Sanderling Citizen Science

Just to be clear, this is about people studying shorebirds, not a surreal Sanderling society where small, dumpy birds study the humans on a day out at the beach…

…So anyway, the other day I was at the beach.  I was at Dungeness with my telescope on the lookout for terns using the area as a fishing ground as part of my summer contract of tern monitoring.  But as its near the end of a pretty dismal breeding season in Sussex, there weren’t too many terns.  Instead I was drawn to some small shorebirds running along the water’s edge looking for food.  They were Sanderling and the very first one I saw happened to be colour ringed!


A pretty poor image but not bad for a phone down a dirty scope when Sanderlings never stand still!


Longest Day

Well its come to that time of year when the evenings start to draw in, but for a while yet at least we can enjoy some amazing summer evenings.  Over the weekend I spent an evening at Camber Castle and shot this quick timelapse:

Hope you enjoy!

The Beach

I’m busy working on my tern project and also producing a mini film at the moment so haven’t had my camera in photo mode for a while.  But I was on the beach for an amazing sunrise recently and it reminded me of this shot I took a couple of years ago.  The sand has changed shape slightly under the tides but otherwise the scene was almost identical and pretty stunning.



So this year is all about the terns for me (if you haven’t had a look yet watch my latest microfilm about them here).  but every now and then something else comes along out of the blue… and it can be really, really blue!

peacock feathers (1 of 5)

Some of my in-laws have peacocks on their farm and this week one of them parted company with a few feathers.  Now feathers are amazing structures but peacock feathers go a whole step further and I couldn’t resist taking a few snaps and putting them up here.

peacock feathers (2 of 5)

The small vanes up the long quills are pretty sparse but still shine an amazing metallic blue-green

More photos after the break.


Wolf Spiders

wolf spiderSkomer doesn’t do very well compared to the mainland when it comes to invertebrates but it does have a fair few spiders- here is one of the more common ones, a Pardosa species of wolf spider.  These guys run along the ground stalking their prey, hence their name, and pounce upon them with large mouthpieces to quickly dispatch them.

A lot of people don’t really like spiders, but I think they can be truly beautiful.  Once you get past the bristly legs, slightly odd walking movements and beady eyes they have some redeeming features.  They have some amazingly colourations on the body.  They can have oddly characterful faces with their big eyes (especially the jumping spiders or Salticids).  And they are amazing parents, the wolf spider will carry a parcel of eggs round with it for safekeeping and when they hatch will carry the miniature spiders on their abdomen until they are self sufficient.

Anyway, spiders are cool.

Til next time…

Sand Martin

sand martinThis picture is a bit of a cheat…  Desite there being a good stream of martins coming through Skomer this spring I haven’t found the time to get a good picture of them.  So this is an image from last season, which has had a bit of a brush up in Lightroom.  These guys spend a lot of time around the water bodies on Skomer, snapping up the flies that gather there and fuelling up for the next step of their migration.  It can be a bit bewildering with the constant Swallows, House and Sand Martins filing past on a sunny day but these guys tend to be a bit “Sandier” in colour and have that nice collar of colour to separate them from the other birds.  Even so, counting how many have gone through in a day for the records can be a bit of a challenge.

Finding Somewhere Special

In the last few weeks before leaving the island, Teresa and I took the opportunity to walk the routes that you just can’t get to during the breeding season on Skokholm.  This photo was taken from a spot that is full of hundreds of Puffin and Manx Shearwaters during the summer months, and even out of season I had to be careful with burrows but it was worth it for this view- it sums up why I love the place.

where's your favourite place?


Something a bit smaller…. and leggier…

Well I’ve been focussing on birds quite a lot recently because that’s what most conservation focusses on in this country.  Britain is bird mad and the number of people turning up with binoculars and telescopes to back up their cameras with long lenses shows this is no less true out on Skomer.  In one sense this makes sense, there are no large mammals out here (a single Muntjack deer made it out here under its own steam in the recent past).  We do have our own subspecies of vole, some shrews, mice, lizards and slow worms…. but thats about it really.

So I went down the size scale the other day and found a good old spider, one of the Pardosa species that is commonly found in grassland all over the country, even on islands!

This little guy was making the most of the sunshine and warm conditions down amongst the vegetation.  Wolf spiders like this one get their name due to their highly active hunting technique which entails them roaming the leaf litter and grasslands to run down small invertebrates to eat.  As a true Brit this family of spiders is usually quite dull in colour but they can get quite colourful elsewhere, just take a look at the Peacock Spider from overseas! (maybe skip over the slow start of this clip…)