Friday, October 29, 2004

Black Redstarts everywhere

We sat out the storm on Wednesday but by Thursday the weather had improved and we were ready to get out and about again. It was still windy from the southeast so we decided the shelter of the St Just valleys would do just fine. That morning a Wheatear had turned up on St Ives Island and I had seen Black and Common Tern in St Ives Bay so things were clearly moving.

Huge numbers of Chiffchaffs were in the Cott Valley and we found a Firecrest feeding very obligingly out in the open on some Gorse before counting at least 5 Black Redstarts on the cliffs at the end. Sennen likewise had a large fall of Chiffchaffs and a couple more Black Redstarts.

On Friday we headed for one of my favourite patches in Penwith: St Leven. The short walk around via Porthgwarra nearly always turns up something of interest. On this occasion there were a couple of Black Restarts around the churchyard and the adult male made a particularly attractive sight as it perched on the lichen-encrusted headstones. An adult Little Gull also battled past Porthgwarra over the towering waves.

Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros), St Leven Church

Digiscoped with the Nikon CP995, Leica APO77 and 20x eyepiece.

We had called in at Marazion to see the Grey Phalarope that had been taking shelter from the storm on a small pool next to the road on Thursday but it was really too windy to attempt a photo. So we returned on Friday and the bird was still present to allow these shots:

Grey Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius), Marazion

Digiscoped with the Nikon CP995, Leica APO77 and 20x eyepiece.

Despite being in the right place about 4 times the one bird that really eluded me was Waxwing but I didn't see any other reports of the Serin that flew past me near Land's End on Saturday just before we set off for home. A glimpse of yellow rump and a trilling call was all I got but it is still the first I have come across in Britain. A cracking end to a cracking week.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Isles of Scilly

I have been going to Cornwall in the autumn for longer than I care to remember but have never quite made it to the Isles of Scilly. I keep promising myself a day trip there but I never seem to manage it. This year, with a long-staying Cream-coloured Courser on St Mary's, was the perfect excuse to finally sort it out. My intention was to head out on the Scillonian and either come back the same way late in the day or take a plane back to get back to the family a bit earlier.

In the end the decision was made for me. Stormy weather forecast for Wednesday meant the Scillonian would be returning early and the last flight back was mid-afternoon. I wanted a bit of time to explore so I booked to go on the plane in both directions. By the time I had made the booking news of an Ovenbird (seriously sought after North American bird) was just getting out and extra flights were being arranged. I was in two minds whether to go ahead. I had been hoping for a quiet introduction to the islands and this was going to be something quite different. But I stuck with it and I am very glad I did.

I met a great bunch of people out there: in particular Mark, who booked the taxi, and Mike from Glamorgan, who kindly showed me around some of St Mary's for the rest of the day. Of couse I tagged along to see the Ovenbird, which was relocated feeding actively in the pine needles below some trees at Trenoweth. The crowd gathered to watch were incredibly well behaved and as a result the bird moved freely about the area often coming to within a few feet of admiring onlookers. It was a little dark under the dense conifers but I managed a couple of handheld photos when it came close to me. It is a pity that the attrocious weather of the following two days (and presumably the less than perfect habitat) resulted in this bird dying a couple of days later.

Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapillus), Trenoweth

Nikon CP995.

I didn't stay too long after being so close to the Ovenbird so walked around to the Golf Course for an encounter with the Cream-coloured Courser. The first in Britain since 1984, this bird had been present almost a month and was blissfully unperturbed by the procession of golfers and birders going past it daily.

This turned out to be another very close encounter as at one point I lay on a tee and the bird ran up onto it and straight past my nose before I could get the camera onto it. However two of the shots below were taken at about that time including the one of the "Golf Courser" running past the golf ball tee marker.

Only the last shot was digiscoped and that was when I settled back in the sunshine to watch the bird while eating cheese and pickle rolls and wondering if things could get much better. Unfortunately this tale too has an unhappy end. I noticed the condition of the bird's feathers didn't seem up to much, although otherwise it seemed fine, but again following the appalling weather of the following days it too died. Not that surprising for a bird normally at home on African deserts.

Cream-coloured Courser (Cursorius cursor), St Mary's Golf Course

Nikon CP995.

Digiscoped with the Nikon CP995, Leica APO77 and 20x eyepiece.

This short video clip should take about a minute to download on a broadband connection.
40 second video clip (3.5MB)

A search for the Little Bunting that had been at Carn Friars and anything else we might be able to find for ourselves turned up a Merlin, a couple of Little Egrets, a few Greenshank and odds and ends like Water Rail and Blackcap.

Here are a couple of views taken during the day.

St Martins from Innisidgen

Round Island from Bar Point

A rough-looking, but happy lot heading back to Land's End on the Skybus:

Longships and Land's End

Cape Cornwall with Pendeen in the distance

Monday, October 25, 2004

St Ives

After strong southwesterlies over the weekend the wind moved around to the northwest on Monday and provided a very large seabird movement past St Ives Bay: Little Auk, Balearic Shearwater, Sabine's Gull, Great, Pomarine and Arctic Skuas, Black-throated Diver were among the highlights.

Here are a few images taken later in the day.

St Ives Harbour

Nikon CP995.

Grey Seal (Halichoerus grypus), St Ives Harbour

Nikon CP995.

Turnstone (Arenaria interpres), St Ives Harbour

Nikon CP995.

Preening Shags (Phalacrocorax aristotelis), Porthgwidden, St Ives

Digiscoped with the Nikon CP995, Leica APO77 and 20x eyepiece.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Fungal Jungle

While on a lunchtime visit to the Fen Causeway area west of Whittlesey with Steve I came across this forest of tiny fungal fruit bodies under an old hawthorn hedge.

Fairy Bonnets (Coprinus disseminatus)

Nikon CP995.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

What a star!

Wryneck are notoriously difficult to twitch - they have a tendency to turn up in someone's garden then clear off quickly, as indeed the other one in the area earlier this year did. Thankfully this one stuck around all weekend and provided us with a real treat on Sunday evening. It was feeding around the carpark and could become very accustom to the appreciative crowd of ten or more onlookers.

Sitting still nearby would often result in it hopping gradually closer - at one point it was at my binoculars' minimum focus distance. Naturally this provided many opportunities to photograph the little fellow and there are other photos on the websites of Katie, Steve, Mike.

I even managed a short video clip, which in this world of broadband should take about a minute to download.
40 second video clip

Wryneck (Jynx torquilla)

Digiscoped with the Nikon CP995, Leica APO77 and 20x eyepiece.


Skegness is not only bracing but can be character forming!

Rarity hunting is a hit and miss affair. If you go out with high hopes and low expectations you will be happy as usually the low expectations are justified. The trouble comes when a run of reported rarities and apparently excellent weather conditions raise those expectations. Thus when I set out for Skegness with Steve and Katie disappointment was always a possibility. In the end a fair number of Goldcrests couldn't compensate for the paucity of other species. A Lesser Whitethroat, a couple of Chiffchaffs, a Woodcock, a Stonechat, an Avocet, a few Brent Geese and a probable fly over Rock Pipit is not a good return on 6 hours intensive searching on the east coast in October.

The Goldcrests were at least incredibly tame and came close enough to take some photos without the need for further magnification.

Goldcrest (Regulus regulus)

Common Darters were relaxed enough on a fallen tree to attempt the classic eye shot.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum)

Nikon CP995.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Leopard Slug

A very unhurried lunchtime visit to Tanholt Pit resulted in some close views of Long-tailed Tits with Great Tit, Blue Tit, Goldcrest and a Kingfisher. 70 Redwing and 4 Fieldfare flew west ahead of a squall that had me sheltering under some trees where this beauty (?) posed for some pics. The birds refused to settle for any decent shots unless you count the little chap at the bottom :).

Leopard Slug (Limax maximus)

Nikon CP995.

"You didn't see me, right!"

Digiscoped with the Nikon CP995, Leica APO77 and 20x eyepiece.

Monday, October 04, 2004


Prior's Fen and Stonebridge Corner were buzzing with insects in warm sunshine following the heavy rain this morning. A Southern Hawker out on the fen and a Hornet on ivy flowers at Stonebridge Corner were the highlights. There were plenty of other insects using the ivy flowers including several hoverflies.

Eristalis tenax

Nikon CP995.

Sunday, October 03, 2004


Elton Water Meadows is in fact in Fotheringhay parish over the border in Northants but is adjacent to Elton lock. These grasshoppers were on the banks of the Nene.

Lesser Marsh Grasshopper (Chorthippus albomarginatus)


Nikon CP995.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Sparrow @ my house

A bit more digiscoping practice, handheld using my recently homemade adapter. This House Sparrow made an interesting portrait.

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)

Digiscoped with the Nikon CP995, Leica APO77 and 20x eyepiece.