Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Common Guillemot

This Common Guillemot was photographed on the Pembrokeshire coast. With a flight speed of 80kmph they're pretty fast, but not especially agile. The Guillemot has perhaps the smallest nesting territory of any British bird, extending a beak length round its nest (about 5cm) and its egg is so shaped as to roll in circles, rather than off the narrow cliff edge on which it is laid. It's a pursuit-diver that forages for food by swimming underwater using its wings for propulsion. Dives usually last less than one minute, but the bird swims underwater for distances of over 30m on a regular basis. Diving depths up to 180m have been recorded.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Chalkhill Blue

This Chalkhill Blue was photographed last weekend at Compton Abbas. The visit was primarily aimed at finding Silver-spotted Skippers, which was partially successful, in that a reasonable number were found, but the photos left a lot to be desired. At some sites many hundreds may be seen in August, flying just above the vegetation, searching for females. Large numbers of males may also congregate on animal dung and other sources of moisture and minerals. Females are much less conspicuous, being duller in colour, more secretive in their habits, and spending less time than the males in flight. The butterfly is confined to calcareous grassland in southern England and has declined in some areas during recent decades.

Monday, August 17, 2015

More Nightjar pictures

With the end of the Nightjar season fast approaching, this was probably my favourite shot of the year, though I still have a number of images and hours of footage to work through. They're fascinating birds, each an individual in their own way, and constantly raise questions the more they're studied. This is the same female bird that featured in the footage from the nest-cam that I recently posted. The following picture was taken from a different site, also in the Forest of Dean, and shows a male perched whilst singing.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Fallow Deer

Fallow Deer in the Forest of Dean. Like many species of deer, the Fallow Deer is active throughout the 24-hour period, but in areas where human disturbance is high, they tend to be more active at night. They typically graze on grasses and rushes, but may also browse on young leaves, and also take cereals, berries and acorns.

Friday, August 07, 2015


Ptarmigan photographed in the Northern Corries on Cairngorm mountain, beginning to lose the ermine phase plumage of winter. The Scottish race of the Ptarmigan is found only in Scotland, and is the only bird in Britain to turn white during winter. This gamebird has a rounded body, a small head and feathered feet that act as snow-shoes, allowing them to walk on soft snow. During summer, both sexes become greyish-brown, and females have more coarsely barred plumage with an overall yellowish hue. They blend in with lichen-covered rocks. In winter they turn totally white except for the short, black tail.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Pine marten

Pine marten, photographed in western Scotland. Until the 19th Century, pine martens were found throughout much of mainland Britain, the Isle of Wight and some of the Scottish islands. Habitat fragmentation, persecution by gamekeepers and martens being killed for their fur, drastically reduced this distribution. By 1926, the main pine marten population in Britain was restricted to a small area of north-west Scotland, with small numbers in N Wales and the Lake District. They have now increased their range in Scotland, and now occur throughout the Highlands, N of the Central Belt but remains one of the rarest native mammals in Great Britain, with a total population of around 3-4,000, but Ireland probably also has as many.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Duke of Burgundy

The Duke of Burgundy is the sole representative of a subfamily known as the "metalmarks", since some of its cousins, particularly those found in south America, have a metallic appearance. A curious characteristic of this subfamily is that the female has 6 fully-functional legs, whereas the male has only 4 - the forelegs being greatly reduced. The Duke of Burgundy was once classified as a fritillary, given the similarity with those fritillary species found in the British Isles.

Monday, August 03, 2015

European Nightjar nest-cam

Many evenings this summer have been dedicated to studying the Nightjar here in the Forest of Dean. As the sun goes down and the light fades, the Nightjar activity begins. We managed to find a nest this year, and took the opportunity to install a motion sensitive trail camera on it. This video summarises a huge amount of video clips (over 9 hours in all), starting from a day before hatching, and finishing with a hurried desertion of the nest site due to the risk of being trampled by Fallow Deer. Earlier in the sequence, a similar fate almost occurs, but the chicks are immobile, leaving the male bird to harass the deer away. Lots of other interesting behaviour and vocalisations were recorded. The bird pictured in the previous photo is the female parent that features in this video. More photos to follow soon...