Monday, 20 November 2017

Mute Swan terretorial behaviour

Two days ago I posted a humorous  image of the Marazion Marsh Mute Swans stating how close they are,  Well looking at the first image below butter would not melt in their mouths!! and they constantly renew their bonds in this heart shaped gesture,

But the fact of the matter is that they rule the roost at the marsh with a very aggressive attitude to all comers such as the pair of younger swan that flew in Pm today onto the marsh warren,  Just look at the body language of the male as he exits the water to expel them,

He gave chase immediately and the larger of the two incomers managed to take off again but the second lost its footing down a rabbit burrow and the aggressive male attacked with out hesitation.

This second bird eventually managed to struggle free and should have taken off but in its panic it ran up towards the boundary just a metre in front of me calling and looking for its mate which circled twice trying to tempt the other into flight,

This is not the first time that I have witnessed this aggressive behaviour from the resident male but I waited to see how things developed,   With the intruder trapped by the boundary wall the male went straight on the attack flying in and knocking it over and climbing on top rendering it helpless,  The intruder offered no defence as the resident male pecked at its eyes and head,

This merciless assault is not something that you can stand by and watch for long and would certainly have ended up in the death of the intruder so I was over the wall and waded in to separate them,  The younger bird was in shock and stayed prostrate on the ground as I chased the resident male back off to the waterline,  I hopped back over the wall and kept an eye on both birds until sunset

I walked back along the marsh and met Rod Farnes another wildlife photographer and as I related what had happened with the Swan, we could both see the resident male starting to move back towards the still prostrate intruder,  no doubt with the intention of finishing what it had started,  Thankfully Rod said that he would go along and watch out for the younger swan and I went off home running late and feeling a bit uneasy.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

The High Wire Flyer

Our Sunday stared wet and grey but dried up before noon so My wife heather and I went for a walk from the hamlet of Rinsey to Trewavas Head to try our luck with the local Peregrine,  As we started down the footpath we spotted a feisty male Kestrel that was being harassed by a few Crow that were a bit "all bark and no bite" but the kestrel was having none of it and defended his post well

On arrival at Trewavas we were disappointed not to see the Peregrine hanging out at one of their favoured perch points on the cliffs,  We settled in for a couple of hours but apart from a great Northern Diver a fair way off shore and the usual mix of Cormorants and Gulls on the shoreline there was very little action.

The very grey day turned into Cornish Missal and set us heading back towards home and we met the Kestrel again on route,  This time he was up on some high wire power cables that ran parallel with the footpath and each time we got a little to close for comfort he moved on along the wires on four occasions but eventually tired of us following and peeled off down over the cliffs,

We have spent many hours and days watching the local kestrel behaviour since moving to Cornwall  but a fine Sunday Roast and a bottle of wine were waiting so we hurried off  to enjoy the rest of our home.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

PM at Marazion Marsh Today

It was a nice afternoon so I made my second visit of the day to Marazion Marsh, still looking for my first illusive Bittern image of the winter,  No show!   but I amused myself with a few of the locals while waiting, first off, our pair of resident Mute Swans have a very close bond to the extent that from this camera angle they looked like a two headed monster.

The Snipe spend little time on the marsh margins where they are always in danger from the local Sparrowhawk but this one decided to run the gauntlet for long enough for me to rattle off a few shots.

The resident Stonechat are quite laid back and show little fear of birders and photographers that come and go along the road boundary wall,  This male that was busy feeding on flying insects while giving me the opportunity for a few more take-off images,  It got closer and closer until my camera angle was obscured by the wall so I shinned up onto it and captured this very close sequence which I have montaged and posted below.

I turned to get down only to see a very close rabbit that was alarmed by my stance on the wall and not looking to pleased with my performance,   I just had time to captured his reaction before he was gone.

Sunrise over Marazion marsh

We had our first keen frost of the winter this morning,  A dawn sky and sunrise to die for and a mixed bag of regular wildlife which started with a Roe Deer near the rail tracks cutting through the marsh,  The rabbits were slow to get moving and spent time shaking the frost from the grass off their cold paws as they went. A pair of colourful mallard flew in caught by the rays of the rising sun which also tinted the water splash as they landed at the front of the marsh and finally a Cormorant hauled out or the water looking full from early morning fishing to dry its wings in the early warmth of the sun.  No illusive Bittern or Sparrowhawk,  both of which had been well photographed here earlier in the week by young Ben Oates but if the weather stays fine I might pop back down during late afternoon until sunset,  The marsh is a cracking location for photography when the sun shines !!

Friday, 17 November 2017

Bird take-offs

One of the challenges of bird photography after finding them and getting close enough for a reasonable image is attempting to capture behaviour action, one which I find very challenging is picking the moment that a bird takes-off throwing itself into the air to be gone in a flash.  Birds of Prey can be quite easy to predict as they tend to go through a sequence of wing stretches and bowl movements prior to final moment of flying,  but trying to catch a bullfinch departing from a seed head that it has been foraging on for perhaps fifteen is another matter,  It gives no indication when one seed head is empty as it suddenly flies away to find another,  The montage image below worked for me when this male Bullfinch produced a fairly slow wing assisted hop onto another close seed head and I used just two out of the four images exposed during the short movement to create a very close composition.

Being quite a large bird you might expect a Greater-spotted Woodpecker to produce a slower response but think again, its spontaneous take-off is lightening fast and its choice of direction unpredictable so it really comes down to spending lots of time photographing them and you might eventually  Get Lucky !!   When people tell me that I was lucky to take a particular shot,  I reply, "Yes I usually find that the more time and effort that I put in the luckier I get !!

Lapwing are often prone to sudden departures and a whole flock of birds that might have been relaxing on a water margin for several hours will all take off in a matter of a fraction of a second with out any apparent reason for departing only to return to the same spot a few minutes later,

Then there is the ever illusive and constantly moving Goldcrest that can drive you crazy trying to capture a clear portrait image but strangely enough when it comes to take-off shots they can be easier to achieve in as much as they are forever doing just that.  What you need apart from the bird in the right position is a camera that will knock out ten or more Raw images a second,   Keep your finger pressed down on the shutter release as they move and produce a post production montage from the resulting sequence,  You would think it would be easy but just trying to capture three Clear and sharp Goldcrest sequenced images will show you otherwise.

All images taken on a lovely morning at Stithians Southern cut-off today.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Stithians southern cut off today

It was a fine morning here in Cornwall and My day started early with a dozen or so Roe Deer images taken before sunrise using the Nikon D5's Auto ISO set to a maximum of 51,000, The light levels were as such that  I could not see these deer without looking through the viewfinder but the cameras AF system focused and tracked them and exposed the image at maximum aperture of F4 and 1/200th of a second,  It sees things a lot better than I can!!

I went home for breakfast and then straight on to Stithians southern cut-off where I played around with various new AF settings and a 1.7 converter that extended the focal length of my lens to 850mm I worked on many of the local birds that are regularly attracted to the feeders and the images below represent a fair portion of them,  No exotic Sparrowhawks or Otters today But with a good forecast I will be back to try my luck again tomorrow,  Its a tough life But some ones got to do it.!!

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Checking out my new camera

Yesterday was exciting for me as I was at Ryan's field to check out my 'New to me' Used Nikon D5 camera with its new all singing and dancing AF system with 3D tracking etc,  It proved to be very responsive with my 500mm F4 lens and 1.4 converter and I was pleased with the portraits of some of the regular birds sighted at the hide some of which are posted below,

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Tracking the Greenland White-fronted Goose

I have had some very interesting feed back regarding the Greenland White-fronted Goose seen at Marazion marsh on the 1st November ,

The email copied below comes from Antony David Fox perhaps from  Ireland, Iceland or Denmark and was sent to Mark Grantham the chairman of CBWPS here in Cornwall who kindly forwarded it on to me,

Hi Mark,  Long time no hear,

Enormous thanks for this info which relates to a cracking story:

V3Y was a Greenland White-fronted Goose caught at a place called Hyanneyri in west Iceland on the 23rd of September 2017, It was fitted with a GPS logging device and solar cell that you can see on the collar in the image posted on the Cornwall Birding website.  We could see during its subsequent stay at Hvanneyri that it associated with CDZ {a juvenile male] and another adult female goose fitted with an Ornithela GPS logger 17778 and an unringed probably male that escaped capture.  This social group moved to a farm called Leirulaekjarsel in Myrar at around 08.30 on the 25th September where they remained until they departed, you can see by the later sequence on the west side of the fjord in the image below [Hvenneyri is ringed in yellow, ] how they fed on Leirulaekjarel fields by day and roosted to the NW of the lakes of the interior.  Both Hvanneyri and Lierulaekjarsel are important staging areas for these geese in the spring and Autumn,

I do not have online access to the tracking data for V3Y but I am copying my collegue Mitch Weegman { Missouri University and responsible for the project using this collar} in on this who does.

What happened next is pretty amazing because it made southern Ireland safely on its way south with our any problem, passing over Tremore,Waterford on the 29/10/2017 at 04:26 UTC but seemed not to realise that it was close to Wexford !  It continued onwards for some reason, doing a tour of the channel Islands and Brest in Brittany before turning back towards home at wexford, reaching Tacumshane Lake on the south coast of county Wexford and a well known GFWG resort as well around 05:27 where it rested before coming up to the slobs, going straight into the North Slob By about 07:20 on the 30/10/2017 !  My Guess is that V3Y was caught up with 17778 for the majority of the Journey, but got separated and ended up in Marazion, But hopefully Mitch can add the full tracking story from his end,


You will see that after overshooting Wexford,17778 took a route out and back that passed over Cornwall, so it seemed highly likely that this group were caught up in inclement weather and maybe pitched down in Cornwall. Do you know exactly what  date and time it arrived and was first seen, if it was seen with others and whether it stayed longer and if so when was the last observation ?

Anyway, all good stories have a happy ending, so whatever happened en route, I can tell you that John Wilson who started the collar project of Greenland White-fronted geese back in 1983 resighted the social group CDZ, V3Y, Ornitela, 17778 and an unringed adult goose in field number 25 on the Wexford  North Slob on the 8th November 2017 together with Alyn Walsh, who was responsible for cannon netting and banding these geese in this story and every other one in Ireland and Iceland back in 1983.  So V3Y had found her way home and joined up with her lost family !

Attached is a list of all collars seen away from Wexford so far this autumn, including your observation, Let me know if you need any more information, but intrigued now to hear what V3Y actually did to see if she strayed from the family fold before re-joining up again at Wexford !  What a story eh?!!  Amazing birds, we do not know the half of what happens to them on migration, but these trackers are beginning to reveal the most amazing things!

Very best wishes and Hearty thanks for letting us know, as no one else had communicated this record. Tony.

Thanks to all concerned in forwarding these details and I hope to eventually gain information with regards to Mitch Weegma's GPS tracking of  V3Y and will in due course add it to this blog to complete the story,    Alan James.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Grey Heron fishing at sunset

With the weather being so bright and sunny yesterday afternoon I decided to call in at Marazion marsh to see what was about on the way home from Tehidy,  The late afternoon and evening light can be lovely over the reed beds on such evenings,  The usual contenders were all on show which included several young and mature Grey Heron and a couple of Snipe,  I settled down to follow one mature heron that had moved across to the near marsh fringes to fish for Three Spine Sticklebacks,  This bird was a grand master, graceful and stealthful in its approach which created some fine reflections opportunities on the still water, I watched it skilfully take six fish in around and hour which passed amazingly quickly as I studied its progress while taking about a hundred images along the way, The bird finally lifted off looking well pleased with itself and I headed home with another large batch if images to sift through but not without stopping to take a few Starling flock shots over the hill around Marazion on the way.