Thursday, 21 February 2019

Bury Down, Berks 21 February

Back in the UK now after a great trip to Sri Lanka (more of which later!).

No sign of my main target this afternoon, but returning to the car park this Stonechat provided some compensation in the glorious late afternoon light.

Go to this page on my website for a larger image

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Standlake Pit 60: 10 January

Today was a dull day but reasonably productive. Arriving at the LL hide I found quite a few Wigeon close to the hide, but as I set up and very carefully opened the shutters, they drifted off to a less useful distance. Other interesting birds were few and far between, apart from one Great White Egret along the N shore.

After some time in the LL hide with nothing but some passing, too distant, Wigeon for interest, it was time to up sticks and try the N shore hide, especially as the GWE seemed to be closer to that hide, although it was showing no sign of getting any closer.

The advantage of a dull day at Pit 60 is that the light isn't then too bad at the N shore hide.  In fact the duller the better from that point of view! After only a short amount of time at the N shore hide, I was surprised to see some GWE action, with two birds in flight together very briefly. Hand holding the 500mm lens with the x1.4TC on for flight shots is not my preferred photo mode, but in the time available it was all I could manage. Still, a couple of the resulting images weren't too bad:

Thereafter, one of the birds disappeared while the other returned to its favourite channel along the back of the N shore. After some time, it showed some suggestion that it might be moving in my direction, so I stayed around for a bit longer. Sure enough it finally did start to walk in a purposeful but slow manner along the shore towards the hide. Keeping well inside the hide, I hoped it would pass right by, but it sensed movement at one point and was off! Still with the long lens, it was reasonably close at its nearest point:

For larger versions of these images, go to this page on my website.

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Coate Water, Swindon 28 December

I tried a new site today, just over the "border" in Wiltshire (but closer for me than many Oxon sites). My main target was Jay, as this is a bird I've never photographed before. After a fair wait, one duly appeared - just as I was packing up to go!

Go to this page on my website for a larger image.

Go to this page on my website for a larger image.

Go to this page on my website for a larger image.

Supporting cast included at least two Water Rails that were pottering around in a remarkably fearless manner for prolonged periods.

Go to this page on my website for a larger image.

There were also plenty of the common tits, including Coal.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Buckland Warren Crossbills - 7 December

With the weather much improved by lunchtime, I thought it was time for my third attempt to photograph the Buckland Warren Crossbills. On my first morning visit, several weeks ago, I failed to see any birds.

More recently, on my second morning visit, I arrived by chance at exactly the same time as the Old Caley's - for a detailed account of that visit see the Old Caley's Dairy. However from my point of view, this visit showed it can be difficult to locate feeding Crossbills (they are very silent). Also in the 15min or so they were on show in the morning, I failed to get any satisfactory images.

From other accounts, afternoon appeared to be perhaps a more reliable time, hence the reason for this 3rd attempt. I arrived on-site around 13:15 and initially neither saw nor heard any sign of them. But fairly soon, I suddenly noticed a Crossbill in the top of a tree close to where I was waiting! It was even in the sun, but quite distant:
Crossbill near top of a larch

Shortly afterwards, I heard a short burst of "chipping" and a few more Crossbills, including at least two males, flew into a slightly nearer tree and immediately started feeding. At this point, I tried switching from the x1.4 converter to my newly acquired x2 converter - to see if the extra magnification would help for these still quite distant birds.

These birds stayed feeding in this tree and then another a nearer one for more than an hour, but by that time the light had gone and it was time to leave.

Although they were visible for a prolonged period I found that feeding Crossbills rarely pose for more than a second or two. In addition all the branches would often move around wildly in the gusty wind and the sun kept going behind clouds and then reappearing. So not ideal photographic conditions!

Unfortunately at this site, from the photography point of view, the light is much better in the morning, but it seems the birds prefer the afternoons!

Male Crossbills

Monday, 3 December 2018

Scotland (Rothiemurchus) - late November

Spent a few days recently in Speyside following a business trip to Aberdeen. My focus was on photography of Crested Tits and Red Squirrels, both courtesy of Neil McIntyre. Following an atrocious day in Aberdeen, the weather further west on the following days was better with only a little gentle rain and light winds. Light was generally poor though - which meant having to push up the ISO and using  max aperture. Unfortunately too early in the winter for any genuine snow in the pics, though.

See a selection of my photos below. For additional and larger images go to this page on my website

Crested Tits

Red Squirrels

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Farmoor - 10 November 2018

At Farmoor this morning there was no sign of the Red-breasted Merganser nor the Sanderling (both reported earlier in the week).

Neither was the Shrike Meadow hide very productive, apart from providing a late sighting of some Common Darters, including one tandem pair over the water. Also on nearby Buckthorn Meadow there were one or two still to be found. This was in the bright, sunny conditions in the morning, of course, before the deluge to come!

By the time I reached the Pinkhill Hide, the skies were looking pretty threatening. The Water Rail appeared quite regularly before, during and after the ensuing heavy rain. It was difficult to get photos of it clear of the stumps of the cleared vegetation though.

Click here for a larger image on my website 

Water Rail

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Kingfisher Hide - 26 October

Frustrated by my lack of recent success with Kingfisher pics in Oxon, and bearing in mind Ewan's post from earlier this year, I finally decided it was time to try, for the first time, one of the photo hides that are now offered, at price, for photographers at various locations around the country.

This day was spent at Nature Photography Hides which is near to junc 5 of the M5 at Droitwich - about a 1 and a half hour journey for me. With the forecast for Friday looking OK, earlier in the week I had phoned Darren and arranged to meet him at the Macdonalds just off the M5 at 09:00. He appeared promptly, and I then followed his car to the farm, whereupon it was a c. 5-10 min walk across fields to the Kingfisher hide, which has spaces for up to 4 photographers. It was full today.

The setup involves a Y-shaped perch arrangement, with a green mossy one to the left and a lichen and leaf one to the right. Annoyingly, the bird, when it appeared, didn't seem to realise where it was supposed to be, and sometimes landed on the unsightly junctions between them! The perches were only about 5m from the hide - so using my 500f4 with my Canon 7D MkII, the bird virtually filled the frame, without the converter! The 100-400 allowed pics with more space around the bird. I used a bean bag to support the camera & lens, which made things easier.

The weather didn't turn out as good as had been forecast earlier in the week, and the sun only really came out later in the day, with some earlier short showers. At this time of year, the perches were only in the sun for a few hours around the middle of the day, when the bird was absent. Virtually all the Kingfisher action was in a one hour period in the morning between 10:30 and 11:30 when the light wasn't brilliant. After that there was a (very) long quiet period until 16:30 when it eventually appeared briefly for the last time, before I called it a day at 17:00. In its morning appearances, the bird managed to catch 2-3 fish but would unfortunately fly off with them - not returning to the perch to eat them. Apparently a different adult bird behaves differently and can return to the perch with fish but there was no sign today of this bird (apart from a very brief aerial encounter with the sub-adult that was coming in).

However during the time the bird was on the perch it afforded some great views, allowing me to get these shots which are, by some margin, the best photos I've managed  of Kingfisher. It has also wet my appetite for attempting the rather more challenging sport of diving action shots!

For larger versions of these photos, go to this page on my website.

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Yorkshire & Norfolk: October 2018

Spent a leisurely couple of weeks recently on the east coast in Yorkshire and then North Norfolk. Very quiet at times due to unfavorable winds, but still found some good birds to photo.

The Gannets were still around at Bempton Cliffs (a site I first visited in 1964 - showing my age there!) so I tried for some flight shots on a couple of days:

Gannet close up

There were also good numbers of Tree Sparrows around the car park/visitor centre area:

Tree Sparrow

North Norfolk coast
North Norfolk provided more photo opps, as follows, but with just one (minor) rarity:

Barred Warbler at Whalsey Hills NOA

The island hide at Titchwell provided my first views of Jack Snipe on the ground. They were however pretty distant and spent 99% of their time in cover. Some patience was needed to get these photos!

Jack Snipe
Two Jack Snipes together!

Titchwell also produced some other images:

Little Egret in the late afternoon sun
Spotted Redshank

A field with a hedge allowed me to get reasonably close to a feeding flock of Pink footed Geese one evening, using the car as a hide:
Pink-footed Geese

The little harbour at Brancaster Staithe was again quite good for waders on a rising tide, despite all the disturbance:
Black-tailed Godwits

 To see more photos and larger versions of the above, click here.

Friday, 19 October 2018

Farmoor - 19 October

Had some success at Farmoor today, with thanks to Dai and Badger:

 To enlarge, click here
  To enlarge, click here
  To enlarge, click here
Black-necked Grebe

Thursday, 18 October 2018