I wanted to drive through the deer park (Woburn) to try and photograph some deer upclose and personal, they had different plans however and remained at a distant lake…
All was not lost though, as four red kites (one of my favourite birds!) were soaring with all their grace and care over the hills.
One landed on the floor, but wasn’t left alone for long as it had found a bone from another animal (probably deer!).
I’ve never seen kites in wild scavenging like this and they all fought over this scrumptious bit of meat(?) with utmost delicacy.
Staying on a reddish theme, shortly after, this kestrel was busy tucking into a mouse it had just caught in the field, sorry in advance for anyone who might be squeamish!
All in all a fantastic day watching wild birds of prey doing exactly what they do best!
Skuas were popping up everywhere today! They’re you’re typical pirates, skulking offshore and then chasing down any unsuspecting passer-by who might have some nice fish to steal. We saw eight in total, four of which were Arctic skua (aka parasitic jaeger) and the other four were great skua. They were mostly interested in the gannets today, although this particular one didn’t approve
We also had a flock of razorbills pushing sandeels to the surface of the water as they were hunting which was fascinating to watch, and a few seals were hanging around in the surf. The real stars though, were a family of harbour porpoise which were feeding at the end of a rainbow! We did get caught out by a very heavy shower but it was more than worth it for these little cuties.
A quick break between the storms meant we had just one afternoon in which to head out and look for dolphins, and we found loads!
The first group we found was a large nursery pod, full of tiny calves stuck to their mothers. They all came over to play with us and it looks like there were around sixty individuals in total.
We left this group in peace as ahead of us were several other pods dotted throughout the bay, and a group of excited birds drew us in to one particular area so off we went! We sped through and more dolphins came in to join us, this time however they took full advantage of our wake, and all of our tracks were full of dolphins surfing and jumping!
When we found the birds I went downstairs to ID a couple of the more unusual gulls, but rummaging through the books I heard the captain say “we have a big work up here guys” and as I looked up a huge ball of mackerel erupted on the surface and the cabin echoed with dolphins squeaking just on the other side! I rushed out and we could see dolphins diving into the ball picking off the small fish – it was absolutely incredible!
It’s true that spring is a great time to watch woodland birds as they make themselves obvious with their songs and their are few leaves on the trees, but in my opinion now is when it really gets exciting. Birds from throughout the forest start to join up (in what can be huge) mixed species flocks which hold the most amazing prizes, behaviours and sights. Also, there are the deep colours of autumn everywhere you look.
Visiting an old woodland patch of mine, the flocks were built of nuthatches, treecreepers, goldfinches, great spotted woodpeckers and large numbers of marsh tits with the coal tits. I’d never seen so many of these shy little birds! They’re so similar to willow tits but their call gives them away and studying images can help.
I had been looking for rutting fallow deer, but found these three adorable roe deer eating blackberries and leaves instead, so I’m not too disappointed.
We managed to find a nice sized pod of dolphins a little way offshore, we were a little worried as a lot of shearwaters were heading in the opposite direction to us!
We stuck with our guns and found these dolphins with a very young calf, it could barely break the water let alone jump clear of it. The adults came in to ride our bow, although the mother and calf kept their distance for the most part which is fair and everyone loved seeing this little bundle of joy none the less.
Here’s one of the adults coming in to check us out!
This was the baby trying to bow ride us too!!
Youngster with its mother – so tiny!
I also found this Balearic shearwater hiding with the Manx.
Seals are beginning to gather again on the shoreline, they’re reliably on Black Rock (A rock signifying the mid point of the entrance to Carrick Roads) and we also had this little fella on the Manacles Reef. They’ll soon be having their pups!
Several harbour porpoise were swimming around, and hundreds of shearwaters flying by – even two sooty shearwaters absolutely loving the high wind and choppy water.
We were heading back, but first, decided to say hello to Grayhound of Fowey as she was looking beautful. After we’d taken some photos, I spotted a group of fourty common dolphins travelling at speed and leaping proud and clear of the water! Unfortunately we had to be back by lunchtime as a storm was forecast, so carried on after a quick play with them. I also found a big ocean sunfish too, but we soldiered on.
When we were just sailing back in to the Carrick Roads, Captain spotted a bottlenose dolphin mother with a tiny calf right by her side! It was so adorable, but we didn’t want to disturb them so watched from a safe distance.
We had just arrived to an area of the coast called The Manacles Reef, when we really started spotting lots of birds. We had common terns, gulls, fulmar, gannets and loads of Manx shearwater all working the area. The strong wind meant fantastic seabird watching, as they just come into their own – whether it be the gracefully hovering terns or the shearwaters which bank up to catch a gust and then surf the trough of a wave for huge distances!
In a nearby up-welling of water popped out four harbour porpoise! These are tiny relatives of dolphins and are often very shy, however these were so excitable. They leapt clear out of the water and even came right up to our boat to have a look at us. All the guests cheered with joy, every time they so much as peeped up to catch a breath!
I have never seen porpoise quite like those before!
This is how we often see little harbour porpoise, just rolling through
I was definitely not expecting to see these porpoise jumping!
This inquisitive little fella did a full loop around our boat!
Manx shearwaters are clear in their contrasting inky backs and paper tummies
You can identify a fulmar because it looks like a flying milk bottle, thanks to its big white belly and head!
We were riding a clean but large swell out at sea, and the harbour porpoises were great! We saw a mother with a young calf, another with an older juvenile and finally a lone animal. Thanks to the swell, they popped up clear of the water and because there was no chop they were very clear. However, as I’m still getting used to my new camera I missed them all!
Although, when we were watching the last animal, behind me someone shouted that they’d seen splashing, and as we looked around here came three young common dolphins! Jumping clear of the water and splashing as they hurtled towards us, the children on board were so excited. Then they dived in a swell and they completely vanished?! We waited, as they have to come up for air and then we’d find them again, but we could not relocate them at all!
Nobody was too disappointed though, as the view we had was still a joy.
We also had good shearwater activity with lots of Manxies, and even Balearic & Sooty. A great skua flew by too but it was quite far away.
Trickling into a patch of purple wildflowers (knapweed) came a flock of half a dozen goldfinches!
Lucky I was already on the ground photographing some bees so they didn’t notice me creep up on them.
Although it’s the right time of year for youngsters, they usually wouldn’t have any red on their faces yet, so I think this is likely to be a group of mature birds that haven’t successfully bred this year.
Well, I took the plunge and bought a DSLR after years of relying on a compact camera. The best place I could think to give it a spin was on the coastal path to look for some birds, and had great subjects to start on!
The swifts have already left to return back to Africa, but we still have the wonderful barn swallows darting across the meadows. It took me a little while but I’m pleased with the day’s bounty!
I’m still getting used to lots of manual settings but enjoying learning them all!