Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Where have all the siskins gone?

I've made sparing visits to my 'far' wood this year, but I've kept the feeding going.  Thing is there only seem to be the more common woodland birds coming, and in particular the pine feeders - siskin and redpoll have been missing.  The missing siskins have been noted elsewhere, felt likely due to a good sitka spruce seed crop.  
I have heard them so this makes sense as to why my niger seed isn't the attraction it was.  Presumably the same holds for the redpoll, but here it is apparently birch and alder that are the attraction.  Maybe the lack of siskins feeding is also an issue.  That said the niger seed is going, but maybe only when the sunflower has gone.  A couple of jays were down - first time they have been brave enough here, but my lens set-up is wrong for big birds.  As for the hawfinch, probably too early even if the mast crop was not so good.  If it was good I don't expect them at all.

In truth I'm struggling with my lens set up for the little drinking hole too.  At 600mm as above I can only just squeeze a small bird in, but at 420mm the space lets in the untidy background.  Space is so restricted I may never get this ideal though.  Never mind I did snap a couple of shots whilst listening to Andy Murray implode.
I'll give it a few weeks before popping back - a dry spell always helps pull in the birds too.  Hopefully the met office will be a bit more accurate in future too - I expected cold and bright - and got cloud with light snow!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Hanging out the bunting(s)

A weekend trip to Aust to look for any owls flushed out of the saltmarsh by a highish tide proved unproductive.  I didn't even see the stonechats so frequently reported recently, but retreated to Rod's log where the reed buntings were popping in.  The males haven't quite morphed into the full blackheaded version yet.  I knew roughly the picture I wanted - bird and phragmites seed heads - but didn't quite get there.  Still a few more shots for the collection ........... and a sparrow for good measure.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Whooping Cold Bird

I've written before about our local seasonal wetland - the Nedern.  In winter the fields flood and we get an influx of wildfowl - wigeon, tufted duck, shoveller, pintail, teal, shelduck - and waders, especially redshank.  I haven't ever given them the time they deserve but the angles and light can be troublesome and it's hard to find a good viewpoint. 
Last weekend for the first time I went down reasonably early and tucked into some bushes.  The duck were miles away as usual, but the population of mute swan swells beyond the resident pair and a juvenile and adult cruised around playing at mirror imaging.


Wait a sec ...... let's back up.  That bill on the back bird isn't orange.

OK the most contrived title and intro for a post I've probably ever made!  A keen eyed Nedern watcher had spotted a whooper swan, and it had been hanging around for a while.  Although a number of northern swans overwinter in this area, most are the Bewick's which characterise winter at nearby Slimbridge.  So while I'm not a twitcher at all this was too good a chance to miss.

I'd seen the bird a few times walking the dog, but it favoured the far end of the wetland nearest Caerwent village, and relatively difficult to reach so I wasn't too hopeful of closer shots. 
I did 'visualise' one shot (careful - I'll be talking about 'making pictures' next) when I saw it swim across with the village in the background, but didn't have time to swap the set up to allow a bit more space.  I wanted to catch the church and did so but the bloody thing dipped it's head at the crucial point!

I did manage a few closer shots when it drifted nearer briefly but it was bit shy and I didn't have a hide. 
After it disappeared for a while round the corner I decided to call it a day.  Had just stood up when I heard the instantly recognisable sound of a swan taking off.  It came into view flying low and I tried to grab some shots by handholding a 600mm lens attached to a folded tripod!  This looks ok at this resolution, but isn't one to blow up I'm afraid.

My big treat this summer is a photography trip to Iceland, and I may even see this swan again then.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Last Post (this year!)

Time seems to have slipped away at the tail end of 2014.  My memory is of a succession of wet weeks which meant little chance of snapping, and then we had a longer break in Florida which didn't see a lot of camera action really, but plenty of fishing.  Maybe I shouldn't even mention that in a wildlife blog.  There weren't really any new subjects, but a couple of okay snaps.
It's only the last week or two that I've got out again.  Back to the 2 woods where the feeding station activity is starting to pick up and to a reminder of just how awkward the light can be.  The following shots were taken over the course of a couple of hours showing the spotlight effect dappled light can have, lighting the subject, the background, both or neither.

At the end of that session I was wandering away when I almost literally stumbled over a late mushroom, one I haven't seen before.  I had missed the first phase and so the cap had been eaten away by insects leaving the phallic 'skeleton'.  I had with me only my 300mm lens complete with x2 converter, but I thought I'd have a go at getting some snaps. The sun was quite well down so the light was quite warm, but then it died lending a blue cast to the final images - I've tweaked the white balance on a few to warm them up a bit.  As you scroll down you will see how I (slowly) improved the background, stray twigs, etc.  Getting better at close up snaps will be an aim for next year - I need to develop a different way of working.  You will also see how the light affected the background - at first highlighting intrusive paler elements, then the whole in a patchy pattern and finally a diffuse blur.

To end, a few first goes at the pair of jays now visiting my closer woodland.  Bigger birds mean it's hard to get a good depth of field.  I like the one of it drinking, and hope to try some different angles on this with a remote trigger.  That though means time which remains in quite short supply these days.