Wednesday, September 25, 2013

There's only so much fog a human can take. It's been ridiculous. I have spent the last six mornings hearing my alarm go off and gazing out of the window to an even thicker coating than the previous morning. That's not to say that with a little English character and a tissue to wipe the cloud matter off my glasses on an all to frequent manner I have managed to see a few new arrivals to our islands.

These Greenshanks have been around on the islands for a little while now but have always been that little bit too distant to get any decent pictures until now. These pictures were taken when a group of nine descended from the sky during a rare break in the cloud.
It is this time of year that you can see these and their close relations, Redshanks. These waders are distinguishable by the colour of their legs, green for Greenshanks and Redshanks have, you guessed it, red legs.
This little chap is a first for me and I was happy to get some very close views. Lapland Buntings are a little larger than a sparrow and we host a small number each year on the British Isles but usually as they are wandering astray from Northern Europe they are more commonly found on the East coast.
After a few days of cabin fever I decided to venture out in to the fog and see what I could find on the Great Pool. Due to the fact that I couldn't see much further than half a football pitch I did think I must have looked rather dumb venturing into the Bird Hide. Luckily no one else could see far enough to spot me. The fog does have benefits I suppose. After about half an hour of staring into a rather uninspiring cocktail of nothingness and grey I saw some movement no more than fifteen feet away in the reeds. My first Snipe! These are mind-blowingly good at not being seen with their timid nature and incredible camouflaged plumage, I was a little happy with myself. It never came out into the open so these were the best images I could get.
It is the combination of its fast erratic flight when escaping threats and its tendency to hide very well that made it a good trophy bird for shooters. This in turn gave birth to the term Sniper. Don't see the point in just shooting something for the sake of it but humans are strange things...
This picture was taken in some of the worst fog hence the dismal colour. This Black Tailed Godwit is most likely visiting us from Iceland. This one is in it's Summer plumage and will lose the redness as winter encroaches. As is evident in the picture, they can be seen feeding on the mud banks of the pools. Incidentally, I quite admire their feeding democracy, the females have a longer beak than the males in order to avoid competing with each other for food as they scour the mud for invertebrates and insects.
Wheatears are abound on the islands at the moment and a couple of weeks ago we had an influx of arrivals with over four hundred seen on St Marys Airport alone. Counts of over two hundred were also reported from various place across the Scillies.

These, like so many others, are off to Africa for warmer temperatures and sunshine. I think they are on to something to be honest. Don't be fooled by the colour of the sky, this sunny break lasted a matter of minutes before the sky took on the colour of a pencil lead.
This juvenile wagtail popped by to say hello for all of ten seconds during our brief spell of light. There are however plenty of them around to see. Open areas and beaches are the best places and their distinct undulating flight and long tail makes them easy to see.
We still have a good number of butterflies here at the moment. This is a rather pale looking Painted Lady. They are common and I'm afraid to say are overshadowed by my next contribution....
In my opinion Peacock Butterflies are stunning, They are so named due to the 'eyes' on the wings. When confronted by threats they use their wing patterning to intimidate their attackers and can also make a hissing noise with their wings to increase their scariness.
Now for my 'final picture.' This is my favourite in a while. I have been trying to see a Wryneck for ages. Ages and ages. They are not the rarest of birds to visit us with one or two being seen almost daily on the Scillies at this time of year. I, however was beginning to think that they didn't exist. I spent hours trawling up and down the habitat I thought they would dwell in to no avail. However in the pouring rain and fog I was taken to where one had been recently seen and the hunt began. After a few minutes trying to see through rain dressed glasses and sopping wet feet there it was. Perched in a tree, getting as wet as I was, our visitor from mainland Europe finally decided to reveal itself to me. They are a member of the woodpecker family and are strange looking birds. About the size of a sparrow they feed almost entirely on ants and rarely, if ever, peck at wood.
Not the best picture by far but a little personal triumph I suppose, fingers crossed this bloody weather changes and I get to see another a little closer next time.....

Monday, September 16, 2013


Gotcha! I'm quite liking the trend here. I seem to find that if I vent my frustration here on this blog then the subject or evasive bird seems to make an appearance in time for my next entry. Although on one of the darkest and dreariest days we have had in some time this Kingfisher decided to drop by for less than ten seconds and then disappear as quickly as he appeared. This time I got the focus right! The next challenge is to see one on a bright day.
For this instalment I think its a matter of some pictures of the usual suspects and a few migrants that can be seem across the Island. Due to the fact that the Summer seems to have departed completely many of my pictures were taken in fairly dull weather. There are however reasons to venture outdoors and see what has decided to drop by...
This is a Whinchat, although there are a few that reside in the UK it is likely that this female has decided to stop off on Tresco and feed on our insects before making her way to Africa for warmer days.

More birds on wires, and two firsts for me. The top picture is a Pied Flycatcher and the bottom, a Spotted Flycatcher. They do exactly what their name implies. Perching somewhere fairly out in the open you often find their flitting flight involves some quite acrobatic skills as they pluck their dinner out of the air. I think the Pied ones win on appearances but although both could be considered a little on the dull side their grace in the air makes up for it.
And now some pictures of the usual suspects. It was rather entertaining watching the swan behind chasing the other, I don't know whether it was for fun or part of some elaborate ritual but seconds after I took this picture the chaser decided use it's bill to latch onto the poor victims tail just as he managed to get airborne. A majestic faceplant ensued.
Although often painfully high up in the sky our resident Buzzards are still with us. There were hopes of them breeding this year it seems they have decided not to and stick with terrorizing our rabbits and other prey too. You can quite often see feathers strewn along the pathways and sometimes other more macabre signs of previous dinners.
We are also playing host to Turnstones. For once I can say that they are not migrating down to Africa for the winter but actually choose to spend the dark months here with us instead. The majority of visitors we have are here from Greenland and Canada. Sometimes their camouflage is so good among the seaweed that the only giveaway to their presence is their bright orange legs.
You don't have to come to the Scillies to see Starlings, they are one of the most numerous birds in the UK. But sometimes it's worth just taking a second to see how stunning their plumage actually is.
And finally some Goldfinches playing in the reeds. I don't know what it is but I really like this photo.


Friday, September 6, 2013

 No shark fishing or mini adventures this week. Instead I decided to spend my valuable and limited time off slightly too hungover for comfort. Instead of feeling sorry for myself and remaining glued to the sofa I decided to go and feel sorry for myself at the Bird Hide instead. With the shop being only a few minutes walk away it was the perfect place to sit in a quiet area with fresh supplies of the necessary bread, meat and juice required to make me feel human again.
The water table is now quite low on Tresco and therefore our wading birds are enjoying the mud and shallow waters around both of our pools. This tiny Dunlin is one of the most common of all waders in Britain and sometimes flocks of thousands can be seen in estuaries and shorelines. Not this lonely little guy, he was on his own.

Grey Herons are usually extremely shy. They seem to be happy to be viewed from afar but the smallest disturbance will often send them off on their way. I have countless shots of the back of Herons disappearing off into the distance. However with approximately fifteen of them populating Tresco it was not too long before one flew in to see what the fishing was like.


Our two juvenile Citrine Wagtails (top photo) are still with us and I was happy to get some better shots of the visiting birds. The bottom picture of the three is of the Wood Sandpiper on the left and a Pectoral Sandpiper on the right. I quite like the thought that the Wood Sandpiper is visiting us on the way from Northern Europe down to Africa whereas the Pectoral chap has been blown over from the East of America. These two closely related birds have travelled a long  long way to end up in the same square metre a stones throw away from me and my headache.

Chiffchaffs are so named due to their call, it's hard to describe a 'song' in words so I won't bother. I suppose the easiest way to put it would be that once you hear it's two tone call it all makes sense. Although essentially they are just small brown warblers I quite like them. They often have a slightly gold tinge to their feathers and often you catch a glint of yellow just flitting out from a hedge and catching a fly before disappearing into the vegetation. Although a small number remain with us all year round we have a huge influx in numbers around late Summer.

Red Darters and Blue Darners are still in good numbers and look slightly extra terrestrial to me sometimes...
I usually like to finish my blog entries with a 'final' photo and I have been putting off writing this particular post for a few days as I have been camped out trying to get it. I've now almost given up. Time to explain.
I saw a Kingfisher. I saw my first ever Kingfisher in Britain. Not only did I see one but it came and landed on the Bird Hide three feet above my head. It then treated me to a little fly past before heading off into the trees near the centre of the lake. I was quite stunned at how beautiful they are. I was stunned enough to get some of the worst photos ever.
The fact that my head was not quite 100% and knowing I had to get a better picture I decided to play the waiting game. Surely it would have to make an appearance again. It did. This time it gave out a distinctive call and flew straight out in front of me. It then decided to hover, dive straight down, catch a fish and fly off! I was amazed! If I ever had a photo opportunity it was that. I must have fired off about fifty shots in ten seconds and when I went to look at them I was greeted with fifty shots of a beautiful azure blue fuzz on a crystal clear background. Bloody Hell! Not one decent shot.
This above picture was the best I came out with. Not much after what I witnessed. As a result, I have been camped out down at the pool for the last four nights just to see if lightening does strike the same place twice. Apparently it does not. Although I have seen our new colourful passer by every night I have not had him anywhere near close enough to photo and I doubt I'll witness another performance for some time. I suppose the purpose of this nonsense and waffle is to tell you we now have a Kingfisher on the island...
So final photo time. One beautiful European Kingfisher majestically diving down towards it's unsuspecting supper...