Monday 31 May 2010

Marsh Fritillary in the Upper Fowey Valley

Many thanks to Trevor and Angie Tonry for showing us this pair of Marsh Fritillary today in the Upper Fowey Valley, Cornwall.   This is a declining species and the south-west now contains about one fifth of the total national population.  The butterfly is single brooded and can be seen on the wing in May and June.

Thursday 27 May 2010

It's definitly just a hobby

A visit to the Lizard tonight in search of Red Kites, Black Kite and maybe double figures of such luck.  I did manage to connect with this handsome Hobby though, hawking insects at about 50 yards away.

Just for the "landscapers" amongst the followers, (esp. midlander!), this is sunset tonight looking westwards towards Predannack Airfield, taken with an old manual focus 50mm f/1.4 lens.

Monday 24 May 2010

Squacco gives above par performance today

Today  the obliging Squacco Heron performed well in the early morning light.  Less intensity meant that the exposure was easier to control and I am now happier with these images! 

Below is John Chapple's video as shown on his Youtube channel.

View Squacco Heron at Sowlands, Par in a larger map

Sunday 23 May 2010

Cornwall's seventh Squacco Heron at Par

Cornwall's seventh Squacco Heron was found on Sat 22nd May by Bob Davey at Snowlands Fishponds at Par.  The previous record was in 2004 at Gorran Haven and all seven records of the modern era have occurred in Spring.  (There is an old record from 1907).

Given how close this individual was, I found it extremely difficult to photo.  The sun was exceptionally strong and guaging exposure was a real challenge.   I will have another look tomorrow at a different time of the day and in a different light.

Friday 21 May 2010

Female Asiatic Brown Shrike near Sennen

An adult female Asiatic Brown Shrike was found yesterday on the cycle path about 300 yards west of the coast guard houses, favouring the seaward side of the path on the gorse.  Always remaining distant, it did give prolonged views as it fed right up to dusk.  It was found by local birder Mark Warren late afternoon.  Depending on your own thoughts on the much-debated Lizard bird last Autumn, this amazing Spring find will probably take the official First Record for the county.  Sadly the Lizard individual never really gave itself up to confirm its' identity.  The Land's End female displayed well, and whilst distant for photography, did show all the important id features.  20 minutes from dusk, when most birders had departed, it fanned its' tail for a couple minutes to show the important short outer tail feather.  Regarding the conditions leading up to its occurrence here, one can only really wonder where it has actually come from.  The local weather conditions had just changed to an easterly airflow following a day of mist and rain.  From memory, there are less than ten records in the UK and this is the first Spring record.

Wednesday 19 May 2010

North Cyprus daily blog 21st April - final day

We spent the final day around Cape Kournikatis and a pool near Ercan airport.  Photographic highlights included two trip ticks shown below as well as a stunning Wood Warbler, allowing approach to 15 feet.  Birding highlights included four flycatchers in the same hedge: Semi-collared, Pied, Spotted and two male Collareds.  Nice. And a stone's throw from them was male Golden Oriole, 15 Ortolans, male Cretzschmar's, four Serins and 200+ Bee-eaters.  Even nicer, and all this on a bonus day because of a volcano.

The image below has just caught the bill crushing an insect with the resulting guts exploding upwards.  I normally crop around 15 to 25% but this shot has been cropped 40% to show this a bit more clearly.

Below is a first summer Semi-collared Flycatcher, the only one seen by us on this trip.  In common with other eastern Mediterranean islands this Spring, this species was seen in higher than normal numbers.

This is a first summer bird with brown primaries and secondaries contrasting with the black mantle. Its' right side is less defined and clearcut than the left side.

Left side view showing the complete all-white outer tail feather, white semi-collar, white tips to the lesser coverts (second wing bar) and white tips to the base of the primaries. 

Yellow Wagtail of the race superciliaris.  This striking race originates from S E Russia and was the only one we saw on this trip.

This is the end of the North Cyprus blog and I hope you have found the posts interesting.  It seems like I am showing friends all those boring post-holiday images but presumably as birders, there is some appreciation.  We saw 160 species in two weeks and I managed to photo most of the important ones.  The two that got away were the Isabelline Shrike and aquilla eagle.  I took around 7000 shots, 200 of which I am very pleased with.  Adult male Barred Warbler with a nice yellow eye was on my wish list and was duly delivered!

 As previously mentioned, I was hoping to do a live feed straight on to the blog but sadly the internet connection was surprisingly poor in Cyprus.  As we were in the Turkish quarter, the price of connection is prohibitive at £1.68 per minute plus big charges for the image upload.  Maybe next time. 

Now why can't the Icelandics give us a real volcano and we could have stayed longer?

Tuesday 18 May 2010

North Cyprus daily blog - 20th April

Today we move from the Karpas peninsula after eleven days of relentless dawn to dusk searching for migrants and rarities.  We have had a good trip in this part of the island with over 150 quality species logged but the only rarity to report was the Isabelline Shrike - small reward and somewhat a surprise for 520 man hours of birding !  

We now make our way back to the north west of the island at the well known migration watchpoint at Cape Kournikatis (west of Girne).  On the way we stopped at Kouklia and photo'd these Wood Sandpipers.  The Red-veined Darters were still present in big numbers.  We also found the Slender Skimmer dragonfly (bottom image).

There was no surprise at the airport to find our flight delayed due to the Icelandic volcano.  Thus we had one more day at Kournikatis.  We were impressed with this site; it is for sure an easy place to bird with no difficult juniper forest to contend with.  Reading other blogs, this cape certainly turns up the numbers and we were pleased to see a flock of 60 Ortolan Buntings and a single Cretzschmar's.

Isabelline Wheatear

Red-veined Darter

Slender Skimmer

Monday 17 May 2010

North Cyprus daily blog - 19th April 2010

Our last full day at Karpas and the highlight of the day is an island tick: Common Redshank.  From memory, I cannot remember seeing one previously.  The 19th April was undoubtedly the hottest so far and the car temperature guage said 27 degrees.  On the hot air thermals came a decent movement of raptors, in fact the best we have ever had on any part of Cyprus.  The list included six Sparrowhawk, six Common Buzzard, one Long-legged Buzzard, 20 Marsh Harrier, 10 Pallid Harrier, male Montagu's Harrier, one Booted Eagle, four Red-foots and 15 Hobby.  19 White Stork also joined them.  Our biggest disappointment was being unable to ID for sure a large aquilla.

The Rock Thrush remained overnight and showed in better early morning light.  I had a bit more time on it this morning and took these shots in raw format.  The end result is a more contrasty image.  The MAC users with big screens should see the difference!

The Hoopoe shot was taken at ground level and improves the depth of field but also makes exposure easier (due to angle of camera : subject).

Sunday 16 May 2010

First Summer male Woodchat at Skewjack, Land's End.

This long distance shot of the long-staying Woodchat Shrike at Skewjack was taken on Saturday.  The bird can be aged as a first summer by the brownish cast to the primaries and grey areas in the mantle.  A full adult would show a black mantle and black primaries. 

Cyprus daily blog 17th and 18th April 2010

I have lumped these two days together because the 17th was a relatively quiet day with smaller numbers of passerines and raptors.  The highlight though was an impressive movement of some 601 (counted) Glossy Ibis in several large flocks moving up the south coast.  500+ Spanish Sparrow were also notable in their large flocks.  Two male Black-headed Buntings were the first for the year.  One was a migrant at the point and the second was a male singing on territory.

The image below is a male Cyprus Pied Wheatear.  They are very common and encountered in just about every habitat on the island.  That said, they are actually quite difficult to appoach but this male gave itself up in the late evening sunshine.

An impressive movement of shrikes occurred on the 18th April with ten Red-backed, two Masked, two Woodchat and two Lesser Grey Shrikes.

The 18th improved in quality and quantity of birds.  The highlight was a female Rock Thrush, found late in the evening.  The images are quite dark because the sun had just about dropped.  The ISO is very high and thus the resulting images are a bit grainy.  It was the only Rock Thrush we saw - they are never common. 

Further additional highlights of the two days included: male Orphean Warbler, four male Sardinian, one Ruppell's, one Collared Flycatcher, ten Whinchat, two Golden Oriole, fem Cretzschmar's Bunting, eight Hoopoe, 20 Red-throated Pipit, six Roller, three Great Spotted Cuckoo, four Hobby, 60 Little Egret, 18 Purple Heron, two Serin, 30 Northern Wheatear, three Isabelline Wheatear and ten Black-eared Wheatear.  An out-of-place Spur-winged Plover was also found on the beach.

Friday 14 May 2010

Cyprus daily blog - 16th April

Another very hot day but with a cooling north-westerly wind.  The change of wind direction and strength was just enough to bring a small influx of shrikes, including our first real rarity find of the trip.  With the fresh fall of eight Red-backed Shrikes, two Masked and two Woodchat came a female/first year Isabelline Shrike.  Sadly we had no more than a minute on it and not enough time to photo it. as it disappeared into the juniper forest.  It was also seen by a Brummie crew.
Male Red-backed Shrike watching a bee.  This stunning male had arrived overnight.

Black-eared Wheatear of the eastern melanoleuca "black-throated" form.  A common passage migrant seen daily.

Blue-headed Wagtail - regular passage migrant in varying numbers.

Short-toed Lark were seen daily though not as common as they have been in previous years.

Additional daily totals were as follows: three White Stork, eight Marsh Harrier, four Pallid Harrier, one Curlew (island tick for me!), two Crag Martin, 12 Red-throated Pipit, 50 Yellow Wagtail, male Golden Oriole, two Sardinian and one Ruppell's Warbler. 

Tuesday 11 May 2010

Cyprus daily blog - 15th April 2010

This post is the continuation of a daily blog on a recent two week trip to Cyprus.  I would have posted this earlier but if anyone has noticed, it has also been just a little bit busy in Cornwall this last couple weeks!  The photographic highlights today include some harriers.  The male Montagu's Harrier is in fact my first male for the island.  I cannot recall such a perfect and delightful bird as this.  Pallid Harriers easily outnumber Monty's.

I have placed two males alongside each other here and the differences, whilst subtle, become quite obvious with practice.  The ringtails below also show obvious boa's and dark secondaries with limited pale barring (in the secondaries).

Further highlights of the day included: Five Night Heron, four Squacco, one Bittern, 10 Marsh Harrier, two Bonelli's Eagle, three Little Crake, 80 Wood sandpiper, 130+ Ruff, including some nice white-ruffed males, one Great Snipe, giving the usual brief but good view, 15 Roller, including one pair on territory, 10 Hoopoe, male Collared Flycatcher, two Red-backed Shrike and two Golden Orioles.