Monday, 22 April 2019

Farmoor 22 April morning

Glorious sunny visit to Farmoor this morning, with some reasonable birds around as well. On arrival there were 2 Yellow Wags on the grassy bank on the E side of F1. Although they were almost immediately flushed by a fisherman, I noticed there was one still there on my return, this time being harried by a couple of photographers.

Out along the causeway, Dave Lowe kindly put me onto some adult Little Gulls on F1 - but too distant for photos. On F2, there were c. 12 Common Terns but initially no sign of any Arctics or Black Terns.

Over the causeway and down to the meadows and river beyond, there was a vocal Cuckoo flying around from time to time.


Further on at the pool with the footbridge at Buckthorn Meadow there was a Sedge Warbler that was coming up into the tops of the reeds from time to time.

Sedge Warbler
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Returning to the causeway, Geoff Wyatt helpfully showed me an Arctic Tern and a Black Tern in the middle of F2 that seemed to be associating with each other.

So a better than average visit!

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Cleeve Common, Gloucs 18 Apr 19

With some helpful info from Jim Hutchins, it seemed worth giving Cleeve Common a try for Rouzels. This site is very different from Linkey Down in that there is unrestricted public access across the whole of the area. This provides more photo opportunities but at the expense of increased risk of disturbance.

There were at least 4 males and 1 female present today. Waiting for the birds to come to you is the only option here, but none of the other birders present seemed to understand this. At least twice all the birds were flushed by "birders" with cameras. Dog walkers are another hazard of course but in three hours I saw just one.

Only twice did my targets come within an interesting distance with the first being immediately on arrival when I wasn't set up properly, and they were flushed almost immediately by another birder in front of me. On the second occasion a couple of males briefly came reasonably close, and the shot below is probably my best to date of these difficult to photograph birds.

Somewhere to remember for the future though.

Ring Ouzel (c) Stephen Burch
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Sunday, 14 April 2019

Oxon pics 11 - 13 April

Here are some images from my various Oxon destinations over the last few days. Moving to part time working has its advantages!

1. Farmoor Reservoir, 11 April 

Success at last on the causeway with a couple of Yellow Wags - early on before anyone else got there (although it was a close run thing)!

Yellow Wagtail
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Yellow Wagtail
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Injured Ringed Plover
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2. Otmoor - 12 April
A quiet visit, apart from a Gropper heard from Morleys - near the feeders. Only this Reed Bunting, from the hide, came close enough to have its photo taken.

Reed Bunting - almost too close!
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3. Linky Down - 13 April
I first returned to Farmoor and saw little, managing to miss the Little Bunting by a few minutes. So I thought I'd try Linky Down for the Ring Ouzels afterwards. Here my luck changed and there were at least 3 birds on show when I arrived - 2 males and a female. They are always distant here, but this time a little closer than usual. The long lens with the x2 converter helped with this one (and all of the above for that matter). 

Ring Ouzel

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Farmoor - 5 April

A cold day at Farmoor, but there were some reasonable birds around. Masses of hirundines first thing, mainly Sand Martins but also a few Swallows and House Martins. There was a nice group of 6 White Wagtails on the causeway but they were very jumpy, making it difficult to get close.

White Wagtail

The SM hide was quiet apart from singing Blackcap to the side and a more distant Cetti's. Viewing F2 from the west side, I was then put on to the 2 Common Scoter that were very distant.

Finally returning along the causeway, I went in the hide and looked for the Little Gull which I eventually spotted some way out in the middle of F1.

Little Gull

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Weymouth weekend 21 - 23 March

Spent a couple of days in one of our increasingly regular haunts - Weymouth. Advantages include the path along the W side of Lodmoor where the birds are generally remarkably tame - clearly they have become completely used to the constant human traffic. Normally wary species such as Teal, Shoveler and Blackwit can be viewed (and photographed) at remarkably close range.

This time however I was only interested in one species - the Lesser Yellowlegs which has spent the winter here and also assumed the same habits as the regulars. I visited here there times and on each occasion it was frequenting almost exactly the same spot just a few meters from the path. Only on the last visit did the conditions do it any sort of justice.

Lesser Yellowlegs

Lesser Yellowlegs and its buddy the Ruff - on a duller day

The other notable species we found, by chance, was a lovely male Black Redstart that was "showing well" in the Ferrybridge car park. When we found it in the morning, conditions were again very dull. However on our return from Portland Bill in the afternoon, it was brighter, with even a hint of sun, and remarkably the bird was still there!

Black Redstart 

For larger versions of all these photos, see this page on my website.

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Bury Down, Berks 21 February

Back in the UK now after a great trip to Sri Lanka (more of which later!).

No sign of my main target this afternoon, but returning to the car park this Stonechat provided some compensation in the glorious late afternoon light.

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Saturday, 12 January 2019

Standlake Pit 60: 10 January

Today was a dull day but reasonably productive. Arriving at the LL hide I found quite a few Wigeon close to the hide, but as I set up and very carefully opened the shutters, they drifted off to a less useful distance. Other interesting birds were few and far between, apart from one Great White Egret along the N shore.

After some time in the LL hide with nothing but some passing, too distant, Wigeon for interest, it was time to up sticks and try the N shore hide, especially as the GWE seemed to be closer to that hide, although it was showing no sign of getting any closer.

The advantage of a dull day at Pit 60 is that the light isn't then too bad at the N shore hide.  In fact the duller the better from that point of view! After only a short amount of time at the N shore hide, I was surprised to see some GWE action, with two birds in flight together very briefly. Hand holding the 500mm lens with the x1.4TC on for flight shots is not my preferred photo mode, but in the time available it was all I could manage. Still, a couple of the resulting images weren't too bad:

Thereafter, one of the birds disappeared while the other returned to its favourite channel along the back of the N shore. After some time, it showed some suggestion that it might be moving in my direction, so I stayed around for a bit longer. Sure enough it finally did start to walk in a purposeful but slow manner along the shore towards the hide. Keeping well inside the hide, I hoped it would pass right by, but it sensed movement at one point and was off! Still with the long lens, it was reasonably close at its nearest point:

For larger versions of these images, go to this page on my website.

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Coate Water, Swindon 28 December

I tried a new site today, just over the "border" in Wiltshire (but closer for me than many Oxon sites). My main target was Jay, as this is a bird I've never photographed before. After a fair wait, one duly appeared - just as I was packing up to go!

Go to this page on my website for a larger image.

Go to this page on my website for a larger image.

Go to this page on my website for a larger image.

Supporting cast included at least two Water Rails that were pottering around in a remarkably fearless manner for prolonged periods.

Go to this page on my website for a larger image.

There were also plenty of the common tits, including Coal.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Buckland Warren Crossbills - 7 December

With the weather much improved by lunchtime, I thought it was time for my third attempt to photograph the Buckland Warren Crossbills. On my first morning visit, several weeks ago, I failed to see any birds.

More recently, on my second morning visit, I arrived by chance at exactly the same time as the Old Caley's - for a detailed account of that visit see the Old Caley's Dairy. However from my point of view, this visit showed it can be difficult to locate feeding Crossbills (they are very silent). Also in the 15min or so they were on show in the morning, I failed to get any satisfactory images.

From other accounts, afternoon appeared to be perhaps a more reliable time, hence the reason for this 3rd attempt. I arrived on-site around 13:15 and initially neither saw nor heard any sign of them. But fairly soon, I suddenly noticed a Crossbill in the top of a tree close to where I was waiting! It was even in the sun, but quite distant:
Crossbill near top of a larch

Shortly afterwards, I heard a short burst of "chipping" and a few more Crossbills, including at least two males, flew into a slightly nearer tree and immediately started feeding. At this point, I tried switching from the x1.4 converter to my newly acquired x2 converter - to see if the extra magnification would help for these still quite distant birds.

These birds stayed feeding in this tree and then another a nearer one for more than an hour, but by that time the light had gone and it was time to leave.

Although they were visible for a prolonged period I found that feeding Crossbills rarely pose for more than a second or two. In addition all the branches would often move around wildly in the gusty wind and the sun kept going behind clouds and then reappearing. So not ideal photographic conditions!

Unfortunately at this site, from the photography point of view, the light is much better in the morning, but it seems the birds prefer the afternoons!

Male Crossbills

Monday, 3 December 2018

Scotland (Rothiemurchus) - late November

Spent a few days recently in Speyside following a business trip to Aberdeen. My focus was on photography of Crested Tits and Red Squirrels, both courtesy of Neil McIntyre. Following an atrocious day in Aberdeen, the weather further west on the following days was better with only a little gentle rain and light winds. Light was generally poor though - which meant having to push up the ISO and using  max aperture. Unfortunately too early in the winter for any genuine snow in the pics, though.

See a selection of my photos below. For additional and larger images go to this page on my website

Crested Tits

Red Squirrels