lighthouse for 20 minutes for a little seawatching. It was exceptionally clear and mainland Shetland was very clear and Foula could be seen, the later approximately 50 miles away. There was little to be seen on the water. The Gannet colony on Kirki Stack was busy and on Easter Lother Water there were three Swallow and three Sand Martin feeding while 20 Bonxie bathed in the water. I continued up to the mast through the Bonxie and Arctic Skua colony before dropping back down to the road via Swey and back to the observatory.

Arctic Skua - Pale phase

Redwing - A late bird was hanging around the plantation area

Arctic Skua - A watched these two birds in high speed pursuit that lasted for at least 5 minutes and ranged from the observatory down to the plantation covering much of the centre of the island. All images I have show the birds in the same wing position in almost perfect synchronisation. I am not sure if this was a territorial dispute or a form of display flight - probably the former

Lapwing - A pair was present at Da Water

Starling were busy feeding chicks which were still in their nest holes scattered around the many walls on the island

Ringed Plover - Seven were present at the south light

Fulmar - South Light

Oystercatcher - A few pairs (perhaps 10 in the south) were scattered around the island, this one at South Light 

Oystercatcher egg on top of a wall, there were two eggs in this nest right next to the road

Arctic Skua - Pale phase

Arctic Tern - South Haven

Arctic Tern with large Sand Eel - South Haven

Black Guillemot with a large goby in South Haven

Black Guillemot - South Haven

Fulmar - On very soggy looking nest amongst Sea Campion, Spring Squill and Thrift 
near to North Light

Various shots of Bonxie near to the masts in the north of the island. The second and third images showing birds in display and the final on a bombing raid

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