Thursday, March 19, 2015

Canadian bycatch

What is your view of introduced species?  I could live without pheasants (and the adders would thank us), but  love to see little owls.  If there were ring-necked parakeets locally I'd go and have a look.  Canada geese? In truth I probably see them as more of a nuisance species, and I've never headed out to snap them.
However my new project for this year is planned around an old estate lake and it is not short of CG's at present.  The access is limited but the accessible part of the lake is ideal for morning work, although to date the weather has largely messed up my plans.  I did get one morning a while ago when the weather and a free morning coincided, and I do think the site holds promise.
I'll hold back on posting my main targets as I think (hope) I will be able to build a better collection of shots (that pre-visualisation again) to post at a later date, but looking back at the snaps from that first session I really quite like the goose shots (although it's amazing/frustrating how the far shoreline is just at head height)

...... and one of a tufted duck.
From the calls I could hear in the background I also found a spot that might prove productive - know what it is?

Hopefully the main project will work out.  Here's one snap to start.

And the nest?  Long-tailed tit.  One for a remotely operated camera I think, but will need to make sure not to draw undue attention to it as I gather they are frequently predated.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Black and white on recycling

The fields up the road had some manure put in them - presumably to be spread around soon.  Always worth keeping an eye on. In the last few days I've noticed a few pipits - presumably meadow, and there was a buzzard once, but to start with it was all about the wagtails.
Although I never had imagined setting up camo gear next to a pile of poo I did spend a few hours over a couple of days.  I was bit surprised that the birds seemed quite wary, and I couldn't get very near them - the fact that there were several long heaps didn't help.  Frustratingly too they seemed to prefer the more rotted stuff - I could see they were finding lots of grubs, but it wasn't really photogenic! 

I think part of the problem was that the fresher manure was still quite active - on a cold morning the steam streamed up from it so presumably not so good for the foodstuff.  In the second field there was some straw laden manure that had been out a bit longer and on a frosty morning I finally got a few pics something like I had envisaged.  No close-ups, but I think they still work - and maybe better - the straw is quite big and might look a bit unbalanced in close up.
 That last shot is my favourite even though the bird is small in the frame, and that after a bit of cropping.  The dusting of frost adds something too.

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.