Wednesday, 3 May 2023

Hobby close encounters in Oxon - April 2023

One late morning last week, these birds were coming very very close, almost within touching distance at times! These photos are a remarkable testament to the auto-focus capabilities of modern mirrorless cameras,  in particular the Canon R5 with the RF 100-500 lens.

To see larger versions of all these images, click on the captions. 

For a gallery of all these photos and more, click here.

Crop of the photo below. © Stephen Burch

Almost frame filling! © Stephen Burch

Turning this way. © Stephen Burch

Approaching.... The next shot was the photo at the top of the page © Stephen Burch
Cruising past. © Stephen Burch

Zeroing in on an insect. © Stephen Burch

Friday, 7 April 2023

Marlborough Downs, 9 February 2023

Here are some photos from a memorable visit to David White's winter Buzzard hide, high on the Marlborough Downs near Berwick Bassett. Since my previous two visits, the hide had been relocated and fitted with a fully glass front window. This gave much more freedom when photographing the action but at the slight expense of always shooting through the glass. This was however specially imported from Spain and designed to give minimal loss of image quality. Note at this hide, you have to be installed well before dawn, and then wait inside until dusk. It was however a very comfortable hide, with a small kitchen and even a WC (the first hide I have ever found with one of these!).

Unlike previously at this location, this visit benefitted from intermittent sunlight from about midday, with glorious "golden hour" conditions in the late afternoon. With the on-line booking, I found I was able to wait until the forecast for a week hence was favourable. In the event, forecasts at that range are not very reliable and the morning was very dull and misty before it burnt off later.

From mid/late morning onwards, multiple Buzzards were present, which gave some opportunities for photos of them fighting over the food. The supporting cast included fly over Red Kites that were difficult to get onto despite the unrestricted window. There was also a confiding pair of Ravens present on and off almost all day.

To see links to more photos, go to this page on my website. Also click on any of the captions below to enlarge the photos.

A couple of Buzzards in a tussle, before the sun came out

Buzzard confrontation in the late afternoon sun

Buzzard fly past in great light

Another flight shot in the late afternoon

Perched Buzzard 

Buzzard on the ground in lovely light

Buzzard on the ground without sunshine

Buzzard close-up

Red Kite cruising past late on


Friday, 3 March 2023

Letcombe Valley BBOWT reserve - 2 March & 26 February 2023

On Sunday late morning, there was a good amount of frog action, in the cool sunny conditions, on the small pool near the north entrance to the reserve. Perhaps because of the NE wind however they were mostly keeping to the far side and were usually obscured by vegetation.

On Thursday afternoon, there was less activity but several were still present, but again mostly keeping to the vegetation.  It was again sunny but with a cool N wind. 

Plenty of frogspawn seen on both visits!

Here are a few photos of ones that were briefly clear of vegetation and other frogs.

Frogs at Letcombe Valley BBOWT © Stephen Burch

Saturday, 6 August 2022

Otterbourne, nr Winchester - 25 July

Pete Whieldon was offering a Tawny Owl evening workshop that sounded really good back in May/June. However my session was unfortunately abruptly cancelled as the bird had suddenly gone AWOL Fortunately it started showing again a month or so later, so I got this rearranged session. This is the first time I've photographed Tawny Owl at his hides and the setup was excellent.

Even though the bird didn't quite live up to expectations, there was a busy 45mins or so after dusk when the bird showed repeatedly, with very brief visits each time. After that, it suddenly went very quiet. Pete speculated that the female had taken the young off into the fields for a hunting lesson. Whatever the reason, there was only one further visit at around 23:00, which I missed completely having setup on the wrong perch! 

Pete provided all the flash equipment needed for the three photographers at this session. Note that the flash didn't appear to bother the birds at all. 

As usual, click on any of the captions for larger images.

Tawny Owl perched momentarily on a mossy post © Stephen Burch

Tawny Owl incoming © Stephen Burch

Sunday, 17 July 2022

Brine Pit Hides, Droitwich - 21 June

There has been a "Kestrel" hide at Brine Pit, near Droitwich for several years, but sightings were generally so infrequent that a session wasn't worthwhile. That all changed suddenly in mid June, which prompted me to make an immediate booking.

Unlike the Little Owl hide, this one faces north east, so by mid afternoon the sun is directly behind the hide. In fact the light for the whole afternoon and early evening was from a reasonable direction but with full sun all day the light was very harsh for much of the time. Not so good all morning of course,  unless you like backlit shots, which I generally don't. 

For this session, the bird visited numerous times; presumably it had some hungry mouths to feed nearby. Another long day, but more satisfying than my earlier Little Owl session due mainly to the better hide direction, combined with the very frequent visits mostly of a reasonable duration.  

As usual, click on the captions for larger images. 

Kestrel with raised wings © Stephen Burch

Kestrel departing © Stephen Burch

Kestrel in flight © Stephen Burch

Kestrel with mouse © Stephen Burch

Kestrel incoming © Stephen Burch

Kestrel portrait © Stephen Burch

Kestrel stare © Stephen Burch

Sunday, 3 July 2022

Red Kites and a Buzzard at Gigrin Farm, nr Rhayader - 30 May

An afternoon trying to photograph the Red Kites from the Large Tower Hide at the Gigrin Farm feeding station, near Rhayder in deepest mid-Wales.  

There were many birds, even at this time of year, but getting photos of them is not as easy at it might seem. Much depends on the light and the wind direction, as the birds always fly into the wind. I always prefer sun for Red Kite photos but unfortunately there was very little of that during this session. 

We found this hide was better than the lower hides we used last year for getting shots either level with the birds or looking down on them. 

As usual, click on any caption for a larger image. For a gallery of all my recent Red Kite photos, click here.

Red Kite passing quite close against a plain green background

Approaching head-on with the sky the background

Red Kite coming up at me! 

Red Kite zeroing in on a snack!

Red Kite close up

Red Kite diving down at speed

Red Kite almost frame filling

Red Kite on a food run

Looking down on a Buzzard! One of a few around.

Sunday, 19 June 2022

Brine Pit Hides, Droitwich - 18 May

 A long day out for a nesting Little Owl. As the hides (there are now two, side-by-side) face south or south-east, the light was difficult during the day but better first thing in the morning and in the late afternoon/evening. 

There were plenty of visits by the Owl, but many were very fleeting. Trying for action shots was tricky, but I did think two were worth processing, as shown below.

As usual, click on the captions for larger images. 

Little Owl in flight with mouse & green background © Stephen Burch

Little Owl in flight from one perch to another © Stephen Burch

Little Owl early on in the day © Stephen Burch

Little Owl in middle of day © Stephen Burch

Little Owl in the afternoon © Stephen Burch