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Saturday, 21 September 2013

Pectoral Sandpiper,Greater Mancs!

News reached me of a juv Pectoral Sandpiper at a reservoir on the outskirts of Bolton,gtr manchester.An early start and I was on site for 7.30 am.The water level was well down with plenty of mud to go at,ideal conditions for waders.A quick scan round and I was soon onto the bird at a distance of about 75 metres.Suddenly a sparrowhawk appeared,flushing everything in site and it wasn`t until a good hour had passed that I got onto the sandpiper again.A few other birders had arrived by then with the bird relocating to a different part of the reservoir.

We were able to approach to within 15 to 20 metres of the bird,which was sheltering behind a large rock.The light wasn`t that good by this time but I obtained a few images to share with you of this nearctic wader!!

Pectoral Sandpiper,a bird of the high arctic that winters in south america,places like the pampas in Argentina!

It is one of the commonest nearctic waders to europe,and is annual to Britain and Ireland,usually associated with Atlantic depressions.

It is a rather erect Sandpiper,with a straight tapering bill and yellow green legs!

This particular bird took refuge for a good while behind this rock,after having been flushed by a Sparrowhawk!

It breeds alongside birds such as Least Sandpiper and Temnick Stint!

Obviously not used to humans,it give us all good views.

Well worth the early start to see!

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Liverpool pelagic

Last month I was priveleged to go on a pelagic trip out of Liverpool.The target birds were Gannet,Fulmar,Manx Shearwater,Great Skua and maybe storm petrel!On the trip were 4 photographers and 4 bird watchers.We set off aboard a craft called `Discovery` owned by Gary Mills.Primarily used for fishing parties this craft was geared up to travel as far away as Ireland carrying 11 people.

Hopes were high as we left the Mersey channel in glorious conditions,clear skies and light winds.We had a good selection of bait with us to make up a `chum slick`hopefully to attract the Petrels.Also we had plenty of bread to get the gulls going which in turn,would attract the Gannets.The skipper Gary had brought along a Deck hand,who also was to fish for mackerel which when thrown overboard ,would entice the Gannets to dive!These were the plans for the day.Gary knew exactly were to go and headed out a good 20 mile to an area he knew well.He`d previously seen dolphin and seals in the same area that we were heading to.
The journey out went quickly,and we were soon on our mark.A few gulls were milling about so we got the bread going in regularly and Richard,the organiser got his chum slick overboard.Soon up to 30 gulls were around the boat with a Fulmar and a couple of Gannets.We soon had the Gannets diving for the mackerel less than 10 metres from the boat,it was difficult trying to catch them dive on the camera.A couple of Bonxies were dragged into the melee,giving really good views.Manx Shearwater were never to far away as they skimmed the surface,but only one distant Storm Petrel was seen!It was a truly memorable day in excellent company.Gary the skippers commentary on the diving Gannets was worth the fee alone.I tried my best with the camera,but the gannet dives were difficult,such was the speed when they entered the water.I`ll leave you with a few images of the day and we are already planning another trip for the end of Sept.Bye for now and many thanks for dropping by!!!
Manx Shearwater.

Up to 20 were about the boat skimming the waves.

This Fulmar was picking food items from the `chum mix`

Throwing in plenty of bread brought the gulls in close,which in turn attracted the other species!!

The beginning of a dive!

You had to be quick with the shutter button,as they plummeted from the sky.

They came up from the depths amidst a spray of water.

Less than 10 metres from the boat.Looks like this one missed its catch!!

The `Bonxie` or Great Skua kept an eye on things!

They breed up in Northern Scotland on the islands,and are quite a predator!

Saturday, 7 September 2013

More Butterflies from Dorset/The Adonis Blue

If you want to see certain species of birds or butterflies,you have to be in the right place at the right time.I knew that it was the time of year when the second brood of the Adonis Blue would be on the wing.Researching the internet I came across the Dorset butterfly society who advertised a guided walk on one of the chalk hill downs.Target species was of course the Adonis Blue,a butterfly that loves the warmth,prefering a sheltered position on South facing downs.It prefers turf that is tightly cropped,possibly because of theant species that attend the Adonis Blue larva and pupa.

There are 2 broods of butterfly,the first adults emergence is in the second half of May,peaking at hte end of May and beginning of June,which coincidently is when the food plant Horse shoe vetch is in full bloom,whilst the second brood is in the second half of August peaking at the end of Aug/beginning of Sept.Again this coincides with large swathes of wild marjoram being present!

This male, if you look closely,is carrying a couple of mites that its picked up.

The morning of the walk turned out to be very dull,not really what we wanted,but the bonus was the butterflies would be at rest in the vegitation and approachable.There were males and females hidden in the grass,but as we carefully negotiated our way through the males would slowly rise fly for 5 or 6 metres then re settle,giving fantastic views.We estimated that there were at least a few hundred specimens present on the hillside.

I found these two mating and wern`t in the least bit concerned of our prescence!The sexes are strongly dimorphic with the females being a chocolate brown and the males of course being this magnificent blue.They are the quintessential butterfly along with the Chalkhill Blue,of the southern downs.It is also very localised and hardly disperse from their breeding grounds.They are really bouncing back in numbers now as colonies recover from a serious decline.

Also seen on the down were good numbers of Brown Argus.This lovely specimen had recently emerged and was showing its rich chocolate and orange upperwings.this butterfly is also classed as a member of the blue familly.It was known in the past as the `brown blue`.Whereas the chalkhill and adonis dont venture very far,the brown argus will disperse large distances and is presently colonising areas further north and west.

Wild Marjoram grows profusely on the thinly soiled downs,it was everywhere and the aroma it threw up as we wandered through it was sublime.Without it the Adonis blues just wouldn`t survive!

Typical south facing downs.Steeply sided,short cropped,ideal conditions for butterflies and not forgetting ants,to survive.So it was a fantastic couple of hours with the Dorset branch of butterfly conservation,they really did make you feel welcome and were a mine of information,not only on butterflies but plants,moths and even insects that were about.You will learn more from a guided walk than any books or videos,because you are actually there were it all happens,and of course you can ask as many questions as you like.It was a pleasure to be in their company and I can only advise that if the opportunity comes along,then grab it with both hands.Bye for now then and hope you enjoyed this latest blog!!!!!

Friday, 6 September 2013

Butterflies in Dorset

Whilst on a recent holiday to The Devon/Dorset region of southern England,I took the opportunity of visiting the area of Portland.There is a large area there called Tout quarry which has a good reputation for seeing various species of butterfly.Tout quarry is no longer dug for the famous Portland stone and has reverted back to the wild.Here it forms a wonderful micro climate ideally suited to the sun loving butterflies.One of the numerous species I encountered there was the Grayling.a butterfly thet alights on rocky boulder strewn areas,they are known for closing their wings to prevent predation and were seen basking in the warm sunlight!

On a nice patch of buddleia was one of the few migrant butterflies,the Painted Lady.there were only odd ones spotted throughout my 10 days in Dorset.this individual would probably have flown in from around the desert edges of North Africa and Arabia,where huge numbers emerge in most years.These journey northwards across the Mediterranean reaching some parts of the British Isles every year.It was previously known as the The Thistle,in the 18th century,the Belladonna in Scandanavia La Belle Damme in France and the Bella dama o cadero(beautiful lady of the thistles) in Spain.Indeed a butterfly of many names!

Ringlet butterflies were also present on a woody glade.Apparently a common butterfly often overlooked because of their close resemblance in flight to the Meadow Brown..When settled you notice immediately the distinctive gleaming eyespots whence from it derived its name,other names were the brown eyed butterfly,Brown 7 eyes and in France it is known as Le Tristan (the sorrowful).It was my first sightings of these butterflys and I was glad to get a few on the camera.

A nice adult at rest amongst the nettles.

Again another rather common butterfly was the Large Skipper,pretty non descript really with the adult adopting a chachteristic basking stance,with its forewing and hindwings held apart at different angles.It was also known by the name of `the chequered hog` or `streckt cloudy hog` by early collectors!Usually there is only 1 generation of Skipper a year but these last throughout the whole summer.

The Chalkhill Blue was my favorite butterfly of the day and it was these that I had really come to portland to see and enjoy.A male has stunning milky blue wings and are easily approached with caution.This species as its name implies, inhabits unfertilised chalk and limestone downs,where the caterpillars foodplant`horseshoe vetch`blooms in abundance!I spent a good hour surrounded by these wonderfull creatures,filling my boots ,as the saying goes.they are very colonial in their habits and breed all along the coastal downs and on salisbury plain,up into the Cotswolds,its northern limit!Thanks for dropping by and viewing my blog and I will continue with my Butterfly theme in my next post!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Arctic visitors in Lancs!

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Last week I paid a visit to Leighton moss reserve nr Silverdale,I was accompanied by my good friend and fellow photographer Brian Rafferty.News had spread that good numbers of Curlew Sandpiper were present with counts of up to 22 birds seen.Knowing the layout of the lagoons, we were confident that the birds would be well within camera range.Brian had wanted to photograph these birds for a long time and I wasn`t going to miss out on the opportunity too!Arriving at the carpark to find it full, was a good sign that the birds were still around.There are 2 hides at this particular lagoon,the Allen and Morecambe.The first hide we entered was deserted,but there out in front about 20 metres were 5 Juvenile Curlew Sandpiper avidly feeding!Brian couldn`t get his camera out quick enough and was onto them like a shot,firing off volley after volley of shots!On looking across to the other hide we could see scopes and lenses pointing out of nearly all the windows,obviously birds were present there too!After a good 45 mins , we decided to try our luck amongst the crowds at the other hide.Squeezing in with the cameras we enjoyed a good few hrs with other birders admiring what lay before us.I counted 23 Curlew sandpipers,2 spotted redshank, 3 greenshank,numerous Redshank and Dunlin,a handful of Black Tailed Godwit,3 Ruff as well as a Kingfisher which showed briefly.What a display of birds, with many of them being less than 10 metres away.To say we filled our boots was an understatement.A few images of our day are posted below for you to enjoy.As I type this, the Curlew Sands are still present after nearly a week,testimony of the rich feeding grounds which they have found.