Wednesday, 30 September 2015

The Lunar Eclipse

On the night of the 27th, I headed out with fellow photographer Max Thomspon to witness and photograph one of the autumn's most exciting celestial events: the lunar eclipse. Even in the early evening the moon looked impressive: rising just before sunset on the south-western horizon, it appeared a beautiful orange colour, and was magnified by the earth's atmosphere. I took this opportunity to get some more artistic images, before all ambient light was lost for this sort of approach. I tried a Dandelion and Harvestmen, silhouetting them against the orange sphere.

Our location for the eclipse was the Lizard: Kynance Cove. We arrived close to midnight, and took plenty of landscapes to utilise the amazing amount of moonlight that made the entire landscape appear very bright. 30 second exposure images resulted in images that looked identical to a bright sunny day! See below for this scene.

After a couple hours of landscapes, we set our prime lenses up and awaited the eclipse- after an hour we realised that we may have got the timings wrong, and so began heading homeward, keeping an eye on progress above. Half way back, we stopped in a lay-by and proceeded to capture the entire sequence of the event, as the spherical shadow of the earth blotted out the sunlight from the Moon's surface, and turned the colour into an eery orangy-red. It truly was a 'supermoon'. We had great fun photographing the event, especially watching as the sky turned increasingly star-filled as the moon's light effect was reduced. There were plenty of shooting stars to see too! Here is a selection of images from the night.

A composite image of the first half of the eclipse

Shortly after the moon rose on the evening of the 27th

A dandelion silhouetted against the moon

A harvestmen perched on some Ragwort

The moon before the eclipse

The moon during the eclipse!

Kynance Cove at night- 30 second exposure!

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Maenporth and Durgan - weekend wildlife

It was a beautiful sunny day yesterday, with calm winds from the south bringing warmer temperatures (after a freezing night!). Will, Rachel and I took the opportunity of this nice weather to go for a walk around the coast adjacent to the caravan. We started off walking down through mixed deciduous woodlands, arriving at Maenporth Bay. From here, we joined the coastal path and continued on around the headland to Durgan. This walk took several hours, mainly because of all the interesting birds and insects to be seen!!

In total we recorded 30 species of invertebrates, including some smart species like Ivy Bee (Colletes hederae), Speckled Bush-cricket (Leptophyes punctalissima) and Clouded Yellows (Colias croceus). We saw well over 50 Speckled Wood butterflies along the coastal hedges, which is impressive! Other species included hoverflies like Eristalis pertinax, dragonflies like Migrant Hawker, and hymenoptera like Buff-tailed Bumblebees.

The birds were great along the coast, with Kestrel hovering just metres overhead and dropping to the ground like a stones to seize small prey items like Beetles; it was clear that migrants were on the move too, with at least four Firecrests present in the scrub, along with Chiffchaffs, Goldcrests, Blackcaps and lots of Robins. A Mediterranean Gull was perhaps the best sighting out to sea, but it was also nice to see a pair of the local Peregrines, a few pairs of Stonechats, lots of Long-tailed Tits, Nuthatches and Meadow Pipits.

Looking back towards Maenporth from along the coastal path

 One of the Kestrels gave superb views along the path, hovering a matter of metres above the tip of my lens- a good opportunity for photography
Looking west from the path exiting Maenporth

 Speckled Woods were everywhere- we recorded well over 50. This species largely feeds off Honeydew, produced by aphids. At this time of year, however, the aphid activity eases off and they may seek sources of nectar elsewhere
A Speckled Bush-cricket, which was hiding in a clump of bramble beside the path. This is perhaps the most common species of bush-cricket in the uk

the stunning Elm Forest on the way to Durgan

Eristalis pertinax

Thursday, 24 September 2015

A Little Egret photography session...

A few days ago I had the pleasure of coming across a number of superb Little Egrets in the harbour here in Penrhyn. I have not had many opportunities to photograph these recent UK colonists, as they usually stop off on Bardsey for a matter of minutes or hours. It was therefore a superb opportunity to have two or three relatively tame birds stalking around in the shallows of the harbour, darting out to snap up small blennies and gobies. A mix of weather conditions provided some great scenes for photography too, from soft backlighting to moody rain storms. I have included a selection of some of my favourites below...

One of my favourites... backlit and converted to B&W afterwards. I think it gives a better effect

A couple of images when a heavy rain shower passed through

A combo of mostly backlit images, with the dark harbour wall providing a great backdrop

Flight shot against the moody skies

Attempt at slow shutter speed flight shot...needs a lot more work!!

Monday, 21 September 2015

Ringing at Nanjizal - 19th September

This Saturday I headed off to Nanjizal with Will Hawkes, Ellie Mahew, Amy Norris, Emma Inzani, and Kester Wilson himself. The purpose? Ringing. Nanjizal is amongst the many wooded valleys that pepper the coast of Cornwall, acting like a migrant trap for birds passing through. This makes it an ideal site for ringing birds, which is the reason we were there at 6 am on Staurday. This ringing site was developed by Kester and his Dad, and is a private area of ponds, reeds, rushes, woodland and scubland. A total of 18 nets are scattered around this rather large ringing site, which makes net rounds quite lengthy if there are plenty of birds around!

We set off from campus just after 5am, arriving on site at about 0630. The site was covered in mist and looked beautiful in the delicate early morning light. We opened up all the nets, and did net rounds every 30 minutes or so for the rest of the morning. There were a comfortable number of birds around - not too many to make it a very stressful and busy first session at the site, but instead a more relaxed morning with plenty of birds to keep us all entertained and help get our heads around the layout of the area and nets.

We trapped over 60 birds from 0630 to 1400, the most common of which included Chiffchaffs (13), Blackcaps (12), Sedge Warblers (8) and Robins (5). Some particular highlights from the session came in the form two smart Firecrests, a Cetti's Warbler, three Greater Spotted Woodpeckers and a couple of Reed Warblers. All in all it was a great day, and a brilliant intro to this fantastic site. A big thanks to Emma for acting as taxi driver and Kester for allowing us to intrude on his patch!

when we arrived at the site, in the cool hours of the morning, a layer of mist carpeted the ponds and woodland, giving it a tranquil beauty

a panoramic shot from the ringing station, showing the pond and some of the superb habitat present at this ringing site 

the Orb-weaving Spiders like Araneus diadematus produced a spectacular display when combined with the mist and early morning sun. There were hundreds of webs around the site, making for some great photographic opps

A small selection of the birds we trapped and ringed:

One of the smart Firecrests - their scientific name Regulus ignicapillus essentially translates to 'fire-capped prince' . Fitting, I'd say

One of three Great Spotted Woodpeckers trapped and ringed. This bird is in active wing moult, which helps age the bird as being born before this year, ie an adult or second calender year bird

One of the Reed Warblers- this bird was very pale, but measurements confirmed it as being the commoner acro species

Comparison of the greater covert texture and colouration in Chiffchaffs. You can see the diffuse and washed out edges in the juvenile bird below, compared to brighter and more glossy coverts of an adult (above

We had several of these stunning beasts turn up in the nets too! Male Migrant Hawker

Friday, 18 September 2015

Exploring the rockpools of Falmouth

Yesterday afternoon saw most of the bioscience students take to the coastal shores of Gylly Beach, on the western side of Pendennis Point. The reason? A rockpooling extravaganza. The low tide early afternoon exposed a large area of the shore, which revealed a rich and diverse intertidal zone, full of different seaweeds, crustaceans, fish, molluscs and much more. It was a fun session, although Rachel, Will and I discovered an even greater amount of shore life on the sheltered side of Pendennis Point, just prior to the rockpooling session. Here, almost every rock harboured a fascinating selection of species, the highlight of which has to go to the 'Cornish Suckers' (!). More about them in a minute...
It was cool to compare the relative abundance and species composition to that of the rich coastline of Bardsey; I haven't managed to take to the sea and do any snorkelling here as yet, but it looks like it would be very productive when I do manage to get around to it!

Here are some of the highlights of the rockpooling. All images are taken with the Lumix FT-5

This curious creature is the Cornish Sucker, or Lepadogaster lepadogaster for short. Apparently, this species is part of the clingfish family, in which the pelvic fins are modified to form a sucker on the underside, which it uses to clamp onto rocks along the intertidal zone. They feed on a variety of invertebrate prey, and are said to live for four years

There were a few anemones to look at along in the rock pools, including the smart Snakelocks Anemone above. The lower image shows one that we saw yesterday, with the very green tentacles and purplish tips, whereas the top image is of a much larger, greyer one that I photographed off Bardsey last week.

We thought this was a strawberry at first! It turns out that Beadlet Anemones (Actina equina) come in a couple of different forms, this being the 'strawberry' form

One of the most common species of seaweed within the rockpools was this purplish Coral Weed (Coralina officinalis). The individual fronds of this seaweed are made up of interlinking rigid sections held together by flexible joints. 

The most common species of crab we encountered was the Common Shore Crab- the one above is perhaps the largest we disovered

This is a small Velvet Swimming Crab, with its unusually-shaped hind legs that are adapted to enable the crustacean to 'swim' through the water at rather quick speeds!

This was our favourite crustacean- the small Hairy Porcelain Crabs, which clung like limpets to the undersides of many of the rocks along the shoreline. 

It was nice to find a single one of these beauties: the Blue-rayed Limpit. I am familiar with these back on Bardsey, encountering many along the kelp fronds exposed at low tide, but I haven't managed to get any images before now. They are very small

 Common Prawns (Palaemon serratus) were very common as the tide began rising, lurking in the lower areas of the pools
 A cute little starfish species we came across, called the Cushion Star (Asterina gibbosa)

A Straight-nosed Pipefish 
A rockpool landscape to finish

Please correct any mis-IDs!