24 Dec 2007

Merry Christmas to All that visit this Blog. Birdguides.Com "Photo of the Week"

201. Woodcock

Peregrine's Bird Facts The tiny feathers that are located at the tip of the Woodcock's wings are referred to as "pin feathers" and these are much sought after by artists for fine painting work.

On Thursday when I came home from my office christmas lunch, which was absolutely superb, at "Ginger" in Belfast I found I had been chosen for Birdguides.com "Photo of the week" for the above photograph with the following citation.

Better known as the author of Peregrine's Bird Blog and for his photos of the rarities passing through Northern Ireland, Craig Nash has this week submitted a delightful seasonable image of a Goldfinch perched on a holly sprig. Despite their stunning appearance, Goldfinches are often overlooked by bird photographers and have never before been the subject of a BirdGuides Photo of the Week. Craig's portrait perfectly captures the warm tones of the weak winter sunlight, the red on the bird's face and single berry standing out against the complementary green background and holly leaves. The side lighting provides such strong modelling that you feel you could touch the holly, whilst the bird's pose and the catch-light in the eye bring the shot to life.

Photo of the Week citation, Thursday 20th December 2007

So I was understandably on a high.Birdguides is an excellent site if you want to know where the rarities are in Britain and want to see photos of them as well. I have been taking a few photographs of birds sitting on a hollybush recently. I had hoped for a Robin but it never came close enough.However here is a nice one of a Greenfinch.

Now I have three days off over christmas and I am really hoping for some nice light so that I can go out and take some more photos.

So I wish you all a Merry Christmas and hope that it goes smoothly. Just remember if it doesnt you can always slip outside and do some birding:-)

12 Dec 2007

A Milestone. My 200th Bird of the Year and it was a Lifer. Ferruginous Duck.

200. Ferruginous Duck

Peregrine's Bird Facts The Ferruginous Duck used to be called the White Eyed Pochard

I am one of those birders that will go and see a rarity in my own time.(and consequently quite often miss out) I rarely race off to see something that has been spotted unless I am a few minutes away. So I decided that as it was a reasonable looking morning to head off to Lough Corbet which is near Banbridge as there had been reports on Flightline ( Flightline is Northern Ireland's Birdline which can be found on 04428 9046 7408 to hear the latest bird news. It is a free service provided by the Northern Ireland Birdwatchers Association) of a Ferruginous Duck. A scarce migrant to the UK.
Here is the single species action plan for the Ferruginous Duck of which one of the authors is James Robinson the Conservation Manager at the RSPB in Northern Ireland. He also volunteers at the Belfast Harbour Reserve Hide with his wife on alternate sundays from myself.

Well I arrived at the Lough which has decent parking facilities due to the fact that the Lough is used by fishermen. There was at first glance about a dozen Mute Swan, lots of Coots, some Mallard, lots of Little Grebe, Pochard and Tufted Duck out on the water. There was also about a dozen House Sparrows feeding near the waters edge as well as a Pied Wagtail.

I scanned the water for the Ferruginous duck but couldn't see it. The sun had gone in at this time and it was fairly grey looking so there was little contrast.

I then noticed this Coot which had a fishing spinner caught in its left foot

It looked really uncomfortable and was hopping along and even in the water it swam in an odd way. I wasn't really sure what to do. As I thought the chances of it being caught were not that high and would probably stress it further. On looking at the bottom photograph I think it is actually beginning to work its way out. Well lets hope!

The sun finally came out and I scanned all the ducks on the lough and thank goodness spotted a deep mahogany/coppery coloured duck in the distance.SUCCESS. First of all I tried digiscoping with my nokia N95 not easy and not a very good photo so I walked round lough to get closer. It went further away and I thought I wouldnt get a shot at all. So I made my way back to car park and after about half an hour having lost site of it I noticed it about a couple of hundreds of yards away. So every time it dived I ran towards it and every time I thought it would re emerge I lay down. Then it was close enough to get a reasonable shot . Bingo my day had been made.

As I have been writing this I have had a delivery from the postman.It was calendars of birds I have photographed in the last year that I decided to get made as Christmas presents. I got them done by Photobox and I am really pleased with the result. So much so that I am about to order some more. If you are interested drop me a line. I think they will be around £14.

19 Nov 2007

Hen Harriers, Red Squirrels and the International Wildbird Photographer Awards

198. Kingfisher
199. Hen Harrier

Peregrine's Bird Facts A CORRECTION. Last time I said there were 6 races of Dunlin. Well a Gentleman emailed me to say that current thinking was there were 10 sub-species/races (Waterbird Population Estimates: Delany & Scott; Wetlands International 2006): the most recent to be formerly recognised being C a centralis (Wennerberg et al. 1999)

Namely they are:

Calidris alpina alpina Breeds N Europe/NW Siberia
C a centralis - North central Siberia
C a schinzii - Iceland, Baltic & GBI
C a arctica - NE Greenland
C a sakhalina - Kolyma river to Chukotsky
C a actites - N Sakhalin
C a kistchinskii - N Sea of Okhotsk amchatka and Kurils
C a arcticola - N Alaska & NW Canada
C a pacifica - SW Alaska
C a hudsonia - Central Canada

Well I haven,t blogged in a while. However I have been out with the camera a fair amount of the time. Yesterday I was very relieved that I had it with me because as I was driving out to Killard to walk the dog this bird of prey crossed my path. My very first thought was its not a buzzard or peregrine then I thought Osprey and then as it was flying away from me I realised it was a harrier. I stopped the car as soon as humanly possible and fired off some shots at a rapidly disappearing bird. It had black wing tips was grey on its topsides and had a white rump. I had seen Northern Irelands first Montague Harrier last year and realised it couldn't be that as I didnt notice any bars on its wings and it didn't look as though it had as long or for that matter narrow wings.So I was unsure whether it was a male Hen Harrier or a Marsh Harrier. So when I eventually got home I sent off the heavily cropped images to Anthony McGeehan for an expert appraisal.

He first of all came back with the idea it might have been dirt on my sensor, which made me giggle, but on further looking thought it was a Hen Harrier. A lifer for me. Anthony a couple of weeks ago found Ireland's First Mourning Dove on Inishboffin of the Co. Galway coast. Here is his account on Eric Dempsey's Birds Ireland website.

I find it strange with birding in that sometimes you dont see a bird all year and then two come along within a matter of days. I was beginning to wonder whether I would see a Kingfisher this year. Well I was in Dundrum making my way back home and I stopped off at a little inland tidal lagoon at Ardilea when I watched this Jackdaw mobbing this Kingfisher that was sitting on a fallen branch in the stream . It then flew towards me and disappeared. Two days later I am watching the gulls on the Kinnegar shore and another one flies past me towards the Belfast Harbour Lagoon. Now that is a bird that I would like a close up shot off. As I was leaving the beach I saw a Red Breasted Merganser on the other side of the road which allowed me to photograph it quite unconcerned.

I have been recently told where I might get close up photographs of Jays which is in Belvoir Forest Park (Right across from the RSPB Northern Ireland Headquarters) at a Red Squirrel feeding station. Well I have been up there a couple of times and no Jays I have heard them but not seen any. I have however seen a couple of Red Squirrels and lots of Grey Squirrels and a very inquisitive Robin. I will have to spend more time at this site.

I am presently in a state of indecision as I have about twelve days to enter some photos into the International Wildbird Photographer Awards and I cannot make up my mind which photos for which category. I am hoping that this photo of a Redshank "Walking on Water" which I took last week will do well.

Any suggestions are welcome. Visit my Bird Photography Site HERE
and leave a post on the site .I am entering five categories
1.Birds in Britain
2. Birds in Flight
3. Bird Behaviour
4. Birds in Landscape
5. Best Portfolio (For this I am going to do a collection of Godwit images)

22 Oct 2007

Another Couple of Photos in Birdwatch Magazine.

Peregrine's Bird Facts There are six races of Dunlin. Calidris Alpina, Calidris Schinzii, Calidris Arctica, Calidris Pacifica, Calidris sakhalina and Calidris Hudsonia

Well I have just received the latest copy of "Birdwatch" Magazine and am very glad to say I have two more photos published. One is of the Wilson's Phalarope and the other of the Peregrine chasing the Knot which is in a previous post on this blog. I only need them to publish another 1728 photos per year to give up the day job!!

The other day I left work and it was one of those beautiful autumn days. The sun was bright ,a slight chill in the air, little or no wind, the sky had not a cloud in it and when one's hobby is taking photographs of birds this kind of weather uplifts me no end.

I headed to the RSPB Reserve in Belfast where there wasn't alot going on, apart from a couple of Curlew Sandpipers which were too far away, mainly because a predator proof fence is being erected right round the exterior of the reserve and the disruption generally means the birds are not there. Here is an aerial view of part of the reserve with one of the tern islands.

So I headed to Kinnegar Shore which is just round the corner I parked the car and immediately below me were about twenty Dunlin on the edge of a little stream. I gingerly got out of the car hoping not to disturb them and crawled very slowly towards them. Infact I got so close that I couldnt go any closer due to the minimum focus of the lens. Here are the best of the shots.

Dunlin Panorama

Dunlin in Stream

Dunlin having a Scratch

After I had taken these photos a Redshank alarm call went up and the Dunlin exploded away from me with this Redshank following.

I then headed home and had a snooze before going ou to Killard in the afternoon where it was still absolutely beautiful. Strangely there werent many birds about I think probably due to a Kestrel and a Merlin that was around. Infact In the last few weeks I have seen a Merlin nearly every time I have been out there.

I did see this seal pup on the rocks. Pickle almost went right upto it but was quite sensibly very cautious so I never got the nose to nose photo.

I left Killard and stopped at a little bay which has a fresh water stream running into it which can be good for waders and when the light is good it is directly behind you. This particular evening the light was stunning and there were a high count of Golden Plover, lots of Ringed Plover a few Dunlin, Bar-Tailed Godwits and Curlew. You park at a picnic stop next to the sea wall which is covered with lichens so can offer good photo opportunities and using my car as the hide in a space of five minutes got some nice shots of Wagtail and Robin.

White Wagtail


As I was taking the above photos a Greenshank dropped down right in front of me and this was my favoutite image.
Infact it made my day as I never seem to be able to get that close to them as they can be quite wary.

PS. In my view the two best Bird Photography Forums on the net are First Naturescapes.Net HERE This site is predominantly American Photographers with a few other nationalities from around the world. Sometimes there are amazing photos and I would look and see what has been posted most days. My only problem with the site is that the critiques can be over the top with praise for quite often fairly boring photos and there is rarely serious criticism. Sometimes people will be really helpful and suggest better ways of presenting photos. There is also a fair amount of sycophancy when extremely well known bird photographers such as Artie Morris post photos, but apart from that its a great site.

The second site is Naturephotographers.net HERE This site is the UK section of the website. Again some wonderful photos.My favourite in the last few months has been this ONE Just Brilliant.

3 Oct 2007

Finding one's own scarcities (Little Stint and Pectoral Sandpiper)is far better than twitching somebody else's.(Great White Egret)

196. Little Stint
197. Pectoral Sandpiper

Peregrine's Bird Facts The Little Stint is one of the four Dark-Legged Stints. The others are the Semipalmated Sandpiper, the Western Sandpiper and the Red-necked Stint.

After work on Saturday morning I headed to the RSPB reserve at Belfast Harbour and went to the central hide. It was a pretty grey morning and there was another birder there Mark Killops ( I hope I have got that right) and we simultaneously spotted a very small wader dropping into the far side of the lagoon. With my binoculars I couldn,t quite identify it but assumed from size it was a Little Stint. I remember Anthony McGeehan saying to me last year it is either going to be Little Stint or Semipalmated Sandpiper. So while Mark kept the scope on it I went to get the Collins Guide. It was after a short discussion decided to be a Little Stint. Photographs at this distance were out of the question but fortunately it came closer after a while.

I texted Derek Charles to let him know about it and he texted me almost right back saying he had one at the Castle Island Hide on the Quoile!! It turned out that a few others had also arrived in Northern Ireland on the same night. I went back on monday morning as the light was a bit better and took another photo comparing with the size of Dunlin.

While I was in the hide all the waders suddenly all flew up into the air. A sure sign that a falcon of some sort was around. I wasn't to be disappointed I thought initially it was a Merlin as it came low in from the west but by the time it had gone past me it was obviously too big winged. It came directly at the hide.

Before chasing some Dunlin and the Stint unsuccesfully.

On the way home I dropped into the Castle Island Hide on the Quoile and there were a couple of birders there. One whom I regularly see up in Belfast but whose name escapes me. He pointed out five Whooper Swans . I had a look out the front and saw at first what I thought was a Snipe .All I could see was its back view then it turned sideways and I realised it was a Pectoral Sandpiper. The first that I have found on my own! I again texted Derek and received one back saying to look closely to see if it wasn't a Sharp Tailed Sandpiper. Well I had no idea what a ST Sandpiper ( also known as a Siberian Pectoral Sandpiper) looked like so again it was out with Collins and back to the scopes to double check. It wasnt. I took a few photos but it was quite a distance away and I had 700mm on camera and still not really enough. I can see the digiscoping set up calling.I went home really chuffed. You can just about make it out in front of the Teal.

Yesterday after work I decided to go up to Lough Beg and try and find the Great White Egret that had been spotted. I had seen one earlier in the year in Italy at vast distance but never in Ireland. I had been up briefly to look about a week ago but no joy. On Flightline ( Our free of charge Northern Ireland rare and scarce bird line. I am in much admiration of George Gordon who night after night after night leaves an answering machine message of all the sightings) there was mention that it was North of Church Island. This was exactly the same place that I saw an Osprey and a pair of Cranes.

I arrived and put the wellies on got the camera, scope and binoculars and tripod. It was alot tougher going than I had imagined I was walking across the a large area of wet grassland that is flooded each winter.It also has never been drained or improved agriculturally apart from the cows that graze there. So I was regularly getting stuck in deep muddy areas. Church Island is at the centre of this reserve and in the spring and autumn is a hot spot for migrating birds.

As I got closer to the small bay to the left of Church Island there it was the Great White Egret.

I didn't really have to look for it at all!! So pretty pleased to get close enough to get a photo. As I was crawling closer and closer it flew off northwards. There were 10 Black Tailed Godwit in the vicinity and one Bar Tailed Godwit as well as hundreds of Mallard, some Teal and a few Widgeon. I then decided to go and look at the church. Or rather the ruins!! of an old church, dating back to the time of Saint Patrick. It is thought that Patrick used the Bann to navigate to the Island on Lough Beg where he met with Taoide who found an early Christian settlement in the 5th Century. That settlement is recorded as Inis Taoide (Taoides Island) in the Annals of Ulster of the 11th century. The current church dates from 12th Century but there is a stone known as the Bullaun Stone featuring a hole which can hold water. The Bullaun Stone is most likely associated with the first monastic settlement. Local anecdote has it that the hole in the stone was made by St Patrick as he knelt to pray.(Don't they all!!!! I live near Downpatrick and he was supposed to be buried there. I think its all myth personally so little is actually known about him when it comes down to it.) I took this photo of a gravestone

It is one of the things about birding that I really like is that you get to see places that you would never have found or have reason to go and see. In the past two weeks I have driven the coast road around the top of Northern Ireland, visited Church Island and driven round the Islandmagee peninsular all in the search of my favourite things BIRDS.

28 Sep 2007

Sea Watching at Ramore Head Co. Antrim

Peregrine's Birding Facts

As I am very susceptible to sea sickness I couldn't go on (Click on link for really good report)Anthony McGeehan's Pelagic out of Magheroarty in Co. Donegal a couple of weeks ago, which was a pity as I would have seen at least three lifers. So on Tuesday did the next best thing I went sea watching at Ramore Head Co. Antrim one of the two best spots in Northern Ireland.
The other being St. John's Point Co.Down near to where I live.

At Ramore Head the on-shore winds bring winter flypasts of Cormorant, Fulmar and Gannet and in the Autumn strong north-west winds bring flights of Leach's and Storm Petrels, Shag, Manx and Sooty Shearwaters, plus Arctic, Great and Pomarine Skuas, Sabine's Gulls and the occasional Blue Fulmar . Well I would be very happy with Leach's Petrel, Sooty Shearwater and a Sabine's Gull as I have not seen any of them.

I left work and drove upto Portrush about an hours drive away. I am ashamed to say this was the second time I had been here the last time was 28 years ago when I was 16 and went on the rollercoaster, which I didn't enjoy. I regularly hear of seawatching reports coming from Ramore Head on Flightline but never had got round to getting there. Anthony and his brother Gerard had said they were going up there as there was a Northerly gale which brings in the seabirds so I went to join them. I first of all parked inthe East carpark where a number of gulls were resting out of the wind as well as a Sandwich Tern which I drove fairly close too.

Not seeing Anthony's car in the car park I drove further into Portrush and found it at the most northerly part of the town. It was very windy when I got out of the car and pretty chilly. I was glad that I had my Paramo trousers and jacket, even though I could have done with something warmer than a t-shirt underneath. I walked to where I assumed they would be to see five birders looking out through their scopes. Anthony and his brother Gerard, Joe Lamont, Dennis Weir and another guy who I have seen before but dont know his name. So far they had seen Leach's Sabines, Great and Arctic Skua. You look out to the Skerries a small group of islands and the birds tend to fly past them.

Suddenly somebody shouted Arctic Skua and two birds flew quite close by. This was shortly followed by the slightly larger Great Skua on both occasions I had my camera on the ground :-( I also at this stage thought this was going to be brilliant however they were the only ones I was to see over the next couple of hours. Gerard pointed out a Leach's Petrel but I could not get onto it. Gerard and Anthony left shortly afterwards to go and do some more work on the Belfast Harbour Reserve. I also was beginning to doubt my eyesight when the birder I didn't know pointed out a Basking Shark over a period of ten minutes but neither Joe Lamont nor I could get onto it. After a couple of hours I was pretty cold and decided to call it a day. I learnt a few things about sea watching 1. Wear suitable clothing, Gloves, Hat etc 2. Bring a flask 3. Bring a fold up chair. The next time I will be better prepared. As I was returning to the car somebody said they had seen Grey Phalarope at the far side of the car park .

I headed there but could only see Sanderling, Turnstone, Ringed Plover and the recently returned Purple Sandpiper.

but no Phalarope.

I then decided to drive all the way along the coast past the Giants Causeway, Ballintoy Harbour, Torr Head, Cushendun, Cushendall, Glenarm all the way to Belfast. It was a revelation it had to be one of the great drives off the world the scenery was spectacular and I had never done it before.

For all of you out in Blogger land Northern Ireland has absolutely stunning scenery and is well worth a visit!!