Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Phalaropes and Otters

Tuesday 2nd November

  It was another nice start to the morning, so, once I'd dropped the kids off at school, I popped over to Haroldswick to check if the Phal' was still around. I was thinking that if it wasn't there again today, then it would probably have moved on. Scanning the shore as I drove around the bay, I was starting to think it had gone as there was no sign of it, then as I reached the north end of the beach I spotted it feeding with a few other shorebirds. Parking the car up, I made my way down through the huge pile of kelp that had been washed up by the rough weather to the waters edge. It was another one of those situations where I wanted plenty of light to give me a good shutter speed, but there was too much of it ! With the camera mounted on the tripod, I sat down in the slippery, slimy mess and waited in the hope that the bird would move along the waters edge towards me as it fed. Gradually the bird got nearer and I was treated to some cracking views as it fed vigorously in the breaking waves. The direction of the sun wasn't ideal but I didn't have any choice, if I waited until afternoon until it had come around for a better angle, the tide would have gone out even further and I'd not be able to get anywhere near enough. Hey ho. The one below is one of my favourites from the morning.

Grey Phalarope

  As I sat there amongst the rotting kelp, a number of of other birds passed by including this Purple Sandpiper. It passed me within 10ft and seemed totally at ease with me sitting there. I've seen waders with various 'deformities' to their bills before but not quite like this one - I know that the bill tips are quite flexible, but I'm sure this is a bit extreme.

Purple Sandpiper

Wednesday 3rd November

  During the night, we had a gale and driving rain for quite a while. I wasn't expecting it to be a nice morning but was surprised to see there was a little bit of brightness in the sky to the west. After dropping the girls off at school, I thought I'd take a look at the beach at Westing because as the winds had been coming from the south west, I thought that there may be something of interest on the beach - even if it was only seals 'bottling' in the surf. Pulling up, I immediately saw an otter fishing just below the turning area. A short while after as I was getting 'kitted up', a white car pulled up and parked close by over looking the beach. My first thought was 'that's b*******d it !'. Fortunately, they didn't stay long - most folk just turn the car around, look at the view, and then drive off again. The otter was still fishing just off shore, so between each dive I made my way along to a large rock for cover. The otter eventually came out not too far from me and luckily there was a strong wind blowing from it to me. It seemed to be following scent of another one and frequently stopped to scent mark etc, before finally entering the water again pretty much where it came out.

 Just to get a half decent shutter speed of 1/250 second to try and stop any movement, I had to set the camera to 1250 or 1600 ISO which didn't help in the quality stakes.

  As I sat there in the wind and, sometimes rain, numerous Starlings and several Hooded Crows came down on to the beach to feed on a plentiful supply of creatures amongst the seaweed on the beach.

Hooded Crow

 After lunchtime, I returned back to Westing to find an otter still fishing and just outside of the bay there was quite a big sea.

  Casting an eye along the breaking waves further along the beach, I had a very pleasant surprise of finding another Grey Phalarope. As I'd seen the one at Haroldswick at lunch time, I'd be very surprised if it was the same one, as Westing was almost 10 miles away. Compared to the relative calm of Haroldswick Bay, the water here was pretty rough and the phalarope was getting tossed about all over the place - certainly a tough little bird.

If you look carefully, the bird is in the centre

Grey Phal' at Westing (found and taken by me)
 You may be wondering why I've got one of my pictures on my blog with someone else's copyright logo on it. Well, often when I post pictures of birds that have been found by my friend Brydon Thomason, I 'repay' the find by giving him a bit of free 'advertising' so to speak. Brydon's logo has now become quite well known (and deservedly so). So much so, that someone has blatantly copied the design for their own watermark  for what ever their reason. As they say, 'Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery'..................................



MarkW said...

You have some superb pictures here; I especially like the otter shaking, & as to finding that Grey Phal!

You keep Unst at the very top of "the place I would rather be"; magic!

Dougie Preston said...

Don't worry about the watermark 'imitation' mate, as folk will just think all the pics are Brydons ;)

Nature in Shetland said...

All waders can bend the tips of their bills like that Purp. There is a name for it (rhyno-something) and there was a paper in BB about it once.