Saturday, 30 November 2019

Tyn Dwr Hall

It's that time of year when the countryside is dominated by browns or greens, but just now and again if you look closely enough you can find some different colours, and there is no more lovely example than these yew tree berries at Tyn Dwr Hall near Llangollen.

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Rose-coloured Starling, Eastriggs, Dumfriesshire

On my way to pick up my invertebrate traps from Dumfriesshire today and an easy stop was at Eastriggs near Gretna in order to see a juvenile rose-coloured starling. I parked up and walked down Vancouver road until one of the residents beckoned me to come into her back garden where the rose-coloured starling was coming down to mealworms little more than 2m from me. Unfortunately it was dawn and the light was poor, so the photos are pretty poor and they were all taken on about 1/5th second.

Moorland Woodcock in the Southern Uplands

I was walking across moors in the Southern Uplands of Scotland yesterday at about midday and flushed at least three woodcock from the grass at about five minute intervals. I was at an altitude of about 400m and some low cloud had rolled in and visibility was about 100m. I would describe the habitat as heavily grazed rush heath / grassland (NVC U6 perhaps), with some sphagnum and other moss, but mainly tussocky grass and heath rush. There was no heather and the nearest wood was about a mile away and even that was not ideal for woodcock being a closely planted conifer plantation with no understorey. I've never seen woodcock in this type of moorland habitat before or at such a high altitude. I know that they sometimes leave woodland at night to feed in adjacent fields but these birds gave the impression that they were here all day.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Ring-necked Duck, Pine Lake

I've seen lots of ring-necked ducks over the years but this bird on Pine Lake in Lancashire, near M6 junction 35 was only my second 1st winter male. The first was a very distant bird at Wexford Slobs in Ireland about four years ago, so this is the first that I have seen at close range and the first I have been able to have a good look at. Not that it was easy to see, for much of our visit the bird was distant and against the sun. Eventually though we did see it close to the reed bed on the north shore and in reasonable light. All of the photos in this post were taken on my phone.

Also today on Pine Lake around five scaup.

Monday, 18 November 2019

The Joy of Invertebrate Surveys

This month I've been in Scotland taking part in a golden plover survey at an existing windfarm. My role in the survey is different from normal though, instead of counting birds and recording their movements, I've been asked to carry out a survey of their prey items, specifically invertebrates and especially beetles.

I enjoy invertebrate surveys, but of all of the types of survey work I do, this is the type which I am most selective about and probably turn down more than I actually do. The fact is, invertebrates cover a huge array of orders, e.g. butterflies, dragonflies, bees, wasps, beetles, spiders, woodlice, worms, slugs, mites, ticks, flies, centipedes, millipedes, ants, bugs, harvestmen, springtails, the list goes on, to say nothing of all of the aquatic and marine inverts, in fact invertebrates account for 97% of all animal life on Earth.

Guides and resources to help with the identification to species level within many of these groups are almost non-existent. Even if they are there identification often comes down to microscopic examination of a specimen in the lab or even dissection and they are therefore very time consuming. So unless a client is very specific about what they want, I usually decline because otherwise I can end up doing weeks of work for free or working late into the night to meet some unrealistic deadline.

Friday, 8 November 2019

More from Mull

A beautiful morning on Mull as we waited for the ferry back to Oban today. Our first stop was the village of Salen where we spotted an otter with a fish, then we moved on to the hide at Fishnish where there was another otter, a few grey seals and two harbour porpoise.

Thursday, 7 November 2019

A walk at Loch na Keal, Mull

A wonderful day on Mull today, mainly spent walking along the south bank of Loch na Keal, from the campsite at the head of the loch to Ulva ferry. It was a dull, cold and at times drizzley kind of day, but lots of wildlife to take my mind off the weather. As soon as we arrived we spotted an otter and watched it at close range for about 20 minutes, at times as close as 10m away.

There were quite a few ducks scattered across the water, red-breasted mergansers, goosander and about 80 teal, and there were about 50 greylags on the nearby fields. About 11 great northern divers fished the loch and dotted in amongst them were nine Slavonian grebes.

Suddenly the greylags went up and I turned and saw two white-tailed eagles flying towards me and quite low down. They seemed quite inquisitive because when they reached me they circled over head a couple of times before heading off towards the hills to the north, finally disappearing over the ridge. I kept my eyes open in that direction hoping that they would return and though they didn't I was rewarded with a golden eagle.

Meanwhile as I continued my journey I managed to find at least another two otters. Not a bad way to spend a Novembers day!

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Myroe Levels, Northern Ireland

My first ever visit to Myroe Levels in County Derry, Northern Ireland today and I managed to locate all six of the white-rumped sandpipers which have been present for a few days. The first two were on flooded fields at the end of Shore avenue, accessed from Limavady and I thought that was good, but then I drove north along the track which runs between the coast and the drainage ditch and found another four birds together.

It's been a fantastic year for white-rumped sandpipers, these were my 4th - 9th birds of 2019 and there have been plenty of others in Ireland and the Hebrides in particular.

Monday, 4 November 2019

Short-billed dowitcher, Dundalk, Ireland

About three weeks ago a dowitcher was found from Navvy Bank Walk in Dundalk harbour, County Louth, Ireland. It was initially identified as long-billed but then video footage emerged of the bird which showed markings in the greater coverts which are diagnostic of short-billed.

The bird is tidal, with mid tide being the best time to see it, and since I was working in the area today I took the opportunity to call in.

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Flowers from Western Australia

This was my fourth visit to Australia and on all of my previous visits I've bemoaned the lack of flowers and the lack of colour in the country. Sure the tropical rain forests of the north and the temperate rain forests of the south are wonderful places but they are predominantly green or grey.

The endemic Callistemon sp. or bottlebrushes do add some colour in places and they are beautiful and fascinating shrubs, but where were the more delicate flowering plants? In my first three visits I was unable to find them, ranging from Queensland, to Victoria, to Southern Australia, to Perth, I just didn't see any, or at least not significant amounts. Finally on this fourth trip to Western Australia I did find some colour! Most of the flowers were south of Perth which is not surprising since further north the land turns into virtually desert. I can't put names to most of these flowers, but here they are anyway.

Friday, 1 November 2019

My full Australian list to date

Photo: Blue-faced honeyeater.
This is a full list in alphabetical order of all of the species which I have seen in Australia so far with location and maximum number of birds seen at each location in brackets. In total 353 species so far.

Location with number of birds seen in brackets
Arctic Skua
Port Fairy, Pelagic VIC (2)
Australasian Figbird
Atherton Tablelands QLD (30), Brisbane, Banks Street Reserve QLD (1), Brisbane, City QLD (1), Cairns, Esplanade QLD (10), Noosa QLD (1), Port Douglas QLD (30)
Australasian Gannet
Sydney, at sea NSW (2), Fraser Island QLD (2), Noosa, Noosa Headland QLD (10), Coffin Bay, Coffin Bay National Park SA (10), Fisherman's Bluff SA (3), Fishery Bay SA (2), Lincoln National Park, Jussieu Peninsula SA (10), Port Lincoln SA (2), Port Lincoln, Axel Stenross maritime museum SA (2), Port Lincoln, Billy Lights Point SA (11), Port Lincoln, Parnkalla trail SA (15), Port Lincoln, Rock Beach SA (1), Sleaford Bay  SA (50), Whalers Way SA (1), Melbourne, Port Melbourne VIC (15), Melbourne, St Kilda VIC (1), Phillip Island VIC (2), Port Fairy, Pelagic VIC (400), Busselton WA (1), Cape Leeuwin WA (5), Cape Naturaliste, Lighthouse WA (30), Cape Naturaliste, Sugarloaf Rock WA (2), Dunsborough, Whale Watching WA (5), Fremantle to Rottnest ferry WA (2)
Australasian Grebe
Sydney, Centennial Park NSW (2), Bauple QLD (2), Brisbane, Biami Yumba Park and Fig Tree Pocket QLD (2), Brisbane, Dowse Lagoon QLD (20), Hervey Bay QLD (10), Hervey Bay, Arkarra Wetlands QLD (2), Hervey Bay, Booral Road QLD (1), Kin Kin QLD (1), Noosa, Botanic Gardens QLD (1), Noosa, Jabiru Park QLD (25), Port Douglas QLD (1), Port Lincoln, Billy Lights Point SA (1), Bellarine Peninsula, Jerringot Wetlands VIC (5), Lara, Serendip Reserve VIC (3), Melbourne, Royal Botanical Gardens VIC (1), Melbourne, Westgate Park VIC (2), Werribee, Western Treatment Plant VIC (4), Perth, Herdsman Lake WA (50), Perth, Lake Monger Reserve WA (50)
Australasian Shoveler
Brisbane, Dowse Lagoon QLD (4), Noosa, Jabiru Park QLD (5), Big Swamp SA (20), Port Lincoln, Billy Lights Point SA (10), Bellarine Peninsula, Jerringot Wetlands VIC (1), Werribee, Western Treatment Plant VIC (50), Perth, Herdsman Lake WA (30), Perth, Lake Monger Reserve WA (5)
Australasian Swamphen
Sydney, Centennial Park NSW (50), Atherton Tablelands QLD (2), Bauple QLD (1), Brisbane, Biami Yumba Park and Fig Tree Pocket QLD (30), Brisbane, City QLD (1), Brisbane, Dowse Lagoon QLD (10), Gympie, Lake Alford QLD (10), Hervey Bay QLD (100), Hervey Bay, Arkarra Wetlands QLD (10), Hervey Bay, Booral Road QLD (4), Hervey Bay, Burrum Heads QLD (2), Noosa, Botanic Gardens QLD (2), Noosa, Jabiru Park QLD (20), Noosa, Water treatment works QLD (20), Port Douglas QLD (30), Bellarine Peninsula, Jerringot Wetlands VIC (30), Bellarine Peninsula, Lake Lorne VIC (40), Melbourne, Royal Botanical Gardens VIC (10), Phillip Island VIC (10), Werribee, Western Treatment Plant VIC (200), Wilson's Promontory VIC (2), Perth, Herdsman Lake WA (200), Perth, Lake Monger Reserve WA (50)
Australian Brush-turkey
Atherton Tablelands QLD (3), Brisbane, Banks Street Reserve QLD (10), Brisbane, Biami Yumba Park and Fig Tree Pocket QLD (1), Brisbane, Lone Pine Koala Sanctury QLD (10), Brisbane, Plantation Redhill QLD (2), Daintree, Mossman Gorge QLD (1), Hervey Bay, Burrum Heads QLD (1), Kuranda QLD (2), Noosa, Noosa Headland QLD (2), Seventeen Seventy QLD (4), Seventeen Seventy, Campsite QLD (5)
Australian Bustard
Minolta - Exmouth Road WA (4)

Observations of Australian birds and mammals by state and location

Here's a full list of the 353 bird species and 36 mammal species I've seen so far in Australia, grouped by state and location. The numbers in brackets are the maximum number of individuals I have seen at each location.

Species seen with maximum numbers in brackets
Blue Mountains
Australian Magpie (10), Australian Raven (1), Australian Wood Duck (2), Bell Miner (20), Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike (1), Brown Thornbill (2), Common Myna (30), Crescent Honeyeater (1), Crimson Rosella (20), Eastern Spinebill (1), Fan-tailed Cuckoo (1), Galah (10), Golden Whistler (5), Grey Fantail (1), Lewin's Honeyeater (1), Magpie-lark (1), Masked Lapwing (1), Pacific Black Duck (2), Peregrine (1), Pied Currawong (10), Red Wattlebird (10), Red-whiskered Bulbul (10), Satin Bowerbird (2), Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (50), Welcome Swallow (20), White-browed Scrubwren (10), White-throated Treecreeper (2)
Australasian Gannet (2), Australasian Grebe (2), Australian Darter (2), Australian Magpie (6), Australian Pelican (8), Australian Raven (5), Australian White Ibis (300), Australian Wood Duck (30), Black Swan (20), Black-browed Albatross (1), Caspian Tern (1), Channel-billed Cuckoo (1), Chestnut Teal (10), Common Myna (50), Coot (200), Cormorant (2), Crested Pigeon (10), Crested Tern (2), Dusky Moorhen (30), Fairy Martin (15), Fluttering Shearwater (500), Grey Butcherbird (2), Hardhead (100), House Sparrow (1), Intermediate Egret (3), Kelp Gull (2), Laughing Kookaburra (2), Little Black Cormorant (15), Little Pied Cormorant (20), Little Raven (1), Magpie-lark (10), Masked Lapwing (20), Nankeen Kestrel (1), New Holland Honeyeater (10), Noisy Miner (50), Pacific Black Duck (4), Peregrine (1), Pied Cormorant (4), Pied Currawong (5), Purple Gallinule (50), Rainbow Lorikeet (30), Red Wattlebird (3), Short-tailed Shearwater (200), Silver Gull (1000), Spotted Dove (5), Starling (50), Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (20), Superb Fairy-wren (10), Wedge-tailed Shearwater (500), Welcome Swallow (50), White-browed Scrubwren (3), White-faced Heron (1), Willie Wagtail (2), Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo (5)

Mammals: Humpback whale, Indo-Pacific Bottlenose dolphin, New Zealand fur seal, grey-headed flying-fox

Key locations: Sydney botanic gardens, Centennial Park, Watson Bay, whale watching trip.
Atherton Tablelands
Australasian Figbird (30), Australian Brush-turkey (3), Australian Pelican (5), Black Kite (50), Black-faced Monarch (2), Brown Treecreeper (1), Coot (20), Dusky Honeyeater (2), Eastern Cattle Egret (50), Golden Whistler (5), Great Crested Grebe (50), Large-billed Gerygone (10), Laughing Kookaburra (3), Little Eagle (1), Magpie-lark (5), Mistletoebird (1), Olive-backed Sunbird (2), Pacific Black Duck (6), Pied Currawong (2), Purple Gallinule (2), Rainbow Lorikeet (50), Silvereye (1), Spangled Drongo (3), Spotted Harrier (1), Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (10), Varied Triller (1), Whistling Kite (1)

Mammals: Duck-billed platypus, Eastern grey kangaroo

Key locations: Yungaburra
Black Kite (20), Brown Honeyeater (2), Double-barred Finch (3), Eastern Great Egret (1), Hardhead (1), Laughing Kookaburra (15), Little Black Cormorant (30), Scarlet Honeyeater (2)

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