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24 Apr 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Twenty Six: Ascension Island Band-rumped Storm-petrels

There was one final Seabird I wanted to see around Ascension Island: the Ascension Island population of Band-rumped Storm-petrels. I had seen a few Band-rumped Storm-petrels on the day before we reached Ascension Island. However, as we were around 150 nautical miles from the island, there is no certainty they were from the Ascension Island population. A few Birders had seen some around Boatswainbird Island on the first visit, but they they were brief sightings & none were seen from the bridge wing where I was standing. Therefore, as we were weighing anchor to leave Ascension Island, I headed back to the bridge wing with a fresh mug of coffee & with no intention of leaving my vantage position until I seen some Band-rumped Storm-petrels or it got dark. There were none around Boatswainbird Island, but fortunately, I picked up the first of at least eight as we were finally sailing away from Ascension Island.
Band-rumped Storm-petrel: Like the St Helena population, they show a slightly forked tail, a prominent clean-cut white rump & prominent pale wingbarBand-rumped Storm-petrel: The white rump extends well down the sides of the rumpBand-rumped Storm-petrel: Another view of the same individualBand-rumped Storm-petrel: Another view of the same individualBand-rumped Storm-petrel: A better view of the sides of the rumpBand-rumped Storm-petrel: An underwing shot of the same individualBand-rumped Storm-petrel: A final underwing shot of the same individual
Band-rumped Storm-petrel taxonomy is complex. A few years ago, Band-rumped Storm-petrels were understood to breed on islands in the Tropical Atlantic & Pacific Oceans, including the Portuguese Berlengas Islands, Madeira, Canaries, Azores, Cape Verde, Ascension Island, St Helena, as well as, the Galapagos, Hawaii & islands belonging to Japan. In the last decade, studies into the breeding times of year, DNA, vocalisation & morphology have identified that there are probably three additional species which breed on the Tropical North Atlantic islands. Studies of the Band-rumped Storm-petrels which breed on Ascension Island & St Helena are only just starting, but there must be a reasonable chance of additional splits of these populations once these studies have been completed. We had had good views of many Band-rumped Storm-petrels on St Helena & now we had seen & photographed individuals from the Ascension Island population.Band-rumped Storm-petrel: The second individual didn't come very closeBand-rumped Storm-petrel: Another photo of the second individual showing the extensive white sides to the rump
The third Band-rumped Storm-petrel was a heavily worn individual.
Band-rumped Storm-petrel: Note, the worn plumage & active wing moultBand-rumped Storm-petrel: This was a much tattier & worn individualBand-rumped Storm-petrelBand-rumped Storm-petrel: Note, the wing moultBand-rumped Storm-petrel: It didn't show the crisp clean markings of the first two individualsBand-rumped Storm-petrelBand-rumped Storm-petrelBand-rumped Storm-petrel: A final show of the third individual disappearingThere were also a few Leach's Storm-petrels. They were longer-winged & had a variable dark band through the centre of the white rump.
Leach's Storm-petrel: This individual has a very distinctive black band through the centre of the rumpLeach's Storm-petrel: The tail is deeper forked than the Band-tailed Storm-petrelsLeach's Storm-petrel: The feet also project beyond the tail in this one photoLeach's Storm-petrel: Another photo of the same individualLeach's Storm-petrel: The upper wing bar is also very obviousLeach's Storm-petrel: The white sides to the rump are not as obvious as on the Band-tailed Storm-petrelsLeach's Storm-petrel: A final view of this first individual showing that the wings are longer, the white on the sides of the rump are less extensive & the tail is deeper forked than the Band-rumped Storm-petrelsFinally, some photos of a second Leach's Storm-petrel.
Leach's Storm-petrel: Superficially this looks like a Band-rumped Storm-petrelLeach's Storm-petrel: However, it looks longer-winged & shows a dark bar across this centre of the white rumpLeach's Storm-petrel: Unusually, this individual doesn't appear to have a forked tailLeach's Storm-petrel: The white is less extensive on the sides of the rump
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24 Apr 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Twenty Six: Bottlenose Dolphins At Ascension Island

Birding in Poole Harbour and Beyond - Fri, 10/19/2018 - 19:00
While we were around Boatswainbird Island as we were leaving Ascension Island, we saw our first pod of Bottlenose Dolphins for the Atlantic Odyssey. Even better they were in a playful mode & were keen to get involved in some bow-wave action. Unfortunately, we were hardly moving as we were close to the island. But they hung around & as a result, we enjoyed some close views of this widespread Dolphin species.
Bottlenose Dolphin: The water was very clear allowing us to follow them underwater. Bottlenose Dolphins are one of the larger Dolphins with relatively a uniform grey appearance, a short, stout beak and a tall & sharply curved dorsal finBottlenose Dolphin: Two more coming in to the PlanciusBottlenose Dolphin: The first of the two breaks the surfaceBottlenose Dolphin: This is the dorsal fin of the second individual which has distinctive vertical scars on it
Bottlenose Dolphin: A close crop of the vertical scars Bottlenose Dolphin: A clearer view of the short, stout beak and tall & sharply curved dorsal finBottlenose Dolphin: A better view of the short, stout beak & the distinctive crease between the beak & the headBottlenose Dolphin: There is a minimal blow as this individual breaks the surfaceBottlenose DolphinBottlenose Dolphin: It quickly starts to dive againBottlenose Dolphin: Cetaceans can be separated from Sharks, Tuna & other Fish by their tail fins which are horizontal on Cetaceans & vertical on species of FishBottlenose Dolphin: This individual has a distinctive curved dorsal fin
As we were heading towards Boatswainbird Island, we had a brief encounter with an Atlantic White Marlin. This is one of the Billfish & can reach up to 2.8 metres long, so it is a similar size to a Dolphin, but it is much slimmer with a distinctive long bill.
Atlantic White Marlin: It leapt out of the water on a few occasions showing its distinctive billSmall Clearwing: I saw at least 500 Small Clearwings during the afternoon as we left Ascension Island. The collective name for Small Clearwings should be a Confusion of Small Clearwings
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24 Apr 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Twenty Six: Boatswainbird Island Revised

Birding in Poole Harbour and Beyond - Thu, 10/18/2018 - 19:00
There was a final treat for our prompt departure from Ascension Island & that was another stop at Boatswainbird Island. All the decks were crammed with people enjoying the spectacle around the island.
Boatswainbird Island: Named using the old sailors name for the breeding TropicbirdsVolcanic rock There are two species of breeding Boatswainbird or Bosunbird: White-tailed Tropicbird & Red-billed Tropicbird.
White-tailed Tropicbird: AdultWhite-tailed Tropicbird: AdultWhite-tailed Tropicbird: AdultWhite-tailed Tropicbird: AdultRed-billed Tropicbird: Adult. Note, the heavier, red bill, lack of a black secondary band, more extensive black leading edge to the primaries, scaly mantle & lesser wing coverts in separating it from White-tailed TropicbirdMasked Booby: Adult
Masked Booby: Subadult Brown Booby: Adult
Brown Booby: Juvenile Red-footed Booby: AdultRed-footed Booby: This juvenile briefly appeared right next to the Plancius
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Shetland: part the first

Peter Moores Blog - Tue, 10/16/2018 - 22:14
At the turn of last month, David Bradnum, Howard Vaughan, Bob Vaughan and I reprised our 2017 Shetland adventure with a week based on Muckle Roe, in the west of Mainland.
Woodchat Shrike at Barns NessWoodchat Shrike at Barns NessI don't think I could face writing a day-by-day account, let alone subject you poor innocents to it, so I'll try to wrap it up in just a few posts. Not that there weren't many highlights - there were plenty, and we saw a selection of birds that, had they been seen over the course of a week anywhere else in the country would have represented an excellent haul. But by Shetland's high standards it would be a lie to say that it wasn't just a wee bit anti-climactic.
The American White-winged Scoter at Musselburgh, flanked by two drake Velvet ScoterWhite-winged Scoter (left) has a pink bill (yellow in Velvet) and a more prominent white 'uptick' over the eyeThe main culprit for this was westerly winds: an almost constant stream of them preceded our arrival and they remained the dominant influence in the weather throughout our stay, depriving Shetland of the famous easterlies which have delivered so many beasts from the east over previous autumns.
One of a pair of Ringed Plover sheltering in tyre tracks on the beach near Busta House HotelAnd here's the other one of the pairBut I'm getting ahead of myself: first we had to get there. This involved me heading over to the east of the country to meet the rest of team who are London/Essex/Kent based. Our planned departure time of mid-morning gave me a couple of hours of daylight to head first to the Thames Estuary to scan for the Beluga Whale located a couple of days before. I failed to find it but it re-appeared an hour after I left - an inauspicious start.
A wind-swept Pied Flycatcher at SwiningA ditch-bound Common Snipe - one day it will be a Great!There wasn't too much to divert us on the long road north - a Grey Phalarope at the well-appointed RSPB reserve at Old Moor and a party of Willow Tits on the Northumberland coast were barely a detour from the main drag, and we reached our first overnight stop in Berwick at a sensible hour. The following morning the Lothian coast offered a little more promise, with a Woodchat Shrike and Rose-coloured Starling at Barns Ness, plus a Pectoral Sandpiper and the long-staying American White-Winged Scoter at Musselburgh. We saw them all in beautiful light, the latter being my second encounter of the year with this bird after I caught up with in on a Scottish trip back in March.
This was the bird we initially identified as an Icterine Warbler based on the lead -grey legs......and apparent pale panel in the wing (we didn't get a good view of the primary projection)A surprisingly calm crossing on MV Hrossey ended in a familiar sight: horizontal rain lashing the rock armour of Lerwick Harbour, though within minutes we had seen our first Otter and only Purple Sandpipers of the trip. Much of the rest of the day was a bit of a wash-out so we checked out our (plush) self-catering accommodation and gave the kettle its first workout of the week.
Later in the week we re-visited the re-identified Melodious WarblerWith better views the diagnostic short primary projection was more apparentMelodious Warbler, LunnaUndaunted we ventured out again later in the day to the picturesque Lunna Kirk, where we found what we took to be an Icterine Warbler. It was later re-identified as a Melodious - an even rarer bird for Shetland, making it a good if not entirely competent start to our birding week!
Howard channels Jesus at Lunna Kirk
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24 Apr 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Twenty Six: Passengers Behaving Badly

Birding in Poole Harbour and Beyond - Mon, 10/15/2018 - 18:00
We had a great guided trip on 23 Apr on Ascension Island (see earlier Blog Posts). But the day wasn't over. After dinner, we were back into the zodiacs to go ashore to look for Green Turtles on Long Beach. The Conservation Dept team were back out again to guide people. After a presentation, while they were looking for egg-laying female Green Turtles, we were led in groups of around 15 along the road at the back of the beach. We were asked to wait on the road, until a female was found so that a group could be taken to see the egg-laying. Unfortunately, few Green Turtles were found that night & the group I was in stayed on the road. We did see a Green Turtle from the road, but not up close & personal. Apparently, once they start egg-laying, having a group of quiet people appear up close will not disturb them, providing there are no white lights & obviously no flash guns going off.
Green Turtle: While everybody else was misbehaving on the beach, I spotted this Green Turtle that had been overlooked in the darkness. I took a few photos & quickly left her, hoping others wouldn't see her. Unfortunately, a few others did see her & then insisted of standing around like prats talking & photographing her, including one well known UK Birder who should have known better. He is not one of the passengers whose mugshot appears on my BlogWe still had the following morning & I was up early enough to ensure I was on the first zodiac, with all zodiacs departing in the dark. However, that didn't help as once we were ashore, we were all kept on the quayside until everybody had made it. A second problem quickly became obvious that only three members of the Conservation Dept had arrived to guide everybody. Perhaps not surprising as they had all worked a very long day with the guided tour & then being out late on the evening guided tour. Like us, the few who appeared had only had a few hours sleep. There were few Green Turtles on the beach just before first light. As a result, the decision was made that just about everybody was going to be allowed to see one Green Turtle. Consequently, everybody stood no further than ten metres from this poor Green Turtle in three quarter circle. I had knelt down to present a lower profile, but the reality is nobody else thought to follow this action. Not surprisingly this large group of people spooked the Green Turtle which hadn't started egg laying & she tried moving back towards the sea. Next thing, one of the European non Birders decided that he had to stand in the middle of the open part of the circle and block the route for the Green Turtle to the sea. That was something we had been told explicitly not to do, but I guess if you are a prat, you are excluded from doing what you are told to do. A few people must have told him to move, but soon after he was replaced by another prat in the same place. I can't believe it not stressful for a Green Turtle to be surrounded by such a large group of people. She left & briefly attempted to try another nesting hollow, but was pursued by virtually everybody. I was disgusted by the uncontrolled behaviour of the group & returned to the back of the beach, to find just one other passenger had also walked away. With the posse following close to the Green Turtle, she ended up abandoning egg-laying & returned to the sea. By this time, it was light, so perhaps she was too late to have got ashore & successfully lay eggs, but I still don't think that gives the other passengers the right to act inconsiderately to the Green Turtles.
Just a small part of the posse who pursued the Green Turtle to the water: Albeit, as she got closer they finally lined up at right angles to the water, rather than in a broad line a few metres behind the Green TurtleWhat I think should have happened is while we were on the quayside, we were asked to split into two groups based on who had been successful in being led to a Green Turtle the previous night or not. Then formed up into a line to go the beach, with those who hadn't been successful at the front of the line. Once a Green Turtle had been found, then a group of 15 could have been led off to spent a few minutes up close with a Green Turtle, before being asked to return to the road, while the next group were led up. That would have given everybody a fairer chance at seeing a Green Turtle up close. Secondly, the Expedition staff should have been asked to help organise this, given few of the Conservation Dept had been able to return. The smaller groups would have been more manageable & if anybody didn't want to behave, then they should have been told by the Expedition staff to return to the quayside. I got the impression that we had a larger number of passengers than the Conservation Dept were used to dealing with & they were not used to having to deal with large groups. If any of the Conservation Dept are reading this, then perhaps this will help deal with large groups in the future. I'm not having a go at the Conservation Dept staff, as they still had to head off to do their normal day jobs that morning, but I'm trying to provide some suggestions for the future. While everybody else was behaving badly, I ended up staying at the back of the beach & photographed passing Ascension Island Frigatebirds. It was a very frustrating start to the morning.
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23 Apr 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Twenty Five: Sooty Terns

Birding in Poole Harbour and Beyond - Sun, 10/14/2018 - 13:00
In an earlier Post of the guided tour around Ascension Island, I skipped over the stop at the Sooty Tern colony. This was another of the highlights of the visit to Ascension Island. We were given a short talk about the Sooty Terns on Ascension Island & how their numbers have improved since feral Cats were removed. However, removal of the feral Cats has led to an increase in the introduced Rats. This is a problem the Conservation Dept are keen to tackle at some point in the future. But it is a case of arguing for the removal of these Rats against clearance of introduced Mice & Rats on other islands. Hopefully, it will be addressed at some point in the future. Once the talk was over we were allowed down to the edge of the colony to enjoy the spectacle & take a few photos. Enjoy.
It was difficult to figure how how to drive past the signSooty Tern paparazzi
The Sooty Terns were nesting on this old, jagged lava flow
Sooty Tern: Adult with a well grown juvenile behind
Sooty Tern: Adult
Sooty Tern: Adult & juvenile
Sooty Tern: Adult
Sooty Tern: Adult
Sooty Tern: Adult
Sooty Tern: Adult
Sooty Tern: Adult
Sooty Tern: One of the more advanced juveniles took to the air
Sooty Tern: Juvenile
Sooty Tern: JuvenileIt had been a good visit to the Sooty Tern colony, but I was keen to see the rest of the historical parts of Ascension Island including visits to Green Mountain & the historical fortifications. Overall, a great day on Ascension Island & some excellent guiding by the Conservation Dept.
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Edinburgh, Durham, Leeds and Coventry: 19th-22nd September 2018

Gryllos Blog - Sun, 10/14/2018 - 10:38

We recently had need to go to Edinburgh to attend a sad event, a family funeral. I’ll say no more about that as it was a private affair. However we did spend three days on the return journey visiting some sites in southern Scotland, northern England and the Midlands which will be the subject of this post.

 

The day of the funeral was marred by high winds and torrential rain. However it was still and dry at dawn so I took the opportunity to visit the shore at Musselburgh which was quite close to where we were staying.

 

This area is famous as a wintering area for seaduck such as these Common Eider.

 

There were a large number Velvet Scoters in the area, spread out over several miles of coast

 

Velvet Scoter can be told from (in most places) the eponymous Common Scoter by the yellow in the bill, white mark under the eye and in particular by the obvious white stripe in the open wing which is caused by white secondaries and greater coverts.

 

The female, seen behind this male, is identified by the two pale patches on the head, quite a different pattern than on Common Scoter. I usually see one or two of this species each year, the odd one winters in Dorset although they are nowhere near as regular as Common Scoter either in winter or on migration. Here I saw no Common Scoters at all, just about 300 Velvets.

 

However the reason I made several visits to Musselburgh was to see Velvet Scoter’s American cousin, White-winged Scoter (third from the left). Recently split from Velvet Scoter, this was only the 3rd or 4th record of the species in the UK (depending on whether this bird is considered the same one as was seen in Scotland in 2017). White-winged Scoter is very similar to Velvet Scoter, differing only (in the male) in it’s larger and upturned white mark below the eye, swollen ridge of the upper mandible and pinkish rather than yellow tip of the bill. The white wing bar is not a diagnostic field mark as is shared with Velvet Scoter, just that in this photo the White-winged is holding it’s wing slightly open revealing the white secondaries. It certainly wasn’t easy to find with so many Velvet’s to check but with perseverance I eventually located it. There is a further type of scoter with white wings, Stejneger’s Scoter from Asia, which I saw well in Mongolia earlier this year. Currently this form is considered a race of White-winged Scoter but many think it deserves species status in its own right. As far s I know there have been no records in the UK but it has occurred in Eire.

 

We left Musselburgh and continued along the coast towards North Berwick. Much of the Firth of Forth is dominated by views of the Bass Rock. The closest approach is just east of North Berwick where this photo was taken. The marbled surface of the rock is actually perched Gannets. 150,000 Gannets breed on the rock, making it the largest Northern Gannet colony in the world. I was surprised that there were still thousands of them about in mid September.

 

We continued eastwards and visited this cove next to the headland of Barns Ness. Good for scenery but not many birds. It was a bit of a shock that evening when I found out there was a Woodchat Shrike there all the time. In the distance you can just make out the southern shore of Fife where we visited last November (see this blog for photos and an account of that trip).

 

We called in to picturesque harbour at Dunbar …

 

… and St Abbs but by mid-afternoon the weather was on the turn and we headed south, back into England and on to the city of Durham. This was my 19th trip to Scotland. So many people I speak to in the south of England have never been at all, well all I can say is they are missing out big time.

 

We spent the morning in the city of Durham with Dave, my friend from University days.

 

We had met Dave, who lives near Consett in County Durham, a few minutes earlier in the quaint Market Place.

 

The Market Place is dominated by the statue of Lord Londonderry which is known locally as ‘the man on the horse’. As the photo of Margaret and Dave above shows we were wrapped up well against the cold but the chilly conditions that morning had no effect on this man. In fact people from the north-east have a well-known resistance to the cold and it said that the Met Office won’t issue a severe weather warning until a Geordie lass is found wearing an overcoat!

 

Durham city centre is encompassed within a loop of the River Wear and comprises a small number of quaint ancient streets.

 

From Wikipedia: Local legend states that the city was founded in A.D. 995 by divine intervention. The 12th century chronicler Symeon of Durham recounts that after wandering in the north, Saint Cuthbert’s bier miraculously came to a halt at the hill of Warden Law and, despite the effort of the congregation, would not move.[7] Aldhun, Bishop of Chester-le-Street and leader of the order, decreed a holy fast of three days, accompanied by prayers to the saint. During the fast, Saint Cuthbert appeared to a certain monk named Eadmer, with instructions that the coffin should be taken to Dun Holm. After Eadmer’s revelation, Aldhun found that he was able to move the bier, but did not know where Dun Holm was. The legend of the Dun Cow, which is first documented in The Rites of Durham, an anonymous account about the Durham Cathedral, published in 1593, builds on Symeon’s account. According to this legend, by chance later that day, the monks came across a milkmaid at Mount Joy (southeast of present-day Durham). She stated that she was seeking her lost dun cow, which she had last seen at Dun Holm. The monks, realising that this was a sign from the saint, followed her. They settled at a wooded “hill-island” – a high wooded rock surrounded on three sides by the River Wear. There they erected a shelter for the relics, on the spot where the Durham Cathedral would later stand. Symeon states that a modest wooden building erected there shortly later was the first building in the city. Bishop Aldhun subsequently had a stone church built, which was dedicated in September 998. It no longer remains, having been supplanted by the Norman structure.

Also from Wikipedia: Owing to the divine providence evidenced in the city’s legendary founding, the Bishop of Durham has always enjoyed the title “Bishop by Divine Providence” as opposed to other bishops, who are “Bishop by Divine Permission”. However, as the north-east of England lay so far from Westminster, the bishops of Durham enjoyed extraordinary powers such as the ability to hold their own parliament, raise their own armies, appoint their own sheriffs and Justices, administer their own laws, levy taxes and customs duties, create fairs and markets, issue charters, salvage shipwrecks, collect revenue from mines, administer the forests and mint their own coins. So far-reaching were the bishop’s powers that the steward of Bishop Antony Bek commented in 1299 AD: “There are two kings in England, namely the Lord King of England, wearing a crown in sign of his regality and the Lord Bishop of Durham wearing a mitre in place of a crown, in sign of his regality in the diocese of Durham”. All this activity was administered from the castle and buildings surrounding the Palace Green. Many of the original buildings associated with these functions of the county palatine survive on the peninsula that constitutes the ancient city.

 

The 11th century castle and for many years was the residence of the Bishop Princes. It now has been renovated and acts as accommodation for student at University College. Considerably finer accommodation than the terraced slum I occupied for three years at Uni in Leeds (mind you it was the best of times and I wouldn’t have had it any other way).

 

As there were events on for freshers week we were not allowed into the college but the security man allowed me to walk close enough to get a shot of the courtyard through the arch.

 

We wandered through some ancient streets to the Cathedral …

 

Photography is not allowed inside the cathedral so I have taken this photo from https://www.dayoutwiththekids.co.uk/durham-cathedral

 

But I could take photos in the adjoining cloisters …

 

In spite of light rain we took a walk along the banks of the River Wear.

 

…seeing, ducks, swans and the odd canoeist.

 

By the weir on the Wear we had great views up at the Cathedral. Dating from 1093, both it and the Castle have been designated UNESCO Heritage Sites. There can be few cities that have such magnificent views just yards from the city centre.

 

We then headed down to Leeds, checked into our hotel which gave a good view over the east side of the city and then met up with our old friend Nigel.

 

I have known Nigel since school days and shared a place with him at University and beyond. He has developed a strong interest in art and often takes us to either the city art gallery of one of various commercial galleries in the city centre.

 

He is so well know to the staff that they offered him (and us) a drink and allowed us to sit and absorb the art on offer at our own pace. Our visit to Leeds was short and we just spent a few hours in the afternoon with Nigel in the city and then went for a meal, but it was great to meet up with someone who has been your friend for over 50 years.

 

As we drove south to Poole we detoured to visit the centre of Coventry. I was born near Coventry and spent my early years here. I still have some relatives in the city but seldom see them. The purpose of our visit was to show Margaret the amazing modern cathedral.

 

I’m sure on my last visit this used to be a roundabout with the statue of Lady Godiva in the middle. From Wikipedia: Godiva, Countess of Mercia died between 1066 and 1086), was an English noblewoman who, according to a legend dating at least to the 13th century, rode naked – covered only in her long hair – through the streets of Coventry to gain a remission of the oppressive taxation that her husband imposed on his tenants. The name “Peeping Tom” for a voyeur originates from later versions of this legend in which a man named Thomas watched her ride and was struck blind or dead. Wikipedia goes on to say that although Lady Godiva is a historical figure, the story of the naked ride is almost certainly apocryphal. On the hour a figure of Lady Godiva on horseback appears at the clock and moves from one yellow door to the other whilst the face of Peeping Tom emerges from the yellow triangular opening above. The statue was erected in 1949.

 

Coventry was devastated during the blitz in autumn 1940 (my mother lived through it all and continued to work at the Sainsburys store in the bombed out city centre). Perhaps the highest profile casualty was the destruction of the cathedral. The cross on the altar is formed from two burning timbers that fell on the altar during the blitz.

 

Winston Churchill visits Coventry Cathedral in 1941. Photo by Capt Horton- War Office official photographer – From the collections of the Imperial War Museums.

 

The cathedral was not rebuilt in its former locality but the ruin was left to stand  as a powerful tribute to the events of WWII …

 

… and has become a powerful symbol of reconciliation between nations with powerful links being forged after the war between the cathedral and church organisations in Germany and elsewhere. Iron nails from the roof timbers have been fashioned into a series of ‘cross of nails’ which have been sent to reconciliation centres worldwide.

 

In 1963 a new cathedral was opened, designed by Sir Basil Spence and is designated a grade 1 listed building. It was built along side, rather than in place of, the old cathedral. It’s design departed markedly from traditional church architecture and like Concord, the Moon landings and the Beatles it symbolised the ‘brave new world’ of the 1960s. Having grandparents living in Coventry I visited it a number of times and was always in awe of its modern magnificence. So 50+ years on would I still feel the same? As you walk up the steps to the entrance you pass the magnificent statue of St Michael’s victory over the Devil …

 

This modern sculpture dominates the entrance. Marked on the marble floor is the ancient Christian Chi Rho symbol.

 

The baptistery window designed by Graham Sutherland

 

Looking down the aisle and past the quire you see the full magnificent of the cathedral.

 

Once thought to be the largest tapestry in the world, the huge tapestry of Christ in Glory was designed by Graham Sutherland. Three nails from the old cathedral (the first of the series mentioned above) sit at the centre of the altar cross.

 

There are a number of side chapels …

 

… in this one the angelic figure is framed by a representation of the ‘crown of thorns’.

 

Looking back towards the entrance you see this lovely etched glass window and the old cathedral beyond.

 

Leaving the cathedral we stopped for a bite to eat nearby and were intercepted by this young lady from a dance troupe called ‘The Dance We Made’. She asked us about our journey from Edinburgh to Coventry and then incorporated ‘aspects’ into the dance. You can see this at https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=jhJv1bFc1XA and we get a mention 3 minutes into the routine.

 

The students were returning to the University (as they had been at Durham and Edinburgh, explaining why accommodation was so hard to find as their parent were taking them to Uni and staying overnight in all the travel lodges). So there were other strange events going on as well as the dance troupe, such as these six students sharing a hexagonal bicycle.

 

From here it was just a matter of finding the M40 and heading home. It had been an interesting few days meeting up with old friends and sightseeing in various cities and doing some birding in Scotland although of course the actual reason for the trip was a very sad event indeed. I’ll conclude with another view of Coventry Cathedral looking away from the altar towards the lovely window by the entrance. And as to the question ‘would the building that I found so inspiring when first seen as a child still do the same today’, then the answer is an emphatic yes.

 

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23 Apr 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Twenty Five: An Afternoon Of History On Ascension Island

Birding in Poole Harbour and Beyond - Sat, 10/13/2018 - 18:00
After a great morning on Ascension Island visiting Green Mountain, it was time to spent some of the lower slopes of the island & have a look around Georgetown. The first stop after lunch was the gun emplacements of Fort Bedford above Georgetown. There were guns from various eras in the island's history.
These two 7 inch guns were manufactured in 1866A close up of the 7 inch gunsIt is a good thing I didn't have any complaints about the service on the Plancius5.5 inch guns from HMS Hood: At the start of WWII, HMS Hood had her twelve 5.5 inch guns replaced with 4 inch guns for better protection against air attack. Two of the 5.5 inch guns were shipped to Georgetown to protect the colony. Sadly, HMS Hood was sunk, along with HMS Prince of Wales, in 1941 during the battle to try sinking the German battleship Bismarck & heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen. These guns were used in anger in 1941 when German U-boat U-124 approached close to Ascension Island: it quickly departed. These guns were given a lot of TLC to preserve them in the 1980sThe view over Georgetown
The view over Long Beach
Green Turtle tracks on Long Beach
One of the interesting things about Georgetown is it doesn't appear to have changed much in the last 100 years. Therefore, unlike virtually any other UK colonial base, it has retained much of it's original layout & character. I'm not sure if that makes it a more comfortable place to live, but it makes it a very interesting place to visit.
Georgetown church: Georgetown has retained much of its colonial layout
The final stop was the Georgetown museum. As we were back in the town, we were free to look around the museum, wander around within the town boundaries including the old fortifications & check out the excellent air conditioning in the main food store. The museum was interesting with plenty on the history & natural history of the island.This sign board next to the museum confirmed how isolated Ascension Island is: The surrounding vegetation is Mexican Thorn Bush which is an Acacia-like bush. Obviously, it is introduced & the Conservation Dept is trying to clear it from parts of the island as it helps provide cover for the introduced Rats which are a significant cause for concern for the Seabirds breeding on Ascension Island
More historical cannons: You are never too far from history in Georgetown
Another cannon by the museum
Sgt Davies's Jeep: This is the only surviving Jeep from WWII and was used by some of the American soldiers who were based on Ascension Island during the war & who build the runway
4.7 Inch Quick Fire Gun: This gun dates to 1895 & was of two originally mounted in Fort Hayes along with a six inch gun to protect Georgetown during WWI
Fort Hayes: The garrison in WWI was 38 men and so might have struggled to hold out had there been a serious attack on it
Fort Hayes: The fort is now part of the museum
Fort Hayes lies immediately to the SW of the centre of Georgetown
Looking immediately out of Fort Hayes is the the quayside and another Green Turtle beach
The coastal view from Fort Hayes
Looking back to Georgetown
Looking back on the museum from Fort Hayes: The museum is the nearest building
An old light in Fort Hayes
John demonstrating how one of the 4.7 Inch Guns would have defended Georgetown in the event of an attack
The Exiles Club in Georgetown: This was the original Marines barracks in Georgetown. A replacement barracks was built next to it, but had since been demolished. When the Navy left, the Exiles Club was renamed the Ascension Club
The replacement Marine barracks to the left of the Exiles Club
This Cannon protects the Exiles Club
Historic Anchor
The Pierhead Stores Building: Had this been in the UK, it is likely that this historic building would have been replaced with some modern concrete building with no character
The Moon: There was excellent light to photograph the Moon
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23 Apr 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Twenty Five: Ascension Island Is Another Amazing Island

Birding in Poole Harbour and Beyond - Fri, 10/12/2018 - 18:00
Ascension Island is the third & final part of the Tristan da Cunha British Overseas Territory. Once we were anchored in Georgetown Bay, the Ascension officials came aboard & checked the Plancius's papers & our passports. We were then cleared to go ashore for the day.
Black Triggerfish: There were large numbers around the gangway throughout our visitBlack Triggerfish: They occur in all the tropical oceans around the worldWe had non-visa access to Ascension Island which allowed us to go on a guided day trip of the island & walk around in Georgetown. Ascension Island has a joint RAF/US Air Force airfield on the island. However, the airport runway was closed to large commercial planes in 2017 due to problems with the runway. As a consequence, some of the limited tourist options that were possible in previous years have currently shutdown. Without a visa which would have allowed us to travel around the island & the ability to hire a car or taxi, then the only option was the guided tour. This guided tour included a visit to one of the Sooty Tern colonies. Some of the punters on the previous Odyssey trips had complained that this left insufficient time to spend at the Sooty Tern colony. The guided tour gave us around an hour at the Sooty Tern colony & this seemed to be sufficient for most of the Birders. We were offered the chance of another extended visit on the following morning, but no more than a handful of people expressed an interest in that trip. The reality is like the other British islands we had visited, there was so many other interesting things to see on the island, it would have been a pity to have spent much longer at the Sooty Tern colony.
Long Beach: This is next to the quayside
Long Beach: The Green Turtle tracks indicate how popular this beach is for Green TurtlesThe landing at the quayside steps was perhaps the trickiest we encountered. When a wave was high, the zodiac driver drove at the steps & Leon in the centre helped to pull the front up another step. By this time, the water level had dropped & the front of the zodiac was firmly wedged on the steps. We were then allowed to get up which involved a walk up the front of the zodiac which was angled at about 30 degrees. Surprisingly, the islanders hadn't found a better way to improve the landing on the steps over the years. The ropes continued to the left of the quayside so it looks like some boats also landed there, but that would have been awkward to get in & out of a zodiac.
The landing: Bob, Leon & Seba waiting to help us landLeon has just pulled the front of the next zodiac up out of the waterOnce ashore we had to wait for everybody to land before we could start on the guided tour. It was a long & hot wait for everybody to land.The approach to the docksThere was even a passenger terminal for visitors: Although that didn't include usThe Ascension Island logo is one of the best I've seen Finally, we were all loaded & headed off for the two minute drive to the first stop at Long Beach. At each stop, the members of the Conservation Dept gave us a short presentation talk. At this stop, it was to tell us about the history of Green Turtles on Ascension Island. In the early history of occupation of the island, the islanders collected Green Turtles & held them in this holding pen. They were then kept for months until a sailing ship came in & bought the Green Turtles. They would have been kept alive on the sailing ship, until being killed & cooked as food for the crew. Fortunately, this practice stopped in the 1950s & now the Green Turtles are fully protected. The population of Green Turtles nesting on the beaches is still increasing. A survey in 1977, suggested there were around 1,000 nests, which had increased to around 10,000 in 2012.
The Green Turtle holding penLong BeachLong Beach: The sea was quite rough along the beachWarning about one of the native species: They are a land crab that occur only on Ascension Island, as well as, Fernando de Noronha & Trindade Island
Parts of this island are incredibly arid When Ascension Island was first discovered it was a hot & arid island. When Joseph Hooker visited in 1843 as part of James Ross's Antarctica Expedition, he proposed that to help provide sufficient water for the population, the high peak should be planted with trees. The hope was these trees would then capture moisture from the sea air & this would then run down & be captured. Hooker suggested a variety of suitable trees from different parts of the world. One of the stops was to the Peak or Green Mountain as it is also known. Our guide told us that the trees planted on the lower slopes were selected as trees that could cope with hotter & drier habitats, whereas the trees on the higher slopes were trees that preferred cooler & more moist habitats. As an experiment to capture water, it was incredibly successful. But it has also left Ascension Island with a large number of introduced trees & plants & many of the native plants are extremely threatened by this mass introduction.Another member of the Conservation Dept gave us a talk on their work to save the endemic plantsA display box which gives an idea of how some of the native plants would have lookedTowards the top of the Green Mountain, there is the remains of an old army base that was built when Marines were stationed on Ascension Island in 1815, after Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled to St Helena. The Conservation Dept have set up their botanical centre to grow endemic plants there, so that they can be replanted in suitable areas on the island. There is also a good walk through the Trees to see how successful this scheme has been & which included walking past one of the old water catchment sites.The clock tower at the old Marines base
The start of the walk from the old Marines base
John Holmes with Jemi behind walking up from the old Marines base
One of the Conservation Dept staff (on the left) next to some old Marines buildings
Another view of the old Marines buildings
Part of the 19th Century water capture scheme
The old water tanks
The old water tanks
The runway in one of the typically arid lower parts of the island
The view from the top of Green Mountain: One of the reasons for the Marines base was to provide a lookout of any arriving ships
The settlement of Two Boats: Although the surrounding area looks green, most of this is actually arid Acacia-like bushes
This forest is not only around 160 years old: But it looks to be a lot older
The forest looked good
Shy White Tern: Not surprisingly there was a lack of Birds on the walk
Arjen from the Expedition staff
My mate Richard Lowe
Some excellent Lichen
I've no idea what this is or where it occurs naturally, but it looks good
US mailbox
Good to see a Rat poison trap along the walk: Rats are a major problem on Ascension Island
Finally, we all heading off to the Two Boats settlement for lunch.Filming for the Ascension Island remake of Last of the Summer Wine was going well: Tony, Mike & GlennThe second half of our guided tour of Ascension Island will be coming in the next Post.
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Night Sound Surprise

Two Owls Birding - Thu, 10/11/2018 - 22:18
Whilst I record on all nights that promise to stay dry the intention is to record what species are flying over Lytchett bay on migration in spring and autumn, I mostly record species that are what I consider local and can be seen most days in the recording area. (https://www.birdsofpooleharbour.co.uk/sites/default/files//011217%20A%20Guide%20to%20Birding%20Lytchett%20Bay-2.pdf
Unfortunately where I am situated isn't a nocturnal migration hot spot, well not yet anyway, but in saying this I occasionally get a reward like the Golden Plover in our last blog.  I suppose that's why I do it for that odd surprise and when you get a real close contact where it calls above the parabol, that is really rewarding.  It just doesn't happen enough but when it does it makes listening to all those hours of silence worth while and when you get probably one, ie the Golden Plover, you don't expect another soon.  To my surprise and joy as I viewed through my next nights recording I came across what was obviously a loud sound (see sonogram blow).  Usually these sounds normally turn out to be something manmade so as I put the headset on I didn't have great expectations but how wrong was I.  As I heard the sound I let out a loud "Yes" and Jackie asked what is it, I said listen and handed her the headset and replayed the sound she looked puzzled then the realisation of what it was dawned on her Barn Owl! she replied.  
I've only record Barn Owl twice before both times were somewhere near the edge of the bay probably   a hundred metres away or so but this was very close if not over the bungalow or at least the garden.
Barn Owl Sonogram 



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11 Oct 18 - The 500th Post

Birding in Poole Harbour and Beyond - Thu, 10/11/2018 - 18:00
I started the Blog after I bought my first decent DSLR camera (Canon 7D Mark I & 400 mm lens) in Oct 13. My first trip with the camera was eventful. After a quiet morning getting used to it at Middlebere, a Pallid Swift was found at Stanpit. I didn't hang around as Pallid Swift was still a Dorset Tick, having missed the two on Portland in 1984. University work that weekend stopped me going on the first day & they disappeared when I was able to go the next day. Finally, I had seen a Pallid Swift in Dorset & written my first Blog Post. Over the last five years, the camera has generally been the first think I pick up as I leave the house to go Birding, after the bins. The camera has now changed to the Canon 7D Mark II and 100 - 400 mm Mark II lens which is a much better camera set up, albeit it is also a bit heavier. But it isn't too heavy to be able to carry it, even if I am out for the whole day. I have enjoyed the blogging as it has forced me to sort through the photos of Birds, Butterflies, Dragonflies, Cetaceans, other Mammals & general wildlife & scenery shots. Whilst time consuming to sort the photos, it has been a good diary for me of my trips over the last five years. Hopefully other readers enjoy reading the Blog as much as I do, when I've gone back & re-read old Posts. In just under the last five years, I've now reached the 500th Blog Post & just pasted 280,000 hits on the Blog. To celebrate that I've attached this single photo which I think is my favourite wildlife photograph for the last five years.
Rainbow-bearded Thornbill: This wasn't a Tick, but it was my Bird of the Colombia trip. Hotel Thermales del Ruiz, Colombia (25 Feb 18)It is also a sign that I am well behind on blogging as I've not started on either the Colombia or Chile trips that preceded the Atlantic Odyssey trip. Something I will have to address over the Winter, once I've finished the Atlantic Odyssey & West African Pelagic cruise.
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23 Apr 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Twenty Five: Ascension Island Frigatebird

Birding in Poole Harbour and Beyond - Wed, 10/10/2018 - 18:00
The previous Post covered the Seabirds we saw on the early morning visit the Plancius made to Boatswainbird Island. We also saw large numbers of Ascension Island Frigatebirds, which deserve their own Post, given it is the breeding endemic Seabird at Ascension Island with around 10,000 pairs. The main colony is on Boatswainbird Island, although following the removal of feral cats on the island & the placing of model Frigatebirds, the first pairs were encouraged to breed again on the mainland in 2012. Ultimately, expanding the colony will give the opportunity to grow the size of the population.
Part of the main Ascension Island Frigatebird colonyA close up of part of the Ascension Island colony
The Ascension Island Frigatebirds were constantly patrolling the skies
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Juveniles are very obvious with their white heads, white chests & broken breast band
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Juvenile
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Juvenile at Boatswainbird Island (24 Apr 18)
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Juvenile at Boatswainbird Island (24 Apr 18)
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Juvenile at Boatswainbird Island (24 Apr 18)
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Juvenile chasing a Brown Booby at Boatswainbird Island (24 Apr 18)
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Juvenile chasing an immature Red-footed Booby at Boatswainbird Island (24 Apr 18)
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Subadult females are identified by the white axillaries and a paler brown collar & breast band
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Subadult female doing what Frigatebirds do best to get food by terrorising the nearest Seabird such as this Masked Booby
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Adult Female look all dark, but have the dark brown neck collar & no red throat
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Immature male showing a white belly & axillaries and a red throat. Photographed over the Green Turtle beach (24 Apr 18)
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Immature male showing a partial white belly & axillaries and a red throat. Photographed at Boatswainbird Island (24 Apr 18)
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Subadult male showing the red throat & white axillaries at Boatswainbird Island (24 Apr 18)
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Adult males have a red throat & do not have a brown collar & breast band
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Adult male
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Adult male showing the red throat & a small metallic pectoral patch when the sun catches it. Photographed over the Green Turtle beach (24 Apr 18)After an hour or so at Boatswainbird Island, we headed off for Georgetown: the main settlement on the island. The photographers wanted more time at Boatswainbird Island as we were leaving just as the early morning light was improving. There were so may Seabirds around it had been difficult to get as many photos as any of us would have liked, especially as sometimes I had to lower the camera to just enjoy the overall spectacle. However, we had to get to Georgetown & clear customs, as we had a busy day planned on the island. So, we really needed to crack on for Georgetown.
Some good rock layers confirm this is a volcanic islandThe surf was rough in placesThere was a wind farm & another communication base en route to GeorgetownA wider view of Ascension Island with Georgetown at the right-hand side of the photo Georgetown in the distanceHistorical gun emplacements on the hillside above GeorgetownAnother base high up on the top of the volcano
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8 Oct 18

Martin Adlam - Mon, 10/08/2018 - 14:46
Broadcroft Quarry Lane and Horse Paddocks

A grey start to the day and a fresh south-westerly coming across the island.

Main highlights today were singles of Great Spotted Woodpecker and Song Thrush, 2 Blackcaps and 6 Chiffchaffs along  Broadcroft Quarry Lane

In the lower and upper horse paddocks there were fewer Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails than yesterday, and no sign of the Stonechats.

Overhead 2 Skylarks, 2 Siskins, 25 Linnets and 12 possibly more House Martins.

As I returned home there were 2 Goldcrests calling from the back garden. As I was looking for them a Kestrel dive-bombed the bird feeder and then proceeded to sit in the neighbours Sycamore overlooking the garden.

Photos from this morning:

As I was photographing this ship on the horizon (it was to far out to identify for my ships today) I realised there were dozens of House Martins flying over Penn's Weare.
One of the few Pied Wagtails.........
...........in the lower horse paddock.
Quite a few Robins about now. This one was in the lower horse paddock.
In the top right hand corner a Kestrel looks over my back garden.
It had already had one failed attempt at grabbing a bird of the feeders. Its not just Sparrowhawks that visit bird feeders!


The local Kestrel looks out for a meal from the neighbours Sycamore.
Birds Recorded this morning: 1 Sparrowhawk, 2 Kestrel, Herring Gull, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Skylark, 12+ House Martins, 25+ Meadow Pipit, 15 Pied Wagtail, 1 Grey Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, 1 Song Thrush, 2 Blackcap, 6 Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Wren, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, 23 Starling, House Sparrow, 5 Chaffinch, 25+ Linnet, 2 Siskin and Goldfinch.

Ships Today

This is the Portuguese General Cargo vessel "Indi", on its way from Belfast to Shoreham. More on this vessel Here.
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More Nocturnal Sounds over Lytchett Bay

Two Owls Birding - Sun, 10/07/2018 - 17:19
Well, I've had the recorder on over seven nights during September the most productive were the last nights of the month. In total 26 species were recorded many of which can be considered as local species, by that I mean I record them on every night I record.  But a handful I only record in spring or autumn or on the very odd occasion.

Moorhen, Coot, Snipe, Skylark and Dunlin I only recorded a few times, though Moorhen and Coot seem to be on the increase.  Moorhen are in the bay so might be moving around in the dark, Coot are scarce though are recorded in spring and autumn as are Snipe and the latter occasionally on winter nights.
A species that Paul Morton (BoPH) and Nick Hopper (Sound Approach) have both recorded on occasions around Poole Harbour is Golden Plover but they seem to have avoided my listening station here at Lytchett Bay.  Until now as this September I've recorded four individuals flying over and one recording (below) must of been very close or even over our Bungalow.
Below is the Spectrogram/Sonogram and recording of the Golden Plover calling as it passed over close to our Bungalow.
Sonogram of Golden plover and call below
Autumn is all about the winter thrushes moving in from northern Europe and it's alway nice to record the first of the year, but then once the migration get fully underway I spend so much time counting all the contacts on the recording it become a little bit of a labour of love rather than enjoyment.  In saying this September recordings not only produced the first Song Thrush, Blackbird and Redwing the latter flew by on 29th at 05:00hrs in the morning, it also produced Wigeon, Snipe, and the first Skylark also on the morning of the 29th at 02:59hrs.
Below is the sonogram and recording of that first Redwing of the autumn.Sonogram of Redwing above, Call below

I've recorded a number of animal sounds and in the autumn Sika Stag are always recorded usually a number of time throughout the night, and I've often thought I should compare the bellows to see if there are any differences.  So today I compared two as they sounded obviously different indeed the sonogram backed this up. In fact the first you hear would only bellow once every so often the second animal would always put in a series of three in a row then take a break.  It seems to me that the first may be more senior in rank maybe, so doesn't need to sound off as much? So it could be I can identify individual stags by their sound and get an idea of how many Stags are vying for the doe's in the Lytchett Bay recording area.

Below is the sonogram of the two different stags the first sound is the one I think is possibly the senior animal the second sound is usually giving in a group of three seperate calls.

Below is the recording of both stags

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7 Oct 18

Martin Adlam - Sun, 10/07/2018 - 17:07
Broadcroft Quarry Lane and Horse Paddocks

The rain and gale force winds of yesterday and last night, eventually moved away to leave a sunny but cooler day. No sign of the Hoopoe, no doubt it used the northerly winds to get itself over the channel and onwards to warmer climes.

There was an increased number of Pied Wagtails this morning and they were everywhere, in the lower horse paddock, in the upper horse paddock and flying about overhead. In amongst them were lots of Meadow Pipits and Linnets.

In the lower paddock there were 2 Stonechats and a Chiffchaff.

Away from the fields there were 4 Chiffchaffs and 3 Blackcap along Broadcroft Quarry Lane. I was hoping for Yellow-browed Warbler as there were reports of two on Portland. Not this morning though, but it wont be long I'm sure.

A different call overhead today was the sound of Skylarks heading north, with at least 5 individuals recorded. Heading in the opposite direction were 3 House Martins and 2 Swallows, making their way down to The Bill and beyond.

Here are a few images from this morning:

A different day today. You can actually see the sea down Broadcroft Quarry Lane, unlike yesterday.
A Chiffchaff picks away at the insects along the lane.
There were 4 here today, hopefully in the next week or so they will be joined by a Yellow-browed and Pallas's Warblers.
Its a wasp I know, but they are really distinctive markings on the abdomen.
Probably just a Common Wasp!!
In the horse paddocks plenty of Meadow Pipits and linnets.
A Meadow Pipit in flight.
And one of the many Pied Wagtails in the lower horse paddock.
Birds Recorded: 1 Sparrowhawk, 2 Kestrel, Herring Gull, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, 5 Skylark, 3 House Martin, 2 Swallow, 50+ Meadow Pipit, 80+ Pied Wagtail, 1 Grey Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, 2 Stonechat, Blackbird, 3 Blackcap, 5 Chiffchaff, Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Wren, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, 30+ Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, 20+ Linnet and Goldfinch.

Also recorded: 3 Red Admirals and several wasps sp.
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23 Apr 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Twenty Five: Ascension's Boatswainbird Island

Birding in Poole Harbour and Beyond - Sat, 10/06/2018 - 18:00
Another early start as we were arriving at Ascension Island at first light. We probably arrived close to Ascension Island well before it got light, with the ship's crew leaving the final approach to the morning as it would be more interesting for the passengers. There was no point in arriving at the Georgetown harbour in the dark as there would be no opportunity to land early as we would have to wait for the island officials to come on board to check the Plancius's papers & everybody's passports. There are a number of nationalities that are not allowed to land at Ascension Island & one nationality is Russian. This isn't too surprising as the island hosts both UK & US military bases. We had one Russian passenger on the Plancius, but he was one of the four passengers who departed at St Helena to fly home.
Ascension Island in the early morning lightWe heard from the Expedition staff as we approached Ascension Island, that we would be making a short stop at Boatswainbird Island. This is a small island just offshore from the main island which crucially has not had any problem with Rats or other introduced predators on it. Therefore, it has been a very important breeding island for the Seabirds. Obviously, this was a big highlight for most of the passengers. The island got its name from the sailor's old name for Tropicbirds which was Boatswainbird or Bosunbird. The bosun was one of the Petty Officers on a ship & often responsible for giving commands with his piercing whistle. The calls of the Tropicbird reminded the sailors of the bosun's whistle.
Boatswainbird Island: Boatswainbird Island is close to the main islandA closer view of Boatswainbird Island: The white colour is due to decades of guano
Most people were on deck to experience Boatswainbird Island
Martin from the Expedition staff
Kirk Zufelt (Seabird fanatic) & Bob Flood (filming for his next Seabird book?)
Jemi getting ready to take another of her 360 degree photos of people on the lower deckAs the Plancius got closer, it was clear that the top of Boatswainbird Island was filled with breeding Masked Boobies.
Masked Booby colony on the top of Boatswainbird IslandA close up of part of the Masked Booby colony
There was also another large Masked Booby colony on the mainland
A closer view of the Masked Booby colony
Masked Booby: Adult. This is the nominate dactylatra subspecies of Masked Booby which breeds on Ascension Island, as well as, in the Caribbean and on islands as far South as the Brazilian coastMasked Booby: AdultMasked Booby: AdultWe also saw the other two species of Booby that breed on Ascension Island: Brown Booby & Red-footed Booby.
Brown Booby: Adult. This is the nominate leucogaster subspecies which breeds on Ascension Island, as well as, the Gulf of Mexico and the CaribbeanBrown Booby: AdultRed-footed Booby: Adult. This is the nominate sula subspecies which breeds on Ascension Island, as well as, the Caribbean and Fernando de Noronha & Trindade Islands off the Brazilian coastRed-footed Booby: AdultRed-footed Booby: Subadult The only White-tailed Tropicbird I had the chance to photograph was this juvenile on its first flight. Unfortunately, it clearly jumped too early in its life & ended in the sea. I didn't keep watching it, but suspect that it was probably feeding an Ascension Island Frigatebird chick soon after I took this photo.
White-tailed Tropicbird: JuvenileWhite Tern: This is the nominate alba subspecies which breeds on Ascension Island & St Helena, as well as, Fernando de Noronha & Trindade Island
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Vietnam part 3: Cuc Phuong, Tam Dao and Sa Pa: 23rd – 31st March 2018

Gryllos Blog - Sat, 10/06/2018 - 15:48

Apologies for the delay in posting the third part of my Vietnamese saga.

A while ago I upgraded my account to gain more storage space. I quickly used up the allocated storage (by uploading photos at too high a resolution). I was under the impression that my annual subscription would give me that much space every year. In late August I was debited $99 as expected but no extra storage was allocated. It transpired that the extra storage was a one-off and the $99 was how much I had to pay per year to access it. Either that or don’t pay and the blog disappears! WordPress want me to upgrade to ‘business class’ at $300 per year to give me more storage which at the moment I have declined to do.

So I now have the choice of limiting what I upload or deleting old posts, something that I find hard to do, as it’s my personal history.

Anyway whinge over, time for some more travel pics.

 

This third post on my Vietnam trip covers the sites of Cuc Phuong and Tam Dao in former North Vietnam. We didn’t visit Ba Be, however there was an extension to Sa Pa and Fansipan mountain in the far north-west which is not shown on this map (follow a line 30 degrees NW from Hanoi to the Chinese border if you want to know where it is).

 

Here in the north there were many more reminders of the Communist past. Vietnam, remains a socialist republic, although free trade rather than a state monopoly is the order of the day.

 

We spent two nights at Cuc Phuong NP.

 

We had two  excellent morning here and saw some excellent birds like Malay Night Heron, Red-collared Woodpecker and Limestone Wren-babbler but for the much of the time it was very overcast and dull (useless for photography) and the late mornings and afternoon were birdless. In spite of it being a national park locals still use it to graze their water buffalo.

 

We visited a cave which was used by people as a shelter some 7,500 years ago. This time period in Europe is known as the Neolithic and is characterised by the start of farming but I don’t know if this time period in Asia would still be characterised as the Mesolithic. All that walking and climbing is taking its toll of some of the participants knees, as can be clearly seen in this photos.

 

There might not have been many chances to photograph birds in Cuc Phuong was we did see some remarkable insects such as this bug …

 

… a lovely butterfly in flight …

 

… or this stunning dragonfly …

 

Cuc Phuong also has a captive breeding centre for local primates. These are usually individuals seized from the illegal pet trade that are being rehabilitated for release in the wild. I have already uploaded photos of Black-shanked and Grey-shanked Douc Langurs taken in the wild earlier on the tour. I didn’t get a decent shot of the third species, Red-shanked Douc Langur so here are some more Grey-shanks.

 

We also paid a couple of visits to Van Long marsh. Surrounded by rugged limestone hills it would have been very scenic had it not be for the persistent grey skies.

 

It is quite a tourist hot spot and many take a boat trip on the lake, however we just scoped from the shore.

 

If you look at the cliffs in the last photo then you will see how far away these monkeys really are. These are Delacour’s Langurs, another endemic and critically endangered species, showing off their white shorts.

 

We headed north towards the capital Hanoi. Traffic congestion increased as did the incidence of dodgy driving and overtaking on blind corners.

 

We only passed through the outskirts of the city but even there the traffic was dreadful.

 

We eventually reached our hotel at Tam Dao. It seemed like we were the only people staying but we still ended up with rooms as far up the hill from the restaurant and parking lot as possible. It was a bit of a trek every time you need to go back to your room but I suppose it was training for the rigours of Fansipan mountain in a few days time. The hotel, although well equipped was characterised by an almost complete lack of visible staff.

 

Thick fog and overcast skies continued …

 

… great birds like Grey Laughingthrush and Short-tailed Parrotbill were seen but not photographed on this trail.

 

In the afternoon we visited some forest near a Buddhist temple which seems to have been set up in this hanger.

 

 

An unexpected find was this migrant Rufous-bellied Woodpecker.

 

 

Early the next morning we climbed these steps to another temple, seeing more laughing thrushes and other forest birds. On our way down we came across these lads who were already ‘Brahms and Liszt’ in spite of the time of day.

 

At the base of the steps local traders had set up stalls and we were able to stock up on Vietnamese candies.

 

It was then the long drive to Sa Pa. This was an optional extension but everyone on the trip had decided to take it, which was great as we didn’t have to go back to Hanoi to drop anyone off at the airport and so gained extra time in this lovely location. Although the weather remained overcast I have to say that this was the most enjoyable part of the entire trip.

 

Sa Pa is located next to this lake and surrounded by mountains.

 

The area is full of western tourists and tired locals.

 

The narrow streets with their stalls selling everything imaginable are a pleasure to see.

 

There is a great birding location right in the town, Ham Rong Gardens gave us great views of a wide range of species.

 

The local inhabitants originate from hill tribes with their own traditional costumes. Many Vietnamese tourists buy these outfits and then get photographed wearing them in the park.

 

Away from the town were a number of scenic areas, birds like Little Forktail, Blue Whistling Thrush, White-capped and Plumbeous Redstart were seen by this waterfall …

 

… and the seldom seen Pale-throated Wren-Babbler showed brilliantly a few miles further along the road. Photo by tour leader Craig Robson. Copyright Craig Robson/Birdquest.

 

A number of hiking trails can be found in the area, some like this one just visit local waterfalls, others ascend Fansipan mountain and require a guide and three days to complete.

 

Along the trail we saw this Brown-breasted Flycatcher, an unexpected ‘write-in’ for the trip. Breeding in southern China and wintering in S India and Sri Lanka this might have been a migrant returning to its breeding area or perhaps its breeding range extends to extreme northern Vietnam.

 

We also sw this White Wagtail of the race leucopsis. Clearly a first year male with very bleached primaries and contrast between moulted and unmoulted coverts visible in the field.

 

We walked though some lovely forest …

 

… alongside a river …

 

… up and down multiple steps …

 

… before reaching the ‘Love’ Waterfall.

 

We were amused by this information board back at the park HQ. Clockwise from top left, Red-winged Laughingthrush, a bird that occurs in north Vietnam but we didn’t get a sniff at, Common Pheasant judging by the habitat probably an introduced bird photographed elsewhere, Great Hornbill which only occurs in the south in Vietnam and a photo of an American Bald Eagle captioned with the scientific name of Western Marsh Harrier! Sorry about the funny angle it was necessary to prevent the photo being ruined by reflections of the flash.

 

On our second day full at Sa Pa the weather improved somewhat and we took the opportunity to go to the top of Fansipan Mountain. Not having three days to climb to the summit, we took the cable car. The service holds two Guinness World Records for the longest non-stop three-rope cable car in the world, spanning 6.3 km and the greatest elevation difference by a non-stop three-roped cable car for the 1,410 m  difference in elevation between the termini (taken from Wikipedia)

 

We were soon crossing the valley and looking down at the rice paddies far below …

 

… and back at the terminus.

 

As we climbed we left the open areas behind and soared over the forest …

 

Eventually we reached the summit, 1.4 km higher than where we had started. The mountain is 3,143m asl and is the highest point in Indochina. Half the group opted to stay around the summit visitor centre and descend at their convenience, the other half plus the leaders set off on an arduous hike towards the best birding areas.

 

The views of the surrounding mountains were spectacular and I certainly felt that this was the best day of the trip.

 

We dropped a fair way the started climbing again to pass this saddle then descended further on the other side before returning the same way.

 

Some of the rock outcrops were crossed by a series of steps bolted to rock, others required climbing ladders and a good head for heights.

 

I only took my pocket camera, wishing to reduce the weight I had to carry but tour leader Craig Robson got a great photo of one of the targets, ‘Tonkin’ Fulvetta, a potential split from the Chinese and Himalayan White-browed Fulvetta. Other highlights included Bar-winged Wren-Babbler, Slender-billed Scimitar-Babbler, Scaly-breasted Cupwing and Chestnut-headed Tesia. Photo copyright Craig Robson/Birdquest.

 

By the time we had returned to the cable car terminus the mist had rolled in.

 

Knackered but happy (though local leader Quang who did the entire hike in sandals is hamming it up a bit).

 

The other end of the cable car might be 6.3 km away but with a modern camera it can seem to be within touching distance.

 

The day on Fansipan mountain was the highlight of the trip, the combination of great birds, great scenery and the sense of achievement when you push your physical abilities to the limit combined to make a day I will never forget.

Since I originally started work on this post I have received the official report from Birdquest and a CD of Craig Robson and local leader Quang Hao Nguyen photos. The majority are better versions of birds that I uploaded in posts 1 and 2 but the following are worth adding. Note all are from locations that were visited in post 2.

 

Black-crowned Fulvetta photographed at Bi Doup Nui Ba NP. Photo copyright Craig Robson/Birdquest.

 

Stripe-throated Yuhina was seen at Ngoc Linh. Photo copyright Craig Robson/Birdquest.

 

Pygmy Cupwing at Bi Doup Nui Ba NP. Photo copyright Craig Robson/Birdquest.

 

Black-headed Sibia of the race kingi which may be split as ‘Brownish-backed Sibia’ at Ngoc Linh. Photo copyright Craig Robson/Birdquest.

 

Chestnut-eared Laughingthrush at Mang Cahn. Copyright Quang Hao Nguyen/Birdquest.

 

Silver Pheasant of race annamensis at Bach Ma NP. Copyright Quang Hao Nguyen/Birdquest.

 

I’ll conclude this account of my trip to Vietnam with another photo of the mountain scenery at Fansipan.

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6 Oct 18

Martin Adlam - Sat, 10/06/2018 - 08:41
Broadcroft Quarry Lane and Horse Paddocks

There are times when you just you hate it when the weatherman gets it spot on, especially when the forecast is rain. With heavy rain forecast for 8:00am I decided to get up early and head off to the lower horse paddock in the hope of seeing the Hoopoe.
I was out of the door for precisely 7:20 and in the paddock 2 minutes later. I spent a good 20 minutes here without any luck and decided to head off to Broadcroft Quarry Lane. Sadly just the 1 Chiffchaff here and a couple of Robins.
So it was back to the paddock for one last look as the first drops of rain began to fall. Still no sign of the Hoopoe and the only real highlights here were 3 Song Thrushes and a Grey Wagtail.
By 8:15am the rain was really hammering down, so it was back to the cottage and hoping that the weatherman has got it right when he said the rain will clear by late afternoon. We will see.
A miserable start to the day and no sign of the Hoopoe.
No better down Broadcroft Quarry Lane with the weather closing in.
A Meadow Pipit braving the elements.
Birds Recorded: 1 Kestrel, 5 Herring Gull, Wood Pigeon, 3 Collared Dove, 20+ Meadow Pipit, 10+ Pied Wagtail, 1 Grey Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, 3 Song Thrush, 1 Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Wren, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch and Linnet.
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22 Apr 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Twenty Four: A Messy Eater

Birding in Poole Harbour and Beyond - Fri, 10/05/2018 - 18:00
The highlight of the final day at sea between St Helena & Ascension Island were not the Seabirds including the first Ascension Island Frigatebird or the Cetaceans seen & other Sealife, but some messy eaters were saw as we passed them. They were four Leatherback Turtles, the first Leatherback Turtles we saw on the Odyssey.
Leatherback Turtle: The large size & lack of any plates on the body leaves Leatherback Turtle as the only candidate. They have five long ridges on their backLeatherback Turtle: It was on view for the best part of a minute, before it finally divedI had mixed emotions when I initially saw this first Leatherback Turtle. While it was good to have only seen my second Leatherback Turtle (the first being on the Pompey - Bilboa ferry in Aug 1999 of the French coast), I thought it was tangled in some pink debris hence my mixed feelings. I had been mainly looking through the camera & unable to fully see what the pink debris was. After we were discussing the Leatherback Turtle, somebody pointed out that what we had actually seen was a Leatherback Turtle feeding on one of its favourite foods: Salp. Salp is a long barrel-like floating planktonic 'Jellyfish', however, it strictly not a Jellyfish. Salp feed on phytoplankton. Within 45 minutes, we had seen our second Leatherback Turtle of the day.Leatherback Turtle: The second sighting started in a similar way to the firstLeatherback Turtle: This time the head started to appear as Sea Turtles need to breathe airLeatherback Turtle: This is one of my favourite photos from the OdysseyLeatherback Turtle: A close up of the head & back which shows four of the five ridges on the backLeatherback Turtle: Having breathed in & probably checked us out, it was time to disappearLeatherback TurtleLeatherback Turtle: The third individual was thirty minutes later & not as close. It also didn't have any SalpLeatherback Turtle: The final individual was picked up in front of the Plancius on the starboard side, but rapidly divedIt had been a great morning.
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5 Oct 18

Martin Adlam - Fri, 10/05/2018 - 13:08
Broadcroft Quarry Lane and Horse Paddocks

Evening
An evening walk to see what was about. The Hoopoe has somehow found its way down to the bottom of the lower horse paddocks and is now feeding next to Bumpers Lane. Eventually after being harassed by a Magpie and then spooked by walkers it landed in a conifer next to the Old Stone Firms Office Here.

Still plenty of Chiffchaffs along Broadcroft Quarry Lane with at least 10 birds now. Only one Blackcap seen, but 2 others heard. And was that a Firecrest I heard, it only called once and despite my efforts to locate it, it had gone!!

Here are a few images from this evening:


The local Magpie wasn't to happy about this Hoopoe being on its patch.

Just when it thought it was safe from the Magpie.............
.........2 walkers put it up and it then decided to call it a night.
Bumpers Lane gate and the old Stone Firms Office on the right. In the centre the conifer where......
.....the Hoopoe has decided to rest up for the night.
Along Broadcroft Quarry Lane this evening this.........
.........Linnet was singing away.
Also here several Chiffchaffs.
Chiffchaff
Chiffchaff
Chiffchaff
Morning
A late morning walk and I was rewarded with another good sighting of the Easton Hoopoe in the Horse Paddock. The Hoopoe is getting a lot of disturbance from visitors wanting to get a closer look, fortunately it's a very confiding bird and once left alone comes back to its regular feeding spot here.

Other highlights were down Broadcroft Quarry Lane where there were 3 Robin, 2 Common Redstart, Blackbird, 5 Blackcap, 6 Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Wren, and 8 Chaffinch.

Overhead plenty of Meadow Pipits, Pied Wagtails, 2 Siskins and 5 Ravens.

Here are a few images from this morning:

You don't have to go walkabout in the paddock to see the Hoopoe.
This Hoopoe is really confiding and if you wait patiently at the end of Moorfield Road it will come to you.
The Hoopoe returning to its its favoured spot once the "walkers" had vacated its "patch"

The Easton Hoopoe into its 4th day here on Portland.
Its not just twitchers watching the Hoopoe but even the quarry men in their trucks having a look.
Overhead 2 Ravens............
.........make that 5 with these 3 close behind.
One of the 4 Stonechats in the lower horse paddock
Pleased with this, one of the two Common Redstarts in Broadcroft Quarry Lane Here
Birds Recorded: 2 Kestrel, 3 Herring Gull, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, 1 Hoopoe, 40+ Meadow Pipit, 20+ Pied Wagtail, 1 Grey Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, 4 Stonechat, 2 Common Redstart, Blackbird, 5 Blackcap, 6 Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Wren, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, 5 Raven, Starling, House Sparrow, 8 Chaffinch, 6 Linnet, 2 Siskin and 3 Goldfinch.
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