Saturday, 19 July 2014

Birds are on the Move Again

The seasons seem to fly by these days - it only seems five minutes since we welcomed the return of the summer migrants and now they've done their business (hopefully) and are once more preparing to fly south. Gangs of Swifts are charging up and down my street screaming as they go, which is a fantastic site on a warm and sunny evening. There is a small colony near my house that nest in one of the old buildings and each year they return to nest there. Sadly the number returning has being falling in recent years. Hopefully the fact that we have had a reasonable summer will have helped them raise a few new members of the gang. In a short time they will disappear again as if by magic.

Juvenile gulls are starting to appear at Shawell A5 Lagoons. Young Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls are the commonest. At least one juvenile Yellow-legged Gull has moved north already. Yellow-legged Gulls are usually commonest at the end of July in Leicestershire, so it is not surprising a few juveniles have moved north with the older gulls.

Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull
Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull
Yellow-legged Gull
They are not the best images of the juvenile, as they are just screen grabs from a short video, but the features all show up: whitish head with dark mask around the eyes, chunky all black bill, dark tertials with thin pale edges, the top greater coverts stand out as they are darker and not so heavily patterned as the lower ones and finally it's much bulkier than the juvenile Lesser black-backed Gulls that were also present.

Friday, 11 July 2014

What Does Adventure Mean to Me?

I was sent an email by Berghaus recently, asking for adventurers to write a short piece on their Blog about  ‘what adventure means to you’, so here goes...

For me adventure is being challenged by situations created by the natural world.  Of course embarking on an adventure does not guarantee you will have one and you should never try too hard. Adventure can be experienced even in the most familiar of locations when the conditions alter and become more challenging. Personally I think adventure kicks off when we take ourselves out of our personal comfort zone and explore somewhere new.

A wise man I met on a wet day in the Cairngorm Mountains told me that adventure is retrospective fun. Ice blasted in your face, freezing temperatures and deep snow may not be pleasant, but you'll never forget it, so maybe he was right. 

Adventure really gets going when nature asks questions of our ability, or when something completely unexpected happens. For those lucky enough to have been gifted with a spirit of adventure, there is still a wild world out there waiting to be explored...


Adventuring Out on a Winter's Day


Saturday, 5 July 2014

Presumed Hybrid Herring x Caspian Gull

An interesting adult gull was present at Shawell A5 Lagoons today. On the water its grey upper parts appeared slightly darker than the nearby adult Herring Gull, but its head shape and size seemed wrong for a Yellow-legged Gull.

Eventually it walked out of the water revealing yellow legs and it had a metal ring, but not a colour ring. A colour ring would have helped sort out a few questions.

In the photos below you can see that it is small headed. Its body is quite slender and it stands in a similar way to a Caspian Gull. Amongst the features that are at odds with it being a Caspian Gull are its shortish legs, its bill being too colourful and its eyes are very pale with no obvious dark pigments. The longest primary feather (P10), which is just visible, looks to be very close to what should be exhibited by a pure Caspian Gull although in my opinion it had just a little bit too much black.

Despite it having yellow legs, I believe this is most likely a Caspian x Herring Gull. Quite a few known Caspian x Herring Gull hybrids have yellow legs.

Hybrid Gull
Hybrid Gull

Birds are already on the move with small numbers of Yellow-legged Gulls arriving from the south and Black-headed Gull numbers are building up having been almost absent for a couple of months. A Common Sandpiper was also at the lagoons today.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Hummingbird Hawk Moth

Brascote Pits was my choice of destination this morning and it was the insects that stole the show. Lots of Meadow Browns and Ringlets have emerged recently and also many Small Skippers. Plenty of damselflies scattered as I disturbed the grass and a few Black-tailed Skimmers were basking on the sandy areas. An insect hovering in front of some thistles caught my attention and I soon realised it was a Hummingbird Hawk Moth. I tried to get a photograph of it in flight, but instead it landed making my photos less dynamic, but at least I got some photos. 

Hummingbird Hawk Moth

Away from Buddleias, Tortoiseshell Butterflies can be difficult to photograph, so I was pleased to get a chance with the one below.

Tortoiseshell

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Peregrine on the Roof

At one of my regular birding sites, a pair of Peregrines have successfully raised four young that fledged last week. The youngsters have took to sitting on the roof of one of the buildings on site.

I didn't have my camera with me the first time I noticed one of them perched on the apex of building and since then the light has been a bit challenging.

Not a Fiddler, but a couple of Juvenile Peregrines on the Roof