27 Jun 2022

27 Jun 22 - #30DaysWild Day 27 - Sometimes It's Good To Just Chill For A Few Minutes

I went out into the back garden in early afternoon & found this chilled out Blackbird enjoying the sun. It is one of the two males which share my garden. It was so chilled, that I had time to go back, grab the camera & get some shots from about three metres away. I wasn't sure if it has clocked me & wasn't worried, as one of the two males is fairly tame & used to me. But it clearly was alert & wasn't bothered, as it immediately spotted the other male when it flew into the hedge. Sunbathe over, it went off to intercept it.
Blackbird: Male. This is thought to be a good way to deal with parasites & helps with their feather maintenance

26 Jun 2022

26 Jun 22 - Half A Million & Going Strong

I started this Blog back on 24 Oct 13 after I bought myself a Canon 7D & 400 mm lens. A few years ago, I upgraded the camera gear to a Canon 7D Mark II & 100-400 mm Mark II lens. I'm a Birder, who takes photos for my enjoyment, but I don't have the skills, patience or interest in becoming a photographer.

The original aim of the Blog was to use it as a diary for myself where I could put my photos to avoid them being tucked away on my laptop & lost for ever. It's also allows me to quicky dip into some of the days out Birding or longer trips over the last eight & a half years and quickly relive the memories. While this was for my own memories, I quickly expanded the aims of the Blog to "showcase both the excellent birds & other wildlife in the UK as well as abroad".

When I started the Blog, I hoped that other people would also enjoying reading it and would be inspired to visit some of the places documented and enjoy the Birds and other wildlife I've mentioned. I had no idea whether the Blog will be popular or not, but I must be doing something right as I passed the half-million hits on the Blog yesterday. The Blog has been viewed from 165 countries or major regional territories.
The 165 Blog Flags
Over the last few years, the frequency of new Blog Posts have varied based upon my available time to process photos & also whether I've got interesting photos to post. Foreign trips have clearly been a big source of interesting photos and I've thoroughly enjoyed sorting the photos from a foreign trip & writing the Blog Posts. I get the most enjoyment out of foreign trips, by the research & planning that leads into the trip, the trip itself and finally, the post trip analysis of the species seen, including investigating some of the complex identification of some of the species seen.

Travel features highly as a theme and since starting the Blog, I've been lucky to visit many parts of the UK & abroad including: Holland (Nov 13); India including the Andaman Islands (Dec 13 - Jan 14); Morocco & Western Sahara (Feb 14): Israel (Apr 14): Croatia (May 14): French Polynesia and Pitcairn (Nov 14); California (Nov 14); Turkey (Jun 15); Finland (May - Jun 16); Colombia (Feb - Mar 18); Chile (Mar 18); the Atlantic Odyssey from Argentina to Holland visiting South Georgia, Tristan da Cunha, St Helena, Ascension Island & Cape Verde (Mar - May 18); a ferry from the UK to Santander & back (Aug 18). C19 severely impacted the travel plans since it's outbreak, but I've managed trips to Ireland in Aug 16, Mar 22 & Jun 22.

This is the 725th Blog Posts which cover a mixture of mainly Birding related subjects, but also Cetaceans, other Mammals, Butterflies, Dragonflies & other insect groups, Sea Turtles, Reptiles and Amphibians, Orchids and a few other groups. There are also the occasional historical Posts. Over 1150 species of Bird have been included on the Blog, along with another 400 other species of wildlife.

There are too many favourites to detail all the Blog Posts. Expanding the date index allows readers to scroll back to a particular period. More usefully, the Labels section on the right hand side allows readers to click on a species of interest & quickly find all the Blog Posts where that species occurs. To whet your appetite, here are ten of my favourite Blog Posts from the last few years.

I will start with a 2020 Blog Post covering finding the first Buff-breasted Sandpiper for St Aldhelms: my favourite UK Wader.
Buff-breasted Sandpiper: The first for St Aldhelms & one that was on the Self-found Wish List for many years (20 Sep 20)
One of my favourite travel Blog Posts including this gorgeous Tuamotu Sandpiper photographed on an expedition cruise to French Polynesia & the Pitcairn Islands group.
Tuamotu Sandpiper: This mst be the only Wader with a sweet tooth. Tenararo, French Polynesia (12 Nov 14)
I've enjoyed documenting memorable twitches & one of them was the Chestnut Bunting twitch to Papa Westray.
Chestnut Bunting: This Blog covered the private charter flight onto Papa Westray and has had one of the highest hits for a single Blog Post (28 Oct 15)
Another memorable twitch was a mini break to Holland with Dave Gibbs for a Hawk Owl that had taken up residence in the middle of the small town of Zwolle.
Hawk Owl: This ticked a number of boxes including a successful twitch, foreign travel and an Owl: one of favourite Bird families. Zwolle, Holland (27 Nov 13)
One of the things I've enjoyed doing is pulling together an Index of all of the Blog Posts under a certain wildlife group. The Indexes can be found below the Blog's banner. Currently, I've created Indexes for Whales, Beaked Whales, Blackfish, Dolphins & Porpoises and Sea Turtles. Clicking on these Indexes, allows the reader to quickly find all the Blog Posts on a particular wildlife group. I will add some new Indexes in the future. I particular enjoyed the Blog Posts that allowed me to create the Sea Turtle Index.
Leatherback Turtle: At sea between St Helena and Ascension Island, Atlantic Odyssey (22 Apr 18)
One of the Blog Posts looked at the St Aldhelms Continental Swallowtail Butterflies in early July 14. After seeing them, I tried identifying individuals from the photos to work out how many might be involved. Examination of my photographs, along with those from other people, documented five different individuals. The assumption is a female arrived earlier in the Spring, laid some eggs which produced this short-lived group. That year, Continental Swallowtails were seen at a number of other locations in the South East of the UK.
Swallowtail: This was individual B. It's identification from the other four individuals are detailed in this Blog Post (2 Jul 14). A follow-up Blog Post on 11 Jul 14 confirmed there had been no wedding released Butterflies in the previous 3.5 years that the currently vicar had been conducting services at the chapel
One of my passions is to dig deep into the identification of some of the tricky to identify species that I have seen. Initially, this is to confirm what I've seen. In Spring 18, I enjoyed 7 weeks on the expedition ship Plancius travelling from Ushuaia, Argentina back to Holland, stopping at a number of Atlantic islands en route. The first was St Georgia and on 4 Apr 18, the ship entered the Drygalski Fjord, where I saw over one hundred Diving-petrels. The majority were Common Diving-petrels, but we were trying to pick out a handful of the very similar-looking South Georgian Diving-petrels. Like many Birders on the boat, I struggled to pick one out in flight with a complication of very subtle features on fast-flying 'equivalents' of Little Auks at a distance and no previous experience. I'm sure some of the other punters, just ticked a likely candidate after somebody else called it. But I wanted to be sure & spent several hours poring over my photos, along with Id articles and internet photos. Having come to some decisions on what I had seen, I wrote a Blog Post summarising the outcomes. This will be of use to me as I will get back to South Georgia at some point in the future and also I hope it will be of use to others trying to get their heads around this difficult pair of species.
South Georgia Diving-petrel: The separation of South Georgia Diving-petrel and Common Diving-petrel in the Drygalski Fjord, South Georgia, is covered in this Blog Post (4 Apr 18)
On the Atlantic Odyssey, I was lucky to see 26 of the 90 or so extant species of Cetaceans. While many of them were relatively straight-forward to identify, a number were far more tricky. Again the photos that a number of us took of those tricky species were really helpful to identify them. This allowed one of the expedition guides, Marijke De Boer, to subsequently document the records which will help to increase the knowledge on some of these rarely seen species. This was particularly true with some of the Beaked Whales like this Strap-toothed Beaked Whale. I plan to book up for a future Atlantic Odyssey trip once I feel comfortable about travelling abroad again and assuming that this superb trip continues to run in the future. It was one of the best trips I've ever been on.
Strap-toothed Beaked Whale: The distinctive black face & white beak is diagnostic for Strap-toothed Beaked Whale which is shown on this individual within a small pod photographed between Tristan Da Cunha and St Helena. Typically, the lower face would be a paler grey, but none of my photos show that area. I can't see a white tusk sticking up from the beak so I think this individual must be a female. One of the benefits of seeing a small pod is having identified one or two individuals, then it is possible to get photos of even more tricky to identify subadult individuals in the pod (16 Apr 18)
One of my favourite Blog Posts covers the visit to Ernest Shackleton's grave at Grytviken, South Georgia. Shackleton is my all-time hero explorer. However, it's not just Shackleton who stands out on his second Antarctic voyage, but also Frank Worsley & Tom Crean. Shackleton, Worsley and Crean were the three members of the crew who were involved in raising the alarm following the loss of the Endurance in the Antarctic, with their epic voyage in a small rowing boat from Elephant Island to South Georgia, the subsequent climb over the mountains & the dangerous toboggan down the slopes towards the whaling settlement of Stromness. Captain Frank Wild was left in charge of the rest of the crew on Elephant Island and his ashes are buried alongside Shackleton.
Homage to Ernest Shackleton & his expedition: Shackleton grave at Grytviken, South Georgia (3 Apr 18)
I will end on my favourite Bird photo of a Rainbow-bearded Thornbill taken on a memorable Birdquest tour to Colombia with my late good mate, Brian Field.
Rainbow-bearded Thornbill: Hotel Termales del Ruiz, Colombia (25 Feb 18)
Thanks for following the Blog. I hope you have enjoyed it over the years & here's to the next half million hits.

26 Jun 22 - #30DaysWild Day 26 - Roe Deer

Today's #30DaysWild Blog is inspired by the pair of Roe Deer seen from my house. As they were hiding in the long grass of the field next to the house & not showing well, I've used some of my old photos of Roe Deer in the same field. I never tire of watching them & they remain one of my favourite UK land Mammals.
Roe Deer: Male (28 Jun 10)
Roe Deer: Male (28 May 12)
Roe Deer: Female (28 May 13)

25 Jun 2022

25 Jun 22 - #30DaysWild Day 25 - An Evening Walk

I left today's walk to an evening walk to Middlebere to catch the rising tide & in the hope that it wouldn't be as bad for hay fever. I did get the tide right, but the hay fever was worse that I hoped. The highlights from a short watch from the main hide was a 1st Summer Spoonbill flying from Middlebere to the Wareham Channel. There were also 14 Black-tailed Godwits at the water's edge. Twenty 20 Swifts were feeding over the creek or seen on the walk back to the car: sadly none had white rumps.
Spoonbill: 1st Summer. I didn't take a camera so have to make do with one of my old Spoonbill photos from Middlebere. Today's individual was in a heavier wing moult with more extensive black wing tips (11 Jul 18)

24 Jun 2022

24 Jun 22 - #30DaysWild Day 24 - Garden Bumblebee

I'm trying to vary the contents of the #30DaysWild Blog Posts, so today's entry covers a Garden Bumblebee I saw by the back door this afternoon.
Garden Bumblebee: They can be identified by the long pointed head (17 Jul 11)

23 Jun 2022

23 Jun 22 - #30DaysWild Day 23 - Chapmans Pool

I did a circular walk on my St Aldhelms patch out to the Marines Memorial this evening. Portland had completely disappeared thanks to the sea mist that was rolling in. It's well worth the walk if you have never been there before.
Chapmans Pool: Looking to Rope Lake Head from the Marines Memorial
The Marines Memorial: It is always moving going out to the Marines Memorial as it is such a great location to remember the sacrifices that the Marines have made over the years and it's a great location for the memorial
The Marines Memorial

22 Jun 2022

22 Jun 22 - #30DaysWild Day 22 - A Real Show-off

I spent that day doing my weekly volunteering stint on the Dorset Wildlife Trust's reserve on Brownsea. The volunteering tasks include general public engagement, greeting visitors as they arrive on the reserve as the entrance table, pointing out the wildlife to the visitors in the hides and around the reserve & giving them a bit more information on why the various species on Brownsea are special, general wandering around the reserve to ensure there aren't problems etc. So, there is a lot more to the day, than just sitting in one of the hides watching the lagoon. The Avocet hide has a video camera & TV screen which helps to show off the wildlife. The public engagement part of the role has been fun & just about everybody I've spoken to over the last couple of months have been pleasant people, who appear to have appreciated the information that we can share.

I was just about to leave the entrance table at the entrance to the reserve, when a visiting Birder told me about two Roseate Terns on the lagoon in front of the Tern Hide (formally the Mac Hide). He didn't point out that they had actually been found by one of the DWT staff, Nicki, who was off duty & didn't have a radio with her, but maybe he didn't realise who she was. It's sometimes the luck of the draw as to where I'm volunteering at various points in the day & I didn't have time to look from the Tern Hide. Still I was about to man the video scope camera for the next hour in the Avocet Hide (formally the Lower Hide), & that was the next best option. I quickly located the two Roseate Terns on the Boomerang Island, where they largely hung around for the next forty five minutes. I last saw them at 13:15. At 13:30, I then had to returned to the entrance table for the next ninety or so minutes. Finally, there was time to have another, but unsuccessful, look for the Roseate Terns after then. I did look again between 16:45 & 17:30, but still had no joy.
Roseate Tern: The Boomerang Island is one of the good places for visiting Terns to drop in & rest, but sadly it isn't close. They are the left hand two Terns, with one Sandwich Tern and one Common Tern
At one point, I confirmed it was a male & female, as I saw them mating. To respect their rights, there are no photos, but also I was too slow with the camera. They are the back two Terns, with a closer Common Tern
Roseate Tern: This is the best evidence I can provide of mating, taken a few minutes later: I will leave you to complete your own punchline
Given the Roseate Terns were not close when I was in the hide, then this isn't the highlight of my day on Brownsea today. That has to go to this show-off. This year, the Red Squirrels have been harder to see than I remember in the past. But that might be because most of my previous visits have been in the Autumn & maybe I've seen a higher percentage of less timid youngsters on those visits. While I've normally seen one or two Red Squirrels on each visit this year, sightings have either before the public arrive or fleeting views later in the day. Today, this individual appeared in mid-afternoon on the boardwalk by the entrance table. After a couple of minutes, I saw two visitors walking past on the National Trust path & managed to call them over to enjoy the Red Squirrel. Then another visitor appeared on the boardwalk, but he only had brief views as he spooked the Red Squirrel. This Spring & early Summer, they have been generally easy to spook. Fortunately, after running around in the vegetation, it then went up into a tree where it sat for the next ten to fifteen minutes, while a crowd of ten happy visitors watching it ten metres away. This scores highly on the public engagement & showing off the wildlife part of the role.
Red Squirrel: I was happy to get three people onto it at this point
Red Squirrel: The larger group where happy with these views, which were good considering a number of the visitors fail to see a Red Squirrels on a current day trip, let alone get to photograph one
Finally, I'm sure if there was a poll conducted on Poole Quay, a percentage of Poole residents would say they wouldn't want to visit Brownsea as it's just full of dumb animals. I would say that is a bit harsh, but I agree it does get a few dumb animals.
Dumb Animal: This Dumb Animal walked at the back of the lagoon from the left hand end until the beach area in the middle on the lagoon. At that point, he disappeared. I can only assume he landed on the beach & walked to the left hand end without me noticing him, before returning to the beach
As this photo shows, there are very clear signs on the beach area which say "No Landing Birds Nesting on Beach" and indicating it is a Nature Reserve
While people might not think he is doing any harm, this idiot flushed all the birds at the back of the lagoon that could fly. That left all the youngsters unprotected by their parents & at the risk of an opportunistic Great Black-backed Gull swooping in for an easy meal. They don't need this encouragement to grab a youngster that the parents have invested all their breeding season into getting to a chick. Part of our job as volunteers is to look out for the idiots landing on the island & alerting the DWT team, who then have to make the tricky decision of whether to go out & try & encourage them to leave, whilst trying to be more careful not to flush breeding birds themselves. If this individual sees this Blog Post or the twitter posts, then perhaps he might like to reflect on his actions. As to his rights to privacy, in my opinion, they are overridden by the impact he had on the breeding Birds. He looks like he is old enough to be able to read for himself. These are also my person views, rather than ones I might express as a Brownsea volunteer.
These two either couldn't read or decided that the cuddle they had just had back in the late Winter was more important than considering the Birds: Note, the same clear sign in the photo (27 Mar 22)