Friday, 29 April 2011

Red-veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolombii) at Windmill Farm, Lizard

I revisted Windmill Farm in the hope of re-finding the Vagrant Emperor but had no such luck.  I did catch up with this nice male Red-veined Darter though.  Whilst nowhere near as rare as a Vagrant Emperor, Red-veined Darter is a fairly frequent migrant, principally to southwest England. There are scattered records from elsewhere and the species has reached Scotland. The species breeds nearly annually, but colonies are seemingly not stable.  Breeds in large shallow water bodies such as rice paddies in Southern Europe.

Shown here looking upwards displaying its' characteristic blue base to the eye

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Some macro photography from Perran dunes tonight

Tonight's stunningly warm and unseasonal weather tempted me to do some macro photography at Perran dunes.  Macro is one area that I will be majoring on this year and these four shots below are my first trials this year.  Given the right weather, hopefully I will be posting a lot more through the spring and summer.  The shots were taken with a 200mm F/4 Micro Nikkor, with aperture between F/10 and F/32.

Spider spinning a web at sunset

Dandelion clock close-up taken at F/32

Dung Fly with low sun directly behind it

Micro beetle approx 3 or 4 mm long with sun behind it.

Record shot of Bonaparte's Gull at Hayle

I took this shot on Monday evening at about 8pm in half light.  The ISO was high but it's this technology that captures quite incredible detail given the very low light and long distance of this first year Bonaparte's Gull. 

First suspected by Chris Townend and Russ last Tuesday, it was confirmed independently by Laurie Williams on Wednesday at Copperhouse Creek.  This is approximately the 40th Cornish record.  Over a third of all records in Cornwall occur in March and April, the dates tying in nicely with this individual.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Male Montagu's Harrier at Goonhilly

This stunning male Montagu's Harrier was seen today on Goonhilly Downs on the south side of the Croft Pasco plantation.  The best views were obtained from the road.  Sadly I just missed the ultimate views at just 20 yards when it settled in front of John Chapple's cam corder. 

These shots were taken at about 75 yards, midday in strong heat haze, hence the slight blur.  Montagu's Harrier is the rarest of all British breeding raptors.  The species once bred in north Cornwall in the early 70's but is now long since extinct as a breeder.  Even as a migrant, it is scarce.  This is also the first male that I have seen in Cornwall.

Purple Heron at Marazion Marsh

The continuing run of easterly airflow over the south west has resulted in a brilliant start to the Spring. There have been no less than four Purple Herons this Spring in west Cornwall with two showing well at College and
Marazion this weekend.  There are about 40 records of this stunning heron in Cornwall and records seem to be increasing in recent years.  Indeed, in 2006, a pair were present at College up to the end of June, though no breding was proved.

Purple Heron breeds in Africa, central and southern Europe, and southern and eastern Asia. The European populations are migratory, wintering in tropical Africa; the more northerly Asian populations also migrate further south within Asia. It is a rare but regular wanderer north of its breeding range, as we have witnessed in Cornwall.

The two record shots below were taken today at Marazion today.

You can't beat a good servicing

Nikon have just returned my camera after a sensor clean and service and I have to say, I am pleased to be reunited. Typicaly, the recent Subalpine Warbler, Gull-billed Tern and Woodchat(s) were begging to be photographed!  How things have changed; a few years ago I would have been delighted just to see those species in Cornwall, but now they have to be photographed as well.

Those three species have moved on but I did get a chance to photo some common birds, as shown below.  The male Stonechat was singing his heart out to a nearby female at Marazion today.  While he was thinking about services of a different kind, my camera's own service seems to have paid off and those dreaded dust spots have gone for now. 

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Purple Heron and Garganey at College Res.

These images were taken early this morning in dull overcast light. Given the long distance and low light, I was pleased with the results.  The ISO was set to 1250 and they were taken with a D300s. 

Both these species in recent years have been regular at this site.  The Purple Herons always feed in the same area on the south side of the island and roost in the tall trees.  Five years ago, two were present though no breeding occurred.  Purple Heron is an annual vagrant to Cornwall, with records in Spring and Autumn.

Male Garganey, scarce passage migrant in Cornwall, mainly Spring.  Garganey are regularly seen here at College.

This male was accompanied by a female at the weekend though she has since moved on.

Ring-necked Duck displays to Tufted Duck at Stithians Res.

Cornwall's wintering Ring-necked Duck was today seen courting this female Tufted Duck at Stithians Res.  He couldn't keep his eyes off her but she didn't take much notice!  The display included head flicking, neck stretches, skypointing and spraying water, all very similar to a Goldeneye's courtship behaviour. 

All images taken with a Nikon D300s, courtesy of Kate Jones.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Cape Verde Pt 4 - desert birding

Below are some images of typical desert species I saw in Boa Vista, Cape Verde last month.  Boa Vista was the only island I visited and held enough to keep me occupied.  Other islands are expensive to visit and the locals seem to know how to charge the Euro200 inter-island flight.  A further 200 euros paid for a trip to Razo island for the endemic Razo Lark but I declined when told you cannot now land !

A typical ribeira, or dry river bed.  This area alone held three species of lark and Cream-coloured Courser

Hoopoe Lark, a common bird of the open desert

Hoopoe Lark, adult seen feeding a fledgling nearby.
Hoopoe Lark, in open desert with no vegetation. The tube in the foreground is actually a parched branch from an ancient woodland. 

Adult Spectacled Warbler, common in all habitats.

Bar-tailed Desert Lark; more localised but still present in good numbers.

Female Black-capped Finch Lark, common in arid desert.

Juv Black-capped Finch Lark

Adult male Iago Sparrow, a common endemic of the Cape Verdes (sometimes known as Rufous-backed Sparrow).

This was one of my target species and I saw about 20 in total.

Adult Cape Verde Cream-coloured Coursers, a localised sub species.


Monday, 4 April 2011

Cape Verde pt 3 - whale watching pelagic

Humpback Whales breed in the seas around Cape Verde and as such, the locals organise daily pelagics to witness these huge animals at fairly close quarters.  I was lucky enough to see five including one young, just visible in the fourth image.  With a scope, we could just see them breaching from the shore - quite an amazing sight.  Sadly I didn't see a breach from the catamarran.  The breach image at the bottom of the set was taken by Falli Bira, a local paparazzi who kindly allowed me to show this image.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Red-throated Diver moves to St Andrew's Pool, Par

When news broke that the Red-throated Diver had moved to St Andrew's Pool, I decided to pay another visit.  The light, water colour and background is very different here to the blue/grey colour of Par beach pool, so the images would be very different to those taken a few days ago.  And they are! 

The images shown here all have different shades. The red flash is the reflection of a red car, and the white flash is the silver car parked next to it. The green image is the reflection of grass and the blackish colour is simply a reduction of exposure to minus 1 EV.

The technique used to enhance the reflection is to lower the tripod and camera so that it is as low as possible to the water, improving the chance of picking up distant refection ( and also increasing shutter speed).

Note: all of the images are un-enhanced in colour and are the natural colour as unloaded from the camera.  They have been cropped by 16%. Aperture is F/7 to F/9.  Exposure -0.3 to -1.0 EV. ISO 250. Focal length 600mm.