Monday, 24 July 2017




Simon's crowdfund appeal















































Today I went into the Pozible website to add a pledge to Simon Cherriman's crowdfunding appeal. Then I noticed he has used one of my images of him climbing up to an eagle eyrie in Western Australia. That was taken last year and it was a great day out with a great guy. Simon is such an enthusiastic worker, and he works hard at a hard task. He deserves all the help we can give him. His appeal is for five satellite tags which he hopes to attach to wedge-tailed eagles, then follow their movements across Australia. This is all part of his PhD project. Do have a look at his appeal by following the following link:

https://pozible.com/project/wheres-wailitj

Than have a look at his websites too, to see what results can be gained from his eagle studies:

http://wedge-tailedeagletracking.blogspot.com.au/ 

and what other conservation work he does:

http://simoncherriman.com/Simon_Cherriman/Home.html


Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Pick of bird shots - Scotland 2017

I have returned from my trip to Scotland this year and catalogued the photographs I took. It is always good to look back through such images and reflect on just how successful a trip has been. Here I have posted ten of the bird shots that I like, for various reasons. The first, above, is of a kittiwake flying along a clifftop, with a pink bloom of out-of-focus thrift flower heads in the foreground.

Another kittiwake. I always enjoy a day, or more, at the sea cliffs watching the seabirds that breed there. Most kittiwakes nest on bare, weather-washed rock, but this one had settled on a bright yellow lichen-rich cliff, with a tuft of thrift below the nest.

A day of soft overcast sunshine gave good light for catching the detail in this fulmar's plumage, without washing out the white as happens under bright sunshine.

The soft tones of grey on this cock ptarmigan's back feathers illustrate how well their camouflage fits with the lichens on the adjacent rock. It is bird's profile that we see first, and only because I deliberately took the shot from a specific angle to emphasise the point.

The same ptarmigan's mate was sitting low next to rocks nearby, and again her colouring fits that of the lichens, but also the brown of the heath she was sitting on. This time I took the shot to conceal her profile.

I was studying greenshank in the northern Highlands and this one was feeding in a tidal creek on the sea shore, a few kilometres from its nesting grounds up on the nearby moors.

While watching, or rather listening, for grasshopper warblers near a reed bed a pair of bearded tits came close by. They just appeared then disappeared, such is their behaviour and the difficulty in seeing them in the tall dense reeds the live in. This is the female. I never did see any grasshopper warblers.

This is the male bearded tit. Both birds seemed to be deliberately sitting high on the reed stems to preen in the sunshine after a shower of rain.

This male reed bunting also came out and sat high in the reeds after the shower. Although he was there to sing over his territory.

Not far away, on another sunny day, this splendid male yellow bunting was singing from the lichen-covered roof of an old building. Blue and yellow always go well together.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Reflections of Norway 2017

Still waters are always good for catching reflected images and during my recent visit to Norway I took some shots of plants and birds mirrored in forest bog pools. This first photograph is of a mossy hummock in a bog pool. As spring was late the seed heads of the cotton grass are only just forming and not open in their typical white fluffy  form.

I saw several pairs of whooper swans, but none seemed to have bred this year. They usually lay their eggs early and the cold late spring must have put them off nesting this year.

Broad-billed sandpiper, the main species I was studying this year. These birds are very difficult to see in the bogs. They are the size of a large vole and run through the sedge like little mammals, preferring to hide within the vegetation than fly into the open. This one stands reflected in the water, so it is easier to see its reflection against the clear sky than the actual bird against the sedge.

In this shot of a wood sandpiper, it is possible to see the bird's feet under water. The shade of its body has cut out the glare of the light on the water surface, giving a true depth to the image.

My favourite picture is this one of the same wood sandpiper. The reflections of the twigs and spring leaves remind me of the 16-19th century Edo style of Japanese bird paintings, which portrayed the seasons so well.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Late spring in north Norway

The were persistent northerly winds blowing over the mountain forest bogs in northern Norway during April and May this year, holding back the thaw and spring growth. There was a week of warm dry weather early in June, which brought some life into the area, but the winds reverted to north and continued to hold things back. Consequently, the plants were late in coming into leaf, like the Mountain Birch Betula pubescens var. pumila above, insects were late to emerge and the numbers of breeding birds, which are mostly migrants in that area, were low.

Likewise, the Dwarf Birch Betula nana was only just opening its leaves and catkins in mid June. And spiders were spinning their first webs of the year.

Then when the sun came out one day in late June the flowers opened. White flowers of Cloudberry Rubus chamaemorus swept across the heath, and they held onto their delicate flowers for several days. In most years their petals fall quickly. Perhaps they are dropped after pollination, and as there were fewer insects about, that process was slow.

The main ground colour on the drier sandy ridges came from Blue Heath Phyllodoce caerula, which also was flowering all at once, creating a spectacular show.

Although the sun was shining, the air temperature was still cool, which was good for me as the mosquitoes were scarce and I could study the birds without their incessant attentions. Although, this meant that the butterflies were also slow to fly, like this newly emerged Arctic Fritillary Boloria chariclea which was basking in the sun to warm itself up. The caterpillars of this butterfly take two years to develop into adults.

Damselflies were very scarce. This recently emerged Northern Damselfly was one of very few that I saw until the end of June, when I left. As it was still in its teneral, not yet fully dried and adult-coloured stage, I was uncertain of its sex.

This White-face Darter Leucorhina dubia was very recently emerged. It was still perched on the stem of sedge it had climbed up from the water, where it had lived in the bog pool during its larvae stages - there can be up to fifteen such stages. The wings were still closed, slowly stretching out as they dried.

Other White-faced Darters were farther advanced, but still in their teneral form, the perfect clean edges of their wings and lustrous shine were very evident on this specimen.

Spring was very late.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Terns Fishing

Last weekend I went for a walk along the beach at the Ythan estuary, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, where there were a flock of common and arctic terns chasing after a shoal of tiny fish in a shallow bay. There were about forty terns in the flock and all were dipping and flitting in their determined efforts to capture fish to bring back to their chicks, which were in the ternery on the northern shore of the estuary, about a kilometre away.

I stood less than fifty metres away from the birds as their repeated diving drove the fish into shore.


All their eyes were focused n the fish, not me.

Not all dives were successful.

But every dive was spectacular.

The fish were several centimetres below the surface, so the birds had to partially submerge to catch them.

And breaking free from the water required strong wings.

Many of the birds were ringed, most probably by members of the local Grampian Ringing Group, with rings supplied by the British Trust for Ornithology. Ringing these birds helps to determine where they migrate to, what waters they fish in - need to fish in when on migration, and how long they live. All of which helps to assess the viability of the local breeding colony and the general conservation of the species.

Dashing, splashing, paddling.

Then one last push with their webbed feet and they had their reward.

Oh, what a feeling.

The fishing was good and there were well fed chicks that afternoon.


Thursday, 15 June 2017

Wild Places in the Highlands

Climbing Stob Ban in the Mamores
(Model - Nigel Raven)
Over the past few weeks I have been in some wonderful wild places in the Scottish Highlands. Too many to document here, so I will just give a little selection of shots taken during my wanderings. These are mostly of hills where I have being studying ptarmigan and the habitats they use on the high tops. The vegetation is all very short, although it varies in species composition across different massifs. The hills in the west are wetter, snow lies longer on the highest hills and even lower hills are windswept, so hold suitable hill-top vegetation.These really are wild places to live.

The northern buttresses of Stob Ban.

The summit ridge of Mullach nan Coirean, in the Mamores.

The north-eastern corrie of Carn Eighe, north of Glen Affric.

Sgurr na Lapaich, Glen Affric.

The distant snowy top of Ben Nevis, seen from Carn Dearg, south of Loch Ossian.

Another distant view of Ben Nevis, from a lochan on Beinn Pharlagain, Rannoch.

The remote railway station at Corrour, seen through the mist from Beinn na Lap.

The rain-washed slopes of Beinn nan Aighenan, seen from Glas Beinn Mhor, Glen Etive.

A waterfall on the Allt Mheuran, Glen Etive.

Creag an Duine, seen from Seana Bhraigh.

The northern cliffs of Creag Riabhach, Cape Wrath.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Original House Martin nests

A house martin looks out from deep inside its cliff nest; the original site for these birds to build their nests before we built houses with eaves for them - artificial rock overhangs.

This colony built their nests in the cave left of the sea stack, at the back of a sheltered bay on the north sea, near Aberdeen.

A closer view shows that it is more of a large overhang of rock rather than a deep cave.

Their are five completed nests in this photograph, and a few that have either fallen off or are only just begun to be built. There were twelve complete nests altogether. Each nest is well placed in a corner or rock within the whole larger overhang. A perfect safe site for a colony.

A house martin looks out from its nest, the entrance hole is open onto the rock roof, like they are on buildings.

Then the bird dropped out of the nest and whizzed by, too quickly to photograph without flash - which I prefer not to use on wildlife.