Peninnis Head

I spent the morning yesterday on Peninnis Head – it was very breezy and cold.

The ‘lighthouse’ on the point

Thrift by a rock

White horses out at sea

A Ring Ouzel

A well marked male was very skulking and elusive – the best photo I could manage

A cracking Wheatear

The islands are fully of wheatears at the moment – amazing that none stay to breed – all the birds are migrants on their way to the uplands

Out to sea the Royal Marines were battling the waves on their way to the Islands – must have been an uncomfortable crossing

They finally arrived – four landing craft in all – with their valuable cargoes – 4 gigs ready for the weekend

Two smaller craft were moored up by the Quay

More Scilly Birds

It was a glorious day on Scilly yesterday – I walked over 12 miles and my shorts and flip flops had their first outing of the year too. I photographed a selection of common birds and re-visited the Little Bittern.


A Wheatear


One of Scilly’s numerous and very tame Song Thrushes


A Mallard at Higher Moors


A Gadwall at Higher Moors


A Dunlin approaching full summer plumage


A Coot


A Blackbird – Scilly Blackbirds have very red bills


A reflection of the Little Bittern


Off hunting again


Backlit in the late afternoon sunshine

Little Bittern at Lower Moors

I was lucky enough yesterday to get a tipoff from Spider, a resident birder on Scilly who told me that there was a Little Bittern at Lower Moors on St Mary’s. Little Bitterns can be very skulking but this adult female was very obliging.


Little Bitterns are very small herons – the Collins Field Guide describes them as being smaller than a Moorhen. They are agile climbers. Here the female is in hunting mode.


She has seen a fish and pounces


Head right up to swallow


Here is a second sequence of her catching a fish


Attack


Success


A head on shot


At last she come right out into the open


This is probably my favourite photograph

Until pretty recently Little Bitterns were considered very rare passage migrants in the UK. In 1984 a pair bred in Yorkshire. Then in 2010 they bred in the Somerset Levels for the first time and have bred there again since.

The Somerset Levels have seen a concerted effort by RSPB, The Wildlife Trust and Natural England to create new and extensive wetland areas and this combined with climate change has attracted Little Bitterns to the UK.

It will be interesting to see how their colonisation develops and whether they spread to the large habitat creation projects in the East Anglian Fens at places such as Wicken Fen, Lakenheath Fen and the Great Fen.

John Clare

Melvin Bragg’s ‘In our Time’ featured the 19th century ‘peasant’ poet John Clare – it is well worth a listen. A poet with an unprecedented eye for wildlife and a man who lived through the enclosures of the Northamptonshire Commons which no doubt played a part in the mental health issues he faced later in his life.

You can listen to the radio programme here.

Here is one of his poems – The Cuckoo – he captures the bird and its natural history in words in a way that we would only know 200 years later as a result of scientific research – remarkable.

Cuckoo 1

The Cuckoo

The cuckoo, like a hawk in flight,
With narrow pointed wings
Whews o’er our heads – soon out of sight
And as she flies she sings:
And darting down the hedgerow side
She scares the little bird
Who leaves the nest it cannot hide
While plaintive notes are heard.

I’ve watched it on an old oak tree
Sing half an hour away
Until its quick eye noticed me
And then it whewed away.
Its mouth when open shone as red
As hips upon the brier,
Like stock doves seemed its winged head
But striving to get higher

It heard me rustle and above leaves
Soon did its flight pursue,
Still waking summer’s melodies
And singing as it flew.
So quick it flies from wood to wood
‘Tis miles off ‘ere you think it gone;
I’ve thought when I have listening stood
Full twenty sang – when only one.

When summer from the forest starts
Its melody with silence lies,
And, like a bird from foreign parts,
It cannot sing for all it tries.
‘Cuck cuck’ it cries and mocking boys
Crie ‘Cuck’ and then it stutters more
Till quick forgot its own sweet voice
It seems to know itself no more.

 

Brent geese

The sky over Dawlish Warren looked quite threatening but as it turned out it only rained for around 15 minutes.

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A nice little flock of Brent Geese on the 6th fairway on the Warren Golf Course

They were a bit anxious as we walked past them but they soon returned to feeding – there aren’t many birds that survive by eating grass and when you are that big you need to eat a lot of it.