Sunday, 30 November 2014

Raptor rapture ........

Birds of prey and Owls, are some of my favourite subjects for photography together with small birds, a reflection of the maximum reach of my 420mm lens combination.

This guy was just floating overhead at the reserve yesterday, sadly blue sky images like this always suffer from the lack of perspective that can be achieved when you can include a tree line or landscape background to the image.

Needs must when the devil drives so I am quite happy to post this image of a Common Buzzard as the detail and focus is, in my opinion, worthy of publication. 

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Tufted Duck ....... variation on a theme ......

A few days ago I posted an image of a very elegant female Tufted Duck, subsequently I went through my picture archive for the species and came across this image that I had never really focused on before.

It appears that there is a variant within the breed that has female Tufted Ducks with a white bill base and bills much darker that the accepted blue bill.

According to my research 5-10 % of female Tufties present with this plumage variation, if anyone has any additional input on this subject please feel free to leave a comment.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Avocet ..... A tremendous success story.

Thanks to the good works over many years by the RSPB, conservation organisations and many Wetland and Wildlife Trusts the future of the Avocet has been secured and can be seen at many reserves throughout the country on a regular basis. 

What a beautiful bird.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

I am a big fan of Paul Riddle and his work with Little Owls ( and many other species ) in Leicestershire ..........

Given our relatively close geographical  proximity I just don't seem to be getting in contact with these charismatic little owls.

Maybe I need to get a '' Landie ''

Like Paul I believe in lots of observation ( when you want to photograph Cettis Warblers for example you need to ) but the best image of a Little Owl that I have ever achieved is the one below, purely by chance when passing the entrance to a local farm.

Paul's success is, I believe, due to the fact that he offers a conservation package to landowners who appreciate his commitment to his hobby  and respect his efforts, well done Paul, I need to do a lot more networking with local landowners and learn enough about woodworking to build Owl boxes !.

Pauls website is as below.

Magestic Owl ......

I love photographing Owls ( It normally involves being out late afternoon near sunset )  and in winter good light and a clear sky means sub freezing temperatures and numb extremities.

Still, its all worth while to get a shot like this Short Eared Owl over a local set aside field, in parliamentary terms, my vote is that the eyes have it.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Yellowhammer, a really colourful bird .........

But when it comes to photography a pretty flighty, shy and retiring bird that always seems to like to keep a few bits of foliage between itself and you, a perceived threat.

This male is a  cracking looking bird.

My perspective, an image to keep until I can get a better opportunity ....... in school report terms ........ could do better, a lot better !.

Female Stonechat .......

Its always a pleasure to be in the presence of Stonechats, this little lady was quite curious and popped up on top of the bramble patch to give me a good look and a nice photocall opportunity.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Titchmarsh murmuration update 24.11.14

Great  late afternoon light today, good numbers of birds in the flocks but for some reason the murmuration dropped down into the roosts fairly early on arrival before being fully formed.

I was speaking with Andy Howe and there appears to be some mileage, based on recent observations, that the murmurations stay airborne for longer in overcast conditions, no science in this thought other than experience. 

Tonight I again turned left on arrival at the reserve from the Aldwincle reserve car park and walked up the meadow toward the wooden bridge, better low horizons give more warning of the movement of sparrowhawks, but that does not make them easy to photograph I can assure you !.

The shape of the flock below reminds me of the profile of a Sparrowhawk in flight, the very birds hawking the murmuration .....   or is my Imagination getting a bit hyperactive ?.

Common or garden birds not to mention woodland and just about any other habitat in the UK that you can think of.

Versatile and widespread little birds, Chaffinches are very comfortable in and around people.

The image of the male below is a posed shot, in saying that I mean that I put a handful of mixed seed on the ground and placed the moss covered log on top of it so that the birds would land on the log before dropping down onto the seed to feed.

The images were both taken at Grafton Park close to the nearby village of Grafton Underwood. 

Sunday, 23 November 2014

The Titchmarsh Murmuration - update 23.11.14

An alternative viewing point that I tried this evening.

On going down  to the reserve from the Aldwincle car park turn left instead of right, through Titchmarsh Wood, through another kissing gate and up along the mown meadow path until you are in sight of the wooden bench ahead of you on the left of the path.

Benefits - less muddy, open horizon and a far more attractive view to silhouette the birds against especially after the sun has set and the sky is clear of clouds.

The forecast for tomorrow, Monday 24th, looks quite good. 

On Golden pond ........

The female Tufted Duck is a rather anonymous bird compared to the more striking Drake with its essentially black and white colour scheme.

Yellow eyes and blue bills are a feature common to both. 

Nevertheless, on closer examination the plumage of the duck, though subtle, is really rather quite attractive.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Cettis Warbler

As usual with the Cettis warbler it rarely shows itself fully, but when it does it is a delightful bird to get a photograph of.

At Titchmarsh LNR we have had around twelve Cettis territories throughout the summer and last winter we had six over wintering birds.

Whist they tend to skulk deep in bramble patches and vegetation, on their day they can also be quite inquisitive and showy particularly when displaying.

The mild Autumn and winter to date is confusing many birds in my experience, Robins are certainly being very territorial at the moment. 

Friday, 21 November 2014

Bully for you ..........

With the season moving forward and the leaves falling these guys are becoming easier to see and photograph.

This image is of a fine example of the female of the species.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Snipe returning to cover.

Lovely looking birds, Snipe have their eyes set high and wide on their heads for maximum vision, important when they spend so much time probing the muddy margins with their beaks in search of food.

( apologies for the short narrative, I'm still trying to get to grips with Windows 8.1 on my new PC ).

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Titchmarsh Murmuration update ...... 19.11.14

Still images just do not do justice to this nightly spectacle but certainly give an indication of the size of the murmuration.

I have been viewing this occurrence two or three times a week for some time now, this evening was the first time that the majority of birds used a different reed bed, I think the one on the pit side of the wooden bridge on the Titchmarsh side of the reserve.

Eyesight alone is all that you really need to use to capture the morphing of the birds into a myriad of liquid shapes and forms.

If you do visit please keep an eye out for the local Sparrowhawks chasing the birds.

Computers ............

On Sunday evening last my PC crashed stone dead ..........  Great, thanks a lot ! 

So over the last couple of days I have had the hard drive recovered, bought a new PC, transferred the data off the old hard drive onto the new and, thankfully, I am now back up and running.

The PC I purchased is a Lenovo G500 with 8GB Ram and a hard disc capacity of one Terrabyte ( great for image storage )

Its quite amazing how disconnected from the world you feel when your access to the web and e-mail is disrupted,  frightening really. 

Dank, damp, overcast, grey and misty ....... and lousy light, apart from that quite a nice day really ......

Summer Leys certainly did not live up to its name weather wise last Sunday.

However, every cloud has a silver lining and this came in the form of several rather showy Green Woodpeckers, at one stage I had two in sight on adjacent fence posts, one of which adopted the classic frozen  '' beak up in the air '' posture of alertness..

The only other things of note were close encounters with a party of four Little Grebes in a grassy inlet, I've never seen so many together in such a a small area of water, nice to see but unfortunately  not good for photography.

A Male Blackcap was showing, I suspect a resident over wintering bird but who knows as migrant birds have started arriving for the winter, Golden Plovers and Lapwings were in evidence together with all the usual suspects.

A number of territorial Robins were displaying probably due to the unseasionally mild weather.

                                                 A misty image on a misty day

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Who's Sniping ........

The common snipe is an enigmatic bird, part of its camouflage apart from its very effective plumage is that when seen in vegetation or reeds it has a bobbing action that seems to emulate shadows, these two elements can make it very difficult to see on occasions.

They do however show themselves on the fringes of their usual habitats when they feel comfortable and not particularly threatened.

Sadly, for reasons yet unidentified, it is in decline as a species in the United Kingdom.

This image catches the bird in a classic pose, wading in the shallows with its bill probing the muddy margins for food.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Will eye be back in numbers this winter ?

                                                         A bit of a teaser to start with.

Always a welcome visitor to brighten up those cold winter days when the sky is blue and cloudless and thermal clothing is very much a requirement against stiff eastern winds. 

What a splendid bird the Bohemian Waxwing is with its trilling bell like call  

These birds decorate trees like Christmas ornaments.

Head on Rook

I don't know about you, but my experience of Corvids is that they are very flighty birds that have excellent eyesight.

If flying towards you, as soon as they see you they veer off and keep as healthy a distance
( from their point of view ) as possible.

I was quite surprised therefore when this Rook kept coming straight at and over the top of me without taking any evasive action.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

I think we have to have a chat ...........

Not one but two, Male and Female.

These Stonechats posed very nicely for me in excellent light at Blueberry Farm.

Within ten minutes of arriving at the log pile on the perimeter of the southernmost set aside field they pitched up in a rather inquisitive  manner and perched on top the brambles on the opposite side of the track, distance about twenty five feet.

The log pile offered excellent opportunity to '' merge '' into the background without a visible profile and with the sun directly behind me, perfect.

I am glad that I made the most  of those ten minutes because after that I did not see them again for the remainder of my stay.

Next time I will take my tripod because the wind on the brambles  was rather gusty.

No Owls were seen but I am more than happy with the images that I obtained. 

The distinctive call of the Male Stonechat, likened to pebbles being clinked together, can be listened to via the following link to Xeno-Canto.



I'm a Rookie .......

For a bird that weighs five hundred grams on average this Rook has chosen a rather precarious perch at the highest elevation of a road side sapling, on landing there was a lot of wing flapping and positioning to get the right attitude facing into a fairly strong breeze.

The newly ploughed and harrowed field below will hold a goodly supply of its diet of worms, beetles, larvae and roots.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

How low is low ........

Lovely to see this DH82A Tiger Moth over Titchmarsh village, seventy five years since it was built and still going strong.

According to my research it is apparently based at and operates from a Farm airstrip to the north of Finedon, Northamptonshire.

I did feel that if the pilot had put his hand out of the cockpit I could almost have shaken hands with him.

Sadly, Bloggers auto photo enhancer has washed out the colours, the fuselage is actually dark blue ...... GGGGGrrrrrrrrrr .............

Monday, 10 November 2014

The Titchmarsh Murmuration continues to develop

As the reedbeds and therefore the Starling murmuration are very close I replaced my 420mm lens combination with an 18-135 zoom.

This evening the light was perfect, a cloudless sky kept the birds in the air '' murmuring ''
for longer than usual.

As far as stills shots are concerned the results are acceptable but never capture the liquid movement of the birds that a video can achieve.

The downside when you only have one camera body with you is that when an alternative opportunity presents itself it creates the '' wrong lens '' syndrome, this was certainly the case when one of the marauding Sparrowhawks captured its supper. 

Another opportunity that will hopefully present itself as a result of being on the reserve at sunset could be the appearance of the local Barn Owls .... watch this space !.   

A friend of mine and locally based naturalist and Videographer, Graham Barker took some excellent video footage of theTitchmarsh murmuration the other evening, the following link takes you to his web site. 

Worlds fail me in trying to do justice to the physical presence, sight and sound of the experience.

Wrong lens - heavily cropped record shot of a Sparrowhawk disappearing with its supper.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

It's a hoverfly, I have no idea what flavour ...........

What I do know is that with a 420mm lens combination it was quite a challenge and this is, in my opinion, a pleasing result given that with a fairly long lens, hand held photography of a pretty active subject is a real test when it comes to camera shake. 

Saturday, 8 November 2014

SAD - Seasonal affective disorder ...........

It's nearly mid November and I have to say that, so far, the weather here in the UK is treating us very kindly.

As I look forward to what the winter brings to us I also can't help recalling some of the pleasures that Summer 2014 presented to me at the reserve.

With the Gravel pits at Titchmarsh LNR and the River Nene running at its Eastern boundary we are blessed with a real cross section of flora and fauna.

More and more I am becoming attracted to other elements of wildlife photography, of course birds continue to be my primary interest, but I have to say that given the limitations that my telephoto lens present for macro work I am really happy with some of the results that I have been able to achieve - Banded Demoiselle just alighting on a phragmite and a Common Blue Butterfly being just two  of them.

After yesterdays North American exotic to a duck much more at home in the UK but equally as attractive.

The Drake Goldeneye, a regular winter visitor to the reserve is a stunning looking bird that breeds in Northern Europe, North America and across Asia.

First nesting birds in the UK were observed in Scotland in 1970, I say nesting, in fact their nests are in  holes in trees about three meters above the ground. In Scotland a programme of erecting specifically built  boxes on trees close to the water has enjoyed considerable success.

For me it is always a pleasure to see the first arrivals of the year.

Friday, 7 November 2014

The Drake Hooded Merganser.

It was only in June 2008 that the British Ornithologists Union ( BOU ) finally admitted this species to the The British List which they administrate, with a category A rating -  '' Species that have been recorded in an apparently natural state at least once since 1 January 1950 ''.

The British list currently stands at 578 species.

Of North American origin the Hooded Merganser is a  '' sawbill '' and only slightly bigger than the smallest merganser, the Smew, a winter visitor to the UK when the continent is gripped by hard weather conditions.

Only seen in the wild once every few years it is a very, very rare visitor to these shores.  I caught up with this domesticated chap at the Pensthorpe ornamental water bird collection near Fakenham in Norfolk, it is of course a captive bird.

Notice the way that its tail is resting on the surface of the water creating a meniscus.

But what a storming looking Duck this is as a recognised visitor to the UK - very, very occasionally.

Enjoying the seasons Bounty ..........

Unlike the very flighty Redwings that have now arrived in considerable numbers on the reserve this humble Wood Pigeon was a lot more co-operative, I was well hidden but he knew I was there.

The recent drop in temperatures and the morning frosts will intensify the feeding habits of berry eating birds and when the really '' cold snaps '' start to occur the drive to eat will become uppermost in their behaviour, best wishes to them through the coming months.

I like Wood Pigeon, in flight they remind me of the very versatile World War II plane the Bristol Beaufighter complete with black and white invasion stripes on their wings.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Curlew flyover at Titchmarsh LNR

I don't know if it had been feeding on the reserve, sadly one of the best scrapes for passage waders, only created a couple of years ago, is in front of the ENEB hide which was vandalised and is currently out of use.

What a bird, their plaintive call makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, always a pleasure to see one.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

I've got the blues .................

Over the years I have seen Cock Pheasants of all hues - black, white and many variations on the traditional colour scheme in between.

This chap in a local farm yard is certainly a bit different !

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Red Crested Pochard at Titchmarsh / Pensthorpe

There are currently three of these at Titchmarsh LNR at the moment but too distant so far for me to get a decent photograph. 

They really are attractive birds so in tribute I am posting an image that I took at Pensthorpe, domesticated collection birds I know, but worthy of publication.

Velvet Scoter from Eyebrook Reservoir earlier in the year.,

Normally associated with coastal regions this bird, largest of the three scoters,  is a fairly rare bird to find on an inland waterway.

It is thought that approximately three thousand Velvet Scoters winter around the UK coastline mostly on the eastern seaboard.

Still, a corking looking bird with beautiful pale blue eyes and a pronounced white eye marking.

My first image of one but quite heavily cropped.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Titchmarsh Murmuration ..... the video

A friend of mine and locally based naturalist and Videographer, Graham Barker took some excellent video footage of theTitchmarsh murmuration the other evening, the following link takes you to his web site. 

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Black capped Blackcap ........

At the reserve we have numerous Blackcap territories, last winter at least one was occupied throughout the year.

The black '' skull cap '' of the male perfectly sets off the silvery / beige colours of the remainder of its upper and lower parts creating a stunning visual impact.

For a Warbler it can be quite brave and tolerant of humans particularly when displaying.

For me It is a pleasure to get opportunity  to photograph this species, particularly the male. 

                       Having said that the female of the species is not without her charms.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Window web weaver .......

I am absolutely clueless when it comes to spider identification, all I can tell you is that this guy is literally hanging about outside my dining room window.

Siting his / her web here is strategically a questionable decision as every time there is a strong wind or heavy rain the web gets damaged and it seems to spend a considerable amount of time effecting repairs.

Please, if you know what species of spider this is leave a comment, it would be much appreciated.