Saturday 22 July 2023

Somerset Wildlife Hides - 5 July 2023

This was my first visit to Peter Spencer's raptor hide near Yeovil. This was somewhat further afield than my normal range and required an overnight stay the night before.  [Peter doesn't appear to have a website, but does maintain an active Facebook Group].

The key attraction of his raptor hide at this time of year is a family of  Kestrels that nests nearby. With the young having recently emerged, all were coming down to the perches. Hence there could be the amazing sight of up to about 4 of the 5 juveniles and one adult (usually the male)  present at the same time!

This hide faces NE and so with a sunny morning, the lighting was very difficult. However after a few hours it become more cloudy which helped. In the afternoon it stayed cloudy when I would have preferred some sun! Such are the vagaries of photography from a fixed location on a day booked months in advance. It least it wasn't pouring down with rain all day, as it had been doing the day before!  

This hide features a large range of perches, but many had rather close backgrounds which I prefer to avoid. There was however one post where the background was some distance away. The hide also had a reflection "table" very close to the hide but none of the birds went in it when I was there. 

There were frequent visits during the day, especially the morning, so I took a huge number of photos. 

I show a few of them below (click on the captions for larger versions).

Also, there are more photo on my website, which can be found by going to this gallery:

Kestrel Gallery

For this shot, these two juveniles were on this post, and briefly were both looking in roughly the same direction towards me. 

Two juvenile Kestrel together © Stephen Burch

I never find flight shots easy with the restricted viewing at most hides and this was no exception, especially when using the rear screen all the time and not the EVF. However this one worked out although I'm not too sure about the background.

Kestrel in flight © Stephen Burch

For this shot, I tried the pre-capture facility on the R7 which worked for once: 

Incoming Kestrel © Stephen Burch

Below is a portrait of the fine male. A very well coloured bird:

Male Kestrel © Stephen Burch

I believe this is the female - about to depart:

Female Kestrel © Stephen Burch

One of juveniles calling to be fed, even though they could all do this themselves perfectly well!

Juvenile Kestrel © Stephen Burch

A juvenile on a different perch:

Juvenile Kestrel © Stephen Burch

A juvenile on the hedge in a bit of sun:

Juvenile Kestrel © Stephen Burch

Sunday 9 July 2023

Scotland May 2023 - North Uist and Mull

I show a small selection of the photos from this trip below, but for more of them go to my gallery of photos:

Photo Gallery

For larger versions of each of the photos below, click on the captions.

In May, we spent a couple of weeks on islands off the west coast of Scotland, with a week each on North Uist and then Mull. 

North Uist

Overall it was a better than expected trip photographically, especially on North Uist, where we were blessed by reasonable weather. In addition, there was an amazing rough road side field a few hundred metres from our rented house on the west coast, which had daily Short-eared Owls and, even better, the odd hunting male Hen Harrier. 

Almost daily morning visits to this field led to some memorable close encounters, as shown below. The best conditions were sunny, with the wind blowing from the east - so that the birds tended to be flying towards me.

Short-eared Owl close up. © Stephen Burch

Hen Harrier © Stephen Burch

Elsewhere on North Uist and its adjacent islands also produced some photo opportunities, including the machair of Berneray. Here I managed to use the car as a hide to photo waders that were feeding in a very wary flock just by the road.

Dunlin © Stephen Burch

Ringed Plover © Stephen Burch

There was another unexpected bonus in the form of some very confiding Twite at the end of the minor road along the south shore of Loch Euphort. A hunting male Hen Harrier also flew past, but not nearly as close as the one shown above!

Male Twite © Stephen Burch

More expected was a close encounter with a White-tailed Eagle from the Lady Anne boat trip that sails from a small harbour off Grimsay. Apparently last year, the birds weren't performing at all, but this year one was more obliging. This is the highlight of the boat trip which those running the trip seem to be surprisingly coy about, only announcing it to the other passengers just before it happened! Unlike on the Mull boat trip (see below), there were no other photographers on this tour. 

White-tailed Eagle © Stephen Burch


Well satisfied with the photo opportunities on North Uist, Mull turned out to be less productive. We did however have another great boat trip, on the Mull Charters Lady Jayne for White-tailed Eagle. Despite some camera issues, which caused me to miss several of the dives with a full buffer, I still got a fair selection of shots to process, including this one. See the gallery for more shots.

White-tailed Eagle © Stephen Burch

Shortly after we arrived on Mull, news of an American Wigeon on Loch na Keal came through. By using the car as a hide, I was again able to get some close shots as the bird came ashore and proceeded to walk towards us. 

American Wigeon © Stephen Burch

Elsewhere on Mull, I didn't find a great deal of note to photo, other than the odd snap shot such as this Oystercatcher on the southern shore of Loch Spelve at Croggan. This bird posed nicely in great late afternoon light.

Oystercatcher © Stephen Burch

We spent some time somewhat casually looking for Otters. Although we spotted a few, they were all distant and elusive. Indeed we encountered more otter watchers than otters! Many seemed disappointed and there were some suggestions the otters were being less obliging than previously.

It was very good to get back to Scotland after an absence of  several years, due to Covid and other issues. It is however a long way to drive, with our house on North Uist being 600 miles from southern Oxfordshire! 

Photo Gallery

Gallery of photos - click here to access