Friday, December 31, 2004

Confused Dove

What on earth is schizochroism? I'm certainly not sure - after all, there is enough argument about the definition of alibinism and leucism. It appears to be a plumage abnormality that leads to very pale brown, almost whitish, feathering. It may apply to this Collared Dove, first noticed in my garden on 24 December, although some feathers appear to be two-toned, some normal and some whitish. The overall effect is a strikingly pale bird. Unfortunately it is an irregular visitor but I managed some better pics this morning. Comments welcome.

Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)

A regular plumaged bird for comparison:

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

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Red-necked Grebe, Ferry Meadows

Another fearless scarce Grebe at Ferry Meadows, hot on the heals of the Slavonian Grebe there from 14-17 Dec, and continuing a very good run of records for one Peterborough's best birding locations. It tended to keep close to the banks of the southeast side of Overton Lake allowing very close views. The all dark eye makes this likely to be an adult winter rather than a first-winter bird. This was only my second in the area and the first in winter plumage. A great find by Kevin Wick's especially as he was without any optical aids at the time.

The last one in the PBC area was back in 1998 so this was an eagerly awaited bird for many local listers. It also means all five of the area's grebes have appeared this year and 1998 was the last time that happened too.

Red-necked Grebe (Podiceps grisegena)

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

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Boxing Day

A couple of frosty Boxing Day scenes from the bridleway across the grounds of Elton Hall.

Nikon CP995

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Frosty Fungi

These were among some fungi that caught our eye while out on a post-prandial Christmas Day walk. I particularly liked the frosty effect, for once perhaps enhanced by the need for flash.

Many-zoned Bracket (Coliolus versicolor)

Nikon CP995 with flash.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Dad's first Waxwings

A pre-Christmas family gathering at my sister's place in Suffolk provided the ideal opportunity to show my Dad (who got me interested in birds many, many years ago) his first Waxwings. The flock was using the carpark of the main hospital in Ipswich and performed very nicely as they stripped the rowan berries and came down to the kerbside to drink. I counted 125 but may have doubled up a bit as other counts for the flock were no more than 115.

Waxwings (Bombycilla garrulus)

Nikon CP995.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Short-eared Owl, Prior's Fen

A cracking lunchtime outing to Prior's Fen, which has been a bit slow for me on recent visits. Started off by clocking the Bean Geese again, but better weather didn't give any better views as they were spooked just by the car stopping. They flew off but appeared to double back to the same field very soon.

At Prior's Fen a Long-tailed Tit flock caught my attention (always check these) and a rather dull, brownish Chiffchaff was feeding silently among them. I was then distracted by a Short-eared Owl that launched itself up before dropping onto a bank not far away. Unfortunately the brief bright spell had passed so the light was very poor but I wasn't going to pass up the first chance I have ever had to photograph my favourite bird. The pics below aren't too bad considering the shutter was on about 1/8sec!

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)

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

Three Bewick's Swans passed over a couple of times and a Stonechat lingered at the causeway. A Pintail, a couple of Snipe and a surprise visit by 13 Ruff, no doubt displaced from the Nene Washes - where they headed back to when disturbed by a low jet, all added interest. Finally a Kingfisher belted off down one of the drains on the way back to Stonebridge Corner. Not a bad haul for a lunchtime.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Grey Geese on a Grey Day

A party of 9 grey geese have been seen off and on in the Nene Washes area since 4 Dec at least. By now they had settled down to feed on beet tops on a field at Bassenhally Moor (the farmland between the North Bank and Thorney Dyke Road).

Although these had been reported as Tundra Bean Geese up to now, longer views today showed one to be a large adult Pink-footed Goose. This just goes to show how closely related some of these 'species' are, since there is not much more difference between the Pink-foot and Tundra as between the Tundra and Taiga. In this case the Pink-foot may originate from the population breeding in Svalbard (rather than the bulk of East Anglian winterers, which come from Iceland/Greenland), which is more likely to come into contact with Tundra Beans. In total there were 5 adult and 3 juvenile Tundra Bean Geese and one adult Pink-footed Goose.

I have only seen Bean Geese once before locally and that was in exactly the same field - although on that occasion they were with White-fronted Goose and Bewick's Swans.

They were fairly distant and the conditions on this very dull and cold day made viewing difficult and photography even harder. The following shot of the 5 adult Beans (including one with an extensive orange bill and white base) and the Pink-foot is certainly what is usually described as a "record shot".

Tundra Bean Geese (Anser fabalis rossicus) and Pink-footed Goose (Anser brachyrhynchus) (third from left)

Digiscoped with the Nikon CP995, Leica APO77 and 32x eyepiece.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Great Northern Diver

Another species that occurs rather rarely in the Peterborough area. There was one on private waters last winter but this one (found on 16 Nov by Garry Heath) is much more accessible and my first since one at Tallington Lakes so long ago I can barely remember it. Very close views were possible as the bird swam either side of Crowland Bridge on the River Welland.

Great Northern Diver (Gavia immer), juvenile/first-winter

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

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Some garden mammals

Hedgehogs have always been regular visitors to the garden but never so frequent as at the moment. They often linger around the bird seed placed on the ground although whether eating the seed or the slugs there I can't tell.

Squirrels on the other hand are a very recent addition to our garden fauna and at this third sighting one had found the garden bird food to its liking.

Western European Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus)

Nikon CP995 with flash

Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)

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

Monday, November 01, 2004

Scoter at last

Although I have had to twitch them all, this is nevertheless my third PBC area tick of the autumn, and a very welcome one as this species has slipped from me a few times before. And what I sight they make - a flotilla of 20 female or immature Common Scoter on Gunwade Lake in front of the Watersports carpark at Ferry Meadows. Unfortunately they were gone by lunchtime.

Common Scoter (Melanitta nigra)

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

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.