Tuesday, 29 September 2015

The Boat was Diesel, There Were Still a lot of Petrel

During my month in Ireland, I did go birding, yes.  But only twice.  About ten hours of birding for a month, not great I know.  To be fair, there seemed to be little around - Not that that's a viable excuse.  England on the other hand was seemingly brimming with migrants and rarities.  I mean there was even a group of three Wrynecks. Three of them. I'd be over the moon with just one!  Ireland of course, had none of this, well they steered clear of western Ireland at least.
 As such, the two birding forays of the trip were not twitches (If you can believe that), but nor were they regular birding days (if there is such a thing).  No you see, I finally entered the realm of the Pelagic.  A realm I'd been dreaming of for a long time.  I like boats. Oh, and of course, I like sea-birds too. 
My stomach is of the constitution that it, umm, doesn't handle car-journey's that well.  So you can, I'm sure, imagine my worry of spending five hours out at sea.  I won't paint that picture any clearer, for your comfort and mine.  I found however, fresh sea air, along with Storm Petrels flying just a few feet away make for a good remedy to keep sea-sickness at bay. Who'd have guessed...

Although I think following their nonsensical flight through the view-finder may have counteracted that a tad.  I added hundreds of shutter-counts to my camera, and this is practically all I got.  Fast little things!
 Aside from the Storm Petrel, the first Pelagic trip produced two Sooty Shearwater, a handful of Manx and this Bonxie.  It's amazing how much more impressive they are when they're not blobs on the horizon.

The second Pelagic involved one of those lovely 5am starts.  Eating muesli at 5am isn't that easy.  It also sadly involved a lot less Storm Petrel, only about twenty throughout five hours.  The Manx's however were out in much larger numbers.  A Sooty (I think), more than half-a-dozen Bonxie, oh and two of these beauties...

Long-tailed Skuas, yeah they're rather something!  One even had the audacity to chase a Bonxie, it must have been mad.  They showed amazingly, one flying right over the boat!
 We were also quite fortunate with Cetaceans, having up to five Minke Whale, and rather a lot of Common Dolphin - three of which swam right by the boat, if only for a few seconds, it was still a little mesmerising. 
Ignoring the daunting, ever-present feeling that the rocking of the boat would get the better of my afore described constitution, it was great fun. I like boats, I like sea-birds, so of course, I like Pelagics.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

A Quick Stint at the Marsh

Remember when this blog was true to its name and was about birds?  When scopes and telephoto lenses were a common feature? When I regularly complained about dipping, or less commonly, told of successful twitching? It seems to have been an eternity doesn't it...  But fear not, for on Friday, my scope having been recovered from hibernation and my binoculars having been dusted down, I went birding. Yes, you read that right, birding. A rather nice spot of local twitching to be precise. A bus, a train and a walk later (OK so maybe just local-ish) and we had arrived. Let's get the eyes back to looking at blobs in the distance, and what better way to start than with the Vange Marsh Wilson's Phalarope.
 There were half a dozen or so birders there already, so it wasn't long before one of them had got us onto the hyperactive speck that was the Phalarope.  Even at that distance there's no mistaking a phalarope! Although I wouldn't have been too happy to comment which species for myself...

Slightly closer, but by no means close, were three delightful, and oh so tiny Little Stint, scurrying around some sleeping Mallards.  A species I've wanted to see for a while now (The Stints, not the Mallards), so it was nice to get some reasonably decent scope views.

Asides from taking such stellar photographs, it was just good to be back in the field birding again, and with some great birds too!

Monday, 14 September 2015

Ireland lepidoptera...

My goodness it's been a while since my last post, about a month now? What's that you say? Two months!? Well yes, I rather think you're right.  One month of that time I have an excuse for however, and the course of this post will be focussed on that month. The excuse? Ireland.  This year, in tradition with the last three or more, I spent an enjoyable month staying with family in the Irish countryside - or in colloquial terms, up a hill.
 In short, a month of mothing. And now, in long, but not full, unless you want to hear the details of what I saw on each of the 36 days...
 It was Ireland, so of course, the weather was not great: nights were often pretty cold, and days were often very windy. But working with and around the weather, it actually turned out a superb trip for moths.  We only set up a light-and-sheet trap on a handful of occasions, and although that did contribute a fair amount, most of the moths seen on the trip were either by day or by torch-light.  Altogether I totalled up over 140 species, though most of that was in the first few weeks, towards the end it was hard finding anything that wasn't a Square-spot Rustic.
 Early on, before the reign of the Rustics, was when one of my favourite species from the trip turned up rocketing around in the house, the beautiful Antler Moth. Although not an uncommon species, we only ended up having one of these lovely little moths during my stay.

Although never bringing that many species at a time, the light-trap did however bring some stunners: Pebble Prominent, Scalloped Shell, Scalloped Hook-tip True Lover's Knot, Four-spotted Footman... being just a few that stood out, to be honest most of them were stunning!
 Another firm favourite was Ghost Moth, I had two, on separate occasions. One, a rather worn individual on Ragwort, and then this beauty by the light one morning! What an an incredible moth. Of course, I couldn't resist taking a few photos...

And what would a month of mothing be without Micros? Aside's from a lot easier on the eyes that is. I spent most days looking for micros, and found a good number around the land.  Nut Bud Moth even challenged Square-spot Rustic for the 'Most-ubiquitous-moth-in-Ireland' award. Blastobasis adustella was also in the running.
 Prochoreutis myllerana, Mompha locupletella, Carcina quercana... I'm beginning to think writing a list of micro names will take a lot of time...
 Although it wasn't packing quite as much colour as any of the aforementioned, Phylloporia bistrigella was a micro favourite, at only 3-4mm it's one of the smallest, unless you dare to attempt Nepticulidaes. Phyllonorycter are bad enough too.

Rather like the conversion of a book into a film, a lot's been left out. But I can't see my self making it through writing out 140+ moths names, or  even less likely, anyone making it through reading them all.  But the highlights have been covered, it was a good trip.  Oh, and you know what? I even went birding (whatever that is). More on that to come...

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