Monday 30 November 2009

Leach's Petrels off St Ives but too late for the dark-rumped petrel

Royston Wilkins phoned me to tell me that he had just seen a dark rumped petrel off St Ives Island today.  Within 40 minutes I was on site and had seen five Leach's but sadly didn't connect with the darker bird which had flown into St Ives Bay.  Both Royston and Camborne birder Steve Cox found the bird very close to the beach, in fact, in the exact area as the old sewage outfall, so no more than 100 yards or so from the island car park.  From Royston's and Steve's verbal description, the assumption is a probable Swinhoe's Petrel though dark rumped Leach's Petrels cannot be ruled out.  I won't be putting any descriptions in this blog as I didn't see the bird.  In the meantime, the two Leach's Petrel images below were taken today in the exact area of the dark rumped bird.  So near but so far.

Sunday 29 November 2009

A Turdus in the garden

I took these shots this afternoon of this Redwing feeding on berries in my garden in Truro.   The garden is fairly sheltered so there wasn't too much camera shake.  There are about ten Redwings in the area.  Hopefully if it gets colder, there will be some berries left over for Fieldfares !

Another big storm at St Ives

A force 10 north-westerly gale overnight ensured impressive numbers of seabirds this morning off St. Ives Island.  Two year ticks and the best tally of Grey Phalaropes this year was worth the cold, the wind, the heavy showers and the £3.70 car park ticket.  Sadly the seven Little Auks were just too tricky and distant to photo well, as was the distant Leach's Petrel.  Below are some of the images of the day.  Apologies for the quality but considering the poor light and wind and distance of these birds, this was the best I could do.

Totals for the day included 28 Grey Phalarope, 7 Little Auk, 1 Arctic Skua (ad), 1 Arctic Tern, 1 Common Tern, 3 Red-throated Diver, several Great Northern Diver, 1 Manx Shearwater, 3 Balearic Shearwater, 3 Little Gull (all ads.), 1 Leach's Petrel, 130+ Common Scoter (mostly imms/females). 100's Auks, 100's Kittiwakes.

EXIF Detail: Aperture F/5.6.  Shutter speed 1/1000s.  ISO 800.  Exposure -0.3EV. White Balance Cloudy. Focal length 840mm.

Sunday 22 November 2009

More Pacific Diver images from Carnsew Pool, Cornwall

The four images below were taken today in far better light than yesterday. A two hour window allowed me to take these shots at a reasonably close distance of 50 yards. The red eye is just visible as is the chin strap.

In addition, John Chapple's video footage can be viewed on Youtube by clicking  here

Saturday 21 November 2009

Pacific Diver returns for third November on the bounce

An adult Pacific Diver was found by local birder Chris Barnard on Thursday 19th November at Carnsew Pool, Hayle.  Cornwall's first record was an adult found as recently as February 2007 in Mount's Bay.  Presumably the same adult then reappeared on the 23rd November 2007 and spent six days in the bay.  Dave Parker found presumably the same adult in November 2008.  Of interest, a visiting French birder (Frederick Jiguet) reported a possible Pacific Diver again in Mount's Bay on 2nd November 2009.  Thus it is most likely that we have a returning adult bird appearing in November in Cornwall. 

The most obvious difference between the local wintering Black-throated Divers are that they are all in full winter plumage, whereas this Pacific Diver still shows some summer plumage.  This feature was one of the original pointers to its' identity.  In addition, Black-throated Diver is rare at Carnsew Pool.

There are two other records for the UK, both juveniles.  The first UK record was a juv at Farnham GP, 12th Jan to 4th Feb 2007.  The second record was at Llys-y-Fran reservoir from the 2nd Feb to 20th Mar 2007.  From memory (correct me if wrong), this bird also reappeared at the same site, so there is obviously some site fidelity shown by Pacific Divers.  Another bird was also seen last week in Gloucestershire though at the time of writing, I don't have any more info on this individual.

Pacific Diver breeds NE Siberia , and north North America from Alaska east to Hudson Bay.  Winters in the Pacific Ocean, in Asia south to Japan and East China and in North America south to California and Mexico.

EXIF Detail: In poor light and rain.  Aperture wide open at F/5.6.  Shutter 1/250s.  ISO 500. Exposure 0.0EV. Focal length 840mm. Tripod mounted.

Friday 20 November 2009

Feeding Med Gulls

I took these shots tonight at Carnsew Pool while waiting for the Pacific Diver.  Sadly I missed the diver as it had just flown into St Ives Bay on the low tide.   I'll have another go tomorrow morning.  These Med Gulls though were superb as they fed on small crabs about 30 yards in front of us.

Monday 16 November 2009

Cornish storm delights the gulls and the paparazzi

These shots of Black-headed Gulls and a Little Gull were taken on Sunday immediately after the big storm of the weekend was abating.  The waves were still massive and hugely impressive as they crashed in front of me on the beach at Long Rock.  The light was changeable and angled towards me, creating some interesting perspectives.  Why paparazzi?  Most of the photographers were papping away at Porthleven - I wish I was there too but the gulls were more appealing.  Check out Keith Hargreave's images via this link: and also Bobbsters images : here

Sunday 15 November 2009

Big storm brings Little Gulls

The strongest storm of the winter so far delivered the expected increase in gulls, especially in Mount's Bay.  These first year Little Gulls were among hundreds of Black-headeds feeding in the heavy surf approx 30 yards off shore.  My gear is covered in salt spray but I think the images below were worth the trouble.  One can only marvel at these tiny little waifs which spend their winter in the Irish Sea

EXIF Detail: Aperture F/7.1  Shutter speed 1/640s (average). Exposure +0.3EV.  ISO 500. Matrix metering. Focal length 850mm.  Tripod mounted.

Thursday 12 November 2009

Pomarine Skua off St. Ives Island

I took these images of this Pomarine Skua off St. Ives Island last week. I posted a single image of this bird on the 5th Nov but several people have asked to see further images. The age of this bird is probably a second year. Juveniles and first years would show extensive barring on the underwing and flanks. The only hint of any barring is limited on the upper tail coverts, flanks and mantle.

The image below shows the bird's deep chest and heavy looking structure.

EXIF Detail: Aperture priority. Focal length:820mm. Ap F/5.6. Shutter speed 1/640s. ISO 1000. Exposure -0.7EV. Tripod mounted. All images cropped by 40%.

Tuesday 10 November 2009

First for Cornwall has a sting in the Taiga

Congratulations to Phil Clarke on finding Cornwall's first Taiga Flyatcher and only the UK's fourth. The odds on finding a county first are extremely slim and years of patch work in the St. Just area finally paid dividends for Phil. Unfortunately this bird spoilt the party though and promptly disappeared overnight, leaving locals distinctly upset.

But what can you do? The ID of such a rarity was still unsure as light fell. With a late afternoon find in quickly declining light, the first person to call is your closest neighbour with a camera...these shots were timed at 16.45hrs...ten minutes later it's dark. Sadly it disappeared overnight. The images were analysed that evening (Fri 6th) and the identity confirmed.

Key features of this bird are the all-black bill, black upper tail coverts (clearly visible on two of the images), neat row of pale spots on the greater coverts, pale edges to the tertials, pale nape and "shawl", generally dull white-grey underparts (compared to Red-breasted's buff colour) and a subtley different head pattern to RB Fly.

The BOU admitted Taiga Flycatcher (Ficedula albicilla) to Category A of the British List following the occurrence of an adult male at Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire on 23-29 April 2003 (sight record, trapped, photographed).

Taiga Flycatcher breeds across the high north Palearctic region east of c. 50 deg.E (east European Russia) from the Ural Mountains eastwards to eastern Siberia. Its breeding range overlaps that of Red-breasted Flycatcher (Ficedula parva) between 50 deg. E and 60 deg. E. Taiga Flycatcher winters in south-east Asia (southern Nepal, eastern India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, south-east China).
Many thanks to Lisa Williams for allowing the shots to be featured. Please note that they are Copyright to Lisa and should not be copied or right clicked without her permission.