Saturday 24 October 2009

Some Scilly Pics – Radde’s Warbler & Lapland Bunting

Got back yesterday from what must’ve been one of the quietest weeks on Scilly in living memory. The islands remain a beautiful place to wander, but ultimately as a birding holiday, it was rather poor. We worked pretty hard to find whatever was out there, but came to the conclusion that there really wasn’t much to be found… indicator birds from the east (like Yellow-browed Warbler) were very thin on the ground, there weren’t large numbers of common ‘carrier species’ (finches, thrushes, etc) to be searched through, and there wasn’t even a hint of an American. Time to consider some different options for next year, I think.

However, I did scrape my 400th British bird with a couple of calling flyover Red-throated Pipits, and I came away with a few pleasing pics of a couple of scarce birds: a rather showy Radde’s Warbler was superb at the foot of Sandy Lane near Holy Vale, and a ridiculously tame Lapland Bunting was pretty awesome on Tresco, less than 2 feet away.






Wednesday 7 October 2009

Canada: Gray Whale

One of the highlights of the entire trip came on the west coast of Vancouver Island, just outside Ucluelet. Early morning, we were wandering along a stretch of the Wild Pacific Trail , enjoying the stunning scenery in what feels like ‘the end of the world’. I’d stopped to look at some warblers and sparrows for quite a while (nothing new there!), when a German couple came past. They asked if we were whale watching… and then a moment later casually pointed out a large whale surfacing only about 100m offshore! Initially we thought it was a Humpback, but after watching it for about 15 minutes and speaking to an expert at the local visitor info centre, we’ve revised the ID to a Gray Whale – a relatively common species off the Island.

The animal’s behaviour was almost completely predictable after a while (though no less impressive for that). It would surface and ‘blow’ three times in pretty quick succession (showing a small pointed fin, ahead of a row of even smaller ridges along its back), on the third occasion rising a little higher up out of the water, and then diving with a prominent upward flap of the tail. It would then stay down for about 2-3 minutes before repeating the same sequence. The photos aren’t amazing… but it’s not exactly an everyday sight in the UK!

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Tuesday 6 October 2009

Chilterns Red Kites

After JL and I (eventually) located the drake Lesser Scaup at Draycote Water in Warwickshire on Sunday morning, and then failed to relocate an Aquatic Warbler, we headed back to London via the M40 and the apparently thriving population of Red Kites around Stokenchurch. We didn’t give it that long, and the light wasn’t ideal, but still got a few reasonable photos – see below. All of these were taken from the end of a cul-de-sac in a housing estate with kites wheeling around over people’s gardens… lucky folk!

I want to give the kites some proper attention with a return visit in a month or two, preferably on a sunny blue skied day… watch this space!

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Monday 5 October 2009

Canada: just a few Killer Whales…

Apologies to any eagle-eyed readers who’ve noticed the distinct lack of blog activity lately: I’ve been busy at work in the week (just look up Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium Models if you’re struggling to get to sleep), and busy birding at the weekends (look up Zitting Cisticola at Pegwell if you want to see something only slightly more interesting!). UK Yearlist is now 296… hopefully a really good bird will double up as 300 for the year and 400 for the life list.

Anyway, the combination of a lovely bottle of Viognier and excellent free music courtesy of Spotify (check it out, highly recommended) has prompted me to post some more photos from Canada.

Not really much I can say about these: simply awesome, and worth every cent we paid to 5 Star Whale Watching for the experience. Click the link for their blog, if you want yet more photos!

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