Friday, 28 September 2012

SUMMER LEYS 27th September

Widgeon (anas penelope), heavy rain and high ISO's not good!
Well another day of blustery showers (very heavy at times) was hardly the perfect type of weather for bird photography. But given the time of year it was definitely worth visiting the ol' pit as the weather might have forced something to stop off during the migration. Given the weather I opted for Summer Leys the hides giving me plenty of cover in this rubbish weather.
Given the sun was occasionally breaking out I opted for the main hide (Pioneer hide) as it put the sun behind me. I opened up the windows and was pleased, there was plenty of Widgeon grouping up, busy whistling at each other, Gadwal and Teal were also in reasonable numbers. I started to look around to see what else was on the scrape. There were 2 Dunlin and 3 Ringed Plovers (juveniles) also 2 Snipe and a Little Egret. Not a bad start, still a bit to far away to photograph. What was interesting was that one Dunlin was feeding with one of the Ringed Plovers, as was one of the Dunlin feeding with another of the Ringed Plovers leaving the last Ringed Plover to feed all on it's own. At no time did the two pairs mingle with each other. I would've thought the two different species would stay together (Ringed Plovers with Ringed Plovers etc).
The rain started to pour down and as it did a Peregrine nipped low and very fast across the scrape right past the left hand side of the hide and towards Rotary Island. I pointed the camera but at ISO 1600 I only had 1/60th a second shutter speed, it was that dark! Still great to see, just as all the wildfowl and Lapwings settled down a male Sparrowhawk came straight across the reed bed and settled on the logs that are piled up on the right hand side of the hide, I opted for a portrait but the teasels obscured any attempt of a decent image. THIS was becoming a good day despite the lack of images and weather. I watched the Sparrowhawk as it launched an attack, it flew off the logs round the side of the scrape and very quickly gained speed and headed towards the small flock of waders (they were now in the channel in front of the two tier hide) and watched it succesfuly grab the solitary Ringed Plover off the water, splashing into the water to grab it's prey it then took to the side of the Paul Britain hide.
The rain eased and I grabbed a few frames of the Widgeon's coming to land in the rain, as you can see from the image above, the high ISO made the images a bit grainy, it was now about 17:30 and I was talking to a nice couple (Mike and Margaret) when a Hobby flew straight towards us and over the hide...not to shabby given the weather, just wish it had been a bit better for photography!

Monday, 24 September 2012

Barn Owl Postscript

Just a short post to update my last post. Thanks to Mike Alibone  I managed to get a email off to Paddy Jackson. Sadly unless the Barn Owl has been recovered over the weekend (work on Sunday meant I couldn't get back to Maidwell) by someone then the probability is that the Owl has probably died. The following information on the owl comes from Paddy, it was ringed on the 1st September 2012, at 45 days old, probably male, and was the second youngest of a brood of 5. Making it roughly 65 days old. As Paddy pointed out it was not yet old enough to be fully independent.
Sadly with the heavy rain and wind we've had in Northants since Saturday I'm also in agreement that this owl has probably perished, which is sad, but it does highlight the difficulties Owls have in breeding successfully and also the importance why we have "scheduled species" and why it's important not to disturb these great birds during the breeding season.
I've added a link to Paddy's website in the left hand column of the blog and once I've done with work today I shall chuck a link from my website too.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Maidwell, Barn Owl advice needed

Barn Owl (tyto alba), Injured?
Normally I would be quite happy to see two separate Barn Owls in as many days, but the above pictured owl causes me some concern, I need the advice/wisdom of those who have a bit more knowledge of Barn Owls than myself.
I decided to spend all of Saturday up at Maidwell, it's normally a good site for Short eared Owls in the winter. I arrived outside Blueberry farm and was speaking to the landowner. She was telling me about how the bloke from The Hawk and Owl Trust was checking a certain owl box and there was six young in it, great. I decided to go to the field nearest to the box but stayed at the bottom of the field. I had a look in a few other fields got some Jays, Bullfinches, a very pale Buzzard, a Short eared Owl having a very high fight with a Raven. But both the Raven and SeOwl was back up near the farm. I hanged around the bottom field near this ditch and was watching from some distance the crows gathering in a tree near the owl box. Was the owl going to come out and start hunting? Twenty minutes went by and nothing (hardly a surprise with all the crows right outside the box) and just happen to glance to my right and saw a white blob low down in a tree. I got the binoculars out and confirmed it was a Barn Owl. Great. I made myself a little less conspicuous, and waited for it to start hunting. But after about half hour nothing, then a Magpie landed in the same tree...nothing. Was I looking at a plastic decoy owl you see people put up on buildings? I started to think something was up when a lady with three Alsatians, a jogger then a bloke on a quad like vehicle feeding the pheasants in the field directly behind (less then five feet behind the owl) it and yet it hadn't flushed away.
THIS WAS NOT way it should've/would've at least move. So once all the people had gone I decided to see if I could get any detail from the binoculars of any injuries and walk towards it. I waited for people to go as I didn't want to draw any attention to the owl if it was injured. I was going to have to cover at least 400 metres to get within range. No clever field craft just slowly walk towards it making a bit of noise. I got to within 10 to 15 metres of the bird and it hadn't even turned it's head. I coughed loudly to get the bird to look up and towards me, nothing, head remained drooped downwards, this wasn't looking good. I coughed again and burst a few frames from the camera. Very slowly the head raised and slowly turned towards me, eyes not quite open as you can see from the images. I did very slowly 135 frames, now anyone will tell (who takes photo's) that ain't right!! It should've gone before I had even taken an image, look at my previous post, and that was 3 frames from the relative seclusion of a van. It was like the owl could hear me, but not see me and was to weak to move. It wasn't, despite what it might look in the image sleeping etc.
Now I'm wondering if it was a juvenile, as if you look at it's chest near the bottom you can see downing. But it appeared very gaunt and weak. I decided to go and let the landowners know as they would be able to contact the Hawk and Owl trust. I turned around to walk away as I did a Red Kite was spotted and the owl must've spotted it because it dropped/fell (not flew) into the hedge below the tree, wings all sprayed out after a few minutes of struggling it got to the base of the hedgerow, where I left it.  I got back to farm and let the land owners know, they told me they would let "Paddy" from the Hawk and Owl trust know. Maybe the crowa had tried to mob it for it's catch and it's been injured? What do you think?

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Searching for a Barn Owl

BARN OWL (TYTO ALBA), one day my offspring will nest in this tree
Well a few posts ago I reported a Barn Owl calling on the roof of my house. The search was on to find this bird. Not many fields around here where I live, so an easy such luck. Many searches of possible sites at various times didn't locate the owl, I did find a Little Owl spot but no Barn Owl. It did get me wondering during the search why with so much available habitats I was struggling to find a Barn Owl but also noted the lack of Kestrels. I swear I used to be able to select from at least eleven different locations for Kestrels, nowadays 2 "sometimes" locations by which I mean it might be there, it might not.
So one morning I opted to use the van (more space and comfy) and got out at 05:00 and decided to stake a tip off I had from a horse rider the previous day. It got to about 08:30 and rush hour on the roads began to start, I needed a coffee to kick start me for the rest of the day. I had to go through part of a country mansion's ridiculously long drive way that doubles as a through way for the public. I had to give way to an oncoming car, glad I did because I caught the glimpse of a "white bird". I didn't get to excited as the previous day the field in which my white bird flew into had just been ploughed and was attracting alot of gulls.
I parked the van up and wound down all the window (not electric..git) and made sure I wasn't in the way of other traffic. It wasn't long before I drew the attention of the security guards at the house. I explained what I was doing and instead of the usual "get lost mate", I was treated to a full report of the fields in which the owl was hunting, times of day and sadly where it's nest box was. Didn't like to be told where the box was, only because next time they could've told the wrong type of person, does that sound churlish? Though I was told the fields you can't actually get in them (access via the mansion only) and due to "Health and Safety" wouldn't be allowed in them either. The hedges on the perimeter of the field next to the main road are to tall with no gaps to peer through. So I politely asked if I could re-position the van in an attempt to get a flight shot as it went from field to it's nest box, permission granted...yippee! Waited a bit, nothing, then a "beep", a car horn, I glanced behind me to see it was the security and they were pointing to their left, Barn Owl, I repositioned the van to slowly/carefully to get a flight image, but the bird seemed a bit spooked (obviously my car and the security vehicle had worried it) and it perched on the the fence post you see in the image. It stayed their for 3 frames before disappearing, it didn't return that day. Obviously the fence around the tree is to protect it from deer munching on it. I've gone back several times since finding/stumbling upon it and it seems to come out very late in the evening (19:30'ish) and saw it at 06:30 once in the morning.
Sadly given the nature of the site (very private) I'm not revealing to location, but there are a few clues for anyone familiar with Northamptonshire, not least the ring fenced trees and deer...I also removed the metadata and slipped a few red herrings on the metadata to..SORRY. Not the Barn Owl I was originally looking for, nor in the locations but thanks a horse rider I got a Barn Owl in a spot I wasn't expecting. I did bump into the lady on the horse and said thanks. She then told me about how if she's on her horse she can often get really close to many birds before they fly off. I guess that's because the birds don't recognise the "human form" straight away....

Sunday, 16 September 2012



Well with my luck today if I had been born a duck I'd probably sink. Shift patterns being what they are means my "weekend" starts Monday, yipee!. But today was just one of them days. Turn up to the yard to find my load on my truck was a bunch of dangerous goods. Not a problem, fully qualified to carry all dangerous goods, my ADR license in my wallet, so far so good. I go and check my load. The goods I'm carrying are a mixture. Goods that can't be carried together on the same truck. The transport manager, whose already complained about my "attitude" to my employment agency,  tries to tell me that it's ok as long as they have a suitable separation between them, you can do this with certain chemicals, but not with the chemicals on board my yruck, after much deliberation and a call to dangerous goods safety adviser, I was right, the load was taken off, and was left with just the "oxidising" goods...happy. Not really. After a heated phone call from the agency and myself, I got an apology both from the agency and a begrudging "sorry" from the transport manager, I go and start the lorry...nothing dead battery, great I'm already an hour behind, but with only one drop on board to Doncaster hopefully not a night out....I leave the yard and get as far as Crick on the M1, and a sight every trucker hates, yellow flashing lights of a VOSA vehicle and I'm pulled over into the weigh bridge at Crick an hour later I'm back on the road.  I do my drop and go and start the engine, nothing. A jump start from another trucker gets me started again and I pull away. All is fine but have to have a "tacho" break, do I risk turning the engine off, I'm on the motorway services and there's plenty of lorries around, mostly foreign. So I switch the engine off grab a coffee and binoculars and start scanning the fields and bushes behind the services. Only a flock of Long Tail Tits but it's a great way of expelling some of the frustrations of the day. Who can't be charmed by a flock of Long Tail Tits?
Break over with I jump into the cab, half expecting the lorry not to start but it does, I pull down the slip road back onto the motorway. Sadly due to heavy traffic I can't pull out into the nearside lane and have to wait for a convoy of lorries to pass before I can attempt to pull out, when BANG a car also coming down the slip road goes into the back of me, behind her a police car, blue lights come on and we pull over. Her front of the car a complete mess, the bumper on my lorry just pushed in a bit, insurance details exchanged, the police gave her a fine etc as she was updating her Facebook status, seriously?! It must have read "Just about to crash LOL", what sort of idiot updates her Facebook status whilst joining a busy motorway. Go on GUESS what happens next...that's right the lorry fails to start AGAIN. A passing trucker ask if he can help, he does and I'm off home. I make it back to the yard, a little bit (honest) over my driving time and looking forward to my first day of much needed birding tommorow, I jump in my car leave Brackmills industrial estate just driving pass Clifford Hill on the A45, smash, a wood pigeon right in the windscreen. I suddenly remember that on my local birding group Mark Avery posted the question "what's your least favourite bird and why?" I voted for the wood pigeon, why? Because they always seem to fly into the path of the vehicle you're driving. POETIC JUSTICE or what? The windscreen replaced and off to the car wash to get rid of blood and feathers. In the car wash I forget my VW Golf's aerial on the roof, TWANG as the air drier rips it off, no real damage but just my luck today, I was pondering wether to go inside the car wash to pick it up or not, knowing my luck it would start up, it didn't and I got home without any other misfortune. Sundays suck....anyone else with worse luck then me today I would love to hear might cheer me up lol

Wednesday, 12 September 2012


Ok the final winter warmer post...I promise. My final favourite North Norfolk spot is Brancaster Staithe. It's a very small yet deceptively busy harbour. When most people think of harbours they dream up images of quays and harbour walls etc. But not Brancaster. It's only harbour walls are the man made sea defences. When the tides out it's big mud flat with small creeks forming little lagoons and host an amazing amount of bird life all year round. Though when you first pull into the tiny little car park you could be forgiven to thinking, really? The car park is the centre of where I do most of the photography from this spot, though there is other habitats worth having a look around, but to be honest, and not lazy, there is no reason to stray further than the carpark. It's worth remembering this is a working harbour, mostly fishermen bringing in and sorting out their catches so it's worth staying out of their way. If you're lucky they might bring over their catch that's damaged (oysters/muscles etc) and can't be sold, this in turn can be used for bringing in the brids a bit closer etc. When you pull into the harbour you'll see a group of small boats on trailers parked up, normally I park here but if you plan to go for a walk around it's advised not to block these boats in as they are used by owners who's main boats are moored out in the water also if the tide is out it's worth making a note of how high the tide does come in a general rule if the ground is muddy under foot the tide came to that point. So far I've witnessed three unwary car owners park up leave their cars only to come back to find the tide half way up their car tyres, though I'm yet to see one floating down the coast!!

So what's there? It's an all seasons spot so it depends when you visit but the following species I've seen and photograph are: Black Tern (spring),Artic Tern (spring),Common Tern (spring/summer),Sandwich Tern (spring/summer),Little Tern (spring/summer),Marsh Harrier (all year round),Kestrel(all year round),Barn Owl (winter/spring),Meadow Pipit (winter/spring),Skylark(spring/summer),Grey Plover (winter/spring),Golden Plover (winter/spring),Redshank(all year round),Ringed Plover(winter/spring),Oystercatcher(all year round),Turnstone(winter/spring),Sanderling(winter/spring),Dunlin(winter/spring),Knot(winter/spring),Brent Geese(winter/spring) and Red Breasted Merganser (winter/spring) there are other species like Herring Gull and Common Gull etc and I'm sure some of the species listed can be see all year round, but it's when I've seen/photographed them etc.

If you pull in and the tide is out you'll see lot's of thick mud, seriously it will grab hold of you and not let go, ask Ben's shoe that is probably still there now. Now if it's late spring/summer go to the lovely lady selling fresh seafood rolls and baguettes, prepared right in front of you, she'll let you know when the tide is due and may I personally recomend the Crayfish rolls...Subway has nothing on these rolls. When the tide comes in all the waders come into  the car park area. Really close enabling great chances to get a variety of wader images were you can get down to eye long as you don't mind a bit of mud. If it's winter the sandwich bar won't be there, the petrol station opposite the entrance to the harbour has a really good Cafe.


I would suggest the best time to visit is early to late afternoon if your aim is to photograph the birds as the sun is behind your back giving the best light for exposure etc. On the way to Brancaster (if you're coming from Cley) it's worth having a look aound the Burnham area, there is a mill called Burnham Mill on the coast road (A149) in the fields before the mill I got the image of the flock of Pink Footed Geese coming into land. And just after the mill is a small field with Marsh Harriers and a Barn Owl too. The rest of the images used came from Brancaster with the Knot below (see how muddy) and a grateful Turnstone which grabbed some shellfish we fed it. The very last image is of a Dunlin the image taken from the driver seat of my car...LAZY BIRDING! Though to be fair I did open the car door and lean out to get a better angle, so not that lazy.....

Here is two links the first one is of Spoonbills taken from the single hide at Cley Marshes SPOONBILLS and a Barn Owl taken at Wiveton Marshes BARN OWL  they should open in a seperate window and will take you to my website.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Winter Warmers part two

Okay then part two of my winter warmers and sadly the trolls have been trolling...again. There are two points why I'm doing this 1) I've mentioned before how a (should've been fatal) car crash left me with serious brain injuries etc, since that crash one of many mental side effects is S.A.D or seasonal adjustment order. This leaves me at worse depressed and the least very lethargic. So as the nights draw in earlier the spiral starts, these posts are really just to cheer me up and give me something to look forward too etc, 2) As accused by trolls, yes I know posts like this may be teaching the more "experienced/knowledgeable" birder how to suck eggs, but you forget a) not everyone's been to Norfolk and b)some birders are newbies and might (who am I kidding lol) find this useful. How else are newbies to learn? We all have to start somewhere.
So in part two I'm focusing on mostly on Cley Marshes and the surrounding areas and Salthouse. Most people know of Cley marshes an a all year spot with great birds depending on the time of year. Giving this is a winter post I'll talk about birds from September through to April. Cley marshes is a Norfolk Wildlife Trust site. It's mostly reedbeds and a selection of lagoons both freshwater and saline. There are five hides and a great but very long footpath that encircles the site which includes a walk along the North Norfolk shoreline. Normally I'll photograph Marsh Harriers, Bearded Tits (if they haven't moved inland), various geese species including Brent Geese and Pink footed geese, various wildfowl including Teal,Pochard and Tufted Ducks occasionally Pintail turn up too. Wader wise I've photographed Dunlin,Pectoral Sandpipers,Wood sandpipers, Green sandpipers,Little Stint, Little Egret,Spoonbills, both Black Tail and Bar Tail Godwits, Snipe, Redshank, Greenshank, Golden Plovers and towards spring Avocets I have also had Peregrine Falcons, Sparrowhawks, Hen Harrier and Barn Owls in front of the hide. There's been more to watch too it is a great reserve but VERY popular and sadly more people mean there's an increase chance of someone moaning about photographers....but don't be put off. My tactic is to arrive at Wiveton village (just behind Cley village on the A149/coast road) just before sunrise as on the marsh (very private so stick to the road bordering it) at Wiveton I always photograph a Barn Owl if it isn't showing there I'll always check the reed bed behind the windmill in Cley village or the field opposite. If you head out of Cley on the coast road towards Titchwell, just as you leave Cley on the left hand side is a small "pull in" spot to park the car go and have a look you won't be disappointed, however regulary photographing this owl I can say it vanishes to roost about 08:00am so early bird etc. But once or twice as I've left Cley village and headed towards the carpark for the reserve I've had Barn Owls just on the left. It's worth remembering the amount of Barn Owls in Norfolk it's worth just easing off the gas pedal a little as you never know when a Barnie will pop over a hedgerow and cross over into another field. I always come to Norfolk via the A148 and Ben and I always play a silly game of "first to spot a Barnie" the looser paying for's always a free lunch for me unless Ben tries to string a gull lol, this road (very busy) always produces a Barnie normally just after Fakenham/Sculthorpe Nature reserve. One time we were driving along early one morning a lorry heading towards us and a Barnie came out of the field and flew down the middle of the road. I slowed down and the lorry driver pulled into the middle of the road (to prevent the cars behind him overtaking him) and slowed and we watched as this owl flew down the road then back into a field, fair play to the truckie.


After lunch we always go to my personal number one winter spot, though again earlier you go the better the experience...SALTHOUSE. I have to confess I'm not sure who owns this spot etc. Again first thing in the morning will produce a Barn Owl. The one feature about this place I like the most are the Turnstone flocks and the wintering flock of Snow Buntings. Every winter a group of birders out of there own pockets will cover the site in bird seeds which encourages the flock of buntings to hang around. Normally as you pull into the carpark the Snow buntings and Turnstones are very nearby. Majority of people stay close to the pools and the shingle bank nearest to the carpark, however the more further you walk and explore the more you'll find, and if it's been a wet winter the more pools of water are evident. After photographing the Turnstones and Snow Buntings I always (images of Turnstones and Snow buntings posted here are from the carpark area) walk in the direction of Cley village. It's a bit quieter in early spring I've photographed Hen Harriers and Avocet's (APRIL). I've posted a Common Redstart (right click it once to see proper size) below from Sept'08 (just started photographing wildlife then) but later in the winter I have had Linnets, Skylarks,Meadow Pipits,Stonechats,Twite,Kestrels,Redshanks,Ringed Plovers, Marsh Harriers, Eygptian Geese and Brent Geese. There is alot more but my photographing skills being what they are I've missed a lot more like Shore Larks and one early spring a Richards Pipit.
In part three I'll cover my last "favourite spot". I decided to do it as a third post as there are a couple of "do's and don'ts" type of rules for the site that are a bit long winded. I'll post it probably Friday/Saturday, and remember to right click once on the image from my first year photographing's worth a laugh or two not least because I remember when I got the species, a first for me and image I thought I was "KING of THE HILLS" lol.



Sunday, 9 September 2012

A few winter warmers..part one.


With the nights drawing in and winter fast approaching I know some photographers pack up their gear until spring. But there's no reason too, sure it's colder and the mornings are dark and frosty (sometimes snowy too). People will moan the light is rubbish but I disagree. I love this time of the year and after such a dreadful summer, can winter be any worse...don't answer that one.
Last winter I completely forgot my usual wintering haunt (my own personal migration) of North Norfolk. There's an abundance off sites with plenty of birds too see. One of my favourites is the RSPB's Snettisham site, situated in the Wash it's a big muddy estuary and plays host to some of the biggest and most impressive flocks of birds you're likely to ever see. If you read "Holding Moments" blog on the left hand side of this blog you'll see a video of a big flock of geese coming into roost. As the winter draws on there will be other species of geese joining the flock, most notably Pink Footed Geese but scan the flock carefully as there can be other species too. Brent Geese also migrate to the Norfolk coast and can be found just about anywhere. I remember one time driving past one field and seeing about 200 Pink Footed Geese and 20 Curlew in the fields. brilliant, except for the poor driver following me who almost ended up in my rear bumper as I pulled up for a closer look.
Snettisham (after the longish walk from the carpark) can seem a bit of a desolate spot (don't the best places always seem that way). If you arrive when the tides out it can on first impression seem empty of any bird life as you stare out onto the mud, but then you start to notice the Shelducks and waders far off in the distance. You have to wait for the tide to turn and as it does the pace picks up. The waders out feeding in the Wash are forced off the mudflats and into the high tide roosting spots in front of the hides.
The picture above is of a flock of Knots approximately 10.000 in size, the flocks have been known to be bigger. The key to this site is to turn up at the highest tide possible and with a full moon (effects the tide etc), it's truly one of the most impressive sights as thousands of waders head in your direction, flitting past your head just to roost in the lagoons, it's also quite a comical sight to watch all the waders scuttling around in the lagoons, it just a sea of movement. Whislt the birds are in the lagoons or heading for them it's worth keeping an eye out for predators such as Peregrine falcons and Sparrowhawks. Definately worth getting cold for.
My other favourite site in the winter is the RSPB's Titchwell nature reserve. This is one of their flagship reserves i.e. very popular and a lot of people around. It's a weird one for me as I don't like the hides on the reserve and often find myself on the beach there. Normally I'll check the lagoons as I head for the beach for anything interesting, hopefully if I've timed it right the tide is just turning and going out and all I do is follow the tide out. It's great because you'll get Turnstones, Curlew, Sanderling, Knots, Grey Plovers and if your lucky Red Breasted Mergansers flying past. Wether it's cold or not it's time to get down on my belly in the sand, and stay still as small flocks of Sanderlings either scuttle past or fly past. Sanderlings are my favourite wader and hence Titchwell holds a fondness in my heart as I think it's probably one of the best spots to photograph them. However Turnstones are just as good as typically they don't flush away so easily. I remember one time photographing Sanderlings on my belly and a small flock of ten landed within feet of my left handside. I didn't move as the flock headed my way right in front of my lense (too close to photograph) and one just walked right over the top of my 500mm lense, luckily it didn't leave a deposit..if you know what I mean.
In part two I'll cover my other three favourite spots in North Norfolk, just a poor excuse for posting some old images lol. Hopefully as winter swings into action I'll be in Norfolk more this winter, that is unless we get a flood of Short Eared Owls like we did last winter of course.


Saturday, 8 September 2012

Barn Owl on my roof!!

There I was in a very light sleep after a rubbish shift at work which included having to wait for a mechanic to change a blown tyre on my truck. Honestly I can't think of a worse place to sit then on a motorway as cars hurtle past at 70+mph, though as I waited I did get to watch a Kestrel having a go at a Buzzard, birding trucker should've been the title of my blog. Though I suspect some might replace the letters "tr" with an "f" in my case...just nodding off when I heard this purring like sound followed by a "shrreek" like call at first the purring made me think some daft cat had climbed up to the window BUT as soon as I heard the "shrreek" call in knew instantly it was a Barn Owl.
Now I've stated a few times I live on a densely populated housing estate in Northampton, sure we have a nice parkland area, where I've had Tawny Owls calling, mostly in early January then again when the young are dispersed from their nests. There is, about two miles from my house, some slightly more rural areas at the back of Moulton Park industrial estate, but I've never seen a Barn owl around there, sure some Little Owls and Buzzards,Red Kites,Tawny owls and Kestrels but no Barn Owl.
I glanced over at the clock 2 a.m. nice one Mr.Owl (I have to admit in my daze I tried hitting the snooze button, just in case I was dreaming, no chance). So I stumbled out of bed slowly pulled the curtains back, I could see a couple of my other neighbours were looking up at my roof, so it was on my roof then. I went down stairs (no flash gun so I didn't bother with camera) went out the back and looked up, sure enough a Barn Owl, screeching away, it kind of reminded me of a wolf howling at the moon. Not a cloud in the sky, it turned around looked at me and flew off it's pale underside lit up by the street lights like a ghostly angel, screeching as it went, I walked back towards the house and it flew overhead again and disappeared towards Moulton park industrial estate. Perhaps it was a juvenile being kicked out of it's nest or maybe the fields that are harvested now have had the vole's disturbed by the activity and it couldn't find any food. Either way a very different and great new bird for my "garden bird list" which now has two species of owls on it.
After work yesterday (7th Sept.) I managed a few hours up at Summer Leys, sadly I can't tell you what was there as no sooner had I sat down a got the binoculars out then two not the small falcon but two army helicopters buzzed right over the hide, rocking the hide, they were so low I could see the army blokes in the back peering out. A bit of a silly move by both pilots as EVERY single bird took to the air right into the flight path of both whirly birds, this included flocks of Greylag Geese, Canada Geese, Little Egrets, Lapwings and Black Headed gulls, luckily no birds were hit and the idiot pilots got to live for another day, but with decision making of flying low over a nature reserve I'm not sure how long they'll live for...numpties. The only images I got were of Reed Warblers and Grey Herons.
I think on my first day off I'm going to look for this Barn Owl, wish me luck lol

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Summerleys 3rd September 2012

Incoming Little Egret
Part of the joy/frustration with Summer Leys nature reserve is that on some visits you can find nothing of interest to watch or photograph. Then you go the next day and it's all change.
When I arrived yesterday afternoon at the pit, the scrape was still relatively quite except for one distant Little Egret, the water levels are dropping a bit more revealing some large carp and small Perch avoiding capture by the Little Egret.
Very quickly two more Little Egrets arrived on the scrape and started to chase each other around for the best fishing spots, sadly there's a lot of Swan feathers on the water surface and I wasn't happy with the background on these images, the only uncluttered backgrounds are the images of the birds in the sky as posted above.
I was in the hide with another wildlife photographer, Kenzie, when all the Lapwings on Round Island and Gull island went up all at the same time. bird of prey. After a bit of time watching the Lapwings avoiding capture I've come to recognise the slightly different behaviour in avoidance depending on what sort of raptor is making the attack. They always flock together, safety in numbers etc, but if it's a Sparrowhawk they stay quite low but fly in a flock horizontally, if it's a Peregrine they go high and flock together in a circular motion whilst gaining height, and if you watch they go very high. I think they do this method to negate to Peregrines main method of attack which is started very high to enable it to gain it's speed. I mentioned this to Kenzie and we started to scan for a Peregrine as the Lapwings were gaining height, as they did the flock split into two groups and right in the middle of the split a Peregrine, what happened next was a distant sight but a sight I've not seen before, there was a smaller falcon silhouette, I pointed it out to Kenzie who had nipped out the back of the hide to get a better view, it was a Hobby. But the Hobby wasn't attacking the Lapwing flock (Ben the plumber and I witnessed a titanic battle between a hobby and lapwing at Otmoor Nature reserve which the hobby won, it lasted about 15 minutes and the Lapwing just gave up) it was having a go at the Peregrine. Like I said this was very high up and over the islands so even with 700mm to play with it was to far away for a decent image, the best I got were the two record images below, very dodgy I know but whenever  I mention these events to other people they always give me such a synical it's been recorded this time.
Again click on both images to see larger versions, on the peregrine legs are i.d rings Left Leg Red ring, Right Leg Silver ring to far away for numbers. Later in the evening a Greenshank,Common Sandpiper,Green Sandpier and Snipe landed on the scrape near the Paul Britain hide. Again too far away to photograph but great to see something on the scrape, also the the Greenshank was very vocal and spent the whole time calling.

Monday, 3 September 2012

SummerLeys,Sparrowhawks and Mistle Thrush

In my job I have to work what is laughingly called "continental" shift patterns. It's a forty hours per week, 4 days on and 4 days off. It's got it's advantages when my days off are during the week (quieter/less people walking and jogging around the reserve) and it's sunny it's great. On Saturday I had a rare moment and managed all my deliveries early, I pulled up in the yard and as there wasn't anything else to do my boss told me to clear off (but not that politely). I think he got sick with me pointing my camera up at the Buzzard and Gulls circling the warehouse or it might have been when I was pointing my camera into the bushes at Common Whitethroat's. Either way I headed straight up to Summer Leys, first surprise there was hardly any cars in the carpark, weird. I grabbed my camera and headed for the Pioneer hide/Main hide. A few Teals, a Snipe, Little Egret, four Widgeons and the odd Moorhen and Coot, not much then, all the Lapwings for some reason were on the big islands on the main lake and not on the scrape. A Reed warbler chugged away in the reed bed in front of the hide but never came up to the top of the reed stems, too windy. I could hear a couple of Green woodpeckers "laughing" at each other but again very distant it was at this point I realised there was no birders on site so I thought I'd better check the local bird reports in case something special had dropped in elsewhere around the county, nope nothing too special, strange where was everyone. I put the phone away just in time to witness the above Sparrowhawk nip right in front of the hide window, that explains why the Lapwings weren't on the scrape, it settled in a tree so I kept my eye on it, then "peep-peep"...kingfisher flies right over the reed bed and down the towards the Rotary hide grrrr, two easy chances missed. Nevermind. The Sparrowhawk flew off over the main road and I just watched the Little Egret fishing. I did notice the Lapwings kept taking off from the islands, so I knew some predator was still around, I must have waited an hour just looking at the point from where the Sparrowhawk had come from last time when the Moorhens ran off towards the reed beds and the Starlings flew off, gliding with it's wings back and at speed the Sparrowhawk was back, bit distant but heading straight my way.  I managed a short burst of 9 frames the best is the one above. I didn't quite get the exposure quite right, but truth be known I was struggling to keep this exocet missile in the viewfinder. It pulled up and over the hide and headed towards the carpark.
On the way home I stopped off at a Little Owl spot and apart from the Little Owl I got 36 Mistle Thrushes. They came in two flocks one of 20 then a flock of 16, I haven't seen this many Mistle Thrushes for a while. I watched through the scope as they settled in a copse (it was 7pm at this time) obviously roosting. I've watched this spot  quite alot of times and only recorded Mistle Thrushes in the winter, one or two birds but no more than that. Haven't had any during the summer. So I'm guessing they've migrated from somewhere...I went back  early the next morning before heading for Crick, to see if they were still there, much scanning of the copse revealed they had gone.
 No birding today (September 2nd) as I was up at Crick at the National Retired Greyhound fundraising day, I did win a bottle of Bell's scotch on the raffle...yummy!!! And got to see loads of other greyhounds and raise money for the charity. We used to have it at Towcester racecourse but they're putting a greyhound track in there and because the Northants Greyhound trust objected (as they would) they kicked the show out. Shame really. I stopped off at the Little Owl spot where I had the Mistle Thrushes the previous day but they weren't there so I just took the two hounds home and debated wether or not to open the scotch......