Turnstone plumage

We are lucky to have a small population of Ruddy Turnstones, Arenaria interpres, in Scarborough. They spend most of the year here, except for the summer when they fly up to the Arctic to breed. Before they leave in May, they have usually moulted into their gorgeous breeding plumage (below). Their plumage gradually changes over…

Juvenile herring gulls following gannets

When I came across this melee of seabirds, just off the East Pier in Scarborough, I was a bit confused at first about what was going on! There were large numbers of juvenile Herring gulls taking off and landing in the water. What were they doing? After a while, I realised that there were a…

Gannets on granite: Ailsa Craig

Ailsa Craig rises up out of the Firth of Clyde, rounded and rugged, a gigantic lump of rock hard granite. I had the pleasure of sailing past this small island, 1 .2 km in diameter and home to over 35,000 pairs of northern gannets (Morus bassanus) last month, on a short, three-day cruise out of Liverpool. Ailsa…

That’s nothing! I grew up on a lamp post!

Older readers may remember the hilarious sketch by Monty Python where they play four Yorkshiremen trying to outdo each other in terms of how poor and deprived they were whilst growing up! If not, here are a couple of versions of the sketches: For some reason, I was reminded of this sketch whilst photographing this…

Why do ducks have blue wing flashes?

Originally posted on Ray Cannon's travel blog:
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) 6 June 2021 Beds, UK. Photo by Raymond JC Cannon Many types of dabbling ducks have iridescent wing patches called specula (singular: speculum). These flashes are usually blue or green, although the colour can vary somewhat according to the angle and the lighting conditions.…

Tiny moths in a buttercup

There’s a lot going on inside buttercups if you look closely. Well maybe not all buttercups! But if you keep an eye open, all sorts of things turn up, as I have blogged about before: Buttercup bedfellows. Today I came across a new bedfellow to add to the list: Orange spot percier (Pammene aurana). This…

Why are some young leaves red?

Mark Cocker’s Country diary piece in the Guardian this week, 1 June 2021 (‘the most seductive shade of green‘) got me thinking about leaves, trees and colours. As Mark reminded us, leaves look green because chlorophyll molecules absorb the red end of the visible light spectrum in photosynthesis, and the unused green light is reflected. Counterintuitively perhaps, they are green…