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Monday, 17 October 2016

A trip to the East coast!Spurn (part 1)

Easterly winds were forecast for the coming weeks, so I decided on having a few days out towards Spurn on the East coast.With these conditions forecast and it being October this cold only mean one thing,and thats lots of birds being blown across on their migration South!

I was also hoping that it would bring in one or two rarities,such was the strength of the wind.Yellow browed warblers had been recorded in excellent nos,so everything was going to plan.Redwing had began to arrive on our coasts with hundreds of song thrush and blackbirds,all coming for the autumn berries which would be their staple diet for the next few months!

October on Spurn always draws crowds of birders from far and wide,if there is a better place to go in mainland britain to enjoy migration at close hand,then I would like to know,its an absolute mecca!
 Goldcrest were constantly flitting through the bushes and numbers of these diminutive birds were high.There was always the chance of a firecrest amongst them,so you had to be on your toes!I was lucky enough to find a Firecrest up by Sammy's point,which gave a very good show of itself!
                                                   Firecrest at Sammy's Point

    Some    cracking birds began to filter through the grapevine,one such was this Red Breasted Flycatcher           below!This was discovered at Easington cemetery,high up in the sycamores!
 A first for me was this Red Flanked Bluetail also on show at the cemetery.Another of these had been found at the point a few days earlier,but I didn't fancy the 3 mile walk there and again back,with all the camera gear it wasn,t for me!

The bird was flitting about the many headstones that were in the cemetery,but always kept its distance!
Sometimes it flew down to ground level to search for insects and flies.It was only on show a few hrs after being located and when dusk approached it wasn,t seen again!

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Eric morecombe hide/leighton moss

So with good reports of Greenshanks being reported from Leighton moss,myself and Brian Rafferty decided to have a run up there to see what was about!It was a dreary morning to start but with us being sat in the Eric morecombe hide,at least we would be dry and comfortable!

On arrival the hide was pretty empty,not surprising really with the inclement weather,not many people had bothered to venture out,we were extremely glad that we had made the effort,as up to 20 Greenshank were avidly feeding in the food rich mud ,some being just 5 metres away!

We were certainly gonna fill our boots with these lovely waders.It was interesting to watch them feed in small groups quickly running through the shallow water picking at anything that they disturbed!

Also on show was a brief view of a water rail that had decided to leave the cover of the reeds,again to look for food in the brackish water.A good few hrs were spent observing the waders at close range,an avocet was also present scything the shallow water.All in all it was a productive day with the camera and as always, enjoyed in good company! Hope that you all enjoy the images and as ever keep well!

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

A few days in Suffolk!

I recently had a few pleasant days down at the Lakenheath nature reserve in Suffolk.The weather forecast looked good, so I decided to set off early morning and hopefully miss the majority of traffic.All went to plan and I was pulling up on the carpark shortly before 7.30am.A short walk and I was at the first viewing screen,Cuckoos were calling and the reeds were alive with reed warblers and Whitethroat!Birds seemed to be flitting about all over!Suddenly an otter came into view but was soon lost behind a small island..what a great start to the day.

I knew Kingfisher had been reported from this particular viewpoint,but the only one that I saw, was perched up on some reed about 50 metres away!The photos below were taken from the Mere hide lower down the reserve.
The mere hide wasn,t in operation the last time that I visited the reserve,so it was a pleasant surprise to stumble across it as I made my way along the footpath.Opening one of the window shutters,a kingfisher rapidly departed one of the perches that had been put in place!Damn,should have been more careful,anyway I had plenty of time to weigh things up and hopefully one may show again!
A fifteen minute wait and the bird returned to the same perch.Everything was in place and I quietly went about obtaining some images.This seemed to be an adult female,judging by the orange lower mandible!In all the kingfisher showed quite well,but I did have the hide to myself,and kept noise and movement to a minimum!I don,t think she would hang around long if there was a lot of people in the hide!
Below is another Kingfisher that was at another reserve that I visited later in the day,this one though entailed a lengthy wait in the hide before it showed!
Kingfishers have 2 broods and a few of the juveniles showed very well for me.I was particularly pleased that this one decided to land in a small willow tree to the right of the scrape and with the aid of some nice evening light,it made for a pleasing picture!
Back at Lakenheath the next day,I learned that the Cranes had bred and they had a juvenile with them.I was lucky to see both adults having a good fly around whilst I was there.Usually they can be seen in their favourite place, albeit 200 yes away,not very good for a photo though!You can just make out their heads in the long grass at that distance!

Garden warbler and cuckoo were evident on the reserve and a few record shots were gained of both.
One of the highlights of the day was this flyby Hobby!In early may, as many as 60 birds hawk insects over the reeds.These are fresh in from Africa and gather up at the fen, for a  few days before they disperse further north to breed.An odd pair stay around and usually fledge a few youngsters on the reserve!

With so many reed and sedge warblers about,cuckoo numbers are quite high on the fen.Each female can lay as many as 12 eggs before they leave in mid/late june back to Africa.The males seem to depart a few weeks later!I have actually sponsored a cuckoo this year called Larry.He was caught and sat tagged last year in the north west of england and has already departed on his southern migration through Italy.
I have never seen or heard as many whitethroat as I have at Lakenheath,there are really good numbers here,my local patch usually has 2 or 3 pairs maximum,which I eagerly await every Spring.This particular year they were held back by strong northerly winds and were up to 2 weeks late on site!

So that concludes my brief visit to the fens of Suffolk.Sadly the Golden Orioles haven,t returned this year and I,m led to believe that they last bred there some 5 yrs back,again a very sad loss, they used to bring lots of birdwatchers from far and wide.Maybe they will return in the coming years.I for one miss their flutey call amongst the poplar trees!Stay well,keep safe and many thanks for dropping in on my blog,catch up soon!

Friday, 24 June 2016

Whinchats of Bowland

Whinchats without doubt,are one of my favourite moorland bird.There is nothing like the sound of a male Whinchat rattling off its melodic call,atop a frond of Bracken.Usually these can be heard from midway onwards,but this year, the strong northerly winds seemed to hold them back a week or two,as previous visits had produced only a few Stonechat,welcome,never the less!

I decided to check a few known territories and was relieved, when a fine male in full song could be heard higher up the track.A quick scan with the binoculars and there he was amongst the bracken.Now it was a case of get into position and wait while he comes within range of the lens!A half hrs wait and I had him in the viewfinder.Sometimes they keep well away, but this time he was very co operative and I savoured the moment.

There was also another male about 500 metres up the gully,but he seemed to be extra wary,so I left him to settle for the day.A few Stonechat were present, feeding fledged youngsters which is always good to see on the fells.They seem to be holding their own at the moment unlike the Whinchat which for ever reason are dwindling rapidly!

This particular area not too long back,held up to 10 pairs of breeding birds,now I could find only 2.
Another site that I know didn't hold any,sad times indeed!So I'll leave you with a few shots of this iconic moorland bird,long may it continue to grace our upland fells.Thanks for taking the time to drop by and view the blog and please keep well!

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Birds of the heaths (Devon)

I spent a few days down on the Dorset/Devon border recently,a sort of mini break with my wife and daughter.We have left our caravan down there, as we tend to go down quite regularly now and it saves the hassle of having to tow it the 260 miles each way!We always stay in the Lyme Regis area,which is quite central to Weymouth  in the East and Exeter in the west.

The area is famed for its pebble bed heathlands,which are a haven for certain species of birds and fauna.As is the case when we are away, I am always up with the lark and out and about with the camera for a few hrs,always in my opinion the best time of day.

I had recced a particular heathland on a previous visit and this was my target for the next few mornings.I had heard that it supported a few pairs of Dartford warbler but the place was huge and it proved a bit daunting at first to see one,never mind photograph one,add to the fact that they are usually hidden well within cover and when they do fly,it is usually darting and low..but I do like a challenge as they say!
The Stonechat was about in decent numbers and always perch prominently for the camera,this male was in fine breeding plumage.

It had a juvenile close by, which it was feeding on a regular basis!
Amongst the gorse,this young buck checked me out,but he was soon on his toes!
I came across an older buck that appeared out of nowhere ,I was sat down having a brew and sandwich when he unexpectedly put in an appearance.
Eventually I heard a Dartford warbler singing and set about the long wait trying to obtain a half decent image.The heathland was criss crossed with paths and eventually he came within range!
It was a real challenge waiting for this bird to show and eventually he did!I believe sadly that numbers are really down from previous years as these birds do not migrate,so are at the mercy of the british winter!
Yellowhammers were singing from various patches of gorse,they were quite common here!

Linnets were ever present amongst the gorse bushes,always sending out their metallic song!These were the most common of the heathland birds to be found!

A nice pose by this confiding Linnet too!

Now the star bird of the heaths for me,has to be the Nightjar!A somewhat difficult bird to photograph, as they are crepuscular, meaning nocturnal!Local to our were we stay, is a small heath area, roughly 12 acres in size and recently grazed by Exmoor ponies,it is more or less circular in size and bordered by pine trees,forestry commission land.I had often wondered if it held any Nightjar, as I hadn't heard of any reports and usually I was the only one there!
I made a determined effort to check it out towards dusk, in the hope of hearing the familiar churring song made by the nightjars trying to attract a mate.As nighttime approached I made myself comfatable and started on my flask, in anticipation of some action.An Owl hooted in the distance and a deer shot out of the pine trees.A 15 min wait and I was listening to my first nightjar singing heartily in the distance..result.
I walked towards the noise in the growing darkness and suddenly a male nightjar was flying around in front of me,, awesome!In fact there were a total of 3 separate birds present all hawking moths at one stage.I had some superb views of these birds literally 10 metres away from where I was stood.
I decided to come back the next night, hoping to find a perched bird,which might allow an image or 2.
Armed with my trusty binoculars and about half an hour till sunset,I set about trying to locate a perched bird before it went too dark.I must have scanned every pine tree on the heath but to no avail,they must be either down low on the floor or within the confines of the wood.With the light now gone and approaching 9.45 pm,I waited for one to start churring and just maybe it would give me a few record shots,10 mins later and I'm looking at a male nightjar, perched prominently on a dead pine tree,upping the iso setting to a ridiculous high and hand holding the heavy lens, a record shot was gained.
I still had 5 mins left before it really would be too dark to see,so I just sat there watching, 4 birds were now flitting around, as I made my way back to the car.
It had been a worthwhile exercise,but I feel that I can do a lot better with these birds.You will be the first to know if I am successful,many thanks for looking in at my blog and do keep well!

My final image,nightjar on the wing, silhouetted  in the last remnants of light!

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Fox cub

Last sunday morning,I was up and out early to check a few areas, where I had previously known foxes to breed.This particular site had been used by badgers in the past,so I was pleased when I spotted this young fox cub at the entrance to the den! 
I had spotted the cub from about 100 metres away,so I made sure that I was upwind of him before I attempted to move closer!
He was oblivious of my presence as he casually lingered around the entrance!
I sat patiently for 15 mins, in the hope that an adult or more cubs would appear,but nothing else was about,maybe they were taking a nap underground and this one wasn't able to sleep!
He was enjoying the early morning sun amongst the reeds and was content just to sit there!
I was about 20 metres away,hidden under a willow tree,but he knew I was there, as he's looking straight down the lens!
I intend to pay a few more early morning visits to the site,hoping to see and photograph his siblings..I'll keep you posted on the outcome!!!!