Monday, 26 March 2018


Well it's March, three months since my last post. I do apologise but I have been so busy so any chance of birding I've snapped up rather than blog.
One of the things that's taken up my spare time until recently was a Red Kite roost on a friends bit of land, got my nose put out of joint when I happened to mention he was also a gamekeeper.
Yes there are plenty of bad gamekeepers and sadly it's only them that are making the headlines. The good ones, the law abiding ones aren't. In fact they don't get the recognition they deserve and end up getting tarred by the same brush.
In fact, when I mentioned recently of a local Hen Harrier that I saw. Another keeper who I've known since school told me where he'd spotted it on his land, we failed to relocate it. Nothing sinister just probably passing through yet several made snide remarks about 'gamekeeper shot it". Well my mate Pete (keeper at Harrier sighting) is actually more passionate about raptors than you and I. On his land he's got Little Owl, Tawny Owl, Sparrowhawk and Buzzard all breeding successfully when the Kestrel failed to breed last year he was gutted and went to the trouble and expense of collecting the eggs and sending them off for analysis. The eggs were infertile and thought to be either an immature female or male (or both) .
I like many others are pissed off at our Hen Harriers and Golden Eagles amongst many other species being killed off.
BUT equally we need to start recognising and rewarding the good ones.
Yet how many will get the recognition, sadly the one effect of all the talk of banning driven grouse shooting is that it's creating not just suspicion between birders and game shooting estates but also the start of actual hate towards each other.
Personally I don't like going  birding out in the countryside and receiving verbal, OK some of it harmless (tree hugger or urban leftie isn't that bad) but it's getting more common and also less subtle I can't visit three sites anymore as they're private land as a direct result of the petition to ban dgs shame but hey-ho. Bizarrely none of them are shooting estates!
Equally those that shoot, gamekeepers or land owners need to start to help root out the bad keepers. But there is a problem the two keepers I've mentioned here don't know each other but and wouldn't know how each other work, yet you and I expect them to know of others committing crime, yes keepers do talk but think about this, if you've committed a crime, are you going to brag  about it even to your peers?
Just out of curiosity, how would they do that? I think if we're expecting information on the illegal activity then we need a 'hotline' where it can be done without leaving names and contact details. Going on my experience of egg collectors it's a waste of time for them to ring the police. Oh and that case by the way came from a bloke who shoots and is, judging from a sticker on his car a BASC member giving me the heads up about what he saw. He drove like many down that particular lane to walk his working dogs, pulled over and just told me about it, with both a description of the car and individual. There are good ones out there.
So the roost. A brief history, it was until this a year a small winter roost best being 7 birds. He's had Redkite nesting and breeding in his woods since about two years after the reintroduction at Fineshade, A LONG TIME.
This year for reasons we can't explain its exploded, nuclear style. Starts off with a call "here Dougie the roost is about 17 birds so you want to help chop up some rabbit and pheasants"
"not really but I'll bring my camera"
I did some chopping and slicing left the skinning as I ended up slicing my finger lol.
I was excited when the roost got to 20+ but it went mental the roost peaked at 51 birds
You had Kites gliding feet above our heads just glancing down at us. The noise was remarkable when the pecking order for the best branches was sorted. Plenty of aerial combat

I really wanted to get others down there but as I have already mentioned the ill feeling is growing and was denied, sorry but I tried hard.
We only threw carrion down when the weather really got cold then snowy as you can see from the two images above there was plenty of more natural food available. The roost dispersed just after the snow fall about a week later or so. We've counted 7 definate nests on site and before any twat says anything,  like previous years they will successfully fledge.
This one is pure record and a small part of the flock, this day I think it was 40+ birds roosted, never seen anything like it.
Found myself also over in the FENS quite a bit. Saw Cranes, Barn Owl's, Golden Plover etc.
Best was probably one of the most confiding Kestrels I've ever come across and as a result probably the most photographed Kestrels lol. Not kidding on my first visit got talking to a good trio of toggers whilst waiting for Shorties and word had obviously got out about the owls as there must have been 40+ birders yet this bird hovered and hunted right on front of us all. Great little bird.
My favourite shot

 A slightly different pose

I went to Norfolk this weekend. Birds were mostly Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and loads of Linnets. I went looking for any early Wheatears etc but it was even quiet on the wader front at Titchwell beach got Brambling and the ponds on the 'meadow trail' thingy were heaving with frogs mating. I've never seen so many frogs and the croaking! Wow it was pretty noisy yet a really bizarre sound. I missed out on frog chorus as a kid only frog chorus I've ever heard was that awful Xmas song by Paul McCartney, grrrrrr.
Did get two Barn Owl's hunting together and going on behaviour a possible pairing.
It was grim first thing, low heavy cloud cover and a slight mist didn't help nor the fact they depart back to their nesting box quite early too :-(   so sadly all shot with a ridiculous high ISO and having to get down to f4 just to achieve a paltry 1/250 second shutter speed, honestly with my old camera I wouldn't have bothered.
So two distant portraits of both birds.
 Note the one on the post has no ring the one in the hedge does.
And for some flight shots. Not my sharpest efforts but quite pleased give the shutter speed.

Haven't had a chance to go through the lark images so they'll have to wait for now and I promise a more frequent posting from here on in...
This batch is from a previous trip.
Snow Buntings
 A slightly bizarre pose

My favourite wader, the Sanderling. There was a lot of Starfish on the tide line that day

And an Oystercatcher
And finally a Buzzard, I admit far from perfect. It was a rushed shot, for me as soon as I point my lense at a perched Buzzard it clears off. I think this might only be my third portrait, which is pretty shit lol.


  1. Wow, Doug! Fabulous images - all of them. The real highlight for me was, of course, your wonderful Barn Owl sequence. The shot with so many Red Kites was jaw-dropping too.

    Best wishes - - - Richard

    1. Thanks Richard, to be honest the last few months at the roost I've been dragging my jaw along the floor, definately my highlight of the winter

  2. Another super set of images Douglas...even if we did have to wait 3 months for them!...who am I to!!
    Love the Kestrel shots and who can not like seeing photos of Barn Owls?..even ones taken in the gloom!
    I can't help thinking you and your mate are missing out on a great opportunity with the Red Kites...a gigrin in the east comes to mind?...[;o)

    1. Great minds and all that, I was thinking the same about Gigrin in Northamptonshire it was a million miles away from that in terms of action and 'oh my god' moments

  3. Gorgeous set of photos! And my favourite, too: the owl!
    Happy Easter!

    1. Thank you. Barn Owl's are wonderful to photograph