Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The children have broken up from school and the heat wave has come to an end. Over the last few days some monstrous rainclouds have passed our way creating some dramatic skies. My landscape photography skills are pretty minimal and I don't think I do justice to the ominous skies that we have had recently. Time to get out and practice then.....
July has been rather quiet on the bird front but there are still a huge amount of winged critters on the islands to keep the eye busy.
This is a Comma butterfly and the first one I have ever noticed on Scilly. They are not the rarest of creatures but are a nice deviation from the usual butterflies we host over here.
The butterfly gets it's name from the single white mark on the underside of it's wing. These butterflies are now making a very fast comeback across the whole of the British Isles after declining down to only a couple of small pockets in England. If you don't see them in your local area now you may soon. Or you can come and find this one, he's over here somewhere! 

There seems to be so many butterflies over here at the moment, I don't know if this is a particularly good year for them but I have never noticed so many before. The above is a Painted Lady feeding away on one of the many wild flowers in bloom here. These can be seen all over the island but they tend to like Ivy's and fern mostly. I don't really think I need to patronise by telling you where to spot them as they are pretty obvious in flight! 

Here are some other butterflies and moths you can find when wandering.
Speckled Wood
Common Blue
Silver Y (moth)
Six Spot Burnet (Moth)
As expected our migrant waders have started to arrive on the island and are making the most of the mudbanks around the two pools and occasionally the shoreline. Annoyingly they always seem to be that little bit too far away for me to get a decent close up picture. Anyway below are a couple of shots of our first visitors.

These Greenshanks have stopped off to see us on there way to Africa. Being waders they can be spotted anywhere mud loving crustaceans dwell.
We have also played host to a variety of Sandpipers, Green, Wood and Common types have all been seen in the last few weeks. The above picture, I believe, is of a Wood Sandpiper. These are fairly rare passerines. After breeding in Northern Europe they too decide to spend their Winters in Africa too.
I went for a walk a few days ago and, even on Tresco there wasn't too much to see. However just as I got home I saw a supportive parent feeding a baby Greenfinch. I thought it was rather nice. I don't usually like taking pictures when the light isn't brilliant as my skills are not really good enough to adapt to it but I thought the slightly dull light made the colour on either finch stand out more.

I think I was spotted in the last shot!
The only other picture of note was this:
The eater was about the size of a peanut and seemed quite content with the nasty looking dinner.

About two weeks ago I bought a tripod and a remote timer to try and take some pictures of the night sky. Since then the skies have pretty much cloudy ever since. I think it's my fault. Needless to say the new bits and pieces are gathering dust in the corner. I took these two pictures with one of these new fandangled super zoom cameras and, in order to be diplomatic I think I need to say it takes a better moon picture than I think i'll be able to get with my own camera! The Scillies are well known for their clear night skies. Sometimes is worth looking up on the way home from the pub...
Pentle Bay looking busy in the height of the Summer


Sunday, July 21, 2013

While a group of people sit in a office wearing jackets and ties debate whether or not this is a 'category 2' or a 'category 3' heatwave the rest of the country is out enjoying what is essentially a lovely sunny spell.  In my mind, this grey seal has the best of both worlds wallowing in the sea and soaking up the rays simultaneously. This particular individual frequents the southern tip of the island and can often be seen basking as people to and fro from Carn Near.

 I went for a quick jaunt on the Scillonian back to the mainland recently and was looking forward to seeing a nice variety of different wildlife  and filling a post with loads of shots of dolphins, gannets, shearwaters and the like but alas, almost everything I saw ended up as dots in the distance in my photos and the seas were rather quiet too. That is not to say that there is always the chance of cruising past pods of dolphins, basking sharks, gannets in a feeding frenzy and even Leatherback turtles (seen from the ship on the 18th July.) This photo below is pretty much the culmination of looking out to sea for a couple of hours. Luckily I'm very good at staring into the distance for long periods of time......
This is a Manx Shearwater and although not the best picture ever I do love how it shows how close to the surface of the sea they allow their wingtips to venture. Any contact at speed would be pretty disastrous however they cruise for miles in this fashion looking for food. Strangely enough the Latin name for this bird is Puffinus Puffinus, while bearing no relation to the colourful beaked chaps. In the 17th Century they were known as Manks Puffins. (Good old Wikipedia!) Puffins as we know them were named much later. There are regular trips put on to watch hundreds of these guys arrive back to the off islands and their burrows at sunset.
Back on dry land I stumbled across this Swallow's nest down by the old Heliport building after my vain attempt at photographing the sunrise. Due to the fact that it was silly o' clock in the morning the light was not brilliant and the picture was not as sharp as i'd have liked it to be. I decided to venture back later in the day to try again but the three chicks had all fledged leaving nothing but an empty nest! It's that time of year when a lot of this years new arrivals are finding out what it is like to fend for themselves.

The butterflies are out in full strength at the moment across the island. Below are a couple you can find in almost any hedge across the entire Scillies. The top is another shot of a Meadow Brown. Beneath are a couple of pictures of a very common Painted Lady. Sometimes I think that too much attention is set on the topside of butterflies but I think the underside of the bottom shot is my favourite part. I just like its intricacy.

The usual suspects are still around too, this female stonechat was watching me from her thorny perch.

While nearby this Linnet was posing nicely in the Summer sun.

I also had a go at photographing some insects around the Abbey pool, of which there are plenty at the moment. It wasn't the most successful of ventures but I shall certainly keep at it. However I did quite like this Cranefly doing the equivalent of the splits.

With 'Category 3' heatwaves can come some serious sea fog. I think a lot of people were caught out by the arrival of this thick cloud we experienced last Sunday. This picture was taken from the Eastern Isles looking towards Tresco. It was rather entertaining trying to make my way back on my Kayak! For any of you serious ornithophiles (if it's not a real word it should be) out there while paddling around the uninhabited islands, myself and a friend know to all as Spider may have seen and photographed a Mediterranean Shag, quite a rarity for these waters. Details can be found on his Blog www.scillyspider.blogspot.co.uk 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I think I've forgotten what rain feels like. I'm certainly not complaining though. With the temperatures going up and the sun pinking up our shoulders and noses it is a great time to be on Scilly. As well as the influx of tourists now is also prime time for butterflies, dragon and damselflies and of course our avian Summer visitors.
It has been a little while since my last post and to be honest it has been a rather frustrating time for me and picture taking. Although there has been a multitude of things to write about I haven't really felt my pictures were up to scratch. There have been out of focus blades of grass in shot, birds too far away, conditions being too dark.... it goes on, I suppose this happens to everyone at some point. I even got up this morning at half four determined to get some sunrise shots only to find a lovely line of cloud across the horizon....
Anyway moan over, here is what I have decided is worth sharing.
The Peregrines I mentioned nesting on Puffin Island have decided Tresco is now their island of choice. It is almost impossible to go outside without hearing them hawking above. There are currently three ( male, female and juvenile) and they seem to favour the area around the monument and the Abbey Gardens although I have seen them towards New Grimsby. It is great to see a new species decide to take up residence on the Island.
Now is the time of year when we can expect to start seeing Little Egrets, Greenshanks (above) Redshanks, Wagtails and many other birds as they pass through on route to their wintering grounds. This Greenshank is most likely slowly on their way to Africa in the pursuit of the warmer climates in Winter.

I went for a quick wander down to the Abbey Gardens in search of Dragonflies at the ponds along the Middle Terrace. All was fairly quiet but I did see what I think is an Irish Damselfly or Crescent Bluet and this Brown Hawker.
Staying on the small flying critter theme there are quite a few Six Spotted Burnets on the heathland across the entirety of the Scillies. You can spot them a mile away with the brightness of their spots. I think it is to try and appear to not be the tastiest of morsels for predators.
We are also swamped with jellyfish at the moment with a vast number of Bluefire jellyfish that can give you a nasty little sting.
While traipsing around the pines down towards Appletree beach I bumped into our newest resident. Red Squirrels are slowly being introduced to Tresco with a very small number now roaming around just on the other side of the Garden Visitor Centre. I normally try to provide some little bit of useless information about the animals I put on my blog but to be honest everyone knows the story about them being outdone by the Grey Squirrel all I know is that their little ear tufts are awesome.
Lets just hope this weather continues and I can get my picture taking back up to scratch. Enjoy the Sunshine!
Oh and I never really saw the point in mentioning them before but we have gulls here too.....
...lots of them.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Suns out!

I said I wouldn't put up another picture of a Reed Warbler up but I lied. Here's one more....

I got the shot I wanted finally! This time I didn't spend hours looking at reeds to no avail. I was walking along the eastern end of the Great Pool when I heard the unmistakable calls of at least two Reed Warblers and decided to stop and see if I could spot one. I got quite a surprise when I discovered that there were approximately six of them! I'm not too sure but recently when walking down in that area I realised that there have been two present for some time. Maybe the extra ones are fledglings?

Referring back to one of my previous posts and mentioning fledglings it has come to light that the two Peregrine Falcons on Puffin Island have in fact had chicks!

Today I took what seems to be becoming my usual wander along the south of the Island and up along the Great Pool. As well as this Coot feasting away on the abundant greenery lurking under the surface I saw its offspring which must be a good contender the ugliest chick award.

There are still lots of young around on the island with some birds on their second brood of the year. The below picture had me a little confused until I realised it was a juvenile moorhen. A Rather annoying blade of grass....

Moorhens are more than common all over the country as well as abundant on Tresco. I saw this guy twice and both times were by the tennis courts close to the Estate Office. I love how enormous their feet are.

I met another visitor on the beach too yesterday. Now that they have done their impressing the ladies the male Ring Necked Pheasants are looking a little scrawny but not as bad as the Golden Pheasants as you can see in the previous post. This guy was going for a run in the sand.

It was rather a fruitless walk along the Carn Near end of the Island with quite a few species still not present. Maybe its better to stagger the arrivals to keep me occupied...?

We have however been inundated with hundreds of Racing Pigeons. Every year they use the entire Scillies as a pitstop during one of their lengthy races. These guys can fly up to 60 miles per hour but obviously need to stop and regain their strength before continuing on. Some of them end up staying for quite some time. Last year I decided to befriend one who was with us for over three months. He lived in the house and roamed freely inside and in our garden. I named him Percy, we bonded......then he left.

About ten feet along the same fence I took this picture was a Blackbird with a feast stuffed in his beak.

I count two earthworms, a grub and something silver and shiny.

There are Wrens galore on Tresco, finding them is a little challenge as they are one of the smallest birds in the UK. They weigh approximately 8 grams and amaze me that inside the tiny dumpy body are some very powerful lungs. They have a very distinctive and loud call.

After so many pictures of birds here is a token picture of a female Meadow Brown I saw just outside the Abbey.

And although slightly out of focus here is the only shot I got with her wings apart.

Well with the oncoming 'heatwave' lets hope there are more chances to get out and about soon.