Thursday, September 24, 2009

Copper, red, yellow

Small Copper

Small Copper
Small Copper

Common Darter
Common Darter

Yellow


Starting to get cabin fever, so it was a relief to get out with the cameras this lunchtime. What a lovely day.

photos taken with Canon EOS 30D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM or Canon Powershot A640

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What's that white thing flying over?

Sometimes you just have to be lucky. Like this evening. We were standing chatting to Mark while flocks of Black-headed Gulls passed overhead to their roost at Paxton or Grafham. All of a sudden, I caught sight of another white bird, flying the other way: a Little Egret!

If I hadn't got a lift home, if I hadn't popped in for a chat at Mark's and if we hadn't been standing outside the house... we'd never have seen it and it would never have made it onto the garden list.

Number 94!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Bay of Biscay



As I write this, I am floating. Not because I am ecstatically happy - though I did have a very good long weekend - but because my body thinks it is still on a boat.

I've finally been on the Pride of Bilbao from Portsmouth to... you guessed it, Bilbao. We didn't go for the bingo, the boozing or the cabaret, but to look for whales, dolphins and seabirds. Our gang spent most of its time on the helicopter deck near the top of the boat and we weren't disappointed.

Even though it was quite a quiet trip by recent standards (no Orcas!) we saw Minke, Pilot and Sperm Whales, Harbour Porpoises, Common, Striped and Bottle-nosed Dolphins. Seabird-wise, Sabine's Gulls, Kittiwakes, Great and Cory's Shearwaters, Storm-petrels, Great and Arctic Skuas battled the waves and wind to fly past.

I didn't get any good photos, but you can see some from a recent crossing on Weedon's World of Nature.

Migration never ceases to amaze me. As we headed out into the Bay of Biscay, we were joined by a procession of Robins, a Redstart, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, White and Yellow Wagtail, Meadow Pipits, Swallows and a Song Thrush. I hope they managed to find somewhere on the ship to roost overnight and left when we arrived in Spain on Saturday morning...

As we rounded the Brittany coast on the way home, what I am sure was a Jack Snipe shot past the obs lounge at high speed before disappearing from view. Apparently it'd be a first for the boat, but our views were just too brief to clinch identification.

Apart from still having my sea legs, and missing the Guggenheim museum on a quick visit to Bilbao itself, the only downer is that my feet really, really hurt by the end of the trip. Next time I'm taking something to sit on...


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The wonders of technology

Green Woodpecker


Now that Flickr have released an iPhone app, I've been able to the use the phone for the entire photographic process.

I took the above photo with my iPhone held to my Leica scope (through the double glazing). Still on the phone, I cropped the photo using Pixelpipe - dead easy - and then uploaded the photo to my Flickr account, adding a title and tags along the way. The last bit was a little slow, but that was because of the bad signal in the building where I was. Isn't technology wonderful...

photo taken with Apple iPhone 3GS + Leica Apo Televid 77 with 20x eyepiece

Monday, September 14, 2009

Holy grail

Jay's feather
What I found while walking at lunchtime: a Jay's feather

photos taken with Canon Powershot A640

Saturday, September 05, 2009

International Vulture Awareness Day

Griffon Vulture

As you must have heard, today, 5 September 2009, is International Vulture Awareness Day.

Here are my experiences of vultures. My first encounter was with some friendly (or hungry?) Griffon Vultures in a French zoo. We walked through their enclosure and they flew over to perch on the handrail by the path. I wasn't scared but more impressed by their huge wingspans.

My next vultures were real, wild ones: Palm-nut Vultures in The Gambia. They get their name from their preference for Oil Palm nuts over meat. Odd birds.

I saw more wild, free vultures on a trip to Spain in 2005: Griffons again. We drove towards Tarifa, wending our way through hills, lakes and wind turbines. All the time, a stream of Griffons passed overhead on their barn-door wings. And at Punta de Paloma, we looked up and there were dozens of vultures circling around with even more swifts.

On another visit to Spain this year, we had the vulture experience again. While we sipped coffee and ate ice-creams at the mirador, Griffons appeared over the hills and Sparrowhawks, Booted Eagles, harriers and other birds of prey arrived from Africa, across the Strait of Gibraltar, in front of us.

In the mountains above the coast, we watched Griffons cruising at low level and landing at their cliffside nest. One bird brooded a chick, looking out across the Atlantic and over the hills while Bee-eaters made landfall and Spanish Festoon butterflies skittered past.

Unfortunately, things aren't very rosy for vultures in other places. Some vulture species in Asia are teetering on the brink of extinction, thanks to being poisoned by the veterinary drug Diclofenac which is used to treat cattle. BirdLife International and others are doing sterling work to breed them in captivity until Diclofenac is eliminated from the vultures' environment, and a Slender-billed Vulture chick has been reared in one of the giant Indian aviaries this year, but their future is far from secure...

photo taken with Canon EOS 30D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM