Archive for Apr, 2014

30
Apr
14

Six Whistler

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There’s a strong passage of Whimbrel at the moment. I think these are charming birds. The old English name for them is ‘Six Whistler’ which originates from the call they make. I have sometimes heard their call at night as they migrate.

I was taking a couple of photographers down the beach the other day when high above us we could see a group of waders flying east out to sea. I couldn’t hear then because of the waves on the beach but it was possible to see they were Whimbrel. I emulated their call. When I’ve done this in the past a flock usually alters course, swings around me and given me a closer look before continuing on their way.

Sure enough the birds dropped a little and came for a closer look. I was quite surprised however when they pitched lower and landed on the beach in front of us. The beach was busy with dogs and people so they didn’t stay long before they were once again on their way. So wonderful to have a close look at them.

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Whimbrel 1

The hanger-on at the tail end of the flock was a Bar tailed Godwit – I guess if you’re a Godwit and need a friend any long beak and a decent pair of legs will do.

Whimbrel 2 Whimbrel 3

28
Apr
14

A study of Sand Martins

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When I was out and about the other week I noticed that Sand Martins were making use of a new cliff formed by last winter’s storm surge. They appeared well lit by the sun as I looked north out to sea.

 

I went back this last weekend to photograph them as they hung in the wind above the cliff. Photographing small birds in flight is never easy but I resolved to try and at least get a few half decent shots. It was more about studying techniques and methods of getting sharp shots in the changing light rather than composition or the subject but you just can’t help but love these tiny martins.

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Sand Martin Studies

26
Apr
14

Magical

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Always mesmerising. Forever beautiful. We came across this Firecrest feeding in a conifer on a Norfolk Birding Tour the other week. We watched it, as always, completely spellbound.

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Firecrest

24
Apr
14

Cetacean Fingerprints

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The skin of cetaceans is surprisingly sensitive and easily marked. A scrape or a rake here, a brush with a predator there and a mark will be left forever. Many of the toothed dolphins and whales feed on squid. Squid can  also leave marks with their fearsome beak (mouthparts) or with its suckers which can attach ‘limpet-like’ to the head of a dolphin.

The sensitivity of cetacean skin is perhaps best exemplified by Risso’s Dolphins. Here’s a photo of an adult we saw off California last month showing the hieroglyphic like markings amassed over time which ultimately can be used as an aid to  the identification of individuals – like cetacean fingerprints. Click the photo to enlarge the detail.

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2014 03 04 Risso's Dolphin Monterey Bay California_Z5A2817

22
Apr
14

The Green Flash

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I have watched many sunsets in my time; seen more than I have yet to see that’s for sure. I’ve watched the day slip away over the horizon so many times, always beautiful, always different, always worth the pause to watch.

Each time I’ve looked for something I read about as a child. The Green Flash. It only occurs with an uninterrupted view of the horizon, usually when the sun sets over water. It’s a rare optical feature that can be caused by a number of circumstances. It lasts for just a second. A fleeting moment. All those sunsets and I’d never seen it.

Last month Sharon and I were unsuccessfully looking for Snowy Plovers at Bodega Bay. We failed miserably. I guess we just ran out of day. As we made our way back to the car from the beach we sensed the temperature drop and turned west to see the sun extinguish in the sea. I raised my camera and fired off a few frames to catch the last of the light. There it was. The Green Flash.

Click once and then click again to enlarge.

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2014 03 11 Bodega Bay California_Z5A8679

21
Apr
14

Hunting in Malta

Think what you want about Chris Packham but you have to give the guy credit he’s bringing this story home. No prizes for which T shirt he’ll be wearing on Springwatch this year. Do your self a favour and watch the first of his video diaries at http://t.co/EarJx7joLw … then write to your MEP – remember these are OUR birds.

20
Apr
14

A close scrape

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As we scanned through the flock of Crossbills they fed avidly; initially on the seeds from Larch cones. As they erupted into a chirping mobile flock we followed them to deciduous trees. Here they landed on the trunk of the trees. Like parrots at a salt lick they scraped at the bark with their bills. At first I thought they were after insects, but as I got closer I could see they were scraping the lichens from the bark. Something I have never seen them do before.

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2014 04 07 Crossbill Lynford Norfolk_Z5A2444

18
Apr
14

Seeking Mountain Chickadee

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It was mid March. We got to around 6000 feet before we saw snow in Yosemite National Park. Taking the winding road up to the ski station at Badger pass my shorts seemed somewhat inappropriate. A hasty change of wardrobe enabled a comfortable walk along one of the cross country ski trails. There were very few people around.

Walking among the pines it was eerily quiet. The sort of silence that’s disconcerting. Your own breathing and the snow folding under your boots are the only sounds. We walked for around an hour without hearing or seeing a thing; not even a whisper of bird song, not a call. Nothing.

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I played a tape of Mountain Chickadee. No response. Silence.

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I thought for a while … and played a tape of Northern Pygmy Owl … their nemesis,

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It was as if I had unzipped the cold air and birds came tumbling out. They wanted rid of their perpetrator big time. Manifesting themselves from nowhere Red Breasted Nuthatches, Ruby Crowned Kinglets and of course Mountain Chickadees all came to offer protestation.

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Mountain Chickadee

16
Apr
14

Mammoth Rocks

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Give the title of this blog entry you could be forgiven for replying ‘They probably did!’ However, Mammoth Rocks is in fact a place in Sonoma County, California.

It has always had this name but it has only recently taken on a true meaning. The outcrop, one of several in the area, stands on a raised beach. I believe one of the rocks is also called ‘Sunshine Rock’ due to it’s property of reflecting sunlight. Several of the rocks in this area have polished surfaces.

They have been polished over millennia by animals rubbing up against them so often and so regularly they have been worn away to a shiny surface; and these are not soft rocks. Adjacent to mammoth Rock is a shallow depression that was probably a mud wallow. Animals would wallow in the mud and then scratch those difficult to reach areas on the rocks. Only recently has it has been noted by the scientific community that some polished areas are too high for modern day animals. It is believed they were polished by Mammoths.

It was disappointing to note that the rocks were not being protected in any way and were being used by climbers. No information signs were erected and locals, including park officials, seemed unaware of the significance of what they have.

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2014 03 11 Mammoth Rock Sonoma Coast State Park California_Z5A8531

 

2014 03 11 Mammoth Rock Sonoma Coast State Park California_Z5A8479

15
Apr
14

Scottish Tour 2015

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Arrived back last night from the Scottish Birders long weekend. Excellent tally of 103 species including PTARMIGAN, CAPERCAILLE, BLACK & RED GROUSE, BLACK & RED THROATED DIVERS, SLAVONIAN GREBES, CRESTED TITS, SCOTTISH CROSSBILLS …. and so much more, despite some intimidating weather. If you are interested in the tour in 2015 register your interest by sending me a mail and I’ll send you details when they become available.

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2014 04 13 Crested Tit Scotland_Z5A3160




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