Thursday 1st June 2017

During the second half of May you might expect that, even though the majority of the migrants have passed through, there'll still be one or two rare birds to go see. However, what was the headline bird for this period? "Rook - still present at Rue des Hougues". Wow. That's the way it goes sometimes, no Guernsey ticks for me then this spring.

On 27th May, with the conditions and tide suitable, I went on my annual pilgrimage to Chouet to do some evening "stormpetrelling". As I drove by, next to the rubbish tip slope, I had a brief glance of a Long-eared Owl as it crossed the road to go hunting. I chatted to the photographers for a bit, then realised I was leaving it a bit late and didn't get into position until about 8 45. However, the Storm Petrels were very easy to pick up this year, albeit not very close in, and I watched 2 or 3 birds circle round and round, feeding off the headland. I also saw about 5 Manx Shearwaters.

 Stormpetrelling

Stormpetrelling

On 30th May I had an evening walk round L'Ancresse golf course, particularly to investigate the ponds there for interesting wildlife. I found a few new species for me around the three tiny pools, including a Duckweed Weevil, which is new for Guernsey as far as I can ascertain. As dusk was drawing in a Long-eared Owl appeared from nowhere, and set about hunting alongside the fairway and I got great views of it. Not as close though, as the oblivious golfer practicing his swing, who didn't notice the bird hovering just yards from his shoulder. Philistine.

On 1st June I joined a Societe Bird Section evening boat trip around Herm organised by Chris M. My main interest was visiting "The Humps" which I had not seen up close before, the string of small islets and rocks north of Herm. These are important local breeding areas for seabirds. First of all we chugged around Jethou and had smashing views of Puffins as they bobbed on the sea.

 Puffin - Jethou, 1 Jun 17

Puffin - Jethou, 1 Jun 17

 Puffin - Jethou, 1 Jun 17

Puffin - Jethou, 1 Jun 17

 Chugging out north past Herm

Chugging out north past Herm

We went round the back of Herm and passed Shell Beach before carrying on northwards. The rocks in this group go by such exotic names as Godin, Longue Pierre, Cul de l'Autel, Tautenay and Grand Amfroque, the latter being the largest and most northerly. Figures from the Seabird 2000 survey, showed there were about 130 pairs of Shag, 50 of Herring Gull, 30+ of Guillemot and just a few of Razorbill and Puffin. Since then, Guillemots have more than doubled and Common Terns have set up a breeding colony of up to 40 pairs (albeit varying). The large numbers of birds breeding on these relatively tiny islands, which get almost totally left alone by humans, shows us what is possible if wildlife is not constantly disturbed.

 The Humps

The Humps

 Grand Amfroque

Grand Amfroque

 Beacon on Grand Amfroque

Beacon on Grand Amfroque

As we were not landing, we couldn't really do any counting of nests or anything, but we did see plenty of stuff from the boat. We had a small group of Grey Seals loafing on the east side of Grand Amfroque, and regular troops of Guillemots and Razorbills swimming around the rocks. A very interesting way to spend the evening, and something I'd wanted to do for a long time.

 Grey Seals on the Humps - 1 Jun 17

Grey Seals on the Humps - 1 Jun 17

 Guillemots - The Humps, 1 Jun 17

Guillemots - The Humps, 1 Jun 17

 Razorbills - The Humps, 1 Jun 17

Razorbills - The Humps, 1 Jun 17

 Gulls following the boat

Gulls following the boat

 Gulls following the boat - I love the composition in this photo, almost balletic.

Gulls following the boat - I love the composition in this photo, almost balletic.

 Herring Gull - nr the Humps - 1 Jun 17

Herring Gull - nr the Humps - 1 Jun 17

A point of interest in this period was an interesting Whimbrel at Pulias on 23rd May. It wasn't really that interesting at the time, apart from it being a rather late individual and that it was reasonably close for photography. However, when looking at my snaps on the computer, I noticed one blurred picture with the bird holding its wings up, and it showed a clear, snowy white underwing! Now I knew this was interesting because I'd recently read about possible records of the near-mythical 'Steppe' Whimbrel in South Africa. The number one, key feature is the snowy-white underwing, in particular the axillaries. A typical Whimbrel has very obvious dark bars and chequers on its axillaries and coverts, very unlike the bird shown in the photo below. If you look very closely, the Pulias bird does have narrow dark shaft-streaks on each axillary feather, so not pure white. However, there seems to be zero dark marks at all on the other inner-underwing coverts, these seem pure white.

Now, just to be clear, I am not even slightly claiming a possible sighting of the near- or possibly-extinct 'Steppe' Whimbrel. I truly believe this to be a normal-raced Whimbrel just with unusually white underwings, which in itself is very interesting. It could possibly be a Whimbrel from a more distant population than what usually travels through here - who knows? Please visit these websites (HERE) and (HERE) which go into detail about the appearance of a group of wintering presumed 'Steppe' Whimbrels in Africa. You can see that the Pulias bird does not particularly show the other features mentioned in the text, although many of these cannot be seen in my pics. But I will definitely keep all my photos on file for future reference and take a closer note of Whimbrel underwings from now on. Just goes to show that an apparent ordinary, common bird can be of great interest at times.

 Whimbrel - Pulias, 23 May 17

Whimbrel - Pulias, 23 May 17

 Whimbrel - Pulias, 23 May 17

Whimbrel - Pulias, 23 May 17

Below are some pictures of some more interesting invertebrate sightings during May. The Forget-me-not Shieldbug was found floating in my watering can and is a recent arrival in Guernsey it seems (although I am researching whether this may be a similar but different species that is found on the continent). The Violet-winged Mining Bee has never been recorded in the garden before but, the first year we've planted a few salad brassicas they came in like a shot and have become regular. It shows how important certain species of plants are for certain species of insect.

 Forget-me-not Shieldbug - garden, 1 Jun 17

Forget-me-not Shieldbug - garden, 1 Jun 17

 Kidney-spot Ladybird - garden, 13 May 17

Kidney-spot Ladybird - garden, 13 May 17

 Violet-winged Mining Bee - garden, 14 May 17

Violet-winged Mining Bee - garden, 14 May 17

 Melanotus punctolineatus - Ronez NT, 31 May 17

Melanotus punctolineatus - Ronez NT, 31 May 17