Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Nearly a happy chappie ........

Of the Hobby Family at Titchmarsh LNR as far as I can tell this juvenile is the only remaining bird, I think that the parents and the other two fledglings have already departed.

This bird is very active, feeding well off the Dragonfly stocks  and quite tolerant of my presence.

Hard birds to photograph due to their speed and aerobatic hunting flight I think this is probably one of the best images I have achieved, you can see a Dragonfly in its talons, apparently when they capture a Dragonfly the first thing they do is remove the wings to improve aerodynamics

This image makes all of the time spent observing these amazing aerial acrobats so worth while !. But I still need to get the memorable shot, the wall hanger ...... maybe next year.

Tremendous raptors, I will miss them when they finally leave the reserve until they hopefully return next year.


Monday, 29 September 2014

Lackford Lakes and Burwell, Suffolk and Cambs.

Lackford Lakes is a compact and very friendly reserve run by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust located in between Elveden and Bury St Edmonds. The numerous hides are well located and well managed overlooking a variety of habitats comprising of reed beds, scrapes and gravel pits.  

Our objective was to connect with Kingfishers and we were successful, otherwise the reserve was fairly quiet awaiting the arrival of winter migrants for which it is renowned.

Given the above we decided to relocate to Bakers Fen and Adventurers Fen, Burwell  which abuts Wicken Fen on its south western border. 

Just before we left whilst we were loading our kit into the car a very showy Chiffchaff was in a hedge no more than ten feet from us, the light quality was superb and really made the birds plumage shine.

Again, Burwells' Fens were fairly quiet, I'm afraid its that time of the year, Little Egrets, little Grebe and a Kingfisher was flitting about and fishing  in front of Charlies Hide.

Graham Barker ( https://www.youtube.com/user/gwafilms/videos ) will be posting a video of our trip shortly on his U-tube site. 

                                                                  Heavily cropped.
                                                                  Heavily cropped

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Tomorrow .......

Three of us are off to Lackford Lakes between Elveden and BSE ( Bury St Edmonds ).

Lackford Lakes is a very  well run and friendly reserve in Suffolk run by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, it has a good mix of old Gravel Pits, scrapes and reed beds ..... it can be a good location for connecting with Kingfishers.

I say can because I have heard mixed reports from various contacts, I guess nothing can be Guaranteed in life !.

The weather forecast is overcast but warm, seven o'clock start so an early night for me !.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Quite a challenge .......

I believe this is a Migrant Hawker Dragonfly and I can tell you that Dragonflies are very challenging subjects to photograph on the wing as they flit around, the light was not great and light quality is such a important factor contributing to good photography.

I was at the reserve today in the hope of connecting with the Hobby's but sadly they were not very active so to while away the time I decided to focus on their prey.

I plan to take these on as a bit of a project to improve on this image although it is getting  late in the season., but certainly next year, as Dragonflies nicely fill the gap between summer and winter bird migrants.

I guess no matter how quiet things seem to be there is always a new opportunity  to pursue, you learn every time you go out, that's the lovely thing about wildlife photography ....... a regular and very friendly dog walker and his good lady wife on the reserve shouted  across in a very jocular  manner ..... '' haven 't you got a home to go to '' ......... I understand the sentiment and it made me smile  ..... but observation is key to success otherwise you just go for a walk and see nothing.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

One from Cannop Ponds, The Forest of Dean, earlier in the year - Mandarin Duck.

Cannop Ponds near Parkend village in the Forest of Dean has long enjoyed a reputation for attracting these imperial looking and colourful ducks, probably because the ponds, which are served by a slow flowing stream, are surrounded by Rhododendron and ancient deciduous Forest, an important factor for a duck that nests in holes in trees.

Its interesting to note that the current UK population is possibly greater than that of Japan with which its name is associated.

With an omnivorous diet, in autumn it is often found on the ground under oak trees eating acorns and snails.

What a visual impact this drake has.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Handsome Chap

I had a Dental appointment at Oundle mid-morning today so as I was in the area I thought I would drop in at Barnwell Country Park.

To describe the weather, '' Indian summer '' comes to mind, sunny and warm with the end of September fast approaching.  As is the case at Titchmarsh LNR, Barnwell is really between seasons bird wise awaiting the arrival of winter migrants. 

It is a nice little reserve offering quite a variety of habitats in a fairly small area, I heard a Cetti's calling but nothing else of great note apart from the usual Country Park suspects, Red Kites were drifting around as is their wont.

For birding I suspect that this reserve is at its best in winter, less people, leaves fallen and a warm winter sun on your back.

                             In this image you can see the woodland reflected  in the lens of the birds eye.
          Our old friend the Cock Pheasant ......  An under rated stunner. 

Monday, 22 September 2014

The best laid plans of mice and men !

Yesterday, Sunday, was overcast with bad light quality making photography nigh on impossible.

This is a real shame because the Titchmarsh Hobby family were very very active and presenting well over the reserve hunting and playing, it was great to see all five in the air at the same time. 

As the light was great today I went back but sadly there was no sign of them, they could have been hunting very high up or maybe they have started their migration despite the dragonfly stocks still being very abundant, last night temperatures dropped significantly, maybe that was their trigger to move on.

A friend of mine, Steve Thornton, suggested that with the amount of ploughing and harrowing taking place currently in the vicinity of the reserve they may have turned their attention to Crane flies for a change of diet.

( p.s. they were back the next day, all I need now is some good light ! ).

Some consolation came in the form of six Red Kites over the reserve all at the same time.


Saturday, 20 September 2014

Nothing ventured nothing gained.

On my trips between home and Titchmarsh LNR along the '' Old road '' through Slipton I have been passing a set aside field that looks just the right habitat for Barn Owls.

The other evening I saw a Barn Owl flying over the road in the direction of this field which was a promising sign. 

Nothing ventured nothing gained, so today I drove up the track to the farm which is actually a mixed small holding to ask if the occupants ever saw Barn Owls hunting over the field.

Glen, the tenant, was very helpful and explained that whilst he hadn't seen Barn Owls he had seen Tawny Owls and also indicated that they may have resident Little Owls. The position of the house is such that the field is not immediately visible from the living rooms of the property so I was still encouraged.

So, the bottom line is that I got permission to park on Glens land and he also pointed out that an old disused public footpath passed through the field so whilst the field was not his property access should not be a problem ....... great !. 

It was really interesting to see the mix of animals on the small holding, horses and foals, sheep, geese and a party of young cock and hen Peacocks.

                                 Traditional farmyard Geese almost marching in step
                                                              Canada Geese get everywhere

Its amazing what you can find off road.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Nowadays all things are not black and white ..........

I think that black and white is a very nice medium so I had a bit of a play about today to see if it really works or enhances bird pics.

This is one of my favourite Short Eared Owl images.

I converted it to B & W with my Nikon View 2 software, Hmmm ........... I'm not too sure that it works for me but it does have a different dimension and visual impact.

This is the original image as I took it at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell from the '' influx '' we had a couple of years ago.

I think that the B & W shot is a bit cold compared to full colour ( and I can tell you that when I took it on a hard winters day in late afternoon light it was indeed very cold ! around  -5 degrees C).

I need convincing that it is worth doing a bit more work on this subject.

All comments and observations from viewers of this blog page are greatly appreciated and most welcome !.

The following are examples of shall we say ..... less successful photo opportunities with Short Eared Owls. They had the potential to be great ..... could have, should have, might have  ...... 

                         This guy suddenly appeared and nearly knocked the hood off my lens. 

                                                                           What a frame filler

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Hobby Hawks ........ fantastic !

Having discovered the extent of the territory of the Titchmarsh Hobby's I plan to make the most of their presence before they Migrate.

Their nest site is some one hundred metres from the reserve, watching them today they were very showy along the River Nene and around the Electricity Pylon that seems to be their resting perch when not feeding.

Photography wise they are super fast and hug  the ground tightly when hunting their prey, dragonflies. I wonder if the RAF developed their low level tactics based on this bird of prey. 

On one occasion one of the juveniles caught a dragonfly about thirty feet away from me and I actually heard its talons hitting its prey !

Their camouflage is amazing and they just suddenly appear giving little time to get onto them, occasionally they will soar a bit on fixed wings,but not very often, they are hyper.

On many occasions they were being mobbed by Crows, but I think the Hobby's were just tolerating the imposition on their aerial superiority !

This is the best I achieved, I shoot in JPEG rather then RAW ( I spend too much time on computers as it is ) and restrict processing to a bit of sharpening and cropping.

Canada Geese are a bird that you can not get away from around any gravel pit in the UK nowadays. Love them or hate them they are here to stay.

Are they photogenic ? ........ today I got an image of something that happens before any chat show -  The Green Room - I just like the colour balance in this image - enjoy.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Strategic visit ............

With the fog overnight and in the morning the other day I thought that I would be clever and visit Harrington Airfield ( disused ) to see if any migrants had pitched in and settled, generally this site has a good reputation for attracting passage migrants due to its relative height and the derelict concrete bunkers.

By lunchtime the sun was burning off the mist so off I went, I parked at the Council gravel enclosure and walked up to the gated concrete track, moving ever so slowly.

Plenty of large '' charms '' of Goldfinch, a few Yellowhammer, Kestrel, a pair of Buzzards, by now the mists had cleared, the sky was blue and the temperature was up into the twenties .... too many layers of clothing !.

I always think that the track that leads from the apron where all the bales are stored to bunker two is an interesting habitat but not yesterday.

Four Kites soaring, two of which were initially perching in a tree near the third bunker. This year I have noticed that the rabbit population is on the up at Harrington, maybe the latter encourage the former. A jay flew away from bunker one.

A number of Green Woodpeckers but I am afraid that I did not connect with anything faintly exotic, but that doesn't mean that they are not there. I'll have to read Eleanor's blog today !.

Actually my observation about exotics is a bit unfair, the Kestrel is indeed an exotic bird.
                       Male Kestrel from Harrington Airfield ( disused )


Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The rough and the smooth ........

Up on the Norfolk coast I sat down for a few minutes to take in the view,  the pebble beach was empty in both directions, the sky was blue and the wind calm, beautiful isolation.

This Little Gull glided in and walked up to within ten feet of me and just stared a me ..... I told him that I didn't have any sandwiches ( First sign of madness ! ) and then I apologised ( second sign of madness ! ) .... 

I really like the rough texture of the background and foreground in this image which is set off by the pristine detail and colour of the subject.

Monday, 15 September 2014

My favourite visitor in the depths of winter ....... a very cheeky little chap.

Brrrrrr  ................. the depth of winter is when this species arrives to take advantage of Western Europe's relatively ice free and by comparison warm coastal and inland waters. 

And what a picturesque bird the rare male of the species is, black and white all over with attitude !,  

Smew can be found widely distributed in the UK between November and March. On average approximately five hundred Smew turn up annually depending on the severity of the weather in North Eastern Continental Europe. Not a great deal is actually known about their breeding grounds

I am not a big fan of winter but this compact diving duck almost makes it worth while.

In summer the Drakes' plumage looks like that of the more widespread female which has a dark grey body, rounded white cheeks and a brown cap hence the nickname '' redhead ''.   

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Mixed bag ...... but I'm not Grousing.

A peaks and troughs visit to the reserve yesterday.

The summer migrants have largely gone, the reed beds are quiet and the winter migrants have not arrived yet in any numbers. So a bit of variety in the images today with the best moment not particularly well recorded, such is life !

Dragonflies were abundant on the wing, I am told that they have '' favourite '' perches that they return to regularly, let me tell you that generally the Titchmarsh Dragonflies haven't read the book !, well with the exception that is of one that I believe is a Migrant Hawker. 

The tell tale signs of a Sparrowhawk kill ( apologies for using a 300mm F4 lens ).   

I'm not very good at identifying fungi and mushrooms, having checked my guide when I got home I think this is Tremella mesenterica. 

Following the breeding season mixed tit flocks are in evidence with one flock I estimated to be close to one hundred birds taking nearly ten minutes to pass through the shrubs dominated by long tailed, Blue and Great tits. 

Hopefully some rarer species ( Goldcrests and Blackcaps perhaps ) will join in as the season moves forward and leaf cover retreats improving visibility.

And now the good bit !

Walking back to the car, for the second time this year I heard a prominent call that I did not recognise ( and there are many many others that I still can't identify ), the first time was when I heard the contact calls of three newly fledged Sparrowhawks.

This call was along similar lines but much longer in duration, higher pitched and noticeably more rapid, as usual in these situations I consult the  xeno-canto web site, link below..

Throughout the summer we have had three Hobby's on the reserve, could it be ?

http://www.xeno-canto.org/explore?query=Hobby  ( Reference number XC153191 )

Yes it could !, over the next hour I watched the birds coming and going, at one point I saw four of them on the wing with one fledgling calling from the nest site so I suspect that the parents have three young.

The two fledgelings that I saw on the wing were flying strongly so it seems to me that they have been airborne  for a few days.

Their food source of dragonflies is abundant as I said at the top of the blog so they should do well. Sadly the birds were too distant for anything other than record shots. 

A fantastic end to the day !. 

                                                          A heavily cropped image. 

Saturday, 13 September 2014

The latin name for this bird sums it up - Sylvia Borin - The boring Garden Warbler.

Nondescript or featureless is how I would describe this warbler, pale brown upper parts and buff under parts turning greyer as it comes into breeding condition.

A clincher for me to identify  this bird is that I always feel it has a slightly pronounced lighter eye ring.

A bird that skulks deep in  vegetation but when it does appear it can be quite showy. 

Thursday, 11 September 2014

A few days ago I posted an image of a fine looking Drake Red Breasted Merganser. - a sawbill.

To the best of my knowledge our only other sawbill to be found in the UK ( famous last words ! )
is the larger Goosander.

A shy bird species that is more of a freshwater bird than the Red Breasted Merganser, in summer it tends to favour upland reservoirs and fast flowing, clear streams.  

In winter the Drakes white neck and flanks develop a salmon pink sheen.

These images of the male bird were taken on the River Nene at Titchmarsh LNR.

Rumour has it that Goosanders have been persecuted by commercial fisheries which brings me to a very interesting point that demonstrates that fish eating birds and commercial fisheries can co-exist with each other.

The project at nearby Rutland Water in Leicestershire to re-introduce the Osprey has been a phenomenal success, however the owner of two local trout fisheries contacted the project to raise his concerns about the number and value of fish that he was loosing on a daily basis.

And now the inspirational bit, jointly the project members and the fishery owner came up with a radical solution.

Getting good photographs of Osprey at Rutland Water is not easy due the the sheer expanse of the water whereas at the fishery the water body is only about thirty by twenty metres containing upwards of two thousand trout.

The solution ....... the fishery owner built a bird hide at his fishery accommodating four occupants that he rents out to birders and photographers at £80 per head per day giving unique opportunities to see and photograph Ospreys fishing at close quarters, the viewing windows are virtually at water level making for great action shots.

I say unique but not for long, the venture has been so successful that the owner of the fishery is extending the facility to his second fishery.

A great result for all concerned !


Pure bloodline ...... ish

Regular visitors to my blog will know that I am a bit of a champion of our less remarkable bird species.

Yesterday when I visited my patch I saw this Drake Mallard in great light conditions and he was a stunning example of the breed .... no '' yuck duck '' about this elegant fella !

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Cool runnings ........ ( and I'm not talking Bobsleighs )

Walking around my patch this morning two things were apparent, firstly the trees are following the seasonal imperatives and  increasingly beginning to shed their leaves and secondly berry bearing shrubs are noticeably heavily laden.

I don't wish to be negative but cooler and colder weather with all that it entails is around the corner.

This image of a Moorhen sums up the challenges that cold weather presents for our bird population when the weather closes in so please stock up with mixed seed to service your garden feeders and remember to crack the ice on your water containers to provide drinking water, every bit helps !.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Juvenile Great Northern Diver ........ Pitsford Reservoir.

This bird resided for a considerable amount of time at Pitsford Reservoir earlier in the year, very much at home and enjoying with relish the stocks of fish that the reservoir had to offer.

This was quite a confiding individual however the species has a very interesting response to being a bit too much in the spotlight, it has the capacity to semi-submerge its body to reduce its body profile and will sink its neck and head to the surface of the water.

I hope it comes back as an adult !. 

Monday, 8 September 2014

Black Redstart ....... seaside stopover

A bit of a rarity, the Black Redstart is generally a passage migrant although limited breeding does take place in the UK. 

Often found in coastal areas on passage they favour Industrial habitats and old buildings for nesting. 

As you can see by the shadow cast on the seawall this image was taken late afternoon in winter, the light quality was superb and certainly does justice to this fine looking subject, lovely.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Frampton Marsh today ........

Firstly let me say that this is a cracking, well run reserve with good hides and excellent scrapes and lagoons.

Having said that, timing is everything in life and sadly we were a bit unlucky today , due to warm weather and lack of rainfall the scrapes were in general at lower water levels so the birds were way beyond the capacity of my 300mm F4 + 1.4 T.c lens combo, certainly not the reserves fault in any shape or form (more a reflection of the fact that my Bank Manager advises against the purchase of a 500mm F4 Nikon lens !  - only £ 5890.00 ! ).

Still, it was nice to see Avocet, Ruff, Little Stint, Godwits of both flavours, Ringed Plovers, Linnet, Kestrel, Peregrine, Little Egret etc. etc. ... there was even a Barred Warbler

I would highly recommend a visit but if the reserve is dry it is really a place for telescopes.

Anyway, an enjoyable day out in good company !

Drake Shoveler duck ..........

Visually It's not maybe the most well balanced of ducks but it sure has adapted it's bill structure to maximise its feeding potential ......  

This drake has presence !

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Frampton Marsh tomorrow ..........

Probably there will be no post tomorrow as its a 06.00 start for my first Trip to RSPB Frampton Marsh with Kettering based amateur nature videographer Graham Barker.


The weather forecast looks good and winter migrants are on the move.

Isn't anticipation a great character trait of the human race !

Late afternoon today I spent a couple of hours at Harrington airfield ( disused ) in search of  migrant Whinchats  ( thanks to Eleanor McMahon for guidance )  I made contact on three occasions but the distance was such that all I got were '' record '' shots, that's the way it goes, if it was that easy every one would succeed ! , 

Drake Red-breasted Merganser.

A member of the sawbill family as is the Goosander, the RBM is mostly a bird of coastal waters but in winter can occasionally be found on inland waters particularly when the weather is inclement and this was the case when I took this image at a boating lake in Lancashire with the water being whipped up by a strong westerly wind coming in off the Irish Sea.

An accomplished long bodied diving duck it spends a lot of time under water and can also  be seen bobbing on the surface with its head under the surface searching for fish.

It is a very handsome bird with its wispy crest, dark green head and grey and white body with a cluster of patterned spots at the base of its neck ..... stunning.  

Redshank ?

OK, OK, I am the first to hold up my hands and admit that waders are not my forte, the more common ones I will post without consulting the ID Q&A section of Birdforum but otherwise I use their services.

The above situation probably reflects two facts, one - I have never really birded in areas with immediate access to reservoirs or the coast and two - I suppose my main interest is photographing small birds of woodland and the countryside. 

But I am trying to widen my horizons ....... I promise ! ......  if I have got this one wrong let me know, constructive criticism works for me !!!.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Pitsford Reservoir Black Headed Gull

It's always baffled me why these Gulls are called '' Black Headed '' - in some bad lighting conditions the head can certainly appear to be darker, plain chocolate brown yes but black .... never !.

                                                                  #(  ; O } )>>>>

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Well named .............

I was sitting on the sea wall taking shots of a Ringed Plover when I was distracted by a noise not far away , a sort of clicking sound, the air was quite still. 

Looking along the wall I came across these fellas foraging their way along the tide line literally and audibly turning pebbles over, a little party of Turnstones.

The camouflage presented by their plumage is tremendous when viewed from above, they just merge into their surroundings.

A few of them came up on the the wall and were confiding  to a point, their comfort zone was probably about twenty feet, I didn't encroach after that.

The first thing I did notice is that they have the '' daintiest of claws '' which is I suspect due to the fact that they don't perch.  

The second thing I noticed is that their white throat makes their heads look really small, an optical illusion.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

I have thought long and hard about posting these images, but here goes.

The nearest village to Titchmarsh LNR is Aldwincle where the reserve car park is sited.

An Aldwincle resident is a falconer and can be seen regularly exercising his Harris Hawk over fields in the locality, the bird is extremely well looked after but it is of course a captive bird and a sensitive subject therefore for some. 

Having said that it is also a magnificent raptor so last time I saw them I pulled over for a chat and took a few images, the bird also perched quite happily on the back of a wooden bench and is a bit of a poser.

Apparently rabbits are its main prey species and from my own observations the population in the area is currently increasingly visible.