Wednesday, 31 October 2012

MORE SHORT EARED OWLS

SHORT EARED OWL (Asio flammeus),hopefully more of these during the winter
 Okay not too many more images, the rest of the images from yesterday, those I've worked on are all on my website in the "Latest Updates", you can either follow the link opposite or click here. If you so wish.
I posted below a Lapwing from Pitsford reservoir and the last image a Sprawk, I was a bit slow to spot the fast moving sprawk and almost missed it, just getting the underbelly....lovely! Must try harder.

LAPWING (Vanellus vanellus), Pitsford Reservoir


SPARROWHAWK (accipiter nisus), aka sprawk

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

SHORT EARED OWLS.

 Well the plan for yesterday was to search for the Bearded Tits reported down at Stortons Pit, so I was up early to avoid the rush hour, and arrived in the car park at 06:50, it was just starting to get light and the traffic building. For those that don't know Stortons pit, it's an ex-gravel pit that sits more or less in the town centre, you've got a football stadium,scrapyard,rugby club and a ring road. It compromises of a lake, the river Nene and big'ish reed bed. I got a favourable position and waited...and waited, suddenly at 7:30 movement...some more birders picking their spot, waited a bit more, keeping myself busy trying to locate a Cetti's warbler. I counted at least four separate birds, and also hear four Water Rail squealing and actually had a view for a second if that of another, also a Fieldfare and Song Thrush were present, also 3 unidentified pipits, probable Meadow but still no Bearded Tits, despite much searching and five hours spent, no luck. So I had to go and check on some sort of "development" work I spotted in a field I mentioned in the previous post, so went and checked on that, sadly it looks like Earls Barton gravel works is going to get bigger, the elevation was just that an new access road (raised) that goes into the fields next to the restaurant and boarding kennels opposite the current entrance of the gravel pit.
 So today I opted to go down Pitsford Resevoir and check out a Short eared Owl spot, got a few Lapwings and a Sparrowhawk images from there and headed to the owl spot. As soon as I got out of the van I realised quite big flocks of Fieldfare, some were staying in the trees were I was stood, easily 75+ birds the rest heading towards Hanging Houghton. I opted for the field with a massive hedgerow were I was stood at the bottom of this hill with a big old oak tree (enough hints for some) I had just three Siskins in the oak which then flew into the pheasant field towards Cottesbrooke (no more hints), a few Bullfinches and Yellowhammer also flew over, but they're residents and not migrating. I didn't have to wait to long for the Shortie to turn up, and once it flew past a few times, it seemed quite happy in trying to hunt quite close, though I never saw it with prey.  One of the things I'm going to try with the Shorties this year is capturing the dive they do as they swoop down on it's prey. the images below are my first two attempts, but they staying quite small on here as I'm not 100% happy with them. The first one below is a bit too "white" underneath and the owls right wing is in the grass, the second one is more or the less the same reason, although I think it was a bit distant too, you can obviously click on the image to see the original size etc.



Sunday, 28 October 2012

WEEK END FUN??

Well Saturday was supposed to the best day for weather, and having walked the dogs Friday night, I knew it was going to be ok weather wise. Clear sky and a bright moon meant I was waking up to my first frosty start. I love frosty starts, apart from when the car doesn't kick in, dam it, so after sorting the tangled booster cables and de-icing the cars window I was on my way, first port of call, it has to be Summer Leys. Clear skies and all the Golden Plove early in the week means possibility of at least one Peregrine sighting...I had a quick look from the Rotary hide, and a few Teal and even fewer Widgeon on Rotary Island were asleep with a single female Golden Eye on the water , no male with it seeming it was cold I left them sleeping.  I had a quick look from the Pioneer hide and out onto the scrape, nothing except two swans and two Coots, oh dear this ain't looking good, carried on around and found common passerines along the footpath but nothing special, took a few images and carried on, in Pete Wilds' fields there were some Linnets and one Skylark, but no real big flocks of Linnets nor Yellowhammers, yet.
I decided to go straight pass the double decker hide and go straight to the Screen hide, where apart from the odd Shoveller and Cormorant coming close there wasn't much around to either watch or photograph. The Lapwings were in a field opposite the nature reserve and the Golden Plovers seemed to have gone. There was hardly any birders I know apart from Doug Goddard so started to make other plans. I have to seriously consider wether Summer Leys has lost it's "mojo" or wether it's a small blimp, but given at one point I was trying to guess the species of dog I was looking at I'm seriously worried about the ol' pit.

CORMORANT, LOVED BY ALL FISHERMEN!


Shoveller, with annoying water reflection behind birds bill.
So my next plan was to see if I could relocate some Bearded Tits that had been found earlier in the week at Stanwick lakes, I had one reed bed at a "Natural England" site that sits behind Pastures Farm. It's near Whiston. It's quite a good site, I've already be a few times during the spring as it's great for Cettis Warblers, Grasshopper warbler and Cuckoo's having had two males and one female there. It's serioulsy underwatched, on all my other visits I've only ever seen the farmer there or his wife walking their dogs. It's strange because it's not too shabby. I checked the reed bed and apart from Reed Buntings and a Water Rail no Beardies here. My last port of call was going to be Stortons Pit, as I've heard and seen them there on two other winter periods, I decided to drive from the carpark towards Whiston I spotted in the field nearby a strange "construction", it looks like some sort of flood elevation scheme but at the same time it looked like a "duck shoot" type of pond, I decided to have another look at it tommorow.
As I approached Stortons pit it was "double trouble" both the Saints rugby team and the footie team were playing at home, I didn't have my mobile on me which was a shame because if I had done I would've seen the local bird reports saying Bearded Tits and a Ring Ouzel were present, the rugby fans, not a problem but I didn't want to have to stand there with by big old 500mm with the football fans, but instead I turned around and went to Blisworth canal, were I got some biggish flocks of Fieldfare and Song Thrush, some "so-so" images of a Kingfisher and plenty of Bullfinches gorging on the berries. On the way back home I stopped for a quick coffee at Salcey Forest, wacthed a (Eurasian) Nuthatch and two Great Spotted Woodpeckers. Not to bad for a busy carpark.
I opted to go Beardie hunting Monday morning as Sunday was dedicated to being with my other half, plus she has SKY and footie, another bad choice (SKY not Sarah...honest).

Friday, 26 October 2012

Harrington airfield...am

Well I went for a wander around harrington airfield this morning. Didn't really get too much. The list is as follows 1 Buzzard, 1 (female) Sparrowhawk, 1 solitary Golden Plover near the track/bundles of hay. Up the centre of the field where the hay bales are were a flock circa 20 Chaffinches with 10 Greenfinches also 5 Redwings and some Song Thrushes passing overhead, opposite the bundles of hay (in the field with the Leylandi trees, spelt incorrectly) the sprawk flushed 12 Yellowhammers and approximately 20 Linnets. Overhead I had Meadow Pipits,Skylarks and 1 Pied wagtail.
I wasn't happy with the light and headed back along the track to the car, on the way back I came across some old bloke who appeared to be struggling, he had forgotten his inhaler, so I offered him a lift back to Maidwell (where he lived) and after a friendly cuppa and making sure he was ok, I opted to go home, no images!

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

STARLING ROOST

Every time I've gone to or driven past the Billing Aqudrome in the evening I've noticed a Starling roost. It keeps getting bigger and bigger, tonight between the Car Supermarket and the Riverside retail park on the A45, the Starlings were begining to roost in the trees on the Aquadrome next to the Car Supermarket. It was approximately 500 to 600 birds, not massive, I'd be the first to admit, but it was originally about 100/150 birds a week ago, so hopefully it will get larger. There seemsto be4 to 5 small flocks merging into one. One flock coming from the Ecton Brook and Standerns Barn housing estate, before they merge this flock holds up in the trees near the entrance of the Aquadrome, another flock comes from the fields behind the Billing Mill pub, another flock from the lake opposite the same pub (not the marina), and the last from Clifford Hill Gp, they' started flocking around 1700/1730 hours. They've roosted at various sites around the Aquadrome including behind the Mercedes garage on the retail park, the "fitness centre" on the retail park, on a small reed bed near the Boating Club (behind the Peugeout dealer/nene river) and also in the numerous trees on the Aquadrome. Hopefully it'll get bigger and bigger as the winter rolls on. It's not massively impressive but it is the biggest flock I've seen so far this winter and it did get large very quickly. Below is a full frame unworked image (resized file size) of one of the small flock coming from Ecton Brook to the Aquadrome at 17:10, I've not counted the birds (gave up after 80) but guess it to be around 120, fancy counting them for me lol
STARLINGS, GO ON DARE YOU TO TRY AND COUNT THEM

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

THE POLICE, THE GREYHOUND AND MYSELF!

HARE, BACKDATED IMAGE FROM CASTLE ASHBY
 Just a quick post, I was having problems with resizing the posted images on my blog, ie when I posted more than two images the first two I could adjust the size of the image and add captions, but any after that would just stay small, after posting for help some lady came to my rescue with a solution, THANK YOU.
Being stuck indoors, I was glad to hear this afternoon of the cancellation of the proposed Badger cull, so pleased I almost jumped off the sofa. Whether the government will try again later next year but keep the proposed cull areas more secretive to prevent the animal right protesters from invading the cull area, we'll have to wait and see. But well done to the animal rights group for being so vocal and out in the "field" causing grief, something I can't do myself.
LITTLE GREBE, SAME BIRD AS PREVIOUS POST, JUST A BIT GRUMPY
 So back to the post title...I went out and walked the greyhound up near the gravel pit at Earls Barton, it was so grey and gloomy I left the camera behind and took the binoculars. I parked the car got the hound out and walked up the river Nene past the gravel pit. I got to the massive lake had a look around had a chat with a few other dog walkers and was enjoying just a bit of old fashion bird watching. I got several Green Woodpeckers, 1 Marsh Tit (brilliant, in the carpark too),1 Great Spotted Woodpecker,3 Buzzards,1 Kingfisher,Goldfinches(loads of them),Bullfinch,Great Tit,Blue Tit,1 Treecreeper, on the lake Widgeon,Swans and Tufted Ducks, several Little Egrets and 2 Grey Herons. As I got to the end of the lake I turned pack and headed for the car. As I did I became aware of the presence of the Police helicopter buzzing around. I guessed it was either tracking something in Earls Barton or the nearby dual carriageway of the A45, thought nothing of it.
As I approached the gates near the grave pit I became more aware that the helicopter was still there, now it took my 10 minutes to get from when I first saw the 'copter and when I reached the gate...perhaps what ever they were tracking was heading towards the carpark (it was!!!).
I got to the end of the track that runs past the gravel pit and dodged the flooded bit of path near the carpark by walking round the corner towards the main road, just as I turned to go towards the road I noticed a female copper stood there arms crossed and looking as imposing as she could (she couldn't) as I entered the carpark a male copper and the female copper came running towards me!! "Stop there Sir", I did. "What have you been doing?", I look at my dog and (stupidly) say "what does it look like", "You've been Hare coursing" female copper says, before I get a chance to reply "coursers give greyhound owners a bad reputation", "Was that helicopter following me", it was!!! I explained what I was doing "You don't look like a twitcher", "I'm not, I'm a birdwatcher" and explained the difference, "What does a birdwatcher look like" I asked. I noted the male PC was checking my car details. I explained again what I was doing, how my greyhounds eat rabbit and not Hares, rabbits I skillfully catch and kill from the local butchers! However the female PC was grumpy and started a in depth probe, "what word means the study of birds", "a pervert", not clever but I was now getting grumpy and wet. I even told her how my Uncle Jim was (now retired) a copper in the Met, and when he got a bit old ended up training officers in the skill of high speed pursuits etc at Hendon, "why you walking your dog here", "Why not, everyone else does", I told her how my greyhound crashed out at a race and if it was to run it would re-injure the leg and can only do short walks before it limps, so it wouldn't be any good at chasing Hares. I then spy the male PC using a smart phone (shame the coppers weren't as smart). I asked him if he can browse websites, he said yes, I gave him my website URL and my blog URL. He then shows the female copper the screen, "ornithology" I said to her and got a glare that would've melted an iceberg. The check came back on my name over the radio, oh dear, the mood was improving, I explained the record, and after what seemed an eternity and even more question's they relented, apparently if the force helicopter is flying back to their base after a call out, if they're going across countryside they keep their eyes peeled for hare coursers, fly tipping and do thermal checks on buildings (cannabis growing..apparently)....very odd, but I did get an apology (from the male PC, I really don't know what the female PC's attitude was all about) but the female copper "stropped" back to the car. I said there was no need as I was impressed that they actually bothered with what they thought was hare coursing, just a shame some attitudes (female PC) didn't match the initiative used by the helicopter crew. Very weird. But if someone can tell me what a "proper" birder looks like I would be grateful, perhaps I need a beard or something like that!?
Kestrel, same bird and post, different angle.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

SPARROWHAWK AND LITTLE GREBE

Well the original plan for the weekend was to chuck a dart into the map of Northamptonshire on Saturday morning. I got up chucked the dart, checked the location, Blackthorn housing estate, don't think so! So I tried again, my second attempt being a lot better, Walgrave, ok then it'll be Pitsford and Harrington airfield etc. Pulled back the curtain, bugger, low mist and drizzle. So I made myself a cuppa and decided to wait and see if the weather improved, it didn't. As I waited for the weather to improve and dithered what to do for the day I reworked a Sparrowhawk image I got from the undisclosed Barn Owl site. The problem(s) with the image were a: I was driving down the driveway of one of the landowners when I came across this female bird on top of a pigeon and with 700mm attached (500m and 1.4 teleconverter) I was too close. b: The sun was directly behind the bird and I couldn't get into a better position it was already keeping a wary eye on me c: It was on the ground under a long row of very tall, shadow inducing trees (if you move up to your monitor and look into the birds eye you'll see the reflection. So I had to go for it, the best I could, I'd already wound down the window when I saw the bird as there's one thing guaranteed to spook a bird is the sound of an electric window winding itself down. The image below is a heavily worked image in Photoshop and no the fly on the birds back is real and not cloned in.
SPARROWHAWK (ACCIPTER NISSUS), WITH FLY!
What I opted to do was a tight crop, the original (on Birdguides) was sat on a Woodpigeon, low shutter speed and dodgy wrist meant severe camera shake which blurred the birds tail. I put the image into Photoshop and cropped the image, I then selected the "magic wand tool" and clicked away until the whole of the bird was covered. I then selected the "inverse" option which meant any adjustments made wouldn't effect the bird and just the backdrop. I then adjusted exposure levels and "levels" to tone down the brightness. I the re sized the image to 800 pixels opting for "bicubic sharper" option then applied unsharp mask and noise reduction courtesy of Neat Image. Was it worth all the effort, let me know what you think good or bad, and what you would do different.
As the weather didn't improve Saturday, I opted for the pub to watch Chelsea play Spurs and after that went to play in the garden. Cleaned the feeders and tried some images of the Goldcrest in the Yew tree, not a good idea after a skinful of lager. Don't really have to say the images were poor, but I did realise the 300mm/f2.8 lens isn't adequate for the flight shots, even though it gave me the shutter speeds for flight images I couldn't get close enough without having to result in heavy cropping of the images, on the plus side, there is SIX different Goldcrests in there and a Coal Tit too. Though my dogs hate the Goldcrests call it makes them run away. One dog, Bailey, you can see in discomfort when they all start to call. With him cowering away whilst looking where the calls are coming from, interestingly he did the same when my local shop installed one of those devices that omitted a high frequency call to discourage kids from congregating outside the shop, though after complaints from dog owners and the kids themselves it was removed.
Finally another Little Grebe from Friday, below, no Photoshop required....though some sunshine wouldn't go a miss. So Chelsea won, Gordon Sheddon won the Brit Touring Cup and I obeyed doctors order, I used my good hand for the pints..
LITTLE GREBE (TACHYBAPTUS RUFICOLLIS), SUMMER LEYS LNR
 
 
 

 
 
 
 

Friday, 19 October 2012

Summerleys 19th October 2012


Well I had to start off early this morning as I had to take care of a few things and found myself pre-dawn down at the pit. Overnight the river levels seemed to have shot up. The water level on the main lake was right up to the feeding station. It was quite overcast to start with and when the sun started to come out it then created a mist that once I had left at 11:00 am was then replaced with cloud hanging over the site. Apart from a Little Grebe on the scrape, it was empty with the exception of Moorhens and Coots. So tripod in hand and camera in a bag I trudged round to the screen hide, the water within feet of the hide, it would've produced a few good images if the light had been good. Pretty close to the hide was a solitary Snipe playing hide and seek in the long grass, Widgeon,Teal,Shoveller and Mallards feeding in swampy verges and Lapwings when not parading "general style" in front of the hide were busy wiffling from in front of the hide over to Gull Island which today looked tiny and back again to the hide. A few Golden Plovers were also on the island, I just love the Golden Plovers call. Great entertainment but no real good images though.
GOLDEN PLOVERS (Pluvialis apricaria), Misty start to the morning
So with dire light and high water levels I headed off down to the feeding station, as when the water levels are high you often get a Water Rail, sadly not today. Although there is a Cetti's Warbler which was calling quite frequently, loads of passerines but on a worrying note, there are at least 4 different Greenfinches with great big ticks on their heads, also I saw at least 1 Blue Tit and 1 Great Tit with ticks around their eyes.
Finally it saddens me to say at my recently "undisclosed" Barn Owl site the bird had been found dead, the bloke who found the Owl kept the body for me, NOT FOUL PLAY, it seems to have collided with something, either the buildings or another bird tried to rob it of it's food and forced it to the ground. It was a youngster, but strangely, for around here, the bird was not tagged or ringed. It's "nature" that it's dead, I accept that, if it hadn't been natural causes I think I would've been very angry. Weather dependant I've got a few plans, I've pinned the OS map to the wall and if it's sunny, I'm going to throw a dart at it, I'll let you know where I end up.
Have a good week end all.


GREENFINCH (Chloris chloris), Eating berries

LITTLE GREBE (Tachybaptus ruficollis), a scientic name I'm not retyping again!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

KESTREL

I had to go out, ok my hand was killing me. The finger being broken, doesn't hurt, it's actually the sprained wrist that hurts the most. I've had bruises but this looks like a beetriot. Force of habit got me out of bed at 6am. I was bored after only being up for half an hour. By the time the Jeremy Kyle show had started I was near suicidal, what a load of tosh, I had until this morning been blessed with missing the dire pile of crap. I went out to my car but the wrist meant I couldn't even put the Golf into reverse, I needed an automatic, my eldest sister has an automatic..great..it was a Meriva..bugger. Still it was Meriva or Jeremy Kyle. I phoned my sister and she said I could use it on two conditions, no smoking and she wanted my GTi. Now if it had been my younger sister I could handle her driving the car (good driver), but I needed to get out so agreed, took pictures of every panel on the car and told her to be careful. As she pulled away around the corner I could hear the turbo's winding up and the exhaust crackle away...b***h, I'm now going to smoke in her Meriva.
I opted to go to my newly discovered Barn Owl site a bit late in the morning but I knew there was other stuff there. I drove down the lane and spotted this Kestrel sat on a post almost being blown off in the wind, two problems though, can you see from the unworked image below what the problem is!!!

Kestrel (falco tinnunculus), Gate in the way
Unfortunately the gate leading into one of the fields was higher then the post the bird was sat on, and the sun was behind the bird too. I scratched my head as I tried to think how to eliminate the gate from the image. I could negate the light issue, by playing with the camera's exposure and place the car at a better angle. I was just about to give up so lit a fag and opended up the sunroof when I had a eureka moment. The roof had opened and I had moved the car and the Kestrel had stayed put. Just looking below itself looking for food. So I did a few test shots through the windscreen, and slowly stood up and poked my head and camera out the window, placed the bean bag on the roof and placed the camera and lens on top of the bean bag. I think if it hadn't been so windy this Kestrel would have flown off long before I had even opened the sunroof. I grabbed a few images and some strange looks of some lady out for a ramble. And then the bird dropped to the ground, due to the angle I couldn't even see the bird on the ground, a few seconds later the Kestrel flew off to a tree with a MASSIVE earth worm (not a slow worm). I couldn't really lift my lens so no flight images, but I stayed there head poking out the sunroof watching with my binoculars, checking it was definately a earthworm, when "Oi, Monty", it was the farmer coming to move his cattle, I think he meant I looked like Field Marshall Montgomery, I think, I was blocking his gate, so moved the car, he took the mickey out of the Meriva. We chatted about the Barn Owl, and I helped him move his cows, well I stood there and waved my arms around like and idiot, afterwards after a long chat he said I could use one of his old milking sheds and have a walk around the filed anytime I liked.....much better then watching Jeremy Kyle. Result. I was worried about the point of view/angle and slighlty blew the highlights a little, but by standing up I did get a nice green background from the vegetation, not too shabby but not the cracker I was hoping for.

Kestrel (falco tinnunculus), ahh that's better!

Monday, 15 October 2012

OUT OF ORDER!!!

Just thought I would do a quick post, I'm going to be "out of order" for a little while. On Sunday whilst driving at/for work my lorry was rear ended by a DRUNK foreign trucker (replace the letters "tr" with an "f" in the word trucker for how I really feel). I was slowing down near the Cattthorpe junction of the M1, when bang, my lorry was shunted into the middle lane, just missing a family towing a caravan, ripped my rear axles clean off, lorry complete right off. His lorry cab was smashed in, but it was mostly the side where a Brit driver would've been sat, apparently he tried going up the hard shoulder otherwise I think he would've been history. Drunk twat walks up stinking of booze, gesticulating, screaming, shouting etc in my face, I had it, and smacked the twat, sadly for me right in front of two police men who were in the outside lane and saw the whole incident. Cuffed up in the back of the car the bloke then starts head butting the windows, NUTTER. I had to wait for a spare police car to turn up, the copper took my statement, I asked if I was under arrest, "Nah, don't blame you really, I think I might of done the same"...Phew. I've broken my little finger and the one next to it, and sprained my wrist, caused by the steering wheel whipping around so quickly and me fighting it. Oh and slightly sore neck/whiplash, compensation claim? Nope, luckily my boss is giving me time off on full pay...Yippee! Have to thank Sara who came and picked my up from the hospital in Rugby. Try typing with one hand, I'm going to have to dig out my tripod now as hand holding my 500mm lens is out of the question, I think it's time to consider a career change.....

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

New Barn Owl Site

BARN OWL (TYTO ALBA), NORFOLK
 Firstly a declaration the images above and below aren't from Northants, they're from North Norfolk, secondly the new Barn Owl site I found last night is remaining undisclosed. I often get asked why not disclose a site, but I often have several reasons. Certain birds (mostly raptors and owls) unless they occur on a nature reserve normally go into the "undisclosed" location, there's alot of people out there who still steal eggs (had it happen to me on one Little Owl site) and some who like to persecute certain birds of prey, secondly sometimes the site is sensitive (private ownership) and I can't guarantee some peoples reaction when they see an owl, I remember Richard Bedford label it as "owl fever" and he was right, I saw when I first started birding at Upton Mill about 30/40 birders chasing a Short eared Owl all round this field every time it settled on the ground or on a post, in the end the Shortie sat on a busy roundabout during rush hour to get away from everyone...NOT GOOD, not to mention how everyone had parked in front of this poor farmers barns blocking him in!!! This ruined any good relations that were had between the farmer and birders which is a shame. The other reason it's staying undisclosed is because I've not had a Barn Owl on this particular site and is obviously a new arrival seeking a new patch to call home.
BARN OWL (TYTO ALBA),NORFOLK
To be honest I've "birded" this site since I started bird watching and both a friend and I have often remarked and questioned why a Barn Owl isn't on this site, as Barn Owl territories go it's perfect. On the site already is alot of Little Owls (main reason I photograph here), 2 breeding pairs of Buzzards,1 pair of Kestrels, Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, Great Woodpeckers, Green Woodpeckers, Tawny Owl (arrived January 2012) and Sparrowhawks. It's also quiet, never seen another birder, occasional dog walker and people on horses.
The vole population is very good, if you don't actually see them (which you do) you often hear them either calling or scurrying around, if you're really quiet and still you'll see Badgers too (another reason it remains undisclosed).
I pulled up last night to see how may Mistle Thrush (15) were still on the site parked the car at some stable blocks and I was walked towards a dog walker I knew, the Barn Owl crossed between the two of us, no camera as it was too dark, and it perched on a post, stared at the two of us before carrying on quartering the fields...I was well pleased to see the Owl here it's taken a while and I hope it remains, it should do, there's food in good supply, the fields availiable for it to hunt are about the same in size as the Blueberry farm complex, there's a few old buildings to use for shelter and several good copse's and oak tree's scattered around. There is a bloke who shoots Rabbits and Woodpigeons but considering the number of other species of raptors and owls on the site and Badgers I don't think he's a problem. There isn't to my knowledge a Barn Owl box on the site...maybe one should be erected? Hopefully on my next break from work I'll get some images.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Buzzards and Starlings

COMMON BUZZARD (BUTEO BUTEO), VERY VOCAL
A great way to start the morning, was to be awoken by the arrival of cheap "plastic fantastic" 35mm lens via ebay. seriously £6.50!!! a bargain and it works perfectly. Hopefully I'll be able to photograph some sites/landscapes around Northants. I've added a new page at the top of the blog and when I get some images to put on there I'll let you know. The second best way to start the morning was the fact there was very little cloud in the sky, with work looming tomorrow my original plan was to make the most of it, be covering either several locations or to start on my Kingfisher/Jay project.
I arrived at Clifford Hill (not the gravel pit) and parked up. I had a quick glance along the hedgerow leading up to the hill and could see quite a few Starlings and the odd Yellowhammer, further up the hedgerow I could see a Kestrel hovering and on the actual hill I could hear two Jays having a bit of a dispute. So the Kingfisher plan was put on hold and I climbed the hill. When I got to the top the Kestrel promptly saw me and flew back to the fields at the bottom of the hill...git! At the same time flushing the Starlings and Yellowhammers, thought the Starlings did eventually turn back up the Yellowhammers and Kestrel didn't. The Jays I managed to get, but still not happy at the resulting images. Other birds were Treecreepers, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Chiff Chaff, Nuthatches, Linnets, Long Tail Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Meadow Pipit, Skylark (four), Blackbird, Goldfinches, 10 Mistle Thrushes which headed towards the gravel pit and five Buzzards one of which came down low and landed on the trees on the top of the hill, it flew around very low being very vocal before joining the other four Buzzards. I spent ages on the hill, the Buzzard flying around so much with only two downsides, 1: forgetting all about the Kingfisher and 2: Seemingly keeping the Kestrel away. Every time it approached the field I was in the Buzzards would swoop down flushing the Kestrel away.
COMMON STARLING (STURNUS VULGARIS),BUSY EATING BERRIES.

Friday, 5 October 2012

MORE GOLDCREST

GOLDCREST (REGULUS REGULUS), CHEEKY CHAP!!
Well in my previous post I had a few ideas for what I was going to photograph, or try to anyway, But as with all the best made plans it didn't quite work out. Firstly my Kingfisher spot was only ever going to be an early afternoon place with the light coming from the best direction. Sadly the weather hasn't been brilliant. The best light coming in the morning. And as for the Jays' I can only blame myself really, and weren't happy with the images...must try harder.
Most of my photography really took place yesterday (4th October). In the afternoon I ventured out to Blueberry Farm, Maidwell. I had Meadow Pipits, the odd Swallow passing through, a very pale Buzzard (think Osprey and you'll get how pale it is) that's a bit of a regular bird up there, Sparrowhawk,Jays and 4 different Kestrels hassling the Jays and 1 Short Eared Owl that was actually quite high up and drifted towards Hanging Houghton and 1 Short eared Owl in the horse paddock near the farm.
The rest of Thursday (morning) I thought I would sort out the garden feeders and do some more images of the Goldcrest. Feeders cleaned and topped, fence "cat proofed" and I was then ready for some photography.
Sadly my garden has the sunlight poking from behind the Yew tree and fence so shutter speed isn't always too high and to be honest one neighbour did poke his head over the fence and laughingly query why I was holding a "bazooka" in my hands (Canon's 500mm prime lense) after a friendly banter and gossip (all important lol) I was READY. As you can see from the two images, taken in good light (sunny) there's a vast difference in how the light differs depending on which part of the tree the birds are in.

GOLDCREST (REGULUS REGULUS), JUST HANGING AROUND.
I don't have to wait, they are always in the garden during the winter, the hardest part is keeping up with them as they leap from branch to branch. I've gradually worked myself closer to them, so for the flight shots I so badly want I can get away using the 300mm f2.8 which should, fingers crossed give me the shutter speed I need and stop my neighbours funny jokes.......

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

KINGFISHERS AND GREY WAGTAILS

GREY WAGTAIL (MOTACILLA CINEREA)
Well it's the last day of work on my shift pattern and I was contemplating what to try and photograph on my four days off, weather permitting. There's a lot of Mistle Thrushes and Jays at a couple of my favourite locations, I also fancied some Kingfisher images as my current lot on my website are looking a bit old.  Problem with Kingfishers around here they've been a bit thin on the ground. the only sightings have been as they flash past down rivers. Seeming as my shift ended at 2pm I thought I would go and have a look at an old site, as it was on the way home. I headed for a stretch of the River Nene just behind the Billing Aquadrome/Clifford Hill. For Northants birders that's not the Clifford Hill gravel pit but the actual ancient monument site, the old hill fort.
When I first started birding I always went to this spot as it was always good for Kingfishers, Thrushes, Buzzards, Treecreepers and Kestrels. It still is, for Tree Creepers its worth walking up to the hill/fort and walking along the footpath at the top, as you're at eye level with the tops of the tree, and you get the Treecreepers scurrying like mice to the top before descending down to the bottom of the next tree and back up. I decided to go looking for Kingfishers instead and went to the Billing Aquadrome. The first bird I found straight away was another pair of Greywagtails, it was a bit overcast so the images were a bit dark and dull looking.

GREY WAGTAIL (MOTACILLA CINEREA)
 I headed for an old Kingisher spot and sat down on the river bank, giving the number of dog walkers and the proximity of the caravans of the Billing Aquadrome there was no real need for concealment as I remember the Kingfisher here was quite bold and "showy".  I gave a quick scan of the birds old perch, shutter speed was very low ( 1/40th was the best I could manage) and quite a high ISO, but given were the sun should've been, this had the makings of a good spot, also I didn't have to wait to long as "peep-peep" came the unmistakable Kingfisher call, I glanced in the direction to see not one but two Kingfishers coming straight down the river and straight onto the old perch, glad to see it still using it, didn't bother with a flight shot as when I was tracking the lead Kingfisher coming down the river I was getting only 1/20th a second shutter speed. The image below was taken at 1/40th so really only got a record shot, the male is the bird in focus (all black bill), the out of foucus bird on the left, I think might be female, but I was treated to a twenty minute display of the bird on the left keep calling and stretching up towards the throat of the male Kingfisher, similiar to the feeding techique of juvenile gulls taping the throat of adult gulls to get food, so the bird on the left might be a juvenile.
Despite a few dog walkers going past, the Kingsfishers remained both being very vocal, it took a grumpy Moorhen wanting the perch to flush the Kingfisher. I'll have to go back on a sunny day. I've only put a small record images below, so click on it once to see the proper size.

Monday, 1 October 2012

GOLDCRESTS

QUIZ MASTER/HOST: "FOR YOUR LAST QUESTION, AND A CHANCE TO WIN THE TOP PRIZE, WHAT IS THE UK'S SMALLEST BIRD?"

CONTESTANT: "IT'S THE WREN"

QUIZ MASTER/HOST:"THAT'S RIGHT....."

ME:"IS IT F**K"
Well that was the scene as I sat down for a cuppa after work this afternoon, my girlfriend cracking up with laughter, "you call yourself a birdwatcher" she managed to get out between the laughter, "birdphotographer actually" I said. "I'm telling you now that's wrong" I carried on. I then explained for her benefit the size difference, got my Collins bird book out, flipped to the Goldcrest and Wren page (happily the same), "See the Goldcrest is 8.5cm to 9.5cm, the Wren 9cm to 10cm, it's smaller...so there", " The book must be wrong" eyes glazing over and a smile she said. 

GOLDCREST (REGULUS REGULUS), SMALLER THAN A WREN!
GOLDCREST (REGULUS REGULUS), CALLING, THOUGH SOME MIGHT NOT HEAR IT!
So I grabbed my camera and went to the Yew tree at the bottom of the garden, always a Goldcrest down there, and fair play to my long suffering girlfriend (Sara) for coming to have a look, she said she would humour me as long as I don't write on my blog that every time she see's a dragonfly she runs away screaming....I promised her I wouldn't. Didn't have to wait long as there's currently three in there at any one time, and some selective pruning a few years back meant I had a few branches with no foliage on them poking out into some sort of light. I could see the three birds chasing around what looked like crane flies. The other unique thing about the Goldcrest for those unfamiliar with the species is the older you are the less likely you are to hear them. As you get older your hearing starts to fade and the Goldcrest has such a high "frequency" like call you just stop hearing them so clearly, luckily I'm not there yet as not being able to hear them would make it SO much harder to find BRITAIN'S SMALLEST bird. After about an hour photographing the Goldcrest I got some images for this post, sadly the flight image was a little soft but gives me a new photograph project aptly named "Project Goldcrest flight shot". Hopefully it won't be to hard to get, and the other great thing about Goldcrest is there confiding nature, I always have at least one bird in the garden during the winter. Though they do nip around very quickly and you have to get the bird in the viewfinder quickly otherwise they're gone.
SARA: "THEY ARE SO TINY AND CUTE".....wow she actually found a bird interesting, miracles do happen. And she pointed out from the image below, that from head on they look "grumpy", what do you think?

A few images from weekend

CARRION CROW (CORVUS CORONE), Swooping in on a squirrel


No proper birding this weekend, the continental shift patterns falling on Saturday and Sunday, not too bothered considering the weather not being ideal for photography. Not sure why we work weekends as the firm I work for I would say 90% of their freight gets delivered into small fashion outlets, so it leaves us scratching our heads for what to do.  Forklift truck racing, followed by games of poker, followed by "stock taking", but as explained to one co-worker, that doesn't mean you get to take the stock to the boot of their cars...I am lucky that the boss is pretty relaxed and often lets me go far a walk around the industrial estate (he wanted to watch the golf) with the camera, sounds a bit daft, hardly the best place to go bird watching, but Brackmills Industrial Estate does have some good'ish green spaces, including a small lake (filled with Koi!!!), beats standing around doing nothing.
I opted for the lake as it wasn't too far away on foot in case work was suddenly found. Birds found were Goldfinch,Bullfinch,Robin,Dunnock,Blue Tit,Great Tit, Long Tail Tit (loads of them),Sparrowhawk,Kestrel,Black Headed Gull, Herring Gull,Common Gull,Carrion Crow,Jackdaw,Magpie,Jay,Green Woodpecker,Great Spotted Woodpecker, a small flock of 10 Mistle Thrush,Song Thrush,Grey Wagtail,Blackbird and Buzzard. Not to bad of a list seeming as I wasn't really looking to hard. I got the Grey Wagtail image from one of the fishing pontoons on the lake. The Crow, also pictured was trying it's best at catching a grey squirrel, never seen that behaviour before!

GREY WAGTAIL (Motacilla cinerea), considering a spot of fishing.