Archive for the 'Cetaceans' Category

16
Jul
17

National Whale and Dolphin Watch

This years Sea Watch Foundation National Whale and Dolphin watch event will be held on Sunday 6th August from the slope at Overstrand off Coast Road NR27 0NG here in Norfolk. The watch will start at 11am and go on until 5pm. Please come and join us for as long as you feel able. You may also like to set up your own watch within the National Whale and Dolphin Week 29th July to 6th August. If you do please call me on 01263 576 995 and I’ll let you have the details you need – any help in recording cetaceans off Norfolk during this national event would be appreciated.

 

04
Jul
17

I never cease to be amazed

I was trying to photograph Orchids at Upton Fen the other day and a Marsh Warbler started to sing almost beside me. I saw it briefly before heavy rain set in but having a macro lens fitted for the orchids I never had the remotest chance of getting a photo. The thing is you never know what you’re going to come across.

I’ve been visiting the Farne Islands off Northumberland for many years, perhaps more than I care to remember. On our tour there the week before last I was talking to one of the wardens on Staple Island about rare terns I’ve seen on the islands in the past; Sooty Tern a few years ago and in the nineties a Lesser Crested Tern frequented the islands for several years each breeding season. I saw on it on a couple of occasions. She was christened Elsie – LC for Lesser Crested – get it? But perhaps the best tern I’ve seen there is the Aleutian Tern I jammed in on during my very first visit in 1979 – a random visit not a twitch – I hadn’t a clue what it was and I don’t think the warden who pointed it out to me as it flew low over our heads was at all sure either; but Aleutian Tern was mentioned in conversation.

The Farnes are spectacular. As we sailed there the other week I looked out over the sea. It was full of Auks (Alcids if you’re reading this the other side of the Atlantic). The feathered biomass sat on the flat calm surface was just something else. Every time I go there it never ceases to amaze me. Rare birds or no rare birds it is a place I love to visit.

We decided amongst our group that the Puffins were without doubt the highlight. As usual as they returned to their burrows they were running the gauntlet of piratical Black Headed Gulls; so intent on stealing the Puffins Sand Eel booty.

I caught one individual from below as it flew over. It reminded me of Davy Jones the fictional character in the Pirates of the Caribbean film series, portrayed by Bill Nighy. If you’ve seen the films you’ll know what I mean.

Next years tour is on the website and I’m already taking bookings – ping me a mail if you’re interested. If you are a photographer or a bird watcher this is the place for you. If you are both … you’ll be in heaven.

22
Jun
17

UK Mammal Tour 2018

Just one of the moments from our 2017 UK Mammal Tour last month. Download the itinerary for next years tour here

18
Jun
17

Tarts of the Sea

Some excellent dolphins in Madeira. Four species, Bottlenose, Atlantic Spotted, Striped and Common all put in an appearance. Some are more playful than others. Striped in particular are always boat shy but with a little patience an an excellent skipper good views can be obtained. Spotted however are the real ‘tarts of the sea’. They want to play with anybody.

12
Jun
17

Compensation

Madeira is without doubt a beautiful island. Eye popping panoramic views from ear popping montane roads; a warm climate, lush exotic fauna and idyllic azure seas. However, it wasn’t the lure of the islands beauty that took me there last week. It was the promise of a Bryde’s Whale.

This species of cetacean is known to summer around the island each year. I have been on a mission to see and photograph Bryde’s Whales (pronounced Broodas) for some years. This trip was a long time coming.

Upon arrival a word with several boat operators around the island revealed not a single Bryde’s had been seen this season. Not one. I was hoping with seven trips to sea booked that situation would change. However I was to be disappointed. They are late this year and at the time of writing have still not appeared.

However nature has a habit of compensating. It was on one of the seven trip we were to definitely pull something totally unexpected out of the bag.

The spotter situated on the hillside above radioed in to say he had seen a couple of animals that he thought were beaked whales. We were onto them. The skipper, Danial, brought the rib around and plotted a course. We were in the right area within minutes. Now all we had to do was find them. It was easier than I thought.

Around a quarter of all the world’s ninety or so cetaceans are beaked whales. They are deep diving enigmatic species more at home in the cold dark depths of the ocean than they are at the surface. Minutes viewable are usually followed by up to an hour or more kilometres deep. They are rarely observed for any length of time. Some species are almost completely unknown.

As we scanned the sea two fins, a scarred light grey back and a flat forehead meant I had seen my first Blainville’s Beaked Whales. I was overjoyed. These are creatures I have only ever read about and seen in books.

Compensation indeed.

27
Apr
17

Wales

A family break in Wales over the bank holiday weekend; but you take your camera and bins’ with you, don’t you?

White Bluebells

Bottlenose Dolphin

Bottlenose Dolphin

Chough

Early Purple Orchid

Raven

Red Kite

Red Kite

 

12
Mar
17

A juxtaposition of events

We went to watch ‘Kong – Skull Island’ the other night at the cinema. Give it a miss; thin non-captivating plot, mediocre acting and CGI worthy of no more than a computer game. It was a late showing so we drove back home quite late at night. I like driving in the dark. We went by the scenic route. Country lanes, field edges, roadside copses and overhanging trees. It was mild too. I expected badgers, deer, rabbits, hares and the odd owl. What did we get? … a single, lonely moth. Just the one!

And yet … earlier in the week we had been for a walk along the dunes to see the Grey Seals hauled out on the beach. We didn’t count them all but it was plain to see there were a lot. We estimated there to be 3000 over a mile or so of beach. It wouldn’t have been far from the true number. This is more than I’ve ever seen before… anywhere. The tide was high and it was a weekday with few people and dogs around. Seals will have been pushed here from the sandbanks off Yarmouth and there was little disturbance to push them back into the sea here so numbers would be at a peak. 3000 equates to 1% of the world population. Even this weekend when things were much busier with people I did a more accurate count on a lower tide and there was 1426. Less than half the number than a few days earlier but that’s still a lot of seal flesh perched on the sand. Nothing less than a wildlife spectacular. A scene from an Attenborough episode.

What a juxtaposition of events.

When we have such spectacles and numbers it’s easy to think everything is ok. To think things are on track; that nature is in balance and our wildlife is safe.

 




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