Posts Tagged ‘Accompanied Wildlife Tours

11
Jun
22

Ceta!

Coming back from Scillies the Common Dolphins were up to their usual antics. So wonderfully active these cetaceans.

03
Jun
22

Manic Magic

When you go to the Isles of Scilly birding it can be very weather dependent.

Before we arrived at the end of May it seemed all and sundry was arriving on the islands. Then landing alongside our cargo of excited guests arrived a stiff Northerly. It immediately blocked any further migrating birds. That is until the last day.

We had resigned ourselves to the fact we were not going to see much last Tuesday; our last day on the islands. Although the weather had been pleasantly warm and blue skies had prevailed it wasn’t the weather we were hoping for. We had seen the islands at their very best; full of flowers and colour. Even a few good birds did put in an appearance although they were few and far between. Places on aircraft and ship had been booked to relocate us all back to reality and we were making our way to Juliet’s Garden (known to those in the know as Juliet’s Panties) for a final lunch. As we walked along Porthloo Lane I was recounting tales of Yellow Billed Cuckoo’s and traffic jam creating twitches, when I heard a sound; a call of a bird that I knew well, but for a minute I couldn’t place it. The penny then dropped. I searched the top of the elms from where the sound emanated and there they were; four Bee Eaters.

The mood instantly changed in the group. News was immediately put out and people began to arrive. As I stared at the colourful Europeans something in the distance caught my focus. We had not seen a raptor all week and there was one now sailing across my field of view. A long tail and narrow wings confirmed a harrier. All grey; a male. Scillies, end of May. This should have been a Pallid or at worst a Montague’s. No. The wings were too broad and the dark wedges in the primaries too thick. The structure and flight were all wrong for a ‘rare’ harrier. This was a Hen Harrier. A Hen Harrier that had no right to be here at this time of the year. We watched it float high over Hugh town and out to St Agnes.

The Bee Eaters floated off high to the North. This was jat as well. I wouldn’t have liked to have left four Bee Eaters showing well … even for lunch.

Lunch was good. It always is at Juliet’s. We bade goodbye to some catching flights while others stayed to chat waiting for the Scillonian III to beckon. I relaxed in the warm sunshine and stretched out my legs and bathed my face in the heat. Staring at the sky I spotted another raptor. A small falcon. This was a bird on a mission. It was climbing, and climbing high. Compact, pale and as un-kestrel like as any small falcon could be. A probable Red Footed Falcon was leaving Scilly … vertically. No scope (packed away), the light and distance not on our side, it has to stay a probable.

The day however wasn’t done.

Leaving on the ship, a Minke Whale put in an appearance just outside the islands. Later a Harbour Porpoise rolled through a flat calm sea. At half way, marked by the Wolf light, a pod of Common Dolphin gave a ‘leaping show’ like no others can. However, what happened next had my jaw dropping.

As the ship steamed up the South coast of Cornwall we started to see flocks of Manx Shearwaters. Small flocks to start with, then bigger ones of a hundred or more birds. Then great ribbons of birds strewn across the sea in great discarded strings. Flocks encircled the Scillionian and at times it seemed as if the ship was sailing through shearwater soup. We estimated that in the last hour of sailing we saw Circa 10,000 Manx Shearwaters. the largest number I have seen of this species anywhere.

It all goes to show it ain’t over ’till the fat lady sings’.

21
May
22

A Collection

A few nice insects on the wing at the moment.

08
May
22

A stint in the hide

Last week a Temminck’s Stint was wandering around in front of one of the hides at Titchwell. It never did come close; perhaps because it was being seriously bullied by anything and everything. I guess if you’re a tiny wader you are going to get picked on. Quite a plain wader but very enigmatic little characters these guys.

28
Apr
22

A trembling foot

Sat in the Parrinder hide at Titchwell the other day I was photographing a pair of Little Ringed Plover. I noticed the male was ‘foot trembling’ whilst feeding. I have seen other waders, such as Lapwings, use this technique to presumably attract prey species to the surface but I’ve never seen it in use by a LRP before. BWP (Birds of the Western Palearctic) does not mention it either (as far as I can see). Here’s a short video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PN-Gh9–tk

25
Apr
22

Scotland

We had a great time in Scotland with an impressive tally of birds for the group. Specialities included. This was no doubt helped by the mild warm southerlies that brought on a spell of early migration. However, there was one bird that dominated the tour. At every single place we ventured from the vehicle this year we could hear and often see Siskin. They were everywhere!

16
Mar
22

Just the best place

The Solway has to be just the best place in the UK for photographing Goosanders. Photo taken on the latest trip to Southern Scotland. Next years tour dates are pending.

13
Mar
22

Where’s Wally?

Have a go. Where’s Wally?

25
Feb
22

plastic owl

I had an exchange of emails with Liam Smith last week. Liam is an active cinematographer and works for NBIS. If you don’t know what NBIS is or does you can educate yourself here.

Liam had seen photographs of the Eagle Owl at Oulton St Margaret’s Churchyard and had convinced himself that they showed signs of something around the legs. This was more of an impression that anything else. To show Liam what the owl may have been wearing had it been an escapee I showed him a photo I took of a falcon I photographed at Horsey some years ago.

I had gone to Horsey to find a Rough legged Buzzard that was floating around the area. I did indeed find the buzzard at some distance, and it was being stooped upon by a large falcon which I couldn’t put a name to, not with any confidence anyway. As the falcon relieved itself of frustration and ceased its attack on the hapless buzzard it flew towards me and passed within a few metres before alighting on the wooden steps leading over the dunes. As it cruised past, I could hear tinkling! The bird was wearing jesses and a bell. It was a falconer’s bird.

I crept up on the bird and took the photo below photograph which clearly showed leather aylmeri with brass eyelets.

Liam later came back to me and said he could possibly see a similar eyelet in one of my photos of the eagle owl. I must admit I think he’s right. What I’d taken to be a hind claw looks to me the more I look at it like a brass eyelet. Kudos to him. As suspected by many the eagle owl is indeed most likely an escaped falconer’s bird.

We’ll just have to keep looking for that true vagrant. :0)

31
Dec
21

Happy New Year

This year has been a strange one. A year of two halves and contrasts. The first half, once again like 2020, became a period of sedentary incapability. Tours and trips had to be cancelled. Unpicking the arrangements with boat operators and hotels is never easy. Indeed, sadly some of them financially went to ‘the wall’ as their business slumped.

I always said that because of the way I run the business, and my financial affairs, WT&E would front out anything thrown at it no matter how long the lockdown, without the help of government handouts. Little did I know that the business levels in the second half of the year would bounce back so strongly and so quickly.

Guests were keen to get back into the countryside and I couldn’t blame them, having been isolated and restricted for so long. However, safety of guests was paramount. Local day tours were conducted by guests following in their own vehicle and longer tours when we shared a vehicle were carried out against a background of testing by both guests and me. As a consequence, we had some good local tours and some effortlessly successful tours away.

A good relationship this year with ‘Wild Ken Hill’ and involvement in a small way with some of the good things they are trying to do there was very pleasing. Long may their rewilding and regenerative agricultural development continue.

Still no trips abroad. I feel it would be foolish to commit to these yet. To do so in the current environment is inviting difficulty and potential unnecessary expense. Maybe in 2023. The wilds of Australia, North and South America will all still be there; as will the Atlantic Islands. All on our agenda.

A single new bird for me during the course of the year was the Syke’s Warbler on Blakeney Point in September. The supporting cast of other birds, dragonflies, butterflies and cetaceans were many, but perhaps the pick of the crop was the Sei Whale in the Firth of Forth.

The accompanying photo I took of a Sanderling last week, a bird renowned for running up and down beaches, perhaps summarises the year; a lot of backwards and forwards.

All in all a good year. 2022 promises even more. I hope above all hope the coming year gives you your needs and desires. Happy New Year.




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