Saturday, July 22, 2017

East Norfolk class of 2017

Went birding with Nick today in East Norfolk. We checked a few sites in unsettled weather - got gloriously wet eventually. Birding was nice but relative highlights were painfully familiar species. Started off at Rush Hill Scrape that was rather empty with high water levels and nothing special.
We arrived at Breydon Water about an hour too late, when the tide was fully up and birds were difficult to see roosting in the tall vegetation. Still great there with large numbers of shorebirds and gulls, including Little Stint, 6 Greenshank, Wood Sand, 1 Barwit, 10 Whimbrel, Grey Plover and 70 Med Gulls. As always, birds at Breydon are very distant. Today the camera stayed in the bag and these photos are phonescoped through Swarovski ATX95.

Part of a 200-strong Avocet flock 

Part of the Med Gull concentration

Before heading back to Norwich we returned to Potter Heigham Marshes. Lovely site but we were somewhat disappointed by the small numbers of short-legged shorebirds. Good to see lots of babies of all sorts - evidently the predator fence did the job. I was never so excited before by two Israeli trash birds - Black-winged Stilts and Cattle Egret. We saw all four baby stilts and one parent; then the egret flew into a tree from a cattle grazing marsh. Boom.

Class of 2017. #4 behind these bushes

Compact-looking Intermediate Heron. Quality

Other highlights were 5 Little Ringed Plover and 3 Garganey. Wow.
Because of the heavy rain few butterflies were on the wing and I don't think I saw a single dragon this morning. Among the more numerous Red Admirals and Painted Ladies we found this female Gatekeeper:


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Norfolk rarity

Last night the wind switched to a proper northerly, which means better seawatching conditions. I haven't been out properly for toooooooooooo long, actually since I got back from Iberia, so I was very keen to head out. During the few hours of sleep I dream of albatrosses and Fea's Petrels. I arrived at Cley at 05:00. At first the few birds were disappointingly distant, because the wind had switched to north just few hours earlier. Rather soon I clocked on a Sooty Shearwater - nice, but too distant for a photo. Then birds were pushed closer inshore by the strong wind and there was a nice constant passage of terns and gannets. Albert didn't fly past, nor a pterodroma. Bird highlights of the morning were a Manx Shearwater, Little Gull, 40 Common Scoter and a Guillemot. Sadly I had to leave after a couple of hours - had to get back home for schoolrun. See full list here. After leaving the others had a couple of spoony Poms and a Velvet Scoter.

Sandwich Tern

Gannet and bird choppers

But the true highlight of the morning was an extremely visitor to Norfolk - DIM Wallace who walked into the seawatching shelter in nonchalance, like it's his midlands local patch. Great to see him here, alongside some of Norfolk's finest.

Monday, June 26, 2017

And now for some proper moths

Went over to James's yesterday early morning. He had a clearwing on offer - my first ever clearwing, and lots of other good moths in his trap. As always I was overwhelmed by the diversity and volume coming out of the trap. Here are a few examples. I was not concentrated this morning so the photos are not very good, sorry.

First, Yellow-legged Clearwing! Pleased to see it, though it did feel like the mothing equivalent of canned hunting. Stunning beast to say the least, but difficult to photo. Two clicks and it was gone.


Green Silver-lines. Delicately-patterned little moth.

Reminds me of David Bowie in the 80's:


The Spectacle - another amusing moth in full-frontal 

Small Angle Shades

King Moth - Poplar Hawk-moth of the scarce buff morph

Crowd pleaser - Elephant Hawk-moth


It wouldn't really settle and flew to some more natural-looking vegetation:


And another moth from my bathroom - the Honey-Buzzard-like Lime-speck Pug


Many thanks again to James for moths, gear, coffee and patience.

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.