Friday, December 22, 2017

Urban Peregrines 1

It's not often I get out of the office but one day last summer I was wandering back there from a meeting when I saw a sign for a building development.  The name I recognised from the Avon Birding website, so I went for a look.  The street ran down to a bridge over the river and from there looking back at the old brick building I was blown away by what I saw.  It's what I expected to see, but I hadn't really believed I would.

That sighting led to a series of weekend early morning trips to try and capture some usable shots of my first urban peregrines.  That first day there was an adult on the drainpipe and a juvenile running along the ledge at the top of the building.  3 days later when I returned with a camera there wasn't a bird in sight - I had timed my 'discovery' perfectly with the date of fledging!

I was standing there on the bridge scanning the building when it began to snow - feathers. 

Looking up at the crane arm more or less directly overhead I realised there was a peregrine plucking a meal.  Amazing.

Those first trips the youngsters mainly stuck to the cranes, perhaps easier to land on, and the adults brought in feeds.  Once there was food around it wasn't hard to find the birds - juvenile peregrines must be amongst the most noisy youngsters with that piercing call.
Week on week I saw the birds become more confident and mobile, meaning that adults and youngsters might be found on the cranes or on the building - sometimes almost overlooked amongst the pigeons.

Being Bristol one weekend there were a few hot air balloons around during the Festival.  I didn't get the numbers over I hoped for, but managed to get one to partially overlap with a bird.

The building was the old generator building for the Bristol trams, and it has been used by the birds for a few years now.  However the whole area is being renewed and the building is included in the plans for the new development so I do wonder if the birds will stay around - hope so but doubt it - certainly no bushes to hide the food cache behind.

It is sad to think this might be my last chance to watch a sight like this.
 BTW - look what you can do with a big lens, a converter and a crop sensor camera!  This was on the top ledge.

Some more and hopefully better pics to follow.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Chuffed with choughs and portentous peregrination

Apparently the word chuffed doesn't just mean feeling pleased or happy, but also (more historically) precisely the opposite - what a great language English is.  And both meanings fairly well describe how I felt about choughs at times this summer.  On Saltee and then Skomer decent pictures escaped me, so my last chance fell to a deer park, best known for not having any deer!
Leaving Skomer (yes, this post is that far behind) the weather looked set fair for a couple of days so I decided to stay at the campsite at Marloes and have two more days in Pembrokeshire.
The original thinking had been to day trip back to Skomer (so close to the mainland that with a big lens you could clearly see the farmhouse we had stayed in the last 2 nights),
but it had been apparent the puffins were very much evening targets.  Instead I decided to spend the time looking for a range of coastal birds at the Marloes Deer Park, named for a failed attempt to establish one. What it did have was a plentiful supply of gorse and the sort of rabbit nibbled turf that the reputed choughs would be seeking.
So there followed 2 days of walking, watching, walking and snapping ..... and walking.

Not having many shots of linnet, stonechat and wheatear it was good to see they were around, and I was pleased but surprised to hear there was a flock of up to 17 chough - thought to be youngsters not yet paired up.  I hadn't expected to see so many whitethroat, but their more territorial nature helped plan shots more easily.

The odd chough could be heard but then a flock of 15 did appear.  This was great in terms of potential, but they were a bit wary and their gregarious nature meant it was actually quite hard to isolate one or two to get a picture.  In the end I could have done better, but was still fairly happy with a few of the pics.

If you watch Springwatch the door with a hole cut in it may jog a memory? 

A small building on the path down to the boats is home to nesting swallows (I hope the person who sent in the shot of the nest doesn't mind this snap from my tv being used here but I'm afraid I didn't note her name).  Anyway the nestbuilding swallows were collecting their mud from the bank of a small stream.  I got a few shots - and some pretty wet clothes.

So it had been a good end to the trip.  At sunrise on the final day, and awkwardly into the sun, I had a pretty close and best ever view of a bird that unbeknownst to me would consume the bulk of my snapping the through the rest of the summer.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Skomer II - the other side

Yes Skomer is mostly about the puffins, but when you have time to explore there is much more to see.
At the time we visited the bluebells were in full swing, punctuated by campion of the pink kind - not the small white ones seen with the puffins.  So pretty even I focused the camera a couple of times in a bid to remind myself that flower snapping isn't my thing.

The other key birds for me were the owls - the glorious piercing-eyed short-eared and the 'can you see me pretending to be a rock' little ones. 

In the warm light of early morning the island was lovely - puffins and seals down at the beach, oystercatchers, raven and the SEO.

On our last morning for a brief minute I thought I'd get an SEO over the bluebell field, but packing up time pulled me away and this was my nearest effort.  The main bluebells are just over the ridge.
As you wandered around the paths you kept stumbling across 'angel wings' - actually much more grisly than the name suggests these are what are left when the shearwaters which flood onto the island at night get caught outside their burrows.  Look below the gull nest and you can see who some of the culprits are.

Plenty else to see - more frustrating chough, stonechat, rock and meadow pipit, bunnies - and Kim's favourite, the wren.

Down at the Wick the cliffs were home to nesting fulmar, having a bit of a domestic
 - but at the end of the day Skomer is about the puffins, and I just hope before too long I'll stay there again for another go.