Saturday, 31 January 2015

Great warm late afternoon sunshine .....

Here in Northamptonshire after the snow yesterday the Sun shone in a cloudless blue sky in the afternoon.

Wrens are a challenging bird to photograph in my opinion, often heard, rarely out in the open and even more fleetingly still.

This little character paused briefly from foraging in the reed beds to enjoy the late afternoon sun, if only it had turned its head a bit to get its beak in the frame.

Friday, 30 January 2015

First snow of the year ........

'' An apple a day keeps the Doctor away '', an old proverb that is really relevant as the harder weather sets in.

I can't remember seeing so many Blackbirds in my garden, the highest count I witnessed today was nine, both cocks and hens, fighting over the halved apples I had scattered on the  snow covered lawn.

I don't eat apples but buy them in for the birds and they are not very expensive, so add a few packs to your weekly shop over the weekend and help these guys survive the winter.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Yes, its another one ........

How can you ignore the presence of these little chaps, they have such attitude and style that they deserve promotion.

Clean, elegant, dapper ...... all characteristics that enamour these birds to me !.

Of course its a Marsh Tit, whilst they are not particularly rare they can be elusive and certainly not usually too receptive to being  stars of the show.

Cock Chaffinch ........

What a handsome chap this is, common, found everywhere, underrated, very confiding with people ...... this is one cool, confident bird that does not take flight easily, always a pleasure to  be in its presence.

Female Bullfinch

A very tidy looking bird.

Now is one of the best times in the year for photographing Bullfinches as they roam the trees and shrubs feeding, their contact calls are unmistakable and in many cases an early indication of their presence before they are seen.   
The Xeno-canto link below allows you to listen to variations of their calls.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Not a comfortable looking perch .......

The talons of this Male Kestrel really make this image for me, I find my eyes drawn to the posture of the bird, the positioning of its legs and the colour of its claws.

What a smart bird ......

Great eye contact and plumage detail in this image, I think that its a female as the black stripe on  its chest was fairly narrow and does not extend far down its underside.

What a pristine example of the species.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

An under cover operator ........

........... out in the open.

The old alternative name for the Dunnock was Hedge Sparrow with some justification, it will be found around hedgerows and any fairly rough vegetation where it feels very safe and secure.

They also spend quite a lot of time in winter investigating leaf litter where their plumage really camouflages them well.

The image was taken at Grafton Park, near Grafton Underwood in East Northamptonshire, it was nice today to meet another regular at the Park again, Adrian with his care worker who both stayed around to watch the woodland birds coming in to feed, Adrian is pretty good at recognizing the various Tit species, particularly Blue Tits and has the same love of the woodlands that I do, time spent in woodlands can be very therapeutic.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Whooper Swans flypast ......

Not the best of shots but a first for me at an inland reserve, I have normally seen this species in good numbers up in Lancashire on the Fylde coast.

Even with a small family group like this their whooping or trumpeting contact call is quite audible and far carrying.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Winter Wagtail

This Pied Wagtail was foraging along the waterline, the 25th of January and there is still a good deal of fly life still evident around the reserve reflecting the relatively mild winter weather.

Lets hope that it continues.

Goldeneye ..... the James Bond of the gravel pits

Every winter these ducks are welcome winter visitors, whilst they are essentially black and white they certainly brighten up a walk around the gravel pits on a winters day with their stunning bright yellow eyes.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Dabchick at Titchmarsh LNR.

What heart warming birds Little Grebes are with their '' powder puff '' rear ends.

There are a minimum of two on the reserve at the moment to brighten any winter blues that might be around !.

Friday, 23 January 2015

I am a passionate Nutter .......

I have been spoiled in recent weeks with the quality opportunities that I have had to photograph these birds.

And what a powerful far reaching call they have which rings around the woodland, I have been lucky enough to hear five calling at the same time.

Below is link to Xeno-Canto and their library of Nuthatch calls.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Another Marsh Tit .....

No apologies for repetition, I find these little characters most photogenic and well worth the time taken to encourage them to the small area of woodland that I am feeding with a mix of seed and peanuts.

Air raid precaution .......

I was watching this Great Tit when it suddenly looked up and froze, sure enough the silhouette of a Sparrow Hawk passed over, not in hunting mode but a potential threat.

Its amazing how these little birds remain alert whilst going about their daily business both individually and as mixed flocks in a given area. Blackbirds in particular seem to be very alert to potential dangers.

I suppose the question is, was it alerted by nearby birds or did it sense the presence of the raptor itself ?.

Marsh Tits ...... what cracking looking birds they are .........

Pert, dapper, smart, cheeky and here ..... lovely little feisty birds who stand their ground when pressurised by their piers.

I am really lucky to have such a strong presence of these birds at Grafton Park, East Northamptonshire.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Funghi assistance please .........

This Funghi was on a dead tree at RSPB Fowlmere over the weekend, does anyone know which species it is, I cannot identify it from my guide ?.

Many thanks in advance for any assistance.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Male Grey Wagtail ......... Summer .....

From the nine arches bridge at Thrapston, East Northamptonshire looking down on the cock bird catching Damselflies for his brood, not the best of angles but an acceptable record shot..

They really are dapper looking birds and whilst not rare are also not common in lowland Midland Counties, the River Nene is certainly not fast flowing which is their normal habitat.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Rarely seen visitor at the reed beds .........

This stoat pitched up and was in view for about five minutes as it hunted around the reeds looking I guess for a snack in the form of a rodent or other prey ......... lovely to see.

Drake Mallard ......

A fine specimen right down to its curly tail feathers, full frame, good eye contact and with plenty of attitude and fight defending his partner from a pretty aggressive team of alternative suitors.

There is nothing subtle about courtship with Mallards, its full on and pretty brutal, to the victor the spoils !.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Canada Geese ..... not a particular favourite of mine .......

Love them or hate them they are everywhere ......

Loud and very much in your face no matter whether you live in an urban or rural  area they are around and about.

So, what do they contribute ........ fertiliser in great quantities for grasslands, try as I do I cannot think of a reason for their presence.

I am always open to being enlightened so please leave comments, it may be that their grass consumption and fertilising capacity of land with cultivation potential is what its all about !.  

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Oh no !, winter has finally arrived .........

Well, it had to come at some stage  .....

This Seagull looks a bit miserable, the real question is how long will winter prevail ?, weeks ?, months ?, roll on springtime and the arrival of our summer  migrants !. Warblers make me smile.

Pitsford Reservoir ...... Great Crested Grebe in brilliant sunshine having a wash and brush up ........

The light quality was really superb and the birds plumage was shimmering like quicksilver.

If we spend a lot of time in water we get wrinkled skin like a prune that disappears with time.

If you are a diving water bird you need to look after yourself ..... a bit of preening keeps the feathers waterproofed and in fine condition for the next underwater fishing expedition.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Pretty gloopy mud ........

As you can see from its footprints this Redshank had been wandering around probing the soft mud in search of food, mainly ragworms, marine snails and shellfish.

I marvel at the way the bird just melts into its surroundings.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Grafton Park GSW ..........

Whilst I was taking images at ground level of woodland birds alighting on a perch above a little patch that I have been seeding, a pair of these Greater Spotted Woodpeckers were in the trees above and showing an interest in what was going on.

I wonder if they can be tempted to come down and join in ?

Time will tell, certainly the other birds have become very confident and ignore my presence, when I was last out a Blue Tit nearly flew into the car avoiding the open window at the last split-second.

One species that is taking a keen interest in the feeding area are the resident Sparrowhawks who swoop past with wings fixed at speed at a height of three to four feet above the ground, to date I don't think that they have been successful as the ground cover is not too far away but at some stage I am sure that they will get a return on the energy that they are investing.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

A handful of seed at Grafton Park ......... one perch - five species.

..... is all that it takes for a photo opportunity.

Mid-day, hovering around freezing, one hour, good light, from the car with a bean bag, willing subjects, magic !.

I have never seen so many Nuthatches and Marsh Tits in one place.

It was very amusing when three Nuthatches decided to feed at the same time, there was quite a vicious fight with birds being pinned to the ground by extremely sharp looking beaks but sadly too mobile for an image .... what striking calls Nuthatches have ...... you learn every time you go out ! 

                                                                         Blue Tit
                                                                       Marsh Tit
                                                                      Great Tit
                                                                           Coal Tit

Why ? ...... a little rant !

I have been a qualified Glider pilot in the  past and have done several hours of powered flight, was an enthusiastic member of the Air Training Corps in my youth and have loved aircraft and aviation throughout my life.

Flying is growing in popularity with aircraft and helicopter ownership increasing, more and more people are gaining their private pilots licenses.

But why do some and I stress some pilots think it acceptable, it seems to me particularly with microlights, to fly low over nature reserves scaring the wildlife and putting bird life to flight ?.

Please, give our natural resources a break, and skirt around reed beds and nature reserves !, they may look good from above but they look better undisturbed at ground level.

I can not remember where and when I took this image so it is not a personal statement about this particular micro-light.

Its not illegal above a certain base altitude but please show some consideration to wildlife and other peoples hobbies. 

Rant over ............

What a relief ........

If you ever see a bird of prey, in this case the Lakenheath RSPB Red Footed Falcon, lower its undercarriage in flight the odds are that it is about to relieve itself.

This image was from a burst of shots that I took, it was only later when I viewed them closely I realised what I had captured.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

What a result .......

Here in East Northamptonshire it would be difficult to pass a few hours when out and about without seeing a Red Kite floating overhead. The reintroduction of this species to the area from a zero presence has been an absolutely unqualified success over the last twenty years or so.

Commitment, dedication, effort and hours of hard work by conservationists like Julie and Steve Thornton of Kettering amongst many others have assured the future of this bird of prey in the county.

In particular, as feeders on carrion, road kills really attract them which is why on country lanes and even more major roads they are never far away, drifting around along the verges looking for a quiet moment to drop down and feed on casualties such as Pheasants and Wood Pigeons.

On occasions I have picked up a road kill pheasant and put it out on a field in an area favoured by Red Kites, let me tell you that whilst they are happy to drift around low over road kill they are certainly not stupid, I have said that cars make good hides, in my experience not with these guys !

The unseasonable mild weather to date this winter sees them pairing up already and sky dancing as part of their bonding rituals. 

What fantastic birds they are.

As the song goes ...... I followed on wiv me old Cock Linnet .....

One way or another barbed wire seems to have featured in a number of my recent posts purely by chance.

This Cock Linnet posed very nicely for me in good light, one of a small flock in the vicinity.

In my opinion the texture and colours of the fence post really add to the composition and presentation of the image very nicely.

In the '' old '' days Linnets were frequently kept as domestic caged birds, thank goodness that society in the United Kingdom at least has advanced and ( generally speaking ) wild birds are no longer kept for the gratification of human beings ...... that was real progress .... now all we have to do is address the other abuses to birdlife in this country, Hen Harriers immediately come to mind !. 

Monday, 12 January 2015

Eye eye.

I was quite pleased with the eye contact of this Great Tit image, one of the bigger tits they do seem to get bossed about by their smaller relatives when feeding on seed together.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Kestrel with a point of view .................

I always check out electricity pylons from top to bottom for birds of prey and on this occasion I am glad that I did.

Low down on the structure and not at all distant was this very confiding Kestrel that allowed me to take photographs for about ten minutes, I was quite surprised as I was standing out in the open with no cover but it showed no signs of flight.

I took a load of images many of which, when viewed on my return home, showed the bird with its eyes shut so I think it was feeling very secure on its perch and taking a bit of a midday snooze.

I have thought many times that it is the participation and tolerance  of birds that allow photo opportunities as much as the field craft of the photographer.  

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Backlit Mute Swan in late aftenoon light .....

Great mid afternoon light today but the wind was blowing a hooley over the reed beds, a mixed party of at least ten male and female Bullfinches greeted me when I arrived at the Aldwincle Reserve car park but departed immediately when I parked up, I could hear them with their very distinctive contact calls hidden in the hedgerow on the other side of the road but no photo opportunities presented.

My objective was to try and get some better images of the resident male Stonechat from the Peter Scott hide, no joy there.

The Swan was a bonus and I particularly like the water droplets falling from its beak.

In the distance and beyond the reach of my cameras lens combo there was a  mixed flock of at least three male and four female ( redhead ) Goosanders, what elegent birds both sexes are and a really welcome mid-winter visitor.

A brace of Wigeon ......

Funny birds Ducks, normally very wary and prone to getting out of the way and distancing themselves either by swimming or on the wing to a distance representing their comfort zone.

At Titchmarsh LNR it therefore came as a bit of a surprise that these two ducks remained feeding at the fringes of the gravel pit when I approached.  

Up close it always strikes me how small and attractive they are.

Dunnock ...... enjoying the mid-winter sun.

I like Dunnocks, they have presence unlike, for example Wrens, which disappear like '' Prima Donnas '' at the speed of light when disturbed.

In my experience Dunnocks are a lot more likely to hang around and treat you to quality views,  I know that I am repeating myself but these birds have such beautiful amber coloured eyes and remarkable plumage.

Friday, 9 January 2015

What a Teasel ........

What more can I say ..... Texture, colour, sunlight, shadow, natural, visual and wild ...... beautiful.

Bittern .... record shot .... the right place at the right time

Walking back to the Reserve Center at RSPB Lakenheath after a long and fairly tiring but sadly not particularly productive visit this bird appeared in the middle distance flying from right to left, immediately recognizable.

A bit distant but the late afternoon light quality was superb.

Like Grey Herons Bitterns have a ponderous wing beat and I was pleased to get this image with its wings above its body highlighting the unique markings of its neck and body.

How great it is that after years of active conservation projects the number of '' booming '' males in our reed beds during the breeding season is gradually increasing, fantastic. 

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

USAF on manoeuvers ...... here is one for my viewers from the States ...... well it is a bird, just silver coloured with no feathers !

With the USAF Air Bases at Lakenheath and Mildenhall in Cambridgeshire not too far away as the '' Crow flies '' from Titchmarsh LNR in Northamptonshire it was a pleasant experience to see this in-flight re-fueler banking quite low overhead.

I  am not sure which version of KC- tanker it is, it don't think its a KC-135,  but it certainly made quite a noise !. 

That's some flying gasoline tank !.

If any of my US based viewers knows the aircraft's model number please let me know !.

( Since posting this I learnt today that the USAF has announced that it will be closing Mildenhall and transferring its operations to Germany ).

Yesterday I just went Nuts .......

What characters Nuthatches are.

Grafton Park, part of the Boughton Estate,  is close to my home and a little hot spot for Nuthatches, Marsh Tits and Coal Tits in particular, I have never seen so many of these species in the same place at the same time. 

As regular viewers of my web page know I have been feeding up a corner of the wood in exchange for photo opportunities and these guys and a host of the usual woodland birds are joining in with enthusiasm, as I have said in the past they almost start to queue when I pull up and start feeding around my feet whilst I am still putting the seed and peanut mix down for them.

Images like these make the effort worthwhile for me and supplements their diet for them, a win / win situation for all concerned.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Almost a sepia image ......

A very heavy onshore wind was really ruffling this Curlews feathers, there are few hiding places on the salt marsh mudflats if you need to feed and replenish your energy levels.

The Curlew really is a master of disguise and from above must present little evidence of their presence to predators, they are also ( I seem to recall )  our largest wader so maybe not at the top of the list with smaller and potentially more vulnerable species more attractive to a quick stoop and swoop.

Monday, 5 January 2015

I know, I know ..... too much back chat ......

But you have to admit that when you have a very showy bird like this female Stonechat you have to make the most of it.

The seasonal nature of birding means that it may be a year before these chats return to this lowland reserve, the passage of time is we all know relentless so make the most of it whilst its there and whilst you can..