Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Houston We Have Landed

Hello. Well. The time came and went and now I am stationed on the mighty Farne Islands in the North Sea for my second season monitoring seabirds and the like…and maybe some birding and definitely some fantastic migrant action!

So much has happened in the brief time since our return that I’ll will almost certainly fail at summing it up coherently or comprehensively but here goes:

Greeted by an Auksome sight hashaha..

Weather: Fairly settled conditions have dominated with many sunny spells however thick fog, brought in by light SSE winds dominated on Saturday and Sunday dropping a nice selection of early migrants. Today (Monday) has been glorious warm sunshine allowing a healthy layer of burnt skin to develop!

Birds: This season has really kicked off with a bang! It’s hard to believe that we have been here just 5 days! Upon arrival on Friday a Peregrine was waiting while the only other highlight was 4 Siskin west, equalling last years highest day count while 15 Common Scoter were hanging out behind Knoxes reef, remaining there for a the next 2 days. On Saturday a highlight came in littoralis form. Littoralis Rock Pipit form that is.

A 'regular' Rock Pipit

But it was Sunday that brought the cripple-factor. Early morning rounds produced a smart female Black Redstart (which was later found in the Info Centre and ringed) along with the first Wheatear (a female) of the year. Throughout the day birds were clearly dropping in and the sense of excitement rose. Totals included Goldcrest 7, Chiffchaff 1 (in off), Song Thrush 1, Blackbird 2, Jackdaw 2, Brambling 1, Siskin 13W, Kestrel 2W, Meadow Pipit 30+, Grey Wag 1W, Greenfinch 1E while the past 2 days have been quieter albeit with equal quality!

Robin showing well

Spot the female Wheatear!

even Blackbirds look rare on the Farnes!

Guess why its called a Black Redstart!

Chiffchaff in the sun

early morning 'Black Red'

Goldcrest out of its comfort zone

Red-throated Diver, Teal, Shelduck, Wigeon, Shoveler, Goldeneye, Reed Bunting, Redpoll, Whooper Swan Med Gull and today a crippling female Marsh Harrier and corking first summer Little Gull have all been added to the Farnes yearlist and burnt onto our collective retinas!

More Black Redstart love in the sun.

This male Shelduck (and his mate) were back on the island, another breeder returns.

Insects: As conditions warmed an emergence of hibernating moths and butterflies didn’t go unnoticed. Agonopterix alstromeriana remained consistant with last year with several found by day while its larger brighter cousins were also well represented. After the first Small T butterflies on Sunday todays hot weather brought 4 Red Admiral, 1 Peacock and 9 Small Tortoiseshells out to play with most having to be released from their hibernating sites.

Agonopterix alstromeriana

Small Tortoiseshell

Anyway that was a very serious blog but so much has happened I just couldn’t not fill you in! I promise my next posting will be hot air, weird made up words and pretentious photos. Until then keep it wobbly!

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Larger Than Life

Times of the large. Whoopers heading north.

A transition period is upon me, as I eluded to in my last posting. And since said prosaic ramblings I have migrated northwards, via the Lizard (where crippling view of Chough, natures kite, were obtained) to Northumberland ready to begin the Farne Islands 2012 season. How great it is to be back in this raw, hostile but unrelentingly beautiful and softly lit county!

from the southwest

to the Northeast

Of course the words on everyones lips are ‘What impact will the mild winter (after 2 very colds one) have?’. Not only on the spring migrant birds currently arriving from Africa. But also for the breeding seabirds of the Farnes who have spent the last few months marooned in the North Sea (and as far as the Atlantic). All I’ll say is our northerly latitudes and their wildlife have been subject to more cold or very cold winters than mild ones so the likelihood of stuff benefitting is sadly fairly low but I remain optimistic that 2012 will be a great year for everyone, from lichen to shag.

Anyway this blog posting is intended to vaguely recap on my life so that when we sail to planet Farne tomorrow I can give a blow by blow account, fully adulterated with all manner of nonsense and such with no (or little) hint of hindsight.


So the day I left Scilly was warm, muggy and sunny..which seemed to encourage this LARGE TORTOISESHELL!! out to briefly bask in our newly cleared ‘meadow’. A continental species which after many years with only a few records is becoming less rare in recent years. Another mega insect added to the mighty Longstone list!

The Lizard was mega, although I saw more pints than notable birds (besides Chough, no pics…too gripped). But Northumberland has already given up some of its bounties as you’ll see below:

 And I’ll give you some systematic lists to make sure this blog isn’t getting too casual. Two mornings at Stag Rocks totally Whooper Swan 26N, Shelduck 6N, Common Scoter 80+, Long-tailed Duck 1 male, Red-breasted Merganser 40, Slavonian Grebe 30, Red-throated Diver 4, Purple Sand 27 while Puffin, Razorbill and Guillemot were all very evident. Passerine migration (aided by some lovely light SE winds) was semi-obvious with 2 Redpoll in off and several Siskin heard overhead (all head Northish). 

And here's some recent pics...

Dotted Border

Common Quaker

Pearly Underwing - part of a mini migrant influx just before I left Scilly

Speckled Wood - the first in the garden this year, whose appearance coincided with the Large Tortoiseshell

Red Kite

Red Grouse

Guess the bird...hint: It's Whisky

Some idyllic Whoopers moving north.

More white magic.

Pale Brindled Beauty

Anyway too many words for your eyes. Tomorrow…to the Farnes! I’ll let you know how it goes, yeah?

Friday, 9 March 2012

All Things Must Pass

Apologies for the chronic lack of redundantisms off late, the time of change is upon us. At a time of the year when life is truly blossoming death can be even harder to accept. But at least we can take solace in the bounties outside our windows.

Here on Scilly the seasons are changing also, and rapidly at that. Nighttime missions are inevitably produced silhouetted flickers of Pipistrelle bats while Bees abound nearly every available nectar source even on a cloudy day. However the much anticipated spring migrant birds have as yet, eluded me. At this time of year (as I'm sure any birder will appreciate) the arrival of spring migrants like the Hirundines (Swallows etc) or the first flute of Willow Warbler song as a very special event indeed and hint of the stonking summer season ahead.

Finally  it is the time for geographical change as I migrate northwards to the mighty Farne Islands for another summer season on this seabird paradise...and maybe a few rare birds too!

Here's some photos from recent times:

Now onto Cornwall for some R & R pre Farneness. Maybe I'll update with some photos of Choughs and their red hooters.