Friday, 27 September 2019

Otterbourne - Kingfisher hide - 20 September

Last autumn I had a less than stunning visit to the Nature Photography Hides near Droitwich for perched Kingfisher photos. On that visit there had been only one bird coming into the perches and it appeared infrequently during the morning and not at all during the afternoon. Light was also a problem, with the perches in shade for most of the day. However in the long periods of waiting for the bird to show, I learned from a fellow photographer about a hide that was reputedly much better with plenty of visits from multiple birds through the day. The place he was referring to was Pete Whieldon's setup at Otterbourne near Winchester.

For one reason or another, it took me some time to get round to trying this one. I was also keen to try something different with Kingfishers - diving shots which sounded to be considerably more challenging and required a special setup. To take full advantage of this opportunity, given its considerable cost, I was determined to visit on a bright, sunny day. So with a consistent forecast for  sun virtually all day, every day, this week, I enquired about availability and was told there was no problem for either the Friday or Saturday.

For this hide, you need to arrive at 07:30 which required a pretty early start, but at least I avoided the worst of the rush hour traffic and arrived dead on time.

Pete met me on arrival, unlocked the gate to let me in, and showed me to the hide which was only about a 1min walk from the car. I had the place to myself, and I was able to setup two cameras and lenses, with one  (100-400 f5.6 II) trained on the spot below the perch where the birds dive, and the other (500f4 II) mounted on a gimbal head and plate provided by Pete.

Having shown me the setup, Pete then departed and I sat down to wait for some action. It didn't take long for the first visit, which was followed by many repeats by up to 3 different birds. I counted a total of about 20 dives between about 08:15 and 15:40 when I departed. Even during the quietest part of the day (unsurprisingly between about 12:00 and 14:00) there were visits about every hour, some with multiple dives.

However the snag about this hide was the shade cast by the surrounding trees, which were of course in full leaf. The perches and dive spot were only in full sun for a brief period mid morning and then again between about 12:15 and 15:30. It was during these periods that all my shots below came from. The others with the bird in shade and the background fully sunlit weren't up to much. Pete stated that once the leaves have fallen the lighting is considerably better here.

Nevertheless, overall this session a good start to the art of Kingfisher dive photography:

For a gallery of all the hi res photos from this trip, see this page on my website.

For a high res version of this photo, click here

For a high res version of this photo, click here

For a high res version of this photo, click here

There was also plenty of opportunity for perched shots on natural looking props:

For a high res version of this photo, click here

For a high res version of this photo, click here

For a high res version of this photo, click here

For a gallery of all the hi res photos from this trip, see this page on my website.

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Farmoor: 19th September AM

This morning I was planning to try again at Wytham Woods for the recently reported Willow Emerald Damselfly (a first for the county reported by Steve Brooks last week), but on checking the Oxon Birding Log it mentioned a Little Stint at Farmoor. As these diminutive waders are one of my favourites, I quickly changed my plans.

As with most of its species, this one was very confiding and happily roosting, preening and feeding on the causeway in the company of a Dunlin. There was also the Ruff a little further on.

Little Stint
For a larger version, go to this page on my website

Little Stint with Dunlin behind
For a larger version, go to this page on my website

Sunday, 11 August 2019

At last! Shrike Meadow 9 August AM

Round about this time last year, I suggested to Dai that a post in front of the Shrike Meadow hide would be a good idea, with the aim of bringing in a Kingfisher that had been frequenting the more distant tree. Dai then had a word with Thames Water and, to their great credit, in time a post duly appeared!

However it has taken many visits on my part since then, though last autumn, the winter and then the spring & summer this year to finally connect with this bird. Others may have seen it from time to time, but despite many hours of waiting it never showed for me, until today that is!

Remarkably it was a good session with some sunny intervals and the bird showing three times between about 09:00 and 13:00. The first two of these visits were extended to as much as 30-45mins, with plenty of dives. These gave me a chance to try for flight shots as well as the much easier post shots.

Go to this galley to see more higher res photos from this session.

What this bird really needs now is a better, more natural looking perch. Anyone else agree?

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Shrike Meadow 20 July

I spent quite some time hoping for the Kingfisher to appear, but it didn't. Despite the strong wind and only occasional sunny intervals, there were fortunately some dragonflies to provide very welcome entertainment. Found another use for the 500f4 with the x2 converter - distant settled dragonflies! I used the 100-400 for the flight shots.

Brown Hawker

Emperor ovipositing
Four-spotted Chaser

Friday, 7 June 2019

Scotland trip report

For further info on the photos I posted earlier from Scotland, a trip report is now available on my website.

Unringed Osprey

Monday, 3 June 2019

Colin revisited 1 June 2019

Having made two trips last year, a visit to see Colin this year was well overdue. So with a good forecast, today seemed a good opportunity.

Arriving on-site at about 10 am I was told I had just missed him, as he had visited at around 09:30. It was then a fair wait until about 12:00 when he reappeared for about 30 mins. His next visitation wasn't until around 15:30 which didn't last as long, but was photographically more productive. After that it was time to depart.

Being a fine Saturday, there were up to about a dozen other photographers present throughout, but there seemed plenty of room for everyone.

Although the Redstart was singing almost non-stop during the morning, it never came in. In fact the only only bird of interest was this delightful Stonechat that arrived mid afternoon. 

To see a gallery of larger versions of all the above photos and more, go to this page on my website. 

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Scotland May 2019

See below for a selection of photos from my recent 4 day trip to the Aviemore area of Scotland, via Aberdeen. For more and larger photos go to this gallery on my website.

Ospreys at Rothiemurchus Fishery headed the bill:

But there were some other nice birds in the area as well:

Black-throated Diver
Slavonian Grebe
Wood Warbler

Sunday, 12 May 2019

South coast weekend 4/5 May

We spent a couple of nights on the south coast, staying in Chichester for the bank holiday weekend 4/5 May.

On the 4 May, Titchfield Haven proved quiet with only Avocets coming moderately close to the hide from time to time. The only waders at high tide along the shore were Turnstones,  a few of which were in summer plumage.

By the time we got to nearby Farlington Marshes, the tide was well out and there was little to see, apart from a distant Little Tern, and several Whimbrel, one of which appeared to tolerate our presence more than most, but still too distant for worthwhile photos.

The following day, we strolled down to the coast at the new RSPB reserve of Medmerry which was also quiet apart from some breeding Avocets on the Stilt pool, a fly over Whimbrel and close in Sandwich Terns on the shoreline.

Later we tried Pagham Harbour and found the Ferry Pool  quiet even at high tide. The harbour itself at Church Norton was however better...

While sitting on the bench that overlooks the harbour down the track from Church Norton, and trying to ID distant terns over their island, I suddenly became aware that the nearby marshy area contained some Whimbrel. Not only that, they seemed fairly confiding and by sitting still this one eventually came pretty close. It even then tolerated me getting up to follow its movement along the shore!

Surprising, as I've always previously found Whimbrel to be very wary. 

For a larger image, go here

For a larger image, go here

The following day we went home via Pulborough Brooks RSPB which was a new reserve for us. The main aim was the hear and see Nightingale. However we arrived late morning to find the immense car park packed (not a good start) and then wandered around the reserve to hear nothing and see very little, until we got almost back to the visitor centre. Here by a strange yurt was a volunteer listening hard. At first there was nothing, but shortly a Nightingale did start to sing, despite it being midday. But it was some way off in dense cover, on the opposite of the public footpath, so we never got a glimpse of it, let alone a photo. 

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Grimsbury Reservoir 9 May

Today was the first real chance I had to go for the Red-rumped Swallow, so it was great to hear from JFT that the bird was still present at around 07:30. So off I went, battling the rush hour traffic northwards. Having to almost traverse the full length of the county, and with a brief stop at the services, it wasn't until about 09:00 that I arrived to a distinctly dank Grimsbury Reservoir.

I started along the W side path, and initially had the place to myself. Fortunately, I managed to pick the bird up low over the reservoir quite quickly and then set about trying to get some photos. At this stage the bird was coming in low down, close into the W bank of the reservoir. To get any photos, this involved shooting through the chain link fence. With this and the poor light it was surprising I managed to get anything at all worthwhile.

Red-rumped Swallow

It then perched up on the fence not far from me, but was regrettably flushed by an approaching dog walker seconds before I could get the big lens into action (why do they always come along at just the wrong moment!). I then lost it for a considerable length of time. A photographer from Nottingham recommended the northern end for shots of it perched, so that is where I headed. The rain then really started coming down. There were plenty of hirundines perched, mostly House Martins, but there was no sign of the Swallow.  Also a nice group of 3 summer plumaged Dunlin in the heavy  rain and at least one Common Sand.

A passing dog walker then said he had seen it (or something that sounded quite like it) over on the east side, so that it where I tried next, to no avail. Finally, I decided it was time to go, and headed back down the W side, only to find the RR Swallow nicely settled on the fence, just about where it had been around 2hrs ago! This time it stayed put just long enough for me to get a series of photos.

Red-rumped Swallow and House Martin
For larger versions of these images, click here

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Great evening visit to Pit 60 - Monday 29 April

Hearing the news of the Barwit and Whimbrel (both amazing birds for Pit 60 regulars), I left work as early as I could. However as I first had to go home to get the optics, it wasn't until about 18:20 that I finally made it to the North Shore Hide. Presumably there had been some birders and photographers there earlier, but it was completely empty for me.

By that time, the sun was fully out and beginning to sink into the west which gave superb light, looking in the right direction of course. On arrival, the Barwit was in the right direction (i.e. east of the hide) but on the shore of a nearby island where it was too distant for good photos. After a bit of feeding it promptly stopped and went to sleep. Not quite the hoped for outcome!

Shortly afterwards (at about 18:40), a pair of Curlew flew in for an evening bathing session. They were in the same general direction as the sleeping Barwit but in the small bay between the shore and the island and considerably closer.

One of two Curlews
Click here for a larger image

Shortly afterwards the Curlews departed and then the Barwit woke up and starting feeding again. Amazingly it then flew past the hide, and then turned around and alighted on the water's edge on the bank just in front of the hide, where it started feeding (at about 18:55). This was more like it!

It then gradually moved away from the hide, but not before I had managed to take numerous photos of this stunning bird in full summer plumage.

Click here for a larger image

Bar-tailed Godwit near to the North Shore hide.
Click here for a larger image
A few minutes later, the Barwit had moved away until it was at a less interesting distance, whereupon I heard distant Whimbrel calls and caught a glimpse of it flying off to the north east. The Barwit followed suit, and I thought that was it.

However the Barwit was then back just a few minutes later, and I then had a distant view of the Whimbrel down on the island near to the Langley Lane Hide. So as the light was beginning to go, I made my way down there, only to find it had moved off again!

After a short time, there were more Whimbrel calls and I had a brief view of it and another larger wader, that I took to be the Barwit, flying off over the LL hide in an easterly direction.

Despite the lack of any close Whimbrel views, this had been a remarkable visit indeed for what is generally a site of only occasional rewards. These photos must be my best for Pit 60 by some margin and certainly made this evening visit a really great one!

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
Go to this page on my website for a larger image

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
Go to this page on my website for a larger photo

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
For a larger image, go to my website here 

Yellow Wagtail
For a larger image, go to my website here 

Injured Ringed Plover
For a larger image, go to my website here 

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!
For a larger image, go to my website here

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