Sunday 24 April 2016

Seawatching possibilities

I wandered over to Skaill on Saturday to catch up with the Great Crested Grebe, bumped into some Scaup, a Whimbrel, a Swallow and investigated a possible seawatch spot for skuas. The trouble with Yesnaby is that birds can fly too close and disappear under the cliff, last year I missed more than I saw. The low cliffs at Skaill, to the north of the bay look like a good bet, and there's some shelter there. I think I'll give it a try this year, let's hope some come by. The brief seawatch produced a flock of four Common Scoter, really uncommon here, a GND, Puffin, Razorbills and piles of Fulmar and Kits. On the way back to the car there were Swallow and Wheatear.

Scaup duck


 Common Gull

Rock patterns

Today a tramp around Mirkister and then on to Bosquoy produced all three commoner hirundines, a couple of Ringed Plover on a very nice flood at the back of Bosquoy and a huge flock of 200+ Mepits. There seem to be loads of Leebs about, but no white winged gulls unfortunately.

 Still a few of these around

The Shunan held its first five Blackwits for the year yesterday and today there were 21. There was a Siskin on the feeders on Friday and three pairs of Brown Hare by the track on Thursday.

Blackwit roost

Through the kitchen window

Laying low

Evening light

Melanistic rabbit, common around the garden

Thursday 21 April 2016

First pix

Picture No1 with the SX60, Pinkies in flight

Sunday 17 April 2016

The dreaded black dot...

De - de - derrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

The dreaded dust on the sensor and with a bridge camera it would need taking apart to sort it out.  Bashing the camera about a bit has done something... moved the dot closer to the middle of the frame.

This is all slightly disappointing as the SX50 had seemingly got over its sticky zoom and shutter issues. One suspects that these are related problems though and that gunk has got inside.

So what to do? Repair will be expensive as the camera would need to be taken apart, cleaned and reassembled, at £60 an hour tech costs that is going to be £120 at the least and time without a camera. My Nikon (P7800) only has a 200mm equivalent lens and is no good for bird photos, I'd be taking some good dots. The new Nikon larger sensor camera (DL-500) or the B series are not out yet and anyway I'm not sure I'm up for spending quite so much on unproven technology, especially after I've just bought new bins. Comparing likely possibilities (Canon SX60, Nikon P610 and Sony HX400) TechRadar gives the Canon the best image quality through the range, and its currently the cheapest, £270 including the Canon £30 cashback. I've read in places that the image is not as good as the SX50 but maybe that's marginal, I seem to recall that was one comment somewhere. John Lewis may be getting an order this afternoon (extra year on the guarantee free).

Comment from a seadog (well that's what the hound thinks they are)

The SX50 was a Christmas present from the family Xmas 2013, I guess it's not done so badly, two and a bit years of constant carting around and out in every weather. I will say it's tough, it has been dropped any number of times and I've been quite rough with it trying to shift the dot, it still works.

So here are the last few pictures I suspect...

 Me again

 Ringed Plover, Evie

 Mutes on the sea at Palace, some of the 19, there were 2 at Evie also

 Brown Rat in our garden. Putting a cage over the area below the feeder to stop the pigeons scoffing everything on the ground has led to a perhaps not entirely unexpected consequence.... The cage has now been removed, I'd rather we had pigeons scoffing the excess than ratty and her family.

Also this weekend my first proper "summer" migrants included a pair of Wheatear in the sleet and hail at Palace and at least four Sand martins this morning at Howaback.

At Evie this afternoon bumped into these interesting Jackdaws, monedula I think.

These are of the first one monedula I suspect, it looks pretty dark below and very well marked fine, white collar

 A different one, seems much paler on the head and nape and also paler under parts, not sure what this is.

 2nd bird top right of the flock

Of interest was an adult Jackdaw still appearing to care for it's offspring, apparently giving food to a 2cy.

Also on the beach at Evie north of the toilets a Wheatear or two.

 Not a Wheatear - Brown Hare (slightly damp)

Sunday 10 April 2016

Holiday week 2

Monday and I was doing the track....

Tuesday's seawatch and a Common Scoter, uncommon at Birsay was followed by a smart DD morph Blue Fulmar. Also on Tuesday a trip to The Loons found that there were still 15 Greenland Whitefronts and good numbers of Pink-feet.

Wednesday I made a big effort to finish the track and collected three loads from the quarry. Ruff on The Shunan was nice.

There have been up to four hanging around

Thursday I intended to go seawatching again but got to Palace and there was a huge scrum of gulls by the beach feeding on the high tide and the massive rollers that were driving on to the beach. I found an adult Iceland Gull fairly promptly but it as quickly disappeared and then took a further 40 mins or so to relocate it for some record shots. I did eventually go seawatching but it was a session of maybes; a maybe GND, a distant flock of grey geese that maybe were of interest and then a maybe Velvet Scoter, all very distant and nothing tickable for a year tick on the patch. Loch of Boardhouse did produce Slavonian Grebes and Red-throated Divers though.

 Gull scrum

 Adult Iceland Gull

After the seawatch I went for a bit of a wander.

Then in the garden in the afternoon some non-birdy things...

 First Yellow Dung Fly ( Scathophaga stercoraria) of the year, note black antennae

Cepea hortensis

Friday in the sunshine, 81 Great Northern Divers counted from my spot near Hatston, that's a lot of GND. Many of these were a good distance away, there could have been half a dozen Bananabills in with that lot, however, I suspect not. Also there 697 Eider around the fish cages, 4 Velvet Scoter and 6 or so Slavonian Grebes. Conditions were perfect when I got there with perfect visibility but that deteriorated after about 40 minutes. The Eider were around the fish cages and the males at least were easily identifiable, but no sign of a king.

Yesterday was miserable most of the day, but a patch year tick in the shape of a Bonxie that came low through the garden. A session down near the Merkister  a couple of hours later produced Slavonian Grebe, Red-throated Divers and a couple of Fulmar as well as another Bonxie terrorising everything.

 Rooks and a rabbit from the kitchen window

A repeat of that session this afternoon in better conditions got the Slav Grebe count up to four and there was yet another Fulmar, and one over The Shunan too. Star of today though was the 3cy Glaucous Gull I found having delivered older daughter to her social destination.

Glaucous Gull having a drink

Still very pleased with the Kowa bins, they are brighter than the Nikons and seem a tad sharper too. The close focus will be useful when the hover season starts, none yet here.

Monday 4 April 2016

New bins

Eventually I succumbed: knocking £400 off the price had got my interest up, having eyed these for a while and read excellent reviews - Kowa, Genesis, Prominar 8x33.

First impressions are good, lovely and sharp (like the Nikons - 8x32 HG and HGL), brighter than my Nikons and very close focus, so very useful for insect stuff. It is a very long time since I bought some new bins, I had the Nikons serviced a few years back but I reckon I've had them for 12 - 14 or so years (I have two pairs). It rained all afternoon and I was working on the track, so not really tried them except from indoors but they are comfortable to the eye and no obvious problems, seawatching tomorrow so a bit of a test then. First species looked at, in flight Mallard.

Saturday 2 April 2016


The nasty weather on Friday brought an influx of Woodpigeons, 26, and by Saturday morning, when the day dawned bright, Meadow Pipits and Skylarks were much in evidence, Meadow Pipits in particular were now singing in numbers, they seem to have come straight in and on to territory.

Starling singing in the back garden

Blackbird has finally begun to sing in the garden, I still don't understand why they are so late to begin singing here when in Kirkwall they will have been singing for the best part of a month, average temperature maybe? Starlings are seeking nesting places, we'll need to be checking the cars each morning shortly. Greenfinch are singing and displaying all around the garden. Linnet were at Bosquoy today with a male in song and a partner present. The Mute Swan pair on The Shunan had to defend their realm against invasion as another pair tried to stake their claim, they were violently repulsed. The Rooks now have 44 nests with a further five small bundles of twigs and birds are busy collecting lining materials.

Spring farming activity brings interesting gulls - or not

Lesser Celandine, more yellow time

34 Twite at Howaback, should be dispersing soon

At the coast the Wigeon were still much in evidence at The Links and there were three Mute Swans on the sea, the beginning of the usual spring build up.

Gratuitous Harbour Seal pic