Tuesday, August 30, 2005


Whinchats are never common birds in the Peterborough area – a few come through on spring passage, usually in the first couple of weeks of May, and then a few more come along during August (sometimes July) and September. So, when Kevin Durose called me last Thursday (25.8.05) to say he had a couple of 'em on the central drove of the RSPB Nene Washes, I took a drive down there to see them. Two days later (27.8.05), I was back. One of the original first-winter birds was still in place near the entrance gate (then again, it may have been a 'new' bird finding the same good habitat), but I was surprised to see four together on a small fence/gate (with a Whitethroat there for company).
The lone Whinchat near the gate, patrolling the edge of a rough field lined with willow herb and the haystacks of the field next door.

Nikon Coolpix 880 through a Kowa TSN-821 + 32xWLER

Monday, August 22, 2005

Guess where I've been?

Yes, folks, I've been sailing the blueblackgreygreenwhite briney over Biscay to Bilbao and back to Portsmouth a couple of times with The Company of Whales. Both trips (12-15.8.05 and 15-18.8.05) had their amazing highlights despite a bit of bother with the timings of sailings caused by running repairs to the Pride of Bilbao. The first trip brought my first view of a breaching Minke Whale and two possible Sowerby's Beaked Whales, close to the Spanish shore. The second had spectacular Common Dolphins at the bow of the ship including a delightful pod of mothers side-by-side with young calves, which were probably born only in July. We also had our only Fin Whale of the trip (after a distant blow) just an hour north of Bilbao in rapidly fading light:
"I believe in miracles! Where you from, you sexy Fin (you sexy Fin Whale)?"
Here are my pictorial highlights, plenty of them clickable for bigger versions:

Tree Grayling, Santurtzi, Spain (14.8.05). Note the 'concertina' edge to the rear wing.

Common Dolphin at the bow (for decent shots, see The Company of Whales website!), Biscay, 16.8.05.

Juvenile Stonechat, Santurtzi (17.8.05)*.

Gatekeeper, Santurtzi (17.8.05).

The Pride of Bilbao waits in dock, as viewed from the hill above Santurtzi (17.8.05).

Wasp Spider, Santurtzi (17.8.05).

Wall Lizard, Santurtzi (17.8.05).

Juvenile Red-backed Shrike, Santurtzi (17.8.05)*.

Juvenile Woodchat Shrike, Santurtzi (17.8.05), a very scarce species here*.

Male Adonis Blue, Santurtzi (17.8.05).

Blue-winged Grasshopper, Santurtzi (17.8.05).

Geranium Bronze is a southern African species which is surprisingly common in Santurtzi, thriving on the window-box geraniums (17.8.05).

These two Little Egrets flew by the ship in the southern English Channel (18.8.05)*.
All Nikon Coolpix 880 (*Digiscoped through Kowa TSN-821+ 32xWLER)

Monday, August 08, 2005

Biscay again

Yes, peeps, I have been once again having a whale of a time on the ocean wave, guiding once more with The Company of Whales and my friend Matt Hobbs on P&O's Pride of Bilbao (Portsmouth-Bilbao and back). Great conditions on the way south brought us great views of Ocean Sunfish and plenty of Harbour Porpoises. My highlight though was watching Cuvier's Beaked Whales, very close to the ship, and getting just about everyone onto them.

Here are some of our totals:
10 Fin Whales (plus 20 blows likely to be from this species),
1 Minke Whale,
10 Cuvier's Beaked Whales (plus another probable),
1 Pilot Whale,
143 Bottle-nosed Dolphins,
344 Common Dolphins,
321 Striped Dolphins, 28 Harbour Porpoises,
24 Ocean Sunfish,
1 Basking Shark and
1 Taupe Shark.
Seabirds included 27 Great Sheawaters,
5 Cory's Shearwaters,
1 Sooty Shearwater,
3 Balearic Shearwaters,
4 Manx Shearwaters and
10 Storm Petrels.
In Spain, the bird highlights were two Tawny Pipits. Butterflies included Tree Grayling, Red-underwing Skipper, Swallowtail, Adonis Blue and Short-tailed Blue. We also had the obligatory scary close-ups of Wasp Spiders. Here are some of my photos from Santurtzi, Spain on 5.8.05.

Melodious Warbler*

Adonis Blue

Common Blue

Tawny Pipit*

Tree Grayling

Wasp Spider
Nikon Coolpix 880 (*though Kowa TSN-821 + 32xW LER)

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

HB and Emerald Damselfly

Today (2.8.05) was a historic day, as I bagged species 211 for my PBC area list (also 160 for my local year list). Local ticks are becoming harder and harder to come by, and this one was always going to need a bit of luck. Luckily Brian Stone (aka The Natural) chose Castor Hanglands as a good lunchtime spot for a visit. We heard a Buzzard call and looked up top see a circling Honey Buzzard (that's the tick), which a rising Buzzard cleared off the premises. The latter was notably chunky, almost owl-like compared to the long-winged, long-tailed HB, with its kite-like tailrudder action and down-forced wings.

Here's a few sketches I put together to show how it looked (all bulging secondaries and slim profile).

I also managed a shot of a female Emerald Damselfly (which I have always failed to get before). Click on the image for a big version.
Nikon Coolpix 4500


There has been a new generation of Brimstones just recently emerging. This one was photographed at barnack Hills and Holes on Saturday (30.7.05). Click it for a real whopper!
Nikon Coolpix 4500

It's a wrap!

Spider with prey (click for big and scary action)
Nikon Coolpix 4500