Friday, 26 December 2014

Phew, it's over....

Yep the season to be jolly etc is over until at least October and the shops start to crank the emotional blackmail once again. Glad to see the capital investment firm who own City Link played the part of Scrooge and announced to it's employees on Christmas day they'll be out of work, a bit shitty but no surprise to anyone in the logistics industry for which most of us label them as "shitty link", one of my mates works out of the Riverside hub in Northampton as a self employed Van driver and was shocked at how the workers just chucked parcels around...sad really I had the same thing happen to me at Doc.Martins, we went on the factory fortnight, compulsory two week holiday when they retooled all the machines came back to find the gates locked and our jobs exported to India, people wonder why when these firms come back to the UK why they can't get the workers, Duh!
I really wanted to blow the cobwebs off today but the weather was cloudy and grim so here's a few odds and sods.
First up, a first for me in the form of a Buzzard portrait, not 100% happy with it (the shadow on the bottom left of the bird under the wing) but a starter for ten......

Taken yesterday on the way down to girlfriends parents home it was perched on all things a gantry advertising people to drive safely above a dual carriageway, much to the annoyance of my girlfriend I pulled off, swapped seats and get her to drive round the roundabout above the carriageway, unsurprisingly I only got 3 frames, this one, one of it "venting"  and a back shot of it flying away, the other half just looked at me, shook her head and drove my car the remaining journey, trust me her driving my car is suitable punishment....
Some from the garden now, I've been busy doing selective pruning to improve the images.

 And finally the star of my garden,  the Goldfinch. The numbers keep increasing with 35 counted in the garden today.

Monday, 22 December 2014


I wasn't actually going to post these images but seeming as this will be my last post this side of the "festive" season, what the heck.
I had been talking to a friend who happens to own a significant size of farmland/pheasant shoot. He kept ringing me saying "seen the Merlin again". Problem is he lives in the south of the county on the border of Northamptonshire and Bucks. A bit of travel just on the off chance of seeing a Merlin, especially since there's one within cycling distance of my home.
However I knew his farmland is pretty much farmed as best as it can be for both profit and wildlife.
The morning started with really gloomy and dark skies and with an obligatory coffee too warm my belly I used to fish the private lakes on his land in my youth so knew where I was going to walk  plus armed with afew tips to where the Merlin had been spotted, I also wanted to check out a small spinney for some Siskin too.
It was at the spinney in near darkness I got the Kestrel, I apologise for the quality, I've tweaked the exposure during processing which hides how dark the skies were and the wind well less said the better.
 It caught a mammal of some description it was hovering over one of the ditches that drains excess water off the field into the lakes, it dived down and as you can see pulled some vegetation out too, possibly a water vole. Not sure as it was hunting Redwing and Blackbirds too...well giving chase.
I made my way down to one of the lakes via the spinney whilst also having a good nosey around the ditches. In the spinney I got a Nuthatch, Jay and Treecreeper but it wasn't worth taking any images too dark.
As the morning progressed the light got better but very windy which was bitterly cold. I was actually impressed with the birds I was spotting, a small flock of about 150 Starlings left the safety of the reed bed and took the trees and hedges, a lot of Yellowhammers and Linnet, saw eight different Skylarks and the odd Pipit. I opted to hide and use a hedgerow for bit of shelter from the wind. I was watching about 50 Fieldfare, some Starlings and Yellowhammer dropping down into the stubble. Every now and again flushing each other for position.
Here's some dubious record shots in the first one Fieldfare, Starling and Yellowhammer
In this next one the birds were in a panic, the Yellowhammers and Linnet taking to the hedges for safety and the Thrushes from what I could see just hunkered down in the stubble the Larks going silent...
 It was a one chance moment and bit distant a Merlin came through, God it was quick but not only quick but also very agile, I swear it was if it places it's wing into your the ground to pivot and change direction but all at a speed that makes a Hobby look like Turtle. I couldn't keep the bird in the frame, obviously I was cursing  to which my companion remarked "thought birding was fun and relaxing" chortling to himself.
My friend departed to do some work and seeming as it was a bit brighter headed for another spinney, a lot of Finches with the exception of Greenfinch and Siskin were around in this spinney, it's my favourite one as there is a mix of beech, alder and ash in it plus a boggy surface, I've had Woodcock here before but not today. I did get some Bullfinch though.

 On the way back, the cold was getting to me by now I managed to creep up to a Redwing, hardly picture of the week but a banker image for now. 
I shall be staying around my girlfriends parents home down in Surrey so shall probably be doing more "Range Rover" watching then bird watching but was told to bring my camera as her parents have a rather tame Robin (should be fun, *sarcasm implied*) so shall be Awol for the Xmas period, so to all who drop by and read my blog and to those who comment have a safe Xmas period and lock up you credit cards......MERRY SKINTMAS.. sorry Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

MOULTON QUARRY 14th&16th December 2014

A mixture of really poor weather and rubbish work has again prevented me from getting out and about. With typical "Doug's" luck the good weather has coincided with my shift patterns. The days when I wanted to get out on the bike and explore the wind's been against me, seriously cycling into a strong head winds really blows, at times it almost feels like you've not even cycled anywhere but backwards but the occasional lifting of head into the cold wind did confirm I was moving forwards...just not very far. I won't mention icey paths and mushy leaves that has twice had my rear wheel overtake my front wheel how I haven't ended up on my arse not quite sure
So I kept local and went up to the quarry on Sunday and today. It's been a bit quiet up there of late. The Kestrel is still hunting on the site but in good light always a bit distant (see image below) and in poor light it would be within touching distance.
The Snipe haven't been seen on the last few visits nor the Chiff-Chaff. Did on Sunday get a Goldcrest flitting about really low to the ground and almost got some flight shots, lack of shutter speed meant they were a bit soft but reasonably pleased with this portrait.
Some Long Tailed Tit took my interest and despite their hyperactive nature and slow shutter speed got one I was happy with.
Today I was hoping for a bit more what with the good light. Plenty of common stuff, especially with Blackbirds and Robins there always seems to be quite a few on site. I attempted Fieldfare flight shots but were a bit small in the frame, some Yellowhammer and Linnet and a solitary Meadow Pipits were the only semi-interesting birds.
I went to Doug's pit, still no Snipe looking around the net/twitter a few are up at nearby Pitsford reservoir so perhaps the ones from this site have moved up there. The other bird in the pit that would look good in the light were Reed Buntings of which there was a lot of but all hiding behind willow branches. The one bird that never let's me down is the Blue Tits on the Bull rushes.

Upto four at a time feeding away. Fascinating to watch as they cling on with their tiny feet. Their bills opening to their full extent and after a few pecks easily slicing through to the good stuff...

It's always a joy to photograph these doing this and when they pull the Bullrush apart the cotton like remains of the seed drifting like snow and covering the ground.

Saturday, 6 December 2014


It was gloriously sunny today so as regular as clockwork spent some time up at the quarry.
Finally getting some Fieldfare's and the odd Redwing in the hedgerow. Photographic opportunities of my favourite site regulars, the Kestrel and Sparrowhawk have been tempered by some rather domineering Rooks. When either two turn up within the confides of the quarry one or two Rooks give chase. When a Buzzard strolls through a flock of 5-6 Rooks give it hell.
Plenty of common birds are filling the hedges too. But also Yellowhammer, Meadow Pipits and a solitary Grey Wagtail.
Got this male Bullfinch with a Dunnock trying to get a bit of attention in the background, think it's called photobombing, need not worry it was distant.
As always I was hoping to get images of Snipe, I figured with the falling temperatures the shallow'ish water of Doug's Pit would freeze forcing the Snipe out a bit, it was frozen but not enough. An attempted snatch and grab on the Reed Buntings by the Sparrowhawk flushed out 5 Snipe, which was nice, I've had 6 before but of late had only been able to see 2 in the dense overgrown pit.
One of the things I had hoped for since I've been visiting the site is that the sheer number of Chiff-Chaff on the site earlier in the year might mean one or two over wintering birds, I managed a distant shot of one that today, along with the warm sun this had me thinking of spring....or should that be wishing?

Saturday, 29 November 2014


What's the saying? What a difference a day makes. What a difference too. Sunny,  blue skies and warm too the digital temperature gauge on the phone peaked at 16°c.
I headed off to Moulton Quarry and my self named pit. Bird wise it was bit slow. Two Snipe that never broke cover, two Teal, Kestrel, Grey Wagtails, three Meadow Pipits, Sparrowhawk, two Buzzards, 1 Little Owl, just five Fieldfare, Song Thrush and other common stuff.  Didn't bother counting the Linnet, Finches and Tits too many.
I was disappointed in the Fieldfare numbers as one long hedgerow on the site is screaming out winter thrushes. It has plenty of berries and even apples waiting to be scoffed up.
Good numbers of Reed Buntings too.


The other good photo opportunity came courtesy of a Blue Tit feeding from a Bull Rush.

I kind of filled by boots with this little chap quite enjoyed watching it so I'll apologies for a bit of repetition here.

And the last two...


I was getting a bit of cabin fever the last few days. The weather has been so lousy sitting it out in the shed, if you thought it was boring reading and looking at images from my urban garden in the last post, how do you reckon I felt.
I like getting out on my bike, exploring what's around and visiting the less popular sites, I can handle grey skies for photography as long as the grey clouds are reasonably high it's not a problem, I even love frosty mornings. But I can't stand misty, murky and damp days. This has been the weather around this way for the last few days.

But this morning I thought I'd venture to the lakes and reedbed behind the Ecton sewage works. It's an interesting area and the last few winters Siberian Chiff-Chaffs and Bearded Tits have loitered. It's not to far away from my home in Eastfield if it was to rain hard I wouldn't get that wet . I knew having looked at the weather forecast photography was going to be limited so along with the binoculars I dusted the scope down and squeezed it all into the camera bag.
I went via the Billing Aquadrome marina and up into Cogenhoe and entered the site via the campsite. A few vaguely interesting birds like a Greywagtail and a Grey Heron were near the canal locks at the campsite. I crossed over the small concrete bridge scanning the hedge and the wooded section. The track leading to to the lakes was boggy to say the least, pushing the bike was a real struggle an inch of mud and leaves coating the tyres and clumping up the brakes....ah cycling! Plenty of common birds, plenty of Fieldfare, a Cettis Warbler heard but not seen, a few wrens were the best.
I made my way up to the reedbed, hoping for Bearded Tits but not before washing the mud off the tyres in puddles and "un-clumping" the brakes with a stick. I had a quick look up the stream at the entrance to one of the lakes, just mallards, moorhens, kamikaze swans (more to come on that) and a Kingfisher.
I got to reedbed didn't hear nor see any Bearded Tit during the two hours I was there, but got a very vocal Song Thrush, Reed Bunting, another Cetti's Warbler and a Wren in a voice off with each other the Cetti's obviously won that one. Got the camera out, 1/10th a sec shutter speed (ISO 1600,500mm f4) so didn't bother just sat and watched as Wren bullied a Cetti's Warbler chasing it around the base of the reed stems. A smaller flock of Fieldfare flew over head and up the lane towards the very nearby A45. Also got a crow bullying a Sparrowhawk. I walked up to the next "pool" were I managed to get two Snipe.
I sat on a concrete bridge that crosses over a ditch which carries what I guess is the treated water from the sewer works. This as I sat is where I stumbled across the kamikaze swans. I know fellow birder/Blogger David James has encountered these here too. The swans fly low around this area and occasionally expect you to move out of the way. I watched in both terror and awe at two Mute Swans flying up the ditch one quite a safe height, the other straight at me at head height and not making any real effort to gain height.

It passed over about 3 foot above my head, so glad it didn't drop a present!

After about an hour I headed back to the lane walking parallel to the ditch and field, got another Cetti's making it three for the day. I headed up the lane and stopped at the concrete bridge where the ditch meets the river and flushed a Green Sandpiper that was resting on the concrete embankment, wasn't expecting that so was happy to see it but gutted I flushed it.
The weather wasn't improving so headed home but not before having a quick look at a pocket park on a housing estate called Ecton Brook. Quite impressed, I got Treecreeper and Great Spotted Woodpecker, it's an interesting park worthy of another look next time I visit the sewage farm.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014


Well no work for two weeks, yippee. Yet I was soon deflated as I drew back the curtains this morning..grey,damp and misty....bollocks. So tonight I've kidnapped a goat, built an altar in the shed and have sharpened the meat clever the goat will GET IT tomorrow if we don't get some sun, you have been warned!! Talking about sheds I did get some time in it and the garden. First up is the Goldcrest, on our local park, Eastfield Park, I see a lot of these whilst walking the greyhounds. There is also one always in the garden.
I can get quite close to these and am thinking of slopping the 300mm f2.8 to get some flight shots, though this was taken from the shed using the 500mm in between sips of tea and bacon sarnies..yum
The other nice surprise is the Chaffinch, OK very common. However last time we had any in the garden was a couple of winters ago and we had heavy snow which in turn brought in loads to the garden, currently upto 7 at any one time, weirdly all but one is a female. 


Won't bore you anymore with common stuff from the garden for now. Hopefully my next post won't be about a messy end for a goat...maybe :-) oh and check out John Finlayson's blog out he's been getting some excellent starling murmaration at his local reserve Titchmarsh, his blog can be found on the list down the side of this blog or here JOHN'S BLOG

Friday, 7 November 2014



  Just a few from the shed. I've struggled to get out recently. Mostly down to weather. And the good weather coinciding with my shifts..git.