Friday, 16 April 2021

Minke Whales off the North Cornwall coast. 16th April 2021.


I'd been sitting in my hide on the banks of the River Camel since 06:30 this morning photographing Dippers and Grey Wagtails but secretly hoping for an Otter to pop its head out of the water to say "Hello" !

Then I get a message from our What's App birding group telling us of a Minke Whale a few miles down the coast between Perranporth and Porthtowan. Initially I ignored it but then the light got too bright for photographing dippers so I headed home.

After a bite to eat another message came through saying the whales were showing well close to shore so I though I'd give it a go!

A quick call to Steve Rowe who was onsite and I had the whereabouts and parking details so off I went down the A39 & the A30.

As soon as I arrived I spotted Ian Boreham on the headland...or Cetacian as he's known due to his ability to always turn up whales and dolphins whether he's on a boat, cliff or probably even whilst out shopping!

Also met up with Al Scarlett who also specialises in filming marine life and then Mike and Heather Taylor, so I was amongst the experts!

They had distant views of a Minke from their vantage point at Cligga head but I failed miserably to get onto it with my binoculars.

After a few incoming calls it was decided that there was a better chance farther down the coast at St.Agnes Head where other watchers had a Minke in close to shore.So it was a quick drive down to there and unlike Cligga only a short walk from the car!

At St.Agnes we met up with friends Dave and Kate Williams and Pauline McKeogh who were already watching a whale close to shore.

Good also to catch up with Terry and Charlotte down at St.Agnes. 

This time I got onto it with the camera although it was difficult to find in the viewfinder as it surfaced due to having no reference point to guide me . As soon as I saw it with my eye and then got the camera on it the head had already gone back underwater, if it had shown at all.

However I did manage a half a dozen pics that were reasonable record shots of the animal so I was pleased.....and there's always another day!



Tuesday, 13 April 2021

A day on Looe island. 12th April 2021.

Bar tailed Godwit

Well it's been well over a year since I visited Looe island for one of our monthly Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust seal surveys. Initially the weather was an issue then Covid-19 kicked in and we've all been in lockdown.

So it was great to finally get on the boat again, sadly only 6 of us and not the usual 12 but Dave Butters got us out there and kept us dry!

We were met at the brand new jetty by Jon & Claire the Cornwall Wildlife Trust wardens and welcomed ashore.


All masked up on Dave's boat as we leave West Looe

All ashore from the new jetty

What a great addition to the island

I seem to photograph this sign every time I'm here...can't resist!

During the day we recorded a maximum of 6 grey seals and numerous birds. 


5 Grey seals hauled out


The cormorants were well advanced with several pairs having large youngsters in the nest and a count of almost 50 active nests.

Cormorant pair with 2 large offspring

Cormorants sitting on nests


The Oystercatchers  have started forming their "scrape" nests but we saw no sign of any eggs although it won't be long. There were lots of active pairs dotted around the island.

Oystercatcher with a very stubby bill

Another cracking bird we spotted was a Bar-tailed Godwit, a single individual and an unusual bird for the island, almost certainly on its spring migration north.

Bar tailed Godwit

We didn't have it all nice and comfortable as the rain and winds did their best to make life a wee bit uncomfortable in the morning when trying to search for seals into a North westerly.

I was forced at one point to lie down behind a rock for shelter, fortunately it was a well hollowed out shelter as I think the islands sheep had used the spot before!

Yours truly sheltering from the weather

There is a pair of Ravens nesting near to the original cormorant colony so most of the cormorants have now moved around the corner to nest, leaving just a few nests alongside a Shag nest and a couple of courting Fulmars.



Shag at its nest

The Herring Gull numbers on the island seemed to be much the same as other years but the Great Black-backed Gulls looked to be severely depleted from previous surveys. There were no nests on the South Western slopes and all pairs seemed to be on the spit of land near the house that looks to the South East.

Herring Gull

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Sand Lizards in North Cornwall. 30th March 2021.


The Sand Lizard is one of the rarest reptiles in Britain.

Sadly it's habitat is being wiped out by the degradation and erosion of sand dunes.

Fortunately there have been a few re-introduction programmes and one of those here in Cornwall has been quite successful.

I went out today especially targeting a photo of one of these creatures as  the time of the year was right, the weather was right and I knew where to look.

"Bingo" it all came good and I found 4 individuals, including a young one just a few cms long.



Saturday, 20 March 2021

Dippers & Grey Wagtails. Mid-Cornwall 18th March 2021.


Dull weather is probably best for photographing Dippers as it's so easy to "burn out" that bright white breast patch. Maybe a bit brighter than I had, perhaps "bright overcast" may have been better.

The big problem with low light and a bird that keeps "dipping" up and down is trying to keep a fast enough shutter speed so that the bird stays in focus, whilst keeping the ISO at a manageable level.

However they are very active at the moment nest building and maintaining territories. I've watched them on both the higher and lower reaches of the River Camel and also on the River Fowey.

You can almost guarantee that if you have dippers then you will also have Grey Wagtails as both species are fond of similar habitats, fast flowing streams with plenty of rocks and riffles to oxygenate the water.

Here are a few images taken today.

Grey Wagtail with nest material

Grey Wagtail nest building on the side of a bridge.

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

Grey Wagtails in mid-Cornwall 16th March 2021


I spent an enjoyable couple of hours photographing this lovely female Grey Wagtail this morning in mid-Cornwall on a fast flowing stream strewn with granite boulders.

Oddly enough Dippers were my intended target species for today but I never caught sight of one!

The wagtail was flitting from boulders to sticks to overhanging branches and catching quite a few insects as the sun had brought them out after a few dull days down in the valley bottom.

A bit of an exposure nightmare with all the sunshine and shadows but I really like the blown water highlights with the circular flares and started actually looking to include them in my pics.

Sunday, 14 March 2021

Brown Hare in North Cornwall, 13th March 2021.

This brown hare came bounding along the marsh path toward me today.

It kept stopping to sniff at every fallen bit of branch and twig.

It just goes to show how important scent is in their lives. Whether it was the scent of another hare or that of the local fox that also plies the same route I don't know but I'm guessing another hare as it's breeding time of the year.

It got closer and closer to me, (I was downwind and hidden), until I couldn't focus on it as it was too close!


Monday, 1 March 2021

More Spoonbills at Walmsley sanctuary Feb/March 2021.



Well it started off with a single adult Spoonbill in at Walmsley sanctuary back in January which was joined by a second bird in the 2nd week of February.

These birds have now been joined by a third Spoonbill at the end of February.

They seem to be dividing their time between roosting in the reserve and out feeding on the Camel estuary.

These birds aren't ringed but I'm guessing are probably from Western Europe, maybe Holland, France, Spain or Portugal and will soon move on to get back there to breed. All seem to be adult birds with one in particular showing the yellowish / gold blush on the breast which is an indicator of breeding potential.

It's always exciting to watch these birds although they are possibly the most boring birds I know....they usually spend most of their daylight hours with their heads under their wings, occasionally popping out for a quick stretch or a preen. 

But...when they do put on a show they are magnificent!