Hungary #5 – marsh terns

Keeping a weather eye on Birdguides, I see there are a few Red-footed Falcons and White-winged Black Terns filtering into the UK at the moment. I’d dearly love to find either up here, but particularly one of the latter – White-winged Black terns are by a country mile my favourite tern species. Hungary has had an incredibly wet spring this year, so Hortobagy was teeming with Whiskered, Black and White-winged Black Terns while I was there with Shetland Wildlife.

The White-winged Blacks seemed to be everywhere, even hawking over the water-filled roadside ditches. Such a treat to see them at such close quarters. That said, the Whiskered Terns were numerous too, and were often seen engaging in courtship behaviour, offering fish to one another and occasionally mating – a very noisy affair!

Hungary #4 – Pygmy Cormorants

As promised, it’s Pygmy Cormorants today from my Shetland Wildlife trip to Hungary. Only a handful of images as I have yet to do the many photos taken full justice, and other work is beginning to catch up with me now I am back in Shetland. At least I missed nothing of any great impact on the island while I was away – and selfishly it was a huge relief that a report of an unstreaked locustella last week turned out to be a Grasshopper Warbler. Phew! The many River Warblers we saw and heard in the Zempln Hills floodplain were all the sweeter for knowing I wasn’t missing one on my doorstep!

Two years running now I have managed to spend a fortnight off Shetland in the height of spring migration without missing a good bird at home – an enviable record, though not one JLI and the others will thank me for as my time away has coincided both years with predominantly northerly winds. Still, as BM says – it just takes one bird…

Hungary #3 – Hawfinches

More photos from my Shetland Wildlife trip to Hungary. Well, I was going to do Pygmy Cormorants today, but I’ve been distracted by Hawfinches. They were a revelation to a British birder accustomed to seeing them bombing over the treetops in East Sussex or Hampshire – numerous, and at times ludicrously confiding, perching out in the open and giving me loads of opportunities to take photos and sketches – I have notebooks rammed with 15 second drawings that will keep me occupied grappling with watercolours in idle moments next winter.

So. Hawfinches today…

Hungary #2 – Red-footed Falcons

More Hungary photos from my time there in the past fortnight with Shetland Wildlife – this time Red-footed Falcons. There were Red-footed Falcons all over the place out there, and they’re terrific to spend some time watching – dead characterful, and I got views I would never have dreamt of in my days of twitching them in the UK. Whoever would have known they had lemon-yellow eyelids? Not me!

Hungary #1 – woodpeckers

Returned to Shetland yesterday after a fabulous two weeks birding and a pho-tour recce in Hungary for Shetland Wildlife. I have a lot of photos to sort through, so will start with one of the big hits of the trip – the woodpeckers. Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures of Wryneck to complete the set… and the really arboreal and shy species were tricky to get anything more than a record shot (these were birds to enjoy as a birder, and not faff around trying to focus a camera on through dozens of leaves and branches!), but still, here they are:


Clearing memory cards this evening ready for the next few days.

I like this:

King Eider

A good day out today with my first tour of the summer – great company, and some top wildlife. Over an hour spent with a fabulously confiding Otter, then cleaned up on the hill with point-blank views of Mountain Hare and Red Grouse. Other notables included Common Scoter, courting Whooper Swans, and some cracking summer-plumaged Red-throated and Great Northern Divers. All good stuff.

Day’s end with a King Eider in the south mainland. Nice.

Early Spider Orchids

Early Spider Orchids are now well underway down in Kent. Masses of variation amongst them:

Bearded Seal reprise

One of my Bearded Seal photos has been chosen as one of the ‘Your photos from around Scotland’ images for this week on the BBC website. Image #9 if anyone’s interested…


Drove around the island this afternoon trying to take portraits of Lapwings.

I know there are a million things technically wrong with these latter two, but I like the movement in them.