Saturday, 24 December 2016

HAPPY CHRISTMAS

Since it's Christmas Eve, and not even a mouse is stirring, the greyhounds ate them, this will obviously be my last post until after Christmas.
I've been out with my new toy in less than favourable light again. I don't believe blaming light is going to be a reasonable excuse nor more.
I nipped down to Summer Leys as the previous afternoon I'd spotted a Peregrine and a Pintail that I fancied photographing.
All images taken today were at an ISO rating of 2000 and the 500mm at f4.
I'm not convinced I've got the colour and tones quite right as I'm still getting to grips with that side of things.
First up and almost a full frame was a Shoveler
A Great White Egret was on the far side of the reserve and was hoping it would venture over towards the scrape, it didn't but a very obliging Kestrel gave me a chance to really give the autofocus a workout.

I've got to admit it was very quiet on the reserve...so I filled my boots lol

Not all pin sharp but I'm surprised the camera stayed locked unlike the previous mk3. The reed bed which was blowing around in the wind would've befuddled the mk3 autofocus. The less then sharp images were down to operator error. Out of a sequence of 17 images 14 keepers is I think quite good.

Have a good Christmas and hopefully if it doesn't rain between now and new year I should have something better and in good light to show you.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

AND ABOUT TIME TOO

I apologise for the lack of posts, I thought you lot needed a break, grab a coffee this is going to be long :-)
Lack of posts have been down to what I can only describe as the biggest run of bad luck. So bad I was trying to recall if I'd kicked a dozen black cats and tipped over a truck loaded with mirrors.
First out of the box was being sacked from my job at Carlsberg (XPO logistics). A clash of personalities, being stitched up by two managers over an error on their behalf which was a serious infringement on working hours and tachograph rules but being xpo logistics the manager at fault was a Carlsberg employee so already loosing the dray operation (which I was on) to a competitor they didn't want to 'rock the boat' and potentially loose the more lucrative contract of the core operations (tanker and trailers) and sadly shit always falls downwards and settled on me, the other issue was my fault, I left my drivers mate (gimp who helps me unload) behind in North London (Harrow). It started off bad with his constant road rage at drivers, being rude to landlords I had an explemary relationship with. On one delivery to a travellers camp (has its own bar) he shouted at the kids on quad bikes, "Fuck off out of the way you pikey" I flipped and told him to wind his neck in, he almost got a kicking on that drop. He carried on all day, we had flash floods to deal with that day and the ensuing traffic chaos
I was on dray duty as I struggled to get on with the majority of lads on the core so couldn't lump the twat (wish I had after the ensuing bollocks) so I pulled over, gave him a fiver and asked him to get me some cigarettes as soon as he went in, I drove off lol. I still smile at that :-)
No issue I went on agency but it took a while to get out of my contract without being penalised financially, once upon a time if an employee got sacked it was often the company that sweated it out over 'unfair treatment' not under the Tories.
So I'm on agency but go full-time January 3rd.
Working for CCF, even though I was on agency they paid for my Moffat training the fork lift thing, where I deliver mostly to building sites which is very different to what I'm used to. But they're a good bunch of people and trusting to pay for my Moffat training before going full-time.
Then briefly the shutter assembly went on my 1d mk2, God Bless her, brought second hand in 2006, it served it's time. It outperformed in the auto focus department then it's older sibling the mk3 (still buried in garden), was dropped numerous times including into puddles, concrete,floors in hides and a rock pool it even survived being dragged by my greyhound along the floor. It was then used by me lol.
Then I got rear ended on my bike by a numbty St traffic lights and guess what car he was driving, yep a fucking Jaguar, three times I've been knocked off my bike and all three times a Jaguar....hmmmm maybe this is the cat I kicked? I'm debating if I should replace my bike or not. I enjoyed for the most part getting around on it but traffic always worried me, hence getting a helmet camera, a serious must for anyone thinking of taking up cycling, the number of motorists courtesy of media hype that blame you the cyclists for any incident. However I never wore lycra and never shot a red light. Even using cycle paths ain't safe, it seems pedestrians like to deliberately block your way and slow you down especially if they have Fido running around off the lead up ahead.
My last kicking whilst down was my Golf Gti going pop whilst travelling down the A43.
So birding has been a bit thin on the ground.
But things are getting back to normal, with the exception of the weather.
New car: A4 Avant (estate for me and you) now occupies the hole where the golf once was
Found a really decent low shutter count 1d mk4
And this weekend was the first chance to try it, so was the plan. Saturday was mostly foggy, then misty followed by low cloud and then fog starting to form again by the afternoon. Went and saw the Bearded Tit at Stanwick Lake. Only ever a winter visitor to this county. I spent some of the time tracking and taking burst images of gulls and Lapwings against grey skies just to see how the auto focus worked. I was pleasantly surprised it seems much better than the mk3. I took in lousy conditions 12 frames of a wiffling Lapwing and 11 were sharp as a tack and 1 out of focus which was really good compared to the previous model which would've struggled to lock on never mind produce a high keeper rate. Though I'll wait until I get some blue'ish skies before delivering a final verdict.
Again this morning it was miserable out. So headed towards water and opted to see if I could nab a few Kingfisher images that I'd spotted whilst camera-less.
Fog/mist was slow to clear and it remained gloomy all day really.
I forgot how good cars double up as a hide.
Crap perch
These next two were taken at an ISO rating of 3200 and the noise reduction programme handled the noise levels quite well though the colours are a bit flat, but given the light levels I'm not really surprised.  A bit more noise control at the camera end should yield some interesting results. Neither of these images I wouldn't normally post but given the lack of posts I'd thought I'd share were I'm at with the camera. Early days but I think the mk4 will deliver where the mk3 failed.



Monday, 1 August 2016

SPOTTED FLYCATCHER, WELFORD RESERVOIR

It really bugs me when a firm favourite species of mine and once "two a penny" in Northamptonshire is becoming increasingly harder and harder to find.  These days the Spotted Flycatcher is such a bird.
To get a photo even trickier, mind you if you're prepared to sit and wait and resist the temptation to chase from high perch to high perch they can become very confiding. The tricky bit is finding one with good enough light under the dense tree canopy.
A visit to Welford Reservoir on Saturday yielded the usual Terns, Geese(yay), Kingfisher and 2 Common Sandpipers.
I found 3 Spotted Flycatchers (2 adults and 1 juvenile) there was at least 1 more but wasn't breaking cover.
I heard them first and opted to use the broken branches of an oak as both cover/impromptu tripod/bench :-)
At first distant
But each time it came down it got closer
With plenty of broken branches on the ground there was lots of perches for the Spotted Flycatcher to grab at passing insects

No chasing nor baiting just patience and was rewarded with some really great close up views and most importantly no neck straining

Had to do with portraits due to light which was OK but blocked by welcoming foliage. I like the last one it looks bemused



Thursday, 21 July 2016

A DAY OUT

With a few days work today and tomorrow and a very hectic work schedule next week I opted for a day out in North Norfolk.
I'll be honest I felt a bit disappointed afterwards.
I started off at Cley next to the Sea and even at 5am it was already 16°c but very windy. Despite much searching both scrapes had no waders. The best I got was interesting a Yellow legged Gull and a juvenile Med Gull. But I didn't come for gulls. I didn't even see a Marsh Harrier which is rare.
So I headed down the coast road to Salthouse. I love wandering round here but was gutted/shocked to see the damage caused by the winter flooding in 2013 but wasn't to be the last evidence of storm damage.
If you squint the bloke on the left is the entrance to the carpark the earth bank was the part of the carpark. It is an eye opener to the power of nature. But with the defenses still looking extremely vulnerable  you have to wonder about the residents in the nearby villages and for the the future of this section of coast. There was an even an Avocet sitting on eggs on the shingle. A few Redshank, Ringed Plover, Little Egrets, Kestrel, a family of Stonechats, Meadow Pipits, Skylarks, Sandmartins, Swifts, Swallows but bizarrely still no Marsh Harrier. I've not gone so long on a visit to this area and not seen a Marsh Harrier for goodness sakes I've only ever seen a Hen Harrier 3 times and twice were here so Marsh Harrier shouldn't be this hard.

The best treat for me was a family of Stonechats with 3 juveniles in tow I was happy and leave you guessing what I photographed the most lol.
Unbelievably the bird that kicked started my passion for birds was one I'd never seen a juvenile!!

I did focus on other stuff like this
But even got photobombed by a juvenile Stonechat, cheeky bugger :-)
A quick stop for lunch at Brancaster Straithe and the little harbour for a Crayfish baguette. I love this 'crab shack' caught in the morning, served up at lunch time you can't beat it.
But in winter it's great for waders mostly Turnstones. I finally got a Marsh Harrier, another Little Egret, fly through Curlew, a Little Tern, single Ruff and Knot but mostly tourists like me. So I got my tea (a lobster) put it in the icebag and opted for a visit to Snettisham.
Some say a bleak beauty to this place, I prefer 'stark'. I should've comes here earlier in the day as it clouded over and by the time the sun came out the sun was in my face meaning back-lit but I got loads from here that I've not started working through.
They include Avocets, Redshank, Black Tail Godwit, Oystercatchers, Little Egrets, Marsh Harrier, Shelduck, Ringed Plover, 1 Green Sandpiper. According to the RSPB staff cleaning the hides they had Med Gulls nesting earlier in the year but apart from the juvenile I saw down the coast I didn't see one.
I did take the staff to task on one issue (as I do). I wanted to know why after three years (yes the area was devastated) since the storms and the millions of pounds the rspb have why the damaged hides haven't been replaced even though they're due to be replaced. I asked if it was because like yesterday most people head for Titchwell (cars were queuing to get in) rather than Snettisham . I didn't get an answer.
I'll post up some more images from Snet' later in the week.

Monday, 18 July 2016

NORTHANTS BIGGEST SANDMARTIN COLONY?

I've been so preoccupied with visits to Otmoor, Barn Owl excursions and job hunting (didn't take long) and the yearly Greyhound Championship (Saturday) that I've ignored Quarry Walk.
I went down on Sunday and was kicking myself as to why I failed to visit Quarry Walk.
Moulton Quarry is very dead and no Sandmartins this year. So I've been missing my tiny winged terrors.
I kicked myself so hard I've broken my toe because inside the working Quarry has to be the biggest Sandmartin colony in the county.
There's more holes to the right of the frame.
What looks like (for a change) good news as I watched and failed miserably to count was obvious signs the aggregate company has taken steps to accommodate them. At the base are plastic like fences to perhaps stop accidentally loading up the sand from the nesting area. If that's the case,  kudos to the company.
I will stress don't be a numpty and enter the site, even at weekends. You can see the colony from a field adjacent to the gravel pit, in fact standing in the field is the best option as it's here they're nipping around your head busy hunting.
Number wise I'd guess 50+ not bad given where they're nesting


Friday, 15 July 2016

URBAN OWL

Or should that be 'urbarn' owl;-)...I'll get to that later. But first the Brampton Valley barnie.
It appears my assumption the young have fledged might have been premature (as I was thinking) as the owl is back taking food to the box and is in full hunt mode.
Last night was no different the only difference was the number of people on the bridge closest to the train station watching.
It was actually quite enlightening to hear what people were saying. I think the best was a dad to his teenage daughter (yes she had her phone out videoing it) "we were truly honoured to see that" the daughter "can't believe how close it came"....not close enough in my opinion. Being the only obvious birder there you can guess who was being asked the questions, I don't mind in fact I quite enjoyed it and watching other people's reaction to the owl.
The other surprise and I almost missed it was this record shot of a cuckoo, juvenile or morph coloured adult not sure to be fair. Either late migrating adult or perhaps early migrating juvenile
Sadly woefully underexposed due to owl quartering at the time, I wasn't so impressed with the self appointed 'expert' saying "he's photographing a pigeon"....Can't win them all I guess lol.
So my next site doesn't produce regular views of the owl. It's a single bird so doesn't have to hunt with the same frequency as breeding birds.
It's one that faces a bleak future. It does have a barn to live in. The owner this year put a shelve/tray like box in the Barn (ok?). But sadly as Northampton increases in size the habitat around it is getting smaller and by all accounts the land the Barn sits on is under threat if development too. Check the background out on the next image
Not it's barn but one it perches on


Wednesday, 6 July 2016

EMERGING WHITETHROAT'S

It was quiet on the disused railway line last night. No Barn Owl activity but I was expecting that after the signs pointed to the owls fledging, though I have some doubts they have fledged as I've read Eleanor and Neil's blog of Barn Owl ringing just up the road and their owls don't look ready to leave the nest. Mind you this pair nested a bit earlier so I'm hoping they were successful. I found by accident another Barnie site too but have that under observations only at the moment as it's on private land and didn't fancy drawing attention to the Barn by photographing from the verge of a busy road...more at a later time.
There was however plenty of juvenile warblers on the railway line though. Mostly Whitethroats but also Sedge Warbler, Swallows and Bullfinch. Couldn't locate the Lesser Whitethroat's just silence where the nest was, missed them obviously.
I did get from one nest site an adult Whitethroat tempting the young out of the nest.
These two images of the adult at the nest
One by one it would drop down to the nest and take them/tempt them up to the nearby tree canopy
I did catch one of the young (saw four in total) half way out before walking on.

Friday, 1 July 2016

SWALLOW AND BARN OWL

Again last night the weather was lousy.  However my 'gardening leave' was over and summoned to a meeting at work. I knew this was an axe falling on neck meeting. But there was a fair bit of contract negotiations to take place, they wanted me to pay for the training course, I didn't. They owed me a fairly chunk of wages, they believe they didn't.
However despite being sacked (unbelievably a first for me) everything went in my favour. Which was lucky, a fellow colleague and mate left to work for Fortec and wasn't so lucky and is being pursued for £3000+ it was a tense meeting and I'm sad to go. I've watched a company (Norbert Dentressangle) go from highly rated company , being taken over by yanks (now xpo logistics) and in Northamptons case being ran into the ground by management who still think they're in the army and have no man management skills, pity.
So despite the on/off drizzle I went to the valley.
Huge column of Swifts were gathering overhead, shame about the skies, in fact I haven't had much time with swifts this summer thanks to the lousy weather.
Plenty of Swallows too, yet in my normal locations Swallows have been in short supply along with House Martins. One location (a friends farm) last year we had 26 birds in site, this year 2 pairs (4)!!!!. Not much better at my other spots.  What happened to Swallows this year?
So to ol'faithful..the barnie. It was as usual hunting the field nearest to the farm (too far for images). I watched and enjoyed. It didn't seem to be in a hurry to return to the nest and kept returning with food to a tree near the river bank. Had the young fledged or was it feeding itself? After an hour and it failing to return to the nest I opted to head home as I did a cyclist stopped and asked was I trying to photograph the Barn Owl and he pointed out it just flew behind me. I'll be honest I thought he was taking the piss, no way could it have flown behind me and not see it approach. But being polite I turn round and Barn Owl in the field behind the station??? I went back to the bridge and was watching it when something caught my eye but again behind me...the second owl
 I'd never seen both hunting at the same time. My suspicion of fledged owls was confirmed when the owl that was quartering the field behind the station returned to the tree adjacent to the nest box with prey went into the trunk area (couldn't see what or how many due to vegetation) of the tree. I could hear just a faint screech and the adult bird was out. The owl that was extremely busy hunting nearest to me kept returning to the same tree near the stream/back of the field with prey and kept coming straight back out. They've definately fledged, how many I'm not sure but at least two. Just in time too as it's the Holowell steam festival and it was at this time last year we started to have issues at the nest box with out of town visitors. Hopefully it won't be the end of the owl activity but it was last year :-(
Best of a bad bunch of images then. This is the pose I've been after, just wish the light was better and a bit sharper too.

Ever so slightly different lol


Wednesday, 29 June 2016

WELFORD & BRAMPTON VALLEY

With some time on my hands I've been out and about regardless of weather,which has been lousy and un-summer like.
My little stretch of the Brampton Valley has been quite productive bird wise including a breeding pair of Yellow Wagtails which apparently is the only reported pair in the county (so far) ! That should be sad news but I'm staying positive and just hoping others haven't got round to reporting any others (I hope),  as yet I've struggled to get any images that are worth publishing.
Though I've managed some of a Grey Wagtail in it's usual spot.

 Of course the Barn Owl has been active and surprising unsuspecting joggers/cyclists/walkers as it crosses their path. Which in itself is quite interesting to see other people reactions.
Alas it's always been overcast on my visits so tampered with the WB in the field, not 100% with the results, what do you think?
The first one in glorious sunlight
 These two on really overcast and late in the evening

My favourite part of the day in the valley has to be just as the sun rises over the hill and everything starts singing.
Everything from Skylarks, Warblers, Yellowhammers, Song Thrush and more common species.
I got lucky with one Blackcap that hang about to do a spot of busking.

And plenty of Robin juveniles, this one was sunbathing.
And I'll probably get this one on the same gate when it's older lol
A couple of visits to Welford has produced the Osprey but either too far away or lousy skies. It hasn't hung around either always only stopping for 10 minutes or so.
I've also had a solitary Oystercatcher and three Common Sandpipers, normally I can find both Spotted Flycatcher and Yellow Wagtails here but found neither, just a Treecreeper and Kingfisher were the other highlights....poor picture of an Osprey