Monday, 27 September 2021

GOSHAWK in South Wales - 9 September!!

Another trip to Ian Howells' hide in South Wales but this time the target was an awesome and rare juvenile Goshawk that had started showing just the week before. Last year an adult had appeared in August, but I didn't manage to see it despite one extended 12+ hour session. Hence this year I was very keen for another opportunity! 

I was very fortunate to get a cancellation for this session for which an early start was needed to arrive by 07:00. By around 07:20 I was all setup and ready. Remarkably soon, at 07:45, in flew the star bird which stayed for about 25mins, tearing into the Woodpigeon!

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

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

This is one of the first photos I got, before the feathers started to fly and the rain set in:

Goshawk - first shot © Stephen Burch

Shortly after its arrival, the rain started which I think made some of these photos more atmospheric, despite the rotten light. 

I feel this photo captures well the power of this awesome raptor:

Goshawk - in some rain © Stephen Burch

Crop of the photo above © Stephen Burch

Goshawk - in heavy rain © Stephen Burch

After the Goshawk departed early morning, I had a considerable wait until the male Sparrowhawk decided to put in an appearance, first at around midday and then again just before I departed at 17:15. There was no sign today of any Buzzards, that had also been coming in recently. 

Sparrowhawk © Stephen Burch

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Kingfisher - 10 August

It was time for a another visit to Pete Whieldon's excellent setup at Otterbourne near Winchester for Kingfisher photography, now that a juvenile has returned to the pool and its perches. 

Light conditions were very variable through the day, but the bird appeared plenty of times.

As usual, click on the captions to enlarge the image.

For a gallery of all my photos from this and other occasions, click here.

Diving down - first contact between the bill and the water!

Coming up without a fish

Perched with fish

Waiting for the right moment to dive

Friday, 3 September 2021

Farmoor - 3rd September

 Nice to find the obliging Ruff still present on the causeway this morning.

Ruff (c) Stephen Burch. Click here to enlarge

Crop of the image above (c) Stephen Burch

Thursday, 19 August 2021

Farmoor - 18 August

I got lucky on my first visit to Farmoor in months! An early report of waders prompted me to go, but when I got there all I could find initially was a juvenile Oystercatcher.

However, shortly afterwards, Isaac West kindly told me that there was an Osprey was about! This bird hung around for some time, but it was often extremely distant. However it came closer to the causeway a few times. 

This shot was taken on its last and closest approach, just as it was starting to brighten up. I was using the 500f4 with the x2 TC, hand held for this shot - not something I would normally attempt but with the bird almost overhead it was the only option.

As usual, click on the captions for larger images!

Osprey (c) Stephen Burch

For the photo below, the bird was a bit more distant and this was taken before the sun made a brief appearance.

Osprey (c) Stephen Burch

Sunday, 15 August 2021

South Wales - 9 July 2021

Reports of Tawny Owlet(s) at Ian Howells' hide in South Wales prompted me to book another session there - some two years after my first visit back in the pre-Covid era of 2019.  

Ian had changed his setup somewhat to have a perch that would accommodate multiple birds in the flash "zone" at once. However in the event the owlet(s) never showed and even this adult only stayed a second or two on each of its four or so visits. 

Prior to my departure at 00:30, I only managed one useable burst of shots of the incoming bird, of which I show two of the frames here. Not really what I was hoping for, but that's wildlife for you. It is possible some nearby Badgers had spooked the owls that night.

Click on the captions for larger images

Incoming Tawny Owl (c) Stephen Burch

Incoming Tawny Owl a couple of frames later. (c) Stephen Burch

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