Wednesday, 31 December 2014

A bit of luck ....

I really like the composition of this image of a Short Eared Owl, however I have to '' fess up '' and admit it was purely by chance !

It was taken over a set aside field surrounded by hedgerows, one wing of the bird is over the foreground colour and the other over the much darker background.

The end result is a sort of '' lost and found '' effect.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Wow ....... Penduline Tit at Bedford ... a masked bandit indeed.

Normally when I chase a twitched bird my track record is  -  '' You've just missed it '' or '' it showed five minutes after you left ''.

Not today !.

The light was superb, the bird was fantastic as a real UK rarity although distant for my lens combination, the image is therefore heavily cropped.

A new tick for me. 

It was very active flitting about its favoured food source bulrushes, I have one rather soft record image showing it scratching a bulrush with its clawed foot to expose the seeds within.  

What a great couple of hours at mid-day with a warm sun on my back and quality light at the end of December. 

Monday, 29 December 2014

Female Teal at Titchwell Marsh .........

....... on a very blowy day, the ducks were taking shelter in the lee of a waterside bank giving a great opportunity for some close up images.

Normally when I see Teal they are way out of range for my 300mm lens that I use in conjunction with a 1.4 teleconverter so it was really good to get up close although the light quality was pretty poor.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

In life there are bad apples in every barrel ............

Very sad in view of the exceptional work that Paul Riddle does for Owls in Leicestershire, 

I am lost for words at the moment.

What a world these people must live in. 

Drake Teal .........

I'm not the best photographer in the world but I do believe that I'm a reasonable observer.

This image sums it up well, with a Drake Teal you should really get the green eye patch well illuminated, its one of the birds key features.

But It was the structure of its feathers that captured my attention, I am not an experienced Ducker but I can't think of many, maybe Manderin Ducks, that have such a coarse and high profile plumage structure on their backs and wings..

I could of course be trying to compensate for a sub-standard image in the first place !.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Stocking the larder .........

The birds visiting my feeding Station at Grafton Underwood are responding very well to the seed and peanuts that I am providing for them in exchange for good photo opportunities.

Just before Christmas I was unable to access the area with my car / hide so I walked up with my tripod and used a remote shutter release from a distance of about four to five meters as the birds arrive and depart very quickly and their movements are difficult to track through the viewfinder.

Despite the still relatively mild weather all of the birds species have become very confiding and ignore my presence, even the Nuthatches which are normally very retiring birds.

At one point today I had three Nuthatches in my line of sight, they were coming and going with great frequency so I guess that they are cacheing peanuts for the harder times to come.

A videographer friend of mine, Graham Barker, saw some Common Redpolls here recently so there is another challenge, what would I give for some Bramblings as well !.

Below is a link to the video that Graham took of his visit published on U-tube.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Common Redpoll at Lackford Lakes, Suffolk.

This image was definitely a quickly '' grabbed '' shot, its not very often that I see Redpolls perched at such a low level, normally they are out of range way up in the woodland canopy flitting around foraging for seeds.

I believe that this is a female as there is no rouged bib on its neck and chest.

Monday, 22 December 2014

If I were a Buddhist I think that I would probably have been a Goldfinch in a previous life........

......... because I just love the colour and texture of Phragmite reed beds, Bulrushes and Teasels that are such an important food source for Goldfinches and other birds.

Reed beds change with the seasons, in the depths of winter they can be inhospitable, unwelcoming and cold, very cold. 

In Spring and Summer they are warm living environments abounding with summer migrants, In all cases they enrich this countryside of ours. 

Lovely complimentary  '' hard and soft '' contrast between the Teasels and the barbed wire

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Oystercatcher ...... old carrot beak

On the coast.

I  don't recall ever having seen an Oystercacher swimming ........ They are normally seen standing and rooting around the shore line for food, it was therefore quite a surprise to photograph this chap swimming around about twenty feet off shore in very calm water earlier in the year. 

They really are characters and very entertaining birds that never fail to put on a show.  

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Shelduck sifting food from the mud

Handsome ducks Shelducks, I love seafood but I'm not sure that their diet would suit me, a bit too gritty !

Friday, 19 December 2014

Let there be light ..........

.... and what a difference good light makes to our efforts.

Earlier this week  I mentioned my feeding and seeding of some local woodland at Grafton Underwood.

I knew that Nuthatches are in the woodland as I have photographed them in the past, but today was a magic moment as circumstances combined to give me a cracking photo opportunity.

Nuthatches are shy birds with no appetite for being under the spotlight, but they have now accepted the presence of both my car, me and a ready supply of peanuts .....  I know that it is a '' staged '' situation but when I look at this image I think that it is worthy of publication.

The right place at the right time .... and an investment of more hours than I care to admit to !

Record shot, Grey Plover ......... all the way from the Arctic.

In Summer on its Arctic tundra breeding grounds the Grey Plover is a stunningly smart bird, when migrating south in summer it is, incredibly, capable of non-stop flights of 6,500 km.

Here in the UK they moult into their winter plumage but are nevertheless still attractive. 

Generally quite solitary, particularly when feeding, they may form flocks when driven off mud flats by the incoming tide.

This image was taken from quite a distance and is consequently heavily cropped, still, I am pleased as it is the first one I have had opportunity to photograph !.  

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Redshank ......

One of our more recognisable waders, Redshank numbers are sadly in decline as a result of the effects of global warming and intensive agricultural  practices on their coastal and inland habitats.

On the coast rising water levels are reducing the area of mudflats exposed at low tide on which the species feed, Inland drainage of boggy areas to maximise agricultural output is increasing  '' dry '' land that the probing beaks of the birds can not penetrate, and even if they could, the invertebrate life no longer exists.

To be fair, some inland landowners do try and mitigate their drive for efficiency with conservation measures, but not enough of them.

That's progress folks ............   

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Titchmarsh LNR murmuration update - 17.12.14

A visit this evening indicates that the murmuration continues to decline considerably and is falling well short of its maxima in November.

Our loss is I am sure other peoples gain ..... c'est la vie !. 

An hour with a mossy log at Grafton Underwood

How to have some fun and great image opportunities with a mossy log, or if you live in an arid area just a short length of tree trunk.

There are a lot of better bird photographers than I, I have to work hard on field craft to get my humble results due to the limitations of my lens.

1. Find some quiet but accessible mature deciduous woodland on the edge of which there is cover that birds can perch on and in.  Make sure that you can easily park your car  offside on with the sun behind you and the area to be seeded close to the cover between your car and the woods..  

2. Over a couple of visits feed a mix of seed and peanuts onto the selected area which should be well lit, keep the seeded area tight and concentrated, just a mound covering an area no more than 150mm x 150mm square. 

3. Find a small moss covered log, say, 300mm wide, and put it down on the ground where you have been feeding and then add the feed tight up against it on the side facing your car.

4. The birds will come and land on the log before dropping down to feed giving a natural look and background to your photographs, in my humble opinion there is nothing worse than images of birds standing on seed.

It's not necessary with a bit of thought, planning and creativity you can get around it, and believe me I know nothing as an enthusiastic amateur !  

You may not get it right first time, I didn't, so develop your patch until you are getting the most from it.

I have reached the stage where the birds start to gather in the cover before I have even finished parking the car, its not unusual for them to come down to the log whilst I am still adding the feed.

The distance between my car and the log is approximately four / five meters, oh and don't forget to use a bean bag to rest your camera on the door frame and if possible green gloves to disguise hand movement when targeting your subject.   

I hope that it works for you should you try it, the real benefit is that the birds enjoy additional food especially when the weather hardens.

                                     Do not disperse the seed - keep it concentrated

Blue Tit
A very feisty and territorial Robin fighting all comers !
Coal Tit
Great Tit

                                                              Marsh Tit

Other species in attendance were Nuthatches, Chaffinch, Blackbirds and Bullfinches.

It would be great if eventually I can add Brambling to the list.

The Trees also contain Treecreepers, Jays and Great Spotted Woodpeckers with Sparrrowhawks, Buzzard and Red Kites overhead.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The call of these guys sends shivers down my spine .............

To hear the plaintive call of this bird resonating over wild and desolate coastal places and remote inland sites is a sound that you will never forget, but in my youth it was a sound that could also be heard in lowland rural areas before agricultural farming practices became so intensive, what a sad loss.

I often think that domestic pets have their owners to provide, look after and protect them ......  who's looking after our birds ?, you can, by supporting your local Wildlife Trusts, then maybe your grandchildren will still be able to see and hear species such as this.

Sadly, I fear that this may not be the case.

Monday, 15 December 2014

An intense stare ........

Over the last couple of months I have been seeing more and more Robins where ever I go, I hope that this is a strong indicator of a very successful breeding season this year.

The other thing that I have also noticed of late is that they seem to be getting more confiding, this weekend on my travels I witnessed countless instances of people being able to approach to within two, maybe three feet of Robins with the birds showing no signs of discomfort or unease, it can't be hunger because insect life is still abundant due to the mild winter conditions that prevail.

Let me give you an example, I met a very nice couple with their new baby girl in a harness around her dads chest.  I  could hardly believe it when he approached a Robin and took some shots with his mobile phone,  they were so close to each other that at first I thought the Robin was sitting on his hand ...... Incredible. 

This little chap was so close that I had to step back a few paces in order to get focus, there is a word I am told,  ( Anthropomorphism ) that covers situations where we try to apply human emotions to our avian friends.

All I can say is that in my opinion this birds expression suggests that it is giving some thought to me and my presence in a rather melancholic manner .

....... weird  ! but a great experience.  

Sunday, 14 December 2014

There's always one ........

Yesterday was a beautiful crisp winters day with great light and I can tell you that it was really good to feel the warmth of the sun on my back with the '' shortest day '' looming large on the 21st.

Fieldfares are all over the reserve stripping the berried shrubs but unwilling to pose for the camera, very frustrating. 

I spent some time in the South hide and was pleased with this image of a well lit Dunnock perched  on top of some brambles by the side of the reed beds, they really do get everywhere.

A number of Water Rails were calling and squealing from the depths of the reed beds, heard but not seen.

Apart from that a male sparrowhawk flew past with the low sun illuminating its breast and a wren briefly came into the hide to keep me company, what a pleasant end to the day.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Titchmarsh LNR murmuration update - 12.12.14

Yesterday evening in good light I went to check on the murmuration, it has declined in size and continues to favour the Titchmarsh side of the reserve rather than the reed beds around the second hide towards the Elinor Fishery.

The murmuration seems to have split and was using two reed bed on the Aldwincle side of Brancey Brook as viewed from the little wooden bridge ( see reserve map ).

It will be interesting to see how things develop as winter draws on and colder weather prevails.

Up close and personal at Pitsford reservoir.

The Mallard is a Duck that we take for granted.

On a recent trip to Pitsford Reservoir I stopped off at the Causeway car park, an area used extensively by the general public to feed the gathered wildfowl, which gave excellent opportunities for close up images of the birds.

The variety of plumage on display really was interesting, for example I have never focused on the fact that some birds have white eyelids. 

Friday, 12 December 2014

Attractive Mallard variant at Pitsford reservoir.

Well, I caused quite a stir when I posted this image on the Birdforum  I.D. section yesterday by describing these ducks as Mallard hybrids.

I consider myself well and truly told off when advised in no uncertain terms that they are not Hybrid ( an inter species cross ) but Mallard variants. 

My original point however was that ( no matter how you describe them ) these examples are actually quite unusual and, to my eyes, visually attractive, almost ornamental. 

A Thrush in winter rather than a winter Thrush

The Song Thrush, a resident UK bird that brightens up spring and summer days with its superb calls and songs, generally quite difficult to see until it decides to ' stand up and be counted '' and shows itself from the highest of perches.

Equally comfortable on the ground where it can be seen often but never far from cover, males may hold their territories throughout the year.

Whilst some migration does take place I always feel that the Song Thrush is a very British bird. 

Thursday, 11 December 2014

High rise living ...... The Titchmarsh Heronery

Titchmarsh LNR used to have a renowned heronery that has diminished in size in recent years.

Mirroring life, someone is always ready to take advantage of population changes and this is certainly the case with the Little Egret which has moved on to the reserve in numbers over the last decade, maxima in early November this year was seventeen birds.

Little Egrets do not flock in the accepted sense but rather form loose associations when in flight together, I was recently lucky enough to see six birds in the air together in transit between the Barclaycard pit and Town Lake, Thrapston, It was quite a sight. 

Usually I see Little Egrets on the ground or in short flights around the Reserve, certainly a bit different therefore to see one at roost during the day.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

An unobtrusive woodland bird .......

With the trees now virtually free of foliage this time of year is excellent for firstly locating Treecreepers and secondly photographing them.

Apart from hearing their high pitched contact calls I find that the best way of finding them in mature woodland is to stand in a position where you can see twenty of thirty well separated trees with exposed trunks particularly at their base.

Generally Treecreepers will fly down to the base of a tree to start their corkscrewing ascent, in flight their white underparts show very well and its relatively easy to pick them up as they flit from tree to tree.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Lets have another chat .........

I just love these chunky little characters, they have real presence !.

The male is very colourful with its dark orange breast and black head separated by its white neck patches.

Like our Robins, Stonechats are quite inquisitive and curious, it is not unusual for them to approach  quite close presenting good opportunities for photography.

Windblown .....

This rather ruffled Kestrel was hunkered down in a strong breeze keeping its profile as low as possible on top of the telegraph pole.

She was clearly in two minds, most of the time she was staring down at the roadside verge below looking for prey with periodic glances in my direction to check me out.

The stand off lasted for about five minutes before she extended her wings in a very leisurely manner and the wind plucked her from her perch without so much as a wingbeat, she continued on her way without a backwards glance to hunt along the hedgerow stopping occasionally to hover and inspect promising prey opportunities.  

A very pleasant encounter.

Monday, 8 December 2014

You live and learn

Last Friday I posted a video of an American Great Blue Heron catching and eating a Gopher that behaviourally I found quite extraordinary.

Today in my early morning e-mail was a link from a friend to another video on U-tube which is ..... well ...... four times as extraordinary !

So, when you are out and about and in the presence of Grey Herons away from their normal habitats near water it is worth taking a closer look at what they may be doing.

Nature never fails to amaze.

Matching book ends ........

I quite like Cormorants which is just as well as we have no shortage of them on the reserve, its not unusual to see ten or so in the air at the same time and generally all you really see is a big and ungainly black bird.

However in the right light their plumage comes to life with a subtlety that is quite worthy of remark.

Add to this their yellow and white bills and the brightest of emerald coloured eyes and actually you have quite a respectable looking bird.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

A few rays of light ........

..... are all that it takes to turn a bad image opportunity into a good one and this was certainly the case with this Nuthatch at Grafton Underwood.

Surrounded by shadows and badly lit branches it perched above the gloom and was just catching the only light available, illuminating its plumage and eye.

To my mind a very pleasing result.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Greylag Geese .....

As regular visitors to my blog know, lately, I have been observing the Titchmarsh Starling murmuration on a regular basis.

A precursor to the arrival of the Starlings is the movement of the large resident flocks of Greylag geese as they leave the reserve for their overnight grazing.

The noise that they make as they take off and pass overhead with their cackling and honking is quite deafening, I say pass overhead but the reality is that on many occasions they are barely ten to twenty feet above the ground as they jostle for position to form their skeins.

Friday, 5 December 2014

The Titchmarsh Murmuration - update 05.12.14

Every time I view this spectacle it differs, no two times are the same.

This evening the sky was cloudless and the the birds started arriving about 3.45 but never really formed a condensed murmuration.

Currently, the birds seem to be favouring and are best viewed from the Titchmarsh side of the reserve ( from the Aldwincle car park turn left on entering the reserve,  through Titchmarsh wood and walk up the meadow along the mown path until approximately fifty meters short of the wooden bench ), the birds are dropping into the reed beds in front of you, also keep an eye behind you as they are using the reed beds across the river back towards Aldwincle.

As always Sparrowhawks were in attendance.

It was all over by 4.15.  

                                                            Full Moon on the rise 

Up, up and away ........

Its easy to dismiss Grey Herons as nothing really worthy of comment, but they are truly magnificent  birds on the wing and when it comes to feeding themselves very inventive as portrayed in the video link below, in this case a Blue Heron in the States.

A strike speed like a cobra.

Whilst their habitat is very much around rural water bodies they are increasingly to be found in urban areas as was the case with this image of a Heron taking off from a neighbours roof where it had been taking an interest in their ornamental fish pond !.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Griffin, the Border Terrier .......

I'm a birder and lover of wildlife, sometimes however a life event takes you '' off topic '', so this post is far from morbid, its a tribute, I want to celebrate the passing of a great personality with a global audience !. 

My brother-in-law and sisters pet, Griffin dog, loved everybody and was loved by all.

Not bad going too for this breed to reach seventeen years in age, in the words of the song ''we all gotta go some time ' and we all will !.  

Titchmarsh Kingfisher .......

The reserve has a good population of Kingfishers, however, photo opportunities are few and far between due to the large expanses of water presented by the reclaimed gravel pits.

Its not unusual to see a flash of blue and orange and their distinctive profile in flight as they flit about with their direct purposeful wing beats, normally fleeting and out of range.

So I tend to concentrate on the two brooks that run along the northern side of the reserve, Harper's and Brancey's. The benefit is that the flights of the birds tend to be contained within the relatively narrow water course. 

I was lucky enough to be next to cover when this male alighted on a nearby perch, the light quality was not good against a dark background, nevertheless, a pleasing result.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

What a Great Tit .......

Common, widespread and colourful,  always a willing subject for a quick image as the leaves continue to fall and ambient temperatures start to drop away as winter continues its advance.

Quite a heavy frost here in Northamptonshire this morning.

Whilst Redwings and Fieldfares are in the area they are notoriously challenging to get close to before they fly away en mass, I will continue trying as I am a great believer that persistence overcomes resistance !.  

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Coal Tit, Grafton Underwood, Northamptonshire.

Lovely little hyperactive birds Coal Tits.

I have started feeding up a small area at Grafton Park with mixed seeds and peanuts again as I did last year, lets see how it develops over the coming weeks as temperatures fall.

Monday, 1 December 2014

A Golden moment .....

Widespread as they are Goldfinches can appear virtually anywhere, in your garden feeding on Niger seeds or in the wild feeding in the canopy tops, a favourite of mine is when they are at ground level  prising seeds out of teasels which is a very photogenic environment.

Truly magnificent looking birds that are doing very well at the moment in the UK due to their diverse feeding habits and habitat versatility.