Monday 31 August 2009

Citrine Wagtail at Marazion Marsh

A first year Citrine Wagtail was found on Friday 28th August feeding among the cut juncus in front of the standing stone viewing "platform" . It has remained faithful to this general area all weekend though would go missing for several hours at a time. I eventually saw it today at 11.30am but it gave frustrating views either hiding in the juncus or showing at long range. The images below were the best I could achieve.

This is the 15th Cornwall record, the first being 1982. Marazion is the most popular site with five records here. The last bird appeared in 2004 in virtually the same location.

EXIF Detail: Aperture Priority. F/10 Shutter speed 1/200s. Exposure 0.0EV. ISO 320. Focal length 840mm. Distance from bird approx 30m. All images cropped between 33% and 45%.
In addition, there is some video footage taken by John Chapple; please click on the link below:

Sunday 30 August 2009

Little Stint in the rain

I found this juv Little Stint today tucked away in a few feet of wet mossy grass, quite content and oblivious to my presence. The shots were taken from the car window at about 20 feet distance.

All the images were taken in RAW File, a format that I am now happy with and convinced that the final images are better quality than a JPEG file.

The light was awful and combined with driving rain and low cloud cover, I inadvertently underexposed slightly by about 1/3rd. All the images have been exposure-corrected in CaptureNX2 software, a simple task when using RAW.

I used the 600mm F/4 lens with 1.4x TC. I'm convinced that after a years' use of this monster lens, it works better with the 1.4 TC than with the 1.7x. The latter for me just gives too many out of focus images. Of the 195 images taken of this stint, approx 90% were in focus and only rejected because of poor composure.

The image below is a 66% crop and the maximum that the image could bare before pixellation became obvious.

EXIF Detail: Aperture Priority. Ap F/7.1 to F/9. ISO400. WB Cloudy. Shutter Speed 1/160s to 1/250s. Exposure from -0.3 EV to 0.0 EV.

Friday 28 August 2009

Pendeen Seawatch Friday 28th August

The tail end of Hurricane Bill was just enough to give Cornish seawatchers the best seawatch of the season so far. Most of us put in at least ten hours today and everyone was rewarded, though not everyone connected with every bird on offer. Only three saw the Little Shearwater and about ten missed the late Wilson's Petrel, including Lee Evans ;-) A lingering Red-necked Phalarope was an unexpected late find and from memory, this is the first accepted record since 1992 at Perranporth (correct me if I'm wrong).

The species of the day has to go to Sooty Shearwater. I personally counted 261 though undoubtedly more went unseen. The continual stream of sooties from first light was a rare sight to behold. I know Sooty Shearwater is not the rarest seabird, but you had to be there to understand this. Perhaps more expected were the five Sabine's Gulls, all adults still in full summer plumage. Two Cory's and five Great Shearwaters were also expected but one of the latter flying past the rocks in front of us gave stunning views.

The totals for the day are as follows:

261 Sooty Shearwater
5 Great Shearwater
2 Cory's Shearwater
30 Balearic Shearwater
2000+ Manx Shearwater
1 Yelkouan Shearwater (showing characteristics of)
1 Little Shearwater
1 Blue phase Fulmar
34 Arctic Skua (nearly all adults)
1 Pomarine Skua (ad)
23 Great Skua
6 Common Tern
6 Arctic Tern
32 "Comic" Tern
1 Black Tern
1 Sandwich Tern
9 Storm Petrel
1 Wilson's Petrel
5 Sabine's Gull
1 Common Scoter
3 Grey Phalarope
1 Red-necked Phalarope
1 Puffin
3 auk sp.

Wind direction: West to North West 23mph gusting to 50mph.

(The images above were taken today).

Monday 24 August 2009

Fresh autumn Northern Wheatears

These three images were taken last week and show a young, fresh male Northern Wheatear, probably no more than a couple months old. All of the feathers are clean and tidy and show no wear. The mantle also shows some down feathers. Young birds at this time of year are normally in far better plumage condition than the adult birds and make far better photographic subjects.

EXIF Detail: Aperture priority F/7.1 Focal length 840mm. ISO 640. Shutter speed 1/400s. Exposure 0.0 EV. WB Cloudy. All RAW files. Taken from the car window resting on a sofa cushion.

Saturday 22 August 2009

Juv Dunlins at Davidstow

The two juv Dunlins were taken at Davidstow disused airfieled last week. They seemed to be attracted to the sheep****.

The photos were taken with a 600mm F/4 with a 1.4x Teleconverter from the car window. Original EXIF detail is: Focal length: 840mm, Shutter speed 1/800s, ISO 640, WB Cloudy, Exposure -0.7EV, Aperture F/7.1. They were all taken in RAW format. Many thanks to Sam Williams for helping out with the problem solving!

Ringed Plovers at Davidstow

These shots of Ringed Plover were taken last week on Davidstow Airfield. A new laptop and Nikon Capture NX2 software has now enabled me to take shots in RAW. Several people in the know have recommended RAW but you do need the most powerful pc available to use the program properly. That said, my 4 gig ram Packard Bell is still struggling to cope with the 22 meg files.

I can see the difference in the quality of the final image compared to the previous JPEG Files. The beauty of RAW of course is that you can make some drastic alterations to exposure and white balance afterwards. In a nutshell, as long as the image is in sharp focus, you can recorrect every mistake to make a poor shot look reasonable.

The light was really poor when I took these shots, varying from low mist to bursts of sunshine. The original dull shots were barely acceptable though the exposure has been tweaked upwards to yield some fair results.

The photos were taken with a 600mm F/4 with a 1.4x Teleconverter from the car window. Original EXIF detail is: Focal length: 840mm, Shutter speed 1/800s, ISO 640, WB Cloudy, Exposure -0.7EV, Aperture F/7.1.

Thursday 20 August 2009

A Stormy day at Pendeen

An early start at Pendeen today, based on a 22mph westerly wind with stronger gusts forecasted, prompted Royston, Linton and myself to settle down for a long haul seawatch. John Foster later joined us. From the outset, Storm Petrels steadily moved through in a westerly direction, sometimes in loose groups of up to seven birds. Most were easily identifiable as they moved just past the three rocks in front of us. By 1.00pm, well over 200 were counted, itself a good Cornish record so the day will be remembered mostly for this species.

However, just after 1pm, we found an obviously larger petrel with a different flight pattern. I had been checking every stormy meticulously for its' white under wing bar and eliminating any other possibilities. This individual though showed no underwing bar but did show paler upperwing greater coverts and quite a strong, more obvious white rump. The direct flight interspersed with glides reminded me immediately of Wilson's Petrel. Both Royston and Linton connected but sadly John Foster didn't.

The day didn't end at 1.30 though as John Foster and Brett Richards upstaged us all with a Madeiran Petrel just after 6pm. It just shows that you should never leave a good seawatch.

The morning 's totals between 7am and 1.30 pm were as follows:

3 Great Shearwater
6 Sooty Shearwater
4 Balearic Shearwater
100 + approx Manx Shearwater
204 Storm Petrel
1 Wilson's Petrel
1 Arctic Skua ad pale phase.
3 Bonxie
1 Grey Phalarope
14 Little Tern
9 Sandwich Tern
3 Commic Tern
1 Arctic Tern
9 Whimbrel

Tuesday 18 August 2009

CBWPS Field Meeting - Sunday 23rd August

A dismal start to the day with mist, drizzle and rain deterring all but the hardiest ! The mist soon disappeared though by the early part of the morning. Some 25 birders were seawatching today on the Porthgwarra headland in a breezy southwesterly. We were given reasonable views of most of the birds on offer including three Great Shearwaters, one of which showed well in front of us eventually veering away at the Runnelstone Bouy. Four Sooty Shearwaters flew past with two showing well. Two Choughs unexpectedly flew over calling loudly.

Total counts for the morning from 7am to 12.30 are as follows:

3 Great Shearwater
4 Sooty Shearwater
16 Balearic Shearwater
150+ Manx
1 Black-throated Diver
9 Common Scoter
4 Great Skua
200+ Gannnet

2 Chough

Many thanks to Simon Taylor for the photo.

Sunday 16 August 2009

Pendeen seawatch was Great today

A light westerly breeze was enough today to attract about ten birders to Pendeen Watch. The photo below was taken today by Keith Hargreaves and includes from left to right: Brett Richards and Mrs Richards, (?), John Foster, Ray Archer, Steve Rogers, Irene Archer, Royston Wilkins, (?), Linton Proctor and Brian Mellow.

Arguably the best seawatching in Cornwall for the last week or so, a decent haul of shearwaters including two Great Shears' was enough to put a smile on our faces. Albeit distant, the distinctive jizz, black cap and white underparts could be seen. A difficult and distant adult Sabine's Gull was the first for the year whilst a large raft of feeding Manx Shearwaters and Gannets offshore was quite a sight.

(Note: above Great Shearwater was taken by myself on last year's Scillonian Pelagic).

Additional totals are as follows:

9 Balearic Shearwater
1000+ Manx Shearwater
5 Sooty Shearwater
3 Cory's Shearwater
2 Great Shearwater
1 ad Sabine's Gull
4 Arctic Skua
6 Great Skua
1 Storm Petrel
9 Whimbrel
1 Peregrine

Waders moving through the county

This weekend has seen a marked movement of small waders through the county. These Dunlins and Ringed Plovers were taken at Davidstow whilst at Marazion Beach, up to 300 mixed Dunlin, Sanderling, Ringed Plover and Turnstone were feeding on the tide line. Walmsley also featured with a Wood Sandpiper and two jack Snipe.

These images were taken at fairly close range from the car window. The light was poor with some low mist hindering the all-important shutter speed.

Tuesday 11 August 2009

Sedge on the loose

The young Sedge Warbler was feeding intently directly in front of the main hide at Stithians Res on Sunday. A Sparrowhawk disturbed everything and the Sedge flew for cover into the Purple Loosestrife, just to the left of the main hide. I fired a continuous burst of about twenty shots and this was the best of the bunch. The edges of the image have been cropped and tidied up. I used the 300mm lens and 1.4x Teleconverter. A circular polariser drop-in filter was also unintentionally in the lens at the time.

Two from the hide

Below are two young birds seen from Stithians hide on Sunday. A family party of six Jays were feeding round the bird table at the Cut-off hide. A young Blackbird joined them and posed long enough for me to take a composed shot. I used the 300mm lens with 1.4x Teleconverter, handheld against the hide upright post. Aperture was set to almost wide open at F/5.6 so the depth of field was quite critical. It had the desired effect though of dropping everything behind the Blackbird out of focus.