Saturday, 29 December 2012

Review of 2012...the last part

 Well the weather was playing havoc during the summer for the waders at Summer Leys, I don't think I saw a juvenile Redshank, juvenile Little Ringed Plover at all on the scrape every time nesting took place, either the water level rose and flooded out the nests or the eggs were  predated. Mostly by Jackdaws, but also Crows,Magpies, a Fox but also by each other, I saw and photgraphed one Lapwing raid another Lapwing nest grab an egg pierced it then dropped it into the water, but I also witnessed a Redshank do the same to another Redshank. I did eventually see Lapwing juveniles (left click tiny image at bottom of post) and a surprise 3 juvenile Grey Partridges being led around the scrape by an adult. I also after stumbling across 4 pairs of Little Egrets that had bred in a tree got to see 10 juvenile Little Egrets, also at least one juvenile Oystercatcher, sadly I didn't see any juvenile Shelducks nor many juvenile Common Terns, though it wasn't a complete wash out, in my previous post I mentioned an ELS scheme. With the landowners permision I decided to observe what was happening on this bit of land. There were plenty of common birds with juveniles that had a couple of succesful broods including Long Tail Tits, Greenfinches which did very well, Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Blue and Great Tits, Dunnocks and Wrens. Other birds and a bit more note worthy were a pair of Mistle Thrushes that only managed 1 juvenile! and two pairs of Skylarks, I'm sorry but can't be sure how many juveniles fledged from this species, I wasn't about to go and wade through an already saturated field and disturb them, but did see two definate juveniles. But there was plenty of warblers on site, including Sedge Warblers, briefly a Grasshopper Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Common Whitethroat, Cettis Warbler, Chiff-Chaffs and Willow Warbler (thanks to Mike Alibone's help with id help on the last two) and Bullfinches. The strangest thing I saw was a juvenile Common Whitethroat from a first brood feeding juvenile Common Whitethroats from a second brood. There was also plenty of Butterflies,Dragonfly's etc and even got to see a Grass Snake...not to shabby for an ELS scheme.
 Thanks to weather being so bad I had to look for other picture projects, I had already had a chat with Alex who I had met at Maidwell during the winter so went and knocked on his door, as soon as I went to his horse paddocks I could see why he loved Swallows as much as me. Loads of adult birds in and out of the stable blocks, dropping down on muddy puddles collecting mud for their nests I counted 10 nests during the summer all having three successful broods during the summer months, I was given permission to spend as much time as I wanted and to come back as much as I wanted on the condition I didn't reveal the location. The man breeds horses so is a bit sensitive about security, deal done. I had my picture project and was in my own little personal heaven. Not only were there plenty of Swallows, but House Martins, Swifts and a pair of breeding Buzzrads. Now a lot of "raptor haters" will bang on about how veracious Sparrowhawks are, but after a summer of watching these Swallows, I witnessed not only a female and male Sparrowhawk but also a Hobby being mobbed by adult Swallows and as the summer went on some of the early brood of Swallows were joining in. I didn't see the Sprawk take one Swallow though secretly I was hoping for such an image, but I did witness the Hobby snatch a Housemartin. By the end of the season I took a record image to enable me to count the swallows as they perched on the telephone line on the property, a total of 75 Swallows both juvenile and that good or bad? Given the fact there was 10 nests (20 adults) and three broods making 55 juveniles I'm thinking that's average....
Now to me the Autumn migration season really was a damp squib compared to previous years, a solitary Common Sandpiper at Welford Resevoir and another solitary Common and Green Sandpiper at Summer Leys sadly no Pectoral Sandpipers nor Woodsandpipers, but I did catch up with a few Yellow wagtails at both Summer Leys and Welford Reservoir, sadly some stupid kiddies park being built at Sywell meant no Spotted Flycatchers though their were reports I couldn't find any, I did stumble across both an adult and juvenile in the carpark area of Naesby reservoir. I also sadly came across one dying juvenile Barn Owl at Maidwell that seemed to have a damaged right wing and briefly an unringed Barn Owl at another location that suffered a collision with a car :(
I got a pleasant surprise at Stortons GP when I found a Turtle Dove, my first for about four years another bonus was I did find at three locations Cuckoo's at one site there was two males aggressively competing for the attention of one female!

 So once again from the Hosemartin and down please left click on the image to see it's proper size. In order you have a Housemartin, a juvenile Lapwing, a CRIMSON ROSELLA, a Skylark, a Spitfire and lastly a "cheeky" juvenile Swallow. Some of the images need explaining, firstly the Crimson Rosella. I had one visit my garden and was labelled a stringer etc but I found another not to far away from my house. That was a pure fluke of a find as I was trying to photograph a different bird, in Spectacle Lane near Moulton village. I got out the car and heard it's call, instantly I thought "what the..." something in me said and hoped for a Ring Necked Parakeet, more out of hope then anything I copied it's call and saw a Blue/Grey flash come up and sit in a tree, very twitchy the bird didn't stay put, at first I thought it was the same bird from my garden but this one had ringlets on it's feet, the one in my garden didn't! I did bump into another birder in Spectacle Lane, again I don't know his name but he wore glasses and knew "ginger" Nick and was out walking his little white dog. I told him about the bird, done my call and the bird not only called back but showed itself so I know at least one other birder saw it. The Spitfire came about when I was photographing another Skylark near Sywell airport I was treated to a flyby and a "wing-waggle" from the pilot, that day I got to hear two iconic Britsih sounds the Lark and a Merlin engine of a Spitfire a great day. The juvenile Swallow you need to see it in it's large version (left click) to see why I think it was a bit cheeky.
As for the winter 2012, just have a read of some of my blog posts it's mostly Waxwings, Short eared Owls and rain!!
I hope you all have a brilliant 2013 and hopefully I'll get to bump into a few of you. A special thanks to Mike Alibone for the patience of putting up with me sending him countless images asking "Whats this then?" Thanks Mike. Also a special thanks to Alex who I printed some images for him and now sit in frames in his hall way, Alex I know you read this blog so THANK YOU very much, though I decided not to have a Swallow tattoo done :)

Review of the Year-May

I decided to dedicate May as a seperate post (only one more after this post for a review of the year), I renamed May as MADCAP MAY. It was defiantely for me one to remember for various reasons. Spring and Autumn migration in Northants is for me important, as the summer months can be very slow for birds, it's a chance to see something special or just to see some waders on migration. In May this year it was definately a chance to see something special and waders.
Again the rain played it's part. VERY HEAVY rain brought flooding but also forced migrating Northern Wheatears to drop in huge numbers, it was worth getting wet,cold and windswept to see the spectacle of 80+ Northern Wheatears drop in thanks to the heavy rain at Clifford Hill GP, I even managed to find 3-4 Northern Wheatears up on the nearby Brackmills Industrial Estate. I also managed to get a few new birds in May. A Cattle Egret dropped into Summer Leys, ok technically it was on the other side of the road from the reserve so it goes down in the record books as "Earls Barton Gp" but it did mean I finally got Little Egret, Cattle Egret and Great White Egret all in my home county a "proper result". On Summer Leys the usual Little Ringed Plovers, Redshanks, Oystercatchers were joined by Wood Sandpipers and Black Tail Godwits. I managed a "photography tick" up at Summer Leys in May too, the Cettis Warbler. I've seen and mostly hear these birds so many times but never managed anything better then a record shot, for what is a "plain Jane" of a bird I REALLY wanted to get one of these birds. I was stood on the old railway line with another birder who was walking his dogs, just chatting, as you do, and this bird was going back and forth, up and down the railway line singing it's heart out trying to draw the attention of any females, suddenly a female popped up on the other side of the footpath opposite the male bird, the male then performed a "mating dance routine", wings flapping, bobbing up and down calling like mad, meanwhile people just kept walking past, ignoring this amazing display, much to the amusement of me and the other birder (sorry I don't remember his name), we then watched the female fly over to the male and they both disappeared for a few seconds before the male reappeared. I had never seen this behaviour before so felt quite chuffed and honoured not only to see it but to be able to photograph it too, to see some of the dance moves from old twinkle toes just go and have a look in my Cettis Warbler folder on my website. There was an added bonus of  me and the other birder getting a Nightingale, if did only part of it's call and we both said in unison "Nightingale", we followed it's call as it moved down the river but only got to hear it and never actually saw it.



 What else did May bring to Northants, well I got another "photograph" tick in the form of a Little Gull, a cracking little fellow, shame the light was so appalling,as usual (thanks Blogger) from the Godwit down to the very dodgy record shot(last image), just left click to see the images in a better size. I hunted high and low for Hobbies, briefly getting 18 at an undisclosed site along with a Grasshopper Warbler not bad for a site that was basically a ELS scheme (much maligned the ELS schemes might be but this one site can show what can be achieved when done properly) but more about this ELS scheme in my last post, but Hobbies seemed to be in short supply this summer. Whilst searching for a decent Hobby site I ventured out to Titchmarsh Nature Reserve (not to be confused with RSPB Titchwell), whilst there I was busy scanning the skies when I got a new bird for me, sadly it never landed so I don't think it can count as a county tick, can it? A Common Crane, oddly it was on it's own, I was expecting Cranes to fly in flocks or am I wrong to assume that? It was very high up and can only get a very dodgy record shot. I didn't report it, why? Well sadly I went back to Summer Leys that day, told an unnamed "proper birder" what I had seen, it was dismissed as "fantasy" and even though I offerd to show him the image was greeted by the remark of "Don't need to see an image of it, I didn't see it, so I don't care"...I won't type what my reply was but afterwards the idiot packed his gear up, lodged a complaint with someone that I was "a violent sod" and now when I see him he can't get out of the hide quick enough. But I've already blogged about incidents like this before so won't dwell. But as you might be able to tell it was definately a Crane....I think :)
Just one more post to go and I''ll post it tommorow.


Where to start for 2012, at first I thought I would be struggling for images for a review. The weather has hampered alot of birding this year. Things were looking grim and very dry at the start, despite a slight flurry of snow, not much actual rain had fallen, winter visits to Welford resevoir looking for Goosanders was a waste of time the resevoir looked like a small puddle, Pitsford wasn't much better. At this rate by the time the waders returned for breeding they were going to have a hard time, they eventually did have a hard time but not because of lack of water. Yep, the Native Americans can do a rain dance but they can't match the rain dance of local water authorities, all they had to was announce a hose pipe ban and the skies just opened and it seems someone forgot to turn it back off.
However the winter star bird was without fail the Short eared Owl. Normally a few of us would stand in a field, freezing our proverbials and if we were lucky get a few "record" images and be happy and just watching the owls. The end of 2011 saw a massive invasion of Short eared Owls, one site (maidwell) holding 30+ birds, in previous years you'd be lucky to start off with 5 and by February have just one or two. The only negative thing I can say about Short eared Owls is it seems to drive birders "mad" aka OWL FEVER. Seriously I was meeting people who had travelled from as far as Somerset, Wales and Kent but I'm pleased to say 99% of the people visiting behaved brilliantly, no chasing of the owls, parking their cars in sensible spots. Sure there was the odd one or two who I had to have a "word" with but the rest were great to meet. I even met one man and woman who were bemused as to what was going on (non-birders) after a brief chat and showing them what all the "fuss" was about, he got talking to me about the Buzzards that nest in a copse on his land and how Swallows were his favourite bird (mine too) and got an invite to his farm, which I took up when the Swallows returned, I love it when chance meetings create a friendship like that, as a result during the summer not only did I have a great place to photograph Swallows but got to watch from a safe distance a pair of Buzzards raise some juveniles. In one winter I managed to get more images of Short eared Owls then I have in five years of photographing birds, was I bored with them? NEVER! Sadly this winter the Short eared Owls have been in short supply with only one reliable site which selfishly I'm keeping quite about...for now. But the Short eared Owls played a sneaky move in 2012. For the first time I was able to photograph one (there was at least three) bird all the way up to the 3rd of June which is when I last saw it, did it stay all year? Not sure, it could've done! So the first image is of a winter Short eared Owl and the second was taken at the tail end of May (27th I think). I completely messed up the exposure as I've never photographed Short eared Owls in warm,sunny weather with rape seed in the background. I was actually photographing Skylarks and Yellowhammers when it popped over the hedge, I picked my jaw up off the gorund and still in shock snapped away for me this was one of my highlights of the summer. Please on the last two, left click the image to see proper size, Blogger won't let me put the size I want on here :(


Tuesday, 25 December 2012


 Well I took a walk today up to Bradlaugh Fields, situated behind the Morrisons supermarket (Kettering Road). I had in the summer been to this location and was pleasantly surprised what I had found. For those who aren't familiar with the site, it has some history too it. Bronze age settlement etc, then Earl Spencer turned it into a links golf course, it had been earmarked for housing but locals had forced a revue of the plans and it was left to be green space...thank god! It is managed by the Northants Wildlife Trust, to the eastern perimeter you have Parklands housing estate, the western perimeter you have Kingsthorpe housing estate, northern perimeter you have the university/college and Moulton Park Industrial estate, I guess every grey space has to have a green beating heart. It's a mixture of habitats with big ponds and a "sort" of meadow near the trusts "barns". Here I found plenty of Starlings and common passerines. Nothing to special, until I got near Morrisons (golf course) and at first I got a Mistle Thrush then heard very faintly "trilling" and knew instantly what they were....WAXWINGS. Not many about 8-10, trying to get near them was near impossible, every time I got within range off they went. There was plenty of Rowan berry bushes and other berries for them to drop in on which made it slightly harder, which is great for them but bad for me as the section I was on had a lot of small but steep little hills all covered in lovely mud I was doing a very good impression of a wader wallowing around in mud. Very good fun, except I had my 500mm and was paranoid I would drop it!! I had just finished "tweeting" my find when a Sparrowhawk flushed them away and the small flock headed off towards Eastfield housing estate I was somewhat grumpy now as this is the area I live and could have saved my legs. The light wasn't great and didn't get many images (to busy slipping and sliding) on the way back I noticed the same Sparrowhawk being harrased by the Gulls roosting on Morrisons' roof, that'll teach it! I did have a good look around for any signs of a Stonechat as there was a lot of Gorse plants/bushes there but alas no sign and left walking away from the site pondering how long the Waxwings had been there unnoticed and then remembered I was thinking the same thing in the summer. If you're ever passing or shopping go and have a quick look, you can park in front of the gates (behind the petrol station), though species wise I thought the spring/summer was better because of the various warblers and butterflies and moths.

Saturday, 22 December 2012


Well typically it's chucking it down with rain yet again! The River Nene is almost breaching it's banks again, though in terms of actual flooding, compared to the rest of the UK we've got off lightly again. Even if it does ease, I can't think of many places that are going to be worth visiting. The levels of water in the ground is so bad, even standing in my garden topping up feeders it feels like I'm standing on a sponge. So I'm glad I didn't process my images from Norfolk straight away. I found the above three images of a Curlew (Numenius arquata), to be honest they're a little soft compared to the other Curlew images I got that day, but I thought they were a bit "quirky" and would share. I took these in the harbour of Brancaster Staithe, there was at least four visible Curlews wading around the muddy harbour and I could hear the unmistakable call of at least 2 more. A big old wader that seems to only have to walk towards another smaller wader for the smaller one to flee, but looking at the elongated bill, you would, if you're a clever wader! I don't how many times I've watched a TV programme or film to hear a Curlew calling on the "dubbed" soundtrack, it has to be the most used bird call if the film's scene is set on or near a beach, closey followed by Golden Plovers.
Anyway it's that time of year, so I wish all those who've read/commented on my blog a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Christmas day (weather permitting) I shall hit a few local birding spots, I don't really do the Christmas thing, and no it's not a bah-humbug thing and will not need visiting tonight by three ghosts lol, I love Xmas, everyone tucked up indoors feasting away on Turkey, meanwhile the roads are empty as are the nature reserves. I did once start an "annual Xmas" walk around Pitsford resevoir but only did it the once with a big heavy 600mm lens...never again I thought afterwards and anyone who's ever walked the whole way round Pitsford will tell's a bigger walk then you think lol, in the past it would mean sitting at Maidwell doing Short Eared Owls but there's none up there so far this year. So hopefully Summer Leys will be void of anyone...I hope.


Wednesday, 19 December 2012


Well I'm slowly getting round to processing my images from Norfolk, I was waiting for a rainy day and mother nature hasn't let me down and with more in the forecast I should be able to finish the lot off....probably. So below is another Barn Owl, slightly bit far away but couldn't resist.
 Then an often ignored wader from Brancaster Staithe, the Oystercatcher or as it's also known Carrot nose. I really don't like the labelling of birds as "popular" and "not so popular" etc. If it has feathers and flies then I'm interested. Often I see these get posted on other "photo-sharing" websites and they don't even get a look in.....shame really.
 And finally two Oystercatchers, head on flight images can be tricky, the autofocusing system throwing a hissy fit and add to that they're wiffling into land at speed meant I was quite chuffed to see I got them in focus, normally one would be in focus and even more often neither in focus. Just wish they were a touch closer to me and both birds closer together would've been nice, but birds never play fair....spoil sports.
I'm on my final bunch of images to process, which will be mostly static Snow Buntings, Turnstones and Stonechats, I'll get round to posting them soon. I almost forgot, I often get asked about noise removal from noisy images, if you have a look down the left hand side of my blog, there's a blog called Photo Naturalist were Steve has listed his most popular posts for 2012, if you haven't got a noise reduction programme but have Photoshop, go and have a read of the post about removing noise from an image, you might find it helpful I certainly did as sometimes my noise reduction programme can fail to create a profile to work from....have a good one.



Sunday, 16 December 2012


Sounds like a comment from an alcoholic, "can you drink at 10am", but what a time to put a footie match on. That sucks, it isn't the same watching a match this early without some refreshments, a cuppa tea just doesn't work, though the bacon sarnies are lovely. Now I will apologise for the "non footie" fans out there, just skip past this section, however twice now (once in the semis from Mark Lawrenson) and now once in the final, the commentators have remarked on how Chelsea supporters attitudes will change towards Rafa Benitez if we win this (mickey mouse cup) final, well let me clarify something, as a long time/long suffering supporter and not a "jonny come lately". My attitude and that of the majority of Blues will not change towards Rafa, he can win us the League Cup, FA cup, World Club cup and the Premiership title and he will still be given abuse. Those not connected with the club do not remember what Rafa said about Chelsea supporters, what he said about Jose, what he said about Drogba and how he drew on the fact we "brought" the title and all of our success, forgetting the fact he brought players for Liverpool, just without the budget, so sorry Rafa, never will I compare you to any other Chelseas manager during "pub-talk" you're just a curious footnote in the club's history. Don't bother unpacking your bags mate, the season is short, BYE BYE RAFA
...right no more footie talk, just thought I would post a few back dated images from Norfolk, continuing the theme of "Birds in their enviroment", though I still prefer frame fillers after my short experiment. Also a couple more from Fineshades. I haven't been able to get out birding much this latter part of the week, a combination of poorly greyhound and a lack of enthusiam has seen me sorting out my feeders, I was getting annoyed by the Robin and Dunnock constant fighting, so established a seperate feeding area for both birds. In true UN style I created a buffer zone which seems to have brought peace to the Mcfarlane garden. Plenty of Long Tail tits,Goldfinches,Blue Tits, Great Tits and even the Goldcrest are visiting the garden, though I noticed with the meal worms, the Blue Tits, Wren and Goldcrest were taking them, but then dropping them on the ground and leaving them, weird! So I decided to soak the meal worms for about twenty minutes in warm water, placed them in the places I knew the Goldcrests, Wren and Blue Tits were feeding and watched. Surely enough, they ate them, it got me wondering if the very small birds prefer the meal worms "soggy", and are perhaps easier to digest. What do you reckon? Can't forget to mention the Starlings, about 45 at a time scoffing everything in sight, sadly despite the presence (sadly in the sky) of both a Great Spotted Woodpecker and Jay they haven't come down to the feeders. Though as the Jay flys back over the garden with BREAD! in it's mouth I'm struggling to think why?
Enjoy the rest of the weekend all.

Monday, 10 December 2012


OK, the first image is a tiny bit soft on the eyes, but I just liked the pose of the Buzzard so posted it. I opted for a visit to Fineshades Woods today. The weather was going to be a bit mixed so I primarily wanted to have "FIDDLE WITH YOUR CAMERA DAY", so wanted to go somewhere relatively quiet and a sure fire location for birds to try out a few new settings recommended by Richard Pegler. I normally sit on AWB for white balance I wasn't happy with some of "lifeless" colours I was getting in shady spots or dull light conditions. Couldn't think of a better location then Fineshades and the feeding station, hardly natural but a guarantee spot for various woodland birds. Oh and Red Kites etc too. So armed with the dusted down camera manual I headed for the woods.
I arrived and the carpark was empty, it was 11:00, hardly early, weird I expected some cars, then I saw the signs "RSPB MEMBERS YOU CAN NO LONGER PARK FOR FREE", oh that's one reason then, the second I guess was the £3 for all day parking or £2 for an hour, NORTHAMPTONERS YOU TRULY ARE TIGHT BUGGERS, and I don't mean the birders but general public, still the prospect of an empty and very large playground to myself I was happy to hand over £3, my cigarettes cost me more then that!!! Undisturbed but in shockingly low light (ISO 1200+ AND 1/25 SEC SHUTTER SPEED) I took a slow walk round to the hide, this meant I was able to sneak up on Song Thrush. numerous Bullfinch,Long Tail Tits, Nuthatches, Coal Tits, Willow Tits, Goldcrests, loads of Chaffinches and only a few Greenfinch plus a Treecreeper, nice short walk to the hide and my first surprise.
I haven't been to Fineshades for ages, at least two years! I was greeted by the majority of the conifer type trees that lined the footpath were gone...brilliant loads of light and a nice clearing taking shape, there were a few of the old trees on the footpath so got another Goldcrest and Coal Tit. Looks a lot better then my last memory of the place.
So I sat down in the hide and had to decide what was going to be my bird of choice for next hour or so whilst I played around with various setting, checking different adjustments etc. There was a male and female Great Spotted Woodpecker, Coal Tit, Willow Tit, Great Tit,Blue Tit and 2 Nuthatches that stood out as my model for the next hour. I opted for the Nuthatch, the Great Spotted Woodpecker came very close to being "first place bird" but stayed on the feeder the whole time (even when a Sparrowhawk dived through) and was a bit further away. The Nuthatch got first because even though it stayed on the feeder (as below) and the feeding table (as above) it was close and in different light and direction of light and backdrops to experiment with. The top image I adjusted the white balance to a warmer setting to give the back ground a "browner hue", compare it to the background colours of the one below, don't like the crop much but it was better then having the table in the frame. The one below I had to cool the colours down as the light was coming from the top left of the frame, backlit, and very harsh light. Both images were taken at an ISO rating of 1000 and shutter speed of 300th/sec to give an idea of the low light. The sun did come out briefly which is when I opted to go for a walk. Didn't see a soul, got the very top image of the Buzzard and the deer at the bottom (click on it again, sorry), haven't got a clue what species it is, not good with mamals etc I spend to much time watching birds and zombie flicks, any ideas anyone? It was a very quiet walk only ruined by the endless sound of shotguns blasting pheasants, some rural  people say wind turbines are noisy! The bird that stood out for me because of the numbers that I saw were Bullfinches. Several different locations in the woods I came across flocks numbering no less then 6 in one flock and 9 in another.
Very enjoyable day, going to have to go back I think.

Saturday, 8 December 2012


Well I actually got out, I had plans for tommorow but I note yet another Romero film on tonight. At this rate I shall probably look like a zombie...thanks TV planners. I went up to Harrington as their had been some Bramblings, a Short eared Owl and a occasional Merlin. The Bramblings were right bang on spot as reported on Eleanor's and Neil Mcmahon's blog. Though I have to say I think there might possibly be twelve there,  first spotted 7 Bramblings eating seed on the ground,  bit dark but very hard (near impossible) to get near for anything other then a record image, in the poor image I counted 8 I also noted whilst the eight were on the ground there was a definate 3 others with Chaffinches in the trees next to path, actually hanging back and not coming down sadly I think another was possible but a horse spooked them away, they came back but in tow were a healthy number of Yellowhammers, I think to get a decent image I'm going to have to use a hide, plus being fussy I want them in the trees not on the horrible looking concrete track. Didn't go looking for the Shortie it was midday so thought I would look harder for it another day. I went down to Blueberry afterwards, there was Fieldfare, Buzzards, a snipe (though that was from another birder I bumped into down there) 1 Little Egret flew through low from the direction of Hanging Houghton in the bottom field. Not much else "special" until on the way back, as I drove away from Blueberry Farm I was going back in the direction of Maidwell along the narrow track/lane, just after the small wood area you drive through I came up the hill and on the hedgerow outside the farm on the left (sorry don't know it's name but it's the last farm on the lane) a Merlin was flushed possibly going for the Sparrows that are there and went it the neighbouring field opposite the farm, sat very far away on a post, it was a male Merlin. Nice distant view with the binoculars but too far away for the camera.
Apart from a few Yellowhamers and Bullfinches I didn't get much in the way of images today, so here's my definate last Barnie from Norfolk, not my best but couldn't resist lol, to be honest I don't like it much, so here goes what do you think optioan a)Yeah keep it or option b) you're blind mate, recycle it.

Last few from Norfolk

Well I managed to stretch to three posts  with an impromptu visit to Norfolk, that's how bad things had got for me in Northants. After another late night, TV planners cleverly placing another more modern George A Romero film on at 2am (gits) "Diary of the Dead" had me waking up quite late this morning, plus the fact I'm stumped as to what to go and photograph in Northants today....checked my feeders, early morning sees about 20 Starlings (with at least 50 in the area) descend onto the feeders and munch away, a few Great Tits, 5 different Blackbirds which is quite good I think,Blue Tits, a Robin scrapping with two Dunnocks, these two species REALLY don't like each other and a Wren, so quickly cleaned and topped up the feeders after a lull in action, loads of gulls over our housing estate, Common Gulls, Black Headed Gulls and Herring Gull (singular). I've opted for some more owls today.
So one last Barn Owl actually flying off to it's roost, and two Herring Gulls, the last one kind of sums up how I feel at the moment but you can't go the coast and not take an image of a Herring Gull, can you? The very last image is a "record shot" of a flock of Widgeon, there is one or two Teal in there...fancy counting them? Click on it to see full size image.

Friday, 7 December 2012


 There's something about Barn Owls, some call it owl fever, but "owl fever" as I've always understood it was someone who's desperate to get an owl image, so desperate that they'll do anything to get an image, they'll chuck all normal behaviour out the window and act the plain WRONG, those who chase the owl around all day and not letting the owl go about their business of hunting and feeding and generally being a bit of a d**k. To the less damaging (to the owl anyway) who will spend hours in a hide just for glance, nowt wrong with that, can't blame them. However I would rather stand out in the fresh air and get less images. There's something quite enjoyable when you get to watch an owl quartering a field, watching it swoop onto a potential prey, or when one glides past you, quickly gives you the "once over" before carrying on hunting, in that split moment there is a brief connection between the domesticated you (ok semi-domesticated when it comes to me) and a wild animal, an acceptance of "ok, you stay there, don't chase me around and we both get what we want". Obviously if you're tucked up in a hide, you're going to get even better results, yet there is something about standing next to a hedgerow, thinking you're well camouflaged, blending into the background, but lets get real for a moment, the Barn Owl has not only great eye sight but fantastic hearing, so if you're breathing it knows you're there. It's a game of cat and mouse....or maybe owl and vole. PATIENCE is the key word followed by a calming of the intial adrenalin when you glance a Barnie. I've been lucky with Owls, wether it be a Short Eared Owl, Tawny, Little Owl or Barn Owl I still get that adrenalin rush and warm feeling of seeing an owl. But take the bottom image of the Barnie hunting amongst a reed bed just behind the windmill at Cley Marshes, there I was as the early morning low cloud was being replaced my some morning light, freezing cold, when I caught glimpse of the owl hunting. Suddenly stood on the raised footpath the cold was gone and I realised I couldn't hide myself, also I realised I couldn't walk towards it, without disturbing the owl, so I had to do with some long range images, which to be honest made me realise a lot of my Barnie images are very similar, close up, not really showing the enviroment in which the owl is hunting, Now most are taken from the same locations so it's the same owl, same field etc so they are going to look the same, aren't they? The thing I like (apart from the birds of course) the most about Norfolk is the habitats on offer, wether it be a field with an owl, a reed bed with a hovering Harrier and "pinging" Bearded Tits, a salt marsh with a mixture of fresh water or salt water lagoons with waders or plain grubby mud flats, it's often not being represented in my images which is a shame. So with a lot of my images I tried in Norfolk this time I wanted some more "birds in their enviroment" images, funnily I did get a few, don't like the one I posted, I don't like the exposure I plumped for, but as it happened the owl glided within feet of me, but I was high up and it was lower (raised footpath), and it started to hunt the field on the other side of the road, so once it settled in the field and was hunting away I went and stood and got some reasonable shots of my normaul style. Sadly you have to stand on a pavement with tall reed bed in front, a problem for a short ass like me, but between the reed beds is small gap and got the image below. Though you do have to put up with other cars driving past. In the top image, that was from my favourite Norfolk Barn Owl site, again you have to put up with passing cars as they honk their horns, they have to do it due to a small hump back bridge, but in this field you can't enter it (VERY PRIVATE) and are stood by a metal gate and because of that the Barn Owl seems to come  quite close. There wasn't much hovering and diving action going, which is what I really wanted, as  the two fields were quite flooded, but there were also Snipe in the ditches and the odd Curlew in the field, with Brent Geese flying overhead. Oh and I can't forget the rather tame Robin which got some meal worms for it's efforts. The very last image Blogger won't allow it to be "resized" so please click on it to have a better view again it shows it in it's "enviroment", this time you can see in the very distance, the mudflats and shore line near Burnham.





Tuesday, 4 December 2012

NORFOLK 4-12-12

I had to get out of Northamptonshire today, no the locals hadn't reached for the burning torches and descended onto my house, I just felt a little stagnated recently and needed a change of scenery. I planned Monday to sleep during the day so I could watch the Monday night NFL match in the wee hours of Monday night/Tuesday morning, so once the game had finished I got dressed and packed the camera gear up and hit the road, almost literally, it was icy out. My destination was going to be Salthouse Marshes, Cley Marshes and Brancaster Staithe, no point with Snettisham no big high tide.
Car de-iced, heater on and stocked up on petrol station coffee and a certain brand of energy drinks I was on my way.
I arrived at Wiveton (just behind Cley) just as the sun was rising got out and almost jumped out of my skin, it was freezing, luckily the Barn Owl I had opted to photograph could be done from the comfy of the warm car. Barn Owl shots in the can I headed for Cley Marshes, I spent more time here then I had planned, mostly photographing Black Tail Godwits, Marsh Harrier and the Kingfisher posted below on There were still some Bearded Tits pinging down near the small carpark near the East Bank but they never really came close but were great to watch through the binoculars none the less, a smallish flock of Godwits went skybound down near Arnolds marsh a quick scan of the sky revealed what looked at first a Peregrine, later examination of my "record shots" have me thinking the bird was a Lanner falcon hybrid, definately not pure Peregrine, not the first time I've seen such a bird at Cley! I was enjoying my morning so much I had completely forgot the cold and actually had a smile on my face, I know! Yet there is no image to prove it. I went back to the hide to get some more waders but had to settle for Teal, Widgeon and Shovellers and the odd fly over of Brent Geese, I'm always left dumbfounded why other "toggers" ignore these birds, with one togger asking why my camera was pointing in their direction, all in good humour, so I pointed out that were I live Greylags and Canada Geese are the best geese to be had and they were lucky to get them. I had a chat with some other bloke in the hide, who's name I still don't know, even though I see him counting Godwits in the hide every time I go to Cley, with his wife on the other end of a walkie talkie doing the same in the other hides. Nice bloke and always seems to recognises me, he even asked where Ben was.
It was breakfast time so headed off to Brancaster for some healthy fry up. On the way stopping at Burnham for more Marsh Harrier and Barn Owl images.
I had my breakfast, scanned my phone for any sightings, visited a few websites.blogs etc I wasn't looking forward to being on the harbour/sea front given the wind direction and the cold weather and was dragging my feet to leave the comfort of the warm cafe. I pulled into the harbour, luckily it's one of those spots you don't have to get out of the car to get images from (see posted Redshank image), though I did get out to scrounge some shellfish from the fishermen. This helped bring in some Turnstones, Herring Gull, Common Gull and Curlew. A Red Breasted Merganser flew through but my steering wheel got in the way. Also got a couple of Sanderlings but I've got better, but they are my favourite wader so I quite enjoyed there frantic running, I think they too had a particular brand of energy drink. It was getting late so opted not to back track to Salthouse, instead taking the long way home via the Ouse/Nene washes, never been and just wanted to drive through and see if it was worth a visit on another day, it did look good. Not sure what road I was on, I was lost and enjoying the scenery I did get a Kestrel hovering along a drainage ditch and was able to stop on the road and get some images, sadly I couldn't stop for the Barn Owl that was quartering a similar ditch ten miles further down the road as it was slightly busier. Good to see none the less, taking my total to four different Barn Owls for the day, WHY CAN'T IT BE LIKE THAT HERE IN NORTHANTS?
It wasn't exactly one of my best trips to Norfolk, it was an improvised day out so was just glad to see something a bit different, got plenty of images to work through and got some fresh air into my lungs and recharged my batteries. The snarl up just after Peterborough meant slow progress home so pulled off at KFC near the A1, downloaded my images to my laptop, browsed a few more websites ate some very tasty but totally bad for you junk food and waited for the traffic to die down. Good call, as the last leg of the journey home is always a chore, but did get a few Redkites just outside Oundle/Titchmarsh. I might post a few more from Norfolk if I don't get anything decent in Northants, if I do get something or do something of interest the images will go onto my website instead.
Bet you can't wait lol

Sunday, 2 December 2012


Friend "Doug I just went on the internet to get some Xmas presents"
Me "Oh yeah, what did you get then?"
Friend "A lawnmower, a trampoline and various garden tools!"
Me "How much did you pay for that lot?"
Friend "Nothing, all of it was free"
Me "Really!!, what site did you go on eBay?"
Friend "No Google Earth"

Friday, 30 November 2012

SUMMER LEYS 30-11-12

Bloody foreigners, coming over here in their thousands, nicking our berries and cramming into all the best bushes and tree, just who do they think can just imagine how angry an EDL member would get if they realised that loads of over-wintering birds come on in from Europe and they don't have a job! I really struggled to get out of bed this morning, frost everywhere, my bed was just to warm, I fumbled for the remote and switched the TV on, so reporter banging on about the Levenson report, not actually reporting on the story but as usual offering up opinions, exactly when did reporters change from telling a story to offering us their opinions? Sod this, it was the motivation I needed and got out...thanks Mr.Levenson. It was a bit cloudy one minute and a little sunny the next minute, so wrapped up like a Yeti in thermals I hit the road, apparently today is the last day of shit. As I pulled into the carpark at Summer Leys I noticed or heard Golden Plovers and Lapwings circling overhead and a Sparrowhawk being mobbed by two crows, all very distant but at least the water level had dropped. I opted to walk around to the Paul Britain hide apart from doggies everywhere and them 'orrible plastic bags in the bushes it was for a change a pleasant walk, with plenty to see. First up were loads of Reed Buntings, Greenfinches, Yellowhammers and a few Linnets in the set aside in the Pete Wilds field an ELS scheme that is working, with a very mobile flock in and out of the set aside, sadly it was overcast at this point so any flight shots were out of the question, what was amusing was watching a Kestrel being mobbed by a solitary Greenfinch, I checked the Kestrel to make sure it hadn't predated another finch, it hadn't, just a brave/stupid Greenfinch. Also along the footpath was two Goldcrests and just four Redpolls on the Alder trees. But what was also apparent was the number of Fieldfare and Redwing.

Every time I got within range to get a decent image they flew off towards the Paul Britain hide, so I opted for the hide as the best bet to get any images. I went upstairs and sat down, I didn't have to wait to long for the Fieldfare to settle into the trees just behind the hide, portrait images only due to rubbish light, but I just couldn't believe how many there were. But it wasn't just Fieldfare and Redwing representing a foerign invasion, Blackbirds, everywhere, I counted 26 in one small mobile flock! Ok they aren't going to make it onto any bird reporting system but it was impressive seeing so many in one spot. Now I don't know if the following is true as I was told this by a "wind-up" merchant, but apparently Blackbirds from the continent have solid black bills, is this true or have I been "had" again? However all of the Blackbirds did have a solid black bill and were very approachable. Whilst sitting in the hide I also got a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a very highly cropped image below (sorry about the quality). Wildfowl wise there was Widgeon, Teal and Shoveller but they weren't flying around and remained fast asleep on one of the islands. I did spot some Goldeneye also several Wrens scattered around at various spots. To be honest I was quite chuffed with the days birding down at the pit I was expecting a lot worse given the weather during the past that's a first, a positive post about Summer Leys it must be coming up to Christmas!

Thursday, 29 November 2012


 A straight forward post title for a change, I'm seeking a bit of help/advice or critique, full honesty please, don't be afraid of offending as no offence will be taken on my part. I came across this Little Owl yesterday, whilst it was still cloudy, charming character, it even took a nap as you can see from the image below, once it did I moved on as it was grey,  the tree made it hard to compose, plus it was having a nap near a main road and I didn't want to draw attention to it and I really struggle to make an image on a dull day to look less lifeless/dull colour wise...if you not what I mean?
The help/advice I need is this 1) How do you make the image look less dull looking in processing the image, what adjustments etc. 2) The image below, Does it look to fake? it's a fine line between under and over processing, which is were I struggle.
The image above all I did was crop, exposure adjustment, and sharpen then resized the image too 800 pixels along the biggest edge. The image below I did the same thing as the first but also mucked around with the colour adjustments (kelvin and hue). I'm not convinced it looks "right" or indeed if it looks worse. Would love some honest feed back please and any tips/hints would be gratefully received too.