Monday 28 June 2021

A weekend of seal, bird & other wildlife surveys on Looe island & the North Cornwall coast. 26th & 27th June 2021.

St.George's island Looe

Welcome to the Cornwall Wildlife Trust reserve.

 This weekend's weather was so typically "Cornish" for June, gorgeous hot sunny day with light breezes on the south coast at Looe island followed by a Sunday with strong North easterly winds and heavy rain on our boat survey out of Newquay.

Both surveys were done in liaison with the Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust, Looe Marine Conservation Group, Newquay Marine Group and the Cornwall Wildlife Trust. I have been a volunteer for these groups for the best part of ten years and love every minute of being involved.

For me it allows me to follow my passion for watching & photographing wildlife and then being able to use those photographs to create some strong data which enables others to identify and record individual seals and sometimes birds that have been ringed or tagged.

Saturday 26th June.

A full day on Looe island usually starts with a short hop from West Looe across to the island with boatman Dave Butters and then a welcoming committee of John & Claire at the new island jetty. It was also great to see the young volunteers who have been on the island for several weeks now and I'm sure they're learning valuable skills whilst there.

We saw 9 seals between us although there was a possibility of a tenth but the jury's out on that one!

However there were lots of birds, including many young ones, especially gulls, great black-backed & herring gulls.

Grey Seal

Grey Seal

3 seals hauled out on Looe island

2 seals hauled on Looe island

Herring Gull chick

Adult Oystercatcher

Great Black-backed Gull

Little Egret

Little Egret

Great Black-backed Gull


Shag with single youngster

Great Black-backed Gull chicks

Shag portrait

Eider ducks

Little Egret

Oystercatcher pair with central juvenile

Juvenile Oystercatcher

Herring Gull chick

Great Black-backed Gull

Great Black-backed Gull chicks

Sunday 27th June.

We arrived at Newquay harbour just before 10 am for what was going to be a late start for our 3 monthly STAPIP survey with CSGRT aboard Atlantic Diver.

One look at the sea and backed up by the online weather forecast and we were all just waiting for the call to say that the survey had been postponed due to the weather. 

Not to be! Our skipper Chris Lowe assured us it was going to be fine as the North Easterly was blowing off the land & over our heads, tide was right & swell was good so at 10:45 we left the harbour with more than a little trepidation.

We tootled off up the coast in a Northerly direction and only spotted 1 seal between Newquay & Trevose Head which is the farthest point we survey on this the central section of our 3 part survey which takes in all the North coast from west of St.Ives to just north of Boscastle. 

There were lots of birds around with a big number of Gulls & Gannets feasting on a shoal of fish and large numbers of Manx Shearwaters oddly flying in both directions... we normally only see them heading south-west! 

Herring Gulls & Gannets

Herring Gulls

Herring Gulls

Diving Gannet

It was mid tide and rather "lumpy" between the headland & the islands and unusually there were no seals spotted hauled or in the water.

So it was a straight line trip from there to the West Pentire where there were a few seals, 7 in total there I think.

By now the weather had started to close in with heavy rain and poor visibility. Add that to a 30 mph wind it wasn't conducive to a comfortable day out!

Most of the time my camera gear was tucked up in the cabin as I couldn't risk a big wave flooding the camera with salt water.

So  not many seals and hence not many seal photos!


Seals hauled at low tide

Guillemots and a few Razorbills



Sunday 20 June 2021

Great White Egret at RSPB Ham Wall, Somerset Levels 15th June 2021.


Here are a few photos of one of the many Great White Egrets that now breed on the Somerset Levels as it flew into the reeds near to the Avalon hide and proceeded to hunt for fish in the shallows.

Always a bit distant and always very harsh lighting but still a joy to watch a master craftsman in the art of fishing!



Saturday 19 June 2021

Stonechats in the Camel estuary sand dunes. 19th June 2021.

Female Stonechat


I popped out to the dune system behind Rock at St.Enodoc to check on the sand martin colony a couple of days ago and a pair of stonechats caught my eye and as I watched they were carrying food to a nest site on the ground amongst some bramble.

Never one to miss an opportunity I worked out their usual route to the nest and where I could get some good shots as they went about their daily routine.

Fortunately I've got permission from the landowners and it was an easy place to take my car and use it as a mobile hide. The birds didn't give me a second glance as they were used to vehicles in the area they'd chosen to nest.

Cars are often an easy way to get close to birds without spooking them.

So a beanbag resting on the drivers part-open window and the rest was wait for the action.

The female stonechat was the most co-operative and used an array of perches whereas the male was difficult and often flew directly into the nest without perching. 

Male Stonechat

So I tried an afternoon watch and the light was very harsh so this morning I was there for 06:30 and stayed till 10:30 and got a nice variety of photos.

Here are a few of my preferred ones!

Tuesday 15 June 2021

River Warbler at RSPB Ham Wall, Somerset Levels. 15th June 2021.


Our annual pilgrimage up to Somerset in the early summer was well timed today to coincide with the viewing of the long-staying River Warbler.

A vagrant bird more used to the heat of Eastern Europe across into Russia it sang it's little heart out for us today.

These birds are gradually spreading into parts of Western Europe but it was a first for me in this country. I did hear one singing in Hungary a couple of years back but got no photographs.

It must have been at Ham Wall reserve for about 10 days now and I never expected it to be still around & even less be as showy as it was.

I'd done my homework on it's song and it was immediately recognisable as soon as we got near.

It was about 10 metres from the path into the Avalon Hide and came very close to us as we stood in awe of this stunning songbird. Standing on the tops of cow parsley and reeds the sound of it competed with the backdrop of clicking camera shutters.

At the end of our day we saw it easier and more often than any of the other warblers such as Reed, Sedge and the very vocal Cetti's.

Here are a few more images.

Thursday 10 June 2021

Rosy Starling in North Cornwall garden. 10th June 2021.


I received a message from a friend yesterday afternoon to say that his mother had a Rosy Starling (Rose-coloured Starling) regularly visiting their feeders in her garden and was I interested in photographing it.

Goes without saying I was very keen but... we had our 2 young granddaughters for the day and I couldn't (or didn't want to) get away so I agreed to go later that evening.

However it came in really wet and dull with the classic Cornish sea mist descending on the area. We then decided to leave it till this morning to try.

I was concerned as with all things wildlife that the bird may have moved on and I'd have got the "you should have been here 5 minutes ago" scenario!

I arrived at the prescribed time and asked "is it still around?". "Oh yes it's in the garden now" was the reply.... I'm not used to that!

I went into their house and lo and behold it was on a dead tree stump at the bottom of their garden just stood there posing.

What lovely people too, they let me photograph resting my lens on an an upturned vase  on the draining board and through the kitchen window. Realistically there was nowhere else to get a good angle from so it worked out really well.

I've seen and photographed a few of these birds over the years but none as brightly coloured or as showy as this fine adult bird.

This species regularly ventures into Western Europe from its breeding range in the Asian Steppes and there had been recent reports that this year could see a lot of them in Britain. Indeed as I write there are about 5 we know of in Cornwall.

It was feeding on fat balls in 2 feeders hanging from a dead tree stump and was quite aggressive to the house sparrows and common starlings that were "regulars" at this feeding station. It did hold back when a larger jackdaw was feeding but attacked everything smaller.

I watched it bathe in a pool of water on someones flat roof and then sit around with it's 'punk' hairstyle whilst it dried.

I stayed about an hour and in that time it was in the garden for about 90% of the time and I took 355 photos of which here is a small selection.