Sunday, December 31, 2006

Iceland Gull & Common Seal

A calmer day today after yesterday's gales, I went down to Ayr to photograph the Iceland Gull. We parked at Ayr college and had a quick look for Goosanders on the River Ayr. While I was checking the gulls flying overhead, my dad spotted a Common Seal surfacing below the rapids. This is a fair way upriver from the sea (maybe a mile and a half from the outer harbour wall) and must be in completely freshwater. It started to bounce it's way ashore on the far bank. We thought it may have been sick but after we rushed over the bridge to the far shore it was soon back in the water after it saw us peering over the wall.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Ivory Gull

An early Christmas present today more than made up for last weekend’s wasted trip. Nine days after the Ivory Gull was last seen, the bird’s finder, Archie McIntosh, amazingly refound the bird several miles to the north at Loans near Troon. Thanks to Angus Hogg for phoning me with the news! Initially this Arctic gull was showing fairly distantly for slr photography but it allowed me to slowly approach to within several metres for full fame shots. The bird fed on worms from the flooded muddy area in the goose field. It seemed totally oblivious as more birders arrived and just walked across the field and right up to it!
Larger versions of photographs from the last few days will be uploaded to my main websites after the holidays. Images are available for sale from £2.00 for a 600 pixel jpeg. Both gulls are full frame shots, the Barrow’s nearly so. Please e-mail me at before 3 January 2007 and thereafter.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Ross's Gull

My dad and I spent a fantastic day watching and photographing the Ross's Gull at Ormsary, in Argyll against a backdrop of the islands of Jura and Islay. This magical gull from the high Arctic showed very well, sometimes down to three metres. I'm convinced that this bird had never encountered humans before it arrived on these shores. It just seemed oblivous to us as it flew around our heads and landed right in front of the lens and 'scope.

Barrow's Goldeneye

I've left London and the fog behind for a couple of weeks. Back home in Ayrshire for Christmas and New Year. A more successful day today. Lisa and I went up to Callander for the Barrow's Goldeneye and although it didn't appear until 1445h, it eventually showed well, but in very dull conditions.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Ivory Gull, Ayrshire

Travelled up to Ayrshire on the overnight bus on Friday night for a wasted trip to see the (now departed) Ivory Gull. Seven hours searching around Greenan, Ayr and Coylton turned up nothing. Had to go back to London the same day as Lisa had already booked her bus to come down and visit. And so, a blog entry with no photographs but a resolution for 2007; Don't wait until the weekend...

Here are some other non-avian photos on my other blog Luminous Nature

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Visited my sister and brother-in-law in Cambridge last weekend and thereby acquired a lift to Snettisham (thanks Ruth!) – my first visit here. Amazingly there is still a Little Auk present (since early November) on the pits though keeping distant from the hides. The Black-eared Kite was present though not really tickable with the views we had.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Hummers on Video

Ok, this is just a test with two short video clips (taken with a digital compact's movie mode) of some hummingbirds in Arizona and a Starling roost in the Lee Valley...

...and the quality is fairly crap after You Tube has converted it.

Monk Parakeets on the Isle of Dogs

Ventured down to the Isle of Dogs on the Thames yesterday, hoping for better shots of the Ring-billed Gull. While waiting for the tide to drop I took a walk around Mudchute Park and Farm. I’d heard that Monk Parakeets had been reported here and soon heard them as a flock of six zipped over. Later I was surprised to find some birds adding to/repairing a large nest structure supporting several pairs, regularly flying in with small twigs. After observing these birds for an hour or so I think prefer them to the Ring-necked Parakeets… their calls are much less raucous and at least they are not competing with native hole-nesting species - they are the only parrot species to build an external structure! I’ll be back as it will take a bit of planning/luck to obtain some photos of these mobile exotics. Down on the Thames the Ring-billed Gull appeared late by which time the tide had dropped considerably and there was some nasty, low winter light to contend with - and you don't have much option while viewing from the Thames Pathway.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Goosanders in Kilmarnock

The past few winters have seen a few Goosanders (Mergus merganser) turn up in the unlikely location of Kay Park pond - a unassuming municipal feature near the town centre of Kilmarnock, Ayrshire. These large sawbills probably originate from the River Irvine (which is very high and fast at the moment). Last weekend produced a surprising 13 birds! Three adult drakes and 10 redheads. I haven't checked out the possibility that the ducks use Kay Park pond as a roost site but this may be true since two important roost sites (Craufurdland and Northcraig Reservoir) have been lost to 'modernisation'/development. Weather was overcast with heavy rain so just a record shot posted here. The birds are nervous of humans so please don't flush them off the pond.

BirdGuides article on the Kensington Gull

Gull expert, Martin Garner has written an article for BirdGuides on Des McKenzie's unusual gull in Kensington Gardens, London.

Larid-aches: Some comments on the Kensington Yellow-legged Gull

Monday, November 13, 2006

Barnes WWT

Few photos from yesterday...

Kensington YL Gull

Went back to Kensington Gardens on Saturday to try for more shots of the Yellow-legged Gull. General opinion is that it shows many features of the atlantis race from the Azores. All of the favoured posts on the Longwater were occupied by Cormorants for much of the time I was there and although the gull frequently flew in from The Serpentine, with nowhere to land it circled back and away again. Not many birds would argue with a Cormorant (except perhaps a Pelican) and there were frequent aggressive interchanges on the posts as dominant birds shoved others off. Nothing really to add to previous pictures except one showing how dark the streaking on the head can look at certain angles. Almost looks as dark as the recent bird in Ireland. Anyway, I’d rather be watching a Murrelet!