Sunday, June 29, 2008

Last of the Flycatchers

As I had not done too well with my efforts for pied flycatchers this year, I decided to give it one last go. Driving up to the site I visit I was wondering if I had left it too late as these birds appear to vanish after rearing their young. I think it was a close call as I only managed to find two pairs of birds with the rest and their young having done the disappearing act. The lighting on the day was tricky in the woods. The dense canopy creating dark conditions punctuated by sunlight which had the appearance of dancing spotlights as the branches swayed in a steady wind above. As usual the female was playing hard to get so I concentrated most of my efforts on the male bird.
The female bringing back insects to chicks which were probably a second brood.
Male and female birds passing food to each other
The males are always a tricky exposure with their combination of white and black plumage.
Harvestman seemed a popular item on the menu.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Heading North for Seabirds - Chumming for Gannets

We sadly left the jetty at Bass Rock but still had a treat to come, with a short chumming session from the trawler. We sailed away from the island a little and then one of the crew started to throw small chunks of fish overboard. The gulls came in first and gave me an opportunity for some Greater Black-backed gull flight shots.
However, the gannets were not far behind and soon a number of birds were plunge diving into the water around the boat.

At point of impact
The speed of the dives and noise on impact is impressive. Here is another dive sequence
Birds that were surfacing, carried on seraching for food from the surface.
and of course it just wouldn't be gannets without some squabbling.
Heading North for Sea Birds - Gannets in Flight

I am nearly there with the gannet shots now you may be pleased to hear with just one more post after this one, of them diving and fishing. Whilst on Bass Rock I spent a fair amount of time photographing the birds in flight and coming into land. Their landings are sometimes a bit more of a crash than a gentle touch down.
Air brakes on
Bringing back some nesting material
and trying to find a landing spot

Friday, June 20, 2008

Heading North for Seabirds - Taking a Wider View

Before I get on to the flight, diving and swimming shots of the gannets, I thought I would post a few photos taken with a wide angle lens (17-85mm). This was a bit of experiment which I tried to give a different perspective as the birds would allow such a close approach. I decided on a low angle although it was not to pleasent laying in amongst the guano and various debris of a ganent colony.
A mountain of gannets

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Heading North for Sea Birds - Bass Rock Gannets

It was an early start at the harbour in Dunbar the following day, for a trip out to Bass Rock. Grey conditions unfortunately preveiled again but gratefully improved later in the day. As we headed out Bass Rock loomed in the distance looking as if frosted in snow but which was in fact a covering of sea birds. Bass Rock is the largest single island colony of gannets with over 150,000 birds present.
As you can imagine being amongst so many birds provided plenty of photo opportunities so I will probably spread the shots over several posts.
As we travelled, numbers of gannets alongside the old trawler started to increase.
After some briefing instructions on landing regarding approach and welfare of the birds, we headed off in search of gannets. I often find it slightly daunting when confronted with large numbers of birds. In such crowded situations producing potrait photos of individual birds can be difficult. So for this post I will concentrate on those potraits and leave the action for the later ones.

They are impressively large birds close to, and while taking these shots, birds with a 6ft wing span clumsily land and take off around you.

This bird chose the wall of the old island chapel as a quieter place to nest on.

and away from the crowded conditions below
In the densely crowded areas there are frequent disputes
together with moments of quiet affection between pairs amongst the chaos.
I will finish this post with a couple more gannet potraits and another impressive bird that I photographed during the visit, the Greater Black-Backed Gull.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Heading North for Seabirds - End of the day bonus

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am not one for chasing after rare birds. If a rarity should be in the locality then I may make a visit, but I don't generally care for the crowds that are often attracted. A Lesser Grey Shrike had been reported for several days in an area immediately to the south of Seahouses, known as 'Long Nanny'. So as our Farnes trip docked, we decided to go and check it out, before heading further north to our next destination. We eventually located the site with a bit of navigation from the laptop with a wobberly mobile internet connection. The bird was quickly found when we arrived, sitting on a barb wire fence, and seemed to be flying round 'a circuit' whilst foraging for bees. It was a great looking bird but it seemed slightly sad knowing that there was never going to be a response to its occasional moments of song. The best tactic appeared to be to sit and wait close to the fence in an area of long dune grass (to provide some cover) and hope it would land close-by. It landed close enough to get some photos and for one fleeting moment during one its flights, I thought it was going to land directly in front of me.
I only have these three of shots of this rarity to show that were taken in some fairly poor light conditions.

A good bonus to finish the day. Now it was time to take a 60 mile drive north to our next destination, Dunbar in south-east Scotland, for a trip out the following day to Bass Rock.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Heading North For Seabirds - Onwards to Inner Farne

The second island to be visited on the Farnes Islands trip is Inner Farne Island. This is my favourite of the two due to the large numbers of arctic and sandwich terns. Still the misty conditions preveiled. For those of you that have not visited Inner Farne an essential piece of equipment is a good hat, to repel the sustained attacks of the arctic terns as soon as you step from the boat. This recommendation should not be taken lighty as I have seen blood drawn from those without headwear. The attack of the terns offers some good opportunity for getting some close up flight shots. With the misty conditions all flight shots were going to be against a white sky but I think arctic terns are one of the few species for which this high key effect works, given their translucent wings and colouring.

To give you an impression of the tern attacks this is a photo of my friend Steve in the process of being dive bombed.
Starting the dive of the next attack

They are very elegant birds despite the aggression
and they look so innocent when perched. As you move up the path it is almost a relief to move away from the attacks and up to the area of the Sandwich Tern colony. I was really hoping to get some good photos of the sandwich terns but the misty conditions was making life difficult, especially with the birds being more distant. I didn't really get the photos I was after so looks like a returm trip next year maybe be required. A bird came in and two of them immediately started strutting in unison.Another bird coming in to land at the colony. I got so preoccupied by the terns that before I knew it it was time to head back to the jetty for the boat, so half the island didn't really get much attention.
However, the day was not over yet.... :)


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