Sunday, 29 May 2011

Hits and misses

  Hits and misses ? - that's how I feel this last week has been with regards to wildlife. Just over a week ago, I was over at Westing after the morning school run watching (and trying to photograph) a number of Tirricks that were feeding in/over the breaking waves, that were coming in from a strong westerly blow. It wasn't easy at all and a 'flat' grey sky didn't help, so to be quite honest most of the pictures I got were pretty poor.........

 Arctic Tern (Tirrick)

  At one stage I was so intent on watching the terns through the eyepiece, I failed to see a small gull fly right in front of me and only saw it as it was going away to my left.......................

Immature Little Gull

  I really like Little Gulls, I think they behave more like a tern than a gull when they're feeding and so are a joy to watch.

 After finishing a job early (and it was a lovely afternoon), I took a quick look up at Skaw to see if there were any migrants around. On this occasion I left the camera in the car and set off across the bridge over the burn. I hadn't even got across when the movement of a small bird caught my eye, just to the right. It was a bunting and straight away I knew it was a Rustic'. Quickly getting the camera, I managed to relocate the bird and get a few pictures.................


Rustic Bunting
  Brydon and Mike P had seen one in Baltasound last week, so this was probably the same one - but it was still nice to find my own. Returning home, I then got a call from Mike to say he'd just rung a Golden Oriole that had been shut in someones porch (which he then collected) and would we like to take a look when he released it. Ten minutes later, the girls and I were looking at a stunning (and often very shy) bird. Mike took a few more measurements before he gave it to Sula to release...........................

Immature male (probably) Golden Oriole
  One of the birds that I've 'missed' (not strictly true - but not seen well) has been a Ring-billed Gull that Brydon found down at Uyeasound. Despite looking frequently when I took and fetched Sula from school,  I was either too early or too late and 'just missed' it. I did see it briefly last Saturday, but from what I saw of it I wouldn't have identified it myself.

  A few days later (23rd May) on the way back from the morning school run, I took a look at Westing for the Little Gull. It was still there and the light was better and the wind was right..............





  Now its always been a habit of mine, both when I lived down south and even more so now we live here, to have the camera ready and close at hand when I'm out and about in the car. You just never know when something interesting or photogenic may occur and this happened the other day as I was driving through Haroldswick in the north of the island. Many of the roads pass close to the sea (nowhere is more than a mile and a half from the sea anyway) and Haroldswick is a good example. As I drove around the shoreline, I pulled in to give way to an oncoming car and looked down to the beach at some Mallard that had just taken to the air; and there was the reason, an otter coming up the beach towards the road. I grabbed the camera, quietly got out and went across to the opposite verge. It came out so close past me that my 500mm wouldn't focus and then crossed the road towards some freshwater pools; I grabbed a few shots hand held before it disappeared in to the opposite vegetation. Fortunately the wind was in my favour so it didn't get my scent or hear the shutter going off. For hand holding the long lens the shutter speed wasn't really fast enough but I had a go and the results weren't quite sharp enough - given a bit more time I'd have upped the ISO to give me more speed...................

 
(the light patch is out of focus grass)

 

  It's not just birds and otters that I like to photograph, so here are 3 other subjects from this week...........

 Shetland ram

 Common Seal

err........... rabbits !

 I've mentioned several times about planting some willows and also about the migrant bird possibilities for the land, below are 3 pictures of some habitat that should be good for small migrants in the autumn. The Rosa Rugosa's are now showing some nice flowers so hopefully by the autumn there'll be lots of nice plump berries for (hopefully) Waxwings when they pass through here; if not, then the Redwings, Fieldfares and Blackbirds will have a feast..................

The Willow 'whips' - with rabbit guards
  The willows down to the shore are taking quite nicely (its much wetter ground anyway) but several of the other patches have shown 'die back', however these also should take eventually.

  Earlier I was saying about never knowing what I may see as I drive around here. Well on Friday morning as I drove up from the shore road, a bird flew across the road in front of me which certainly wasn't a Wheatear - which is what I see most frequently. All I needed was to see a flash of rusty red/brown to know it was a cracking male Redbacked Shrike. It landed some distance away but I did get a shot - just for the record.............


  Despite a thorough search by myself and George - another birder from Mainland - it wasn't relocated. I thought perhaps it had gone to Haligarth but we didn't find it there. I did see the Golden Oriole again, it was hovering and catching flies right in front of me, and where was the camera again ? not in my hand that's for sure !

                       Robbie