Monday 28 November 2011

Just Deserts

I had to hold on for this bird until this morning and as it wasnt a Yorks tick I had no leverage to get away earlier so the gripping photos were turning me green. I got to Bempton around 11am and the bird was refound within half an hour. It showed very well and I managed some record shots in the chilling cold but the poor light stopped the pics from being gems. Anyway  - here are my efforts of the Bempton Desert Wheatear

A stooping Peregrine was nice although Im not sure the pigeons thought much to it. A surprise was a Weasel hunting the crop edges and bundling along the path. Too quick for my camera sadly.

Recently I have dipped Waxwings at Carnaby and on Friday I managed to see 48 European White-fronted Geese at Tophill Low which was pretty cool. Daughter was in tow so no shots of them sadly either.

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Vicarious liability for Raptor persecution in England

Serious message today folks. Gamekeepers suppress raptor numbers but do so to keep their jobs. Those that pay their wages should be held to account so that the pressure is to conform to legislation and not history. Which is what our birds of prey, especially those in upland areas, may become. Please sign the e-petition to get this debated in parliment.

Scotland, recognising that those who persecute birds of prey frequently do so at the direction of their employers or others with vested interests, has introduced an offence of vicarious liability, the purpose of which is to bring those parties to justice. This petition calls on the government to introduce an offence of vicarious liability to bring to justice those who direct or turn a blind eye to raptor persecution in England. As an indication of how bad thing are, in the last year only four pairs of hen harriers successfully reared chicks in England, fourteen peregrine falcon territories failed on grouse moors in Lancs forest of Bowland, and only one successful goshawk nest was recorded in the Derwent Valley, Derbyshire. Current legislation is not enough to deter those who break the law and destroy our heritage; the introduction of vicarious liability would hit those directing the slaughter.

Friday 18 November 2011

Things I may/may not have seen this week

I have been at sea. I cant say where and I cant say when. I may not have seen the following.

Sunday 13 November 2011

Birds & Whisky...

... are two of my favourite things. The lack of posts hasnt been malaise or lack of juicy material but a trip to Islay to get my ESAS certification. Me and my old boss Lucas headed for a load of crossings from Kennacraig on Kintyre to Port Askaig, Islay.

View of Jura from the breakfast table

We arrived at Tarbert, Kintyre in darkness and decided to overnight on the mainland. Whilst here we bumped into another group of ESAS'ers. Having been given a tip off by Fat Paul Scholes I enquired as to whether their pre-raphaelite-esque trainer might need a haircut which suprised him as he had never laid eyes on me before. I explained the situation and laughs were had all round - not least by his trainees. Yet another group of ornithologists were sharing the hotel and despite twitter spamming each other work got in the way of introductory beers for myself and @celaurie and so their was no twitter/reality crossover.

MV Finlaggan
The next morning we had to hitchhike the 7 miles from Tarbert to Kennacraig as there is no public transport to the ferry and the only local taxi driver was pissed up when I rang in the evening. Many thanks to the trucker who picked us up - only took 20 mins of thumbing for a lift in the dark. A hearty breakfast on board gave way to a blowy survey aboard the new ferry, the MV Finlaggan. Highlights were spartan with a few Red-throated and Great Northern Divers. Two hours later and we were in at Port Askaig and booking in at the wonderful Port Askaig Hotel. Its a bit rustic but the welcome is certainly warm. And the bar...

Our heading back was similar to the first and the highlights were a couple of Ravens crossing West Loch Tarbert. Numbers of divers were down from my previous trips to the area. We birded around the ferry terminal (which is clad in dwarf Silver Birch) and managed to find good numbers of Red-breasted Merganser, Goldeneye and a single Woodcock which gave great views as it flushed.

The final crossing of the day was uneventful save for a Lesser Black-backed Gull and we settled into our digs at Port Askaig with a few Whiskies and a game of darts. We sampled a touch of Bruichladdich Rocks and a Black Bottle (a better class of blended whisky). Pre-drinking we went birding down towards Caol Ila distillery - this whole area looks amazing for migrants with birds being funnelled up rhododendron hedges away from the coast. We managed lots of Chaffinch and some more Raven as well as some mega distant Barnicle Geese. A pipistrelle bat hawked over the road and was a sucker for the coin trick. Large numbers of thrushes and Stonechats were present and a Buzzard floated past. When we got back we found a migrant 1st winter male Blackcap trapped inside the entrance to the hotel and we quickly caught it - fat score of zero so probably just in and realeased it into the rhododendron.

The next day was grey and windy and we did a return crossing with best birds a Black-throated Diver at the mouth of West Loch Tarbert and the remarkable sight of 16 Great Northern Divers in a tight flock out in the sound - Lucas managed a photo so hopefully I can show you this sometime soon. We also found out that two juvenile White-tailed Eagles that have taken up residence in the woods to the south of Port Askaig. Sadly the wind kept them out of sight for the duration. We were beat so we didnt go birding on our return, instead getting stuck into the Coal Ila single malts in the bar (and being given a nightcap worth a tenner - amazing hosts). More darts were backed by some Gaelic music from the jamming musicians sharing the front bar with us (about half the size of my front room).

Our final day woke up to a fine morning but the sea was still a bit rough - as were we after a touch too much of the good stuff. Some decent stuff was added on the last leg of the trip with Golden Eagle over the peaks of Islay and Velvet Scoter in the mouth of West Loch Tarbert and three Common Scoter in the loch were the final decent addition. Public transport home from here takes a long time. Yawn...

Saturday 5 November 2011

The Daughter Bird

Had a chance to see the bird that we named our little girl after today. Just over 2 years ago I was flicking through my Collins trying to bone up a bit on features whilst quite,quite drunk and I had an epiphany whilst looking a sandy small passerine - we'd call my daughter Isabelle. Not after the more glamourous shrike but after Isabelline Wheatear.

Sadly sandy bird on sandy background in low light doesnt make for
great pictures

I had the chance to go for the Filey bird in 2006 but it was quite late in the day when news broke and I was still pretty much a newbie so I passed. Yesterday news broke when I was in the soft play centre with my daughter that one had been found at Spurn and I couldnt get away thus fearing another missed opportunity. I hatched a plan to head down this morning with trepidation as they are a species notorious for doing a bunk after a single day. Fortunately it stayed and I got pretty awesome views as it flew round the crowd early this morning. Very sandy without the bluetones of a northern, it had an indistinct super which was almost entirely infront of the eye. When the bird was feeding on the sand of the humber it was evident it had a black alula as well and the 'jizz' was a bit different from its commoner congener but not as distinctive as has been suggested. My thoughts are that it seemed easier to pick on plumage than behaviour.

Although I was only there an hour I also saw a Hooded Crow flying across the mudflats north (a Yorkshire tick for a friend that took him to 300 - what a tart) and a flock of c25 Crossbills heading south. It looked immense and if I didnt have commitments Id have stayed all day. I overheard an owl had come in and 2 Snobs flew past the obs and thrushes were piling out of the sky. I would be very much surprised if something else good isnt turned up by the end of the day. The wheatear was a world tick and a pretty cool bird. Im glad we named our daughter after it.

Tuesday 1 November 2011

Nudge Nudge Wink Wink

Had a corking garden tick when about 100 Pink-footed Geese went over. Id heard them a bit before they arrived and it was obvious these werent the village Greylags which regularly take a trip over (flock is about 50ish at roost times at the moment). I could see them emerging over the houses to the north so I nipped in and got the camera. They literally went straight over the roof at about 60 metres height - pretty low really. 2 skeins in quick succession. Photos the usual standard but Im glad I got any record of them.

How birds and brains become mutually exclusive

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