Friday, 30 August 2013

WELFORD/SULBY RESERVOIR-WADER DAY

Well firstly knowing that this weekend is the last weekend of the summer (boo-hiss) I knew this day would come and comes from a heavy heart and a little despair to say that the House Martins and Swallow I had gone to photograph today had vanished and more likely to have migrated, didn't see one all day from 06:00 till I left at 14:45 I saw a few pass through in three's and four's but no swarming flock over the water, I checked a horse paddock nearby, the owner said "they went yesterday evening" I also checked a few houses where House Martins had nested, there's a finite amount of time someone that looks like me can hang around in a car outside someones house before the police are called, no martin's...gutted. That's five days earlier then last year.
However something has changed at Sulby reservoir, both Welford and Sulby (separated by a dam) reservoirs are owned by British Waterways. They use the water to keep the canal network "topped" up and of late they've been draining Sulby, it's amazing how much the water level has dropped.
Now in a previous post I mentioned how Sulby had been leased to a fishing syndicate so I don't generally walk around it to avoid upsetting the fishermen, well for what ever reason British Waterways have kicked the fishermen off, there are signs posted near the small grassy carpark of Sulby stating no fishing and threats of prosecution, I can't think what the fishermen have done to anger British Waterway (if they have?) as they're still being allowed to fish Welford, but many don't because of human disturbance and dogs swimming.....ahhh!
So with all this glorious wet, sticky mud now exposed I had to go and have a good look around.....
KINGFISHER "IN IT'S ENVIRONMENT" SHOT
 Well first up I thought I would give the adult and juvenile Common Terns a go on the wall of the dam and saw four snipe land on the mud on the right-handside of the reservoir (if you're looking up the reservoir from the wall of the dam) so off I went I got as far as the second fishing platform before being defeated by the vegetation, I seriously needed a machete, I turned around and walked back to the wall of the dam as I walked along I spotted the Kingfisher on the rocks, took a "bird in it's environment" and not a record shot (don't worry there will be a couple in this post), couldn't get close for a decent shot before off it went. I would see a pair of Kingfisher during the visit a lot. The other bird of the wall of the dam was juvenile Great Crested Grebes.
JUVENILE GREAT CRESTED GREBE
As I stood there for a while trying to and failing to get some terns shot.......
JUVENILE COMMON TERN
 I was set on minus 2/3 for the exposure (needed to go down further) from the corner of my eye I caught a familiar sight, a Hobby, I've dipped on this species this year and every time I've seen one the sky has been proper s..., I went from minus 2/3 to plus 1& 2/3 and got two frames...swine!
HOBBY...POOH!!
My destination was going to be the feeder stream end of the reservoir and I was going clockwise/left handside round, it was still tricky going doing the limbo under several fallen trees, I stopped off on some of the fishing platforms on the way, some have names(!!!) with wooden signs the ones I noted some interesting birds on were "OAK VIEW" and "DOUBLE BOTTOM", I think it's called Double Bottom as you have to duck under a very low hanging berry bush, scraping your bottom on the way on then off the platform....good a reason as any!!!! This is the view from Double Bottom.........
 DOUBLE BOTTOM AND THE MINI-SCRAPE
A mini scrape has been formed by the falling water levels, in front of the grey heron on the shore line to the right is a Green Sandpiper, if you can see it? The four Snipe flew past towards the feeder stream so off I went, the water level is VERY LOW, for Northants birders think feeder stream like Hollowell but two streams, deeper and higher banks and shed loads of mud. I sat under the fallen/dead trees that litter this corner (the vegetation at this point defeated me) and hid myself and hoped for the waders to come close enough. Whilst sat there I was looking at some of the footprints in the mud, one set of humans that go so far out onto the mud, you could see where the person sank into the mud (deep footprint) and his/hers hasty retreat...silly billy, still some foxes footprints, moorhen footprints kept me amused as did the two Kingfishers that nipped through. There was also a small number of Teal but apart from the four Snipe I got 5 Common Sandpipers, 2 Green Sandpipers and 2 Greenshank and a Little Egret
COMMON SANDPIPER, HAPPY WITH THIS NIPPY LITTLE WADER

COMMON SANDPIPER, "MUD GLORIOUS MUD"
So here comes a record shot (one per post remember lol).....
GREEN SANDPIPER, LOOKING INTO THE SUN AND FAR AWAY
There's a lot vegetation on the reservoirs drying basin (I hope the image above conveys this) and two small waders I didn't see to much of nipped out after this shot was taken, I never saw enough of them so won't call them as a sighting BUT going on what I saw...possible Dunlin but I can't be certain.
LITTLE EGRET

So in all 4 Snipe, 5 Common Sandpipers, 2 Green Sandpipers, 2 Greenshanks (couldn't even get close enough for even a record shot), Hobby, Teal and Little Egret well worth starting and loosing out in a fight to some plants.
On the way back to the car I got three Yellow wagtails near the bridge and the two Kingfishers again!...no Osprey though.
Have godd weekend and since it's the last of the summer expect heavy snow on Monday.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

WELFORD 28-8-13 KINGFISHER,YELLOWWAGS,SWALLOWS

A late post from me, despite varied light in the afternoon Welford reservoir was reasonably productive image wise and a lot of footie to watch meant I was slow at processing the images. My only gripe being when the light was good the birds weren't nipping by. But there was a reason to a lot of activity, as well as some Blue Damsel Flys were either floating on the water surface (dead) or hovering around, there was a lot of ants along the wall of the dam..most of them flying ants..bit late I thought? The end result was a lot hosuemartins and swallows out feeding up, but also gulls..nothing of note just common stuff, Yellow wagtails kept making an apperance through out my stint...
Don't worry every flock that arrived, I checked for a Blue Headed Wagtail....nope lady luck wasn't striking twice today. A lot arrived in total over a four hour stint today, I counted 21 arrivals, however after a brief feed and drink most flew off towards the general direction of Hollowell. It was interesting to note one behavioural aspect of when the flock moved on, firstly it was always a male and female adult and two/three juveniles, they dropped in like it while others waited in the sky before dropping down, when they left the two adults would leave first circle round once the call which prompted the juveniles to leave but they left in small flocks of three/four birds...I thought they would all flock together to leave and not, what looked like family groups? However when I left four birds remained, they kept coming and going all through out my stint, but kept going to a small barn that's in a cow field behind the bridge, perhaps local birds or maybe a group not ready to move on?
JUVENILE HOUSE MARTIN
One of the reasons I like Welford is the Housemartins and Swallows, on a good consistently bright day with little wind to keep the surface smooth it makes a good spot for...shall we say a more reflective tone...but sadly we don't get many days like that in the UK, when we do I'm normally working!!!!!!!!!!! Despite the low light level and a few tweeks in photoshop these swallows fall into "not too bad" category....


Still some interesting shots were got and made for good practise session for when I slaughter a cow just to get the sun to come out...the following House Martins was the same bird...an adult in moult a.k.a scruffy
THE " I GIVE UP POSE"

"BELLY SURFING"

" WHO YOU CALLING SCRUFFY"?
I like this one but the grey isn't the sky but the water surface reflecting a grey sky, if you follow? Caught it after a low pass but I was standing on the steps looking down....
 A wee bit closer is something I'm always saying but it's true in the next image but still happy with it though.
 Now how many times have I mentioned the Kingfisher when posting about this site? Loads, how many times have I said to "quick" or my personal favourite "too far away", well I did see the bird a fair bit today here's how it went: screwed up one glorious chance-GOOD LIGHT AND CLOSE, few times to far away, once I missed it and saw it late and on one occasion two birds together but very distant (thank god...if he exists) but I got one flying through a bit far away soooo a first for the blog and from the reservoir one proper record shot. I PROMISE ONLY ONE RECORD SHOT PER BLOG POST FROM NOW ON...honest!
LITTLE BUGGER


Tuesday, 27 August 2013

ODDS AND SODS AND A VIDEO

Work commitments meant next to little play-time, yesterday whilst some were enjoying a glorious bank holiday, I was stuck pounding the M1, when I got home I checked various blogs and bird reports to see if anything interesting had been around, I saw with some interest that in the morning up at Welford some juvenile Black Terns had been photographed. I like Black Terns a lot especially in breeding/spring plumage, this time of the year though Black Terns can look a wee bit scruffy but I haven't got any juvenile Black Terns in my image database, so off I went. Sadly they weren't around in the afternoon/early pm, a couple a Yellow Wagtails, Linnet and a Pied Wagtail were about the best, of course the Kingfisher zipped through, the only other highlight was talking to another photographer by the name of Barbara, we had a nice chat and a Barn Owl location was disclosed to me......so off I went.
I checked out the area and it has "Barn Owl" screaming all over it, derelict barn, promising looking field, high hedgerow but most of all a gamekeeper who "nervously" asked what I was doing, so I explained. "There is but keep it quiet, please, don't want people walking up to the barn", fair enough I thought, "I don't see it much in the evening, mostly in the morning", I sat it out until about 8:30pm and no sign, I'll have to check this site out in the morning one day, the very kind gamekeeper gave me another location to check, result and we've exchanged phone numbers which is very handy.
Got home, nipped round Paul's house stole back my bird book from his daughter and gave her the cheap RSPB book she in turn gave me this......
A JUVENILE JAY FEATHER
The juvenile Jays are getting a right pounding from the female Sparrowhawk as are the magpies, the two juveniles have moved onto this wooded area of the park and can be heard calling away, scrapping between each other for food........
 Note the houses in the background, someone is getting great views if they know!! There is a lot of "feathers" scatters around,a crow!, wood pigeon and moorhen was the most notable, but I did find a pair of angel wings belonging to a female Blackbird.
 This was the original area the sparrowhawk set up it's nest where I discovered those nails up the tree with the nest at the top, what is curious is the nest the sparrowhawk had started on is now where the juveniles wait to be fed, so I was pondering whether this is some kind of natal site the sparrowhawk was building ready for when the juveniles fledged....answers on a postcard to.......I've tried to get photo's of what's going on but it's too dark in there so I'm going to go for some video footage, hopefully.
So over the last couple of days stuck in the truck I worked on some Pheasant images from the start of the breeding season in spring, just never got around to working on them...naughty!
 I have a thing about feet, well feet on birds of the avian sort, I think it's because I'm weird or maybe because when you're photographing birds you spend so much time making sure the birds eye is sharp and in focus and checking exposure etc that you really don't spend much time observing the feet.....who am I kidding I've got a foot fetish.......
Big old feet on pheasants, you wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of them....
Hopefully there is a video clip under this of Jim discovering Fox urine you might hear me saying sit to my other greyhound who was just about to pounce on silly Jim, if the video shows ok I then know I can try some video footage of the sparrowhawks to share...though I've got to check the manual as the date/time is way wrong as are the video settings...Nakon Coalpiece again!!!!
Got the next few days off, so now I go to ponder where to go, choices,choices....
video



Saturday, 24 August 2013

BLUE HEADED WAGTAIL

Well thanks to Mike Alibone for pointing out the Blue Headed Wagtail in the post below, they're images 3,4 and 6 and it's the out of focus bird in the background. I had some slightly more in focus images but not much better of the individual in question. However I'm not going to post the images as Mike has them and will post them on Northants Bird Reports next week (probably Friday, I'll let you know or just look down the blog list down the left handside). Why? God (and Mike) knows how many images I've sent to Mike asking him "what's this/that etc" and he's always been kind enough to say, he also pointed out the bird in question, I didn't notice it although it did catch my eye on the day as all the other Yellow Wags weren't happy with it being around, chasing it or showing aggresive posturing when I got home I thought young grey wagtail!!!....idiot! 
It's a new race of species for me and another image record and race of species that I've got for Welford reservoir  but I've learnt two very important things from yesterday 1) Don't give your Collins Birdguide book to someone's daughter to use leaving you some cheap RSPB (rspb) little field book 2) Trust your gut, I was going to email the image late on Friday night to Mike, but thought "he's had enough dodgy record shots from me"....lesson learnt.
As a side note if any you guys spot something that ain't rightly identified or think I've made a mistake, let me know, I know from personal experience some individuals take exception when you point out an error, I DON'T, I really do welcome any tips/hints etc to be honest I need all the help I can get :)...oh and don't forget scan them flocks very carefully, you never know!

WELFORD RESERVOIR 23-08-13

Well I got off work at 12pm today and the greyhound was begging for a walk, so since the skies were already grey-ing up I thought a quick walk and scan of Welford Reservoir was in order, if it rained there might be a few drop-in passing migrants...hopefully some waders, they've been short on the ground this autumn so far at the reservoir....plus secretly I was praying for the Osprey.
Even though no real birding was planned the camera was taken and since bending over picking up hound pooh was going to happen the binoculars were left behind they dangle a bit to close and my greyhound does love shoving me from behind (said the actress to the bishop).
The Kestrel was on his patch but sadly to far away, this is taken from the wall of the dam looking down towards the marshy area and as you can see on the right of the frame the houses on the village High Street...."bird in it's environment" image or "record" shot, I'll let you decide....
I got half way along the dam to the steps that descends the embankment, I like sitting here a) when the sun remembers it's summer it's behind your back and you're shaded too. b) It's a great spot for catching both Swallows/House Martins skimming the water and catching the Kingfisher as it heads from the village and up/over the dam onto the reservoir.
Both Swallows/House Martins were present in quite good numbers a lot of Damselflies were on the surface so plenty to feed on. A male Sparrowhawk was mobbed by the swallows and ushered away from the reservoir, the swallows were in a bullying mood today, the light was awful so no images today, however I chuckled at the adults chasing the Common Terns away from the Damselflies but when the Kingfisher came through calling WITH a fish in it's mouth the swallows even gave chase to that, I had to laugh, compensated at least for no images, Jim the Greyhound was being patient and I was just about to carry on my walk when I heard a familiar call.....4 Yellow wagtails dropped in on the bank to my right hand side, a bit far away and with the dog was no point in trying to get closer.....first some dodgy record shots the first showing all four...
 Standing guard.......
 Always has to be one who has to mess around, the yellowwag' behind looks a bit miffed!


There was plenty of food around and all four were busy either drinking or catching prey.


High ISO's, heavy crops and dull light (did I mention the greyhound?lol) but was reasonably happy. I decided I was going to walk the ever-patient hound but thought I would with a 500mm prime lens go macro...in an attempt to demonstrate what was getting the yellowwags excited......
ON THEIR WAY TO BE LUNCH...AT LEAST ONE DIED WITH A SMILE!
I was just about to get up and go when I heard more yellowwags but coming from my left, I checked over to the right and the four were still there, a small flock circled and plunged down, very far away along the wall of the dam to my left...NINE in total, given it's another record image I put in some helpful arrows (more for my benefit to be fair).
 This group never came close and were soon gone about 20 minutes later when a couple came through the gate and walked along the dam wall to the bridge, all 13 headed south'ish the general direction of Naesby Reservoir. I wasn't even too grumpy at the appearance of the couple as these were a bonus bird, "I started the spring at this location with Yellow Wagtails and looks like I'll end up with Yellow Wagtails at the end of the summer" I thought to myself....BUT  it actually got slightly better because just as I was about to get up (I swear I was...honest) I heard a seeping like call.....
 Two adults landed in the weedy stuff in the shallows and one juvenile was stupid/brave enough and land quite near to me....Meadow Pipit, so not more then 50 yards from the carpark I had 1 Kestrel, 13 Yellow wagtails, 3 Meadow Pipits, 5 terns (2 adults, 3 juveniles), adult and juvenile Great Crested Grebe, Kingfisher, Swallows, House Martins & Sparrowhawk.....not too shabby...oh and Jim got his walk too.
NOT A JUVENILE MEADOW PIPIT BUT A JUVENILE YELLOWWAG TAIL
PLEASE NOTE I'M AN IDIOT AND NOT A PROPER BIRDER THIS POST HAS BEEN RE-EDITED TO BE SLIGHTLY MORE ACCURATE, I SENT THE ABOVE IMAGE TO OUR COUNTY RECORDER MIKE ALIBONE FOR CONFIRMATION AND IT'S A JUVENILE YELLOW WAGTAIL ALSO HE SENT ME BACK AN EMAIL ASKING HAD I SPOTTED THE "BLUE HEADED" VERSION OF THE YELLOW WAGTAIL....GUESS WHAT? I HADN'T! I'M NOT SURE I HAD BUT WAS QUESTIONING THE IRRATE BIRD IN THE IMAGE WHERE THE YELLOWWAGTAIL WAS BATHING, SADLY MY BOOK DOESN'T LIST THIS SPECIES, THE BOOK THAT DOES I'VE LEANT TO PAUL'S DAUGHTER WHO'S USING TO ID SPECIES PREDATED BY THE LOCAL SPARROWHAWK....TIME TO GET MY BOOK BACK AND ACTUALLY READ IT.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

"THE REEDBED"...again

After work today I was supposed to go in search of the two Marsh Tits and get some better images, however there were patches of grey cloud and seeming as the birds was in a dark'ish location and the fact I had just a couple of hours to spare I thought I would let them be....for now!
So I opted to head for the reedbed, sure if it rained, which it did for about 5 minutes, I would get wet but the rain was welcomed as it was quite muggy and cooled me down for a few minutes.
Sadly the Reedbed lived up to it's reputation, in fact no Reed Warblers chugging away, no Sedge Warblers to be seen, plenty of Bullfinches and I saw 4 juvenile Jays, one Green Woodpecker....STILL no Hobbies...not many common birds apart from a few Dunnocks, but what I did note was the number of wrens either seen or ticking away, perhaps they've had a good summer, I counted Wrens at 12 different areas on the site. The reason, I think the Reed Warblers were so quiet was the below bird....
A cracking looking female Sparrowhawk gliding around probably the same female I photographed on my first visit to the site in the spring, shame about the skies but what was nice to see and showing behaviour that I've witnessed my local female Sparrowhawk on Eastfield Park doing exactly the same, teaching a juvenile to hunt, from what I could figure out/see just the one juvenile. I was able to determine this as both were sat on a dead tree down by the lake, it was great to hear the juvenile calling for food....this wouldn't be a Doug's blog if i don't post a record shot....hold your breath for a cracker of an image.......
 TOLD YOU IT WAS GOOD! 
Adult female at the top, juvenile at the bottom, whilst standing on the boardwalk I heard a Green Sandpiper passing overhead going down the River Nene and a lot of Swallows also passing overhead, very high up too.
I managed to find a Reed Warbler that hang around long enough for a few images, looking at them in the browser at 100% magnification it has several ticks around the back of it's head and a couple on the front section of it's head too.
YOU MIGHT BE ABLE TO MAKE OUT ONE OF THE TICKS IN THE GREY'ISH AREA ABOVE THE EYE

ANOTHER TICK ABOVE THE CENTRE POINT OF THE EYE


 As I done a circuit of the site the warbler numbers have gone down, in one corner where I normally get Common Whitethroat, Cettis Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat and Chiff-Chaff all I got was Lesser Whitethroat, hopefully it was just the presence of the sparrowhawk and not a mass evacuation off the site, as the skies got darker and the rain started to fall briefly, I got a Grey Heron, wasn't my best visit to the REEDBED to be honest but the spot has been good to me this summer, so I was due a bad 'un.
I wonder what this site will produce as the Autumn and then winter kick in...hopefully a Bittern maybe some Bearded Tits or perhaps a Marsh Harrier, one part of the site is pretty good looking for a Barn Owl too....fingers crossed.
I stopped off on the way home at the marina at Billing Aquadrome and zig-zagging inches off the surface of the water one Green Sandpiper which settled on the rocks in front of the new gym complex, it had to be the same one I heard passing overhead, doesn't it?

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

MARSH TIT AND WILLOW WARBLER...or is it?

If any bird throws a birder into panic inducded migraine and confusion it has to be "willow warbler or chiff-chaff" and "marsh tit or willow tit", well it does for me and I know I'm not alone out here.
So imagine my joy when I come across both species within five feet of each other late yesterday evening after work...oh joy!
I knew I should've ventured out to Harrington for the the Woodchat Shriek but probably would've dipped out by the time I had got there, though dipping is more preferable to sitting in front of a computer screen, bird book in one hand, field notes in front of me and a case of anadin by my feet.
I apologise for the ropey images, it was late, I was knackered and rather excited at the possible Marsh Tit as I've not seen one at this location until last night and there was two...too(!) and I had the hound...excuses over here's the first two images of the Willow Warbler/Chiff-Chaff....probably

Now this individual was very scruffy/in moult and there wasn't much to go on for identification in the field. Normally if there is confusion I look at the length of the primary projections, thanks to Mike for the tip on that one, however the bird was busy hopping around snatching insects and the resulting images aren't conclusive, so I then looked at the legs...hmmm dark and there isn't a strong supercilium either, so in the field I was going for Chiff-Chaff, until it did two things, firstly as it went around hunting for insects it's tail was bobbing up and down like a wagtail, this I've been told and heard on Springwatch is the "jizz" of a Willow Warbler, the second was it's call...definite Willow Warbler (100% certain on the call) however I did hear on that episode of springwatch how in a part of Sussex Chiff-Chaff's have started to partly imitate Willow Warbler calls, confused? I am, anyone want to take a punt on the id? Going on the jizz and call I'm 70% certain it's a Willow Warbler....my girlfriend pointed out "Is it sat on a Willow"....very helpful lol.
So then I come across the two Marsh Tits, unlike Great Tits, Long Tailed Tits and Blue Tits, these two were very shy, always retreating back to the dense undergrowth and popping out to feed on some seed heads, I couldn't get close enough for many images and when I did they're not brilliant and not very helpful....have a look.
 Told you.....seed heads to the right of the frame.
Now I'm normally quite good with Willow Tit/Marsh Tit separation. Firstly I look at the "bib" (the black bit under the bill) on a Marsh Tit it SHOULD be smaller then a Willow Tit, kind of like a Hitler style moustache (sorry but it does) but just to add confusion into the mix some Marsh Tits bibs can be bigger then some Willow Tits, also not clear from the image is my second visual clue I go on, on the Willow Tit the panel along the birds secondaries is normally paler sadly due it's twitchy behaviour not only could I not get could visual confirmation nor confirmation from the image of this aspect of the two species.
Now I am going to stick my neck out (if I'm wrong please let me know) and say it's a Marsh Tit, two reasons 1)Gut feeling...not scientific 2) the two birds were calling to each other and in the field notes I wrote down "sounds like a Greenfinch" and when searching the net last night I clicked on a sound recording of a Marsh Tit, exactly the same call. I'm going back this evening after work minus the hound to have another go and get some better images
Two things for certain it isn't a Coal Tit lol and I've run out of anadin too.