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.