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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!!!!

Friday, 20 May 2016

An encounter with a Stoat!!

Whilst out in the trough of Bowland last week,I chanced upon a Stoat!I had stopped the car in a lay-by, to check out some curlew that I had seen in an adjoining field, when I spotted the stoat cross the road and head towards a wall.I quickly grabbed my camera and put on the 400 mm lens in the hope that I might get a few shots of this elusive animal.My luck was in as I watched him work the wall, no doubt looking for a mouse to eat!

He certainly knew I was onto him, as every now and then he would appear and check me out.I was about 15 metres away leant against a fence post.

I have been trying for a while now to get an image or two of this lightning quick animal,and was in my element that I had found one,maybe even with youngsters hidden in the wall!

Three or four times he left the seclusion of the wall and zig zagged through the meadow looking for prey!Twice he came back with a field vole so I think was obviously feeding kits or his mate!

I have returned once back to the Stoat,only to have a fleeting glimpse of him as he made his way back from a sortie.Hopefully my next trip out there will result in a few more images of him...I'll keep you posted on any happenings.Thanks again for dropping by and stay well!!!

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Moor Piece reserve.

Male Pied Flycatcher

About 9 pair bred here last year.

TreePipit,this was one of two birds present and displaying!
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Moor piece nature reserve on the fringes of the trough of bowland, is one of my favourite places to visit at this time of year.It is well known for its breeding Pied Flycatchers,which use the many nest boxes that are to be found within the wood.I decided on a visit there earlier this week,and was delighted to see that numerous pairs of flycatchers had safely returned from Africa, to once more set up their territories!The sound of numerous males could be heard, as I made my way through the footpaths.I picked up on an unfamiliar call from high up in the canopy...it was a tree pipit also proclaiming territory.I knew that they had bred in the woods previously,but never managed to see them.The bird was calling non stop and even did its display flight from its lofty perch,,fantastic.Another bird was also found calling about 100 metres away.and I had good views of this too!Iv'e put together a few images of the morning and hope that you enjoy these wonderful birds!

Monday, 28 March 2016

Cyprus Spring 4

There were so many Corn Buntings proclaiming territory everywhere I went,they would be rattling out their jingly call from fence posts,tops of bushes,wires,just about anything they could hold a lofty perch from!I wish that we had them over here in the UK,but with farming as it is,we are lucky to have them in a few very isolated pockets!

Fan tailed warbler or its other name Zitting Cisticola.A pretty much bland, non descript bird that again was never too far away!

Another common warbler to Cyprus is theSardinian,this particular bird had paired up with a female and was searching out territory!

The Black Francolin somewhat resembles a pheasant type of game bird,but believe me, you are very lucky to get anywhere near to these super wary birds and they are  always hidden within dense vegetation/crops.You do certainly hear them calling from the fields,but they are very skulky.

I was just lucky to be in the right place this time as a few males seemed to be competing for territory!Being within the car helped me to obtain a good few images!

One of the only times that I've seen one out in the open!

Never to far from cover though!

The quest to attract a female brought these birds out of cover!

On the marshes were a few waders including the smart looking Kentish Plover!

One of three Hoopoe that we came across.Not often you see three together,obviously just migrated in off the sea!

A red throated pipit called from a lofty perch,you can just see the coloration on the breast!
So thats all from my trip to Cyprus earlier this month,I used to grab a few hours out at first light every morning with the odd couple of hrs towards evening.A very good array of birds on show,but still too early for Rollers,Shrikes,Bee eaters,harriers,lesser kestrel etc but I wasn,t at all complaining!Again thank you for dropping in on the blog and take care.