Monday, 18 July 2016

Male Emperor Dragonfly

I was over at Brascote Pits on Sunday and a male Emperor Dragonfly was on patrol. It hovered occasionally, which gave me an opportunity to photograph it. At first I couldn't quite keep it in focus long enough to fire the shutter, but after a bit of experimenting I came up with the right technique and managed to get some good results.

Male Emperor Dragonfly, Brascote Pits, 16/07/16
Male Emperor Dragonfly, Brascote Pits, 16/07/16
Male Emperor Dragonfly, Brascote Pits, 16/07/16

Sunday, 17 July 2016

The Invasion Gathers Momentum

Every July Britain gets invaded by visitors from the south. Yellow-legged Gulls (Larus michahellis) are what i'm talking about of course and 24 were at Shawell yesterday. As I've already said the real prize is a fresh juvenile and there were three at the lagoons.

By the month's end up to 50 YLGs will be present if last years totals are anything to go by.

I wonder what encourages the young birds to fly so far north?

Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons, 16/07/16

Saturday, 16 July 2016

The Proof is In the Picture

If like me you enjoy getting away from the crowds then taking images of the good birds that you find is very important. There are three reasons for capturing images of the rarer birds you find: firstly it helps to prove your ID, secondly it backs up your claim if your a single observer and finally a photo is a great souvenir. I think it's a must for any up and coming birders to take photos. I pride myself on having a very high percentage of my better bird finds either being seen by other birders or being photographed. Occasionally a mobile bird is not photographable but if you get enough credit in the bank you will be forgiven for occasionally not getting a photo.

Digiscoping is a great way of capturing record shots, as you can get images of distant birds. Most scopes these days have adapters to allow you to attach a range of cameras. Even smart phones can be connected to scopes. Basic images can be created without needing to spend a fortune.

Some bird species need to be photographed for the records to be accepted. In Leicestershire the record committee insists that Caspian Gull submissions include photographs.

Compact cameras probably offer the best flexibility for digiscoping. If you can get a camera that the zoom range works with your scope you can just hold it against the eyepiece. At present I handhold a small Sony compact with a 3.6 x zoom straight on to my scope. The focusing is done using the scopes focus wheel.

Another great solution is one of the modern super zoom bridge cameras. These take really good quality video and you can take a screen image of the paused video and turn it into a photograph.

Photographs help to keep you on the straight and narrow as the camera generally doesn't fib. I have found it invaluable with my interest in gulls, the images allow me to study the more difficult gulls again when I get home. It also allows my peers to have a look at my identifications.

The photo below was taken today using my Sony compact RX 100 handheld against my scope. It's at the better end of the quality you can get without having an adapter to fix your camera to your scope. Most images captured with a digiscoping set up are good enough to prove what you saw, but good quality images are possible if the subject is quite close and the light is good.

Corn Bunting Taken with a Sony RX100 Compact Camera handheld to Scope Eyepiece

Friday, 15 July 2016

Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull at Last

Yesterday evening I was over at Shawell A5 Lagoons and the first juvenile Yellow-legged Gull was in. Last year the first ones arrived on July 4th, so they're a bit late this year. At least 18 YLGs were there last night, mostly adults. The invasion is well underway.

Juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gulls were into double figures and a juvenile Herring Gull was amongst them. It was good to compare all three species in juvenile plumage.

Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons, 14th July 2016

Now where's that juvenile Caspian Gull?

Wednesday, 13 July 2016


As you know, I have been watching the breeding gulls at the old British Shoe works on the outskirts of Leicester. I was well aware that the building was ear-marked for demolition, but I had been told that it wouldn't take place until October this year.

Gulls Not Welcome
On May 26th I had a drive over to the site for the first time in about two weeks. Gulls were feeding at the Casepak Recycle Centre on Sunningdale Road and all looked well. Things took a major nose dive when I viewed the site from Scudamore Road. The demolition gang had moved in and the building was coming down.

Demolition Work Begins at Sunningdale Business Park (Formerly British Shoe)

I was furious - why knock it down during the breeding season? Why not do it outside of the breeding season? Furious or not, I wasn't that surprised, as the owners had not been very friendly. towards me or the gulls.

In the absence of a Police Wildlife Liaison Officer in Leicestershire, I contacted the Environmental Department at the Leicester Council. Two of the Nature Conservation Officers visited the site and ordered that the work should be stopped until an ecologist had made an assessment along with a structural engineer.

It turned out that the ecologist just wanted a pay day. A licence was downloaded from Natural England and the work carried on. This was done without consultation with the officers from the council. Luckily I was keeping an eye on proceedings and spotted that work had started again. Once more the work was stopped.

The downloadable licence from Natural England allows certain species to be killed or their nests destroyed if there is a risk to public health or public safety. Lesser Black-backed Gulls can be killed or there nests destroyed with this licence and Herring Gull nests can be destroyed but the actual birds can't be killed.

I argued that the licence was not applicable as the gulls were not causing a danger to public health or safety and that there were now Herring Gull chicks on the roof .

A new ecologist was employed by those carrying out the demolition work and apparently a licence application has been sent to Natural England. Even if that turns out to be successful the Nature Conservation Officer now dealing with the case will recommend that no more demolition of the remaining roof is done until the young gulls fledge.

This has given the young gulls time to mature and tonight I saw that the first ones had fledged. Six juveniles were enjoying the freedom their wings have given them. Many more will hopefully fledge this week. I have a suspicion that some gulls abandoned their breeding attempt and moved to another roof and started again. Some nests may have been destroyed during the initial phase of the demolition, but I can't prove it.

Not everyones favourite bird group but I am chuffed to have helped a few young gulls start their adventures.

Juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull, Scudamore Road, Braunstone Frith, Leicester, July 13th 2016