31 May 2019

19 May 19 - Garden Orange-tip

If the weather is warm & sunny, I sometimes see Red Admirals or Peacocks flying around my garden in late Winter, which have hibernated as adults in the previous year. However, one of the first species of the Butterflies to emerge as adults around my garden are Orange-tips. They are also one of my favourite UK Butterflies. Males are always first on the wing of the two sexes and can regularly been seen enjoying my flowers, especially the Bluebells. Females emerge later & are less generally obvious & erratic visitors. So, I was pleased to see one settle on a white variant of my Red Valerian & enjoy a quick roost as the sun went in. She was there long enough to take my first photos of a female Orange-tip.
Orange-tip: A well camouflaged female against the white Red Valerian
The males are far more obvious, especially in flight, when they cannot be confused with any of the other UK Whites.
Orange-tip: Male at Old Harry (4 May 15)

29 May 2019

25 Feb 18 - Colombia: Below The Colibri Hotel

After a great early afternoon watching the Hummingbirds at the Hotel Termales del Ruiz, we headed off for a few hours to explores the valley from the dirt road below the hotel. Fortunately, there was little traffic on the road. It was a mixture of small grassy fields & woods along the road.
The view from the hotel
A view from the road
We crossed this small river at one point
What was a fairly quiet afternoon, translated into an easier editing session to sort out the photos for this Post (unlike the last Hummingbird Post). The highlight was my first Paramo Tapaculo, which showed as well as, any of the Colombian Tapaculos & allowed the chance of a few record shot photos.
Paramo Tapaculo: They occur from Colombia through Ecuador to Northern Peru
Paramo Tapaculo
White-banded Tyrannulet: This species occurs from Colombia to Ecuador, Peru and Western Bolivia
Crowned Chat-tyrant: Another species which occurs from Colombia to Ecuador, Peru and Western Bolivia
Lacrimose Mountain-tanager: This is a widespread Andean species which occurs from Colombia and Western Venezuela to Ecuador & Peru
Roadside Fungi
It's about time to introduce some of the others on the tour.
Brian, Pirjo, Judy & Rich
Rich, Rob & tour leader, Janos

27 May 2019

25 Feb 18 - Colombia: C Is For Colibri

After spending the morning up on the Paramo watching the excellent-looking Buffy Helmetcrests, we descended a bit for lunch at the Hotel Termales del Ruiz, which was an impressive looking hotel built around some hot springs. We were booked to spend the night in the hotel. After a bit of hassle with keys, the bags were safely in the rooms and we could check out the Hummingbird feeders in the garden. It was a Sunday lunchtime & the hotel was clearly popular with Colombian day trippers visiting the mountains. There was a steady stream of people heading to the feeders to see & feed the Hummingbirds. It isn't hard to see why it was a popular hotel. It proved to be one of the most enjoyable sites we visited.
Brian Field: Making a new friend
Rainbow-bearded Thornbill: This is one of my favourite Hummingbirds
Rainbow-bearded Thornbill
Rainbow-bearded Thornbill: Although I had seen it before in Ecuador, this was one of the best Birds of the trip
Black-thighed Puffleg: This looks like a female or sub-adult male Black-thighed Puffleg after comparing it with other photos online
Golden-breasted Puffleg: Just gorgeous
Golden-breasted Puffleg
Shining Sunbeam
Shining Sunbeam: This is a large & distinctive species
Buff-winged Starfrontlet: The prominent buff wing panel makes this an easy Hummingbird to identify
Buff-winged Starfrontlet: The buff wing panel is just about visible in this photo
Buff-winged Starfrontlet: These feeders were being sold for a US dollar & were very popular with visitors and Hummingbirds
Buff-winged Starfrontlet
Mountain Velvetbreast: Another easy to identity species as it was the only Hummingbird at the hotel with a curved bill
Mountain Velvetbreast: Female
Great Sapphirewing: A large & long-winged species
Great Sapphirewing
Great Sapphirewing: My only natural habitat photo
The local Flower-piercers had also worked out that there was an easy source of sugar. The holes in the feeders were too small to get their bills in, however, they were able to open their bills & get their tongues in.
Glossy Flower-piercer
Glossy Flower-piercer
Masked Flower-piercer
It was a pity when we had to leave to explore further down the road below the hotel.

25 May 2019

10 May 19 - Golden Brown

It's that time of year when there are a number of youngsters from the early local breeders appearing in my garden. Normally, I expect to see two or three young Dunnocks appearing over the course of the breeding season. It not always easy to be sure how many youngsters are around, unless I see them together or can learn the subtle differences in plumage to separate them. Hopefully, I continue to see the same individuals over the following few months, until they become a lot harder to pick out from the two pairs of resident Dunnocks that have territories that include my garden.
Dunnock: Juvenile. Typically my Dunnocks look like this individual photographed at Studland (14 May 14)
However, this year is going to be a lot easier to keep tabs on one of the individuals as it is very distinctive. It's been around for a few weeks now, so clearly has worked out how to survive so far. They get a bit of support from the parents in their first few days of fledgling, but like a number of my other garden Birds, are far too quickly left to sort themselves out.
Dunnock: Juvenile. This cracking golden-brown individual has been around for a few weeks now
These photos were taken through the kitchen window & hence, they aren't as sharp as they would otherwise be.
Dunnock: Juvenile
The pale plumage is going to be a result of some leucistic genes, but I've never seen any of my local Dunnocks look pale before. So, it's possible that a wandering Dunnock has briefly entered the area or perhaps it's just some genes that haven't popped up in the twenty plus years I've lived here. David Attenborough highlighted that the often overlooked Dunnocks have a lot more spicy sex lives than people had assumed. So, it would be nice to think that there is another explanation, that my garden played host to the UK's first African Desert Warbler.
African Desert Warbler: It's unlikely this was a parent, but it looks like it might just have been. Western Sahara (8 Feb 14)

21 May 2019

15 May 19 - A Is For Alexandrine

I was having a final look at the recent Durlston Bee-eaters, before heading home, when three silent Parakeets flew high over the Durlston Long Meadow field. I had a quick look at them with the bins & was surprised to see one was noticeably larger & longer-tailed than the others. It looked large for a Ring-necked Parakeet & so I picked up the camera to take a few photos. They circled the field once before flying back towards Swanage. Locally, Ring-necked Parakeets are a regular, but erratic sight, ever since an ex-publican of the Bankes Arms in Studland released about a dozen or so individuals when he left the area in the early 1990s. I had a quick look at one of the photos on the back of the camera. I saw two were juveniles & the long-tailed individual was an adult. It still didn't feel right, but they were only Parakeets & I assumed perhaps it was an oddly long-tailed individual, being accentuated by the two youngsters. I made a comment about the ages & thought I would have a proper look when I got home. In the end, I had forgot all about them in the few minutes it took me to get home. The following day, I saw a tweet from the country recorder, Marcus Lawson, about an Alexandrine Parakeet at Durlston & it immediately made sense. I hadn't considered other Parakeet species. When I looked at all the photos, I found a photo of the upper wing & the large red wing patch. Clearly, an Alexandrine Parakeet had been released or escaped & joined up with the local Ring-necked Parakeets.
Alexandrine Parakeet: Flying above a juvenile Ring-necked Parakeet
Alexandrine Parakeet: Alexandrine Parakeet is larger, long-tailed & heavier billed than a Ring-necked Parakeet
Alexandrine Parakeet: Had I looked at this photo, the red patch on the wing coverts and heavy red bill would have been immediately identifiable as an Alexandrine Parakeet
Alexandrine Parakeets were named after Alexander the Great. Apparently, they first brought back to Europe as exotic pets following his conquest of the Northern India.
Alexandrine Parakeet: A perched individual from Chiriyi Tapu, Andamans (22 Dec 13)

19 May 2019

15 May 19 - B Is For Bee-eaters

I was working at home on Wednesday, when I saw a message at lunchtime of seven Bee-eaters at Durlston: the excellent Dorset County Council reserve at the Southern side of Swanage. I couldn't head up quickly due to work. I could afford to be laid back on this occasion, having been lucky enough to have seen a flock of six Bee-eaters at Durlston on 31 May 97 & a single exactly fifteen years later to the day. Maybe I should pop up on 31 May 27? They were still present when I finished for the day, so it was time to grab the camera & pop up to Durlston. I could see a few parked cars just outside the park entance & a small huddle in the field on the Eastern side of the entrance road. As I walked up to the small gathering, I saw Peter Moore lift his camera: clearly, they were still here. For the next hour they regularly flew over the fields on both sides of the entrance road. I've now seen eighteen good Birds at Durlston: a Red-footed Falcon, a Red-flanked Bluetail, a Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler, a self-found Bluethroat & fourteen Bee-eaters. A bit more variety would be nice!
Bee-eater: They really are too bright for the British countryside
Bee-eater
Bee-eater
Bee-eater: They are even better on the upperside
Bee-eater
Bee-eater: Doing what their name suggests
Bee-eater: An unidentifiable Bumblebee: one of a number of species with a yellow band on the body
Bee-eater: This individual with a lop-sided tail moult and a notch in the inner primaries on the right wing was the most photogenic
I left about 20:00 as the light levels were starting to drop & I didn't think I was going to get any better shots. They must have headed off within the next thirty minutes, as one of my mates arrived about 20:30 & failed to see them. Presumably they roosted locally, but they didn't return to Durlston the following morning. Hopefully, the Dorset Spring isn't over yet.