Wednesday, September 25, 2013

There's only so much fog a human can take. It's been ridiculous. I have spent the last six mornings hearing my alarm go off and gazing out of the window to an even thicker coating than the previous morning. That's not to say that with a little English character and a tissue to wipe the cloud matter off my glasses on an all to frequent manner I have managed to see a few new arrivals to our islands.

These Greenshanks have been around on the islands for a little while now but have always been that little bit too distant to get any decent pictures until now. These pictures were taken when a group of nine descended from the sky during a rare break in the cloud.
It is this time of year that you can see these and their close relations, Redshanks. These waders are distinguishable by the colour of their legs, green for Greenshanks and Redshanks have, you guessed it, red legs.
This little chap is a first for me and I was happy to get some very close views. Lapland Buntings are a little larger than a sparrow and we host a small number each year on the British Isles but usually as they are wandering astray from Northern Europe they are more commonly found on the East coast.
After a few days of cabin fever I decided to venture out in to the fog and see what I could find on the Great Pool. Due to the fact that I couldn't see much further than half a football pitch I did think I must have looked rather dumb venturing into the Bird Hide. Luckily no one else could see far enough to spot me. The fog does have benefits I suppose. After about half an hour of staring into a rather uninspiring cocktail of nothingness and grey I saw some movement no more than fifteen feet away in the reeds. My first Snipe! These are mind-blowingly good at not being seen with their timid nature and incredible camouflaged plumage, I was a little happy with myself. It never came out into the open so these were the best images I could get.
It is the combination of its fast erratic flight when escaping threats and its tendency to hide very well that made it a good trophy bird for shooters. This in turn gave birth to the term Sniper. Don't see the point in just shooting something for the sake of it but humans are strange things...
This picture was taken in some of the worst fog hence the dismal colour. This Black Tailed Godwit is most likely visiting us from Iceland. This one is in it's Summer plumage and will lose the redness as winter encroaches. As is evident in the picture, they can be seen feeding on the mud banks of the pools. Incidentally, I quite admire their feeding democracy, the females have a longer beak than the males in order to avoid competing with each other for food as they scour the mud for invertebrates and insects.
Wheatears are abound on the islands at the moment and a couple of weeks ago we had an influx of arrivals with over four hundred seen on St Marys Airport alone. Counts of over two hundred were also reported from various place across the Scillies.

These, like so many others, are off to Africa for warmer temperatures and sunshine. I think they are on to something to be honest. Don't be fooled by the colour of the sky, this sunny break lasted a matter of minutes before the sky took on the colour of a pencil lead.
This juvenile wagtail popped by to say hello for all of ten seconds during our brief spell of light. There are however plenty of them around to see. Open areas and beaches are the best places and their distinct undulating flight and long tail makes them easy to see.
We still have a good number of butterflies here at the moment. This is a rather pale looking Painted Lady. They are common and I'm afraid to say are overshadowed by my next contribution....
In my opinion Peacock Butterflies are stunning, They are so named due to the 'eyes' on the wings. When confronted by threats they use their wing patterning to intimidate their attackers and can also make a hissing noise with their wings to increase their scariness.
Now for my 'final picture.' This is my favourite in a while. I have been trying to see a Wryneck for ages. Ages and ages. They are not the rarest of birds to visit us with one or two being seen almost daily on the Scillies at this time of year. I, however was beginning to think that they didn't exist. I spent hours trawling up and down the habitat I thought they would dwell in to no avail. However in the pouring rain and fog I was taken to where one had been recently seen and the hunt began. After a few minutes trying to see through rain dressed glasses and sopping wet feet there it was. Perched in a tree, getting as wet as I was, our visitor from mainland Europe finally decided to reveal itself to me. They are a member of the woodpecker family and are strange looking birds. About the size of a sparrow they feed almost entirely on ants and rarely, if ever, peck at wood.
Not the best picture by far but a little personal triumph I suppose, fingers crossed this bloody weather changes and I get to see another a little closer next time.....


  1. The first three pictures are amazing! It took me ages to spot the 'wryneck' I almost thought you were joking!

  2. Just goes to show it's all about scarcity value. We have no painted ladies here but several peacocks, so if one were to show up I'd be photographing it like mad!

    1. How strange! I thought they were everywhere! I'll post you a couple if you'd like... ; )

  3. How did you spot that Wryneck? Well done on some stunng photos, I particularly like the Greenshank images with the beautiful blue background. Sorry you've had all the maddening fog-but you still managed some great images. The Snipe is also tricky to spot, well camouflaged as you say. I would be delighted to see 400 Wheatears..I think I'd go crazy!

    1. I had help! Many eyes make lighter work. It was actually in a gorse bush on the side of the track and flew off into the tree where the picture was taken.

      Thank you for the compliments I have several other Greenshank images i was happy with so maybe i shall add them at a later date.

      Oh and its still foggy!...

  4. Cracking photos. I have only seen one wryneck ever and am only just across the water in West Cornwall. A few snipe here already but normally we get odd early one which I think are UK residents then nothing till the Eastern block contingent turn up. Definitely less than a few years ago.

    1. Thank you! It is funny you should mention the arrival of more Snipe. We now have plenty tucked away in the reeds over here now. I think my total in the past fortnight must now been around twenty, things are looking up.