Sunday, 22 May 2011

Of interest to Seabirders...

Driven by the Petrels

Hadoram Shirihai and Vincent Bretagnolle have been conducting research into Magnificent and Vanuatu Petrels on the Banks Islands and surrounding waters as part of continuing work on the Tubenoses Project (Albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters of the world: a handbook to their taxonomy, identification, ecology and conservation and Field Guide to the Seabirds of the World).

Details and new information on these birds will be published in the ornithological press in due course.

Meanwhile, to get a 'taster' of the remarkable work carried out by this team, check out the video.

You can read about further exploits of the team by clicking here

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Red-rumped Swallow...

A couple of record shots of the Red-rumped Swallows at Porth Hellick pool today.

Red-rumped Swallows are more or less annual in Scilly these days with May being the best month, closely followed by April then October.  At least six were recorded in spring 2009, but this is eclipsed by the group of seven birds that occurred on Bryher on October 27, 1987.

Red-rumped Swallow with House Martin, left (Photo: Ashley Fisher)

Typically spent much time hawking insects over the far side of the pool (Photo: Ashley Fisher)

Friday, 20 May 2011

Random images...

A few test images with a recently acquired 400mm lens - a fortuitous bargain from ebay! Unfortunately today's Red-rumped Swallow was just a little too distant for photography by the time I arrived.

European Herring Gull - second summer argenteus

Rock Pipit - heavily worn breeding adult
Linnet - dapper male

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Short-toed Lark

Another stroll across the airfield today resulted in rather distant views of a single Short-toed Lark. It proved to be rather timid and generally favoured the quieter eastern runway. A Quail was seen briefly in long grass by the wind sock.

Short-toed Larks often prefer feeding along the dividing line between the runway tarmac and
the grassy outer margins, as here

Note how the wings are completely folded between spurts of wing beats 

Adult & young Short-toed Larks have a complete 'summer' moult rendering them
impossible to age under field conditions  

Saturday, 14 May 2011

'Northern' European Golden Plovers?

Attributable altifrons...

An evening walk across the airfield in search of the 2-3 Short-toed Larks saw me totally distracted by these stunning altifrons-type Golden Plovers.

Note extensive summer plumage with much black on head & underparts of male in foreground 

BWPi & Svensson rightly question the subspecifc validity of altifrons due to much variation
throughout breeding range

Peak spring passage in Scilly from third week of April to mid-May

Obviously the validity of altifrons is questionable, nevertheless these birds were striking in appearance and quite different from typical apricaria.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Back Catalogue: Double vision...

American Buff-bellied Pipit x 2 by Ashley Fisher

Tea time, 25th September 2007, a breathless Paul Buxton burst into the Pilot’s Gig Restaurant, Hugh Town, St Mary’s, Isles of Scilly. He’d just found an American Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus rebescens in an old bulb field at Carn Friars Farm (then only the 8th record for Britain and still a very rare bird - a further 6 were discovered in Britain by the end 2007). With no mobile reception, he digiscoped the bird, then ran and part-taxied the two miles or so into town to inform the rest of us via Bryan Thomas at the ‘Gig’. There was no doubting Paul or the images he’d taken and everyone duly rushed to the site. The bird showed well but views were curtailed by failing light.

At first light on 27th, Bob and I were again at Carn Friars for second helpings of the Pipit. It was such an interesting bird, that we wanted to study it at our leisure. It was easily located in the original field and we both settled down to watch it – what a contrast from the local Rock and Meadow Pipits! Even though we had both seen rubescens before, it was hard to imagine that this diminutive pipit was once treated as race of Water Pipit A spinolettaAfter an hour or so, Bob decided to check out the remainder of Carn Friars - in view of the recent weather, there was a chance something else might be lurking in the vicinity! I elected to stay: I really wanted to augment earlier notes, sketch the bird and, if views allowed, try video it.

A few minutes after Bob left, the pipit flew up high and began calling. For those who know this call, it is highly distinctive. Most field guides liken it to a squeaky Meadow Pipit and I suppose this gives you the gist of it, but to my ears, it has qualities of Grey Wagtail (a thinner, disyllabic tsip-it) and Blue Tit (a trisyllabic ti-si-sip)!

Remarkably, as the bird circled over adjacent fields, another bird replied, calling back to it from somewhere behind me! I had the calls in stereo! As I turned around, there was another pipit approaching and soon, they were both flying around together. The silhouettes were quite unique; vaguely along the lines of Meadow Pipit but decidedly chubbier/pot-bellied with proportionately shorter tails. After about a minute, they both landed in the original field. I couldn’t believe my eyes, two Buff-bellied Pipits together!

I called Bob’s mobile immediately. He dashed back and we watched the birds with an equal measure of shock and incredulity – would anyone believe us? There had never been two Buff-bellieds’ together before... I rang RBA straight away. I wanted others to witness this great spectacle. There was no need to worry though, as we began to calm down, it dawned on us that we ought to capture the moment on video; which we duly did (see below).

After about 30 minutes, the two birds split up and not long after that, ‘my’ bird vanished; eventually to be relocated on Tresco, some four days later. Interestingly and despite separating, both birds departed Scilly on 2nd October...

This article is the first in a series featuring video from our extensive back catalogue of footage taken in Scilly over the last ten years.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Back Catalogue: MV Explorer...

the sinking and the rescue by Bob Flood

The stricken MV Explorer rests on her side prior to sinking
Passengers and crew in readiness to abandon ship 
All that remained after the Explorer sunk was some debris and a few lift rafts
Here we are adrift in Antarctica in a tiny life boat
Here I am contemplating the future...
I'd like to say the headlines were sensational but...
I did get elevated to 'Bird Expert!'

Radio Scilly interview - part 1

Radio Scilly interview - part 2