Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Red Kites at Watlington Hill

30th January 2016

Have you ever meant to go somewhere, but never seemed to get round to it? Well, that was my Watlington Hill. Reputed to be the best site in the country for photographing Red Kites, it has been on my list for years, but an objective I have never achieved. So with the winter birds fairly poor at the moment and the forecast of a sunny day, time to finally put this one to bed.

Apart from the kites, the panoramic views at this site are breath-taking and are worth the visit alone. On the opposite sloping hill a herd of Fallow Deer were enjoying the peace and tranquility, miles away from any road.

But back to the business in hand. There were not many kites present, but normally five in view at any one time. They would be soaring some distance away, but would then appear suddenly overhead giving some great opportunities.

There was obviously courtship going on with a lot of displaying and calling from the wood below. Having said that only one bird came to the edge of the wood and showed itself.

But the best bit was that many of the kites drifted so close overhead that it was only possible to get a head-and-shoulders shot, but who is complaining?

Friday, 5 February 2016

A Day in The Brecks

28th January 2016

The plan today was to park at Ride 24 and walk down towards Grimes Graves in the hope of seeing the Great Grey Shrike and to see if there were any Wood Larks around. As often happens there was immediate action in the car park with a pair of Tree Creepers actively feeding in the nearby trees.

Down on the clear fell there was no sign of the Great Grey Shrike, which wasn't too surprising as it roams from the far side of Grimes Graves to the railway by Santon Downham. However, here the bonus was the three Goshawks that were displaying over the woods in the distance. Back on the ground a pair of Meadow Pipits were setting up territory on one of the lines of grubbed out roots, and a female Stonechat was taking advantage of the newly planted firs for a look-out point.

We then moved on to Lackford Lakes where a Marsh Tit was taking advantage of some seed strewn on  a fallen tree trunk.

Further along the trail a drake Goldeneye was posing well in front of the Atlas Hide, the first bird that I have ever seen close in in front of this particular hide.

But the star of the show once more was the female Long-tailed Duck which today was back on Long Reach in front of Bessie's Hide, albeit initially a bit distant. It did eventually come a little closer, but the long distance was made up for by the lovely afternoon sun. I wonder just how much longer this bird will stay?

Monday, 1 February 2016

Brancaster Staithe from the Metal Mobile Hide

19th January 2016

It had been forecast to be a bright and sunny day but on our way to Norfolk the clouds rolled in and there was very poor light before we even got there. The plan was to be at Brancaster Staithe for high tide and therefore we had time to check out a few places along the coast. One of these was East Bank at Cley where there had been a Red-necked Grebe and Grey Phalarope on The Serpentine. The Red-necked Grebe was still present but very distant, but the Grey Phalarope, albeit very mobile, did come close enough on at least one occasion for some record shots. All the other sites were very quiet and gloomy.

So now on to Brancaster Staithe where the tide was up and we were able to drive around in the metal mobile hide, my car. The advantage of using a car as a hide is that not only can you drive right up to the birds, but also position the car to get the light from the right direction and a comfortable position for hanging the camera out of the window. First up was an Oystercatcher, which is a compulsory photographic subject when in Norfolk

Next was a rather more unusual wader. Normally the godwits that insist on standing in front of the lens are Black-tails, but here the three godwits present were all Bar-tails, which was an absolute bonus. The top one had a beautiful apricot wash to its breast.

Another bird that is normally difficult to get close to is the Curlew, but here this individual was totally unaware of our presence just 20 yards away. Absolutely amazing.

But the star of the show today was the Grey Plover that was feeding just 10 yards away. Such a shame that the light was so poor, requiring me to use ISO-3200, so just imagine what the shots would have been like in sunshine!!

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Three Target Species at Jaywick and St Osyth

16th January 2016

Time for a reminiscent return to Jaywick and St Osyth where I spent 6 weeks a year as a child and learnt much of my early birding, armed with just an Observers Book of Birds and no binoculars. The day started at St Osyth Beach where Target Species No 1 was a reasonably long-staying juvenile Glaucous Gull. As soon as we pulled into the car park I popped my head over the sea wall and there it was, so breakfast was put on hold.

At first it was sitting on rocks with the sun in an awkward position, but then it kindly flew on to the beach which was far more photographic-friendly. I started snapping away as I edged close and eventually got with 20 yards allowing some nice lose-up shots.

When it did eventually fly its enormous size made it difficult to fit it all into the frame and I had to wait until it was a bit further way before getting some shots.

Now on to Jaywick for Target Species No 2, the Snow Bunting. Up to seven birds had be present for a few weeks but were frequently being reported as "mobile", which didn't sound too good. We soon found the flock and I was amazed to see just how settled they were and totally comfortable with our presence. After time we were able to get within 10 yards of the flock and just 5 yards from one particular individual.

So finally on to Target Species No 3, the Dartford Warbler also at Jaywick, which seemed to be quite skulking when it first arrived but was now showing quite frequently, albeit briefly. This made photography very difficult, but after about an hour I did manage to get a couple of shots of it buried deep in some Sea Buckthorn. What a fantastic day some 60 years on from those earlier informative years. I certainly didn't realise then that I would be photographing Snow Buntings and a Dartford Warbler on that same beach!!!