Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ayrshire Bird Report 2008

I am sending the Ayrshire Bird Report 2008 off to the printers this week and it will be available in early January 2010. More details to follow in due course.

Contents (120pp):
Breeding Warblers in Culzean Country Park 1978-2008 (Katie Walker & Aidan Maccormick)
The Water Pipit in Ayrshire (Angus Hogg)
The Kestrel in Ayrshire 2008 (Gordon Riddle)
Sparrowhawk Breeding Details 2008 (Ian Todd)
Chronological Summary (Angus Hogg)
Systematic List (compiled by Fraser Simpson)
Recent Rarities in Ayrshire (Marsh Tit by Iain Hamlin)
Gazetteer of Sites in Ayrshire (compiled by Fraser Simpson)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Monday, December 07, 2009

Mandarins in the forest

Mandarins are probably one of the most accepted self-sustaining exotics in the British Isles (category C1E in the BOU's British List). There is much to like about these attractive little ducks and you'll hear virtually none of the antipathy from birders that is more typically directed towards Canada Geese. The striking plumage of the drake is an obvious draw but the female is a much more subdued brown with subtle, attractive shades and patterns, quite different from most female members of the Anatinae.

Close to home there are good populations in Middlesex and Essex so I decided to begin to direct some effort in photographing them over the next year. They appear to have a definite habitat preference for wooded ponds and lakes both with overhanging shaded cover and older trees for nest holes. In these situations they are quite shy birds and to me they feel like a natural member of the avifauna that has fitted in well. Within the city they can be tame and may come for bread in situations where they have become more habituated to humans.

At the weekend, males were already displaying frantically and some were obviously paired. Females were prospecting for nest sites, often leaping vertically from the water onto an overhanging tree limb. Light levels were low and so I mainly used side lighting to photograph them in the shade against some dark water. In the last hour of the day, many more birds arrived and the excitement of the flock continued as the birds gradually move up into the trees to roost.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


I was up in Aberdeen at the weekend visiting Lisa (thanks National Non-express for the lousy service). Not surprisingly the weather was wet and wild but we did get down to the shore briefly to observe Purple Sandpiper, Turnstone and Sanderling on the high tide along with good numbers of Rock Pipits and Scandinavian Herring Gulls. I attempted my first long-exposure seascape (at 8 seconds) and converted it to monochrome. Can't wait to get home to Ayrshire for Christmas and New Year to try out more along the coastline there.

Friday, November 27, 2009


Here is another pencil drawing I did last night from a close-up photograph of a winter Common Gull (Larus canus) in London. It will feature in the, almost completed, Ayrshire Bird Report 2008. Look closely into the roof of the mouth and you will see rows of small spines, used for holding prey which might easily slip away.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A rush of Coots to the bread

Using a focal length of 22mm with up to 1" 1/3 exposures I tried to capture the feeding frenzy of a winter Coot flock. For once, some wet and dull weather was ideal for this though it was necessary to wait for the light levels to drop considerably towards the end of the day.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A beakful

Some photos from last weekend, including an 'in-yer-face' Mute Swan and a Cormorant, bronze statue-like, in the golden autumn light.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Movement and still life

With days of rain still forecast, I made the most of a window of sunshine yesterday with both a dawn start in Regent's Park then a lunchbreak trip to Kensington Gardens, squeezed in to a normal working day. I photographed a statuesque Grey Heron through the illuminated foliage of a willow tree before attempting some slow shutter pans of birds in flight. Later at the Long Water some striking autumn sun was falling on the Cormorants and herons, with a little fill-in flash producing the result below. Here I also attempted some slow shutter pans on the passing Coots.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Full day session with the herons

Blue sky most of the day on Saturday and so I spent seven hours getting to know the herons a little bit more...