Mon 31st August 2015

Posted on August 31, 2015 at 2:55 PM

Rough-legged Buzzard

My main summer project has been to produce the local Rarity Report for 2014 - always a joy to produce and always gives me an impetus to get out in the field (click here to download a free pdf copy). One of the most time-consuming parts of this task is to draw a picture for the front cover. I was going to bail on this this year but in the end I decided to give it a go, and I was very pleased with the final product. The digital painting above is the Rough-legged Buzzard at Rue des Hougues which I only saw briefly over my house. Drawing an specific, individual bird can be quite difficult as opposed to just drawing a general picture of a Rough-legged Buzzard. You have to consult photos and read descriptions so that people will think "Yes, that's the bird I saw", especially with variable species such as raptors. I like to do quite realistic paintings, but I think it is important to step back slightly and avoid too photo-realistic drawings, so that it is still clear that it has been drawn by seeing the odd strokes and lines here and there. I'd like to think my pictures are getting better year-on-year, but that's for other people to decide.

The second-half of August has been quite poor weather-wise, with many days of persistent rain. With Rosie working though, and looking after the kids myself for many of these days, my birding wasn't going to be very regular anyway. However, with rain and easterly winds on 13th August I enjoyed a couple of hours along the west coast headlands, where there were plenty of common migrant warblers in the bushes. The highlight was a Pied Flycatcher in the pines at Fort Hommet, my first of the year, as was a Greenshank feeding on Pulias Pond. I had another 3 Greenshanks fly high SW over Lihou Headland, this felt like the proper start of the autumn.

Pied Flycatcher in the rain - Fort Hommet, 13 Aug 15

I was hoping for a few strong northwesterly blows for a little bit of seawatching, but the winds seem to have been from every other direction. Only today (31st) did we get a northerly wind and, although it was only quite light, I did a 3 hour seawatch from the hide at Chouet. Three Arctic Skuas, a Common Scoter and a Balearic Shearwater were not what I had hoped for. Unlike last year, we do not seem to have attracted large flocks of moulting Balearic Shearwaters off the coast. Perhaps this was a one-off after all.

My favourite wildlife moment of the month was on my birthday (23rd) when I had a short time out at Pulias. I wanted to check out some plants growing along the side of the pond and, since the area looked bird-free, I clambered down and walked along the waters edge. I suddenly came across two young Dunlins feeding right in front of me in the shallows, which I had completely missed because they were tucked right in. I crouched in the rushes and watched these two birds at very close range for a few minutes. They had probably flown straight from the Arctic and had never seen a human before as they were so tame and my presence didn't seem to affecting their feeding at all. I snapped plenty of photos and shuffled a little closer, kneeling in the water, at which point the birds did stop feeding and stood still. When taking photos of birds, it is very important to watch carefully what they are doing, and when you observe that you are affecting their behaviour, it is time to back away. I fired off a few more quick shots and returned to the top of the bank, whereupon the Dunlins started feeding again. It is very tempting as a photographer to push and push until you get the most amazing shot, but these birds may have just arrived and may have needed to replenish their energy quickly to survive. As with all birding, the welfare of the birds comes first.

Dunlins 23Aug15 a

Dunlins 23Aug15 c

Dunlins 23Aug15 b

Dunlins - Pulias, 23 Aug 15

With the poor weather, my insect investigations have been rather restricted but I have managed to get the trap out, It seems a pretty good year for immigrants, with multiple Gypsy Moths most nights, and records of Small Mottled Willow, Vestal, Dark Sword-grass, Pearly Underwing and such like. The major highlight was the Black Arches which appeared on 20th which was a new species for me and rather spectacular. Very similar to the two Gypsy Moths it was with but totally different in colouration, it is very rare in Guernsey with just a few records, and so was probably an immigrant from France.

Black Arches

Black Arches

Black Arches - garden, 20 Aug 15

endless summer

Goodbye Summer - see you next year.

Categories: 2015 Summer