Jeff Clarke Ecology

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Updates and photos from around the world on my travels both through pleasure and work

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Some birds are more of a dream than a reality and a high Arctic denizen such as Ivory Gull seldom make an appearance in the UK, preferring to spend most of their time scavenging around Polar Bear kills, or a deceased cetacean. When they do occur here they are most likely to be found standing atop a decaying beached whale, or seal. In recent years that had become an exceptionally rare occurrence, but that was about to change...

The late Autumn and early Winter of 2013 has delivered an unprecedented arrival of 1st Winter Ivory Gulls in the UK. Most of the birds appeared in the wake of a devastating low pressure system that ripped across the Atlantic from Greenland and made landfall with a massive storm surge on the 5th December.

©Jeff Clarke 2013
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Before I begin, let me state for the record that I am not a 'Twitcher', I gave that game up in the early eighties, but yesterday was a beautiful December day and a rather unique Crossbill opportunity presented itself, for within a comfortable day's journey it would be possible to see and photograph Common, Parrot and Two-barred Crossbill. I was joined in my quest by fellow naturalist and good egg, Anno.

First stop would be Broomhead Reservoir, a rather lovely spot in South Yorkshire. The low sun had not yet penetrated the larches where the Two-barred Crossbills were likely to be present so we walked towards the sunlit areas. There were plenty of birds around and a bit of loud pishing immediately brought in a sizeable flock of Common Crossbill. Getting reasonable images was another matter as they were mostly backlit.

©Jeff Clarke 2013
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It was a Golden Wedding celebration weekend for my Parents-in-law and I'd taken my wildlife camera gear more in hope than expectation. During a brief hiatus in proceedings I met up with Paul, my brother-in-law, cameras in hand, at Budby Common for a 2 hour sojourn. The light was poor and I thought I might not even press the shutter.

Even when there is nothing to see or photograph Budby is a fine place to walk. After an hour I thought that was all it would be, but the sound of crossbills caught my ear and I watched the flock land in some smallish Scot's Pines, just a couple of hundered metres away on the heath. Paul had never seen crossbill so I suggested we make our way to the pines and 'pish out' the crossbills and see if we could photograph them.

©Jeff Clarke 2013
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In recent days the Cheshire Mammal Group (CMaG) have begun  a series of surveys in search of a mouse. This mouse is feisty and seems to relish getting it's gnashers buried in a handlers digits. This mouse gets due respect. This mouse is the Yellow-necked Mouse.

It was first found in Cheshire in 2011 and at the same site in 2012, on the southern boundary of the county, in the Wych Valley on the border with Shropshire. We wanted to know if that was its northward limit. So we planned a survey to help us plot its distribution which entailed pulling together our collective trap resources. So, on the morning of 29th November 2013, I was assisted by fellow mammalogist, Paul Hill, to prep 240 Longworth and Trip Traps. 8 pints of casters, a packet and a half of dark chocolate digestive biscuits, many pints of grain and copious amounts of hay later, were ready to roll.

©Jeff Clarke Ecology 2013
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Having spent almost a month exploring just a small part of New Zealands natural wealth it was time to head for home. However the final fling involved an early morning ferry ride across the Cook Strait and one more chance to enjoy those dainty Fairy Prions. Around 6.30am in the morning we departed the small town of Picton and headed up the Malborough Sounds. Many birds were evident as we steamed along including Fluttering Shearwaters and a few Little Blue Penguin. Before long we were clearing North Island and ploughing a furrow through a thick picket line of prions. Almost all the way to Wellington we were entertained royally by these delightful and fragile looking tubenoses. The calm and sunny conditions allowed me to reel of hundreds of ...
©Jeff Clarke 2013
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