Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Med, Shrike and Otter

The rain was hammering down outside my house one Sunday lunchtime in March, and I was unsure whether I should visit Frodsham Marsh in Cheshire where a Great Grey Shrike had been seen the previous day. Would it still be there and how wet would I get tramping around the muddy lanes?
I decided to give it a go, but first I was going to check a flooded field near my house at Leasowe that had looked promising for gulls when I ran past the previous day.
The rain had eased off a little as I stopped my car near Leasowe lighthouse, but there were only half a dozen gulls on the flash. I wound down the car window and scanned the birds and was delighted to find a Mediterranean Gull in second winter plumage feeding alongside a few Black-headed Gulls. I leant my camera on the car door and proceeded to fire off a few shots. The bird moved closer and I was able to obtain some nice photographs, especially when it stretched and preened. I also took a few flight shots of this scarce British breeding bird. I know gulls aren't everyone's cup of tea but I love them, and I have a special fondness for med gulls.
I left the site feeling well pleased and headed for Frodsham. The rain was getting heavy again as I joined the M56 motorway and an unexpected traffic jam almost saw me turn the car around and head home. Instead I left the motorway and drove the rest of the way on A roads via Helsby.  I drove carefully along a pot-holed track on the marsh to the area where the shrike had been seen and yes, it was still there. I donned my waterproofs and wellies and made my way to the group of rain-soaked birders who soon put me onto the bird perched on a distant hedge. All shrikes are beautiful birds and the Great Grey is no exception, but in my experience they are quite wary so scope views are usually the norm. I managed a few record shots with my camera then hung around in the rain hoping it would come closer; and despite the inclement conditions it was busy feeding but it never really came close to the track. I was about to leave when another birder told me that an Otter was resting close to the road! I headed back down the path and was rewarded with my closest ever encounter with this elusive mammal. The female Otter stretched, rolled and scratched on the opposite side of a ditch within metres of a small group of admirers. Unfortunately, she appeared to have some problem with her eyes and this may explain her boldness. But otherwise she appeared perfectly healthy and it was a real treat to see her at such close quarters. A fabulous end to a great afternoon's birding on a soggy Sunday.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

St. Asaph Waxwings

A day or so after Christmas, despite suffering from a heavy dose of "manflu", I couldn't resist travelling to St. Asaph in North Wales to look for a flock of waxwings that had been frequenting the area for a few days. They had been feeding on rowan berries in an area close to the river, but on my arrival all the trees there had been stripped of their fruit, but the birds were still present, roosting in the tall trees on the river bank. A few of them occasionally swooped down to snatch berries from the ground, or to drink from the rainwater puddles. But the main flock appeared to be feeding on the opposite side of the river. I scanned the area and found the berry-laden trees which were their latest food source. After alerting other birders to their presence, I hurried across a bridge and managed to obtain some nice images of one of my very favourite species of bird.


Friday, January 6, 2017

2017 Farne Islands Calendar

Last month I made a number of calendars as Christmas presents for friends and family based on my visits to the Farne Islands in Northumberland. The islands are a paradise for seabirds and provide the photographer with an inexhaustible source of subjects. It was difficult to chose 12 photos from the many I have taken over the past few years but I eventually settled on the following images.




Arctic Tern

Grey Seal


Flying Puffin


Arctic Tern