28 June 2012

Almost the bitter end

Day 10
Longyearbyen: love this town the whole place rings with Snow Bunting song, 'Svalbard Ptarmigan' 2, Wigeon 1, Redwing 1 and Red Phalarope.

 'Svalbard Ptarmigan', not a difficult species to see and snap within Longyearbyen 'city' limits.

A slightly sullied, moth-eaten looking male 'Svalbard Ptarmigan',... he's moulting, cut him some slack.

Day 11
Longyearbyen and Bjorn darlen: Red Phalarope 2, singing Purple Sandpiper, Dunlin and Ringed Plover, my first baby Barnacle Goose and Little Auks comin' atcha from all angles,... now that's baby making music.

It is difficult to describe just how many of these breed in Svalbard (apparently there are 1.3 million pairs in the Barents Sea region), they often look like insects swarming above the cliffs.

Moss Campion Silene acaulis, with a bit of luck somebody will identify the sedge growing through it and leave a comment,... oh, go on, go on, go on, go on.

Tufted Saxifrage Saxifraga cespitosa ssp. cespitosa, I will inevitably have misidentified some plants feel free to correct any mistakes.

Day 12
Longyearbyen: Arctic Fox 1 raiding Arctic Tern and Eider nests, Ringed Seal 1, Long-tailed Skua 1, five baby Barnacle Goose, Eider chicks disappearing down Glaucous Gull gullets (it's carnage out here) and Red Phalarope 2.

Guilty looking Arctic Fox with Eider egg, she got a right kicking from the Arctic Terns for her troubles.

 Glaucous Gull fodder.

Probably the Glaucous Gull with the easiest life in the world ever. Another Eider chick? Don't mind if I do.

 Purple Sandpiper, not the world's best looking wader but an excellent display flight and song.

Female Grey/Red Phalarope, a proper looker. One of a pair near the 'dog pen' on the edge of Longyearbyen.

 As usual, it sat on the end of the lens.

Dear reader, I promise I'll stick some photos up soon. [Addendum. See, I did.]

25 June 2012

It's Svalbard Jim but not as we planned it

Photos to follow but for now,...

Day 7
At sea approaching south-west Svalbard: 3-4 Pomarine Skua, Fulmar now dominated by 'blue' types, 11 Arctic Skua, 1 Great Northern Diver, 9 Harp Seal, 2 Fin Whale, 3+ White-beaked Dolphin and 1 Minke Whale.

Hornsund: c.9 Beluga (probably the highlight of the trip), 1 'Svalbard Reindeer', 3-4 Ivory Gull and 1 Pomarine Skua.

Three of the pod of Beluga in Hornsund.

 Ice cliff at the snout of a glacier in Hornsund (Ivory Gull for scale).

Is it a 'berg'? Is it a 'growler'? Who knows but the less aesthetically pleasing object to the right is a whaler.

Day 8
Alkhornet: 15+ 'Svalbard Reindeer', 1 Arctic Fox, 1 Ringed Seal and 1 Minke Whale.

'Svalbard Reindeer' and cliffs at Alkhornet; the black specks in the sky are Brünnich's Guillemot, Fulmar, etc.

Look at the colour of that sky.

'Svalbard Reindeer', subspecies tick, have seen both European subspecies this year. Reindeer listing, it's where it's at.

Poolepynten: 11 Walrus.

St. John's Fjord: more 'Svalbard Reindeer', 2 Bearded Seal, 1 Ringed Seal plus singing and displaying Purple Sandpipers.

A better image of a 'Svalbard Reindeer', in heavy moult, every shake or gallop resulted in clouds of hair. 

Mountain Avens Dryas octopetala, there is also Salix polaris in the foreground, tiny and out of focus but it is there.

Day 9
Somewhere in west Svalbard: 1 first-summer King Eider.

Some island elsewhere in west Svalbard: possible breeding pair of Sabine's Gull, 1 Long-tailed Skua, 6 Grey (Red) Phalarope, 2 female King Eider, 1 Arctic Fox and 5+ Long-tailed Duck.

Long-tailed Skua and snow covered hillside, hilariously, one group on the boat decided to walk up the hill and missed Sabine's Gulls, Long-tailed Skua, Grey Phalaropes, King Eiders, Arctic Fox, etc.

22 June 2012

Days 4-6

Day 4
At sea between Shetland and Jan Mayen: 4 Orca and very little else.

Orca in the mist, one of four (2 males, 2 females) which seemed to be feeding.

Another Fulmar pic,... get over it.

Day 5
Jan Mayen: the most northerly volcano in the world, 1 Great Northern Diver, 1 Golden Plover, 1 Whimbrel (semi-knackered bird tried to land on the boat some way north of Jan Mayen), 1 Pomarine Skua, 10 Glaucous Gull, Little Auk and Brünnich's Guillemot coming out of our ears, 3 Snow Bunting (two of which were dead), 1 Meadow Pipit, 2 Blue Whale, 3 Fin Whale, 2 large rorquals (Fin/Blue), 6+ Northern Bottle-nosed Whale and 10+ Minke Whale.

Blue Whale rolling across our bows just north of Jan Mayen.
Little Auks, gawd knows how many thousands of these I've seen on this jaunt.

Beerenberg, Jan Mayen, the most northerly volcano in the wooooorld. Showing well, usually, it is shrouded in orographic fog/cloud.

Jan Mayen and the first of many glaciers of the trip.

A Whimbrel at dusk north of Jan Mayen attempting a ship landing, had a couple of goes, gave up and disappeared.

Day 6
At sea between Jan Mayen and Svalbard: 1 Pomarine Skua and a few more proper 'blue' Fulmar.

 Kittiwake in the wake.

19 June 2012

This flipping trip I'm on - days 1-3

Day 1
Murcur Golf Course: No flipping Black Scoter, 1 King Eider, 2 Surf Scoter, 1 Great Northern Diver heading N, 10+ Red-throated Diver, 1 Arctic Skua, 25+ Velvet Scoter, blah, blah, blah,...

At sea off NE Scottish coast: 1 Minke Whale and 1 Whimbrel heading south.

Day 2
Fairly Vile: dead, 10 Greylag Goose heading north, 1 White Wagtail, 1 Garden Warbler, 1 Willow Warbler, 3 Siskin and 'Fair Isle Wren'. Of course, the River Warbler was still present but nobody knew.

Dark phase Arctic Skua, not rare on this trip,... not rare.

Mousa: 23 Greylag Goose, 'Shetland Wren', Storm Petrels heard and smelled, etc., etc.

 Mousa Broch/Broch of Mousa, some say the hand rail at the top is nearly 20 years old.

At sea off Shetland: 50+ Storm Petrel and 1 Minke Whale.

Day 3
At sea Shetland to Jan Mayen: 1 'Blue Fulmar', 1 Storm Petrel, 3 Pomarine Skua and 1 large rorqual (Fin/Blue).

 Arctic Tern

The first 'blue' Fulmar of the trip, not too far north of Shetland and way south of any significant numbers of these beauties. Presumably a non-breeder given the state of moult.

 Fulmar, we have had everything from 'normal' to 'dark blue' and all manner of intermediates.

 Ooh look! One of them. Look at that pointy front end.

A fair number of the offshore Kittiwake were first-summers,... I know what you're thinking,... how bloody interesting is that!

08 June 2012

Mallies to the fore

Fun, fun, fun at Goldcliff Point today. Got all the gear on, clambered out to the point, got covered in spray, backed off a bit and then proceeded to thank one's stars as several waves broke on the west side of the point and doused my vacated position in swash (it was literally pouring out of the garden and over the sea-wall in a frothy torrent). Amongst all this, and in between frequent cleaning of optics, four Storm Petrel, six Manx Shearwater, nine Fulmar, one first-summer Gannet, one Kittiwake, one Grey Plover and seven Sanderling flew to or fro (or both); and another 11 Sanderling were on the beach. The estuary was shrouded in murk throughout, so it's not exactly surprising I missed an awful lot of stuff going up the main channel which, naturally enough, then went on to cavort shamelessly for the Severnsiders.

Fulmar, the nearest we've got to an albatross, squint a bit and they're every bit as lovely. Actually, squint a lot.

A Fulmar display team/composite image, us Bristol Channel/Severn estuary watchers generally only see birds pulling these big arcs in the windiest conditions. According to Aunty Beeb we had "gusts reaching a good 60 mph" today.

07 June 2012

The four White Storks

What's that coming over the hill...

There were four of them. White, red, black and pale. The noise of thunder and a message saying 'come and see'. And, lo, the sun became black as sackcloth, and the trees were shaken of a mighty wind. And the kings of the birders, and the great birders, and the rich birders, and the chief birders, and the mighty birders, and every birder, hid themselves in their cars and in the lee of the hedges,...

It must be the end of days, Gwent is actually having a half decent run of birds. Nice weather we're having,... more promised for tomorrow.

05 June 2012

Here comes the summer

And there goes the weather, disappearing over the hill with the last of the passing migrants. In their wake, the poor, shivering unfortunates with nothing but their half-frozen wits and sodden self-pity to keep them alive through the next few months.

On my wire, wet and lonely 
Oft times do I think of thee 
Wet and lonely and I wonder 
Do you ever think of me 

Not much to shout about at Goldcliff this morning: seven Black-tailed Godwits, one Whimbrel and a Dunlin were the only waders that could claim to be on the move; and about 100 Swift either went over NE searching for sunnier skies, or milled about the lagoons waiting in vain for anti-freeze drinking, waterproof flying insects. The Swallows took to picking creeping insects off the creeping thistles and buttercups; the House Martins just sat around looking glum (click on the picture, look at the expression on his little fizzog).

PS. Apologies to Woody Guthrie.

02 June 2012

Ging gang goolie goolie goolie goolie

Highlights of a high tide vigil at Goldcliff included 1 Greenshank, 4 Bar-tailed Godwit, 6 Black-tailed Godwit and 1 Whimbrel, also lots of broods of wildfowl and waders, and, on the category E front, both the Chinese Goose and Barney (apparently spending the jubilympics weekend at Goldcliff for a change of scene). And that was about it, apart from the three tents worth of kids having a mini-jamboree in the field next door. Mind you, they were just settling down for an alcohol and hormone fueled evening of fun, when the 2nd mechanised CCW division rolled over the hill and gave their party a pretty decisive pooping.

01 June 2012

The oldest joke

Ever since the initial conditions of existence were set, the particles and forces that formed the silica, that made the glass, that was fit in the frame, that was stuck in the window had been barreling through time and space destined to intersect with elements that roamed the cosmos, that formed the proteins, that replicated down the ages to form a speckle-bellied bird's forehead. And now they met. One minute he was unknowingly labouring under the misapprehension that he had some form of control over his actions and thoughts, the next - BLAM!  He succumbs to a hard piece of glass, an unavoidable instrument of an equally hard deterministic universe. 

Hit the only bloody window without a blind or raptor sticker.