Friday, 30 November 2012

SUMMER LEYS 30-11-12

FIELDFARE (TURDUS PILARIS), ONE OF MANY FOREIGN INVADERS
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 are...you 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 Autumn..no 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.


FIELDFARE (TURDUS PILARIS), SCIENTIFIC NAME MAKES IMMATURE BIRDER (ME) LAUGH
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 week....wow that's a first, a positive post about Summer Leys it must be coming up to Christmas!
GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER (DENDROCOPOS MAJOR),HEAVY CROP TAKEN FROM PAUL BRITAIN HIDE

Thursday, 29 November 2012

HOW TO PROCESS A LITTLE OWL ON A CLOUDY DAY

LITTLE OWL (ATHENE NOCTUA), LITTLE PROCESSING
 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.

LITTLE OWL (ATHENE NOCTUA), HEAVILY PROCESSED

Sunday, 25 November 2012

A ZOMBIE NATION

COMMON REDSHANK (TRINGA TOTANUS),SUMMER LEYS NATURE RESERVE
Well the plan was to get up early and hit the road around Northants and get some new images, a couple of things scuppered that plan 1) To much alcohol the night before and 2) when I got home from the pub there was a George Romereo (Dawn of of the Dead) film and I had to watch George is one of my favourite screenwriters/director/producers and even though the special (or lack of) effects are...somewhat dated I can't help but love them, pure B-movie class. I love the modern day zombie flicks, but can't stand the fact that they run....ZOMBIES DON'T RUN, fact. Except in Simon Peggs Shaun of the Dead who stuck to the classic ZOMBIES DON'T RUN rather brilliantly.
So I got up and thought I would check out Summer Leys (even though I said I wouldn't), as I wanted to swing pass and check a Kestrel and Barn Owl field I wrote about...."oh crap" were the words that sprung to mind, the field looked like a lake with a few trees jutting out the surface, the tree the Barn Owl was in was three quarters under water, there's no way the Barn Owl was still here, just hope it's still alive as with the Kestrel.
So I hit the A45 and drove up to Summer Leys, everywhere was flooded, the mill just after Earls Barton (next to Ecton Bend Lake) was surrounded by water, so instead of taking the next turning for Great Doodington I carried onto Wellingborough and went via Little Irchester, jesus, even the Embankment area was seriously flooded as I drove between Little Irchester and Wollaston I glanced over towards Summer Leys, ooops it looked like one big lake. Mary's lake, Pete Wilds etc all flooded, this was looking grim. As I approached the tip/turning for Grendon I was greeted by "Road Ahead Closed", but knowing the road I was thinking it could only be flooded near the Mill and were the river enters the reserve, I was lucky/right however cones were stretched across the road just after the entrance of the carpark. As I pulled in I clocked there was a bloke chopping some of the willow down, surely he wasn't going to burn it! No he was making a fence/hedgerow in the carpark out of it.
Finally!!! It's one of my pet hates that all Nature reserves do is the cutting down of willow, yeah I know it's invasive, yeah I know it can clog water channels and dry out marshy areas, but my pet hate is what happens to the chopped down willow. It always seemed to me a bit Zombie like to cut down a carbon absorbing plant and then BURN IT, releasing all that stored carbon into the atmosphere. So much can be done with willow from basket weaving (ok even I laugh at that one), screens leading up to hides, screen hides themselves (like the one at Stanwick Lakes feeding station), to fences as applied to the carpark. Surely (even if the demand is low) it could be used as a income stream for smaller wildlife trusts, just stop burning it, it's hardly "green".
I went to the main hide, there is no scrape! the lake has broken over the bund and it's all one big lake. Access around  the reserve was no existent I struggled to get to the two-tier hide and could not go any further, walked the other way and could not get much further then the just after the bridge, flooded.
It was now I thought I would do something a bit different, there was no traffic on the road and walked down the road, bit of a novelty, but the lack of cars and people highlighted one of Summer Leys other faults...too many people walking around. There were loads of Redwings/Fieldfares/Bullfinches/Tits/1 Goldcrest/6 Siskins and roughly the same number of Redpolls I even had a male Sparrowhawk glide through the carpark and perch on the Rotary Hide. Now don't get me wrong I'm all for people other then myself using places like Summer Leys (I subscribe to the ethos of "use it or risk losing it"). However in Northants recently everywhere has introducded "pay and display" parking schemes,when they were once free. This has meant the only place left for them all to go without paying is Summer Leys, and the place is too small and simply can't handle the number of visitors, but funnily these people are the first to moan about "no cafe, no toilets etc" but aren't prepared to pay for them via carparking fees.
So why the title post? Well as I was stood on the road the occasional car would drive past the cones. I flagged all of them down and told them they weren't going to get any further then the next bend. Did they say thanks and turnaround, did they heck "I'll give it a go" said one zombie in a Smart car, yep Smart car dumb driver, a few moments later he returned..snigger. Then a bloke in a big Mercedes "it's got very clever electronics, it'll make it", "yeah but electric and water don't mix mate". A few moments later his car limps back round and stalls right near me "you don't have any jump leads, do you", "yeah but you can't jump start that model mate, it fry's the electronics", "no it doesn't", "It does, I've reposed a lot of these Mercs mate, trust me". Someone else tried jumping his car and his alarm went off and his key fob refused to work, should've listened eventually a RAC truck loads him up and carts him off I could hear the RAC man say "in the manual it warns you not to jump start the engine". I swear, either I'm speaking a foreign language or people just don't believe what I tell them. A total of 13 vehicles were flagged down by myself and all 13 ignored my friendly advice and all returned. Even the bloke installing the hedge said people just don't listen. I had by now had enough and wanted to get home and watch the Grand Prix, as I did a Power Ranger on a motorbike drove through the cones and promptly returned, honestly which part of "road closed" and cones blocking a road don't people GET!! All the behaviour of a nation of people using the common sense of a ZOMBIE.
The end result flight shots of Redwings that look like bullets (wings folded back) and not much else, 1 Barn Owl and Kestrel field flooded (seriously worried about that), the weather beating me....but at least I didn't get bitten!!!

Saturday, 24 November 2012

WITH AGE COMES WISDOM, APPARENTLY!

 God. it's getting harder to think of titles for blog posts, I think in future I'm just going to get a thesaurus, rip the pages out and check the pages out in a random fashion to see if I can create better post titles.
"WITH AGE COMES WISDOM", yep it's my birthday today and after the planned session down the local tonight any wisdom gained, then tonight it will be washed away by copious amounts of brain cell destroying alcohol. Hopefully if the weather man is right I shall be able to get out and actually photograph something of interest, though after having watched the local news and seeing how bad the river Nene is at the moment I think all my usual haunts are going to be hard to get to. For example I saw on the news the Mill near Summer Leys and how the Nene had flooded the road on the approach to the reserve but even if I can get to the reserve 1) my last few views haven't produced any decent images and given the islands are flooded I can't see much being there 2) I can't see the carpark be accessible, as the ditches were close to bursting on my last visit and there hadn't been alot of rain!!!
I'm going to give the owls a rest as they too were having a hard enough time hunting and I rather let them hunt in peace then get an image. I was thinking about going up to Fineshades as I haven't been there this year yet and with all the wind we've had and are forecasted to have the leaves should've fallen enough by now to get some light, BUT it's the weekend ie doggies everywhere, I think it's time to get the map attached to the wall and throw a dart and see were it lands....
 So a year on, am I any wiser, don't be daft. Still walking around in complete ignorance and bliss, I was going to do an early yearly round up, but thought I would hold fire for now.
To be honest this week I've done no birding, Thursday and the Friday I had to help a friend of mine  who lives behind the Billing Aquadrome and help her move some cats away from the increasing river level, to be honest I'd rather chucked them in the Nene...ooops!
What I found curious on the Friday was how dry Upton Mill was and the carpark area where I was last weekend with the Waxwings compared to the Billing Aquadrome and further down stream, I know the sale of the Billing Aquadrome came with a covenant that allows the Environment Agency to flood the area to prevent flooding in Northampton itself (those expensive flood defensive in the town was money well spent then!!!), but I looked at the hotel/pub/petrol station and some of the houses behind the Aquadrome and how they've been effected and wonder where the common sense in flooding the Billing Aquadrome is, does it make sense to risk flooding a petrol station and the resulting pollution? Still what do I know.
I'm off to the pub, I hope you enjoy the images and yes Rafal Benitez is a RAT, Roman you're a doughnut and thank you Roberto go and join a club that respects your talent mate.


Wednesday, 21 November 2012

AMUR FALCON

I've added a link on the left hand side of my blog for a petition about the stopping of the killing of Amur Falcons in India, please go and have a read and if you wouldn't mind please sign the petition, it doesn't take long (unlike the UK goverments e-petition scheme). Thanks.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

PEREGRINE WITH PREY

PEREGRINE FALCON (FALCO PEREGRINUS), NOT STRUGGLING FOR FOOD
Well the above image was taken on Sunday after I decided to visit an undisclosed site. The main aim was to photograph the Peregrine as it came back to what looks like (to me anyway) a day time/between meals roosting spot. I've seen the bird several times perched up, my aim was to just go and see if for the fourth visit I would not only get a fourth view of the bird but with clear skies a chance at a few images. So off I went and got to a point at the location I was happy with, I was just setting up my gear when I saw a flock of gulls and Lapwings leave the field with haste, crap, my camera was set at minus 2/3 exposure as I had been photographing something else. I caught a glimpse of the Peregrine as it dived after some Lapwings and disappear behind both the small undulation of the field and a small thicket, with the binoculars I was busy scanning the horizon ignoring fleeing Lapwings but couldn't see it, so turned my attention to my gear and quickly got set up and "hid" myself a bit better. Sure enough after what seemed like twenty minutes or so I saw a rather unelegant flight pattern of a bird, the Peregrine was heading my way, also being pursued by a couple of brave Crows. It's funny you watch a Peregrine make an attack and it's breathless. At a very high altitude you watch it soar around before pulling it's wings back and diving and at such speed, the birds on the ground already up at circling/flocking together for protection gaining height to negate that killer dive, though the Peregrine will open one, sometimes both wings to slow itself down or change it's angle of attack, if you're lucky enough to be close to an attack, you'll notice despite birds being closer to it, the Peregrine has already picked it's target and doesn't detour for another, closer bird and again if you're close enough and the Peregrine is still travelling at speed, you might just hear a dull thud as it hits it's target...sadly once it has it's prey it's kind of awkward looking in flight...a bit clumpy and slow. Sadly on the image above it wasn't exposed quite right and a bit shadowy on one side, but from the remains in it's talons can you guess what it predated. I struggled and I was there, so if you manage to guess the right species you're a very,very,very good birder!
Sadly below is a Kestrel image I took today in the wet conditions, I say sadly because to me this bird HAS DEFINITELY lost weight and is looking a bit gaunt (look at the eye sockets), perhaps still struggling to find prey in the very wet fields? And below the Kestrel is a Lottie also from Sunday but fro Sixfields. Quite amusing as with so much attention being paid to the Waxwings these and Bullfinches were going past, ignored, even by me lol
KESTREL (FALCO TINNUNCULUS), TO ME LOOKING SKINNY AND GAUNT!

LONG TAILED TIT (AEGITHALOS CAUDATUS), CALLING OUT LOUD

Sunday, 18 November 2012

FINALLY SOME WAXWINGS!!!

WAXWINGS (BOMBYCILLA GARRULOUS), SUNSHINE AND WARM..COULD'VE BEEN CLOSER!
It's been killing me, knowing I must be the last photographer in the UK to get an image of a Waxwing, image after image being uploaded onto Birdguides, one in taken on the Shetlands had some youngster with a stick and some apples with obliging Waxwings perched on them (some have all the luck lol), kind of a Waxwing shish-kebab!! The first day they appeared on Mike's bird reports I saw "Homebase" carpark, in my eagerness I rushed down, drove around the carpark couldn't even see a suitable tree for them, I re-checked the reports and saw it said "Homebase, Sixfileds", me being a twat drove down to "Homebase, Riverside retail park", I should really learn to read. The next few days it was a bit gloomy so did my best to ignore the reports, until I saw the weather forecast for today. I didn't fancy standing around a carpark so was pleased to see reports for Stortons Gp/Sixfields Lake. Off I went, as I pulled in David and Jonty were already there, good sign, only to hear they flew off, but I knew they might come back round, whilst waiting in...a carpark, Bob and Mike also turned up and there was Redpoll, though to be fair I'm not keen on Redpolls, so waited, they didn't turn back up to carpark and David kindly pointed which direction they flew off, so I opted to have a look around the lake.
On the walk round I saw quite a few wrens on the other side of the river bank,a Cettis Warbler being vocal, a few Bullfinches and a Sparrowhawk, I know another pair of birders (girlfriend/boyfriend) whose names I've forgotten, I'm really bad with names managed an image of the Cettis and saw a Brambling and weasel. I was just about to give and turnaround when some birder kindly told me they were just around the corner, funnily exactly where David had pointed in the direction of. Sadly they were mostly perched up high on the wrong side of the river bank, one did briefly drop down and close, but sadly looking at the images one half of the bird is covered in shadows from the bushes and tall trees around us. Can't complain to much as they did hang around for ages and were constantly leaping out of the tree catching insects, plenty of flight shots to go for. They are a little distant so shall not bother working them but it was nice watching them. I think at most there was about 20 Waxwings but weren't really counting.
WAXWING (BOMBYCILLA GARRULOUS), FINALLY GOT ONE
Not as good as my last bunch of images from a couple of years back due to heavy crops, afterwards I did go down to St.James Retail park as that was the side of the river they were on, found the tree (helped I could see them!!!) but it was behind locked gates, so was actually closer were I was originally. I searched for the other bushes/trees they were flocking into and again it was behind closed gates, someone on Monday morning when they turn up for work is going to get good views, if they know what they are of course!
I think next time I visit/search for waxwings I'm going to take a big stick (or my monopod) and some apples.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

CYBORG AND THE REDSTART

COMMON REDSTART (PHOENICURUS PHOENICURUS) Male, Cley Marshes, Sept'08
One of the biggest mistakes I have ever made when I first started photography was I used to back all my images on to Cd-rom's. You get yourself a camera, lens, computer and computer software you even buy a few books etc. I've made loads of mistakes from dodgy exposure, poor composition (still do that!), not enough of depth of field etc. But very quickly you sort them mistakes out, but the worse you can ever do is back up onto discs. Buy yourself an external hard drive, much more reliable then a mini Frisbees, they're not expensive these days. One problem I had was a lot of my images were on these discs and after swapping over to different laptops and then PC some just refuse to play/open and some are scratched. resulting in lost images forever or so I thought....


COMMON REDSTART (PHOENICURUS PHOENICURUS), Male,Cley Marshes, Sept'08
Cyborg is a very strange bloke at work he is Mr.IT, always carrying around a laptop, mucking around with servers and downloading/uploading data to our invaluable PDA's, In a chance conversation I happened to mention by dilemma and nicely he explained what to do, sadly I think he was speaking dutch as I didn't understand a word he said, "Do you want me to do it?", so I handed him over about 38 disks (4gb ones full) and legged out of his office shouting "thanks".
So half way through today I got a call from him, "Doug I put all them images on a memory sticks, but I think there's a problem with some images, I'm looking at a Robin with a black head", I laughed and said thanks. He managed some 1000+ RAW images and even more "worked Jpegs", I quick preview when I got home and I've "re-found" some Barn Owls images from the carpark(!!!) at Summer Leys that I never got to work, Bittern flight shots from Minsmere and various waders and other birds that I had worked on, but I've got back the original Raw files...priceless, to me anyway.
So I think I owe "CYBORG" a beverage of the alcohol variety. Thanks.
First ones I went to were the Common Redstart that I found for "a tick" whilst at Cley Marshes back in Sept'08...I think I had been photographing/birding for approximately a year and a bit. But I got lucky as I stumbled across a female (Ben the Plumber found that one) a Salthouse Marshes as you walk south from the carpark. It was a lifer for the both of us.
COMMON REDSTART (PHOENICURUS PHOENICURUS),Female Salthouse Sept'08

Monday, 12 November 2012

BARN OWL

BARN OWL (TYTO ALBA), A FLY PAST.
Well Saturday was spent pleasing the women of the house (not like that you smutty lot) I still had a list of chores, the worse being the replacement of the guttering at the back of the house which was blocked and during the course of the summer had sprouted it's very own wildflower meadow, I ain't joking, I was worried if I left it any longer it would be declared an SSSI. I also had reservations about doing it as I knew there was a chunk missing from the pipe that my beloved House Sparrow used to get under one of the tiles. After much jigging around I got the old gutter off and replaced the new one, whilst leaving enough room for the watching Sparrow (I kid you not) to get in and out, no sooner had I installed it then the male Sparrow was on the guttering and straight in it's hole, back out again and perched on the guttering and was promptly joined by the female, it worked. By the time my chores were done and had cleaned up and visited the tip there wasn't much time for any serious birding, so I popped down to the Billing Mill pub, not for a pint but for the search of a Kingfisher, apart from a Greywag tail the only Kingfisher I saw were three Latvians illegally fishing for PIKE!! I watched as they took three Pike out of the water, wrapped them up in plastic then placed them in the boot of their car (Latvian number plates) before driving off, I didn't have my camera so no images, but I did call the police,weren't interested!!?? I'll pass the details onto the water bailiff whom I know.
So Sunday was going to be my birding day this week, the weather was promising and I had a plan, normally a fatal mistake, making a plan normally ends up with complete failure. The plan was to go for a walk, avoid nature reserves and the hides (not popular person at the moment...TRUTH HURTS) and get some Barn Owl images.
BARN OWL (TYTO ALBA), A LOVELY SIGHT TO WATCH
I had one site that I haven't visited for ages but had received some info from local fishermen of a Barn Owl and Kingfisher regularly seen around their lake. So I was up early Sunday, it was still dark and was on site before sunrise. Deliberately done so I could get into position before the owl was hunting and not disturb it. On the way to the spot I had a chat with an angler who told me where they had seen the Kingfisher the most and off I went, concentrating for now on the Barn Owl.
The Owl isn't new it's been there for a few years now, but due to the length of walk and the possibility of not getting shots of the bird close enough etc it's often been ignored for easier Owls to photograph. It was just starting to get light and the Owl was already out hunting so I picked a spot best suited for the increasing sunlight, and waited.
I didn't have to wait long, the Barn Owl at first flying past me reasonably high, glancing at me, I resisted taking any images at this point and waited for it to settle back down, it didn't take long, it perched on a post, still looking at me, it flew up and past me (took the top image at this point) again and carried on hunting. I had the company of this Owl for about three hours and in that time saw no-one, bliss. A lot of the time the Owl was hunting a bit too far away for any images but got great view through the binoculars, I managed about 30 images, most I'm not happy with. During that time I saw the bird dive down 17 times, and only once come up with prey in it's talon. The fields are seriously soaked from the rain, so I think it's going to struggle for food, unless things improve. I think in the second and third images some Northants birders might recognise the wooden "lamp post".....
The Kingfisher? It showed exactly where the angler said it had been seen, I was to busy photographing the Barn Owl and on my walk back to the car I didn't see the Kingfisher. I watched from a very distant vantage point, the Kingfisher hovering loads of times and diving into the lake. Typical, but to be fair I'm going to have to dust down the old "dome" hide to get any decent images, which might also come in handy for this particular Barn Owl.
BARN OWL (TYTO ALBA), NOT HAPPY WITH THIS IMAGE

Thursday, 8 November 2012

SUMMER LEYS 8TH NOVEMBER 2012

KESTREL (FALCO TINNUNCULUS), GREAT VIEW FROM PAUL BRITAIN HIDE,DESPITE THE GREY SKIES
Well on my previous post I mentioned the "man-made" scrapes along side the A16, when I awoke I went and had a look, they definitely look like man made scrapes, shallow water (not flood water), raised pebble island on one and pebble shoreline, very odd, I would love to know from anyone who lives in Lincolnshire way what exactly they are. There was in one of the fields a very distant Barn Owl, Lapwings and Gulls on the "man-made" scrapes, the best gull being a Common Gull, oh well.
Anyway I awoke this morning with a "MUST D-I-Y" list from Sarah pinned to the bedroom door (and front door and fridge door, so she meant it!!) 1) Clean feeders and top them up, easy one that, with some live meal worms placed for the Goldcrest, only two there now 2)Move Tumble dryer, where to? Left that one (ha-hah) 3)Fit outside tap, where's Ben when I need him, done and dusted, with 2 out of 3 completed it was time to shake off the cobwebs and get out. It was incredibly bright first thing but by the time I got to the ol'pit it was a bit gloomy. The Wildlife Trust were busy having a late bonfire night so I avoided the top end of the reserve though I quickly popped into the Pioneer hide to see if the Bittern was on show, it wasn't and there wasn't much on the water either, so a slow walk round to the Paul Britain hide, a few Linnets,Reed Buntings etc but again a bit quiet. Bumped into another "togger" and his wife exchanged greetings and carried on. The word from the hide about the Bittern was it hadn't been seen today, not a surprise given a work party was on site, so given I could see some Golden Plovers on Gull Island I trotted off to the screen hide. on the way round stumbled upon a roving TIT flock, mostly Long Tail Tits, but mixed in were Blue and Great Tits and surprisingly a Wren, I would encounter the same roving flock (with a Wren in it) a couple of times during the course of the day.
GREEN WOODPECKER (PICUS VIRIDIS),FROM MY STOMP THROUGH EASTON MAUDIT
I wasn't having much luck with the Golden Plovers and the sky, but carried on regardless as I enjoy listening to their call and when they change direction the shimmering effect of all those birds. As I stood in the hide several Golden Eye flew in from behind me and several Teal but still not as much wildfowl as I would normally expect at this time of the year.  Still a lot of Fieldfare were pouring over. From my vantage point I could see a Kestrel hunting Pete Wilds field and chanced that it might head towards the Paul Britain hide so off I went. I popped upstairs and opened up the windows I thought I would need. Sure enough along it came at first being mobbed by a Crow (which kept having a go at the Plover's..weird), it eventually got to within reach for a decent image but given the horrible grey sky I wasn't hoping for brilliant images but as I was just getting ready I heard "scrunch", the stone pathway giving an indicator of approaching people, however to my surprise they stopped in their tracks and I was able to get a few shots and had brilliant close up views at eye level of the hovering Kestrel, nice one.
As the bird flew off the approaching birders came up to the hide and sat down, not seen them before and when one of them asked if that was a Kestrel I realised from their accents they weren't from the UK, New Zealand to be precise, well one was the other was from the UK. I thanked them for waiting whilst I got some images, and they said it wasn't a problem. I had a pleasant chat with them and I left feeling quite happy that someone realised what I was trying to do, and if they had carried on to the hide probably would've flushed the Kestrel away, of course they were within their right to have carried on, most do, but it was a small act of acknowledgement/kindness/fieldcraft (call it what you want) that to me meant a lot....just a shame the sky was pants.
GOLDEN PLOVER (PLUVIALIS APRICARLIA), HOPEFULLY WITH BETTER LIGHT, BETTER IMAGES TO COME

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

LITTLE OWLS.

LITTLE OWL (ATHENE NOCTUA), BASKING IN THE EVENING LIGHT.
Well in my Easton Maudit post I mentioned a Little Owl that I had to walk past, I was hoping not to flush the bird, but sadly the moment it saw me it flew off to a rabbit hole. It dawned on me why 99.9% of my Little Owl images have come when I've been in a vehicle. In fact if you read Paul Riddle's blog (Owlsaboutthatthen) if you go one step further and get some "camo" and pick out spots that are out of the way you can get some truly unique images and get to witness some behaviour that you just wouldn't normally see. In fact when I started to read Paul's blog I have to admit I copied/ripped off his technique and my Little Owl images got better.
It also has to be said normally when it comes to some birds I keep them as "undisclosed" and only reveal the locations if I know the person or they come with a good reputation...preferably both! The above and below image I've never kept quiet, the reason being everyone knew it's location. The tree is a bit of a giveaway, you approach up a narrow road (one car at a time) and because it sits on a junction you're naturally going slow and as you can see it doesn't normally hide itself. Non-birders who live nearby and use the road even know about it, though some think it's a Tawny Owl, whilst photographing this bird I have had several people stop and talk to me about it and some warning me not to scare it, which cheered me up that non birders care so much about it. I even had one "estate worker" tell me other locations etc. Though one weird thing I noticed is if a cyclist/jogger goes past the owl nips back to the cover of the tree, yet if someone trots pass on a horse, the bird doesn't flinch. I have had on several times re-counted to me by horse riders the number of times they've come across various species of owls that just sit and watch them walk past....maybe they don't recognise "human form" when attached to a horse?
LITTLE OWL (ATHENE NOCTUA), ENJOYING A MEAL AT AN UNDISCLOSED SITE!
The above image is the same owl as the first one. I actually put this on another website (UKBP, sadly now defunct) as undisclosed and one person completely missed the rather poor attempt at humour on my part and even said "why undisclosed? Even I could locate the bird if I looked at a map, you should've attempted to clone out the names"...yeah well done! or used clever depth of field.
The only other time I'll reveal a location is if I know the bird no longer uses the site for breeding as is the case of the images below. It's a juvenile that was raised in the remains of the "derelict" Overstone Manor. Sadly last year it became the victim of some nest raiders who stole the just hatched juveniles and the end result was the adult bird (one was also stolen) never returned to the site, though good news is it uses a horse stable nearby that has cameras and staff all over the property and bred again this year, but only raising one fledged juvenile. Funnily enough this image was taken on foot as the owl was quite friendly which ultimately led to it being stolen and when I posted this image and another on Birdguides I received 3 emails claiming it was a pet!
I apologise for backdated images, but any chance on my first night out (yesterday) to get images was cut short when I ran out of driving time and was forced to park on a dubious trading estate apart from a fox the only wildlife seen was the local "working ladies" arriving in cars with punters, half way through the night I was awoken by Manchester police, who rather nicely arranged for my lorry to park in a supermarket carpark "for my own safety", nice policemen. My second night out (tonight) I'm stranded on the A16 just outside Pinchbeck, Lincolnshire, and according to my sat-nav I'm in a field! It's a new'ish road. There is a curiosity not too far away from my lorry in a field, where there is some shallow pools of water with loads of pebbles (man made) that look like mini scrapes, I can hear Lapwings so once I get up (first delivery is at 9am and is in Pinchbeck) I shall have to go and have a closer look. THE JOYS OF TRUCKING!!!
LITTLE OWL (ATHENE NOCTUA), JUVENILE

Monday, 5 November 2012

WHY "PROPER" BIRDERS DO MY HEAD IN.

Well I'm pretty much loathed by alot of my local birding community so I felt it was about time I wrote about this subject. I also felt the need to write about this in greater detail after I made a comment on Mark Avery's blog about the right number of birders in a  group. Visit Marks Blog http://markavery.info/ and click on "blog" at the top. I decided to put my experiences down here so as not to hijack someone elses blog.
Now, I've always considered myself a birder the moment I started birding, and yes I haven't been birding for that long, 6 years, in that 6 years without going to any twitches I've clocked up 325 species, and not one of them a "stringed" bird. Now when I first mention 325 "serious" birders (always older blokes) scoff and say "is that all?". But who cares, my real gripe with these elder birders seems to be the attitude towards anyone under the age of 35 and especially towards anyone who dares to carry a camera. You only have to look through the letter section of any of the birding magazines moaning about photographers. I'll be honest, I have seen some pretty crap behaviour from some "toggers", chasing birds, flushing birds, endless chit chat in the hide, but at the same time I've seen exactly the same behaviour exhibited by "scope carrying birders" but I will not label all "scopers" the same way they will tarnish all photographers. I can remeber one photographer who managed to get an image of a Skua tucking into a bird and recorded the events. The images appeared in magazines and in the following issue he was labelled "cruel", "how could you sit there photographing that", "you must be sick in the head to enjoy photographing that", yet the same people will watch a wildlife documentary as a Lion rips into a Zebra and enjoy watching it and why wouldn't they, thats nature, cruel and beautiful and amazing. Though i do know of one photographer who would turn the telly channel over and can't watch things like a Sparrowhawk predate a bird.
But my real gripe has come about recently. I knew this lad, he was 17, and a photographer and used to come out photographing with me and a few mates. He stopped photographing birds, why? We were in a hide at Cley and I was outside smoking a fag when I heard this man say "if you don't stop photographing you and your camera are going out of the window", big mistake to say that to one of my mates, so I went into the hide a challenged the bloke to "chuck" me and my camera out of the window, he wouldn't and soon cleared off. But myself and a few of my other photographing mates have had the same, from people tutting and moaning at shutter sound (I didn't make the camera). Yet the same people will put cameras to scopes with "point and shoot cameras" that every time the shutter goes makes a sound like an arcade machine, hypocrits. I know of three people who have stopped photographing and birding (Ben the Plumber being one) because of these attitudes. In September I was at Summer Leys a few birders I don't know were in there, and this kid about 13 turned up with his mum, binoculars in hand and field guide, he sits down and starts scanning the scrape. I can see from my position he was looking at a Green Sandpiper, flicking through his book, trying to figure it out. Eventually the lad said " can someone tell me if thats a Green or Common Sandpiper".....silence. Now I was furthest away from the lad so didn't chip in straight away, but as the silence grew longer I had to chip in, "There's both out there mate, which one are you looking at?", It was the Green Sandpiper, so I pointed out the Common and showed him the "white V" on the Common and how to tell the difference etc. The lad promptly wrote down the time, what the bird was doing etc...proper birder. I ended chatting to his mum and him for a while, until they left with a thank you. The birders once they had left said (no joking), "why bother, he won't be birding by the time he's 18", "How do you know that?" I asked...no answer. It reminded me of that documentary were a well known "twitcher" wasn't exactly entharalled by the fact some young girl turned up at a twitch he was at and even remarked if she would still be birding when she's older, not with attitudes displayed by that prick...there are some great old timers out there John "jake" Ward and his wife Ruth spring to mind always showing me images of their latest trips out, helping out with bird id (I'd have to put Mike Alibone in there too, but he ain't old lol) and John Peacock, who funnily was strictly a birder who then started photography and Bob Bullock too, But sadly I met too many with a real shitty attitude who look down at you whilst talking to you like an idiot, demand you not to take an image (like it's up to them what I do) unfortunately I have had more than "one or two" up against the wall with my hands securely around their throats, but I can do that, some younger birders who carry a camera can't or won't (because they generally more level headed then myself) and just end walking away from birding, take this as a word of warning these sort of attitudes will kill birding off. After all once the "old timers" have sadly passed on, who's going to replace them? It's just not me, after all Richard Bedford wrote on his old website and the perils of photographing birds and the "attitude" he's encountered, and he's a "nice bloke" who wouldn't dare flushing a bird just for an image. NOR WOULD I.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

FROM EASTON MAUDIT TO SUMMER LEYS

On Sunday I have to return to work (boo!!) and my lovely and understanding boss, has given me two nights out in a lorry out of the four days, lovely. Normally I don't mind nights out in the lorry, I try my hardest to make sure my shift behind the wheel ends near to a nature reserve, abandoning an empty lorry and jumping into a taxi. Sadly it's winter which means less daylight. Which this week is a shame as I could've ended up at Leighton Moss and on Monday somewhere in Lincolnshire. In the past I've ended up parking up near Salisbury Plains with the new age travellers at Stonehenge, always a giggle, especially the time I was delivering a Police "meat" Wagon...oh the stares of utter contempt, followed by confusion when I stepped out with a massive lens and started photographing the Starlings and eventually a Barn Owl. I expected to come back to the lorry daubed in graffiti and slashed tyres. Or the time I kipped at Beachy Head and was constantly checked on by the coastguards (who make sure you're not going to do a Lemmings leap off the cliff/suicide watch), woke up early and photographed Stonechats, Barn Owls and Kestrels. Sadly this can't happen during the winter months, neverless I shall take my camera and laptop just in case. One of the biggest draw backs of lorry driving is that it's boring, seriously boring, I mean just watch that docu-drama on Channel 5 involving a certain firm and how they try to make a simple reversing manoeverve look "tricky" or "hard to do", get a grip...Ice Truckers it isn't!!
So the plan today was to exercise my legs and also get some images to work on when I've pulled over/stopped for the night.
SHORT EARED OWL (ASIO FLAMMEUS), SHAPING UP TO BE A GOOD WINTER IN NORTHANTS FOR THEM
 Sarah had to pick up her mum from Bedford, so instead of a family re-union I had her drop me off at Yardley Hastings and had her pick me up from Summer Leys once she had finished with her mum. I opted to walk from Yardley Hastings following a public footpath past Yardley Lodge farm up to the clay pigeon shooting range, the footpath went through a stubble field and alongside a stream. I got some images of Great Spotted Woodpeckers,Great Tits,Fieldfare and Treecreepers. Completely missed a Kingfisher, which I wasn't expecting, but did find two seperate Little Owls. Being on foot I opted not to try and get close, any attempt would've ended up flushing the birds, so I left them basking in the sun. I then got to the road which the "old timers" call the links, not sure why? And followed the road up towards Easton Maudit, I got some Starling images that were in the fields, a Lapwing some more Fieldfare and 3 Mistle Thrush, but also stopped to take some images of Crows and Jackdaws. Just before I got to Easton Maudit I relocated ol' faithful, another Little Owl, seeming as the road took me straight past it's tree, I approached very slowly, it wasn't having any of it and flushed off to a rabbit hole, you really do need a hide or a car/4x4 for these owls. I walked through the village of Easton Maudit where I got three Buzzards circling, and took the footpath that runs behind the hamlet and heads towards Grendon. It was approximately half way towards Grendon, when I got my best bird of the day. a Short Eared Owl, just the one. It was in the fields behind Top Lodge Farm near the stream. Spent ages photographing them making sure I had plenty to process over the coming days. I've noticed how hard these owls are having to hunt, with a lot of the fields water logged. I saw the owl "pounce" at least 8 times and each occasion it came back up with nothing in it's talons. I hope this isn't going to force the owls to relocate for more productive fields.
SHORT EARED OWL (ASIO FLAMMEUS), YEP ANOTHER ONE.
The walk from Grendon to Summer Leys was pretty much the same bird wise, apart from another Little Owl in the field opposite the carpark of Summer Leys, a Kestrel near Grendon Lakes and a perched Peregrine on the pylons in the fields near the entrance to Grendon Lakes. I got to Summer Leys absolutely knackered and sat in the Rotary Hide trying to get some life back into my legs. Ended up photographing a Golden Eye (female) before moving off to the Pioneer hide, I only had about 10 minutes here before Sarah picked me up and moaned at me for depositing half of Northants into her car, it was muddy....so sadly didn't get to see the Bittern.