Monday 31 May 2010

Mystery duck?

Not sure about this species but I think the scientific name is Anas Exploitatus. The field guide says it has 'a rapacious appetite for cash of any denomination, and will screw anything, especially tourists'. Bill Oddie used to say go to Disneyland in Florida to combine a great family holiday with good birding. The same can't be said for Eurodisney unfortunately. But go anyway, the queuing will remind you of a really bad twitch, the family will love it, and on the back of that you can negotiate yourself a trip somehwere nice (see posts for 1-5 June).

Sunday 23 May 2010

Something of the night about Brownsea...

Nocturnal birds were on view in broad daylight on Brownsea today with two Nightjar outside the Lake Hide and a Tawny Owl near the Villa. I found the first Nightjar on the ground at about 11:00 by following the detailed instructions on where to look written in the hide's log book. It shuffled out of sight after an hour so I returned to my original mission of photographing terns form the Macdonald Hide. After a few minutes photographing Sandwich Tern on the island front left of the hide, I was just thinking about scoping the heat haze at the back of the lagoon where Roseate Terns bred last year, when through the lens I saw the all black bill and pink chest of a Roseate Tern (above and right). Sitting at the back of the same island, it preened for a while and eventually flew off, only to return a minute or two later, providing the opportunity for some good flight shots. Arriving birders informed me that a Nightjar had been sitting on a post outside Lake Hide so I returned to find this male (above) doing just that, calling and churring occassionally. It did so from at least 13:30 to 16:30 when I had to leave to catch the last boat. Photos would have ben sharper but for a vicious heat haze.

Saturday 15 May 2010

Short people got... photos. Had to use all of my 6 feet in height peering over a bank to get this picture, as more vertically challenged birders cursed either side of me at the frustrating views. An uncharacteristically snap decision led me Frampton Marsh in Lincolnshire to see the Oriental Pratincole (top) present since last weekend - a new bird for Britain for me (412 BOU). Family duties kept me in Poole until 13:30, but with a good forecast and a settled bird it seemed worth setting off, and I arrived on site at 17:15. The bird had not been seen for half an hour but I managed to pick it up roosting on a spit distantly from the East Hide. It sat there for over an hour, looking settled for the night, but just as I was setting up a complicated double-stacked teleconverter arrangement to get a record shot, it flew much closer - within 20 yards of the track to the hide. In this picture you can even see the rounder nostril which apparently is a feature to help separate Oriental from other pratincole species! An obliging Ruff (above) also photographed from the East Hide. Yellow Wagtail, Corn Bunting and Avocet everywhere on this excellent reserve.

Monday 10 May 2010

Chats at the Bill

Several Whinchat, Wheatear, Redstart, Spotted Fylcatcher and a perched Hobby at Portland Bill today. Had the privelige of seeing Wheatear being ringed at the Obs - a first year male of the Greenland race shown here in the much photographed hand of Martin Cade. A beautiful bird to observe at distance let alone this close. Large numbers of Swift and Swallow also passing through.

Saturday 8 May 2010

Red-rumped Swallow at Rother Valley

Last stop en route from the Farne Islands back to Dorset was at Rother Valley Country Park, just off the motorway, to look for the Red-rumped Swallow reported there. It performed extremely well for a small crowd, and while not optimistic about being able to capture it in flight I was pleased to come away with this shot.

Friday 7 May 2010

Bempton Cliffs

A detour to Bempton Cliffs on the way home from the Farne Islands was almost an after-thought, but with hindsight a good decision. With a stiff north-easterly breeze, Gannets, Auks, Kittiwakes and Gulls were all hanging at head height on the cliff edge, enabling even bad photographers to get superb flight shots. Gannets were also collecting nesting material from the cliff tops. View my Bempton Cliffs gallery here.

Thursday 6 May 2010


The sight and sound of Eider Ducks in the harbour at Seahouses was one of the highlights of my trip to the Farne Islands. After years spent watching them distantly on seawatches at Dungeness and Portland Bill, this was a welcome contrast. Close views also make you appreciate what a substantial bird they are, and that what the female lacks in colour, she makes up for in subtle beauty.

Farne Islands (pm)

The Farne Islands were every bit the photographers paradise that I had read about. Arctic Tern, Kittiwake, Shag, Guillemot, Razorbill and Eider were all within touching distance. Only Puffin were slightly further away - but still very close. Kittiwake, Shag and Guillemot were all sitting on eggs, and one or two Shag chicks had hatched already. If you do go, be sure to take plenty of memory (8GB would normally last me a month, but I used it in a day) and small as well as long lenses, as the birds are often too close for a long telephoto. Razorbill (above), Guillemot (below) - Farne Islands gallery here.

Farne Islands (am)

Took advantage of a few days leave to fulfil a long-standing ambition to visit the Farne Islands. After a late night drive to the North East, an overnight stop in prime Pied Wagtail habitat (or 'motorway service area'), a grey morning eventually cleared into a glorious sunny day. Glad Tidings was met on the quay at Inner Farne by a Purple Sandpiper (above) and a chorus of Arctic Terns (below) and Kittiwakes. The Terns had yet to settle on nests so their famed aggression was not at its worst -in fact, they were extremely approach-able. View Farne Islands gallery here.

Wednesday 5 May 2010

Bournemouth Lizards

Flushed with my recent success in seeing Sand Lizards, I went to the cliffs at South-bourne today to look for the two exotic, introduced species of lizard which can be found there. Wall Lizards (male, above) were very easy to find, basking, in a shock develpoment, on walls. The larger Green Lizard (below) was a bit more elusive preferring to hide amongst the vegetation, but eventually one showed well. Note the blue colour on the throat of this male.

Tuesday 4 May 2010

Portland and Radipole

There were limited rewards from an early morning seawatch at Portland Bill this morning, though this inquisitive Grey Seal and a few Manx Shearwater and Common Scoter made it worthwhile.
Continued my search for the 'perfect' Cetti's Warbler shot later at Radipole Lake: getting closer, still not quite there...Many hirundines over ther water, and the Hooded Merganser still showing off near the visitor centre.