Saturday, 28 February 2015

Just love these guys ......

I am seeing so many Nuthatches at the moment I feel that in avian terms I am binge imaging !.

Make the most of it is my motto so here is another .... 

Friday, 27 February 2015

Hansa ..... the Grey Heron.

I really like the eye contact in this image.

In flight shots of Grey Herons are probably some of the easiest because of their rather ponderous flight and relatively slow wing beats.

When assessing focus quality I always look very closely at the birds eyes, wing tips and where possible feet, in this case all passed my amateur test.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

A little scruffy ......

This Pied Wagtail was strutting its stuff on the ground and getting ever closer to my car providing a great opportunity for a close up photograph.

Their erratic walk and tail flicking make these widespread and active little birds very charismatic.

In common with many birders I like most things that fly ......

This CH-47 Chinook made its presence known many many minutes before it came into view with its reverberating contra-rotating twin rotor noise, its an old design but nothing in recent years seems to have bettered its performance.

The image is back lit, so I can see no insignia suggesting who it belongs to, RAF ? USAF ? ..... who knows ..... all I can say is that it has great presence.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

What a lovely result ...........

A couple more images from my visit to Summer Leys LNR, Northamptonshire, last weekend.

The months surrounding the turn of the year are, in my opinion, the best time to photograph Bullfinches  whilst there is no foliage to get in the way, their contact calls also carry well on a windless day.

In my experience, if you see one Bullfinch the other members of the party will not be far was the case here.

Whilst the male is a stunningly handsome bird I have to say that I find the subtle plumage of the female more to my liking.

Pitsford Gull .......

A bit of fun from Pitsford reservoir causeway practicing my '' in flight '' technique on the gulls ... very educational and rewarding trying out a wide range of different camera settings.

One thing I think that I discovered was to drop the frames per second rate down from seven to three, thus giving the auto-focus more time to respond in between each shot, time will tell. 

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Mute Swan in flight .......

The beating sound of the wings of Mute Swans on the water surface when on their take-off run is an unmistakable sound that can be heard from a long way away giving fair warning of a photo opportunity.

Regal birds that dominate all other species on our inland water bodies.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Coming into breeding condition .....Spring is on its way to being sprung.

This cock Reed Bunting is looking a bit scruffy at this time of year awaiting full development of its breeding plumage.

When their black heads and white moustaches are fully developed they are cracking birds
who display from elevated positions in our reed beds and surrounding shrubs with gusto. 

Sunday, 22 February 2015

You live and learn ..........

This morning at Summer Leys LNR in Northamptonshire I had a very pleasant surprise, perhaps a first, in the form of a Cormorant variant possibly a Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis - considered by many to be an invasive alien Chinese Cormorant to Europe.

All are members of the Great Cormorant family and hybridisation has taken place widely to the point that it is virtually impossible to identify the two strains, this bird is certainly visually different to the birds that I see locally in the UK.

My understanding is that sinensis have been in Europe for three or four hundred years, there is much debate about how and where they first arrived in Europe.

In the United Kingdom they tend to favour the eastern side of the country although in relatively small numbers.

You just never know whats on the menu when you go out for a bit of birding on a Sunday morning.

A friend of mine Graham Barker produced a small video of our visit as per the link below.

Having posted a Buzzard yesterday ..... today a Red Kite.

As with Common Buzzards, Red Kites are widespread here in East Northamptonshire.

This image highlights very clearly that the directional manoeuvrability and aerial attitude of the bird is very much controlled by its tail.

Tremendous looking birds with their silver heads and grey / green eyes.

Pairing up for the breeding season is well underway with '' sky dancing '' a regular sighting in the area.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Common by name , common by nature ......... Buzzard.

In Eastern Northamptonshire  we have no shortage of these tremendous birds of prey who exist in harmony with the ever spreading Red Kite population.

I quite often come across them perched on a fence post or in a tree whilst driving around, one thing is for sure in my experience, as soon as you stop the car in their vicinity hoping for a photo opportunity they take flight.

A very graceful raptor.

Friday, 20 February 2015

A very colourful character against a clear blue sky.

This male Greater Spotted Woodpecker popped up in a nearby tree and posed for some time giving good eye contact before flying away.

I have seen and taken images of many GSW's in my time, I think that this is one of the best in so far as composition is concerned.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Bogy birds ....... Goldcrests.

If this cropped image is my best Goldcrest image to date you can only start to imagine how bad my other images of this species are.

We have no shortage of Goldcrests in Northamptonshire, some of my friends have them in their back gardens.

Goldcrests, our smallest bird species in the UK, are high energy feeders, flitting around many varied  habitats. On a below freezing night they can loose 30% of their body weight so in winter they feed incessantly.

I've been closer to them but all I got was blurred images of wings and feathers.

By my standards, If, In my opinion, I believe I have a good image of any bird I am happy to say so ....... but also if I am way off the mark I am willing to admit it.

As always with bird photography, right place at the right time with the right camera settings and I guess some luck all contribute to performance  ..... with this bird I have yet to get it right by a long mile ...... all bird photographers will understand this sentiment .......... very frustrating..

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Better light today .............

At the feeding station Nuthatches continue to visit with great frequency, its really good to hear them calling from the surrounding trees where they position themselves before dropping in.

Judging by their comings and goings they are caching peanuts for future consumption.

Its a joy to help them out.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

There is always room for a Marsh Tit .......

..... this one was quite literally hanging around when I arrived, waiting for me to put some seed down at my feeding station. It came down to the ground to feed before I had even turned my back on the patch of ground, lovely bird, a real favourite.

Monday, 16 February 2015

If I had a swimming pool in my garden I would almost expect to find a Tufted Duck on it.

........... because they are everywhere, I can't recall ever visiting a reservoir, lake, gravel pit or any large body of water without finding these guys in residence in winter.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Its a complex language the English one !

Please Correct me if I am wrong but there is no such bird as a Seagull,  these seabirds are of the family Laridar ..... the Gull family ..... no Sea.

Going off at a tangent , interestingly, one of the oft quoted differences between British and American '' English '' is the use of the word Fall and not Autumn in the States.

In the 17th century the word Fall was the word actually used in Britain for Autumn, when the Pilgrim Fathers left these shores on board the Mayflower in the 17th Century for North America they took the word with them and it is we, in Britain, who subsequently introduced the word Autumn for the season.

Funny thing language ..... !

Asleep on its feet .........

This Greylag Goose was having a mid-day snooze, clearly no concern about potential predators.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Lapwing or in Old English, Peewit.

I'm going to call this bird Joseph because his coat is truly of many iridescent multi-colours.

There are some quite large flocks of Lapwing at Pitsford Reservoir at the moment and they certainly brighten the place up and entertain the crowds with their aerobatics and their calls which sound like '' pee-wit '', hence the old alternative name for the bird.

Not the easiest to get an in flight image of as they flit around, flit is not a word that you would associate with bigger birds but let me tell you these birds flit !.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Goosander .... the other half ......

I've posted a couple of images recently of the winter migrant female Goosanders on the reserve so here is one of the drake, a very striking long bodied Duck.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, the Goosander is a sawbill, its mandibles are serrated so that once caught fish have little chance of escape.

To illustrate this I have included the second image to try and highlight this feature, apologies for the quality !. 

                                         Very, very heavily cropped - the sawbill

...... Cormorant in flight

On the wing, Cormorants are rather ungainly  .....  I guess there have to be some compromises in their design to accommodate flying, swimming and diving.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Almost getting tame .....

Regular visitors will know that I have a feeding station, consisting of mixed seed and peanuts, at Grafton Park, Grafton Underwood, Northamptonshire.

All of the birds have become accustomed to my visits and pay absolutely no attention to my presence, even the Nuthatches which were very skittish at first.

In fact, and this may sound incredible, on two occasions Tits have actually flown into the side of my estate car !.  

The Coal Tits in particular fight a lot, an objective of mine is to try and get an image of one of these fights with a bird pinning the other down on the ground ........ 


Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Post number 5. ........

Thousands in the UK in winter, Wigeon are everywhere with their whistling calls and squabbling nature.

The drakes are very handsome birds.

What a satisfying experience to get up close and comfortable with our avian friends.


Post number 4 - Grey Heron.

Normally distant, quick to take to the wing if disturbed or overhead flyovers this Grey Heron had no idea I was there in the hide and observing him.

I am not quite sure how you describe the call of a Grey Heron during the breeding season, I can only describe it as a bark !.

This fella was close to the Heronry so hopefully it will pair up and breed.

Post number 3 .............

One of the benefits of a hide is that birds are comfortable with its constant presence.

This was certainly the case with this Little Egret as it moved along the margins of the gravel pit ever and ever closer to the hide.

Little Egrets are very wary birds who will be off like a shot if they suspect any threat. 

This first image was taken when it had no idea that I was there, the second image in the series shows its response to the shutter release as it looked up for the source of the sound after which it was off.  

Post Number 2 .......

About a week ago I posted an image in good light of a distant female Goosander a beautiful chestnut headed and crested long bodied sawbill duck..

When I staked out the Heronry hide a female Goosander swam past really close, no more that twenty feet away,  good close position, lousy backlit lighting ........ cracking bird, testing circumstance for the image .... good point, if any I suppose,  is the mirror image.

Dire light ..... with a few positive illuminating encounters - Post number 1 of 5.

Grey, grey and grey overcast conditions again.

Rather than make my usual circuit of the reserve I decided to camp out in the Heronry hide ( several pairs of Grey Herons are very busy repairing nests from last year )  for a while and see what came to pass.

First up in the series a Drake Goldeneye, there are a number around at the moment, highly energetic divers they seem to spend as much time under water as they do bobbing around on the surface.

They are spending a lot of time in and around the large Wigeon flocks. 

I saw a few of them displaying, throwing their heads back and calling, but was sadly unable to get a decent image.

What a stunning bird this winter visitor to our shores is.

Sparkling little chap

I'm really pleased with the lighting in this image of a Blue Tit which was perched against a relatively dark background.

Great eye contact with a nice glint and good feather definition ..... a very pleasing cameo shot of a common bird. 

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Barn Owl Ringing in Northamptonshire

Thanks to Neil McMahon I have recently established contact with Paddy Jackson, amongst many other attributes a respected Barn Owl ringer working in the County of Northamtonshire.

This was originally in relation to the Barn Owls at Titchmarsh LNR, it transpires that Paddy was responsible for erecting the two boxes on private land on the boundary of the Aldwincle side of the reserve a couple of years ago.

I would like to draw your attention to this video diary by Paddy, an overview of  the life and  incredible activity at a nest box on a farm over several months, '' the Life and Strife at a Nest box ''.  its 33 minutes long and well worth the investment in your time, unbelievable.

Stunning remote video footage, Fantastic !.

A bird of a different complexion. ......

I liked the registration of this helicopter ..... G-RISK !

Monday, 9 February 2015

Flyover at Titchmarsh ...............

Egyptian Geese are pretty much very rare visitors to Titchmarsh LNR so it was a real surprise to snatch this overhead image of a small flock of the birds in pretty good warm late afternoon light, I do not know if they had actually been on the reserve.

I remember the first time I saw these geese, introduced to the British Isles in Norfolk not so many years ago.

It was definately a '' what the ..... ''  moment as I sighted them grazing a field next to the country lane I was driving along near Thetford, not too far away from where they were first introduced to the UK. 

Sunday, 8 February 2015

What a Techno-Geek .... Graham Barker .... videographer

Barn Owls are  back at Titchmarsh LNR after many months of absence since they bred last year,  a friend of mine Graham Barker visited to make a video and conduct some low light trials with his latest toy, a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000.

Nice footage, fine birds, exceptional camera ...... but, the stars of the show are the Owls .....

The squeaking you can hear at about two minutes thirty seconds in the video was me trying to call  the bird in closer by trying to imitate an injured vole ....apparently for professionals it works, for me an absolute dismal failure !.

Very much worth a visit to Graham's web site .........

Windhover ..... aka Kestrel

When I started off this morning  at 07.45 the temperature was 0c, when I got back it had risen to 9c, bright blue cloudless skies and a still calm, fantastic !.

This little lady put on a great display for me.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Distant female Goosander...........

The Drake Goosander is a handsome looking bird but the female is equally impressive with its chestnut crested head and silvery flanks.

We have a number of these sawbills on the reserve at the moment both Ducks and Drakes, they get a bad press from fishermen and I have heard that they could have an impact on the Kingfisher population by depleating fish stocks, particularly small fish on which they depend.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Great Grey Shrike, Deenethorpe, Northamptonshire ....... the Butcher Bird.

How often do I raise the subject of being in the right place at the right time. 

When I pitched up at Burn Coppice today at mid-day I met a gentleman doing an impersonation of an ice cube who had been searching the area on foot for a couple of hours with no success in a bitter cutting wind, we exchanged pleasantry's and he departed.

My tactic was to sit in the car and wait for the bird to come to one of its favoured perches, so I parked up with good panoramic views of the trees along the bridleway and waited in the car ...... twenty minutes later the bird appeared on top of a medium sized tree.

A bit distant for my 420mm f4 lens combination so these images are cropped and sadly the bird was also backlit.

My heart goes out to the unlucky gent. who I had met, I've been in his shoes and its not a pleasant experience to dip after investing time and energy into an objective ..... this was my third visit, the first two being unsuccessful.

Marshy territory at Grafton Park, Northamptonshire.

On reflection, It seems to me that I say of virtually all species that I post images of that they are my favourites.

So, I guess the reality is that I just love birds of all shapes, sizes, colour, characteristics and habitat ...... some are easier to photograph and some are very frustrating .... I don't get it right too many times but when I do it makes all of the observation and effort worth while.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Another BO ......

I  am very pleased that this Barn Owl has recently been seen on a regular basis at the reserve ....... maybe an indication that breeding will take place again this year.

I love raptors and Owls in particular, Barn Owls are twilight operators for me, that dictate the results photographically, sometimes they co-operate and sometimes they don't, more often it is the light levels that dictate success or failure.

But, the sight of a Barn Owl quartering a meadow or reed bed  is just stunning, its like a personal physical experience.

When I am at the reserve it staggers me how people can walk around a nature reserve and actually see and hear nothing, its very sad, because we need to get as many people as possible on board if we are going to save wildlife from the pressures that it faces.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Old King Coal .......

As hyper active birds Coal Tits are restless and never stay in one place for long giving rise to a lot of blurred images in my experience.

Unlike their dapper relation the Marsh Tit ( a favourite of mine to be featured on Friday ), the plumage of Coal Tits always seems to me to be a bit scruffy and ill defined perhaps with the exception of the white stripe on the back of its black head.

Maybe I am being a bit hard on the species !.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Barn Owls .... results that are a bit more like it .. but not quite there yet !.

A couple of weeks ago Barn Owls returned to my local patch and I got some images but was not particularly happy with the results.

So, late afternoon today I went down to see if I could develop the results that I had achieved earlier, the Owl appeared at about 4.45 p.m.

As I have said before, an f 2.8 lens is far better for this work than my f 4, so I ditched the 1.4 Tc from my 300mm f4 and the improvement is in my opinion pretty good given a somewhat distant subject and the light quality.

Barn Owls are not stupid so you only get limited chances, maybe only one photo opportunity each encounter, the sound of a burst of shutter releases must sound like a machine gun to a bird that boasts very acute hearing.