Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Droitwich - 15 June

Following my wet and windy visit in May, I returned to the Brine Pit hide near Droitwich for another attempt at the Little Owls. However due to heavy demand, the next available opportunity wasn't until mid June, by which time the Owlets had emerged from the nest hole. They were even reported to be coming onto the perches in front of the hide...

The weather was the complete opposite this time, with full sun virtually all day. This posed its own challenges with harsh lighting and backlit images on the provided artificial perches, given the hide faces south or south east. However by setting up some of my own, using a handy pile of cut branches beneath a tree over on the north side of the field, I was able to get some alternative angles and more interesting natural looking shots (in my view). 

I even took one of my branches round the back of the hide, so the sun was behind me from mid morning to mid afternoon. The only way to get photos here was by shooting through the partially open hide door, but that didn't seem to bother the female much. Amazingly the bird took to this new location pretty quickly, with suitable inducement!

There were reported to be up to 4 owlets around, with two having moved away from the nest hole. I never had them on the perches, unlike some photographers including just the day before, but I noticed two briefly at the entrance once. 

For a gallery of all the photos from this session, click here.

Alternatively, click on any of the captions to enlarge

On the perch behind the hide

Same perch behind the hide

In flight behind the hide

Strongly side-lit in the morning using a natural perch added to the provided "structure"

Same perch but with the late afternoon sun lighting the front of the bird

Another added perch, in the afternoon

Owlet at the entrance to the nest hole

Friday, 9 July 2021

Otmoor - 8 July

Eventually, after a three hour wait I got some relatively distant shots of the Bittern in flight that has been showing from time to time from the bridleway:

As usual, click on the captions for larger images

Bittern with wings raised (c) Stephen Burch

Bittern with wings lowered (c) Stephen Burch

Friday, 25 June 2021

Thursley Common - 6 June

After Colin the Cuckoo's brilliant showing on 26 May, I went back a couple of weeks later hoping for more with better lighting conditions given the forecast for full sun. Arriving around 4pm, I was surprised to find only a very small number of other photographers present. Apparently there was a reason for this, and it wasn't good! Colin had become very erratic in the last few days and so clearly many had decided it wasn't worth trying for him again. I was told that today, since 9am, he had been in once for about 20min at around 3pm. 

Very shortly after I arrived, three of the others departed leaving just one other person and myself! After awhile even he departed, so I had the last 45mins of sun on the perch with the place to myself!!

Unfortunately while I was there there was no sign of the star performer. This showy Redstart was however considerable compensation in the superb early evening light. 

Click on any caption to enlarge

Redstart (1) (c) Stephen Burch

Redstart close-up (c) Stephen Burch

Redstart on a different perch (c) Stephen Burch

Thursday, 10 June 2021

Thursley Common - 26 May

As many of you will know, Thursley Common in Surrey is the site where a Cuckoo, nicknamed Colin, has been returning to for many years now. He is remarkably tame having become used to all his admirers who keep him well fed with meal worms.

This year he again returned in early April, but I heard that large numbers of people (up to 50) were present early in the season. Also his appearances during the day sounded more erratic than previously. This didn't sound good, so I decided to wait until well into May. 

Based on last year's experiences, I found it best to arrive mid/late afternoon and wait until the sun sets below the surrounding trees as he usually visited late afternoon/early evening from around 17:00 onwards.

So it wasn't until 26 May this year that I decided on the gamble of another late afternoon/early evening visit, arriving around 16:30. On arrival I was told Colin hadn't been seen since lunchtime and that he generally hadn't been performing "properly" this year. 

However at around 17:30, in he flew for what turned out to be mammoth stay, not finally departing the area until around 20:00, i.e. a remarkable 2 and a half hours later, by which time of course the light was very poor.

The one downside today was that the weather generally wasn't as good as forecast with much more cloud than I would have liked, and only a few brief sunny interludes. 

As well as staying for a remarkable length of time, I was extremely fortunate to find only around 7 other photographers present, virtually all of whom were trying for flight shots as Colin flew between the perch and the ground and back again. 

Prior to this session, I had thought it would be interesting to try my new Canon R5 for flight shots. As it turned out, I was amazed at how well it performed. If I could keep the bird in the frame (not easy), the camera's amazing auto focus would usually do the rest, resulting in large numbers of in focus flight shots. This would have been completely impossible with my old Canon 7D Mark II, which would have simply found the background and focussed on that virtually every time. 

As the light wasn't great most of the time, very high ISO settings were needed, especially towards the end of the session, but  another of the R5's benefits is its relatively low noise levels, compared with the 7DII, and I've managed to supress the noise reasonably well in the post processing.

Postscript:  I returned on Tuesday (8th June) but regrettably there was to be no repeat of this amazing performance as he did not appear while I was there.  There had been only one 20min showing at around 15:00 all day. A showy Redstart in the gorgeous early evening light was some compensation, I suppose.  

For a gallery of all my photos from this amazing session, click here.

For larger images of any the photos below, just click on the captions. 

Underside view

Unusual flight mode!
Direct flight
Close approach in a brighter spell

Trying for a backlit shot in the last of the light

Incoming with the light behind - but it was really dull by now ISO 25,600!!

Perched shot in a brighter "golden hour" spell.

On the ground

Sunday, 30 May 2021

Droitwich - 21 May

Nature Photography hides, based near Droitwich, is now under new, improved management and has been renamed as Brine Pit Wildlife Photography. New hides have been constructed on the sites of the old ones.

The day I visited for the Little Owl the weather was truly atrocious. Probably the worst I have ever had in a hide, with strong winds and rain, often heavy basically all day!

These conditions reduced the females activities but she still needed to feed the young in the nest, so made a reasonable number of visits. Unfortunately, the bird was also very bedraggled, especially the front view.

Still there were several visits to the perches and I managed to get a couple of "action" photos.

For a gallery of all my shots from this session click here

Once again click of any of the captions for larger images. 

Take off!

In flight
At the nest hole

Just before departing to the nest

A less bedraggled angle

A look in keeping with the conditions!

A windswept view in the rain!

The bedraggled front view in the rain

Monday, 24 May 2021

Oxon - various 18 & 23 May

23 May: A spur of the moment decision to head up to Farmoor in an attempt to photo Swifts in flight. Arriving late morning, I was just in time to get some shots before the weather improved and the birds vanished!

As usual, click on any of the captions to enlarge

Swift against the sky
18 May: A trip in search of Hobby and anything else!

Thursday, 20 May 2021

Otterbourne, Winchester - 15 April

Another successful visit to this hide near Winchester run by Pete Whieldon for Kestrel and supporting cast. Only the male was showing today, but it did come in frequently, especially in the morning. The female was away on the nest, incubating. At least 10 visits, I counted in total. 

One of the great things about Pete's setup is the wide variety of perches available and I was able to get the Kestrel to do a good tour of most of them during his 10+ visits! The "action" shots are something I thought I would try using the R5's animal eye detection auto focus in attempts to keep on the bird as it moved from perch to another.

To go to a gallery with all my Kestrel photos click here

As usual, click on any of the captions to enlarge.

Just after take off

About to depart this perch

Caught in level flight between perches

Diving down to another perch

See below for a few of the somewhat easier to take perched shots:

There was some sun early on, but it didn't last!

Looking at the camera

A somewhat different perch!

Unlike my previous visits here, the supporting cast also performed very well, keeping me busy between Kestrel visits. This splendid male Bullfinch was probably my top priority but getting nice shots of Wren and Grey Wagtail is always difficult.



Grey Wagtail