Thursday, 27 August 2015

John's family are sorry to inform you that John died unexpectedly last week.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Nice eye contact ...

With this flyover Grey Heron.

With birds in flight, before publishing, I always look at the focus on the claws, beak and eye. In this case I'm pretty happy with the image.

Herons are great subjects for in flight photography because of their slow, ponderous wing beats and relatively slow speed through the air.

It was nice to get the wing beat on the up exposing the flanks of the bird.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

No boarder controls for this immigrant.

And what a stunning migrant from Africa and Europe this visitor is.

The Painted Lady visits our shores annually in variable numbers from April onwards and is a very colourful and welcome addition to our native species.

On migration these Butterflies have been Radar tracked at altitudes of 3000 feet with ground speeds of 30 mph.

It will have two or three broods between June and October before return migration in October.

As always Teasels, a very popular food source for many species, make a very photogenic backdrop to the image.  

Monday, 17 August 2015

When I grow up ......

...... I'll be a fully fledged Blue Tit.

This little chap made me smile with his little patch of blue on his head. Sometimes its the most common of birds that present the highlight of an otherwise quiet birding session.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Harvest time is upon us as is this years crop of Sparrowhawks

I spent a very pleasant hour watching three fledgling Sparrowhawks and the parent birds on the Aldwincle side of the reserve late afternoon yesterday. 

Contact calling frequently from a small coppice between the village church and the reserve boundary they could be seen taking to the air to greet their returning parents and I was able to witness a number of food passes.
From time to time the fledgelings would disperse to nearby perching trees but never for too long before resuming their presence at the main roost.

A most enjoyable experience.


Saturday, 15 August 2015

A privilege to photograph.

As the crow flies Titchmarsh LNR is not too far away from Duxford and we are quite often graced with sightings of WW II veteran aircraft.

In this case a Spitfire TR Mk IX ML407 ( Civil registration G-LFIX ) known as the '' Grace '' Spitfire due to its ownership.

A two seat trainer she completed a few loop-the-loops and barrel rolls over the reserve before heading off, what an evocative tone that Merlin engine has. 

                                                                  Top of the loop

Painted in the camouflage of the Royal New Zealand Air Force with whom she spent some time during the war she was also used by the Polish and French Free Air Forces amongst others during an illustrious career.

I  understand that globally there are fifty five airworthy Spitfires, many static examples and encouragingly many more actively being renovated or in storage awaiting renovation.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

An identification challenge from a recent visit to Fowlmere.

Had us scratching our heads and consulting the guide books.

It had most of the characteristics of a Ruddy Shelduck but it wasn't, grey head ? ...... Hmmmm.

               This is a pair of Ruddy Shelducks that I photograped at Slipton last year

The staff at the visitor center held the answer ..... its a South African ( Cape ) Ruddy Shelduck and an escapee from a wildfowl collection.

Still, an interesting experience !.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

..... followed by a Dragonfly day .....

........ OK, here goes, talk about putting a questionable, bordering on non-existent reputation for Dragonfly identification on the line.

But you have to learn when venturing into unknown waters.

All comments, corrections and wisdom greatly appreciated.

NB ..... it comes as no surprise that my technical advisors could be head to audibly sigh, throw their hands up in disgust  and put me right ..... the cavalry came to the rescue !

Thanks to John Murray and Graham Barker.

                                    Male Southern Hawker ? - NB actually a female.
           Ruddy Darter .... or maybe Common ? - NB actually a male Ruddy Darter,
                                               - well I got it half right.

                                        No idea - NB its a Female Common Darter.

                          As photographs however I am quite pleased with the images.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

A Butterfly day at Wood Walton Fen last Sunday ..........

....... started with a Brimstone, one of the earliest Butterflies to be on the wing in springtime                                           and still going strong mid-August ..... 

                                 .......... quickly followed by a Gatekeeper ...........

                                        .......... and a  Meadow Brown.

A video of our day out was filmed by Graham Barker ..... link below.

Monday, 10 August 2015

A challenge to the Botanists amongst you !

On Sunday I was at Wood Walton Fen near Cambridge and came across the following.

I thought that it was a seed pod of sorts but I didn’t want to to remove it for analysis, it was one of several in a bunch, each about four-five  inches in length  approx. three feet above ground level in amongst mixed thistles and grasses and rough vegetation by the side of a ditch.

At first sight they looked a bit like young cucumbers.

Any ideas !

My thanks again to the ever helpful Dr Peter Llewellyn, who responded with a minimum of delay.

'' Hello John, try Yellow Flag (Iris pseudacorus) fruit under Google images and see if that is like the thing you saw.

Regards, Peter L. ''

Spot on Peter, many thanks once again.

Did any one get it right ?.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Still around ....

....... but not perhaps for much longer.

It never fails to amaze me when I think that the life cycle of these little chaps requires them to migrate such long distances.

I look forward to their arrival every year and always miss them as soon as they depart, they add such energy and activity to the reed beds.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Fresh as a daisy !

One of this years crop, this Willow Warbler was a real little poser, preening out in the open and enjoying some very warm weather.

Its nice to see birds having '' a wash and brush up '' but in my experience the resultant images do not really capture the activity well.

Or maybe its just me !.

Friday, 7 August 2015

A bird of a different taxa ....

Taken doing aerobatics over Fowlmere last weekend.

Research on the plane, registration N1035M, identifies it as a Steerman Kaydet currently based at Bungay in Suffolk and originally flown by the US Navy as a training aircraft during the second World War.

It certainly has great visual impact.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

A very hyper active little fella .......

Constantly on the move darting to and fro amongst the reeds Stoats have been clocked moving at 20 mph when in hunting mode 

As carnivores, they will hunt, catch and eat a wide range of food sources with rabbits being a staple prey species, rodents and wildfowl.

In many cases their prey is far bigger in size than they are themselves.

Stoats have litters of 5-12 kits in April and May.

I understand that the collective noun for Stoats is a '' caravan of Stoats '', why ? - I have no idea.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Double take .......

If you think synchronised swimming is clever how about this !

Titchmarsh LNR has had a cracking year for Comma Butterflies, as I have stated previously I have never seen so many on the reserve.

This image was taken quickly, I would have liked to move the aperture setting to F8 to improve the depth of field but did not want to miss the '' moment ''.

Just as well as a second later they flew.

All in all a pleasing result.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Marsh Harriers at Fowlmere ...

My best ever sightings of this species, sadly the light was very harsh and the birds were backlit .... you can't have it all.

At least one pair of adults and three juveniles on view, I saw several food passes and witnessed the clamour for attention from the youngsters every time the parents returned to the nesting and nursery area, very high energy.
Graham Barkers excellent video of the day can be viewed on the link below.

                                                              Nice focus

I don't know why but I seem to get more than my fair share of Raptor pooping images.  

Monday, 3 August 2015

The Silent hunter .......

This chap was consciously hunting the reed bed margins for chicks, probably Water Rail chicks in particular as the parents of which were being quite vocal and attracting attention to themselves despite their reputation for being '' skulkers ''.

Maybe Water Rail are better at discretion than parenting ?

Stealthy and focused it was just awaiting the opportunity to strike, happily unsuccessful on this occasion. 

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Great eye contact

In many parts of the country for a birder to look up to the skies and see a Red Kite it would truly be a '' Red letter day '' for them.

Here in East Northamptonshire we tend to take them for granted as the reintroduction programme has been so successful.

Never to be underrated they certainly are imperious birds.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

I like this image because it ignores photographic wisdom.

The Peacock Butterfly is one of the prettiest in the UK, its upper wing pattern and colouring is visually absolutely stunning.

With its wings closed however the under wings appear to be almost black.

In this image the brightly lit Teasel head, predominantly green and lilac, seems as if it has had the Peacock '' cut and pasted '' on top of it and yet its legs are well defined.  

Many purists may well disagree, but I like this one, its different.

Friday, 31 July 2015

I think that I saw one of the chicks out on the beam today, but in shadow.

Well, you really can't fault the parents for their food supply commitment to their brood .... in fact sometimes it amazes me how they can see where they are going with their beaks laden with insects.

I have checked some of my in-flight images, sadly none worthy of posting, you can however see that as they approach their perching position ( nearly always the same give or take 20mm ) they incline their heads  ........ a bit like the '' droop snoot '' of Concord.

It may well be that the chicks will fledge over the weekend when I will not be around. 

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Willow Warbler.

Very nice bright eye contact with this chap perched high up in brilliant sunlight.

The season is sadly on its way out but what character these chaps, as always, have contributed again this year with their presence.

Titchmarsh LNR certainly hosts more than its fair share of these visitors annually.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Another Pied Wag .....

I'm really getting in tune with these birds.

As a pair they are busily feeding their chicks in a nest that I am monitoring, the number of trips to the nest that they are making is amazing. 

The location of the nest is on top of the end of girder where it enters and is supported by the brickwork of a building and certainly well hidden, the only clue to its presence is poop staining the bricks.

This may very well be a second brood and I am looking forward to the fledging of the chicks that can't be long away now, how many ? ..... usually five to six  ...... watch this space.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Small Tortoiseshell .....

Teasels are a great source of nectar for Butterflies and honey bees and this chap is certainly making the most of it.

My growing passion, maybe I should say enjoyment, for Butterfly photography is that it  fills the gap that July presents as far as bird photography is concerned.

It is certainly a different discipline that requires different field craft skills.

But what plants teasels are, certainly at their most colourful in July.

Monday, 27 July 2015

My Plant identification is as good as my Butterfly and Dragonfly identification ..... awful !

Last weekend I saw a seedling plant that I did not recognise, no surprise there then I hear you mutter.

I certainly couldn't find it in any of my UK wild flower guides.

Can you do better ?.

I sent the image to Doctor of chemistry and amateur but very credible botanist Peter Llewellyn who very quickly responded as follows.

'' Hello John, your plant is Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera)  which is an invasive, annual, introduced species causing much havoc along damp verges and river banks throughout the British Isles. On the positive side, bees love it and much to the annoyance of conservationists, bee-keepers sometime plant it for nectar.


Peter Llewellyn. ''.

Did you get it right ?.

What always amazes me about lovers of wildlife and the '' web '' is the availability of guidance that is offered by highly qualified people who are willing to impart their knowledge for their love of their discipline.

Heartfelt thanks Peter.

Six spot Burnet

One of our day flying moths the six spot Burnet is a most  attractive metallic blue-green moth with six carmine-red spots on its wings.

It has a rather weak fluttering flight and interestingly, if disturbed, it will fall to the ground feigning death.

It certainly brightened up an otherwise grey day.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Anonymous ...... absolutely not.

Garden Warblers are such clean cut little birds with beautiful silver-grey-beige  plumage and a very nicely defined pale eye-ring.

When they decide to participate they can be quite showy.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Small White ?.

Is I believe correct for this Butterfly .......... but I am likely to be wrong based on my track record with recent images !.

Friday, 24 July 2015

I caught one of this years crop of Sedge Warblers ......

......  last Saturday at the reserve having a quick peek at me from the undergrowth, I suspect that the nest and its siblings were not too far away.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Busy, busy and busy again ....

There is something very '' cocky '' about Pied Wagtails and I don't just mean their wagging tails !.

I think that they must be having a good breeding season as I am seeing no shortage of pairs and they are certainly catching and feeding good quantities of food to their young.

Pied Wagtails are very tolerant of humans, I use my car as a hide at a non stressful distance and they will quite often hesitate for a short period of time with their beaks laden with insects before the drive to feed their young gets the better of them and they flutter into the site of the nest.

It is an honour to view their antics.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Not rare but certainly not a common wader in the UK.

It was lovely to see this bird in the margins of a small scrape at Brandon Marsh last Sunday.

This Green Sandpiper was having a really good '' wash and brush up ''  and giving excellent views of its tail, a major identification feature for me with Sandpipers.

Rear views are however rather limiting so I decided to post this image that also highlights its beak and eye stripe.

Graham did a video of the visit as usual, link below.

Very nice.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Two on the same day ......

As I have suggested in recent posts, bird life at the reserve is a bit subdued at the moment.

Swifts, Sand Martins, Warblers and Swallows are preparing for their southerly migration at the moment so other '' seasonal fayre ''  are the name of the game and what subjects they are.

This is a lovely image of a Comma Butterefly. I am very happy with the contrast between the background and the foreground in this photograph that I think represents  '' stark '' relief.

In this countryside of ours we are so lucky to have variety of subject matter.

Fish supper.

This Cormorant was fishing in a relatively small body of water fairly close to the hide with success .......  not quite so memorable for the Rudd that was the birds target.

The light could have been a lot kinder for this image.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Its that time of year .....

My advisers tell me that this is a Green Veined White.

Butterflies are not my strong suit but down at the reserve it is '' dog days '' at the moment when it comes to birds.

As Stephen Stills once sang ( for those of you of a certain age who remember the '60's ) .........  '' Love the one you're with ''.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Pollen panniers .........

We all know that Bees collect pollen to take back to their hives to support honey production, but how do they transport it ?.

 ....... this image clearly illustrates how they cache pollen on their legs .... as always with insects, great efficiency.

Saturday, 18 July 2015


Good focus but lousy back lighting as this bird is plucked off the power lines by a gust of wind.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Put to flight ...... Fantastic.

A flock of Black Tailed Godwits at Frampton Marsh ....... now what could have caused this mayhem ?

                                                                 The culprit

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Small Skipper.

All of you who know me will also know that Butterfly identification is not my strongest suit but I am pretty confident that I have this one right.

Answers on a postcard to .......

NB My Butterfly mentor John Murray always keeps me honest ..... it is actually a Large Skipper !

Monday, 13 July 2015

Avocet overhead ...... Frampton Marsh.

...... and a bowel movement to boot.

Sometimes sitting in a hide for a photographer with a limited lens combo, opportunities are limited ....  so time to get outside !

The light was quite good and this bird suddenly appeared overhead, what a stonker.

Traditional distant shots on the ground have limitations for my lens combination but this chap gave me a great '' in flight '' opportunity.

I'll take it !