Sunday, 17 August 2014

New images

After a spring & summer of chasing butterflies around, I thought it about time that i uploaded my images onto the website. There are still some gaps that i may be able to fill next year when I will hopefully have a bit more time.
Brown Hairstreak at Alners Gorse in Dorset.
I have also been to Yeovilton airshow again this year where it seemed that everything I was interested in was either cancelled or broken down which was both frustrating & dissapointing.
BBMF Spitfires
I have also been on a AK wildlife cruise around the cornish coast, setting off from Falmouth. Despite covering over 70 miles, my hope of seeing & photographing Corys & great Shearwaters was dashed due to a complete lack of birds! Keith the captain  & Sophie (his helper for the day) on the boat were both knowledgeable, polite & enthusiastic & managed to get us on to both Harbour porpoise & Risso`s dolphin, Barrel Jellyfish (enormous & a bit scary), Grey seals, Peregrine, Artic Skua & terns, Manx Shearwater & Fulmar. They have managed Minke & Fin whale, Basking & Blue sharks, Common & bottle-nosed dolphin, Common seal, Sooty shearwater & storm petrel on recent trips & just goes to show that on the right day with a bit of luck on your side you will have a storming day. 
They operate all year round & I may be tempted to go back in the depths of winter with the promise of close ups of the 3 resident diver species!
More info & to book please visit AK wildlife cruises
Record shot of Risso`s dolphin
As you may have noticed, I infrequently update the blog page now. This is because i also have a flickr page which is where i tend to put my newest work. Please click on the link on the R/H side panel to visit. There are wildlife, aviation & Astro images there to look at. Flickr
Cheers for now........



Monday, 8 July 2013

Butterfly time

Its that quiet time of year for birds & birding when we go chasing after other winged creatures to satisfy our "collecting" urge (as in collecting species seen, not physically capturing them). This year I have managed to see a few species of butterfly that I have not seen or photographed before. These included the tiny Small pearl-bordered fritillary & Marsh fritillary. I have also had a massive influx of Meadow browns in my garden over the last week & a few Marbled whites, both of which i have not seen here before. What is missing this year so far is Holly blue which I can usually find in my front hedge. I may have had a fleeting glimpse the other day but it was too far away & too brief to be sure. Some of the following shots are recent & some are from previous years.
Large skipper
Large skipper

Large blue

Marbled white
Marsh Fritillary

Marsh Fritillary

Meadow brown

Purple hairstreak

Purple hairstreak

Silver-washed fritillary

Silver-washed fritillary

Small pearl-bordered fritillary

Small pearl-bordered fritillary

Small skipper

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Tamar Otter & wildlife center

Whilst spending a few days away in Cornwall with my family, I discovered this fantastic little place near Launceston. It is owned & run by Mandy & John Allen & funded totally by income received from visitors. British & Asian (Short toed) otters can be seen in several open enclosures with low fences affording great close up views when they come out to feed. They are fed twice during opening hours & the noise has to be heard to be believed especially from the Short-toed otters. Artificial holt's are built into the enclosures some with glass tops so you can also peer into the sleeping chambers where they retire after feeding.
Its not just Otters though. They also have a woodland walk with Fallow & Muntjac deer, Wallaby's & Turkeys. Aviaries are dotted through the woods with raptors & Owls. Feed bags can be bought to hand feed the deer & numerous Peacock & chickens, great fun! Various talks are given throughout the day & are very informative. You also will get opportunities to handle owls & birds of prey.
At the end of the woodland walk in a small disused quarry, is another enclosure that I was quite keen to see. This houses the centers Scottish wildcats but unfortunately they can be hard to see & I never got so much of a glimpse while I was there. This could be a great excuse to go back though!
The center has a picnic site, award winning cafe & small shop for souvenir's. The terrain is easy going & gravel paths are throughout.
The place has a friendly atmosphere & the keepers are always around to answer any questions.
Please visit the website at http://www.tamarotters.co.uk/Welcome.html for more information & if you are in the area or live close by, please pay a visit. You wont be disappointed.






Friday, 17 May 2013

A morning In the Quantock coombes

I spent this morning wandering up through Hodders coombe on the Quantock hills, near to my home in Somerset. I was thinking on the way up that the leaf cover may be to much to see anything, how wrong I was. Due to the prolonged cold spell, spring has only just sprung up on the hills & many of the trees are only just starting to sprout fresh leaves.
My targets for the trip were the 3 woodland specialities of Redstart, Pied flycatcher & Wood warbler, all summer migrants. Wood warbler was in the bag after only 5 minutes up the coombe, its trilling song giving its position away. Further up the footpath, Pied flycatchers started to be heard & seen. The female below posed beautifully. A couple of the males also allowed me to grab a bit of video footage as well. At this point I was starting to think that there were no Redstarts here yet when I heard a bird calling further along the path.  
I found a pair down in a gulley catching insects above the stream. A convenient fallen log was used to rest the lens on to get the shots below. Also seen in the coombes were Mistle thrush, Jay, Great spotted woodpecker, Goldcrest & various tits.
 I walked back along the high road across Higher Hares knapp & saw more Redstarts as well as Tree pipits, Meadow pipits & Whitethroat.
Female Pied flycatcher

Wood warbler

Wood warbler

Female Redstart

Male Redstart
Male Redstart

Meadow Pipit


Tuesday, 23 April 2013

A place I have never heard of.

Today I went to a place that I have never been before. I hadn't even heard of it until the 21st when news went out about a Woodchat shrike at North Widcombe. Where the hell is that I thought? Well it happens to be behind Herriots pool (Chew valley lake). Family commitments kept me away yesterday, so this morning I set off to have a look. I found a couple of people already there, which helps in locating a small bird in a big area. "Where is it?" I enquired
 "It will be back in a minute. It sits on top of the hedge."
I looked over the hedge in front of me to the next hedge about 50m away.
"What that hedge?"
"No this one in front of you!" was the answer.
Bearing in mind that we were only about 3-4m from this hedge, I found it hard to believe that any self respecting Woodchat would come anywhere near us. The ones that I had seen before were very flighty & you were lucky to get within 50m of them.
"There it is look!"
I spun around & there it was on a brier bough, initially looking a bit nervous, but soon settling & ogling any passing large insect. After firing a few "bankers" off, I looked at the distance on the lens & saw that it was only 10m from me. Over the next hour, it continuously came back to the hedge, sometimes carrying an insect. I saw it eat a very large furry Bumble bee, which someone likened to me swallowing a 1/2 pounder whole......Now theres a challenge.






video

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Pyrenees long weekend.

Some of you will already know about my recent trip to the Spanish pre-pyrenees with Heatherlea, through following my ramblings on twitter. Myself & 3 companions set of on the 21st of feb for Gatwick where we were to fly out on the morning of the 22nd after an overnight stay in a local hotel. We met with Kevin Shaw (owner of Heatherlea) & the 6 other members of the party & checked in. The short 2 hour flight to Barcelona was followed by a 4 hour minibus journey to the village of Loporzano, to the Boletas birdwatching center which was to be our base for the next 3 nights. The weather was unseasonably cold with a strong biting wind. The skys were clear & blue for the most part though & the following pics do not tell you how bloody cold it really was!

 This is owned & run by Josele Saiz, a birder & guide with un-paralleled knowledge of birding in Aragon & exceptional determination to get you the birds that you have come to see. While Josele is guiding, The guest house is run by his partner Esther Diago. Local ingredients prepared by Esther into delicious local & mediteranean dishes are a welcome sight after a long days birding.
Our birding started as soon as we got into the minibus at the airport with Spotless starlings & Yellow-legged gull. White stork, Red kite & Griffon vulture were all seen from the bus. A short stop at a ruined castle near Loporzano, failed to turn up a hoped for Black Wheatear though.
Saturday was to be the start of our birding proper. A Black redstart was found outside the front door & Spotless starlings lined the rooftops. A pair of White stork roosted on the church tower all the time we were there.


We travelled to Riglos where the sandstone pillars tower above the small village.

We were looking for Wallcreeper one of the two target birds of the trip. Unfortunately, we didnt have any luck but Blue rock thrush & Alpine accentor were good consolation birds.


Griffon vultures were ever present & Red Kite were also seen.


From here we travelled to a dam (name eludes me) to again look for the elusive Wallcreeper. And elusive it stayed, but we did get distant views of a pair of Lammergeier, Golden eagle & closer views of Crag martin. A couple more places were checked on the way back including a small quarry along the road. 

A walk around a steep sided valley near Loporzano showed evidence of Eagle owl, but due to the strong cold wind, no sightings were made.
The next morning was spent at a Lammergeier feeding station, higher up in the mountains where a dark juvenile was spotted  on the ground with what looked like jackdaws. We then realized they were Raven! This is one huge bird. It was probably the best part of 500m away but looked good through the scope. A few minutes later an adult pair appeared from nowhere & gave the group a fantastic flypast, eventually joined by the juvenile. Rock bunting, Corn bunting & crested larks were all seen on the trip up.






Next it was back to Riglos for a picnic lunch & more staring at rock! Josele had had a tip off that the Wallcreeper had been seen twice in the last week at the far end of the cliff face during the afternoon. With a growing sense of "here we go again" now in the group, we made our way around & got into position. After about half an hour, one of the group spotted something about 50m up the cliff. Then as it parachuted down to ground level, we all got a glimpse of a Wallcreeper. Josele then told me to go up to the base of the cliff, some 25m above us & get some pics. I didnt need telling twice & was off like a scared cat up the scree. A couple of bankers from about 30m away in the bag, I decided to try & get a little closer. As the bird flitted & fed around the cracks & crevices, it often disappeared from sight. I used these opportunities to creep closer & ended up around 15m from the bird still happily pulling many spiders from the cliff face.





Needless to say we were all very happy as well as relieved that we had finally finished staring at rocks & dams. Josele's persistance had payed off.
View from the base of the cliffs at Riglos.
The following morning found us again at the Eagle owl valley. This time scope views were gained of an owl on the nest, tucked into a alcove in the cliff face. Next was a Raptor viewpoint above a lake formed by yet another dam. The drive up along a twisty icy dirt track, with sheer drops to the side was an experience that a few did not want to repeat. The bird we were looking for here was Bonellies eagle. It is a very rare bird, but the Pyrenees is a strong hold for them in Europe. Scoping around, I found a small herd of Spanish Ibex on the opposite hill side. Black & red kite, Golden eagle, Griffon vulture & Goshawk were all spotted from here. Then Joselie hit the jackpot again & found a pair of Bonellies sat on top of an outcrop a few hundred meters away.
Too far away for my camera, I took this pic with my phone through one of the groups telescopes. A drive to a lower, wetter area found us looking at a flock of many hundred Common crane, just in from Africa.
From here we then travelled south for a couple of hours to the Belchite steppes & to a new hotel for the night. Golden eagles were spotted on the way down as well as 3 Black kites & numerous Red kite. Crested lark lined the roads & white stork were also spotted.
Before breakfast the next morning, we travelled to La planeron to search for Duponts lark. Luckily the wind had dropped & the sun was about to rise into a clear cold sky. Several birds were heard singing as the sun rose, but none were were seen. Lesser Short toed, Thekla & calandra lark were all spotted in this area as well as a huge murmuration of Starlings. Josele commented that he had never before seen this before in the area. Next was a walk up through a narrow vally in a restricted military training area. Black wheatear, Rock bunting, Sardinian warbler & Thekla lark were all seen up through here.
Great bustard was the next target & a large group of around 30 was found on farmland in an area used by them year on year. The rough tracks in the area also allowed us to look for Black-bellied Sandgrouse. after a little off roading in the hired minibus, we eventually seen a single bird in flight & a pair on the track. Alas only scope views were obtained, but what a stunning bird!
The last morning was spent at a wildfowl refuge where Red-crested pochard, a possible Feruginous duck & Penduline tits were added to the list. From here we travelled back to Barcalona to catch the flight back to a slightly warmer England!
Many thanks to Kevin, Joselie & Esther for an enjoyable if hectic trip.

Photography notes:
All bird photos were taken with with a Nikon D4 with Sigma 120-300mm OS lens with Sigma 2x teleconverter attached. All were taken hand held. Landscape & Bonellies eagle pics were taken with my phone!

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