Sunday 31 October 2010

Scilly Saturday 30th October

Last day of the holiday and still fairly quiet so took the opportunity to try one last time to get clearer shots of the Dusky Warbler at Higher Moors. The bird was a little more showy this morning though still very difficult to capture on film. These were the best I could manage - although too distant to be frame-fillers, the light was good at least.

The children wanted one last go on the fantastic Pirate Playground on the Garrison so I took them to see the Red-breasted Flycatcher on the way which was still performing well. As we headed down to catch Scillonian III, calculating whether we would have enough time to look for the American Bittern in Cornwall, news came through that the ship had been cancelled. This meant no chance of seeing the Bittern at dusk or at dawn on Sunday, which deprived us of our best chance of seeing it. Lots of grumpy birders wandering around High Town in a daze...Finding accommodation for the unexpected additional night's stay was proving difficult but we were rescued by the great generosity and warm hospitality of Terry and Jane, creators of the 49 degrees/Isles of Scilly clothing brand and proprietors of the Foredeck ad other shops on St Mary's. We shall now feel even more morally obliged to dress from head to toe in gear from their excellent online shop - check it out and buy their stuff.

Saturday 30 October 2010

Scilly Friday 29th October

Another quiet day with a good yomp around Penninis Head and the airfield on St Mary's producing little more than this Peregrine (below). The photo shows the bird with an apparently full crop which explains why it seemed reluctant to fly by Peregine standards. A Grey Heron in flight (above) at Porth Hellick provided another opportunity for some flight shots.

Made a further (unsuccessful) attempt to improve on my photographs of the Dusky Warbler still present at Higher Moors but did manage to capture this a partially obscured Yellow-browed Warbler (above) and a Reed Warbler (below) in the process. Plenty of the former around, but another bird that can be surprisingly difficult to photograph even when quite easy to see.

Friday 29 October 2010

Scilly Thursday 28th October

One of the many rewarding things about birding Scilly in October is that you can take your time catching up with specialities like Red-breasted Flycatcher and almost guarantee that you will see one over the course of a week. One had been on the Garrison for a few days before I finally got around to looking for it this morning. Frequenting a 100 yard stretch of pines the bird was often quite confiding, and the sound of its bill snapping at flies could be clearly heard, as well as an occasional 'trrr' call. The buffy wing-bar ages it as a first winter - a very characterful bird which was reliably present during some of the quieter periods of the week.

Thursday 28 October 2010

Scilly Wednesday 27th October

A couple of quiet days with few new birds were interrupted today with news of a Dusky Warbler at Higher Moors. I have seen a couple of these Siberian rarities but never very well, so I thought I would believe the reports of it 'showing well' when I saw it. It did in fact prove relatively easy to see, calling regularly and hopping about in sallows and willows just over the heads of small crowd of admirers. Photographing it was another story, however as it rarely came to the outer branches and its constant movement confused the auto-focus of even the best cameras. I eventually managed a couple of respectable images manually focusing through small gaps in the vegetation when it paused to eat an insect. The shot above of the bird hopping away reveals the characteristic apricot undertail coverts which were otherwise not always obvious. The brightness of the legs and feet were, however, striking and the call very distinctive. The yellow lower mandible on the fine bill was also noticable.

Wednesday 27 October 2010

Scilly Tuesday 26th October

Caught up with a distant Water Pipit (right) and much closer Water Rail from the hides at Lower Moors this morning in poor weather. Water Rail seem particularly prominent this year with 1-2 birds feeding in the open early mornings in the small pools just inside the entrance to Lower Moors. A quiet day subsequently with three Pale-Bellied Brent Geese, one of which is pictured right, and a Merlin at Porthloo being the only other birds of note.

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Scilly Monday 25th October

An early morning walk around the airfield on St Mary's usually offers the chance of something good, but only Wheatear and Stonechat today - but a very showy Wheatear in beautiful light. Spent most of the rest of the day beach-hopping with the family - ending up at our favourite, Bar Point in the north of the island where a fly-over male Crossbil was a nice surprise. Ended the day at Lower Moors, where Common Snipe are usually easier to see than Jack Snipe, but not tonight, the smaller one being the only snipe on view.

Monday 25 October 2010

Sunday on Scilly

After yesterday's mad dash to St Martin's, today was more sedate on St Mary's visiting favoured haunts and seeing characteristic birds of Scilly in October. Some years just about every beach seems to host a Black Redstart, and every other hedgerow a Firecrest. This Black Redstart was feeding on the strand-line at Portcressa while the Firecrest was one of two in the excellent Carreg Dhu public gardens. Serin also seen at Green Farm with Chaffinch flock and a Whinchat and the first Yellow-browed Warbler of many seen at Higher Moors. Brambling, Fieldfare and Redwing added a wintery touch to the day.

Sunday 24 October 2010

Saturday on Scilly

First day of a week's family holiday on Scilly started well with a Bonxie from the chopper on the way over - seawatching in style - and then got better. We landed at 1300, got a boat to St Martin's at 1400 and, after a stiff march half way across the island, were watching a Red-Flanked Bluetail by 1500. At first elusive, it soon became clear that this was a very confiding bird. At one point it landed briefly 5 feet from me on the ground - too close to photograph. I saw the one on St Mary's a couple of years ago but in poor weather and at a distance, so this was a real treat. The bird was not seen again so with hindsight it was a good decision to go for it on the Saturday.

Saturday 23 October 2010

Green Heron...again

Heading to Cornwall en route to the Isles of Scilly provided another chance to see the Green Heron at the Lost Gardens of Heligan. This time I took the whole family, so now 3 year old Rowan and 7 year old George have seen this extreme rarity up close. It came to within 10 feet of them unperturbed by their not-very-quiet whispers and excitable fidgeting on the bridge overlooking the bird's favoured pond. We have a friend in Newquay whose mother lives in an apartment within the Gardens so she had seen it before any of us, and even her dog Benji got a look in. Not sure I improved on my earlier photos (see post for 17 October) as the bird was always in shade - but it was fun trying.

Wednesday 20 October 2010

Wader flocks on Brownsea

A few more images here of the wader flocks on Brownsea yesterday and today. The Avocet flock in flight (top)was not quite as neat as Knot (centre and bottom) or orderly as Black-tailed Godwits - quite chaotic in fact- but an impressive sight when 800+ birds go up together.

Back to Brownsea

Arrived at Durlston at about 08:00 to find Hamish Murray concluding that there was very little on the move. When Hamish says there is nothing about you know he's right, but I wandered around anyway just to confirm it - in fact it had got worse as I was unable to find the Ring Ouzel he saw first thing. So it was back to Brownsea for the afternoon where birds are guaranteed in large numbers. Waders were not as co-operative as yesterday, but I did find a Firecrest by the Villa and managed a couple of photos of the bird partially obscured.

Brownsea waders in flight

Returned to Brownsea Island this afternoon to find good light on the lagoon and Knot and Avocet closer than usual to the hides. My son Rowan eventually fell asleep in the pushchair, giving me almost an hour to take pictures without having to worry about what he was up to. The Avocet were their usual feisty selves, so there were some good opportunities for flight photography. A Redshank outside the Macdonald hide also performed well in flight, though most of the waders were in front of the Low Hide. Kingfisher eluded the camera again, though a few were seen darting around the lagoon.

The plan this week was to take some time off and travel if necessary to see and photograph rare birds - but leaving the car at home and getting the boat to Brownsea from home in Poole has proved just as enjoyable.

Tuesday 19 October 2010

Reflections on Brownsea

The light this afternoon and the proximity of Knot (below) and Avocet (above) on Brownsea made for some interesting reflections. I'm never quite sure how best to crop images with a nice reflection, though symmetry seems to be the key, so have gone with a square.

Monday 18 October 2010

Lost in the Garden

A photogenic Green Heron at the Lost Gardens of Heligan was enough to tempt me into a journey to Cornwall this morning at the start of a fortnight's holiday. The bird was reported at 0700 by garden staff at the top of 'the Jungle', and the garden opened at 1000, but after a couple of hours looking at its favourite ponds there had been no sign. Wandering down to the Lost Valley where the bird had been seen in previous days I was met my a very happy lady who confirmed that that was indeed where it had moved to.
I saw it fly on arrival and then after another half-hour it worked its way around to an open position in the sun. A few images had to be snatched through vegetation and the limbs of other photographers before the bird flew again. After it did so I remained in the same spot as others dispersed and a few minutes later it flew back to within 20ft and posed for these pictures.

More Green Heron and Grey Wag

A few more from Heligan.

Thursday 14 October 2010

Another American wader...

After seeing the Spotted Sandpiper on the Exe recently I didn't expect to be returning to Devon for another American wader so soon. But a work commitment in West Dorset on Wednesday put me within reasonably easy reach of Seaton Black Hole Marsh. The Solitary Sandpiper gave excellent views. Birders compared the differences with the Green Sandpipers also present but the key ID feature for me was the fact that you would never get that close to a Green Sand! When they did get together the differences were quite striking - the Solitary a paler bird with none of the rich brown colour of Green, and looking much sleeker and longer winged, plus the obvious difference of the dark rump seen in flight (lower photo). Top marks to East Devon District Council for their work on this reserve, no longer their best kept secret.

Monday 11 October 2010

Spoonbills on Brownsea

Eleven Spoonbills were the highlight on Brownsea Island today, with at least four still showing their juvenile black primary tips in flight as they circled the lagoon. One bird was also colour-ringed (large blue ring over small gold metal ring on left leg, large yellow ring on right leg) though trying to read the letters/numbers at distance was like having a really difficult eye-test. I failed. Not as difficult, however, as trying to negotiate the baffling array of colour-ringing schemes for Spoonbill described on the European colour-ring birding website, though I think I worked out that the best thing to do is to e-mail a man called Otto of the Dutch Working Group for Spoonbills. He can apparently tell me where it's from or put me in touch with another Spoonbill-ringer who can. Imagine pulling one of those out of the nets at Culverwell...Large numbers of Avocet and Blackwits also present (had kids with me, so a count was out of the question), plus an Autumn-watch cameraman sitting motionless in a tent hide all day, and brief but tickable views of That-Jeremy-Hardy-off-the-telly.

Brownsea funghi

A profusion of mushrooms and toadstools on Brownsea today, most beyond my limited powers of identification. Fly Agaric (top) was easy enough, and I think the others are Common Yellow Russula (centre), and Rose Russula (bottom).

The Fly Agaric looked like a perfect specimen until my 3 year old son accidentally kicked it over, swerving to avoid a group on the path who had gathered to admire it. The sounds of an ear being clipped would have been heard from the mainland had they not been so understanding - and fortunately there were plenty more elsewhere on Brownsea.

Brownsea Lagoon

Despite many waders being present on the Lagoon today, few came very close to the hides - just this one Black-tailed Godwit in fact. Little Egret, although present in numbers, also remained fairly distant with one or two exceptions, including this vocal and flighty bird which fed in front of Macdonald Hide.