Sunday, 19 July 2015

SWALLOWS, SPARROWHAWK AND BARN OWL

Saturday didn't start off well as I awoke to the tragic news that Jules Bianchi had finally succumbed to his injuries in last year's Japanese Grand Prix. We're still waiting to see if Michael Schumacher will pull through his and if he does wether he'll have any permanent damage to his brain. Not a great day for F1.
Mr.Z sent me a text "they're mowing the hay meadows". I know it's got to be done and to be fair it was very dried out and given the crap that's happened down there of late I could see some idiot setting a match to it. 
Compare the two images, top one from the first visit and bottom from Saturdays. 

There was a sizeable meadow behind the tree line, gone. The biggest meadow adjacent to the train station, gone,  where the vintage steam rally people will be camping next weekend and I photographed the individuals shooting pigeons with a shotgun last year (more hassle to come). The owl is struggling to bring home food thanks to the Kestrel having to go some distance from the nest to catch anything going as far as the bean field at the top of the hill yet it's still bringing the food back at a fairly frequent rate (8 times in the hour I was there)  but leaving it vulnerable to the sneaky Kestrel. Whom adopted a new trick today of sitting in the field and launching it's attack. There was a massive grappling match on the nest box perch that had me squirming before the owl managed to get back in the nest, this will end in tears. Not sure how the owletts will cope when they fledge, if they fledge as the adult looks vulnerable. Sadly due to the meadow area gone no close quartering took place on my visit. 
I only managed these two shots. 

These were taken in the evening. I'm debating wether to keep visiting  due to it being harder for it to hunt having checked the owl site out in the afternoon I opted not to hang about and I cycled on up to Cottesbrooke and caught this Sparrowhawk lurking. 

Not a stupid bird, that gap in the roof behind it is where a House Sparrow nests, this scared off temporarily my main reason for coming here the Swallows and Housemartins. They've seemed to have had a bumper year in this area.
When the Swallows eventually came back I got down to photographing them, got loads but the below image was the best one, the others were either one wing up, both wings swept back like a bullet, got one snatching a hoverfly but was just too soft for even my liking. I'll go through the others later in the week.
Not my best but a dramatic pose none the less. I cycled back via Blueberry Farm/Maidwell which was a massive let down if I'm honest. Loads of Swallows (again), Linnets, Buzzard, Skylark, Whitethroat and run of the mill birds was the best I could muster.
However I felt quite smug knowing I had travelled a total of 23.37 miles and hadn't burnt a single drop of fossil fuel for my birding, something quite liberating about that if I'm completely honest. Is this the end of my love affair with cars? Quite possibly. 

Thursday, 16 July 2015

PROBABLY THE FUNNIEST QUESTION EVER ASKED

Yesterday as I was stood on the bridge photographing and watching the Barn Owl hunting, waiting for Mr.Z to turn up.
 (Gutted these three were a bit soft but 'bankers' with room for improvement)

The Owl was busy both hunting and trying to avoid the ambushing Kestrel on the way back to it's nest. Now the next two images really had me wondering if I should post them a: they're crap b: kind of gives the location away c: I didn't want to mock the individual who posed the funniest question I've heard whilst birding. However I figured firstly a lot of local birders know already and more eyes watching it and hopefully not disturbing it means no more repeated incidents of idiots with air riffles. Secondly it shows exactly how bold this individual is plus if it felt threatened by people it has a massive area away from people in which to hunt, which it did to me yesterday when I took these, regular readers of this blog will remember this location it's where I found the migrating Redstart last Autumn. Exactly the same spot. Those who haven't read my blog the railway line runs vintage trains at the weekends so there's no real threat from trains unlike the 'other' Barn Owl that I found. So if you fancy visiting for a Barn Owl please do, however stay off the railway line and stay away from the nest
Just pick a spot and wait,  I mean check this out (crap image but for illustration purposes) which brings me to the funniest question posed by the woman on the right. The Barn Owl flew past within inches of her face. She joined me on the bridge and asked "have you photographed anything interesting", so I said "yeah the Barn Owl that just flew past you". She looked bemused and excited "I've never seen a Barn Owl before just on TV" so I passed her my binoculars and pointed it out as it was to far away to photograph. She was pleased and I could tell she was excited and when she asked how close it was to her I showed her the image, "I think I need glasses" she chuckled. I couldn't help laughing, sorry but I couldn't, more because of her own mocking humour at her missing it then anything else. She spotted a Song Thrush had a chat and I told her I would publish the image and she just chuckled "I deserve that", she left after another flyby and thanked me for letting her use the binoculars. Bless her.
   

BARN OWL

Not many images this time, it was busy quartering but often with me looking/watching directly into the gorgeous evening light as it spent time hunting in the wrong fields, from a photographer's point of view at least. If I am honest they're not my best efforts must be out of practice with Barn Owl's either that or used to pointing the camera at faster moving birds seriously as I was panning I kept finding myself getting ahead of the owl...if that makes sense.

The owl seems to be getting a lot of hassle from a Kestrel that keeps trying to snatch it's catch, on one occasion the owl only just made it back into the box, for the Kestrel to almost follow it in. It even waited on the box's perch for a while until it got bored and flew off. This had an impact on where it hunted. The original birder who told me about this owl was down the bottom of the lane togging from his car and had it right over his head, swine lol.