Saturday, 21 December 2013


Well for my last post before Xmas I thought it would be fitting to do an "Odds and Sods" Xmas present to my fellow bloggers lol.
So some Redwings to start the ball rolling, I think this should be the bird on the front of the Xmas cards.

 Not really happy with this last one...can you spot why?
A couple of Pochards...

A Cormorant....

 A pair of Long Tailed Ducks, all three remain on Mary's Lake at Summer Leys and do come in quite close if you're prepared to sit on the bank and wait so if you want to photograph or even see a Long Tailed Duck be quack lol, I got to hear the call yesterday, very odd call.
 And an Odds and Sods wouldn't be complete without a Marmite shot. The reedbed in a setting sun.
Looking into the direction of the sun I opted to go the wrong way deliberately on the exposure, I wanted to blow the highlights of the sun on the tops of the reed Xmas lights/decorations if you like.
Thanks to all those have visited and a special thanks to all those who have left comments during the course of the year, I wish you all a Merry Xmas and a bird stuffed New Year.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013


I've said it before and I'll say it again I LOVE continental shift patterns and a grumpy boss who insists we have to use up all our holidays before 5th January, apparently some people hoard the days up and carry over a lot of holiday entitlement, not sure why the boss got grumpy with this arrangement but today I really hacked him off, with careful planning and the shift pattern plus bank holidays means I'm not back into work until the 6th January....HAPPY NEW YEAR LOL.
After ducking the hurled stapler I opted to take the hounds for a stretch over my local park, Eastfield Park, not massive as regular readers are aware (40 acres approximately in size) some wooded areas and what was an ornamental lake that once belonged to Mansfield House (big stately home). The previous day I had counted 16 Goosanders on the small lake, so I took the 300mm f2.8 and x2 teleconverter with me.

 I counted a total of 18 Goosanders on there at the moment, a little shy of my current record of 23. They normally stay until the lake freezes over then vanish and normally not seen again until the following winter. Still not bad for a lake on the middle of a housing estate. I also found for the first time a Treecreeper, quite common but I've never seen one on the park before so a new species to add to the list, weirdly though I couldn't find any of the Song Thrushes, we had 2 breeding pairs in the summer so I'm not sure where they've gone...probably a mini-migration south.
So weather permitting I've got a long stretch of "me" time to do some birding, what's that heavy snow,wind,thunder and tornado's forecasted!

Thursday, 12 December 2013


I managed despite the fog to finish early yesterday, 12:45 to be precise but then I did have a very early start. I had fog the whole day. And despite patchy fog as soon as I got home I jumped in the shower and grabbed the camera and headed off to Summer Leys, I figured a few hours out was better then sitting on my backside watching dross on TV.
I went and checked the scrape, a few Tufted Ducks and Shoveller and a pair of Grey Wagtails, there was also a Green Sandpiper calling from the corner of the scrape and was flushed off towards Grendon Lakes by the shepherd looking after her sheep, I also got into a bit of a "debate" with some old boy who excitedly told me about the Great White Egret, I looked and told him it was a Little Egret, this bloke wasn't having any of it mind, it was promptly flushed by the shepherd and flew towards me and despite the fog and gloom got the image below of a LITTLE EGRET...idiot! But the ol'boy was still telling me it was a Great White and "you haven't even got binoculars"....guess I don't need them!
 The Buzzard was from Monday.......
 As I headed towards the feeding station I could hear loads of Linnet's and could occasionally see them along the lane alongside Pete Wild's field in Mary's Lane.

 I crossed the little wooden bridge and tried my best to sneak up to a small flock feeding in/on the lane, but with all them eyes watching me I had no chance....
 The flock split into two, one flock circa 100 birds flew into the setaside in the field next to the reserve the other flock circa 120 settled into the bushes near Pete's Lake, if you count the birds in the frame it's about 120 (undercount), you can see it was bit foggy!
 Sadly the fog increased by the time I got the feeding station and had next to no shutter speed, I was shooting at an aperture of f/4 just to keep the shutter speed up so didn't have a nice depth of field on the birds, it was mostly common birds sadly it seems as though the Great Tits are still covered in ticks and a Blue Tit with no tail was also spotted.
Still it beats sitting indoors.

Sunday, 8 December 2013


 Funny how things work out, having not seen the Long Tail Ducks yesterday my actual plan was to again head up to the back of Mary's Lake, blue skies and I had spotted the Kites playing in the fields, that was the plan and perhaps start my "Fieldfare and Redwing in Flight" project...but mostly the Kites. As I was walking pass Mary's Lake I made a mental note to check the bay/area I had spotted the other birder was at yesterday, sure enough as I approached the bay in the channel between the two islands (very far away) was a solitary low profile in the water that didn't register with any birds I knew, it was a Long Tail Duck, very,very,very far away and straight away dived down and I swear for 2 minutes despite frantic looking/scanning I couldn't see it. But then it bobbed up, the distance halved, but still a bit too far away, they can hold their I crouched and waited....the Kites would have to wait.
 I was soon joined by another birder called Mark and the Long Tail Duck came quite close, would have liked it closer but was happy none the less. I wasn't too happy with the exposure settings. We also had two sparrowhawks fly over, the first looking at my photos is a male, a distant Kestrel and then the second sparrowhawk, I didn't adjust the exposure quick enough and got a half decent female shot (see last image) but also MY NEMESIS the Kingfisher flew through and closer to us then the Long Tail Duck. I've set up also sorts of hides during the summer (secretly...shusssh) for this particular Kingfisher and it again eluded me...sod!
 I saw some awkward looking landing bird out of the corner of my eye, it reminded me of a Great Crested Grebe landing, got my binoculars and it was the second bird but still a bit distant. Tom Hedge and his "jammy" dad turned up an we mostly chatted, hopefully Tom will post his dads peregrines it looked good on the back of his camera screen, but we know how "dodgy" those camera screens can be lol. A redkite drifted quite close, but the sky was awful by then so no images from me.
Sadly the bird did a lot of diving....I was a bit gutted, I thought the tail might have been longer....a pintail is longer then that tail! Should have been called stumpy tail duck.....
 A dodgy sparrowhawk image.
Everyone want their ways and I decided to have a quick look on the small pond behind Mary's Lake.Two odd thing happened worth mentioning, up near the small pond behind Mary's Lake near the wooden bridge I clocked a groundsheet and sleeping bag in the bushes/trees, so I checked them out from a distance with my binoculars when I suddenly clocked this man in there with no trousers on!!!! Just crouching then stood up, looked at me! Honestly! F**k knows what he was doing, I wasn't going to hang around to find out to be fair and turned around and alked pack to the carpark and NO HE WASN'T taking a pooh, he saw me and made no attempt to cover up or anything..very odd. The second one was bumping into Bob Bullock at the entrance of Mary's Lake who had his scope out, and where we had been watching the stumpy tail duck was now three of them, not sure where the third was whilst we were there but there was a third bird....I wonder what that bloke was doing?

Saturday, 7 December 2013


Well I said if the weather was good I'd be paying Summer Leys another visit again, more precise Mary's Lake and a few other spots behind Mary's Lake. Sod's law the day I have blue skies is the day the Red Kites decide not to come close staying on the "other side" of A509, pity too as there were four and a Buzzard was a bonus too, a female Kestrel also present, sadly even though they've been reported I missed out on the Long Tail Ducks, I have a strong feeling they were there too as when I was leaving the site on the far bank I could see one fellow bird photographer trained on something, I couldn't see what thanks to the island in the way....but I got a bonus bird anyway.

 Though I think the bird in the last frame gives an honest opinion of these shots, but I haven't posted any record shots for a while so I thought I'd spoil myself.......
It was flushed off the big lake behind Mary's Lake by a grumpy old Grey Heron who first saw off a younger Grey Heron and then to my surprise this beauty, so that must be four in the county now and hopefully if previous winters are anything to go by they'll hang around....and yes it did pooh on the chasing Grey Heron, a fine tactic to remember in the future.
I had been trying for some Goldeneye flight shots but they refused to fly.
There were still thousands of Woodpigeons up the back of Mary's too and also a lot of Blackbirds, every other bird was a Blackbird.

 I couldn't relocate the Brambling from the previous day, but there were small flocks of Goldfinches and Linnets, plenty of individual Wrens at different locations, Bullfinches too and one Greywagtail.
I then walked up the railway line towards Wellingborough prison, good call as there was loads of Redwing, Fieldfare, Starlings and yes more Blackbirds but oddly mostly female.
Here's the view of the railway line from the perspective of a 500mm prime lens, hardly ideal for landscapes and you might be able to tell from the images the biggest problem was approaching the birds.
Along the railway line there was a few gaps in the hedgerows looking into an enclosed field and again more Starlings,Fieldfares and a few Redwings, so I stopped and tried a few flock shots.

 After standing still for long enough I managed a few close'ish shots but buggered up the flight shots, hopefully I'll get another chance, for some odd reason I really want some flight shots of Redwing, Fieldfare and Goldeneye anything else at this moment will be a bonus....perhaps some better luck with the Long Tail Ducks, I don't need a bogey bird for the winter.

Friday, 6 December 2013


Yesterday was an absolute nightmare to drive a truck. It was my first windy day delivering petrol/diesel. It should have been an easy run out to Peterborough but sadly to get there I had to go along the A605 and one stretch always sends shivers down your spine, the BIG hill near Elton, great on a nice day it likes being on a roller coaster, slow long climb to the top the wee as you drop down the hill but on a windy day like yesterday, you check to make sure your affairs are in order.
Yes on one section of the A47 as I headed toward Thorney the trailer went very light but a simple easing of the throttle, quick twitch of the wheel and a bleedin loud expletive had the trailer feel "heavy" again....scary stuff and the nod and wink from a overtaking Police BMW X3 I knew I had a close call, it got worse as my load got lighter. The worse problem came from trees on one newly built section of road the young ash trees need not worry about Ash Diebach, they'll need replanting, the ones that stayed upright were falling over as I drove past, one whacking the windscreen causing a big crack...nice. Branches were also falling down like it was raining, it really was nightmare and I was glad to get back to the yard in one piece....shame the lorry didn't but I got off lightly.
 So today was my first day off and despite the lousy weather and the remains of a brief cold I went in search of the Long Tail Ducks, sadly no sign. However there were loads of Fieldfare and Redwing, really good numbers around Mary's Lake, good numbers of Linnets and amongst one flock of Goldfinches I spotted one Brambling
 I enjoyed the walk around the lakes and watched three Redkites drifting over the A509, there is a chicken farm along that road so hopefully the Kites won't come into conflict with owner, they are free range chucks
 I thought I would carry on with my flock shot obsession, still haven't got one I'm happy with, yet but did get an impressive display of Woodpigeons...YEAH boring old woodies but not when there are so many, look at the full un-cropped frame below, go on try and count them.
There were plenty more then what is in that frame above I'd hazzard a guess at circa 1500 woodpigeons in total.
I had the greyhound with me so didn't linger on the actual reserve for to long and only went to the screen hide were just visible on Hawthorne Island was a Great White Egret, so despite no Long Tail Ducks there was plenty to tempt me up there, weather permitting, at the weekend.

Monday, 2 December 2013


I couldn't get out Saturday and Sunday the ever reliable Met Office told me it would be cloudy (the same Met Office which has warned us of 3 months of really cold and snowy weather this winter!!) so I had two surprises for me 1:Sun 2:Coal Tit on the feeder in the garden, so I rushed for my camera and headed out before the sun vanished....BIG MISTAKE. I hadn't checked the local bird reports and seen there was a pair of Long Tail Ducks up at Summer Leys/Mary's Lake and had decided to go for the Bramblings at Harrington, to be honest I should have turned around and gone for the ducks.
 The Bramblings were about...eventually, problem was every time they flew in (circa 5 but more were around) and they grew in confidence and ventured down someone would walk pass sending them back up into the trees I grabbed a "desperate" shot below and isn't too good but sadly it was the best I could manage, I shall try again but on a quiter day I think. Still at least there were plenty of Yellowhammers here.
 I was kindly pointed in the general direction of another bird I wanted to see and that was a Stonechat, not a rarity by any stretch but one bird I hardly see wintering in this county anymore. I got some good direction from a fellow birder at Harrington but on arriving at the site got a bit confused to exactly where. However I saw a Eleanor who kindly pointed out where the Stonechat was and I waited for the bird to come close sadly not close enough for a photo. But got see the bird.
Now one thing that had me puzzled was Maidwell/Blueberry Farm, sadly no Short eared Owls on my visit and I have to wonder if some will turn up this winter. All the fields around the farm have been cut down, some of the fields have small patches of long grass in parts and one has been completely chopped down including the big hill behind the farm, can any Northants birders tell me is this just habitat management or are we loosing an owl site? I'm not sure why but I look at it and think Pheasant Shoot, hopefully I'm wrong but a quick check around Blueberry itself does really have me wondering....hopefully I'm getting worried about nothing, any info?