Monday, 25 January 2021

Wantage & surroundings in the snow - 24 January

Snow always adds interest to photos but sadly in southern England opportunities are very limited. So when there was a snow fall in the morning yesterday, I was keen to get out and find something to photograph. 

First up, walking to Letcombe Regis, I thought there was a fair chance that the Great Bustard would still be in the usual field to the east of the village. Indeed it was and I managed to get a low angle photo that at least showed some snow had fallen.

As usual, click on the captions for larger images

Great Bustard in the snow!

Later, I had amazing luck at the top of Chain Hill, just outside Wantage, with an apparent road-kill (a hare?) in the snow close to the road but not on it. There were a few raptors in attendance when I drove past, and this one stayed put when I came back even at point-blank range!

Buzzard on kill in the snow!

This was very close, as shown by the crop below!

Saturday, 23 January 2021

Letcombe Regis - 21 January

A return to nearby Letcombe Regis today in search of the Cattle Egret. This took some time to pin down, but eventually I got some photos of it on the lake off Warborough Road - through a very convenient hole in the large and mostly very solid hedge. It was with at least 2 Little Egrets. Previously, and later, it was in the nearby sheep field by the allotments but it never came close.

As usual, click on the captions to enlarge

Cattle Egret by the lake
Looking right!

In between looking for the egret, I came across these charming Stonechats on the nearby Downs:

Stonechat female or immature?
Crop of the photo above
The male Stonechat very close

Thursday, 7 January 2021

Letcombe Brook - 2 January

Back for another extended and chilly session! Although I only captured one visit of the bird, at least it was for longer this time and I was able to get photos of the bird in a variety of poses. Conditions were however duller than my last session, when the bird appeared.

The last photos from this site for some time to come, given Lockdown 3...  

Once again click on the captions for larger images. 

Also go to this gallery for more Kingfisher photos. 

One of the first photos of the visit
Looking left
Looking right and upwards
Looking right and down

Friday, 1 January 2021

Letcombe Brook - 29 December


A couple photos from a cramped 4 hr session in which the bird showed for about 30 sec! 

As usual, click on the captions for larger images.

Sideways on - looking out over the water
More head on having just flown in

Wednesday, 30 December 2020

South Wales for Sparrowhawk - 17 December

My third visit of the year to Ian Howells' great Woodland hide in South Wales. Fortunately it was just before the latest Welsh and now English Covid-19 lockdowns. 

The main aim of this visit was to photograph the male Sparrowhawk that I'd seen previously as an immature in July and then moulting in August. For this visit the moult was complete, and the bird was looking very smart indeed!

However it took its time to appear - not until 11:45 - I had been there since shortly after 07:00!

Click on any of the captions below for larger images. 

Also go to this gallery for all my photos of this bird from this session and the two earlier ones. 

Click here to enlarge

Crop of shot above

Suddenly alert, the bird had spotted a movement and was about to dash off in hot pursuit!

The bird was facing away for almost the whole time during its three visits. Just once it arrived and faced the other way very briefly.

A rare frontal view

This female came in once and chased off the male before abruptly departing. Fortunately the male came back shortly afterwards.

Female just after chasing off the male

Wednesday, 23 December 2020

Buzzard Hide, near Swindon. 10 December

My earlier session at this hide - a new one for me - was cancelled due to the national lockdown 2, but fortunately I managed to re-book for December 10, after it had ended. 

This hide, bookable through Wildlife Photography Hides, is high on the Downs near Swindon. It is operated by David White a local farmer who is also a keen photographer.  To minimise disturbance you are required to be in the hide well before first light and to remain there until dusk. It is made very clear that under no ordinary circumstances are you allowed to leave the hide, as this would scare off the birds. A 600m walk in the dark up a track is required on arrival, but David was able to take my photo gear in his vehicle which he drives to the hide. This hide, like the WPH hide at Bourne, is well equipped with a heater and a toilet in a side room. It even has unlimited WIFI!

With these bookings, weeks in advance, it is pot luck over the weather and unfortunately it wasn't good at all for me with dismal light all day and some rain for a good proportion of it. The Buzzard and Kite activity started quite early and continued with birds present until 13:30 when the last flew off. Other birds included pesky Crows and Magpies, which frequently got in the way of the Buzzards, as well as the odd Raven that seemed interested but I didn't notice one land. 

After 13:30 there was then nothing until dusk. 

At its peak, there were four Buzzard on the ground at once tucking into the food provided with others nearby on posts.

For a gallery of all my photos from this session, go to this page on my website

For larger versions of those shown below, click on the captions.

Getting stuck into the food

On one of the surrounding posts

Buzzard in the light rain

Head on view

As the food supply began to dwindle, some arguments started. These were challenging to capture in the dull conditions but a few are worth showing here.

The larger and darker bird on the right is the dominant one

Certainly bullying it here - but the subordinate one managed to fly off after a few minutes

Sizing each other up?

Red Kites were also around, and flew past from time to time dipping down to grab some food. Just once, one came in and landed pretty close to the hide, affording a nice view:

Close Red Kite on the ground

This place would be pretty special on a sunny winter's morning but unfortunately it now appears Covid restrictions will prevent my planned revisit in January.

Sunday, 6 December 2020

Woodland Birds - 5 December

 Trying to make something of a rare day with some sun! 

As usual, click on the captions for larger images

Marsh Tit
Blue Tit

Saturday, 21 November 2020

Farmoor - 19 November

Arriving shortly after the gates opened it was soon clear that the weather wasn't living up to the forecast from earlier in the week. Instead of light cloud with some sun, it was grey with a fresh breeze from the west. Starting with the GND, which is normally to be seen on the eastern side of F2, near to the pontoons with the boats, I caught a couple of glimpses of it after a considerable amount of scanning. But the rough conditions made it difficult to see, and it certainly wasn't close. It then seemed to disappear so I tried my luck with the Scaup over on the western side of F1. Here the water was a lot calmer but for some reason all 3 birds were fast asleep most of time, even though the Tufted Ducks all around them weren't. When the female did eventually wake up, it then proceeded to swim right and into the sun, which was now being to emerge from time to time.

Giving this up as a bad job, I got a call from Bob suggesting that I look behind me! Down below he and another were seemingly concentrating on something perched on a tree just above the path near the Pinkhill Hide, but on the east side facing the mown grassy area. From my position I could just make out what it was they were photographing - the tame male Kestrel that others have come across recently in the same general area.

So I made my way down there as fast as possible, and to my amazement the bird was still there when I arrived and set up my gear. Not only that it tolerated a remarkably close approach by 3 (soon to be 4) photographers. It didn't seem at all bothered by our presence and remained on its perch for a few minutes before having a leisurely stretch and then flying off, not to be seen again.

As usual, click on the upper and lowest captions for larger images

Kestrel calmly watching its admirers

Crop of shot above

Having a stretch before flying off

Monday, 16 November 2020

Canon EOS R5 - initial review for bird and wildlife photography

As some of you may be aware, I've been enjoying playing with my new "toy" for the last couple of months - the mirrorless Canon EOS R5. Here is a photo of it mounted on the Canon EF 500mmf4 II lens with the x2 extender: 

This camera has been received to almost universal acclaim judging by the reviews I have read online. 

Game changing is the phrase I am using in my initial review. To see why, go to this page on my website.