Saturday, 25 October 2014


I fancied a cycle and really fancied a Stonechat picture too. I knew thanks to local reports a pair had been showing quite well up at Blueberry Farm at Maidwell. So set off from home in Northampton via the quarry and along the Lamport railway line which for those outside of Northamptonshire is an old railway line that now is footpath/cycle path a small section is still used for a "classic" collection of trains. The cycle path as a result is flat and even and there were a few nice diversions en route. Spring Marsh just after the Spratton Crossing is interesting but as the name suggests better in the spring, only bird of any interest were the odd Reed Bunting. The tall hedgerows were full of berries (no hedge trimming) but no Redwing and Fieldfare. Quite a few Pied Wagtails and Meadow Pipits overhead. A couple of Buzzards too. I got to Blueberry Farm and bumped into fellow Northants birder Stuart who pointed out where both birds were...far away lol. Though Stuart reassured me they would come closer and had been.
I didn't see the Short eared Owl but think I was in the wrong field. Whilst talking to Stuart we did have a Buzzard and heard a Tawny Owl calling,  given it was quite bright I was surprised. 
 After a while sitting it out on a convenient log pile and the few people around had gone and it had decided to cloud over they popped up right by the track as Stuart had said they would (cheers mate)
I think there is three and not two, 1 male 2 female. I think the female is the better of the two images some good light would've been nice we did have some good light,  but sod's law no Stonechat. 
To prove it look a Buzzard and blue sky too.
 I was pleased to get the Stonechat. Okay they're not a "mega" but for me they're a bit special. We only get them in Northants in the winter. The special bit for me is that before I was a birder I used to walk my dogs around Summer Leys and I saw a male bird and some friendly birder told me what it was before pointing a female out too. They just ignited a flicker of curiosity at the time. I even remember the birder doing a really good impression of the birds call with just his mouth, no sound recording or "app" very good birder he is. We used get them all over the County but in recent years a bit thin on the ground. I rarely see one at Summer Leys or Mary's Lake these days. So for me I was glad to try and photograph them. Will try harder next time though. If you want to see some proper Stonechat images go and read RICHARDS BLOG
On the way home stopped for a passing and noisy tit flock near Spratton Road and got this Blue Tit, I like to think it's taking a leap of faith into the dark :-)...

Friday, 24 October 2014


Since my last post the weather has been appalling. Either very cloudy or strong winds and on some days both. So instead of disturbing my new Barn Owl for unusable images and the fact cycling head on into strong wind is pain in the arse (though pretty cool when it's pushing you) I stayed quite close to home.
First up was a Grey Wagtail on a weir. The weir is conveniently close to the pub, poor light and a couple of pints later these were my best on a day with really dark skies and a wobbly photographer....hic:-)

It was obviously catching food and doing a good job but looking at the next set of images I am not sure how it wasn't pushed off the edge by the strength of the water. I also like when it's stood right on the edge of the weir it's feet effected the water flow falling over the edge....

 The last one from the Grey Wagtail marathon shows what it was catching.
AND A COUPLE FROM MY POTTING SHED, this time no falling asleep.
A Blue Tit on a windy day.
 A Goldfinch
 And finally a Long Tailed Tit from Eastfield Park....a crap week so FAR but with predicted sun tomorrow hopefully something a bit more exciting.

Sunday, 19 October 2014


I haven't done much birding. A stinky head cold has just left me exhausted and wheezing like a miner everytime I got near my bike. I went into work as I could hear the cynism in my bosses voice, I managed to spread my cold to four co-workers it seemed stupid to go in but the boss knows best. I had to on one of my days off accompany my boss to a jobs fair. Waste of time, we turned up just before 9am to set up our stall and outside was a group of eager looking hopefuls, all forced to attend by the job centre (where it was being held too) but as we got closer we started to spot the "special brew" cans and I could smell Jamaica's famous form of tobacco all before 9am!!. In the two hours we had, a total of ten people came over of which a total of 7 smelt of booze or weed. Ukip don't have to worry about migrants taking British jobs, the Brits do a fine job of not getting jobs by themselves we were looking for minimum of 70 staff to add to a site in one of our depots "up north".Waste of time.  
Still with a head cold went up to a local reservoir to find a Grey Phalarope, missed it, I really wasn't feeling good so after speaking to a couple of birders headed's still there so might go again. 
I managed to clear the fall of sycamores leaves in my garden and spent some time in the shed/hide. I got this close up Robin 
I somehow fell asleep in the hide and it was dark when I woke up, ooop's. 
Well at least today I am feeling better and went up to the Little Owl barn.  
The Little Owl remains but is hanging around the "bridge of death" so it sees me coming from an actual mile away. I headed to the barn assuming no owls and flushed a solitary Barn Owl. My first new barnie in 16 months. I waited around all day at the "bridge of death" some 800 metres away and only when it got to 18:30 did it come out to hunt, too dark. Still it has turned up like the farmer said it would but a few months earlier then normal. 
Whilst waiting I enjoyed 8 Skylarks laying claim to the field (a winter crop in the field helps) but also got these 3 images of a female Sparrowhawk I seem to be a bit lucky with these of late. 

Friday, 10 October 2014


Well back in March I walked out of one our companies many mandatory medicals somewhat deflated and facing a real possibility of being demoted(as such) from driving on the firms contract for hauling petrol tankers and other dangerous goods to "light" goods after getting an advisory about my weight.
Being only 5 foot nothing and touching 19 stone in weight my BMI was through the roof. It was a reality check for sure and was given a warning by the firm "shape up or go back to supermarket contracts" seems harsh? Not really, my firm takes our health very seriously, hauling petrol, explosives and various other very dangerous loads it would be negligent to allow an unfit driver behind the wheel, just wish other firms would follow this example. Every start and finish of shift we are breathalysed for alcohol and have to be below a very low level before starting, eyesight tested twice a year and two full medicals including blood screening every 6 months...
So I got a bike.
 The doctor reckon the 10 mile round trip to work and back married to a diet and the stopping of smoking would be enough...well 2 out of three wasn't to bad though I have cut down on the smoking...honest.
Cycling in Northampton for the most part is made easier by the vast network of cycle paths. A lot of which actually as a birder holds some little gems. Take the image below from the cycle path opposite Clifford Hill gravel pit. So until I started to venture out into more rural areas there was never a need to really go onto public roads.
I have to stress as both a cyclist and motorist I discovered something interesting in terms of the cyclist versus motorist debate to summarise WHAT A LOAD OF MEDIA HYPED BOLLOCKS maybe as a petrol headed lorry driver I am biased maybe as a lorry driver I know NOT to go up the left hand side of a vehicle and not to jump red lights, nope in the 8 months of cycling I only had two confrontations with other motorists 1: a police officer who pulled me over for cycling on a cycle path 2:a school mum who wanted me to move over as I didn't pay road tax I caught up with said lady at lights and explained since I have a van and two Golf Gti's I pay more Road tax then her and using her rationale I have the right to tell her to stop driving full stop as I pay more tax then her. In fact the only concern I had cycling were vehicles approaching from behind and getting past. Weirdly the best are "boy racers". You can hear them coming thanks to their exhaust systems and again if they can't get past they hang back and the moment a gap appears they're gone, the worse sadly are elderly drivers. Firstly most seem to drive hybrids which are lethally silent they also are too cautious and hesitant to overtake leaving them dithering inches behind you. Sadly on more than one occasion that is not an exaggeration.  Then when a straight or clear road appears they struggle to get past safely putting everyone at risk. I have a theory younger driver's are better as they too were cycling not too long ago so know how it feels to have a car either breathing down your neck or driving past to close.
The final thing in the
cycling/motorist debate is the worse offenders are other cyclists, fact. But it's a "type" of cyclist. Clad head to toe in garish lycra trying their best to shave a few tenths off their personal best times "to work" commute, which they record on mobile phone apps (yeah I have one too). If I was to get in my car and time my commute then race around trying to beat it I'd be arrested. A dangerous mix of competivness coupled with the adrenalin from the exercising leads to some pretty ugly arrogance and blatant rudeness. You add three like minded friends cycling and you get a bunch of well...cunts. Sorry but these cyclists are the ones who seem to get into confrontations with other road users. A lot if time from my saddle they bring it on themselves, cutting through red lights, not stopping at zebra/pedestrian crossing, listening to music through headphones and even making/taking phone calls. But I will pity you if you come across these Bradley Wiggin wannabes on a cycle path, good luck. That's THEIR turf I was cycling past three who refused to move into single file, hogging the path, wrong bloke this time lads I now have a name for it "cyclist bowling" straight through the group shoulders out and see how many you can knock over. The numbers of these I have had the misfortune to meet out numbers bad motorists.  So if you're thinking about cycling the worst person you'll come across will probably be a "die hard" lycra clad twat.
Use of the bike was supposed to be just for work and back but something odd happened, I actually started to enjoy it. In terms of birding I didn't think I would get much in terms of both birds and images but didn't do too bad. I found my own Ring Ouzel in the spring whilst walking along a public footpath and whilst using the cycle path that is the Lamport railway found my own Common Redstart in late summer both might have gone un-recorded and got a big bogey bird off "yet to get a decent image of" list.


 I also found/stumbled across a total of six new Little Owl sites. But definitely the best thing from cycling the last eight months was coming across new sites. Sometimes it might just be a horse paddock full of Swallows, a field with Skylarks and Yellowhammer or a meadow and occasionally a hedgerow teaming with life but the best was an old quarry. Only four miles as the crow flies from my house or five miles as "Doug cycles" a site I would never had gone to in a car. I really don't have to say to much about this site seeming as I have done plenty of blogging about it so to summarise: Sandmartin colony, plenty of birds of prey, meadow, wild flowers, bugs galore, mammals  and warblers. So just some images.





  But sometimes it's the encounters you stumble across which can be tricky to capture as by the time you removed you camera bag got the camera out the thing you wanted to photograph cleared off, just one of a few downsides of birding by bike. But a couple of times the wildlife didn't run off.
 And some even came to investigate
So after cycling a total of 913 miles (tracked and recorded on the app) in eight months and with the help of a diet and some visits to the gym I am down to a more healthy 12.5 stones. Still need to loose a little more doctor reckons about 11.5/12 stone is ideal. Now that was supposed to be the end of the cycling but I liked the money I saved, my fitness has improved, my girlfriend now goes "ooh" rather the "eeek" when I walk into the bedroom I have made a rule for the winter. 1: still cycle to work 2: any birding where it's less then 20 mile round trip I will still cycle. There is some practical issues with birding by bike for example my local nature reserve, Summer Leys I stopped going to for two reasons 1:if I walked around with my bike I would have numerous people whom I don't even recognise informing me "no cycling" I know I have only been going to Summer Leys for the last ten year's! Plus pushing a bike isn't cycling, yes I threatened one patronising idiot so opted to not go, the regular faces from Summer Leys never said a thing in fact most were encouraging (and took the piss , as you do) 2: given the fact most wildlife trusts promote a greener life there isn't anywhere safe for me to lock up my bike safely. I would like to see some reserves were possible  a secure spot to lock my bike. Summer Leys has a metal post but it's in the corner of the carpark out of sight where the dog walkers let there dogs piss. The other problem with cycling and birding is the obvious terrain leads to punctures, last week I had six in one wheel from recently trimmed hedges. The best solution and the one thing I recommend the most is these inner tubes called "slime, smart tube" which I discovered to many punctures too late that in the event of a puncture fills with a slime that hardens and allows you to just pump up and carrying on cycling as yet they work. Though I haven't got a puncture to really try, I will of course moan if they don't work.
Would I recommend trying to bird by bike, yes. Would I do it again? Yes. Try it at first it's hard going on the body but eventually I found even a smoker like me could go for some distance and lunatic cyclist aside enjoyed it. So the bike isn't retiring to the shed quite yet, no room now it's a hide lol.

Friday, 3 October 2014


Well so far with my time of work I have been calling in on a few spots. I wanted to catch up with a Little Owl site first and spent a whole day snug as a bug in a pop up hide...and got diddly squat! Honestly I was walking up to the barn at 5am (still dark) and left at 19:45 (still dark lol) and had 1 out of focus wren flight shot. No sign of the Little Owl. I already knew one of the two had left. The final bird, I  guess because it's getting more bold etc was spending less time in the Barn and more time in some tree's on private land. As I left I broke one of my own rules and had a look inside no sign and as I left the field I could hear a Little Owl calling from the private site...git. Maybe it'll return as the weather gets worse?
I had a stroll along the river Nene. I got some dodgy Buzzard shots up against a grey'ish sky and just these two Grey Wagtails images at the Billing Mill pub. Taken on the weir.

The first isn't too sharp but liked the low point if view and "almost"  reflection. The second one a bit better but ruined by the bloody post, I think the greywag looks unimpressed too.
I have of course been to Doug's Pit at Moulton Quarry, things are changing up there. I have had up to 6 Snipe and regularly 4 Snipe just rubbish out of focus flight shots portraits are a non starter thanks to the unkept nature of the site. There are some Chiff-Chaff's still on site. But a build up of sorts of Song Thrush and Blackbirds. I saw a Linnet in the flock without a tail!!! Some Yellowhammer and still some Yellow Wagtails  but an increase in Reed Bunting. This next lot are all from the quarry.


 The fields adjacent to the quarry were being ploughed so got some low flying Buzzards.
And finally from the garden I had three Goldcrest's disputing at who's garden it is, they forget it's mine.

 I think it's the same bird even in my small garden it was impossible to keep track of them, one would settle then one would drop down and chase it off. Good fun. But the constant calling was freaking my dogs out. Their high frequency calling isn't too good on dog's hearing
 If the garden wasn't so shaded by trees flight shots could be achieve I will make do with portraits..for now.
I was happy when one settled on where one of my feeders hang, perhaps a subtle hint!
 This next one is my favourite