Friday, 30 October 2009

The rest of the year


Not a lot, getting things organised for June, including buying a car. A couple of calm sunny days to take the macro lens out to Fen Drayton for Scarce Chaser and damselflies

Scarce Chasers (the second picture is worth looking at full size, I think)

Common Blue Damselflies with food

Variable Damselfly


First weekend went to Plymouth to do a seabird and cetacean survey to Roscoff and back. One group of Bottlenose Dolphins and some good seabirds.

Next weekend took the car, tent and mountain bike (fits easily inside the Yaris) up to Scotland for a couple of weeks. I managed four days of timed tetrad visits for the Bird Atlas, in amongst a quick trip to the Outer Hebrides, a day looking for dragonflies and some rain.

The longest and hottest day, Beinn Dronaig. 8 miles in on the bike (320m climbing) and then 6 hours surveying. 8 miles back. The penultimate photo shows the bridge - two bits of wire. Result: it's pretty but there's not many birds.

A much more productive day (Golden Eagle, Ptarmigan with chick, Ring Ouzel) up Sgurr a Chaorachain, seen here from Bidean an Eoin Deirg. Thankfully the latter is seven metres shorter than the former so is a subsidiary peak to it rather than a Munro. Therefore very few people walk along the ridge and disturb things like the Ptarmigan. I probably ought not to say that it's a far nicer top than the actual Munro.

One Munro to another, so a well developed path. Munro bagging is another realisation of the collecting/listing instinct that is so obvious in birding. The discussions amongst the walkers in the hostel were almost identical to those heard amongst birders. To use birding terminology:

Ticking - seeing species/reaching the top

Dipping: to not see a bird. Equivalent to being beaten back by bad weather or being a complete idiot and accidentally climbing the wrong hill.

Splitting: Considering two races of a species to be two separate species, those allowing you to tick both and have a longer list. Equivalent: deciding that a subsidiary top should have been a Munro itself so climbing it as well (unlike Corbetts there is no absolute definition of a Munro other than what Mr Munro decided)

List blindness - OK, so not a real birding term but there should be some term for people who don't bother looking at interesting/pretty birds because they're not rare. See above.

Four days on the Outer Hebrides (Oban -> South uist, North Uist -> Skye) were very pleasant. Stayed it the Gatcliffe Hostels at Howmore and on Berneray. Interesting bunch of people in them. Any conversation that goes between renewable energy from the sea, sea kayaking, oceanography, and recollections of accompanying convoys across the Atlantic in WWII is not bad.

Had one day, sunny but quite windy, looking for dragonflies around Loch Maree. I managed to see the three main species - Azure Hawker, White-faced Darter and Northern Emerald but only got photos of the latter (which was the one that I already had a decent photo of)

Back via a few hours in Speyside: Osprey, Red Squirrel and Crested Tit.


Day out at Strumpshaw early on for Norfolk Hawker and Swallowtail Butterfly.

Several evenings out getting breeding records for the Bird Atlas, including several broods of Little Owls


Week at Boxtree, the family cottage in Herefordshire. The view from the Twmpa


Two trips up to Norfolk but by far the best bird, a male Pallid Harrier, was in the Fens just north of Cambridge.

The Fens where the harrier was, unfortunately not quite in this light.

Norfolk, nice light, few birds.
Beach at East Hills

The third and fourth weekends in September I went to Bilbao, firstly as one of the guides on a Whale and Dolphin themed cruise and secondly to do one of the monthly surveys with Biscay Dolphin Research Programme. Some excellent sightings, largely on the themed cruise, which made guiding very easy. Highlights were two groups of Sowerby's Beaked Whales and very good views of Cuvier's Beaked Whales, especially on the survey crossing where five came past very close to the ship in the short spell of calm seas, allowing them to be seen very well underwater. No photos, but see last year. Another highlight of the first trip was the boils of Yellowfin Tuna in the southern bay. They were up to 50m across with tuna jumping out continuously chasing bait balls of Anchovies at the surface. They continued until sunset with a Fin Whale appearing near one bait ball and some Striped Dolphins joining in with another.


First and third weekends were more seabird and cetacean surveys, to Roscoff and Santander this time. No photos and, frankly, very few interesting sightings. Otherwise not a lot.


Little Owls found for the winter atlas list and two days of timed visits done. Second paper of the year accepted.


Helene; Florent; Matthias said...

This is just amazing! So now you are an oceanographer, bird watcher, whale watcher, dragonfly watcher... Or just a nature admirer? Let's call you that way from now on.
See you soon in Portland!

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