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:

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

and what other conservation work he does:

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.