February 2008

A meeting in Romsey in Hampshire finished at 16.00h on 26th giving time for a quick visit to Shatterford Bog next to Beaulieu Road Station in the New Forest. In an hour we saw a great grey shrike, a ringtail hen harrier and 2 woodlark.

I took the opportunity to see the first-winter drake KING EIDER on 24th on the River Torridge in Devon - my first new bird for 2008. I missed it at Instow during high tide and drove around to West Appledore where I got distant views in driving rain. I also saw 9 bar-tailed godwits and 2 little egrets.

Cheddar reservoir on the afternoon of 23rd. Birds included 4 displaying greater scaup, a juvenile great northern diver, and a red-necked grebe in a similar place to (and as confiding as) last year's bird. This individual has much less yellow on the bill than last November's juvenile.

greater scaup

great northern diver

red-necked grebe

red-necked grebe

red-necked grebe

I had a complicated trip to Aberdeen on 20th. My incoming flight was delayed, and then diverted to Exeter because of fog. I arrived in Aberdeen 4.5 hours late and had to stay overnight to do a PhD exam there. No sign of the cattle egrets next to the M5 on the way to Exeter. The only birds of note at Aberdeen were yellowhammer and hybrid hooded x carrion crows. Below is a photo of Chew Valley Lake on my descent on 21st.

Chew Valley Lake

Kingfisher on the Wye at Hay-on-Wye on 17th, and a siskin over Flax Bourton on 18th.

I visited the beeches north of Priddy pools during the afternoon of 16th and saw at least 3 brambling, including one or more males. There were also siskin and 2 nuthatches present.


Then it was Chew Valley Lake hoping that the Franklin's gull would call in at Herriot's Pool. I photographed these rooks and coot while I was waiting.



And then I spotted the Franklin's gull flying in to bathe at about 16.30h. It stayed for a few minutes only before flying onto the main lake presumably to roost (though it was not found there in the roost watch). The last photo is the best quality, but the first at least shows the upper wing pattern.The white trailing edge is apparent. There doesn't appear to be a white band before (or distal to) the black tips of the primaries typical of an adult, suggesting the bird is a second-winter individual.

Franklin's gull

Franklin's gull

Franklin's gull

A misty Valentine's morning in Flax Bourton.

Flax Bourton fog

I nipped down to Chew Valley Lake during the late afternoon of 13th. I quickly found the yellow-browed warbler near Chew Stoke Sewage Works and also heard a chiffchaff calling there. A walk to Nunnery Point produced a stonechat, 2 water pipits and 2 black-necked grebes. The main aim of the trip was to scan the gull roost in calm, sunny conditions. The roost was massive, with large numbers of black-headed, common and lesser black-backed gulls. There were 3 Mediterranean gulls also, but the highlight was the 2nd winter Franklin's gull that I saw at 17.40h - it had been seen earlier on Herriot's Pool.

Our local barn owl continues to fly in daylight. Here are some shots with the 100-400mm lens on 12th. Tyntesfield Chapel is in the background on the lower shot.

Barn owl

Barn owl

I thought that the Iceland gull at Minehead would be an easy bird to see and photograph, and I was wrong. Many people lined the winding A39 to Minehead on 10th to watch a rather feeble 'big load' travel to Minehead, such is the action in this part of the world. A woman asked if I was at the pool opposite Tesco to photograph the load: I told her I wasn't interested, that there was something more exciting to see, and she seemed genuinely thrilled about the Iceland gull that had just flown in. I waited at the pool from soon after 11.00h. I once wandered to the seafront. Back at the pool at about 13.00h a buzzard flew through, and provoked some activity in the gulls: the Iceland gull flew up with some herring gulls about 200m distant. The bird disappeared again, and I failed to find it on another trip to the seafront. Eventually, at about 14.30h, the bird arrived at the pool at about the same time that the load arrived in Minehead. I was treated to stupendous views in excellent light as the bird scavenged left over bread on the pool for about 30 mins before flying to the coast again. Lots of photos can be viewed by clicking on the image below.

Iceland gull

A paper in Biotropica published in 1978 states 'Tapirs urinate frequently during the evening, especially males. The urine is projected backwards in a spray, which may be several meters long'. We discovered this for ourselves at Noah's Ark Farm Zoo on 9th, when a male tapir seemingly sprayed us intentionally while facing the other direction. A few snapshots with the S5 below. Bactrian camel, meerkat, Chapman's zebra and emu.

Bactrian camel


Chapman's zebra


Two or three ravens tumbling over Flax Bourton on 6th. Our local barn owl continues to hunt around the old fuel depot - on the morning of 8th it looked almost white flying in bright sunlight during the morning. Also seen on 9th and 10th, flying in mid afternoon sunshine on latter date. Yellowhammer heard on 9th.

Not a bird, but visually stunning. My younger daughter Kiara photographed some neighbours' dogs on 2nd. We used the 5D and two Canon EX580 flashes fired by a wireless transmitter. Here are the eyes of Crystal, a Siberian husky.

Husky eyes

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