Showing posts from March, 2015

Odds and Ends

A few pictures of some of the birds we saw on our recent holiday in Lanzarote.

Desert Island Risks

Contrary to our expectations, the Canary Isles are not always warm and sunny. The last few days of our stay saw much dark cloud, heavy showers and a chill breeze which meant our jumpers and coats, which we thought redundant for a week, were dragged out of the closet and gratefully employed.
Between showers a few days back we visited an area of salt pans and a saltwater lagoon known as Salinas de Janubio. The crashing Atlantic breakers provided a quite dramatic backdrop for a brisk walk to the lagoon where we were told several waders could be seen. This kind of habitat is in short supply around the island resulting in it being much favoured as a safe haven for various species. A quick stroll around the edge, always keeping an eye on the threatening clouds building over the mountains to the south, provided good views of several common sandpipers that flicked away low over the water on deeply bowed wings, a few greenshank piping their three note alarm call, a small flock of Kentish plover…

For the Shear Hell of It

And it may indeed have been hell for some people. The ferry trip between Lanzarote and  Fuerteventura is scheduled to take 30 minutes......unless you are sailing into heavy seas and a stiff northerly wind. In these circumstances the voyage is longer and, how should we put it..... interesting. But whilst most folk were more concerned with keeping their breakfast where it belonged, yours truly was poised atop deck, camera in hand hoping to snap passing Cory's Shearwaters. Doesn't everyone do this from time to time? No! Well buckle-up folks for it's a rough ride. With the spray from our bow lashing across deck, the boat pitching and tossing in the swell, everything moving up and down and side to side, I tried to photograph fast moving birds that were tacking into the wind and living up to their names. Shearwaters indeed, totally at one with the elements and unperturbed by the conditions, these Mariners scythed through the air inches above the waves, twisting one way and then …

Early Morning Call

I sit here on our balcony at 5.30 in the afternoon, the tab holes of two empty beer cans sadly eyeing me as they sit forlorn side by side on the table, and I am in the company of a pair of Spanish sparrows and a collared dove feeding within touching distance. They are gorging themselves on fragments of digestive biscuit I crumbled for them; they seem most grateful. These birds are common all over the island, but close to are really most handsome. Particularly the sparrows that, between bouts of feasting on biscuits, chirrup loudly and incessantly from the date palms a few metres from our balcony. With no alarm clock and thick curtains it is not obvious that dawn has arrived, but these persistent bachelors commence their piercing chirping with first light and make quite an effective early morning call. They don't stop until sunset.

We spent today exploring the northern half of the island spending some time at Mirador del Rio, a fantastic lookout point giving breathtaking views from…

Wish You Were Here

There are not a vast range of species to be seen on the Canary Isles, especially Lanzarote where we are seconded for a week, but the black lava strewn hills and beaches do hold a surprise or two. We are based in a very small village called Puerto Calero towards the southernmost tip, and our hotel complex (and it is a complex business to find your way around) is the last building before a range of sparsely grass-clad fields slope gently into the Atlantic Ocean.

On our first morning here we walked a few kilometres along the coastal path in the increasing heat of a mid morning sun to find the apparent uniform yellowing grass interspersed liberally with low growing plants of many kinds. I'm no botanist and can't even begin to provide names for these plants, but close inspection showed the whole landscape to be a mosaic of tiny flowers, purple, red, white, yellow and blue hidden from a cursory glance. Where there is nectar there are bound to be insects and such was indeed the case.…

At the Turn of the Tide

I stood on Hunstanton beach bathed in the warm glow of the late afternoon, surrounded by oystercatchers roosting and preening on the seaweed strewn rocks, the bubbling cries of curlew carrying far through the still air, and thought I don't need to be anywhere else; it is all here on my doorstep.
The whole Norfolk coastline is shaped by the tides, the twice daily ebb and flow that firstly washes our perimeter clean then deposits myriad flotsam and jetsam along our desolately haunting shores. No two visits are the same and every turn of the tide reveals new bounty for the waders to plunder.
Earlier in the day with the blaze of a March sun behind me illuminating the gently curving bay between Titchwell and Brancaster, I watched bar-tailed godwits, grey plovers, sanderlings and turnstones probing the newly exposed muds for food, perhaps lugworms, maybe small crabs or other invertebrates that would sustain them through another day. It is a constant struggle for survival, but this seaso…

The Sap is Rising

Life is tough if you're a male bird vying for a mate; it can get physical. Very. I spend every Wednesday volunteering at Cley Marshes and this week in the most welcome rays of a late winter sun the birds were getting frisky.
First it was the marsh harriers. The resident pair are in the process of setting up home in a patch of reeds they have made their own for the last three years. Both birds are recognisable for their quite extreme plumage; the female being splendidly bright and well-marked and the male being almost uniform dark without any discernible wing patterning. But today an interloper appeared in the territory, another male, and he was not welcome. True to form it was the mature and experienced female bird that saw him off, rising with speed to intercept his intrusion with talons poised to strike. The imposter didn't linger and after a brief show of bravado continued on his way.

Then the shelducks. I counted about 50 of these boldly patterned, goose-sized wildfowl inha…