Fairy tern in flight on the South Atlantic island of St Helena on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-46 fairy_tern

Confessions of a Reluctant Twitcher on St Helena

The next St Helena tourism campaign probably won’t be based on visitors crawling between cowpats on Deadwood Plain. It’s not on many people’s list of things to do on the South Atlantic island, and yet that’s exactly what I was doing one morning.

Endemic wirebirds on the South Atlantic island of St Helena on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-4 wirebirds

Wirebirds among the cow pats

This reasons for this curious pastime almost certainly needs clarification; I was attempting to get some acceptable images of the island’s only endemic bird, the wirebird. This is more difficult than it sounds, as the bird is especially skittish when protecting a nest with eggs or new-born chicks, and a relatively short focal length lens adds to the challenge.

I’m not really keen on birdwatching, but up for a challenge, and get quite excited when I manage to capture an interesting bird, even more so if in flight.

Endemic wirebirds on the South Atlantic island of St Helena on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-17 wirebird

The endemic wirebird

That’s why I found myself up close, and personal with fresh cow waste material, in handy, dish plate sized portions. The wiry legged birds were feigning injury, hoping to draw our group away from their nest. Performing their ‘dance’ around among the clumps of grass, and other sparse vegetation of the plain, hoping to distract us away from the precious contents of their nest.

Endemic wirebird on the South Atlantic island of St Helena on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-311 wirebird_chick

Dungbird …. I mean wirebird chick

Endemic wirebirds on the South Atlantic island of St Helena on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-309 wirebird_display

The ‘distressed bird’ display

The chicks are well camouflaged, and the eggs even more so, they’re really difficult to spot. Our National Trust guide even admitting to previously treading on a well hidden nest …… oops, not good when there are only around 360 adult birds.

Endemic wirebird on the South Atlantic island of St Helena on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-5 wirebird_sthelena

Watching wirebirds watching us

The wirebird, isn’t the only bird that I stalked. Sneaking up on masked boobys roosting on volcanic rocks slick with guano, creeping up to the adorably named fairy terns nesting on high, coastal rock stacks, and snapping at dozens of speedy brown noddys in flight, flashing across my viewfinder.

Madagascar or Red Fody on the South Atlantic island of St Helena on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-108 red_fody

The elusive Madagascar or Red Fody

The greatest challenge was capturing an image of the common, and brightly coloured, but tiny Madagascar or Red Fody. It is so small, and rarely stops in one place for so long, a fleeting, teasing visitor to a nearby branch. Almost every time one momentarily stopped, a game of blogger and bird was the result, it became a mild obsession.

A masked booby on guano covered volcanic St Helena on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-44 masked_booby

Masked booby, and no, that’s not whitewash

Masked booby glides over the South Atlantic near St Helena on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-106 masked_booby

A gliding masked booby

On second thoughts, maybe crawling through cowpats isn’t such a strange activity after all. They might have to work on my suggested campaign slogan however ….. “Birdwatching on St Helena; it’s the shit!”

Brown noddy in flight on the South Atlantic island of St Helena on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-42 brown_noddy

Brown noddy in flight

Tern in flight on the South Atlantic island of St Helena on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-40 flying_tern

The essence of freedom

It’s certainly a good destination for birdwatchers, and stalking wildlife with a camera is preferable to a rifle anytime. Photographers are modern-day hunters, much more sustainable than the alternative.

Fairy tern in flight on the South Atlantic island of St Helena on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-46 fairy_tern

The fantastically named fairy tern

There are even four species of albatross on the island, not seeing any was a minor disappointment; damn, sounding just like a genuine born again twitcher.

Tern in flight on the South Atlantic island of St Helena on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-41 flying_seabird

A pirate of the skies

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Comments 3

  1. Elizabeth Manneh

    I so much enjoyed reading this account of your reluctant bird safari! I have never visited St Helena, but it looks like a great place. You have some fabulous photos – I especially like the shot of the Fairy tern. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Paul

    Good post, and some great birds. For someone who’s not a twitcher, you came up with some good pictures — flight shots are tough, and the fairy tern pic is great. If you ever get the bug, there’s a world of enjoyment: every part of the world has its own set of birds, and they’re all weird and wonderful.

  3. ANJANA

    BEAUTIFUL BIRDS IMAGES…
    twitching is a beautiful way of making birds into different species … here reading your article I got much new information which I was not at all aware of it… even I watched on tv about this-this is so interesting to see and much more interesting to read…thanks for sharing this wonderful article…

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