Sunday 29 May 2011

Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary at Breney

These shots were taken today at Breney Common nature reserve near Bodmin.  Although the weather was dull today, around twenty were counted around the reserve.  The species is locally common and widespread in Cornwall.  Inland populations and greatest concentration is Goss Moor, eastwards towards Breney Common and Bodmin.  Other concentrations include the Lizard and far west, where it is mainly restricted to the coastal areas.  The species is normally single brooded and is on the wing from early May to June. (Source: Cornwall Butterfly Atlas).

Settled on Marsh Cinquefoil

Unusually blue female Common Blue

The two images below are of the same butterfly.  The underside appears just like a normal female Common Blue but the upper side has an unusual amount of blue showing.  I've been shown this type once before in North Cornwall but was delighted to find this one at Breney Common.  Its only the second one I've seen.  The blue colour is also quite pale and reminded me of Chalkhill Blue colouring.  A stunning specimen.

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Common Blues at dusk

This pair of Common Blue butterflies were preparing for roost.  They sit up on the horsetail in the last rays of sun, before walking down the stem.

Tuesday 24 May 2011

First Silver-studded Blue for the year

This evening was the first calm and sunny opportunity I've had to do some butterfly photography.  A trip to the local sand dunes proved worthwhile as there were about one hundred mixed Common and Silver-studded Blues, mostly commons.

Monday 23 May 2011

Arctic Skuas are the losers at Nesseby

This pair of adult dark phase Arctic Skuas were so busy chasing down the Kittiwake that they overlooked a Herring Gull waiting for the regurgitation.    The Kittiwake finally unloaded its' last meal only for the gull to swoop in.  The skuas looked on forlornly.

Dream bird comes true

Hawk Owl was one of the species I really wanted to see in Arctic Norway.  We had just about given up hope after spending some time in a known area.  A chance of fate on the last morning meant our connection flight had been cancelled because the pilot was poorly.  We had four hours to reach Kirkenes - just enough time.  As luck would have it, Ruud van Beusehom shouted Hawk Owl on the way back!  We had five minutes.  Sadly my gear was packed away, but Ueli Grutter, a Swiss birder had his 300 f/4 with him and manged some very respectable record shots.  This is his shot shown here.  Thanks Ueli.

Monday 16 May 2011

Passerines and a few flakes of snow in the Varanger area

 Below are a selection of images of passerines in and around Varanger Fjord. The only plentiful species was Snow Bunting, especially as the heavy snow drove them down off the high tundra to lower ground. I don't normally post landscape images but the shots below backup what I have mentioned in previous posts.  This is real snow.

In addition, other top passerines on the trip included Pine Grosbeak, Waxwings, Siberian Tit and Arctic Redpolls (including two gorgeous snow white males).

Willow Tit - a pair were seen at Varjjat
Female Snow Bunting - common in suitable areas.  Large flocks of up to 200 in the far north.

Male Lapland Bunting - just started arriving; we saw about ten individuals.

Male Snow Bunting at Kongsfjord - part of a flock of 120+ birds.

High tundra near Kongsfjord, a site for Dotterel, but they haven't arrived yet! The darker patch is a frozen lake.

Holiday cottage at Kongsfjord.  This area is good for Temminck's Stint and Purple Sandpiper, but not right now!

The road from Siltefjord to Batsfjord, specially cleared for our party!  When exactly does all this lot melt...

Sunday 15 May 2011

Seabirds on Hornoy Island, Vardo, Norway

Hornoy Island is ten minutes by boat from Vardo. The visit here has left a lasting impression - it is the home of 150 thousand seabirds, with up to 10,000 pairs of Puffin, 3500 pairs of Guillemot, 500 Razorbill and 3-400 pairs of Brunnich's Guillemot. The noise and smell can only be imagined! We also saw a single drake King Eider here as well as Sea Eagle. The latter is particularly fond of Kittiwakes and they have developed a unique way of catching them, as described below in an earlier post.

Brunnich's Guillemot

Sea Eagles, the commonest raptor in Varanger

Shag close up


Common Guillemot and Bridled Guillemt

Arctic Skuas preying on Kittiwakes in Varanger Fjord

We visited an area around Nesseby, Varanger where many Kittiwakes pass by the "island".  This site is famous as this is where the Soft-plumaged Petrel was found a couple years ago.  Skuas are regularly seen in the fjords and on the tundra, but these two were close enough to be photo'd harrassing a Kittiwake.  The Kittiwake eventually disgorged its last meal, only for a cunning Herring Gull to be watching and jumped in quick to take the food.

Early morning image of a Kittiwake near Ekkeroy, Varanger

Kittiwake carrying nesting material

Blue Fulmar Pelagic from Batsfjord, Arctic Norway

All of the photos in this post were taken by my colleague Joerg Kretzchmar.  A link to his web site can be found here: OZELLUS

We hired the services of a local fisherman who also specialises in dedicated pelagic trips out of Batsfjord.  The main aim was to see at close quarters the Blue Fulmar, a huge breeding Kittiwake colony and also a small Gannetry.  The boat used was a 12 man rib ! Sea conditions, as one would expect from a trip well into the Barents Sea, were very wet, windy and cold.  The swell was approx ten to fifteen feet.

After a couple hours we found a hauling trawler.  We started chumming and attracted hundreds of Blue Fulmars and smaller numbers of auks.  Exceptionally close views were obtained but given the comparatively small boat and big seas, the skipper was reluctant to stop as the huge swell immediately causes sea sickness... I've experienced the same on Cornish pelagics - the down side is that photography and viewing is more difficult when moving.

We arrived at the huge Kittiwake colony and experienced Sea Eagles at close quarters grabbing Kittiwakes from the nest.  The eagles have developed a local strategy of patrolling the cliff edge extremely closely and suddenly creating a strong wind draft beside a nest with its' vast wings. The sudden wind-force topples the sitting adult off the nest, only to be grabbed by the eagle.  We saw it happen.  Awesome.

Entrance to the huge Syltefjord, approx 60 kms from our staring point at Batsfjord, on the Barents Sea

A very dark morph Blue Fulmar

Variation of colours of Blue Fulmars

Kittiwakes feeding on chum

Many thanks to Joerg for allowing me to show his photos.

Wednesday 11 May 2011

Male Snow Bunting

This stunning male Snow Bunting was taken this morning outside our B&B.  Another 200 were present as they fed in the snow covered field beside the house.  They have all descended to lower ground to escape the thick layer of snow on the high tundra.

Arctic Norway living up to its' name

The Arctic describes exactly where we are!  Yesterday's weather was predominantly snow and blizzard conditions.  The winter snow scene on the higher tundra reminded me of the high alps in France.  Luckily we have all brought our salopettes and extreme cold weather gear.

The Puffin shot below shows the blizzard well!  The seabirds were taken on the island of Hornoy off Vardo, in the Veranger Fjord area.  This place hosts thousands of seabirds including 200,000 Kittiwakes, numerous Puffins, Guillemots, Razorbills, Brunnich's Guillemots, Black Guillemots, Eider and of course the odd Killer Whale.

The other images include high Arctic breeding specialities: Bean Geese and Pink-footed Geese, Steller's Eider on pack-ice and Arctic Redpoll.

Monday 9 May 2011

Arctic Norway - four seasons in one day

We were warned to bring cold weather clothing and today the weather showed us what it can do in a short space of time.  Bright sun, rain, sleet and finally snow, coupled with gale force winds were unleashed today.  Luckily we were all prepared. 

Highlights included Arctic Redpoll, about 150 plus Steller's Eider ( a true local speciality), a feeding group of about 30 White-tailed Eagle, Brunnich's Guillemot, White-billed Diver, Willow Grouse, close views of summer plumage Lapland Bunting nd Snow Bunting, plus two Orca's.

Puffin on territory

Common Gull - a common breeder on the tundra

Male Steller's Eider - a Norway speciality