Saturday, May 31, 2014

Another Sunny day and I thought I'd start my wanderings about as close to my old haunting ground as possible without leaving dry land. Lands End to Cape Cornwall. Clear skies and the Scillies in view I along with approximately 25000 Chinese visitors dismounted the open top double decker bus at Lands End and bee-lined towards the cliffside.
In all honesty I was cringing a little looking at the sheer number of people and feared I had made the wrong choice of destination but then looking at the vistas and the expanse of blue sea and sky it was no wonder why everyone and their dog had decided to make their way out to the most westerly point of the British Isles. That said I made my way towards Sennen and a little peace and quiet as quickly as possible.
After less than a quarter of a mile I decided I was close enough to half way through my stroll that a lunch stop was justified. Perched on a boulder munching on sandwiches. The expanse of healthland provides the usual list of suspects lined along the cliffside. These male stonechats (named for their teeth/stone grinding sounding call) love to pose for the camera.

Pairs of Linnets dotted the headland although quite pretty I always think they have slightly evil looking eyes.....
 Although all rather beautiful I kept walking on through Sennen Cove and Gwenver until the people got sparser and the things to see got a little more abundant...

Currently the Sea Thrift is blooming and is hosting innumerable number of insects and critters, above is one of hundreds of Common Blue Butterflies enjoying the sunshine and newly available nectar. I spent quite some time tripping over boulders and tufts of grass trying to photograph this Six Spot Burnet moth. Small Pearl Bordered Fritillaries seem to be dotting the coastline at the moment too...

 While my head was facing the floor chasing my little insectual friends I inadvertently sent this Kestrel flying from his perch. Although the picture is a little dark I was quite happy with the way his eyes seemed to meet mine down the lens.
Venturing a little down the way and I was headed towards what was my unconscious desire to venture on this particular walk. Being the avian symbol for Cornwall I decided to go Chough hunting. The numbers around the county are pitiful to say the least but as well as the Lizard this little stretch of coast is home to a small but noisy little 'Chattering' of Choughs ( a wonderful collective noun methinks...)
After taking this picture I heard a very distinctive call and turned around to witness a fly-by by an inquisitive red beaked black bird.
After I wiped the strange little smile off my face and decided to loiter and see if they would put on a show. They did a little too.
I'm really not sure what they were getting up to in this picture but I like the tangle. Finally one decided to pose for the obligatory 'on a post' picture....
Almost there and after unsuccessfully trying to picture one of the hundreds of Swallows that were up to their usual tricks plucking insects out of the sky I decided to chase yet more butterflies into the hedges.

Speckled Wood and a Female Common Blue.  Then I started to look at stuff even closer.....
After scrutinising several random patches of hedge and some rocks I realised that the Cape was upon me. Although wanting to venture further on I thought that I already had a few too many hundred pictures and it would take me longer to look at them than the time it took to do the walk itself.
This stretch of the South West Peninsula is always different and always stunning. There are amazing cows en route, cliffs, tiny little flowers, minestacks, streams, little bridges over streams, sunsets, the Scillies on the horizon, coves, choughs, ......
Oh and 10 points to anyone who guessed it was a Grey Squirrel.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

I tried to get all 'arty' on my walk from Mousehole to Lamorna last week and as a result I got some rather strange and pretty amateurish shots of the sea and a wet foot to accompany me on what would have otherwise been a quite pleasant stroll. The temptation to try my slow shutter stuff and the waves drew me ever closer to the rock sea meeting point until my foot was in the sea side of the affair and I had a rather pathetic 'no fair' face on.

Apart from that it was another perfect Spring day and the temptation of the various microcosms of habitat along the coastline made me decide to venture in that direction. It is a walk of about three miles and as you can see there are open spaces, heathland, the sea, pine woods and cliffs to hide various living things. I found a few...

Although pretty dull and usually quite common, Rock Pipits seem to be in very low numbers this year. This could be due to the fact that our winter storms just washed away their food sources and or their homes. With waves reaching thirty feet or so there weren't too many crag and nooks to hide in. This was one of two I saw flitting around on the rocks. Possibly a mating pair but definitely better at keeping their legs out of the sea than me.

This Whimbrel did a very good job of hiding while I was clambering up the rocks. It was not until I startled it that he became apparent against the blue background while flying off. I felt a little bad interrupting what was a break from migrating from the sub-arctic to South America or Africa.

As I had been out in direct sunlight for over eight minutes the wooded area approximately half way along the walk was a perfectly timed and shaded change of scene.

Now that the sun was out of the way my next issue was to both stare up into the trees to see what I could find but not inadvertently walk into any. I would call that multitasking and I just about managed. Jays are one of the native to Britain birds that do not make it across the sea to the Isles of Scilly and as a result this was the second Jay I have ever seen. I like them, they have the most grating call but being pinky orange and having a blue wing just makes them winners.

This part of the coast is a wonderful compromise of the granite cliffs we are known for down here and the soft and calm looking sea. Given the way in which Mounts Bay is shaped it avoids all but rare South Easterly gales there is not the dramatic feel you see along some of the other stretches of Penwith on the North side. This gives the place a little more of a soft and welcoming feel and an almost 'entry level' introduction to the spectacle that Granite and the sea can create.

I decided to cut through the fields along the top of the cliffs to try and get some lovely panoramic shots of Mounts Bay and the coast path from above. Instead I got lost. I took my wet foot and dry foot through what felt like fifty different fields all with cow pats in varying stages of dryness (and wetness) and after trying to photograph some of the contributors to the constant buzzing and humming in the hedgerows I decided just to try and find civilization. This came in the form of Mousehole...

My walk was over and I thought it was not really my best. Wet foot had turned to Trenchfoot and I had spent the majority of my lost in fields time thinking I was going to perish from sunburn and hunger. The scenery was great, the weather good but my pictures and findings were fairly average at best. Really vinegary chips on the rocks seemed to be a good way to finish the day and put a silver lining on what wasn't really that grey of a cloud but a cloud anyway. And so I did and I made friends fast....

In the background another inquisitive visitor in the form of a pair of Wheatear stopped by to see if my dinner was worth loitering around for....

Then word spread underwater and another visitor dropped in to say hello...

So it seems that sitting around eating chips can actually be a better way to see wildlife than rambling.

Ten points for guessing what was hiding by my feet this morning.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

I suppose I should actually get this 'new' blog underway then. I must confess that in choosing this particular destination I am probably playing the 'ace up my sleeve' too soon. With it being Spring, gloriously sunny and me having a day or two off it would have been a bit of a crime not to go to Porthcurno. I went twice in three days in the end.
To say this place is picturesque is a bit of an understatement in my opinion. I'm not the most seasoned traveller but in my limited experience there is no other place I have seen where the sea is that particular colour. I don't think any artist will ever be able to do the views around here justice either.
Armed with factor thirty and some ill fitting shorts I wandered from Treen to Porthchapel and back. A fairly hilly stroll but worth it. I'm thinking i'll probably do a little entry on the Minack at some point so I'm just going to skip that today.
Despite the temptation of staring across the bay at the coves of sand and the seal who had the whole shallow waters of the bay to himself it seemed that, on the wildlife front, small things seemed to inadvertently become the theme of the day. I set out hoping to see dolphins or gannets but instead I ended up looking a bit like a weirdo staring intently at small sections of hedge and directly on the floor.
Luckily I was watching where I was treading before almost squashing this brilliantly named 'Bloody-nosed Beetle.' Simplistic in appearance but quite pretty these critters exude a reddy brown fluid from their mouths if they think they are about to feature on a predators menu. This vile tasting fluid is a deterrent to even the hungriest of foes allowing them to carry on ambling along the grass minding their own business.
The hedges along the cliffside was peppered with these little, and sometime large, Small Eggar moth 'larval webs', good name methinks.
Although a bit creepy the swirling mass of caterpillars was quite captivating. In the end these will all either be dined upon by the various blackbirds, jackdaws, finches and other opportunists, or in the case of the lucky ones become small rather non-descript moths rarely seen as they fly at night looking for another moth to mate with and repeat the whole process again next year. A rather simple life really....
The Isles of Scilly had a rather limited selection of butterflies due to its location. As a result I now seem to uncontrollably skip off in pursuit of anything that flutters and looks different. This is a Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary. They exist in small isolated colonies across England and we seem to be hosting a good number among the grazing ponies above the little bay to the left of Porthcurno.
When Porthchapel opens up in front of you, in my humble opinion you have arrived at one of the most archetypal and stunning of Cornish coves. Along with the distinct lack of the windbreak and disposable BBQ brigade you are greeted by more white sand, a waterfall, massive and precarious looking granite boulders and a real sense of space.
The water looked so inviting that I decided it was time for my first dip of the year. It was bloody freezing. I wasn't sure quite what I was expecting but it had to be done, approximately 180 seconds of pleasure and pain combined.
Once I stopped shivering and my shorts had drip dried it was time to venture up the valley running down to beach. This is one of Cornwall's best birdwatching sights and also where I photographed the foxes in my previous entry. Didn't stop though.
One of the lovely things about the extreme west of Cornwall is the abundance of little streams that tumble down onto our little beaches and coves. These make great dam building opportunities...for the chidren of course.
They can also be great homes for dragon and damselflies such as this which after looking for aaages I think is a Beautiful Demoiselle. This is an immature male and after reading a little internet page or two it seems that the fast flowing stream he was resting by is a through road for females. So with a one track mind he sits and watches and waits.
My favourite find of the day was this little beauty that was running in manic circles on the footpath. Annoyingly, us Brits at some point decided to call him a 'Common Lizard' whereas if he were European he would have the rather more interesting title of a 'Viviparous Lizard'
A much better name.




Saturday, May 10, 2014

So I've moved. I'm now about fifty miles away from where I was and some things are different and some are the same. I'm still Quite Tall and I still have legs that should never wear shorts but very occasionally do. I'm still enjoying being outside and taking pictures too. However I'm living in Cornwall now.

For various reasons, namely missing family and friends I have returned back to my home area and reside in Penwith, the most westerly part of Cornwall, excluding my previous haunt that is. I feel like I've moved from one beautiful part of the world to another. In the last few months I have been reacquainting myself with some of the old walks I used to be dragged around by my parents as a still fairly tall child and discovering a few new places and experiences too.

I have been snapping away at beautiful scenes, destructive storms, birds (surprisingly!), the odd gravestone and a manner of other things that have caught my eye but didn't really feel like I had a purpose or outlet for them. Time to reincarnate Quite Tall Max.
I am then faced with the task of trying to find a reason to write and snap and what would be the purpose. I then decided that I should maybe try to show you why I chose to come back here and why after trying quite a few times to relocate, I always come back. It would also be good to illustrate why when staring at a vista or landscape with someone 'not from round here' I have to bite my lip and hold back uttering 'it's not a good as in Cornwall'....

So that's what I'll do. The things I like down here shall be the things I photograph. If I manage to photograph them to a tolerable standard then they shall appear here and I shall try to explain why I like them. Simple.

Cornwall is an astonishing place with a little more depth than cream teas and a funny accent and I do hope to illustrate that fact. I'd like to maybe show some people what is on their doorstep and others why it's worth a visit and maybe even persuade a few people to go and have their own mini adventures.
If this doesn't appeal then I think the results of the Eurovision are on at the moment. You could watch that instead I suppose.....
Wave Watching at Nanquidno
The view from the Minack
Common Buzzard
'Nick' The Dolphin chasing a cormorant
Sunset off Lands End

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Winter is coming and it's sending in storms on an almost constant basis. Pulses of wind and rain have been meeting us on an almost daily basis. As each deep depression whips up the sea hundreds of miles out in the Atlantic and being the first point of contact for these lumps of swell often producing impressive results. This is the North End looking, to me, incredible.

When photographing waves and the sea it is very hard to portray the size unless you have an object in the picture to relate to. These alas don't but take my word for it, they were big. Really big.

The North End of Tresco can be fascinating in a winter storm but for me the best time is when the storm is still out to sea and we have only a slight breeze this 'cleans' the swell up and produces these hollow wonders of nature. I spent quite some time mind surfing theses huge displays of nature's power.
Our Avian highlight this week is this American Robin. Not actually a relation of the more familiar European Robin but a member of the Thrush (or Turdus snigger snigger) race but is so named due to the red breast. There have only been 30 records of this common North American bird on British soil so we were lucky to play host to this little lady.
After the crowds had gone and with a little stealthy and clumsy 'sneaking' I was able to get quite close but the light conditions were terrible and the photos were not as good as I had wished not much use in waiting for another one to come along, could be some time....
Another visitor I bumped into, and one of my favourites was this Black Redstart.
For some strange reason the Spring and Autumn visitors we host seem to prefer the Cricket Pitch and the surrounding area. This female was munching away on a wasp getting her strength back for the continuation of her journey. We often host a small number of these inconspicuous but pretty birds and the flash of red from their tail feathers can be quite eye catching.
Barnacle Geese coming from Northern Russia and Greenland rarely come any further south than Scotland and Ireland for the Winter. This pair must have overshot the mark by quite some way when I found the loitering in one of the fields on Middle Downs. Being six foot four makes it rather challenging to get close to something stood in the middle of the field so when I startled them I was not surprised, but happy they gave me a little flyby before seeking some solitude somewhere else on the Island. Maybe I should disguise myself as a tree next time...
From one of the largest to one of the smallest. With the wind trying to strip any foliage of the shrubs and trees with what seems like an almost indefatigable purpose it is becoming easier to see the little songbirds that usually lurk nearby but hidden.
I love Goldcrests, being hyper energetic and absolutely tiny they are a nightmare to try and photograph but I quite enjoy the challenge. I would not like to admit to the number of blurry shots I had to sift through to find the odd one I am happy with. They are very vocal and often easy to locate, actually seeing one is a different matter. Once you do spot them it is worth spending a minute or two watching them dancing among the shrubbery feeding at an almost frenzied rate. There is something about the expression on their face, the markings on their face makes them look sad. How could you be though with a hairdo like that?
And finally, this is not some exotic visitor from tropical lands but a very lovely looking chicken providing with very lovely eggs from Boro Farm. At the time of writing this there is yet another strong south westerly gale blowing in from the Atlantic we may well get another rare American visitor or two...