Wednesday, 30 October 2013


Well when I first started blogging I thought I would show warts and all, the good,the bad and the outright ugly or abbreviated "bugger it" shots. Well Summer Leys provided me with another Kestrel encounter. I was actually going for Golden Plover shots when I saw this bird swoop in, it was a nice level, being in a two tier hide helped, it wasn't quite parallel, slightly "back-shot'ish" but workable, I was in the process of adjusting the exposure, but didn't get much chance, no sooner had the Kestrel started to hover it swooped down on a prey.

 The start of the dive and as evidence of how quick this all happened I got three frame after the one frame above, one use able shot (just) and two frames of a Kestrel tail disappearing out of frame.
 Look at them talons, ready to "slice n dice" the angle of the birds body was unreal and it soon vanished into the teasels at the side of the hide, it soon popped out, but walking with the it's kill in it's talons rather then flying out. It had caught a small mammal, if you look closely at the Kestrels nearest talon in the image below you can see the mammals own feet gripping onto the talons of the Kestrel
 A bit far away and harsh light didn't help but it was fascinating to watch, all very quick. But sadly not as good, image wise, as my last effort.

Monday, 28 October 2013


I promised after much alcohol to stay away from the keyboard tonight, but I never do what I'm supposed too and neither do birds it seems.
On Saturday I was really gutted to know I couldn't make it up to Harrington airfield for the shriek, I was chasing a Common Gull through the viewfinder, thinking, "what am I doing". I was going to go home when I thought I would stop off at a Kestrel spot. It's not always there, sometimes involves a lot of sitting around in the car for the bird to turn up. Which isn't a problem, except for the odd looks from passing vehicles.
Know I have a lot of "theories" with certain species, not always foolproof and probably more coincidental rather then factual, my theory for this one Kestrel goes "If it's windy it'll use one of the fence posts to hunt from rather then hovering". I've posted this bird from this location before on this blog and twice it's been windy....more testing of my theory needed....I think?
 It normally hunts worms etc off the posts, you just have to hope you have the car in the right place, there's only 36 fence posts to choose from, I was bored and counted them. In the first image the Kestrel popped up onto a dead tree and was actually thieving from a spiders web, never seen this behaviour before, if you look at the first image you can see the web under the Kestrel
 In the above image most of the web has been destroyed and not by the passing heavy shower, the weather played it's part in making some nice effects on the images, my favourite being this one below
 But again it was after a web that is strung between the post it's perched on and the gate, you can't see it too well in the above image.
However in the above image you might be able to make the web, just! And again it pulled the web apart.
 As quickly as it started to rain it quickly stopped and some lovely light came out, don't you just love the weather in the UK?
 With these three images I managed to move the car forward a bit at a time when the bird wasn't looking. I always leave my door ajar so I can open the door with no central locking system accidentally going off, release the handbrake and roll the car gently into a better position with the engine off, normally works.
Hopefully on the next windy day we get I'll put my theory under more scrutiny for this Kestrel but I did learn on Saturday Kestrels will help themselves to the contents of a spider web or even the spider itself, probably.
I really like falcons, you might have noticed on "websites worth a look" list on the left handside of my blog about Amur Falcons in India and a petition to sign to stop their persecution, well I'll end this blog with some good news, please have a look at this link and tell me it doesn't give you hope, AMUR FALCON it should open up on the page in a new window any problems with the link let me know please, it's a good news story worth reading and let's hope it carries on.

Friday, 25 October 2013


Always the way isn't it a lovely bird turns up in your county and you have other plans, cemented in place. I "opted" not to go over to Harrington today as I have plans for Sunday which means I had to save money, you see I'm off to Wembley, not to watch Chelsea but to watch the 49'ers thrash the Jaguars, yep American Footie, not everyone's cup of tea I know, so I won't bore you with footie talk, I shall hopefully be under a roof come match day, I got my x-x-x-l (baggy style) 49'ers shirt, I've learnt to wear a baseball cap backwards, I've come to terms some of the Americans near me will not be able to pronounce Jaguar properly and prepared for being able to consume alcohol in the stadium...I hope!
 So I headed over to Summer Leys, photographic wise a bit of a let down, just a Buzzard above and a Moorhen in flight below. Good birds to be seen mind (not as tasty as shriek though) with Sparrowhawk, a Kestrel, big flock of Lapwing and still growing Golden Plover flock too, with circa 100+ at the moment and quite good numbers of Snipe, before being flushed I counted seven being harassed by Lapwings.
Also got a Little Grebe from the two tier hide, sadly the light was in my face and I've blown the back of the grebe's neck.
And did anyone see the lovely Black Kite at the end of first practise of the Indian GP? Lovely it was and nicely caught by the cameraman, I thought. So since I've only seen the first two practise sessions here's my predictions (from next week I'm doing Lotto numbers...) 1st Seb (of course) 2nd Lewis 3rd Fernando 4th Roman Grosjean...probably.

Sunday, 20 October 2013


 Saturday evening I got in the mother of all downpours, caught out in the open with a big old oak keeping me a little bit out of the wet, but saying that it felt good and odd. I saw one of the weirdest and most orange skies to date. It was like I was enveloped in a orange net. Too start the sky went dark and the wind got up, just as quickly the heavens opened, I did think I was in the middle of an approaching thunderstorm, luckily not, as the now grey skies cleared the sun was trying to get out from the grey clouds the orange vibe appeared, it reminded me as I stood there under the oak of this really dodgy sci-fi film set on Mars I watched and they used a really cheap red filter on the camera lens, very odd looking sky. I got a Kestrel beating a hasty retreat back to it's nest box. But I was too wet to bother with much else.
 Anyone planning a visit to Summer Leys and come via Great Doddington/A45 beware Hardwater Drive is closed for nearly 5 MONTHS due to repairs to the bridges at the Mill, which is GREAT yep it really is GREAT, the road out the front of the reserve was quiet, so quiet I could hear birds as I walked around the path on Friday afternoon. There was a few snipe on the scrape, a female Sparrowhawk and a Water Rail..image below....
which I and two other fellow photographers missed, despite actually waiting for it to fly from one reed bed to the reed bed near the hide, it was showing very well in the furthest reed bed, actually bathing and splashing around all I got was a back shot of a Water Rail landing, gutted.
I did have Jim, my hound with me (my excuse for missing the Rail) and after a few people stroked and rubbed him (wish that would happen to me once in a while) I walked around to the Paul Britain hide, got a Wren, there was a Goldcrest in the bushes near the road (told you it was quiet) but not much else

 There was a Starling with a white tail (was hoping it was a Ring Ouzel) which is my record shot for this post, as per quota.
And had some early practise for my flock shots which I'm going to concentrate more on during the winter months, especially since I've now found a reasonable sized Starling flock and the Golden Plovers are starting to arrive too.

Thursday, 17 October 2013


Well my original plan was to go up to Pitsford reservoir grab some images of the Tree Sparrows at the feeding station, they were there ok but a little skittish, now in my experience House Sparrows are easy to approach as long as you're not a complete buffon, Tree Sparrows a little trickier but still easy, but these today, just weren't playing ball, they kept nipping off, something was spooking them, then I realised, as a rat scurried past my feet and up into the bush....sod it, took a shot, looks like a youngster, and walked back to the car.
 Had a brief and nice chat with another photographer, Clive, grabbed a few shots of Lawpings as there wasn't much else there and left. I was driving along debating "Harrington or Blueberry Farm" it's a bit early for Short Eared Owls and was just about to turn off the road at Lamport and head towards Harrington airfield, not sure why but I just carried on along the road to Maidwell and Blueberry Farm, it was just a gut feeling.
 Pulled up outside the farm and parked up, chatted to one of the elder Knowle's who was telling me about Kites and Buzzards, a Tawny Owl and Barn Owl but unsurprisingly no Shorties top bloke and I always stop to chat to him, I briefly had a look in the first fields near the barns, not much happening so headed towards the track/byway that runs towards Cottesbrooke, had another chat with the son-in-law, who was telling me about the Osprey and "unknown" large bird of prey, I made a promise to bring my bird book for him next time, he knew it wasn't a Hen Harrier/Marsh Harrier and described it as Buzzard size, maybe a Goshawk?
 There was a few Jays and other common birds, but a lot of Meadow Pipits and Skylarks, at one point during one of the two showers I was caught out in, I counted circa 26 Meadow Pipit and definitely 14 Skylarks.
I was getting bored and was going to head off back to the van...once I dried off in the sun a bit, when as one, the large group of all the Skylarks and Meadow Pipits flew off alarm calling over the hedge and into the field behind me for all of a nano second a grey bird low to the ground caught my eye before disappearing, it was very far off and despite the very,very brief glimpse I knew what it was, gut feeling mind, I needed some proof but "by the time I cover the distance I saw the bird it would be long gone at that speed" I thought, I really wanted to go down to where I saw it but again my gut (I think all the walking had made me hungry) said stay put, the larks and pipits started to come over my head to settle back into the field in front of me, but still they were acting odd, putting down on the ground nearer to me then they had been, still alarm calling, and then dashing low and VERY fast but distant I saw the reason, MERLIN, I was struggling thanks to both speed of the bird/long grass/shit reflexes couldn't keep the focus on the bird, hell I was struggling to keep the bird in the viewfinder,a GREAT birder Jake once said to me that Merlin's fly on their wings, I think I asked "What does that mean?", I think I got a cryptic reply, "you'll know when you see one hunting"...thanks Jake :o), but the man was right (as always), this birds ability to change movement so quickly...well it's hard to put in words but it's unmistakable, it makes a Hobby look sluggish, honestly!
It was after the pipits and wasn't giving up, I managed some distant and poor record shots, I apologise but I couldn't keep up with it, I lost count the number of times I cursed. I woudln't mind but this bird wasn't giving up, it's pursuit was relentless, I think anything else would've gave up, I nearly did but had to get some proof for "it wasn't there" brigade.

 This one is closer but even worse the two above, it flew off towards Cottesbrooke into the sun, and its out of focus but as record shot goes IT PROVES it's a Merlin. I did tell Mike it was a female but I'm doubting that now any ideas anyone?

Wednesday, 16 October 2013


One of them days that the dedicated birder relishes and the not so dedicated/lazy like myself think bugger! Very heavy rain and showers for the best part of the day. I didn't exactly call it quits straight away, I was happy to munch down a lovely warm bacon and egg butty which done wonders and washed it down with some so-so coffee, plumped myself in the car and sat opposite this hexagonal shape platform at the Billing Aquadrome, it was originally meant to be an extension for the Chinese restaurant with a bridge reaching over to it, but worked stopped on it years ago and never finished. It provides a nice platform for gulls etc to stay out us humans way, I was hoping the rain would stop or even just cease a little to get some images, sadly it never really did, saw a Kingfisher and saw plenty of Pied Wagtails, 16 to be exact and one Grey Wagtail, when I did brave putting the window down, to get soaked!, I got a couple of images.

Horrid weather :o)

Monday, 14 October 2013


Well Sunday was a wash out and today isn't much better, luckily I had plenty of motorsport to watch with the conclusion of the BTCC, Japanese GP and Moto GP but also tucked away late at night ITV showed the BAFTA winning SENNA documentary, so I stayed up late trawling through images to work on whilst waiting for the highly acclaimed documentary. Now normally such programmes fail to live up to the hype/expectations.....
 This however was immense, I never really got to see Senna race, being too young and was kicked out of the living room by my dad when he crashed at Imola, he knew what had just happened.
The on board footage from 70's was frightening, truly heroic stuff but what was equally fascinating was the small scenes like the drivers meetings and the arrogance of the FIA president and dare I say the blatant cheating by the "prof" this part of the documentary showed in moving images what I only read about in books and magazine articles
I remembered in the Murray Walker interview how he was saying the BBC hadn't shown all the footage of the crash at Imolas, but in the documentary there was footage of a horrific crash of (I think it was Pat something can't remember the name as the footage shocked me) another driver with the back rest of the car still strapped to him as he wa flayed across the track, sadly they did show Roland's crash in full at Imola during the qualifying session which as a kid I do remember seeing (hence my dad kicked me out of the living room on the Sunday). It was horrible watching the on board footage from Imola leading up to the crash as you knew what was just about to happen, the footage of the crash, well it left me in me tears, pouring down my face, a lost of a legend. As this documentary showed, I believe, so much of Senna behind the scenes that I got an accurate impression of not only the man himself but how drivers were treated, it had to be a complete nightmare for the likes of Jackie Stewart etc when things were even worse and the on board footage was amazing too, it left me clinging to the chair with one eye half shut, if you haven't seen this documentary, even if you're not a motorsport fan, YOU SHOULD, it was the best thing I've seen on TV for a long while and very sad too.....
 Back to the birds, why flock shots, old flock shots at that, well I need a new direction with my flight shots, I still like catching individuals in flight but wish to start catching birds in flocks. WHY?
 Well there's something about a flock of birds that often has me taking my eye away from the viewfinder and just watching in amazement, it's the movement, the shapes, the co-ordination and the sheer numbers (sometimes) that leaves me gob-smacked. I often just enjoy standing/sitting watch these acrobatic displays, but it's time to start to photographing these spectacles...before it's too late.
"Too late"?....well we've seen with starlings that flocks/murmarations are getting smaller and smaller but it's not just starlings it's the same with waders with numbers decreasing year on year, how much longer before such displays are a thing of the past?
Sadly in Northants wader flocks are very rare these days, with either singles or very small groups, so I'm going to have to venture further from home for waders, breaking a current plan that I stuck too so far this year, despite many temptations (staying close to home and using the car less) however I do have a flock I wish to catch in flight now winter is coming and that is the Gulls that pass over my house...exciting hey!?
 Well as species goes, not really, sorry Gull Appreciation Society, but to be fair we have a lot pass over my housing estate en masse, first thing in the morning they pass over from the direction of Pitsford Reservoir and head in the general direction of Clifford Hill, then in the evening they pass back over heading towards Pitsford, probably back to the gull roost at Pitsford.
To give you an idea, verbally how impressive it is I had my neighbour knocking on the door the other evening, "Doug, quick have a look at this" as the gulls flew over, people have even had their smartphones out recording it and to be fair as a "birder" myself I often find myself going "wow", I'll probably have to count them one day....probably :o), so my next big project is flocks.

Friday, 11 October 2013


 Well I've got one day left (Saturday) to go on my current work shift/pattern and this week has been my first humping fuel across the country, you really begin to understand how much we in the UK go through when you're delivering the black gold. Also in the last day or so (more today mind) how scary strong winds are when you're hitched up to such an explosive load, normally wind when transporting "normal" freight is quite fun. Not at the moment!!! So I've had a night out in the lorry and caught up with some "old'ish" images, the wind buffering the lorry preventing any decent sleep overnight... All from Summer Leys and I feel gives an accurate impression of what can be found on this nature reserve.
 Did anyone wake up in the early morning to catch the practise sessions? I did, did anyone else catch the Mclaren man during second practise, confirm Jensons' role next year but refused to confirm Perez involvement in the team next season? Saying "we're in no rush to confirm anything at the moment, there's no regulations stating we have to confirm the line-up" Sergio must be a worried man at the moment.
 I had to chuckle at the number of drivers who kept crashing out at the corner just before the bridge (I can't spell it..."second dagner" or something like that) as on my games console it's the very same corner that has me heading into the barriers, so based on that I must be pretty good driver lol
On a more sombre note Maria DeVillota was found dead in her apartment in Spain, she lost her eye whilst test driving at Duxford for Marussia, Spanish authorities are saying her death was "natural" however I have a sad feeling it may have been suicide, no proof, other then having been involved in a major crash that resulted in severe personal injuries myself and the resulting health issues like depression etc I know how a bad crash can effect you in a very negative way, RIP MARIA.
Going on what I saw in first practise and second practise here's my race predictions I'm going for the following line up 1st Seb (obvious) 2nd Lewis 3rd Nico 4th Webber outside bets for Fernando and Roman.

Thursday, 10 October 2013


Who would've thought Murray Walker turned 90 years old today, I talked to the bloke at the Silverstone Classic last year and I would've never thought for a moment he was 89!
Nicely done the BBC has done a bit of a special for him, it is sadly on the Red Button or Channel 301 (if you use Freeview) the next showing (two hours in duration) is at 17:00 I won't ruin the Top Twenty drivers list...yet.

Sunday, 6 October 2013


....and not one image of a bird taken. Saturday despite being a workday, my transport coordinator (tells me what to do, and I normally tell where to go) is a mad F1fan and has already attended Spa, Le Mans and wants to go to Brazil too, felt sorry for me and put me on local runs (Milton Keynes and moving trailers around the yard) so I could watch the qualifying on Saturday in the canteen, nice one Nigel.
Sunday I had the greyhound club (not rescue but Kennel Club show) show at Steventon in Oxfordshire. When I left Northants this morning it was nice and sunny, by the time I got past Brackley there was fog by the side of the M40 stopping me from seeing any Kites.
The show was being held on the village green/sports field so was not counting on getting any images so was quite glad I left the camera behind at home....not for long. I could hear in the trees surrounding the green Great Spotted Woodpeckers, A LOT OF Meadow Pipits passing over, is it me or is there a higher number of Meadow Pipits around this Autumn, did they have a good breeding season? Then the tell-tell whistle of a RedKite, in fact three circling in the distance.....
 Not close but the closest I got to birding, so I thought. Now Redkites in Oxfordshire behave differently to Redkites in other regions, I have no scientific proof of that, but they do! I'm sure it's the human interaction between the residents of Oxfordshire and the Kites. Seriously whilst stopped at a set of traffic lights I saw a poster with a Redkite on it, "must be some bird related event" I thought, no it was advertising a social event at the local working men's club, made me chuckle, we all know how people in Oxford chuck scraps out for the Kites, and this is where the difference is in their behaviour.
I was sat at the side of the show ring with a fag (that's a cigarette by the way) in my hand when this Kite at HEAD height glided in briefly landed in a tree within feet of me before flying off...WHY DOES THIS ONLY HAPPEN WHEN I LEAVE MY CAMERA BEHIND? But what a great view, no binoculars needed at all, needless to say we saw many redkites today all very close up and fear whats so ever, when person did remark when I said how they behave differently to Kites in Northants said something I thought was profound "perhaps this is how they would have behaved if we hadn't give them reasons to fear humans"...maybe the woman was right?
As for the dogs Jimmy was in two classes, got first in one and second in the other, he also got Reserve (second) Best R/C in Show, R/C is a special class for Racers and Coursers. For those that care there is a small difference in "standards" between Racers and "show" dogs, show dogs have a big/deep chest, whilst racers have a smaller/shallower chest plus some racers get injuries hence the "special" class for them, so he won a very nice bronze statue, Mack is no longer a puppy, now he's 12 months old and got a first and second in his class and also with Jim got second in brace (two dogs walking together) and poor old Whimmsy who normally does the best come away with a Reserve or in non doggy speak 5th or as I say last, oh well can't win them all, but to add to my weekend joys not only did Chelsea win but the San Francisco 49'ers are live on TV tonight (and had better win!!) and we had an interesting Grand Prix that made my predictions look s............
I promise a bird related post soon...probably.

Saturday, 5 October 2013


Nope not Jeremy Paxman, but the bird..

I've posted these as last night I was reading David's blog (Wold's Ranger) and at the end of the post something suddenly clicked, thanks to what David wrote. On my blog posts the images didn't look too different to the jpeg files on my PC, however on Google+ they looked awful, oversharpened and over saturated, nothing like the images on the PC nor the blog post, apparently there's a "check" box that's automatically "ticked" called auto-enhance, well it appears that left "checked" anything you post on Google+ gets the auto enhancement treatment, this was the reason I stopped using Google+ as at the time I couldn't figure out what was going on, so I've picked two images of a bird that should highlight any over saturation issues. So if you use Google+ it might be worth checking out...gladly it looks ok....naughty Google+
And the above image, simply to mourn the lost of all the lovely reedbed chopped down by my local wildlife trust, no chance of getting one like this for a while :o(

Friday, 4 October 2013


No birds today, still at work until Saturday evening (boo-hiss), and I've struggled to get any times for second practise for the weekends grand prix, just one helpful transport coordinator at one of my drops came up with the top ten for second practise, cheers Nigel.
But to throw a spanner in the works there is a tropical storm (Fitow) bearing down on the region, current weather models (and we know how accurate they can be!!) show it will veer towards China but can possibly bring heavy rain and strong winds to Mokpo, I think it was either 2010 or possibly the 2011 Grand Prix that was affected by a tropical storm, so there is history so I've gone for two sets of predictions for the grand prix, one wet and one dry. As usual if you're interested let me know your predictions.
2nd: Fernando Alonso, crap in practise but seems to have the race pace
3rd: Lewis Hamilton
4th:Nico Roseberg
5th:Felipe Massa, has to prove his worth for a future seat in F1
1st: Seb again, maybe his goodies fitted to the car might not work as well (see practise at Spa) in the wet, but I keep thinking of his stunning drive for Torro Rosso all them years ago
2nd Jenson Button !!
3rd Nico Roseberg
4th Fernando Alonso
5th Kimi Raikonen
DNF: Lewis Hamilton
And if the weather models for the UK are accurate (IF, has anyone else noted how crap the met office has got recently?) it should be unseasonably warm and sunny and on Sunday I'm at a Greyhound Dog show at Oxford, so I might get some images of the below bird, might not who knows?.