Saturday, June 24, 2017

Common bathroom moths

Norwich  evenings are nice and warm  recently, so I leave my windows open. The lights attract many insects from outside, and with limited time for proper wildlife stuff  I diverted my attention to indoor moths. I don't operate a moth trap like most birders here do - I still don't know enough about mofs and honestly don't have enough confidence to operate a trap. Here are a few very common moths that made their way into my dirty bathroom in recent days. Through macro lens those dark corners of my bathroom look quite horrible...
No exciting species yet, just nice to look closer and appreciate the diversity of beasts inside the house. I don't have a proper moth photo kit (no ring-flash or high quality lens), and my moths are not refrigerated, so photographic results are, emmm...

Treble Brown Spot

Riband Wave

Single-dotted Wave, taken with my phone, sorry. By the time I got my camera from downstairs it had disappeared.

Rosy Tabby - what a strange little moth

Many thanks to James and Will for their help.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Elegant excuses

After a few days of holding on (barely), yesterday I gave in and went with Phil and Gabriel to twitch the Elegant Tern at RSPB Pagham Harbour in West Sussex. We had a great plan to get there and back without hitting traffic. But sadly an unexpected funeral at Church Norton added two hours to our itinerary. Walking down we met some disappointed twitchers who said they had spent 2.5 hours there without seeing the bird. When we got there and joined the small crowd, it continued to hide itself. Only after nerve-wrecking hour we had our first glimpses of the bird. Later on it did show better, but only in flight apart for a breef and distant preening session on the mud. Always distant, and the heat haze killed my photos. But a truly cracking bird. That never-ending, naranja bill; elegant flight on long wings (what an apt name 'elegant' is for this bird); white rump and tail; spiky crest - I was surprised how distinctive it was. A global lifer for me so obviously I was very happy. I did hope for better photos (like these stunners by Baz Champion on RBA Gallery), but hey-ho, can't complain.

All images are huge crops through horrible heat haze, so my apologies again.

This is the uncropped image - huge distance

With a Med Gull - there were about 60 there:

This individual bird has an interesting history. It was first seen in France in 2002, and bred in tern colonies in southwest France with Sandwich Terns. It was colour-ringed, and DNA analysis confirmed it to be a pure Elegant Tern. See also a nice summary here on Birdguides).

Otherwise not too many birds (still 60 species) in the harbour away from the tern colony. I guess it gets really busy there on migration and in winter; yesterday the summer lull was evident. But good to visit another new site for me in the UK.

Hats off to the local RSPB people for the conservation work they do in the colony, and for organising the twitch so brilliantly.
Many thanks to Phil and Gabriel for a sucessful twitch!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Klaus Bjerre - Israel, 40 Years with Birds and camera

Book review:
Israel, 40 Years with Birds and Camera
By Klaus Bjerre
Published by Gyldendal, Copenhagen.
154 pp., multiple colour photographs, and text in Danish or in English.

It gives me great pleasure to get my hands on a beautiful book on the birds of Israel. I love Israel, I love the birds of Israel, I love photography, and Klaus Bjerre is a good friend and a great photographer, so even before opening the book I had high expectations. Klaus published this book just a few weeks ago, and kindly sent me a copy for me to have a look.

When you walk into a bookshop, the front cover of a book should do the job to attract attention. The front cover of this book is beautiful and attractive - the vivid colours of Bee-eaters against a desert background.


Klaus Bjerre is a senior Danish bird photographer. He has been visiting Israel for over 40 years now, and his huge experience with the birds of Israel. Of course, over these many years, he has made many friends in Israel too. Klaus's addiction to Israel and to its birds is apparent in the photos and text.
Klaus presents the birds of Israel in a 'personal diary' - much of the text is in first tense, where Klaus describes his own experiences and preferences. There are even a few photos of Klaus himself in the book...

This is not a complete 'where to watch bird in Israel' book, nor a complete guide to the birds of Israel. It is a medium-sized coffee-table book, that aims to expose Israel to those who don't know much about Israel, or want be reminded of their memories. Because another book of the same genre was published by Thomas Krumenacker just a few months ago, the comparison between them is unavoidable. They are good friends themselves, and evidently worked on some projects together.

As a coffee-table book should be, the great virtue of this book is in its stunning photos. A strong theme of the book is migration of course. The (very) short introduction focuses on migration phenomena, and there are many photos of large flocks and thermals (kettles) of large soaring birds:

I find the accompanying text informative and interesting to read. Evidently it was not written by a native English speaker, but Paul Sterry generally did a good job editing the English.

The book has a somewhat undefined structure. Its begins with a chronological structure in February, and continues with a broad description of breathtaking spring migration experiences in Eilat. Then the story continues through the birds typical of spring season but not exclusively. Next are late summer migrants in the north, then a trip back south to Ezuz, then a section about autumn migration in the north and a painfully short section about cranes in the Hula Valley in winter. 

But the quality and variety of photos certainly compensates for any lack of coherent structure. Though some species receive more attention than others (mainly raptors), a large number of species are depicted in the book, in fact almost 90 taxa. Naturally, many are raptors, photographer's favourites. Therefore there is a lot of blue sky in the book.

The book contains some 'classic' bird photos, with favourite subjects for European photographers:

I know this stonechat - I photographed the exact same individual too! Back in March 2007

There are some great photos of scarce, iconic species:

One or two surprises

 I twitched this bird!
Some photos are simply beautiful

One mammal made it into the book!

There is some site information about the main sites covered in the book. I was especially pleased to see Celia's hide at Ezuz highlighted - it is a brilliant spot for photography.

This is a southern-focused book. 127 out of the 153 pages of the book cover birds of the desert regions of Israel. This does not do justice to some of the best birding sites in Israel. Especially disappointing is that Mt. Hermon was left out. It is photographed from the distance on the last page of the book, but the special birds that occur there are not mentioned. And central Israel does not exist in the book. I guess this bias in geographical coverage represents Klaus's preferences and where he enjoys going most.

The book ends with a short text that should have appeared in the introduction. But it does end the book with a personal appreciation of Klaus's attraction to Israel.

This book will surely leave you with a burning need to go birding and photographing in Israel. I certainly feel the urge, now that I live in the UK. If you have not been to Israel yet, it's time, take Klaus's word on it. If you have been to Israel, I am sure Klaus's beautiful photos and personal text will bring back many good memories. This is a great book for anyone with an interest in Israel, or with bird photography.  
The book can be ordered through Klaus's website.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Lazy seal trippin

So it's been a busy few weeks since I got back. This week my children are on school holiday, so I am too. Today we took a boat trip to Blakeney Point. After legging it out there many times, it was interesting to see and reach the point from a different perspective. Seal numbers were low, typical for this time of year. Still good fun watching both species (grey and common), in the water and on the beach. And it's always nice to be on the water.

Life is good

No birds of note. Breeding terns, gulls and few shorebirds. The boat passed perhaps a bit too close to the tern colony.

Common Terns

Little Terns

No orange bills among the Sandwich Terns

We had half an hour on the point. I deserted my family and ran to the plantation for a quick look. Nothing, as expected. Later in the afternoon there were some thuderstorms but no news came out of the point as a result.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Cheeky birding

Somewhat retro, I know, but I still have just a bit of Iberian birding to cover. Re'a had an early flight out of Lisbon, and our flight was later in the afternoon, so we had a couple of hours to kill. I drove on Ponte Vasco de Gama many times and always wanted to bird the saltpans under the bridge. This time we gave it a try. We headed over to a random spot near Alcochete that looked good on google maps, and were surprised to find there a well-managed birding site - Salinas do Brito, managed by a local NGO. We had a pleasant hour of birding there before heading back to return our rented car and off to the airport. I guess a visit during peak migration time would be more rewarding, but still we saw some nice birds and generally felt it was worth the trip for downtown Lisbon. We had their our final trip-bimbo, Little Stint, among some other shorebirds:

Several hundred Flamingoes:

Quite a few Iberian Yellow Wagtails  breed there - we had singing males. I was again intrigued by their mixed calls, rasping 'eastern-type' call and a clear 'western-type'. It was too windy for me to sound-record.

Lots of Swallowtails flapping about. Pretty ambitious of me to try and photograph them with my half-dead camera and a 500 mm lens.

And a small debt from the previous day - some flight shots of Azure-winged Magpies still in Spain:

Tuesday, May 23, 2017


Got back home to the UK, adapting back to life in the real (?) world. This morning I had to return some gear to James, and before heading over made sure he kept for me any interesting moths from last night's trap, to continue my journey towards interest in organisms other than birds. This morning selection included two photogenic moths. First is the peculiar Mullein (Cuclia verbasci). It really reminded me of a triceratops or stegosaurus with these curious structures on the back. Lovely, subtle moth, and apparently uncommon in this part of the UK.

The second moth that was on show is the pretty Peppered Moth (Biston betularia). It is a species that features in evolution and ecology textbooks; studies of its evolution were one of the first to demonstrate natural selection processes in real time.

As always, thanks to James for the moths, gear, coffee and company.