Monday, 30 November 2015

Goldeneye at Amwell

21st November 2015

A nice sunny day and a couple of spare hours so off to Amwell to photograph the newly arrived Goldeneye. There have only been two males so far and as is often the case they were at the southern end of the pit to the left of the Gladwin Hide. They were diving constantly, only spending a few seconds on the surface and the first shot I took was fairly typical of the view you got.

However with a little patience I was able to get some better shots as they moved closer to the hide and spent some time washing, preening and wing-flapping. You just can't beat a drake Goldeneye.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

The Supporting Cast at Heartwood Forest

20th November 2015

Of late the Short-eared Owls have been harder to see at close quarters, mainly due to the high winds when on some days they have not shown at all. However today the weather forecast was much better and so I headed off to try my luck. At the main viewpoint there was a host of birders and photographers, all waiting for the owls to perform.

After half an hour or so and still no sign I decided to wander a little further up the track and just as well that I did as half way to the wood there was a lot of activity in the grass quite close to the path. Although the birds were mainly out of sight, one or two would occasionally hop up into one of the many saplings and afford some opportunities, but you had to be quick.

The first to show was this lovely female Reed Bunting which was closely followed by this male Yellowhammer. But the icing on the cake was the appearance of a few Lesser Redpolls, a bird that I had not really expected to see here. In fact, when the whole flock eventually flew there were no less than 30 Redpolls, a really good number.

But the star of the show today was Kes The Poser which kept the crowds of waiting photographers and birders enthralled by hovering nearby and perching on one of the saplings just 15 yards from the assembled throng.How incredible is that.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

An Early Winter Visit to Abberton Reservoir

12th November 2015

Over the last three years Essex and Suffolk Water have been carrying out extensive works at Abberton Reservoir to increase the capacity of the reservoir by an extra 10 feet of water. What is baffling then, now that the work has been completed, is that the current water levels are lower than they used to be in pre-works days and, lets face it, we haven't exactly been short of rain. As a result the water is now 50 yards from the hides so not much good for photography. We did, however, spend some time in the oddly named Hide Bay Hide as the low water levels had exposed some spits which I didn't even know existed.

Most of the usual suspects were present including this Mute Swan which gave an impromptu take-off display, but the bonus was the four Bewick Swans that flew in from the Abberton Church end where they had been seen earlier in the day.

Back on the trail one of the ringed Kestrels from the nest box was hunting over the path and was so pre-occupied with catching a vole that it scarcely noticed our presence allowing some great opportunities. If only the sun had been out.

But the stars of the show today were the juvenile and adult Black-headed Gulls sitting around on posts on Layer Breton causeway, especially as they posed in front of the distant trees allowing an effective background to be created.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Water Pipits at Rainham Marshes

9th November 2015

The programme today was to photograph my first ever Water Pipit. It was a dark and overcast day, but with the weather forecast saying that breaks in the cloud might be possible, it was well worth a visit. My first port of call was the Ken Barrett Hide which has always been dead. The main problem here is that, although it was cleared about 4 years ago, the front of the scrape right outside the window of the hide has been taken over by Flowering Rush which, although being a very attractive aquatic plant, is also very invasive.

However, the scrape has now been re-profiled and to my mind a little more aggressively than before, so hopefully it will last a little longer this time before the whole exercise has to be repeated. As a result there is now open water lapping up to the hide and birds queuing up for their photograph to be taken, like this pair of Gadwall.

By the Dragonfly Pools a rather tame Kestrel was sitting on top of one of the target signs, probably not such a good idea. I suspect from the greyish hue on its cheeks that this is a young male.

Now on to the Butts Hide for some lunch and a cup of tea, and just outside the hide was a Grey Heron. Unfortunately with my camera set-up it was so close that I couldn't get it all in, so had to be content with just a head shot.

But then the star of the show arrived, a Water Pipit. Even as it flew in it was noticeably pale underneath and the call was a clincher. It strutted around on the bare mud (because this scrape has also been cleared of vegetation) and offered a number of photographic opportunities over the next 20 minutes. Unfortunately, the light was poor and I had to resort to an ISO of 1600-2000, but I hope you will agree that the Canon 7D Mk2 acquitted itself very well.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Short-eared Owls at Heartwood Forest

2nd November 2015

It is obviously a very good year for Short-eared Owls as they are present in good numbers at all the traditional sites with one or two sightings at new sites. The nearest site to home is Heartwood Forest at Sandridge so time for a visit.

This was my first recce of this newly planted woodland managed by The Woodland Trust so therefore time for a circuit of this quite substantial site. The areas where the owls had been seen in previous years is now getting overgrown, but I was soon able to locate the owls in the area around Hillend Farm. I only saw two birds although three were present, and since my visit numbers have increased to five birds.

Luckily today the light was good and I was able to get a few shots although I will be back to try for some closer shots.

I was particularly pleased to be able to get this shot of a bird turning in mid-air to dive on to some prey.

The problem is that many of the areas where the owls are currently hunting have been planted as part of the woodland development, so in about three years the owls will have gone from these areas.