Archive for June, 2013

29
Jun
13

Magic

As we sat between mountains among the melee of Red Kites on our Welsh Tour an old friend came to visit us. Like a spectre emerging from the masses the White Kite made an entrance; bold and brash this bird. Quite at ease among his Red brethren he came to feed as confidently as the others. A genetic disorder, leucism, pales the birds plumage giving it a magical appearance. A magical bird in a magical setting.

(White) Red Kite

27
Jun
13

A stomach for it

Some people love them, some hate them. Without doubt a pelagic trip is the best way to see seabirds. There’s the rub … you need the stomach for it.

Earlier this month out of Tobormory in Mull we were lucky enough to have relatively calm seas and saw Storm Petrels, Manx Shearwaters and Great Skuas – one of which had been colour ringed in either Shetland or Handa Island to the north. At the time I took the series of shots of this Bonxie robbing a Kittiwake of a Sand Eel I never saw the ring. I almost discarded the one photo showing the ring as it was slightly out of focus but all the other shots in the series did not show the bird to be wearing a ring at all.

Storm Petrel

Manx Shearwater

Great Skua

25
Jun
13

In flight meal

We went on the East Coast Seabird Tour at the weekend. The freshening wind and the forecast of heavy rain created an anxiety. Ideal condition for photography seemed unlikely. We needn’t have worried the weather was more than suitable; the light throughout the weekend was excellent and we managed to dodge all but the odd shower.
We all had our own objectives; what we wanted to see or photograph. My own personal target on the Farne Islands was to get a shot of a Puffin in flight carrying Sand Eels.
Early indications are that the Puffins are having a good year and the Sand Eels are in good supply; although as the birds returned to their burrows with a catch they had to run the gauntlet of marauding Black headed Gulls intent upon stealing from them. Sometimes to evade theft the Puffins would fly almost directly headlong into the ground – maybe that’s a photographic target for next year’s tour. Register your interest in coming along by sending me a mail carl@wildlifetoursandeducation.co.uk

Puffin

As usual click on the picture to enlarge

23
Jun
13

Beguiled by birds

As you read this post I shall be off on our East Coast Seabirds Tour. More on that later but in the meantime I thought I would post a few more shots I took on the Welsh Tour.
We made a comfort stop and were beguiled by a selection of finches coming to feed. Always flighty, the Siskins and Redpolls teased us with how close they would come.

Common Redpoll

Siskin

21
Jun
13

My second love

Although birds are engrained within me; part of my genetic makeup. I have a love of cetaceans. This is a love that has to be fulfilled from time to time; not always easy in Norfolk.
I was pleased therefore to encounter a good sized pod of Common Dolphins last week off the Scottish West Coast around the island of Coll.
Do you remember a programme on Telly years ago where certain garden herbs were given characters? One was a ‘very friendly lion’ called Parsley; an extremely laid back character who took his time and never rushed. Another was ‘Dill the dog’ a chap that shot around like a yappy Yorkshire terrier. Well you can compare Bottlenose Dolphins to Parsley – easy going and thoughtful; the thinking man’s dolphin. The Dill the dog of the sea is without doubt the Common Dolphin.
We had upwards of 25 bow riding the boat and leaping in the air; playful in the extreme and a joy to watch.

Common Dolphin

19
Jun
13

Worth the wait

Sometimes you look for years for an opportunity and one day it just comes along almost as though it never really mattered.
Andrew (thank you buddy) had told me about a small colony of Black Guillemot he had seen nesting in a busy costal town on the west coast of Scotland a few years ago and I was keen to see if they were still there.
They were … in small numbers. Previously I had encountered Black Guillemot distantly from boats or sat on the sea offshore. These beautiful birds with their contrasting plumage were now within feet of me. Such a treat to be able to see and photograph them so close.
Several were courting … chasing and whistling at one another; completely oblivious to me. In the bright sunshine set against a seabed lit with so many colours they looked enchanting.

Black Guillemot

Black Guillemot 2

17
Jun
13

A quest accomplished

Across the hay meadows of Iona this week we could hear Corncrake. Seeing them however was a different matter.

We had decided last autumn when we were in Canada that a break in Scotland during late spring would be good. I have always wanted to photograph Corncrake and the Scottish Islands are their stronghold. We therefore decided to stay at the south end of Mull so we could take the ferry to the island of Iona if the weather was suitable to try for the Corncrakes. A quest was born.

The problem was the vegetation was far too long. Yes we’d had a cold spring but in the last week or so warm sunshine and showers had brought on the meadows. The vegetation was over head height for a Corncrake. Plenty of crakes calling but very difficult to see let alone photograph.

Iona is an island steeped in religion. It has become a place of pilgrimage for both the religious and the curious. Priest after priest making the walk from the ferry quay to the Abbey stopped and asked
“Have you seen them yet?”
“Yes” was the reply “…but not well enough to photograph”
“I’ve been coming here for 30 years and not seen one yet” said one.
Great. The temptation is always there to go in close and wade into the field. This is a protected species. A bird on the edge of extinction as a breeding bird in the UK and therefore deserving of its schedule 1 status. It must not in any way be disturbed and to be fair who wants to photograph the arse end of a Corncrake as it jettisons to the other side of the island anyway. ‘Just let the bird come to you of its own accord’ I kept telling myself. I patiently waited on the road, peering over a stone wall towards one calling individual which was presumably still unpaired. Head shot after head shot with the bird hidden among buttercups was the norm.

Eventually at the end of the second day trying the bird did indeed come to me and I got a half decent photograph … the quest was accomplished.

The usual view.
Hidden Corncrake

The view eventually.
Corncrake

15
Jun
13

Rock around the Quay

At the beginning of the month on our tour to Wales we were stood looking out to sea. Singing out across the harbour rang the song of a Pipit… a Rock Pipit. It took a little while to locate it but there it was atop the mast of a sail boat; the highest song post available.
It then took us all by surprise by flying down to our feet. Quite at ease with passers-by it happily meandered between us.

Rock Pipit

13
Jun
13

Hard to Swallow

At the local reservoir the other day the cold morning air kept the insects down closer to the water’s surface. The Swallows followed and were more obliging for photographs.
Birds in flight especially something as erratic and fast as a Swallow are never easy to capture but with a little patience it’s possible to get a decent shot or two. I set out with the intention of getting a shot of the tail spotting of a nice long tailed male.
This shot was taken using the camera (Canon Eos 5D with a 100-400mm zoom lens fitted) on manual setting with a shutter speed of 1/2000th of a second and the aperture wide open at 5.6. The ISO was set to automatic and a reading taken from the ground at my feet. The ISO was then set to the resulting 640. As usual click to enlarge.

Swallow

11
Jun
13

A River of Honey

On a recent trip into the Yorkshire Dales we walked along one of the rivers that tumbles down the valley draining the moors above. The water was heavy with peat deposits and the bright sunshine was turning it a rich golden colour. A resident colony of Mandarins that now breed within the valley could only add to the opulence of the scene.

Mandarin




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