Tuesday 23 November 2021

Buzzards and Red Kites close-up! 26 October

In December 2020, I had my first visit to this excellent hide, high on the Marlborough Downs near Swindon. It is bookable through Wildlife Photography Hides and is operated by David White a local farmer who is also a keen photographer.  The 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!

Last year, I had very good session with multiple Buzzards close-up and even fighting when the food supply dwindled. Red Kites also showed briefly, but the weather could have been much better as it was heavily overcast all day, with light rain at times.

I was hoping for better conditions this year, but it is always pot luck on the day, as it is necessary to book many weeks in advance. In the event, the weather was only slightly better being marginally less heavily overcast, with one brief brighter spell around midday, and no appreciable rain. There was no chance of the hoped for early morning sun, which I was sure would produce spectacular photographic results. 

As last year, I was required to be in the hide well before dawn (meet time is 1hr before) and to remain there until dusk or slightly earlier if all the birds had left the area.  With the easing of Covid restrictions, I was spared the 600m walk in the dark up a track on arrival, as I was given a lift by David in his 4x4. 

The first Buzzards came in around dawn, and were a constant presence until most of the food had been eaten around midday. Thereafter occasional birds put in an appearance at intervals through the afternoon, usually finding some scraps to pick over. Red Kites were more numerous than last year, and came in regularly to feed on the ground - a relatively unusual sight as they usually just dip down and grab small pieces without stopping.

At its peak, there were at least 5 raptors on the ground at once tucking into the food provided with others nearby on posts. Disappointingly this year there was little "activity" in the way of fighting, nor did anything bathe in the nice pool provided. 

For a gallery of all my Buzzard photos from this session, go to this page on my website. My Red Kite images can be found here.

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

A spectacular pale Buzzard © Stephen Burch

A crop of the photo above © Stephen Burch

A more normal plumaged Buzzard calling © Stephen Burch

Buzzard looking at the lens © Stephen Burch

Buzzard in flight © Stephen Burch

Frame filling Red Kite on a nearby post © Stephen Burch

Crop of the Red Kite photo above © Stephen Burch

Red Kite on the ground © Stephen Burch

Head on Red Kite © Stephen Burch

Red Kite in flight with the distant countryside behind © Stephen Burch

Saturday 6 November 2021

Sparrowhawk and others in South Wales - 21 October

It was time for another trip to Ian Howells' hide in South Wales. I was hoping for more photos of the juvenile Goshawk, in better weather than last time! But unfortunately it hadn't been seen for about a week when I visited.  

However the male Sparrowhawk had finished its moult and was looking very smart in the superb light. It was sunny more or less all day. Unprecedented at this site, in my experience! There were also some other attractions which included some momentary Buzzard visits around dawn, as well as woodland birds including very active Jays and a Great-spotted Woodpecker. 

All in all another great day out at this hide! 

For a gallery of all my recent Sparrowhawk pics, click here

Click on the captions for larger versions of each of the images below.

About to depart! © Stephen Burch

On the post © Stephen Burch

On the end of the branch - again sideways on © Stephen Burch

Very close! © Stephen Burch

The stare! © Stephen Burch

One of the very active Jays early on © Stephen Burch

Great-spotted Woodpecker very close in full sun © Stephen Burch

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