Monday, 1 March 2010

'Garden Birds' and Dunters

One down and one to go - kids back at school that is - but we've still got snow and more is forecast. After the school run, on returning back home and as the sun was shining, I decided to have a go at some of the birds that come to the food I put out. At this house (we moved before Xmas) I generally only get half a dozen species feeding - and not all at once - and the most numerous are Starlings. Others include, Hooded Crow, Rock Dove, Blackbird, House Sparrow and two species of gull (Common and Herring), I  have also had Turnstone and Snipe - although the snipe wasn't strictly feeding on the bird food, more in the ground on which the food was sitting. The main problem with this house is the location where I can put the food, it is facing due south and the only suitable window for photography from is also in that direction. So obviously due to it being south facing, if the sun is out the subjects are always back lit (at this time of year anyhow) Over the last couple of months of snow, the white background hasn't helped much either. One of my favourite visitors is the Common Gull but these birds don't often land if the pieces of food are small enough. Their method is very kite-like in that they would often swoop down and grab the food whilst still on the wing.

Common Gull

After lunch, I had to go off of the island with the kids to Yell for the afternoon which, if the weather is good is always a nice little trip. The ferry crossing over Bluemull Sound only takes ten minutes but can often be good for seeing a variety of sea birds and occasionally cetaceans; such as, Neesicks (Porpoise) or Whitesided Dolphins and both Orca and Humpback Whales (though not by me) and often the ferry will turn and follow them for a short while. At the moment there is a large gathering of Dunters (Eider Ducks) which over the last few weeks has risen to between 400 - 500. Amongst them are one or two of the northern race which have a more orange coloured bill and 'sails' not dissimilar to the ones that male Mandarin drakes have, although a different colour. Unfortunately I've yet to find this avian 'needle in a haystack'. 


If the weather is right and depending on the wind, there are often good opportunities for  photographs from the stern of the ferry as it crosses the sound. Calm conditions are best for birds on the water and windy ones are best for the birds in flight - depending on which direction they are flying of course. Most ducks tend to fly very fast, but, if they are flying into the wind, you do get more of a chance. Also the journey from Unst to Yell is best as the sun (when it is shining) will be behind you, but this then causes problems of its own with it blowing the whites of the plumages. The commoner birds that are around at the moment on Bluemull are Tysties (Black Guillemot), Shag, Eider, Longtailed Duck and ever increasing numbers of Gannets. (The Eider pics were all taken from the ferry with the 500+1.4ex handheld)

Eider or 'Dunter'


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