Archive for the 'Cetaceans' Category

22
Jul
21

Brows and blows

After a busy few months Tania and I wanted to get away for a few days. So we made a plan. First stop Bempton to see the Black-browed Albatross. I’d seen the Sula Sgeir bird a decade or more ago but how could you say no to an Albatross in British waters. You just ‘have’ to go and see it. They are the bees knees of seabirds. A thought not shared by the Gannets who didn’t take to their larger cousin at all. He ousted a few off the cliffs to crash land among them. Tania had great views of the bird as she looked down on the bird circling below her.

First part of the plan completed we thought we’d carry on North and visit Kinghorn. Now this is the second time this year I’ve called at this pretty village just over the Forth from Edinburgh. I paid a visit at the end of May. The idea then was to see if the guests on the UK Mammal Tour could add Sei Whale to their lists. Despite it’s rarity in UK waters there had been one kicking around in the Firth of Forth for a few weeks. Sadly it wasn’t to be as the whale didn’t play ball. However, Tania and I thought it would be worth a revisit this week as the Sei Whale was still being seen with some regularity. It took some time, but eventually the third largest animal on the planet graced us with a ‘swim-past’. In fact two; once going up river and then a second as it returned East. Thanks to Ronnie Mackie for his invaluable help and great company in seeking out this addition to our British mammal list. The last time I saw one of these creatures it was amid the clear waters of a Chilean Fjord on the day Tania and I first met; a long way from a small seaside town on the East coast of Scotland.

02
Jun
21

Whale Whispering

Just finished the penultimate day of our UK mammal tour. We went whale whispering to the East of the Isle of Staffa. Managed to call up three separate Minkes feeding in what was obviously a food rich area.

17
Apr
21

Bones of contention

I’ve been trying desperately to complete the final part of research for my book: ‘Cetaceans of Norfolk’. I’m now coming to the conclusion of writing up notes into a coherent volume which has taken me the best part of 9 years to complete.

I have been visiting quite a few parts of Norfolk over the last few days, some of which I’d not visited before, to photograph and measure whale bones. Some bones were used as arches some as fenders and others as fence or gateposts. Given whale bones are loaded with oil they last a long time; several hundred years longer than wood when partly buried in the earth. Given this is a resource that is no longer available the county has a decreasing number on show but there are still a few scattered through the county in gardens and farms. They are part of our heritage. I feel they needed to be audited and recorded, so as part of the book there’s a chapter dedicated to whale bones within the county.

I visited one rather remote farm yesterday. On the approach track was a large display of Primroses the like of which I have never seen before. I’d spoken to the lady occupier on the telephone so she was expecting me when I visited. I was quite taken a back as to how derelict the farm looked. The lady was extremely old and her health had obviously suffered of late. However, she was helpful in guiding me through the very overgrown garden to where the bones lay flat among the brambles. I took photographs, measurements, thanked the lady and left.

When I was little we had two farms in the family. I know how much effort is needed to upkeep farm land and farm buildings. It saddened me greatly that such a wonderful lady was living in what could be described as a near dilapidated house and garden. I guess it was the contrast between the beauty of the approach track and the semi derelict farm buildings and garden that took me by surprise. As I sat in the car writing up my notes, I felt quite sad that poor health and circumstance was limiting what the lady could do to upkeep what had obviously been at one time a thriving, living farm. However, I looked up and a face at one of the windows of an outbuilding brought a smile to my face.

04
Feb
21

A walk to the Sea

The sea was full this morning; overflowing at the edges and pushing at the base of the cliffs. No wind so no waves but the swell was well over 2m. I had hoped a cetacean or two may break the surface but only a couple of Grey Seals put in an appearance.

Skylarks gave a backing to the percussion of Great Tits as I arrived at the cliff top. Plenty of Red-throated Divers still and the odd Brent moving West and then presumably back North; even a Great crested Grebe was on the sea evading the attentions of fish stealing gulls. However, there were a few new kids on the block. The Fulmars were back. On the cliffs, on the sea and gliding effortlessly by. Spring is around the corner.

05
Jan
21

Reminiscing

Over the New Year period, being in Tier 4 Norfolk and therefore restricted to home has given me time to think and reminisce.

I have been following the reports of Fin and Humpback Whales around the Isles of Scilly this last week with interest. I would so like to have been there. Sightings of whales were coming in thick and fast. It’s difficult to tell how many of each species were present but on one particular day there appeared to be nine animals around the islands. This is purely speculative on my part of course as some of the sightings may have been double counted and remember I am 400 miles away. In time when records are examined by the more than competent guys on the ground a truer number will be agreed.

The whole event took me back to some occasions in the past when I’ve been surrounded by whales myself. One came to mind. In the bay of Funday 2016 I remember thinking I could have walked out on the Humpbacks that were gathering in the mist around the boat. Later on in the same week a pod of Fin Whales came at the boat. Let’s just think about that for a moment. Each whale around 20 meters long and weighing about 47,000 kg. moving at 20 knots, making a bow wave and coming straight towards where I’m stood on the deck of a 60 foot cruiser one and a half metres above the waterline. There were around ten of them. That’s close to half a million kilograms of flesh coming straight at the boat. You get the picture. As they neared the beam they slipped under the keel and were away. Their wash dragging the boat sideways. A heart stopping moment. Wonderful, wonderful animals.

Some of the Fin Whales in the bay of Fundy – that’s the problem with telephoto lenses … they don’t fit everything in.

Humpbacks in the mist bay of Fundy

25
Dec
20

2020 – my best year yet.

I’ve been receiving cards over Christmas from family, friends, neighbours and customers and they all have had something in common. The wording has been different in each, but the sentiment has been the same … ‘better year in 2021’ … ‘hopeful for change’ … ‘can’t wait until restrictions eased’. You get the drift.

Well, Tania and I must have been on a different planet. We’ve had a great year.

We went on holiday to Florida, we got married, we’ve had the longest honeymoon in history and Tania got a visa to stay and work in the UK and got a Job in the middle of a pandemic. What’s to hate?

Sure, to be wrapped up in ourselves and completely insulated to the misery that is cruelly thwarting the world would be wrong. However, we have managed by careful and thoughtful practice to avoid crowds, be mindful of others and from day one wore gloves and masks when shopping and stayed at home when appropriate. These are OUR rules, not those of some twat in Westminster that can’t even comb his hair. We haven’t extended our liabilities up to the limits of recommendations. We’ve always worked within them. Long before Christmas restrictions my daughter and I decided that she wouldn’t join us this year. Because it was the sensible thing to do. Distance. Distance. Distance. If anyone decided otherwise then they are doomed to disappointment.

So, the best moment of 2020? There have been a few. I’ll cover some in a future post but one moment springs to mind where we shared an evening with a calling Barred Owl. Disappointingly it never did emerge from its hole in a large tree. We were within Mahogany Hammock in the Everglades. As darkness crept through the trees and shapes turned into imaginations a lightshow emerged. A million diamonds flashing in the dark. Fireflies, here there and everywhere. It was like being in a scene from Avatar. I was spellbound.

In reality, the best part of the year has to be spending so much time with Tani. I would guess you would think I have to say that, but to be honest who could not think the world of someone who takes with her a bit of grated cheese or muesli every morning. Just to feed the Robin that greets her in the dark on the platform of West Runton Station. A little Antipodean with a big heart.

Merry Christmas to one and all.

03
Mar
20

Florida

The photos from our trip to Florida are now published here if you have the time to take a look.

 

31
Dec
19

Goodbye 2019

Well, we’re nearly there. A new year. A new future. A new start.

As we stride forward over the threshold drinking our ‘cup of kindness’ it’s hard not  to look back. For Tania and I it has been a year of paperwork, patience and facetime. That’s now over. For good. 2020 will cement our future… together.

On the wildlife front 2019 was again full of sightings. The Bay of Biscay trip sits high on the list of favourites; how can a rare petrel and a cast of whales not be up there. Lots of highlights on the tours and day trips. Two trips to Australia were also up there. A place I’ve become to regard as my second home. However, the trip Tania and I did to the South coast of Victoria in July around Warrnambool sits atop the pile. Just the variety of birds, wildlife, locations and photo opportunities was just fantastic.

So what of 2020. Florida is on the agenda, the Forest of Dean. Oh! … and a Wedding! The round the UK mammal tour will run as will Central Scotland and the East Coast Seabird Tour. Cornwall, Scillies, and Cumbria are also all booked and will run. Whatever, 2020 brings it’s set to be exciting, different and interesting. I couldn’t ask anything more from life.

The photo is a Black shouldered Kite that we spend a pleasant evening photographing on Victoria’s south coast. Happy New Year!

06
Sep
19

New Tours

Upcoming Tours for 2019/2020


Sat 5th Oct 2019 Norfolk Coast Migration: A search of hotspots along the coast for migrant birds – meet in West Runton or on route £49
To book email carl@wildlifetoursandeducation.co.uk



Sun 20th Oct 2019 Minsmere Migration: Migration will be well underway by October – meet in West Runton or on route £55 or £49 if meeting there. To book email carl@wildlifetoursandeducation.co.uk


 


Sat 15th Feb 2020 Goshawk & other Breckland Specialities: Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Hawfinch and Woodlark among others – meet West Runton or on route £55 To book email carl@wildlifetoursandeducation.co.uk



20th February to 24th February 2020 Southern Scotland Tour 5 Days visiting Lancashire and southern Scotland hot spots for winter birding. £698 More Details and booking instructions Here



13th to 15th March 2020 Norfolk’s Speciality Birds Long Weekend 3 Days visiting the Brecks, the North Norfolk coast and the Broads in search of all Norfolk’s speciality birds including Bittern, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Crossbill, Hawfinch, Lesser Spotted Wood Pecker, Woodlark etc Staying in a lovely Norfolk Hotel £466 More Details and booking instructions Here



Sat 21st Mar 2020 Minsmere Specialities: Dartford Warbler, early spring migrants, Black Redstart among others – meet in West Runton or on route £55 or £49 if meeting there To book email carl@wildlifetoursandeducation.co.uk



16th to 20th April 2020 Scottish Birders Special Tour . A concentrated tour seeking birds unique to the Highland Region. £799 More Details and booking instructions Here


 


Sat 25th Apr 2020 Essex Birding Day: Abberton Reservoir and surrounding area for early spring and very late winter migrants £59 or £49 if meeting there To book email carl@wildlifetoursandeducation.co.uk



Sat 2nd May 2020 Minsmere Migration: Bird migration will be well underway by the beginning of May – meet in West Runton or on route £59 or £55 if meeting there.To book email carl@wildlifetoursandeducation.co.uk



8th to 14th May 2020 Birders Tour to Mull A 7 day day tour exploring the Isle of Mull off the Scottish West coast calling in at Yorkshire and Lancashire birding hotspots. £1680 More Details and booking instructions Here


 


Sun 24th May 2020 Hertfordshire Butterflies: In search of the Duke of Burgundy, Small Blue and Dingy Skipper butterflies – meet in West Runton or pick up enroute £65 To book email carl@wildlifetoursandeducation.co.uk



27th May to 4th June 2020 UK Mammal Tour A 9 day tour covering the north of the British Isles searching out some infrequently seen mammals. Taking in Northumberland, East and Northern Scotland as well as the island off Mull £1867 More Details and booking instructions Here


Sat 6th Jun 2020 Badger Evening: An evening at a Badger Sett – No meal just hot drinks included – meet at a prearranged central Norfolk site £30 To book email carl@wildlifetoursandeducation.co.uk


Sun 7th Jun 2020 Norfolk Orchids Photography Workshop: A day concentrating on photographing Norfolk’s beautiful rarer orchids – meet in West Runton £55 To book email carl@wildlifetoursandeducation.co.uk


 

Mon 8th Jun 2020 Marsh Fritillary Day: A day trip to Lincolnshire to see one of our most beautiful butterflies – meet in West Runton or pick up en-route £59 To book email carl@wildlifetoursandeducation.co.uk



12th to 14th June 2020 East Coast Seabird Weekend watching and photographing the seabirds of Yorkshire, the Farne Islands and Northumberland. £462 More Details and booking instructions Here


 

Sat 20th Jun 2020 Black Hairstreaks and Wood Whites: A day in Northamptonshire to see one of the UK’s rarest butterflies and others on the wing – meet in West Runton or pick-up on route £59 To book email carl@wildlifetoursandeducation.co.uk


Sun 21st Jun 2020 Norfolk Hawker and Swallowtails: A day seeking out Norfolk’s two most iconic insects: meet in West Runton. £55
To book email carl@wildlifetoursandeducation.co.uk


Sat 27th Jun 2020 Nightjar Evening: Meet in West Runton for an evening watching Woodcock and Nightjars £35
To book email carl@wildlifetoursandeducation.co.uk


Sun 28th Jun 2020 Photographing Suffolk Orchids: A day concentrating on photographing Suffolk’s beautiful rarer orchids – meet in West Runton in Suffolk or on route £55 or £49 if meeting in Suffolk. To book email carl@wildlifetoursandeducation.co.uk



2nd to 6th July 2020 Birds and Wildlife of the Jurassic Coast on the Isle of Purbeck and the Dorset coast looking at birds of heaths and cliffs as well as Dragonflies and butterflies. £998 More Details and booking instructions Here


Sat 11th Jul 2020 Large Blue Butterflies: A day trip to Gloucestershire to see the largest of British blue butterflies – meet at West Runton or on route £69 To book email carl@wildlifetoursandeducation.co.uk


Sun 12th Jul 2020 Purple Emperors: A trip to Northamptonshire to see this most dazzling of British Butterflies – meet at West Runton or on route £59 To book email carl@wildlifetoursandeducation.co.uk


Sat 18th Jul 2020 Norfolk Butterfly Day: A quest to see half of the UK’s butterfly species on just one day – meet in West Runton £55
To book email carl@wildlifetoursandeducation.co.uk


Sat 1st August 2020 Norfolk Wader Day: A tour of the Norfolk coastline searching for waders returning south after breeding in the arctic – meet in West Runton £49 To book email carl@wildlifetoursandeducation.co.uk


Sun 16th Aug 2020 Brown Hairstreak Day: A tour to Suffolk in search of the most elusive of butterflies: the Brown Hairstreak – meet in West Runton or pick up enroute £55 To book email carl@wildlifetoursandeducation.co.uk


Sat 3rd and Sun 4th October 2020 Norfolk Migration Weekend: A weekend along the coast looking for migrants – meet in West Runton: one day £49 both days £90 To book email carl@wildlifetoursandeducation.co.uk



8th to 16th October 2020 Bird Watching on the Isles of Scilly 8 days during searching for and watching migrating birds on the beautiful Isles of Scilly. £1749 More Details and booking instructions Here


Sat 17th Oct 2020 Minsmere Migration: Autumn bird migration will be at its peak meet in West Runton or on route £59 or £55 if meeting there.
To book email carl@wildlifetoursandeducation.co.uk


 

Sat 31st Oct and Sun 1st November 2020 Norfolk Migration Weekend: A weekend along the coast looking for migrants – meet in West Runton: one day £49 both days £90 To book email carl@wildlifetoursandeducation.co.uk



7th & 8th November 2020 A Photographic Weekend in Wales:2 days in Wales Looking for the country’s special wildlife. Kites, Bottlenose Dolphins, leaping Salmon, Chough etc £289 More Details and booking instructions Here


 

31
Aug
19

Sociable

On our journey through the Bay of Biscay last month we came across a school of Pilot Whales. These are very social mammals; often touching as they swim together..

I shall be organising a trip through the bay next year in August let me know if you’re interested in finding out more mailto:carl@wildlifetoursandeducation.co.uk

 




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