Sunday 24th August 2014

    A birding day on the Levels, turned into a Dragonfly and plants day. Birds were few and far between sadly. But for the 3rd time in recent weeks, and after years of trying......another Brown Hawker posed for photos!!! Right by the car too...bit of a tatty male this time though.

Brown Hawker (Male)
   After a real lack of Birds and anything else really, i decide to go and look for some local plants instead. One i knew was at Westhay was Sundew, what i didn't realise was how much of it there was! The light was poor, but as they don't move too much, it made the photography a bit easier....

Sundew
Sundew
Arrowhead
   The second plant, was actually one i had never heard of, until someone put some pix on Twitter!!! There were quite a few plants in the ditches along the road on Tealham Moor. Glad i looked now, makes you realise what you know nothing about!
Its called Arrowhead, and you can see why.......

Arrowhead










Sunday 17th August 2014

Swallow (Juvenile)
    Todays trip started at Ashcott Corner, and Shapwick Heath. Not a very biddy day sadly. Stopped at the little house just before getting to the car park, there were quite a few hirundines on the wires there. All seemed to be juvenile birds too.




Sand Martin (Juvenile)
    A walk along the old railway track to the lagoons produced very little. A Hobby flew over the second (drained) lagoon, where there were also, one of each, Little & Great White Egrets. A further walk to the tower hide at Noah's Lake, only a few Dragonflies & Butterflies were seen. But from the hide an Osprey was sat in  one of the dead trees, a bit too distant for pix though sadly.








Southern Hawker (Immature Male)
  The walk back to the car park, again very quiet. Until just before the car park, i saw a Dragonfly fly around and land on the brambles in front of me. It was an immature male Southern Hawker, and it was kind enough to stay around for photos.

   Then shortly after another flew around and landed nearby, this time it was a female.

Southern Hawker (Female)
   A walk around the boardwalk trail from the car park, again was very quiet, although i did see Brown Hawker and a few Common Darters.















Green-veined White
      A stop by a little bit of open water, where there was a bit of Water Mint growing, produced a few Butterflies, including Green-veined White.

















    A walk around part of the Westhay tracks again produced very little.....as you can tell a quiet day indeed. After walking to the tower hide here, i started back along the track again. I had seen a couple of Brown Hawkers and quite a few Migrant & Southern Hawkers along here earlier. I had also found a patch of Bracken which was in the sun, and looked a good 'sunning' spot for Dragonflies & Butterflies. As it was i was right. Got there to see a Brown Hawker fly in and land. I managed to get fairly close, and got some shots again, but this time it was a Female, which was good because the last one i photographed here, was a Male...

Brown Hawker (Female)
Southern Hawkers (Close-up)
   Sadly, she didn't stay too long, and didn't come back either. But, on the other end of the Bracken was a pair of southern Hawkers mating, and they took no notice of me, got some really good dragonfly 'porn' shots......very rude i know!!!!

Southern Hawkers















     Next stop was Chew, and a brief look around Stratford. This turned out to be a good stop. In the car park there were loads of Migrant & Southern Hawkers flying around, also some landing along the hedge. But, from the hide there were actually some birds.......good raptor count, Hobby, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard & Peregrine...nice! Then all the big Gulls in the middle of the lake went mental, as they dispersed a bit..there was an juvenile Osprey too...very nice!

    A friend was in the hide, and we were all chuffed about the Osprey, and to add to that, he then picked out the eclipse Drake Lesser Scaup, which had been around for a little while. So, was well worth the stop off. Which gave a nice end to the day....

Saturday 16th August 2014

    First stop Chew today. Not much happening sadly. But, while sat in the Stratford hide, we had a surprise, a juvenile Marsh Harrier flew by.....didnt have the camera ready!!!! Typical. Luckily about an hour later, i picked it up coming in along the reedbed. Managed a couple of shots, but would have been better if i had taken the converter off, as most of the shots have cut off one wing or the other!!

Marsh Harrier (Juvenile)
   As there was not much about, i had a quick wander around the small car park, looking for perched Dragonflies. I found a few Migrant Hawkers, and a Southern Hawker. So spent a bit of time photographing them....the Southern had different ideas, and flew before i got back to it with the camera!

Migrant Hawker (Male)
Migrant Hawker (Male)

Migrant Hawker (Female)
























   So, to continue the Dragonfly theme, i decided to pay a visit to Priddy, see if the Common Hawkers were about. But, to my surprise there were NO Dragonflies there at all, where are they all?

   When i got back to the car, i had a quick look on the verge, on the opposite side of the road, for Butterflies etc. But found another surprise...an Adder, sunning itself on the grass.

   Very nice......not sure if she had just eaten, or was pregnant? What do you think?

Adder

Monday 11th August 2014

   Last day on Scilly. A much more relaxing day today. Just spending time waiting until the Scillonian II sails at 4.30pm. Maybe find something good, blown in by Bertha, that no-one had found yet?

   A look at Porthloo beach produce not a lot, except a couple of Whimbrel. Sadly, they didn't want their photos taken.

   I sort of decided this would be a butterfly day, and with 2 endemic subspecies on Scilly, this would be a good time to get some shots. We walked along Porthloo lane towards Lower Moors, finding a few Butterflies as we went. They included Common and Holly Blue, Speckled Wood & Meadow Brown (the 2 latter species are the endemic subspecies i mention earlier).

'Isles of Scilly' Speckled Wood (ssp. insula)

Pied Flycatcher
    While we were in the Rocky Hills side of Lower Moors, Rob had something move about in the trees. So while i tried to get some more shots of the endemics, he tried to find what it was...He found it after about 5 minutes, and it turned out to be a Pied Flycatcher, a 1st winter bird probably.

Pied Flycatcher














   We walked through Lower Moors, and had very little. Stopped & had a cup of Tea at Old Town cafe, and returned back throughout the 'Dump Clump', and on past the dump. We stopped near there, as there were quite a few Butterflies there. Meadow Brown, Small White, Speckled Wood & Holly Blue......

'Isles of Scilly' Meadow Brown (ssp. cassiteridum)
'Isles of Scilly' Meadow Brown (ssp. cassiteridum)
'Isles of Scilly' Speckled Wood (ssp. insula) 
Holly Blue
    ......and then it was all over, on the ferry and back to Penzance, or so we thought.....

   The ferry journey started, and we saw a huge flock of Shags, one stood out though, it was very pale. I put the bins on it, i should have got the camera, it had a pale patch along the upper side of the wings too, and pale below. I had seen this before, and tried to get a few birders onto it. I am pretty certain it was a Mediterranean subspecies desmarestii. Sadly no photos, so probably never prove it either way, oh well never mind. We gradually started seeing some seabirds, not in big numbers though, Manx, Great, Cory's & Sooty Shearwater were all seen. Then as we got to Land's End we began to see a few more Manx, then more, by the Rummel Stone there were probably a hundred plus, with  feeding Gannets. The most noticeable birds though were Manx Shearwaters, after starting seeing them near Lands End, they continued all the way along the coast to Mousehole. We estimated 5000+, and in that we managed to pick out just one Balearic.

   So a fantastic weekend was rounded off with an amazing journey back.

   We had from the ferry:

Shag (200+ & 1 ssp. desmarestii)
Great Shearwater (5)
Cory's Shearwater (10)
Balearic Shearwater (1)
Sooty Shearwater (5)
Manx Shearwater (5000+)
Common Tern (5)
Sandwich Tern (6)

    Can't wait to go back.................

Sunday 10th August 2014

    Got up this morning for a 9am Pelagic, it had been put back an hour, to let 'Bertha' go through, and because the Scillonian cancellation, which meant there was no rush to get back.

    So we set off, a couple of waves over the sides of the boat didn't put anyone off....what are we gonna get today, it was rather exciting.

Great Shearwater
    We set off to find a sheltered area, in the lee of the islands. Still the birds were out there, Cory's & Great Shearwaters were seen fairly quickly, but still the numbers were nothing like Friday evening. But, i did managed my best Great Shearwater shots. Lovely birds these....

Great Shearwater















   We stopped off about 2 miles off shore, as we had started to see Storm-petrels. According to Bob, this was probably the closest he had seen Storm-petrels to land, and he has been on these trips many times!

   Sadly for me, which i haven't mentioned before, my 300mm lens was playing up, and not focusing properly. So i had been using my 500mm lens. Which at the best of times is NOT easy to hand hold. But, as my previous blog photos show, it is just about possible. But, today was different, there was a lot more swell today, the boat was rocking quite a bit. With that, and trying to photograph Storm-petrels, which are the size of Swallows, oh yeh and my dodgy knee, this was by far the hardest day for me....and i must admit, i did have a time where it started to get to me, and the seasickness tablets were NOT working. You will be happy to know though, i held it in...............although another chap didn't do quite as well, and added to the overboard chumming.

Storm-petrel
    The numbers of Storm-petrels were rising all the time, and they were close in to the boat too. But, it was really difficult to get on them, with their size, the swell of the sea, and the 500mm lens. But, i did keep trying for a while, and managed a few shots. As everyone else found, the birds are always as send on when you photograph them, little buggers.

Storm-petrel
   Then a shout of Wilson's had everyone on guard. The bird flew in, came quite close into the back of the boat, flew along the chum slick, and was never seen again. So quick, but still really nice to see.

   Also in the slick was at least one Manx Shearwater. This was one i really wanted to photograph. They very rarely come near enough to the boat, and even rarer come and stay!

   This one did both, but it did it at the time i was suffering a bit. So, i always missed the best shots. But, again assend shots were proving to be the norm.


Manx Shearwater

  Again i managed one, only one i kept anyway. Still nowhere near what i wanted, but i will try for them another time. Maybe even Skomer sometime.......just another place on my list of places to visit. I could be very busy next year, hopefully with a fully working knee, i can get a few bits done.







   Well, that was about it, and the Pelagic weekend was over, at least for this year. Will defo be doing it again. Lets hope Bertha has dropped some land birds in for tomorrow!!!





Saturday 9th August 2014

   Right then, here we go day 2 of our pelagic weekend. It was 11am, and everyone was thinking, could this be as good as last night?

Great Shearwater

   An early Cory's shout, was sadly to not be as regular as last night. But still decent views were had by all. One even sat on the water beside the boat....There were also Great Shearwaters too, again in lower numbers than yesterday evening, but still showing quite well..............

Cory's Shearwater













Wilson's Storm-petrel
   Things were still going quite well, when the first shout of "Wilson's" went up, amongst a few Storm-petrels. I knew at least 2 of the birders on the boat, needed this for a lifer, and so i stood back a bit, to let them get a look. Luckily we all got decent views of it, in its too brief a stay. Jim & Rob, both got it as a lifer, so were over the moon. I as it happens got some distant, but not too bad, shots............



Wilson's Storm-petrel






   The top one is not as good as the other two, but shows the legs/feet protruding beyond the tail. Which is one of some good features of Wilson's Storm-petrel.




Wilson's Storm-petrel













   Manx Shearwater, Arctic Skua, Bonxie, 3 Common Scoter, and a Kittiwake were added to our list.

Blue Shark
   We also had 2 more Blue Sharks. The Blue Sharks that are caught are tagged, and you can make out the tag, in this picture. This Shark is being held by the boats Captain Joe Pender.....you can find out more about Joe and the Pelagic trips at www.scillypelagics.com. We also had an Ocean Sunfish today, sadly it didn't hang about to have its photo taken!
Balearic Shearwater







   The light was fading, and we were starting the return journey, when a Balearic Shearwater was picked out. It flew quite close into the boat, and showed well, shame about the light though.

   Another was picked up a bit later, and followed the boat in for quite a way.




Balearic Shearwater














   So another cracking day was had by all. The numbers may have been down on last night, but were some good additions, including one special Wilson's Storm-petrel too.

   Estimated numbers today were:

Wilson's Storm-petrel (1)
Cory's Shearwater (13)
Great Shearwater (5)
Balearic Shearwater (2)
Storm-petrel (15)
Arctic Skua (1)
Great Skua (2)
Manx Shearwater (few)
Kittiwake (1)
Common Scoter (3)

Blue Shark (2)
Ocean Sunfish (1)

   Now came the wait for Hurricane Bertha. This hurricane had been predicted for a while. It had hit the East Coast of the USA, and had been tracked across the Atlantic, towards Britain. It was due to hit us overnight tonight, and the Scillonian III ferry had already been cancelled for tomorrow. We were supposed to be on that, to go home, but now we had an extra day. But, what would it be like on a small fishing boat out there tomorrow........more importantly, what would be out there with us????








Friday 8th August 2014

    Drove to Penzance this morning, to catch the Scillonian III to St Marys, Isles of Scilly.

   Amazingly quick turn around for me really. I started seeing photos on Twitter, from the Pelagics last weekend, and was beginning to go green! I have wanted to photograph Cory's Shearwater 'well', for years now. So on Tuesday 5th, i tweeted Bob Flood, to see if there were any spaces for this weekend, and he said there were. Now i was really thinking about booking the time off work! Then i received a Tweet from Rob Jones, saying am i interested in going, he had Pelagic fever, as he had just come back from Madeira! 'F*** it, I'm in!".

   Explanation over, back to the Ferry. We stood along the side of the ferry, as the end was full with tourists, and a few birders too. Started looking pretty good though, even from the harbour....we saw loads of Gulls out towards St Michaels Mount, a feeding frenzy! Then we saw why, there were some Common Dolphins & Harbour Porpoise out there feeding too.

  We started getting the birds just before Lands End really. A few Manx Shearwaters, and a Bonxie. Then a large fin was spotted, then i saw it, picked up the camera, and typically it never surfaced again......camera shy obviously! It was a Risso's Dolphin.....Someone spotted a Storm Petrel, and gave a yell. I think most people got on it. I then picked up a small Gull, but it was way off, another shout of Storm Petrel, and i took my bins off the Gull. OK, Storm Petrel number 2...now wheres that Gull, i was thinking maybe a Kittiwake, and we had not seen any yet! But, i was really hoping for a Sabines Gull. I picked it up again, as it went across in front of the ferry, SHIT!!! Im sure that was a Sabines. I gave a shout, and a couple of people heard me. Rob & I went across the other side of the ferry, and it was a juvenile Sabines Gull....brilliant. It turned to fly alongside the ferry, i got my camera, but it turned again and flew directly away from us. The last of the good stuff, was a Sooty Shearwater, but that was fairly distant too.

   Thats from the ferry, what will the Pelagic tonight be like?

   After the boring stuff was done, we were back on a boat, this time the Sapphire, with the birders for the Birders Pelagics. So it began. The first shout of "Cory's" soon went up, and then "Great Shear" too. I was beginning to think i had made the right decision for once.

Cory' Shearwater
   Cory's, Cory's, Cory's...wow they were everywhere. Of course i was concentrating on trying to get photos, while others kept score.

Cory' Shearwater
Cory' Shearwater

























   A Bonxie (Great Skua) came into the frame too...showed rather well too! Of course the Great Shearwaters were showing well too....

Great Skua
Great Sheawater
Great Sheawater
  A few Storm-petrels and the odd Sooty Shearwater were seen too. But, it was the Cory's that were keeping everyone busy. Then another Cory's shout. This time it was the right side, the sun was on it, as it banked away, i got a few shots, and it disappeared. I took a quick look at the shots, Shit! i have washed out the white underside, but....it struck me this bird was REALLY white underneath. Oh well i must be seeing things, or just my crap photos.

   Then, as suddenly as the first time, the same bird was back. As i had washed it out, when i checked my pix, i had already changed the stop on my camera and should be ready, i got some shots as it flew towards us.......and then it did exactly the same again, banking alongside the boat! This time i got it, i hope????


   I did........I looked at my photos, thats better i thought. Hold on though, something not quite right here.

   By chance, as we had checked into the B&B earlier, i had got my Seabirds book out, and had looked at Cory's.........and Scopoli's Shearwater. I had pointed out the points to look for to Rob. Oh dear.....this has those features. So i walked up the boat to where Bob Flood was stood, to show him the pix, and ask what he thought. As i got to him, he was already looking at the back of another birders camera, having asked to see "that last Cory's". He had noticed it looked different, the first time it passed. The bird was whiter underneath, smaller...less bulky, with what looked like slimmer wings, also after looking on the cameras, it had a long slim bill...upto a 'normal' Cory's anyway. Now on the back of the camera, we could also see the 'white fingers' which edge the primary feathers....could it be?

'Possible' Scopoli's Shearwater
   We all agreed this would need to be looked at on a computer, not just the back of the cameras. But, it had all the features of a Scopoli's Shearwater, except there was only minimal, if any, 'fingering' on P10, this is supposedly the clincher. If it is proved to be the case, it will only be the second 'proven' sighting in the UK. The other was seen off of Scilly too.
'Possible' Scopoli's Shearwater












   So, at the end of the 'first' pelagic, we had seen.......not including the commoner stuff

200+ Cory's Shearwaters
40+ Great Shearwaters
4 Sooty Shearwaters
25+ Storm Petrels
4 Great Skuas
& best of all, a 'possible' Scopoli's Shearwater (we will all have to wait on the outcome of this one)

    We also had 4 Blue Sharks, 2 got landed, but 2 real big ones got away sadly. One was estimated at about 50lbs+, the other, even bigger at a massive 150lbs+. What a shame they got away, would have been really cool to see those on the boat! The Blue Sharks that are caught are tagged, as part of a survey, then released, to be caught another day........

    So, what a great decision, and a great start too.........i think you will agree.

    A really long day today, but roll on tomorrow.


PS   If anyone is interested in reading more about the 'possible' Scopoli's Shearwater, now being called a Scopory's (Scopoli's/Cory's), here is a link to the RBA website, and Bob Floods account. It makes good, interesting reading.

Saturday 2nd August 2014

   Round trip taking in Priddy, Westhay, Cheddar, Draycott Sleights and Chew today. None of them were at their best, but did have some goodies anyway.

Common Emerald
   Priddy pools was the first stop hoping for Common Hawker, but their were very few large Dragonflies about, a few Emperors were about it. There were a few Black & Common Darters about too, and even fewer Common Emeralds.

Black Darter














Marbled White
    There were a few Butterflies there too, including Small Skipper, Marbled White, Speckled Wood, Common Blue and Small Copper.










Small Copper














   So, onto the levels, and Westhay Moor. Still trying to get those shots of Brown Hawker, and try to refind the Clearwing moths. Didn't find either, as the weather closed in a bit, and it started to rain. Did find some more Small Red-eyed Damselflies and a Sharp-angled Peacock moth, only the second i have seen.

Small Red-eyed Damselfly (Pair)
Sharp-angled Peacock

Small Red-eyed Damselfly (Female)




















   We moved onto the main track at Westhay, and the weather warmed up again, was still a bit windy though.



   I walked along the track a bit, and found a Brown Hawker flying around. I watched it for a while, and it landed, i moved towards it, and it flew, typical. But, then it landed again...and i managed finally got some decent shots, after trying for many years.

Brown Hawker (Male)
Brown Hawker (Male)


   A stop off at Draycott Sleights, to look for  Grayling and Wall Brown butterflies was a bit of a failure, i did see a Wall Brown, but got no pix. But did get shots of Chalkhill Blue & Brown Argus, which was nice.
Chalkhill Blue (Male)

Chalkhill Blue (Male)
Chalkhill Blue (Female)
Chalkhill Blue (Female)

Brown Argus (Male)
Brown Argus




















   Last stop before dark was Chew. saw a couple watching a bird at Herons Green. I think its a Curlew Sandpiper, i heard one say. That would be good i thought, but odd! As it turned out, it was a Whimbrel, but it was a bit too dark for photos by then. I told the couple, and they said thanks, and looked it up in their bird book....