Monday, February 08, 2016

January 2016

Despite the best efforts of a near constant Westerly gale, i'm still at WWT Steart Marshes for the winter, mostly busy with monitoring the wintering waders and wildfowl. I've been back over to the Avalon Marshes a few times for a bit of guiding, seeing all the usual specialities we would expect and  finishing with the Starling roosts, no time for any photos there though. Photography has been difficult at Steart too, mostly just because the weather has been so awful, though I have managed some pleasing shots on the occasional nice day. The highlight of the winter though has been finding a couple of rare ducks while doing my surveys, an American Wigeon and a Green-winged Teal, record 'phonescoped' photos below:
For the first time, I've entered Patchwork Challenge, an initiative to encourage birders to work their local patches as hard as they can, and hopefully see and find more birds! I think i've started well, with 94 species so far on the WWT Steart Marshes site. It's difficult to have a target in mind, but 150 species and a finish in the upper regions (top 10 maybe) of the Estuarine minileague would be nice. Its a super reserve and I give it a very close working over twice a week so i'm hoping to see plenty more in the rest of my time working there.


American Wigeon

Barn Owl
Green-winged Teal
Black-tailed Godwit




Marsh Harrier


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Island Hopping in The Caribbean

Back in December I spent 2 weeks on board the MS Serenissima working as a zodiac driver and naturalist guide on a cruise run by Noble Caledonia. This was a little different from my cruises around the UK and Iceland earlier in the year, but no less enjoyable. The weather was perfect as you would expect, a welcome break from a miserable British winter, and the island chain of the Lesser Antilles is a stunning destination. Opportunities for birding were limited, we spent more time doing such pleasant things as snorkelling, sampling the products of various plantation/distilleries, and touring old forts and museums and such like.
Of course I did manage to see a few nice bits and bobs, and our ship was almost constantly accompanied by some fantastic seabirds. Heres a few photos I grabbed between rum punches:
Antillean Crested Hummingbird
Antillean Crested Hummingbird
Brown Booby

Black-faced Grassquit
Blue-headed Hummingbird

Blue-headed Hummingbird


Carib Grackle

Flying fish sp.

Grey Kingbird

Lesser Antillean Bullfinch

Lesser Antillean Flycatcher

lizard sp.

Least Sandpiper

Mangrove Cuckoo

Magnificent Frigatebird

Pearly-eyed Thrasher

Purple-throated Carib

Purple-throated Carib

Red-billed Tropicbird

Red-billed Tropicbird

Red-footed Booby

Royal Tern

Pantropical Spotted Dolphin

Semi-palmated Sandpiper

White-cheeked Pintail

Wilsons Plover

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Monday, November 30, 2015

Autumn/ winter 2015

A much overdue blog post with a bit of an update on what i'm up to.
I spent most of the summer working in Norfolk studying the foraging behaviour of Sandwich Terns, with a couple of expedition cruises squeezed in. It was pretty full on, over the course of the whole summer I had about 6 days where I wasn't working. It was great to finally have a constant flow of bird work!
I'm now back in Somerset and working as Assistant Warden at the new WWT reserve at Steart Marshes, with studying the usage of the site by wintering wildfowl and waders as my primary concern. I'm also fitting in a few days of guiding through Avalon Wildlife where I can, and next week i'm off on another cruise, this time to the Caribbean. Mad busy, but i'm absolutely loving it, and plan to carry on like this for as long as I can!

I'm in the process of turning my Avalon Wildife site/blog into a proper website, and so this will be my only blog, covering everything, and hopefully i'll get around to updating it more frequently. For now, heres a few photos from the last few weeks. Most from Steart Marshes. This isn't a great site for photography to be honest, the strength of the site for attracting birds is its sheer size, but this is its weakness for birders and photographers, things are mostly flipping miles away:

Avocet on the River Parrett

Black-tailed Godwits



Wigeon and Hinkley Point in the background

Wigeon with a more appealing background

Cattle Egret
Purple Heron. A nice find, as was the Cattle Egret above.
Having doen most of my recent birding on coastal watchpoints
its nice to get a few waterbirds onto the self found list

Short-eared Owls put on a good show for a few weeks in early November
but have gone quiet recently

Very approachable young Merlin, which is still hanging around

Stunning leucistic Sparrowhawk which graced
the reserve for a month or so

Snipe, 100's of these on site, only really seen when we enter
the marsh and fields for work

Shoveler, this one at Greylake RSPB

Skylark. These love the rough grassland and salt marsh, hoping
to see good numbers nesting next year
Surf Scoter at Blue Anchor, I took a trip over to twitch this last week
Black Redstart at Dunster on the same twitch