Sunday, 26 January 2014


Ok so Channel 4 didn't ruin garden watch but it has definitely with a tongue in cheek approach ruined the SuperBowl, for me it was ruined last weekend when the Seahawks beat my team in the playoffs, I kind of suspected they would.
No, I was happy initially that the Superbowl was going back to Channel 4, it's were NFL coverage started in this country (before Mr.Murdoch got his hands on it) so it's kind of it's spiritual home hopefully this year unlike the BBC we won't have an endless stream of guests comparing the sport to rugby...."it's the same shape ball!", no doubt there will be a few rugby players making an appearance as there are a few who like American footie.
Oh no Channel 4 ruined the Superbowl even before the national anthem is sang with this pretty funny site a handy site given good excuses for not turning up at work on the Monday morning after the Superbowl, go and have look, very funny I thought until I realised my shift pattern includes the Monday, b******s...maybe my boss has not seen the adverts on Channel 4, he had with a yellow post-it note on my locker "don't even think about pulling a sickie Mac" scribbled on it, so no Spongitis for me.
As for the gardenwatch I managed to squeeze an hour in after work, I was not feeling positive about what might visit, my garden has been very quiet this winter so far, sure the House Sparrows are always there (they never leave) and there is a pair of Dunnocks that roost under my garage, yeah under the garage! and are always in my garden, there is always a Woodpigeon and a couple of Collared Doves, but when looking back at comparing to this time last year there hasn't been any big influx of Chaffinches into my garden and only one Fieldfare briefly earlier in the week. So during the week anticipating the Gardenwatch survey I had to go and see "what's what" and why not many birds were visiting the feeders.
 Well the first obvious clue whilst walking down to the park (where most of my garden visitors fly in from) I couldn't but help but notice many more people were hanging out feeders and with so many of them very close to the wooded section of the park, closer then my house it was kind of obvious this was one reason, good more people feeding birds that's a really positive thing as long as they're kept cleaned.
Now Eastfield Park has a really good mixture of tree species including Ash, Scot's Pine (I think it is anyway), Oak,Willow, Silver Birch and Yew trees and then there is the hedges, again with more then one species of tree making up the hedges. Given the warm and dry summer has meant there was plenty of berries on the bushes during the Autumn plus plenty of acorns laying around added to that the reedbed has shot up in size and there was plenty of food on tops of the reed.
So there was and still is an abundance of "natural" food for our wee friends to chow down negating any real need to visit bird feeders for now.
 With a so far mild'ish winter, remember we had snow this time last year, there has also been a lot of insects around, I found a butterfly last Tuesday in the woods! Take a look at the image below, the Blue Tit was busy pecking away at the trunk of the tree pulling insect lavae and grubs, look closer and you can see the holes from where it has been pecking away.
In the small wooded section it was alive with bird calls I saw and heard Song Thrush, Jays, Goldcrest,Coal Tit,Blackbird, Great Tit,Blue Tit,Sparrowhawk,Great Spotted Woodpecker,Reedbuntings,Chaffinches,Goldfinches and Treecreepers all busy feeding away on more natural food. So there wasn't any shortage of birds....phew!
What did I get well here's my last with the number of birds in brackets
Blue Tit (5), Great Tit (2), Magpie (3), Collared Dove (3), Woodpigeon (too many, 8!), Starlings (22),Blackbirds (12),Coal Tit (1),Chaffinch(1),Goldfinch (6), Long Tailed Tit (7),Dunnock(2),House Sparrow (10),Robin(1) and Black Headed Gull (2).
There was a few thing to note on the list, firstly the House Sparrows done very well this year around our housing estate, where once they covered the estate and where everywhere there was a drop in numbers and they all but vanished quite a few years back. They are slowly starting to bounce back there is now a scattering of colonies in certain parts of the housing estate and those colonies are getting bigger, why? Well I think the number of insects in the summer around here has increased there is even a man who has a fondness for bugs and over the last few years has been doing his best to increase the number and variety of species of insects also people are putting nest boxes up around here for them but I feel crucially the council isn't cutting the hedge's at the back of our houses anymore which is where they spend most of their time during the summer. Our resident Starlings haven't increased in size but the young this year were a firm favourite for a breeding Sparrowhawk and we still have 75 resident Starlings on the estate. The Gull's always visit the gardens around here, people love chucking bread out for them and isn't unusual to see Common gulls and Herring Gulls perched on the shed roof.
The biggest surprise is the Blackbirds I've counted 18 in the garden at one time (sadly not today) where did they all come from? I'm going to assume most are from an influx of foreign birds but it is definitely a weird sight seeing so many in the garden at one time, tricky to count thanks to the fighting.
Also I think the biggest winner from the summer around here has been the Blue Tit every other bird is this little gem.

Saturday, 25 January 2014


Was hoping after work today to spend an hour watching birds from my study whilst buggering around on the computer.
It started good or bad depending on your point of view with a lovely female sparrowhawk gliding over the fence on stealth birds then!
Ok I thought I'll give it half hour, nip round the shop as I came out of the shop the skies were black and the wind was starting to pick was so dark I had to check my watch 15:20, but given the sky and light more like 18:30. I started the short walk home when hail started to fall and there was a flash, funny the first thing a photographer looks for is someone with a camera "papping" me when an ominous clap of thunder erupted, my short walk turned into a quick dash just as hail fell from the sky, more flashes of lightening and more claps of thunder.
But I was now at home, safe, though when the electric dipped and started the house alarm off I wondered if we were just to get a power cut, the wind was really strong it reminded me of one of those naff Hollywood blockbusters were a tornado whips through, luckily not but my RSPB gardenwatch will have to wait until tommorow....if I get finished from work!

Thursday, 23 January 2014






I did sort of the last image of the Goldfinch. As seems the norm' for Goldfinches you have to get them on teasel heads, it's a legal requirement! However I opted for a bit of side lighting, not sure it works but I like it.

Sunday, 19 January 2014


Today on the way back from work I took a detour and wanted to see how a female Kestrel was doing,
The last time I photographed her the top bill was damaged. A subsequent visit I saw her hunting, there was about a week's gap between the two sightings. I was finished from work quite early today due to an even earlier start it was reasonably bright and not too windy so there was a good chance of seeing her, I wanted an image to see if the damaged bill was healed or healing etc.
There is tow definate areas she hunts and perches up and I turned down the lane heading to the farm and she was in her usual part of the hedge, my windows already down I just switched the engine off and gently rolled to a decent range of her, now the last time I photographed the bird she didn't move much and took loads of images, today she was her usual self and almost instantly took off to her other perch, I got 6 frames which tells you how long she stayed for.
 The bill looks ok, there's a little damage still where the dark grey section of the bill meets the upper light grey'ish part, but definately a lot better and it has to be said healthier and more "flighty" she should be.
I left her on her second perch as I only wanted some images so I could have a really close inspection of the bill via a computer screen. I'm happy, she should be OK.

Thursday, 16 January 2014


Well the last three days birding wise has been a non-starter for me due to other commitments. So it was all down to today, my last day off from work. I was torn between going and seeing some Otters, trying to get some better images of the Great Northern Diver at Pitsford or a trip to my favourite ex-gravel pit.
Summer Leys won out. Why? Well I would be spoilt for choice in terms of birds. The Linnet and finch flock, Lapwings and Golden Plover, Redkite, possible Great White Egret and the Long Tailed some hides to take cover in when the heavy downpours eventually turned up, great call.
I got past the Two Tier hide on my way to the screen hide I got half way down the path when i caught glimpse of the Great White Egret taking off from the YOC spinney which still has some temporary small flooded pools of water, it was flushed out by a Grey Heron, which during the course of the day would be the Great White Egret's nemesis..this is it taking off from the spinney....
 It landed just to the left of the screen hide, there was no point in walking around to the hide as the sun would be in my face and would be a nightmare to expose without blowing the whites on the bird. It stayed there giving good views for 10-15 minutes before the Grey Heron flushed it away. It flew towards the back of Hawthorn Island so I hedged my bets and walked back towards the Paul Britain hide (Two tier hide) figuring it might end up near the scrape.
I couldn't believe my luck the bird had done a u-turn over the top of the island and was heading for the reed bed at Kim's corner (that's the bench at the entrance of the two tier hide), I thought by dialling in minus 1 exposure on the camera I'd be okay...nope, not totally blown out but I can do better, I got a sequence of it landing as I looked on, all excited, my best views I'll ever get unless I collide into one!


It was never going to stay here long (about a nano second) due to footfall of joggers,dog walkers and fellow birders, but I ain't moaning, the bird flew back over towards Hawthorn Island. I thought that was going to be it, wrong, I headed back to where I first spotted the bird, there was some Goldfinches,Bullfinches,Fieldfare and a Green Woodpecker to have fun with, I got to the wooden gate at the YOC spinney looking to see if anything was in front of the screen hide and just happen to glance to my left, it was going to collide with me!
 I ducked behind the gate the best I could and it plopped down in front of me and posed for a while, yep the Grey Heron showed it's face again and it flew off to small pool/scrape to the left handside of the Paul Britain hide.
 I walked up to the hide and there was another birder upstairs getting good views after a friendly and talk I decided that if I walked up the stairs (outside and not on the inside) it might flush the bird so I kept myself busy photographing some other birds along the footpath.
The other birder came down and we briefly chatted about the bird and off I went to the hide and got comfortable. It was mostly hidden from view thanks to the topography but was busy fishing, but guess what? Go on, guess what bird came and scared it off..a House Sparrow, nah just kidding it was the Grey Heron.
 Off it went and settled into the reed bed next to the main hide.
As did I. I saw the bird quite a bit during the day so was well chuffed. Saw a Redkite and a Peregrine too. A Great Spotted Woodpecker at the feeding station also two House Sparrows, I briefly got excited hoping they were the once fabled Tree Sparrows, sadly not.
 It was all luck and timing, I could and maybe should have gone to see some Otters or even the Great Northern Diver but was pretty happy with my final choice, good old Summer Leys, the importance of LNR's (local nature reserve) given the threat to a LNR in Derby.

Monday, 6 January 2014


I was supposed to be at work today, however my firm had other ideas, they were concerned about having some of "us" less experienced drivers pulling tankers in these winds and have rolled the dice and taken a gamble by switching the "newbies" like me to the shift pattern which starts on Thursday, the plan being it's less windy...we'll see.
So off I went up to the new formed wetlands that is Summer Leys, water levels still high. The Lapwings were restless so I tried some shots of these first.

 There was also a Crow which I hope was playing golf and trying to avoid the latest water hazzard, though sadly I expect it was in winter training ready for the spring.
 Wildfowl wise I spent most of my time waiting for a decent enough shot of the Long Tailed Duck on Mary's Lake, it gets very soggy around the lake with the water reaching near the carpark. Had this odd looking Tufted Duck drift past, I think it's a Tufted Duck and not a hybrid Tufted Duck x Scaup.
 Sadly still after a Goldeneye flight shot but this female was to much to resist...I think I startled her when she bobbed up.
A quick walk up the side of Mary's Lake and I flushed the Great White Egret which flew down and onto Pete Wild's, flying into the sun, not helpful but quite pleased with this one..
 Not so happy with this one almost clipped it's wing at the top of the frame.
 So I headed back down towards Mary's Lane as I swore it landed at Pete Wilds lake and didn't go onto the reserve. I got to the metal gate and sat in the reedbed was the Great White Egret, sadly the birds head was blocked by some reeds, but it was very close, showing quite well until a lady emptying her car of barking dogs flushed the bird back up the lake...sod it I wasn't going to wade through all that mud again, so went to photograph the Linnets again. This was the best shot but also saw 5 Grey Partridges, something I thought I wouldn't see nevermind type. I grabbed some more flock shots of the Linnets But best was to come....

Cruising down the hedgerow between Pete Wild lake and the field with the Linnets in the Great White Egret made another appearance....I screwed the exposure up.
It dived down just behind the hedge in the image until it was flushed by a Grey Heron, I saw it twice more today but right at the top of Pete Wild's Lake near the pylons. Not a bad day.
POST RE-EDITED ON 07/01/14: Thanks to Adrian I think I might have solved a problem I was struggling with when it comes to editing certain images. I had one Great White Egret shot I was chuffed with but I had almost clipped it's wings off as I craned my head back, standing on a very slippy/muddy footpath the weight of the 500mm almost snapping my neck....the things I'll do to get an image. Well I think I've sorted the image let me know what you think....

Friday, 3 January 2014


I have to extend a massive apology to all my blog readers, I have had the mother of all nightmares. I posted my last post of 2013, logged off, backed all my images and then decided to organise my desktop, when my computer froze after a few minutes of panic a black screen appered with a helpline number of the manufacturer of my laptop with a fault code, my hard drive died. Now apparently I was meant to send the computer and wait for a replacement, I wasn't happy at that and told the lovely lady what I thought of the idea....the lady was actually in agreement and organised a "credit" note with a well known High Street electrical store/supermarket, I got my replacement on the 28th of December, struggled to find all the product "Key codes" for the reinstalltion of various computer programmes...the worse bit was remembering my security password to log on the net...idiot.
Add to that various relatives were having a real xmas nightmare with no power, so guess who decided to host relatives over the xmas period, that's right, me the original xmas scrooge, 16 relatives in a two bedroom house, it was really was! Four turkeys in the oven at various stages and Xmas kind of saved, I even took out my nephew for a spot of birding, he loved this kestrel we pulled over for.

 Now I've posted the below frame as a tighter crop of the above frame because whilst taking the images I could spot something wrong with it's bill, the top bill was "fleshy" and looks like it was missing the "shell" part of the bill...I was further worried about the kestrel as I then failed to locate the bird for a week or so, until my drive home from Summer Leys today where I spotted her in her favourite roadside perch, she looked fatter then when I took these images and flew away as soon as I pulled up...which is her normal behaviour, when I took these images she looked knackered and didn't even move, Jason (nephew) even got out of the car and the bird didn't move an inch..
Jason wasn't to impress with the next species but oddly like Treecreepers, as they look like mice!,weirdo. Sadly no Treecreepers so some Bullfinches, showing why you shouldn't strip a blackberry bush bare....BULLFINCHES CAN'T NIP DOWN TO WAITROSE

Relatives safely back home and all but one with power back on it was time for a spot birding...when the weather permitted it , even the cormorants were looking for somewhere dry.....
Summer Leys is great at the moment water levels are really high, the water lapping at the front of the screen hide or like yesterday whilst sat at the feeding station I watched a Gadwall swimming under the bird feeding tables, I had to chuckle at that but as a result all the wildfowl is closer, I've spotted the Kingfisher many time checking out new but temporary perches, even had it at the side of the Rotary Hide, sadly no decent images of that yet but I managed a couple of feet shots to satisfy my foot fetish....

 I've also been trying for the Linnet shots, now some old hacks might think the Linnet is chinless and drab but in big numbers they're impressive, add a lot of Greenfinches and Chaffinches and it's a worthy spectacle in my opinion...maybe I'm boring.

Definately still room for improvement but also an improvement on my last flock shot.
So really sorry for the late publishing of comments etc, my broadband is a bit slow today (first day up and running) so I'll be playing catch up over the next few days with various blogs once it speeds up, I've missed out on, it was nice to see some of you guys had noticed comments hadn't been published and seemed concern, thanks for the concern and I'm sorry it was out of my hands, I don't own a smartphone, I hate them and had no way of checking back to my blog. I hope you're all ok and had have and a good xmas and the weather has been good to you all.