Friday, 29 March 2013

GREAT WHITE EGRET AND LITTLE OWL

Well what can I say about Summer Leys Nature Reserve, one moment it has me singing it's praises the next I'm wondering where all the birds have gone and cursing it. Looking back through images I've had from the reserve or the neighbouring gravel pits (Earls Barton GP) I've had some great encounters of the birding kind here.
Today was one of them days I was almost on my hands and knees kissing the asphalt "pope-style" as I left. In my end of the year review I was quite chuffed to have logged all three Egret species in the county (Cattle,Little and Great White Egret) in 2012, well today I went a wee (my American readers wee=little) step further and finally not only got some half decent images of a Great White Egret but managed to add all three Egret species to one nature reserve..brilliant, I suddenly realised that in regards to Summerleys I'm actually quite luckily to have this reserve on my doorstep and to stop being a whingeing git.
GREAT WHITE EGRET (CAESMERODIUS ALBUS), SHOULD REALLY PLUMMET FROM SKY RATHER THEN A GRACEFUL LANDING

GREAT WHITE EGRET (CAESMERODIUS ALBUS), DESPITE IT'S SIZE THIS BIRD HAD A GREAT WAY OF SNEAKING UP ALMOST UNNOTICED.
With three of the large beasties being reported up on the reserve I knew/hoped I would be able to delete the record images on my website, but as always with birds it's not a dead cert'. The weather man promised sun early and indeed it was bright and sunny, warm too, well compared to the last few days anyway. So after checking the scrape (water level high so not much early passage wader action) I walked around to the screen hide, there some distance away on Eddie's Island was one of the Great White Egrets being harassed by a Black Headed Gull...CHOMP every time the screaming gull came near it's big bill, I could see a dead gull I thought, sadly Eddies is to far away for anything but a record shot and I didn't want a record image. The Egret got annoyed by the gull and flushed away to the railway line...bugger might as well be in another county now I thought, then the second Egret came off Hawthorn Island and joined the first Egret, there was the usual dog walkers and joggers up and down the railway line and having tried approaching a Great White Egret with some rather impressive fieldcraft at Naesby resevoir a couple years back (my first encounter with the species) with Bob Bullock, both of us on our bellies, Bob doing a fine job at being a commando, me a rather pathetic looking stranded Walrus impression and I snapped a twig and without even looking around the bird took off and ended up at Pitsford I could sense Bob's disappointment and I felt rather inept. So knew despite the birds size they weren't very tolerant of humans as their cousins the Little Egret, with some Teal and Great Crested Grebe action in front of me I got distracted and the next time I looked over they were gone....NOOOOO! How did such a big bird just disappear!? A much repeated theme for the day. because despite their size in flight they were very quite and subtle in their approach.
One of the birds (the two images above) used the reed bed in front of the hide for cover and suddenly popped up over the top of the reed bed before dropping into one of the pools of water finally after a two hours of waiting the bird was in close. It looked around got fidgety so I risked it and held off from photographing it, giving it a few minutes to get cosy and it started to fish...exactly like a Little Egret wiggling it's feet under the water etc
GREAT WHITE EGRET (CAESMERODIUS ALBUS), GREAT CATCH SIR!!

GREAT WHITE EGRET (CAESMERODIUS ALBUS), FISH GULPED IN ONE SWALLOW
It was fishing very successfully, despatching three catches very quickly, occasionally running around chasing fish under the surface, a sight in itself, but I think this relatively new species has I think found a species of fish it isn't used to...the Perch, the Perch has a spiny fins on it's back and it caught a very fine specimen but as it went to swallow it, the bird dropped it "in shock" and looked at it, tried re-catching it and dropped it again it tried once more before finally giving up and moving onto another species, not before staring bemused at the fish and the fish living for another day, well I think it did I didn't see it on the surface and the Egret carried on catching smaller fish. Compare the top image of the two to the one below for the difference in the size of the fish, I might be wrong but I think the smaller fish is still a perch though.
GREAT WHITE EGRET (CAESMERODIUS ALBUS) WITH THE PERCH THAT GOT AWAY

GREAT WHITE EGRET (CAESMERODIUS ALBUS), PLENTY OF TIME SPENT IN VARIABLE LIGHT BUT A GREAT MORNING SPENT WITH THIS GREAT BIRD
I had other plans for the afternoon and was finding it hard to drag myself away from Summer Leys, but my non-birding friend who loves swallows and who let me photograph Swallows in his paddocks had sent me an email "got a nice surprise for you" was the general content of the email, but it was in my opinion far to early, I did see one solitary Sandmartin fly through the reserve so just maybe. I arrived and walked around to the stable blocks, a few new outbuildings, some artificial swallow nests installed but this wasn't the new surprise, "See the Tawny sat by the old horse shelter" now where I put my hide last year, excited I glanced over and saw an instantly recognisable small round blob...Little Owl, I wasn't disappointed, told him it was a Little Owl, I was very happy because all last summer I kept thinking to myself that this site should have a Little Owl, a few old oak trees and a lot of mature ash trees all with holes, plenty of fence posts etc. We were busy watching it from VERY far away dropping down and collecting worms. as we did he told me the Little Owl had suddenly turned up a few months back, so it wasn't around last year and is a new site for me, my first new site for nearly a year now, I kept thinking how close I was to Leicestershire and was wondering if it was one of Pauls that had moved south (is 12 miles to far Paul?)  and cursing I couldn't get a 4x4 into the paddocks "NO WAY" was the firm response, can't blame him, he has over 15 horses on site etc. He pointed out the tree it was using but the owl (as you can see from the record shot below) kept looking into an old horse shelter, now I was conflicted do I give up my Swallow hide and get a Little Owl box up? Or leave it until the Autumn. We watched for the rest of the day and there was definitely only one and it really did like the old oak tree, so for now the owl box will have to wait. I wanted a half decent record shot and knew the two of us weren't going to get close, but using a horse for cover we worked ourselves close enough, I realised why they say don't walk behind a horse, not because they kick, but because when they "fart" it stinks REALLY bad and made me feel sick. Luckily I didn't end in up on Tesco's shelves! We didn't get that close so apologise for the record image, I'm looking forward to seeing how the owl interacts with the swallows when they return so with hide in place hopefully I'll get some good images from here. One thing that amused me was when the horse we used for cover went up to the Little Owl perched on the fence, blew through it's nose at it and the Little Owl gave a call and the horse just walked off. The summer looks promising.....if it gets started
LITTLE OWL (ATHENE NOCTUA), HOPEFULLY BETTER TO COME



Tuesday, 26 March 2013

YET ANOTHER ODDS AND SODS POST

I tried a bit of theme here on these images and tried using images of birds that landed on the log at Summer Leys feeding station, like I said in a previous post it was just an hour spent after work, light wasn't brilliant, I couldn't increase the dof (depth of field) without loosing what shutter speed I had so I'm not 100% happy with the images to be honest (tails soft, feet not sharp and I like feet).
LONG TAIL TIT AKA LOTTIE (AEGITHALOS CAUDATUS), AMAZINGLY SMALL WHEN TAIL ISN'T SHOWING

GREENFINCH (CHLORIS CHLORIS)

GREENFINCH (CHLORIS CHLORIS), BIG POWERFUL BILL
After Sunday's GP and the farce that was team orders (thats' why FIA team orders should be banned) I got to thinking of two things. 1) Wether after forking out nearly £400 on the British GP will I see the fastest man win or team orders and whether if team orders are put into practise whether I can get a refund on my ticket 2) Whats the worse thing I've heard in the last few days? Not knowing what is the worse sound, Nico Roseberg easing off the throttle before the braking zone on Lap 56 so to avoid overtaking Lewis or Seb having to say sorry for trying to win a race and keeping the sport honest (huh). Shame Miss Perry after the race had to say she felt let down after the race as a motorsport fan because of the controversy of Sebs action (not controversial in my opinion), well Miss Perry how let down do you think those who paid a vast fortune to watch the race at the circuit would feel if Seb hadn't RACED, you don't have to pay for your day out at the circuit, I did through my license fee love. I cringed as I heard Seb trying to come up with an excuse to his actions, here's one for you Seb "I'm a racing driver and I wouldn't be one if I didn't try to win" nuff said. Mind you as long as the snow melts I shall be going on Sunday to see some honest hard racing bumper cars, oops I mean the British Touring Cars, can't wait, love it, and I love it even more with the fact that they have an open pit lane before the racing, giving those who paid to go and watch at the circuit a chance to see the cars,drivers and most importantly the pit girls up close and personal. If you never been to a BTCC event you should, it ain't expensive and some great racing from Porsche,Clio Cup (more bumper car action),Ginettas and the big boys of the BTCC, and you'll see some up and coming young drivers too, Lewis Hamilton was racing on the supporting bill before going into GP2. I'm not 100% sure but I think Max Chilton raced in one of the support races ( I know Tom Chilton races in BTCC). And the fans are great too...nutters like me.
BLUE TIT (CYANISTES CAERULEUS)

CHAFFINCH (FRINGILLA COELEBS)

ROBIN (ERITHACUS RUBECULA)
But after all that I heard something that delighted me and equally pissed me right off. I had a Song Thrush calling in a tree tonight before the sun dipped down. Not a truly "amazing" call or an "special" bird, but great to hear and it wasn't the calling of the Song Thrush that annoyed me I was very happy to hear it though at the time couldn't see it, I've seen a pair over at Eastfield Park hopping along the ground. No what pissed me off and made laugh was when I heard some woman screaming "would you shut the f**k up", "screams", "f******g shut up would you", now at first I thought maybe a domestic, but looking over my fence (and my neighbours) I could see this "women" leaning out of her upstair window looking into the trees opposite, I follow her stare and could make out the Song Thrush sat in the tree calling away, I couldn't resist so hid myself, "shut the f**k up" she yelled..here's my chance "no you shut up". "who said that, who said that" I giggle and walk back indoors, only to see my neigbour looking over his fence at me and just smiling "stupid cow" we exchange pleasantries....seriously what is the world coming to when you're screaming at a bird to be quiet!? So I think the worse thing I heard in the last few days wasn't Nico's slowing engine, Sebs apology for winning a race, Webber becoming a pohm (not pom but pohm ie Prisoner Of Her Majesty) and whingeing but some mad ol' cow screaming at a bird
REEDBUNTING (MALE, EMBERIZA SCHOENICHUS), WHEN IN SUMMER/BREEDING PLUMAGE VERY UNDERRATED

REEDBUNTING (FEMALE, EMBERIZA SCHOENICHUS), GORGEOUS AT ANY TIME OF THE YEAR
Sadly one bird absent from the feeding station was the once very common Tree Sparrow, I didn't even see one? Which is a shame because when I first started to go to Summer Leys it was always the first and last bird you saw at the nature reserve.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

I THINK I SHOULD JUSTIFY A COMMENT...

....on Paul Riddles blog (owlsaboutthatthen) I left a comment on his blog about a Barn Owl that had been ringed in the UK (Oxfordshire) and found in 2005 in Afghanistan sadly dead. My comment was to suggest it hitch hiked in an RAF transporter etc. This seems to have made me look/sound a bit silly, and to be fair on the face of it, it would be a silly thing to say...
Now let me clarify a few things...I CAN TAKE A JOKE, so I'm not upset about the subsequent comments, that followed but feel I SHOULD clarify why I said what I said, though I should stress I found it funny too though....
I've got a group of friends whom I grew up with and they're all in various armed forces, from one friend (Royal Logistics Corp) I got an email from Belize about four years ago with a photo attached "found this in the container, what is it?"...it was a Nightjar, same bloke a few weeks later "what's this mate?"...a Wryneck. A friend who served in the Royal Anglians in the second Gulf war sent me an email "found this Tawny Owl dead in the container", same bloke but in Cyprus a few years later "found a dead a Kestrel today.."...see a pattern emerging? I also have an anecdotal tale from a friend serving at RAF Benson (Oxfordshire!!) on a regular basis they have either a Kestrel,Tawny Owl or a Barn Owl that when they are loading up/preparing containers with food/rations supplies the containers sometimes are left open (for any last minute changes etc) he has witnessed a Barn Owl perch on top before going in the same with the Tawny Owl, whilst the Kestrel perches on the top rail of the container, apparently/presumed that small mammals are attracted to the food, evidence being dead mammals being found in these containers when opened at the other end. He also once told me of a story about a Barn Owl that roosted in an empty container and would've ended up in Wiltshire if one squaddie had checked the container before it had departed. In fact at RAF Benson they have a regular Short Eared Owl that hunts the in-field part of the runway and needs regular flushing. Also in these containers they have in the past found (all dead) Adders,Grass Snakes,Voles,Spiders and various other insects, when the containers come back they are fumigated before opening so you can imagine the creep crawlies they've found inside, sadly small passerines occasionally too.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

ODDS AND SODS pt2

Had to be "Odds and Sods part2", it always happens when I just go and blast away with the camera, loads of images, very often of species that don't excite or interest many.
For example Gulls, where do you sit with them? Like them? Find them boring or confusing? (they bleedin' confuse me) Or a noisy pest? Or seriously underated as a bird?

One thing for sure, REGARDLESS how you fell about them, they're seriously a great way of venting some of that built up anger/frustration/boredom of work, I mean take the Billing Aquadrome...please someone take it..lol.. ten minutes here will fill up a couple of 4 gigabyte of memory card space. I keep hearing or getting told that birds derive no nutrional value from bread, but it doesn't explain why shed loads of geese,swans, ducks and gulls here swarm and fight for the bread that is chucked out by the visitors to the carpark at the marina. It's quite funny "people watching"..car pulls in, car windows wound down (the really daring get out for a stroll around their car), bread chucked out, birds gather around the car, drive out, then another turns up and the process is repeated again and again etc. The Herring Gull posted here was drawn in by some asian bloke chucking TWELVE massive pita breads into the marina, I'm not exagerating they were about 10 inches in diameter ( I know that from my pizza consumption)...made me bleedin' hungry though didn't fancy tackling a Mute Swan for one however.


Bored of gull yet? Fair enough I guess they're a Marmite bird.
So a few more Bullfinches





BULLFINCH

Most of you will know what it's like, you have a day from hell at work and you can't go home, if you do you'll be given a list of chores of things to do which only serves to worsen your mood. Luckily my day had finished and I had few hours of light lurking away in the shadows. I knew I wasn't going to get much but just had to go and chill out somewhere....alone with my camera.
I knew where I could go and just sit down and watch and photograph some birds, okay not some migrating wader or gorgeous owl but our humble and often overlooked passerines, I got off to a great start with three Bullfinches (two males and one female).
EURASIAN BULLFINCH (PYRRHULA PYRRHULA)

EURASIAN BULLFINCH (PYRRHULA PYRRHULA), BRITAIN'S PARROTT

EURASIAN BULLFINCH (PYRRHULA PYRRHULA)...DARE YOU TO PUT YOUR FINGER IN THAT BILL
Okay I was at the feeding station at Summer Leys but I knew I had to take my frustration out on my shutter button and it was a dead certainty there would be something to unleash my frustration on at the feeding station. I got a lot but currently developing a theme to the images and felt the Bullies (and they do dominate a feeding table very well) deserved their own micro-post....

Sunday, 17 March 2013

RAIN, GREY SKIES AND A BARN OWL

Well despite the heavy showers and really grey skies I couldn't stay in, the F1 race/qualifying session highlights were going to be short and very little information gleamed on how the teams have done during the winter, plus not being a SKY fan means it's BBC all season, also I'm not a big fan of the new presenter Suzan Perry during her MOTOGP days she said "welcome to MotoGP were overtaking is allowed, is actively encouraged and isn't a dull procession, yes I would rather be here then at the F1 circus...or should that be a procession"....so how much money did it take to get you to F1 Miss Perry?
Sorry a big motorsport fan since I was kid... I digress...I couldn't stay indoors giving up the evil weed has given me some undiscovered vitality plus the exercise seems to calm down my nicotine urges. So off I went.
First up since it was piddling down I decided to check on some of my Little Owl sites, these could be done from the car (great exercise lol) out of the piffling four sites I could check from the car I could only locate one pair, nesting in a hollow part of the tree, any decent images blocked by a lleylandi tree or two, this site is better once the juveniles leave the nest site and both adult and juveniles venture away from the nest. It was always going to be a case of drawing a blank in the day so wasn't to disappointed. I needed some images and with the horrible sky and wind I was struggling to figure what to photograph, surely not gulls, it was the only thing I could think of, the white plumage up against a grey sky can provide a nice contrast, there was occasional breaches of the grey with the odd bit of sun poking through....but it didn't last long with another shower rattling through...perhaps some ol' fashioned birding, the scope was in the boot so pulled into a gravel layby, that to be honest looked like some weird fly tipping site, even a rotting/putrid lamb carcass was there, boy did it stink.
So I was stumped and was scanning the tree canopy of a nearby "private" wood, Buzzard, 2 Redkites and a distant Kestrel when I hear the scrunching of gravel and a Skoda pulls in "looks like the police" I thought, the car pulled up level..nope two blokes in army fatigues...err!
First bloke gets out "what you doing then?" "birdwatching" "oh great, we've got a barn owl that keeps coming onto the base", "no chance of coming onto the base" "nah, you're kidding, but it does come from......" and shed loads of details come forth, it was always a long shot of getting into the base, I've only ever seen cadets going training in there, but rumours have it that it's a bit more then that and given the level of security around the base and the  how quickly someone came and checked me out, makes you wonder, nice army chap though and pre-loaded with shed loads of info off I went. Very aware it could be an elaborate lie just to get me to move on and when I pulled up I was wondering if I had been mugged off.
BARN OWL (TYTO ALBA), GREY SKIES CAN WORK SOMETIMES....

I went and chatted to the farmer "no, clear off"..oops as I turned off he shouted about farm machinery and barns, I told him I had no intentions of going in the barns and wanted images of the Barn Owl hunting, "Oh Barn Owl, not the Little Owls" so a rather odd conversation took place and when I made my plans clear the farmer apologised for the misunderstanding, I even got a cuppa of tea and sarnie from his wife, funny how things work out sometimes, but it turns out the Barn Owl is using an old "outbuilding" for a roosting site with box in place but no mate and has been around the farm without a mate for the last two years, yet there has been a pair for the 8 years, which is quite old for a wild Barn Owl, the Little Owls are nesting in a roof space in a barn attached to the main farm house. apparently he got a box but was too busy with the farm to put it up in time, and was telling me how they had lost two juveniles because some numpty birder had wandered in, the adults fled, knocking two to the ground. I fully sympathised with the farmers initial "attitude" and I promised him no revelations of the sites location but warned him the Army blokes told me, and apparently they told the other birder too however it doesn't excuse the behaviour of the other birder, I mean I wouldn't be too happy if a random stranger started to poke and nosey around my garage or property, I don't understand why some people don't obtain permission and check out with landowners etc if it's ok to check a site out first. The only two images I'm posting are sky shots for now as the ones of it hunting are either not very sharp due to lack of shutter speed or provide clues to it's location.
One thing I will say is I've never "birded" this area and after driving around/home/lost stumbled across a few other sites wort checking out. So more to follow....if I can be bothered to drive that far again.
BARN OWL (TYTO ALBA), RAIN,RAIN, GO AWAY AND COME BACK ANOTHER DAY...ETC!

Friday, 15 March 2013

HARE TODAY, GONE TOMMOROW!

....Sorry couldn't resist another nature/pun related blog post title, and no it's not about my hairline either. No it's all about the Hare (lepus europaeus). I drew back the curtains and it was grey skies, bugger, I was hoping to re-visit my favourite public byway but seeming so many of my target birds would (if they were to be flying) be up against a dreary looking sky. So I was in two minds were to go, to one of the reservoirs or nature reserves or go and explore somewhere. I opted for a bit of exploration, chucked ol' faithful Jim the hound in the car and went out, checked my house roof (no sparrowhawk perched up) and eventually ended up near a copse/field/lake area. I went for a stroll through the copse, plenty of stuff, Goldcrests/Treecreepers/Great Spotted Woodpecker/Nuthatch/Buzzard/various Tits the only species missing being both Willow and Marsh Tit. Not a bad start but the only decent images were the Goldcrests, the light being (slightly) better at the edge of the copse.
Did find some owl pellets near an oak tree in one of the fields, I think they're Tawny Owls too big for Little Owls and given Me and Ben go Tawny Owl watching nearby I presume it's a safe bet they're Tawny and not Barn Owl, I shall have to keep my eyes peeled.
SORRY, YET ANOTHER GOLDCREST (REGULUS REGULUS)
 I spotted in the field two Hares running after each other, well more a case of one chasing and the other trying to get away. They were quite distant but luckily the chasing had one go near a bunch of Elder and Ash tree's which wasn't too far from a fence/hedgerow. Seeing as I had my greyhound with me I wasn't expecting to get too close to them and walked along the footpath using the hedgerow section as cover. I got to a gap in the hedgerow were there was a barbed wire fence, set my camera on top of the post and kneeled down behind the post. It then rained and the Hares vanished...git.
HARE (LEPUS EUROPAEUS)
 Luckily it was just a passing shower and they soon came back out again. Sadly I didn't really have the shutter speed for images of the pair of them chasing around, plus I had one hand resting near my hounds lead. He was watching intently and the occasional howl from him didn't even spook the pair, hormones are a powerful thing I guess. Not even a group of five ramblers scared them off despite the ensuing argument, YES AGAIN (!!!!!) it seems if you happen to find yourself walking a greyhound in rural Britain it's safe/ok to assume the person is Hare coursing, seriously this group who you would assume were/are educated (me making assumptions now) would be able to exercise a bit of common sense. Sure I can't criticise them for checking (would someone ever say yes though) and even deep down I applaud them after all Hare coursing is illegal with dogs etc and it's not like people don't persecute nature in the UK, but I ask you this would a Hare courser go to either a) a field with a public footpath running through and a road not a million miles away or b) a field in a very remote location and the chances of seeing people/cars very unlikely...exactly..BUT lets use some more common sense here, HOW MANY HARE COURSERS ARE LUGGING AROUND A 500MM CAMERA LENS AROUND WITH THEM? Even after explaining this to the morons what was the reply from one of them "So you're photographing your greyhound chasing them?"...crikey I almost lumped the bloke, just to see if it would kick start his brain into gear whilst secretly wishing my greyhound was some big "attack" Alsatian, ramblers to sprinters within seconds. Huh maybe I should start my own field sport, RAMBLER COURSING.
 Luckily the numpties cleared off and I managed to keep calm and not want for a cigarette, I did half expect to get to my car and find some Police there but no. I had about a further hour with the Hares, with one venturing very close, a Buzzard flew through to the copse which scattered the pair so since my greyhound was drooling I thought I would head for home, stopped off to get a Scotch egg for the hound for behaving himself, I know Scotch egg for a dog!! but he loves them and bread too really obsessed with bread the weirdo...oh I almost forgot my sister and her greyhound "Whimssy" got a first and second place at Crufts last week...fluke..lol I'm sure I'll get moaned at for spelling the dogs name wrong (silly name though).
 

REDKITE, SPARROWHAWK AND OYSTERCATCHER

Well I got up early and despite being on my fourth day of nicotine withdrawal I was feeling somewhat refreshed and ready to hit the road, sadly I had one important job to do...clean the feeders. The cold snap has seen up to 8 Wood Pigeons fighting over the seed table, the end result shed loads of seed on the ground and some rather pigeon-pooh stained feeders. After that I grabbed a coffee took a quick glance outside the window, nothing on the feeders so off I went. As I pulled out the drive I clocked the reason why no birds were on the feeder, standing guard was this male Sparrowhawk.
SPARROWHAWK, MALE(ACCIPTER NISUS) AND LICHEN COVERED ROOF...NICE!

Wasn't going to post it as it was taken through the glass of the car windows (memo to self, clean car) and the harsh side light coming in from the left, but I noticed the white markings on the birds wings, similar to that which Richard Pegler had photographed and remarked about on his blog and given all the corvids in my area are also developing white primaries was wondering if anyone had any ideas why the white bits. I hope this individual is the same bird that has bred near me for the last two years, fingers crossed.
I went down to the Billing Aquadrome as the petrol station does some fantastic sandwiches to have for my lunch later on and whilst polishing off my second coffee of the day I was scanning the Great Crested Grebes and Gulls for anything of note when I spied two Oystercatchers near the Billing Mill pub. It's a bit of shame this area, litter strewn all over the place, heroin addicts chasing heroin and potheads getting high in their cars don't make it an ideal place to step out with "tasty" camera gear, but I did, a monopod isn't just for carrying a camera on y'know! It is a shame as I've seen Oystercatchers breeding not too far away from the new leisure complex on the Aquadrome and even venturing around the pubs tables around people oblivious to their presence before, Kingfishers, Otters, Common Terns and even a Peregrine chasing gulls once.
OYSTERCATCHER, (HAEMATOPUS OSTRALEGUS) TAKING A STROLL 
Sadly one of the bad things of today was the contrast in the weather, sunny and bright in the morning and by the afternoon the dark grey clouds had rolled in, which was a pity as I took a stroll down the same Public Byway I did yesterday, the two Goldcrest still chasing all from "their" part of the hedgerow, I also found a pair of Skylarks sadly flying way up into the grey clouds also six Buzzards circling and calling to each other, but what got me really excited was the addition of four Redkites. I was excited as I've never seen one passing over this spot, nevermind four on the same day. Will they stay? Will they breed nearby? Fingers crossed.  You can't, in my opinion beat a soaring Redkite, fantastic bird. Sadly it was a weird sky, some sunshine behind my back but grey skies in front...still if the Redkites remain nearby I shall hopefully get better images....that's cursed that then! I also had a flock of twenty Redwings and approximately fifteen Fieldfare in the lane, still hanging around.
THE BEST SITE IN THE WORLD A SOARING REDKITE (MILVUS MILVUS)

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

GOLDCREST.

Well I'm going to keep it straight forward and very few words. I haven't done much birding, what with work etc. My shift pattern means my weekend starts Thursday. Which is a bonus as reserves are quieter. The only birding trips was this afternoon (late) when I managed a walk down a public byway with my greyhound.
Dodging a considerate 4x4 driver and a not so considerate motor-cross biker I found myself with my greyhound searching for some passerines amongst the hedgerows. I was hoping for some early Skylarks staking out breeding spots or perhaps a Yellowhammer or too. Sadly it seems when I ever I do a combination of dog/camera/birds, birds don't seem to stay around too long....wonder why? Bloomin' hound.
Got some Great Tits and wrens etc but not very sharp.
I did hear two Goldcrests and located them flitting around the hedgerow, actively chasing away Robins and Great Tits from a section of the hedgerow about 8 foot in length, very tenacious, given their size (8.5cm/9.5cm in length) it was odd seeing a Robin loosing out on territory to something smaller then itself...perhaps it was the constant high pitched call of the Goldcrest that scared the Robin off. I only managed a few images what with holding my greyhound, hand holding big bertha (500mm lens) and trying to keep the bird in frame and also trying to get a clean shot devoid of branches. The best I managed is below but being a hedgerow there is always a twig or too that compromises the image.
GOLDCREST (REGULUS REGULUS)

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Just a Jersey footnote

Well I'll be back to mainland UK from Tuesday onwards, gutted, as things are starting to pick up and also having checked out the Jersey website I'm obviously missing out on a lot of birds too. I would strongly recommend anyone planning a visit to Jersey to check the website out before going and you're dependant on your smartphone (who isn't these days!!) to realise you're counted as France so adjust your roaming charges etc.
I've been to the island during all four seasons and would place the seasons in this order 1)Spring-great local birds plus migratory birds moving through 2)Autumn-the same as Spring really 3)Winter-Local birds plus wintering species, sadly weather can be hit and miss, but checking local websites hotel are dirt cheap 4)Summer-Local birds, but as we all know summer can be slow as the breeding season means birds are a lot more elusive, more events take place on the island forcing hotel prices up and making a small island seem a bit crowded.
If you do plan to come to island please realise in self catering food prices like bread is a shockingly high, if you're camping I know BIG motor homes and caravans aren't allowed (narrow roads etc) I'm not sure about camper vans (VW and converted transits) but I did see a converted Mercedes sprinter van.
I would also recommend boat over plane, the plane is cheaper and quicker...but you don't have luggage restrictions on the boat and you also don't have some ape at the airport throwing your bags around and the added bonus of being able to visit some spots around Poole harbour before the boat leaves (not in winter, ferry leaves from Portsmouth though) and the chance to see some birds at sea is always good. Also if you're planning to come by plane you might get a hire car, I've seen no end of hire cars with damaged left wing mirrors (narrow lanes) which will add to your holiday costs. Also hire cars have this odd "H" symbol on the number plate that looks like the symbol associated with hospitals, white "H" on red background, and I've heard locals refer to them as hospital cars...for a reason.
Their is other reasons then just birds, the fauna in spring is impressive and I don't do fauna so that should tell you something, there is a orchid centre on the island that I've been told is worth a visit. Then their is mammals and reptiles such as the Green Lizard and Red Squirrels worth checking for. Also I felt very child like checking out the marine life in the various rock pools too. If you have an interest in history you'll love the island too, whether it be the German fortifications (check out the Underground hospital...well eerie) or the fortifications built by the English to keep out the French.
Talking of which you don't need your passport but it might be worth bringing in case you fancy a quick (5-7 miles away) trip over to France.
My trip this time round hasn't been about birding, but I managed a few trips out with plenty of great scenic walks...I don't WALK so again that tells you something. The birders I have come across have been really,really helpful both in locations and species but also really friendly, none of the attitudes I have remarked about in previous blog posts about "proper" birders are relevant here. In fact those I have met have gone out of their way to make my trips to the island a little bit more enjoyable. That in itself was worth it's weight in gold.
Being a tight bugger if you do come by car, try to make sure on the way over you have only just enough petrol in your car and on the way back fill up your car too, you'll understand exactly how much the government takes in tax on petrol....no jerry cans they do search! LOL
It might be worth checking out Guernsey too from what I've seen on photo sharing websites etc some species are more abundant etc. Sadly if you go to Jersey the chance of island hopping (like the old days) are restricted by boat due to prices. The ferry operator(the sole operator) charges you the same price if you wish to go from Jersey to Guernsey as the price from Jersey to the UK, which sucks big time, you can go over by plane, but is it worth it? So if you're planning a spring break etc in the UK compare the prices for the Channel Islands I CANNOT RECOMMEND IT ANYMORE HIGHLY.
Despite any impressions given or perceived Mr.Mcfarlane doesn't work for the Jersey tourist board..LOL. Also the below image is a backdated image found on my hardrive taken in Norfolk that I for one reason or another never posted.



Friday, 1 March 2013

GOOD BYE ALL....

.....the horrible snowy, cold and damp miserable winter weather and HELLO spring....that should ensure we get nothing but rain and tornados from now 'till Autumn just to make sure I'll do a rain dance. What a difference twenty four hours make. I got up early and walked the dog and noticed despite the cloud it was quite mild. I didn't take my camera but was cursing my luck, straight away a flock of about 150 (and that's a cautious count) Dunlin and easily more Sanderling, some of which were losing their white winter plumage and going their mottled brown plumage but only a little and mostly around their heads. I did go back for my camera and returned, couldn't locate the Sanderlings and the Dunlin were heading for their high tide roost site, not very big and not very accesible without flushing them so I left them to roost but did grab one fly-by flock shot of part of the flock.
Go on count them, I always underestimate the numbers to avoid being called a stringer etc. Recent days on the island have seen subtle hints the seasons are changing some Brents left and I watch them head towards France (only 5-7 miles away), I've so far counted 13 Sandwich Terns, sadly I dipped on two birds a Black Redstart (couldn't find the location without satnav) and 6 Great Northern Divers. I did bump into a lovely birder called Susan who informed that there are definately Puffins on the island in spring, sadly only eight nested last year.
Since it was dull'ish today I opted for a woodland walk, plenty of light in there (???) but was glad I did, I swear it was like walking back in time, the wooded area sits in a narrow'ish valley and in parts has bracken it was like looking at something from the jurrasic period and today the woodland birds must have felt the change, everything was calling and wrestling for the best nesting spots. Blackbirds, Chaffinches, Greenfinches,Wrens,Dunnocks,Robins,Nuthatches,Great Tits,Blue Tits and Long Tail Tits the loudest and very feisty, common species but it was actually very loud and way past dawn. I thought I managed a Short Toed Treecreeper image but further scrutiny revealed it to be a Common Treecreeper also a few Red Squirrels and a couple of Jays had me skipping down the lane like Graham Norton back to the car.
The sun was poking in and out, so I headed for one of the resevoirs on the island hoping for a Kingfisher I waited for a bit (ok an hour and a bit) but got bored, took some Great Crested Grebes images and then opted for some........
......yep Marsh Harriers. Sadly by the time I got to my spot the clouds covered the brief sunshine so the image below is from last week.
 Sorry another one for good luck heh, heh, heh.......
Thanks to Susan who took me to show me were the Cirl Buntings are and handing me the Jersey birding website details, I've opted for self-restraint on the Cirl and decided not to venture close enough for a decent image or even a record shot. Apparently these "odd" looking buntings used to breed all the time over here and then disappeared as a breeding species, the site (which is very public) is home to the first breeding pair in over ten years, so I 've decided to leave them be and let themselves re-establish their sites, it looks like a pretty vulnerable spot, not only being near a very popular beach but also a golf course they're going to have a hard time and I felt I didn't want to add to their troubles by trying to get an image.
I also managed a few Stonechats and Linnet's but haven't got around to processing them yet. On the way home I headed for the Little Egret colony, 19 birds in total but was "scope" views only as the field is VERY private and Susan warned me not to venture in, I won't go into it here, but think cute brown cows so some more respect paid, it was fascinating watching them though and put a big smile on my even bigger grumpy face also noteworthy was a male and female Kestrel fleeing away, I was so busy trying to photograph them I totally missed the Peregrine chasing them, never seen that before, so I jumped out of the car and grabbed a record shot of the peregrine then turning it's attention to a Lapwing (I might process them). However both Kestrels and the Lapwing got away, the Lapwing "pee-weeting" away whist wiffling like mad, the peregrine didn't stand a chance of catching it in level flight. The other curiosity over the last couple of days that made me smile was a field that has public access and planted in the field was a sign saying "WARNING BREEDING SKYLARK BUILD THEIR NESTS ON THE GROUND IN THE FIELD, STICK TO THE EDGES, PLEASE" apparently put up by the owner and not the Wildlife trust etc...restored my faith a little