Sunday, March 31, 2013

Dipping Out

"Dipping out" is a term used by birders when they fail to see a bird they have travelled to see. Not wishing myself any further "dips" I have to say I have missed a few scarce birds recently, in fact I am on something of a "dipping streak". None of them would've been life ticks for me, but when you put the effort in to try and see a bird it's nice to achieve success once in a while. Additionally, maybe there should be a new term for bird photographers who actually manage to see a species but then fail to actually obtain a photograph! This has happened on two occasions recently when I have found urban flocks of Waxwings both on main roads which have then flown off before I have even left the car, not as a result of my presence I hasten to add. Waxwings are getting harder to pin down as the year progresses, probably due to a lack of suitable berry-bearing bushes combined with their urge to return to their breeding grounds.
Recently I have also failed to connect with (another birders term meaning "see") Hawfinches at a number of sites, Great White Egret at Hale and Black Redstart at Neston. I even failed to see Crossbills at a favoured site in North Wales today. But I have a plan; leave all my photographic equipment at home and the birds will be tripping up to feed out of my hand!
But, ever the optimist, there is always something to photograph as shown by the following shots of Bullfinch at Leighton Moss and Red Kite in Wales.

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Short-eared Owl

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Marsh Tits at Leighton Moss

Last week my friend Jane and I visited Sizergh Castle in Cumbria in the hope of seeing Hawfinches. We pulled into the car park in bright sunshine but it soon started to snow. A thorough search of the area failed to produce our quarry so we went for a short walk in the surrounding countryside; the coldness of the weather did not diminish our appreciation of this beautiful part of the country. After photographing common birds such as Robin, Wren and Blackbird, we returned to the car park but there was still no sign of the target birds. We decided to head south so we could lunch a Leighton Moss RSPB.
Passing through Milnthorpe the clouds unleashed a veritable snow blizzard of Dickensian proportions. It was almost a total whiteout! We drove on to Leighton Moss where we enjoyed a picnic in Lilian's Hide. I prefer to eat outside to maximise the wildlife viewing opportunities.
But to say the weather was changeable was grossly understating the situation. In the film version of H.G. Wells' classic novel The Time Machine, the time traveller views the passing days as a strobe of night and day; similarly the weather that day fluctuated rapidly between bouts of sunshine and mini snowstorms driven in by a bitter Easterly wind.
Undeterred by the elements we enjoyed a great day's birdwatching. One of the highlights for me was the newly built shelter by the bird feeders where we enjoyed great views of common woodland birds and scarcer birds including one of my favourites the subtly beautiful Marsh Tit. We rounded the day off with a very welcome curry in nearby Carnforth.


Robins and Wren photographed at Sizergh Castle.

Marsh Tits.

Common Snipe.

Immature Mute Swan in snowstorm.

Male Wigeon.

Female Great Spotted Woodpecker.

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Stoatally Amazing

Leighton Moss

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Treecreeper (2)

The weather has been very changeable recently but there are signs that Spring is underway; daffodils and crocuses are beginning to flower and woodland birds such as Song Thrush and Great Tit are in full song. I have yet to see my first Spring migrant, but a Wheatear and White Wagtail have both been seen at Leasowe this weekend.
Marathon training is progressing well (touch wood!) ; I managed a long run of 20 miles yesterday which brought my total mileage for the week up to 48 miles.
After visiting my son in Liverpool today I stopped of at Hale near Speke to look for a Great White Egret but I found only a Little Egret. I drove on to Moore Nature Reserve and spent some time in the woodland, hoping to see Lesser Spotted Woodpecker but again I was unsuccessful. Nevermind, the feeding station at this fab reserve was packed with birds including Great Spotted Woodpecker and I also glimpsed a Willow Tit. Bird of the day was a Treecreeper, which is the first one I have seen this year. Insectivorous birds such as this must be struggling to find food in the cold weather, and it doesn't look like conditions are going to improve this week.
I took a few shots of the Treecreeper in poor light in deep woodland and I am fairly pleased with the results in such conditions. The photo below clearly shows the enormous claws that this arboreal bird utilises when climbing.

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Red-flanked Bluetail

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Norfolk 2013

I've been busy working and marathon training recently so photographic opportunities have been limited. But, as usual, the weather hasn't been conducive to producing decent wildlife images.
On the 24th of last month (February) I ran the Blackpool Half Marathon in a decent time of 83 and a half minutes, which I was pleased with because of a recent hamstring injury. Its two minutes slower than my time at the same event last year but I'm not complaining. After the race I visited Marton Mere local nature reserve but was failed to find any Long-eared Owls; I've seen them here a few times before but they can be difficult to find without local knowledge.
At the beginning of March I spent a family weekend in Norfolk. I had problems with the image stabilisation system on my 500 lens so many of my photographs were unusable. I saw many Barn Owls on my morning runs, often perched on roadsigns or on one memorable occasion sat on the fence in the back garden of our cottage! I love Norfolk, it really is a very bird-filled county.

Brent Geese Over Blakeney

Curlew at Wells

Oystercatcher, Wells


Rooks fighting at Kelling

Song Thrush

Sunset over Cley Windmill with Blakeney Church in the background.

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Norfolk in October