Friday, 29 June 2012

Tropical delights.

A wonderful day at sea today. The morning started really well with 20- 30 Fraser's dolphins bow- riding the vessel whilst at the same time a pod of 150-200 Melon-headed whales frolicked 150 metres off the port beam. I was really fortunate to sea some cracking birds too- an adult laughing gull did a brief flypast allowing me to take a quick snapshot through the bridge window and later, when I was outside with the camera at working temperature, a brilliant red-billed tropic bird did a brief dive, then flew across our path. This bird was a little too distant for a quality shot but even with a heavy crop it is still recognisable. A half dozen or so great shearwaters also put in an appearance throughout the day as did a solitary pomarine skua.  In my excitement I almost forgot yesterday's Leach's storm petrel and cory's shearwater!! I'm being rather spoilt on the marine fauna front at the moment!! Happy days indeed!!

Fraser's dolphin
Melon-headed whales

laughing gull

red-billed tropic bird

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

A great shearwater!

One of my favourite seabirds!

Poms on parade

Fairly quiet on the sea bird front so far, with just a smattering of pomarine skuas and a couple of dozen distant great shearwaters.....I'm not complaining though as they are both great species to see!

Pomarine skua- a really impressive sea bird!

Monday, 25 June 2012

Paramaribo- Surinam

After a 10 hour flight from Amsterdam, a 4 hour time zone change and 6 hours sleep in a hotel somewhere in Paramaribo, I found myself on a small supply vessel heading down the Paramaribo river through tropical rain forest for the 20 hour passage to my working vessel somewhere out in the North Atlantic. 

heading down river
I readily admit to not knowing the names of the majority of birds found in this area although I'm not too bad with the sea birds- at least the Large-billed terns were easy enough!

Large-billed terns

magnificent frigate birds
Unfortunately the magnificent frigate birds were a little too high too get a quality photograph although they were certainly a magnificent sight! On occasions these birds seemed to have a very similar jizz to red kites.

It is not often I get to see a new species of marine mammal so finding a small pod of Tucuxi river dolphins was a real bonus!!

Tucuxi- freshwater dolphins
traditional static fishing traps

Saturday, 16 June 2012

The Minch

A brief overnight stay in Stornoway provided the opportunity for a couple more sea watching sessions from the Ullapool ferry. Thursdays' highlights included a dozen or so Arctic terns and at least similar numbers of great skuas. A few common dolphins and a grey seal grabbing a couple of breaths added to what was a generally quiet voyage.

arctic terns

grey seal
A few kittiwakes, fulmars, gannets and the commoner auks were scattered across the Minch but there was little to get the heart pounding.



An evening stroll around Sandwick bay just north of the town turned up a couple of dunlin, a few whimbrel and a ringed plover. The real highlight however was a corncrake calling from the thick grass along the coast path. Unfortunately as is usually the case with this species I did not see the bird.

The return voyage on Friday was in a rather unpleasant cold, easterly force 6. Despite the dreary conditions I was happy to see a pomarine skua and a basking shark that did a full breach which was very spectacular. Unfortunately it only jumped once so I did not get a photograph. A guillemot of the bridled form was also good to see.

pomarine skua

pomarine skua

guillemot- bridled form

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Redstart sortie

Had a couple of hours in a local glen this afternoon, with the target species being redstart- a species that is showing a very noticeable decline in the NW highlands. Everything was generally quiet although eventually I did locate a pair of these wonderful woodland birds. Getting a photograph was very difficult however, as I could not get too close, with the birds obviously carrying food to a nest site in one of the old alder trees. Eventually the male popped up briefly (and distantly) and I managed a poor record shot through heavy vegetation.

male redstart
I recorded 24 species in my two hour stint with only a wheatear and a meadow pipit offering any photo opportunities- if only the redstart had been this obliging!

meadow pipit

I decided to take a short-cut across an open expanse of marsh on my return walk but quickly reverted to the woodland when I became the focus of a very vocal lapwing- oops!

A cracking male reed bunting and a snipe were the only birds of note on the walk back to my mountain bike and the 5 mile ride home.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Pelagic away day

Although the start of June is not the ideal time for a spot of sea watching, the current nature of terrestrial birding locally meant that there was little to lose in spending a day at sea and besides, a return sailing on the Ullapool-Stornoway ferry route is usually an enjoyable experience even with few birds to be seen. As expected, low numbers of all the commoner species were encountered, plus bonus birds of 10+ great skuas, 2 arctic terns and a solitary storm petrel pushing my year list up to 149. A minke whale 15 minutes out of Stornoway and a couple of harbour porpoise in the Ullapool approaches added to the enjoyment.

arctic tern