Friday, July 22, 2011

Flycatching treenagers

Blue tit youngling
Yup, so I’m back in the city once again enjoying the bird drought. Not that I am complaining because I did manage to find some of my favourite common songbirds and photograph them at least slightly better than past efforts. My tip of the week I guess is that like the wrens before, treecreepers have now erupted from their nests and are more approachable and easier to view then the adults usually are. I’ve seen about twelve in all in different places around the city. 
First tree? He'll never forget that
Thought I would point my camera at this chaffinch after I so rudely scared him away from the seed he was eating. One of our most colourful birds and thankfully one of our most common as well
Whilst doing my usual UCC rounds I was surprised to realize I was staring right down at a fledged spotted flycatcher (I was hoping for a coal tit), in fact it was staring right up at me and almost made for quite a good photo series, unfortunately it was largely obscured by foliage which slightly ruined the shots. Then again, it kind of personifies the spotted flycatcher as the somewhat private bird it is. The place I was viewing was from the staff car park which in fact overlooks the river areas of UCC. This spot always gives me a rarely found top down view as well as allowing me to see some of the canopy birds at eye level.
This would have been a rare and special moment & I guess it was, just not for my camera!
Calling for food, love the fact that it appears to have whiskers

To my astonishment I also had two warblers wander straight into the branches I was looking at, they look a bit willowish to me and since I didn’t get a good shot that reveals its leg colour i’m not sure which it is (chiffchaff or willow warbler). I’m not going to pin it down to one because admittedly I usually get these two wrong. (Dark legs means chiffchaff, but not always, doh!). At least we can safely conclude it’s not a wood warbler!

Must say, haven’t seen anything new this week but I am delighted to have gotten at least some sort of mentionable shot of a warbler this summer. I was almost ready to conclude that my luck was going to be even worse than last year in photographing one.

By the way, something of a weird sighting, the mid city fountain (which I know contains no fish) had about five adult herons peering into it at 2am the last day. Where they drinking, I’m not sure whether they drink or get their moisture in take from their prey, also, why the fountain and not the water that runs through much of the city, perhaps it’s too brackish in the canals, they certainly weren’t planning on roosting there being surrounded by hundreds of drunken folks, what the heck?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Entomologica amateuris

I’m taking a few days off photography so I thought I’d leave today’s post as the bits I didn’t get to fit into my last few entries. Namely the butterflies and insects of County Cork!
A green veined white (Pieris napi), I was quite sad to learn that I missed the closely related Orange tip's flying season before I got a shot!
What is it? I don't know, do you know?. A giant fly? I intend to find out but only when I get a good insect field guide, google images just doesn't work too well for insect ID's :-D
A meadow brown (Maniola jurtina), common but a pain in the **** to chase around the place
Red admiral (Vanessa atalanta), I'm starting to think these guys are like vampires in that no shot of them ever seems to work out quite right (do they show up in mirrors I wonder)
Red admiral from the side
A red tailed bumblebee I think but I still have to run it through my ID'ing process!
Look a cricket! Don't think he'll be starting any locust plagues tho
Gall wasp galls by the look of it, tiny wasps that can cause trees to form growths in which their larvae can develop, slightly nightmarish but at least its only a tree. Many species of wasp lay their eggs in other insects causing them to be devoured from the inside out. Galloulish you might say!

A ringlet butterfly (Aphantopus hyperantus), surprisingly picturesque considering its brown. They are currently everywhere, hundreds seen in Blarney and Ballycotton this week!

Seems to have crash landed!
Didn't actually see the bee untill I got home and looked at the jpeg
Large white (Pieris brassicae), hard to tell apart these Pieris butterflies...
One of those waterskating bugs, bet you can't do that!

Nother red tailed bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius) I think...


Spurred on by my recent lack of bird finds in the city I decided to take a day trip down to Ballycotton. First time! Although it didn’t have quite as many species as it does on other months I was definitely not disappointed. I gave some thought about whether to show the good stuff first in this blog post or whether to leave it until the end. I decided on the latter! 

So...loads of small songbirds around, especially large numbers of stonechat and goldfinch which could be seen pretty much everywhere. Alonside them where occasional linnet, pipit and pied wagtail. The town itself was stuffed to the gills with house sparrows chattering away. Particularly amusing was the sparrow attempting to drag a large piece of plastic into its nest, he succeeded after about ten minutes. 
House sparrow showing off

Stonechat, named thus because its song sounds like small stones being knocked together
A male stonechat, they always seem more cautious then the females
An odd specimen, its throat implies stonechat whilst its eyebrow suggests whinchat. Stone seems more likely
A flock of Goldfinch flocking
A goldfinch sitting on the charred bushes that ruined my pants!
Was hoping for Reed but Sedge warbler is always nice to see too!
Finally got a barn swallow in good light

I kept an eye on the sea and spotted a few gannets and a fulmar along with the usual great cormorants and shags. None of them came anywhere close to me so no good shots, ah well.
Fulmar, he never did come back to be properly photographed

A fairly distant gannet

To my delight I saw two new birds I had never seen before, perhaps I was unlucky before or perhaps I just wasn’t looking. Either way, I was happy. 
Not only is this Yellowhammer a great looking little bird but I also never realized how nice its song is.
Also, this Whitethroat, pity I didn't get a good shot.

I was absolutely ecstatic to spot and photograph not just one but two species of falcon. Kestrels can of coarse be found in Cork city but are rarely approachable, they usually just fly past or perch high up on wires. I watched 8 of them in Ballycotton!
Kestrel, surveying its kingdom!

Last but most certainly not least two peregrine falcons on the cliffs gave me quite a show. The peregrine is one of the most widespread falcon species on the planet and with good reason, its aerial abilities are so impressive that it can outrun every other bird with ease. The two individuals I saw where chasing each other and doing some impressive manoeuvres such as turning upside down to accept food from the others talons, very cool.   

It pays to be cautious if you’re a pigeon. Peregrines can strike a bird in mid air at 325 km/h causing near instant death. Just to put that in context Cheetahs have a maximum running speed of only 120 km/h.

All in all a great day, looking forward to returning during the migration season!  

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

It really 'bugs' me...

...when I can't find any birds

The past week or so has turned up very little in the form of city birds. Don’t get me wrong, they haven’t all fallen from the skies or anything, it’s just that generally there is nothing out of the ordinary going on. There are still a couple of flycatchers around and my ever present friends the blackbirds and robins are still busy distracting me but there is nothing out of the ordinary. I had hoped to get some shots of Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, willow warblers, barn swallows, sand martins, grey wagtails and various other small and brown birds but have found pretty much nothing.

(some dodgy shots of the old familiars)

A drying cormorant
Grey wagtail taking a walk on a pipe

A hooded crow still being harrased by its child

Eventually I decided to spend a day down in Blarney looking to photograph the reed buntings and blackcaps that live alongside the small lake there. Again, nothing but glimpses and silhouette shots. In the end I decided to focus my energies on chasing some of the local butterflies, damselflies and dragonflies with some interesting results. I must say that the disappointment of not finding many birds was quickly offset by the pleasure of observing these lovely insects. The four spotted chaser in particular was a pleasure to watch, it’s a rather massive insect that flits across the lake surface with lightning speed whilst grabbing smaller insects with great precision. The much smaller damselflies too are deadly hunters in their own right as the picture of the common blue damselfly on the right proves!

So without further ado I present some of the members of the rather large Odonata family. The damselflies in particular are rather hard to tell apart and there is a good chance I misidentified one or two of them. A thanks to Mothman at for helping to ID them.
Most likely a female freshly emerged Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum)
The mentioned four spotted chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata), the pic doesn't do him justice but its so fast that I was lucky to get this shot!
A Rufescens form Blue tailed damselfly (Ischnura elegans)
A regular blue tailed damselfly (Ischnura elegans)
Azure damselfly (Coenagrion puella)
Common blue damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum)
Not too sure what this is (I forgot to get it ID'd) if anyone knows please do let me know

Not a bad haul right! It definitely made my day; still, tomorrow it would be nice to find something with feathers. Later.
A beaten up looking robin, poor little guy