Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Northern Fulmar

Despite their looks, Fulmars are more closely related to the likes of petrels, shearwaters and albatrosses than they are to gulls. They are easy to recognise in flight due to their stiff-winged flapping. Found only on St Kilda until the 1900s, the islanders harvested them for a wide range of uses; fulmar oil (vomited over those who disturb the nest) was prized for its supposed medicinal properties.

White Ermine

The White Ermine is widely distributed around Britain and flies from May to September. It is distasteful to birds, which is an attribute that is possibly also of benefit to the Buff Ermine which shares a similar appearance. This particular moth was found near the Ynys Hir reserve whilst there for Springwatch in 2013.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Wasp Spider

Found on heathland in Dorset in summer 2013, the Wasp Spider. It's a very large, colourful spider that is a recent arrival in the UK from the continent and has slowly spread over the south of England. They build large orb webs in grassland and heathland, and attach their silk egg-sacs to the grasses. The web has a wide, white zig-zag strip running down the middle, known as a 'stabilimentum', the function of which is unclear. Mating is a dangerous game for males; they wait at the edge

Slavonian Grebe

The newest addition to the species list is the Slavonian Grebe, which was viewed from Brixham Harbour in Devon. The harbour has witnessed some unusual birds recently, perhaps offering some shelter in the bad weather we've been experiencing. Also seen around the harbour that day were Purple Sandpiper, Great Northern Diver and White-billed Diver (the latter unfortunately not seen by me). In the breeding season

Cirl Bunting

The Cirl Bunting was once common throughout south England, but due to changes in farming practice, its breeding grounds are now restricted to south Devon, where this photo was taken. This RSPB page detailing their Cirl Bunting Project gives more details about the reasons for their decline and what is being done about it. The Cirl Bunting

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Species List review

There were some really memorable additions to my photographic species list in 2013. Highlights included watching Basking Sharks feeding off the isle of Coll, Pine martens in the Scottish Highlands, watching a Hummingbird hawk-moth feeding in Lancashire in early November (!), and finally photographing a Water Vole in Gloucestershire. Avian highlights have included watching White-tailed Eagles, Golden Eagles and Hen Harrier in the Hebrides, watching territorial cuckoos chasing each other around the Dorset heaths, and searching for Great Grey Shrike and Two-barred Crossbills closer to home.

The 'one that got away' was definitely the Scottish Wildcat. Having spent a few nights out in the middle of nowhere on the west coast of Scotland I was rewarded with a sighting which will stay with me forever, but which resulted in no photograph.  Notable 'did not shows' for me of the year included the rare Tree Sparrow, Common Dolphins, and Pearl-bordered Fritillary among many others.

Finding new mammals is becoming increasingly difficult, but there are obvious opportunities amongst bats, rodents and cetaceans, all of which are under-represented, as well as some of the mustelids. Birds are also becoming harder to find, but there are still some obvious omissions. The reptile list is pretty much complete, featuring all native species and all but one introduced species. Sub-aquatic species are an obvious challenge, not least due to my lack of suitable equipment and general aversion to swimming. And I must finally get a moth trap going this year!

I don't make things any easier by insisting on a photographic record rather than just a sighting, but it's fun. The list itself is undoubtedly a bit 'trainspottery', but behind the list there have been countless hours spent enjoying everything that British nature has to offer - the list is merely an easy way for me to remember the characters I've met and observed along the way.

Happy new year!