Monday, June 20, 2016

The canary and the mine

A flying trip to Kay's home village in South Yorkshire found me up on the landscaped spoil tip from the old colliery.  The colliery itself closed 25 years ago, and much of the land is now a housing estate overlooked by the tip.  A previous visit had led to some distant views of yellowhammer, so I wanted to see if they were still around.

In fact there were at least 4 territories, probably more, and with the hawthorn still in blossom I hoped I might get some decent snaps.  In truth the light didn't really play ball, and their habit of perching high up meant most of the shots became high key images.  I would have ramped up the exposure even more but the white blossom needed to show.  The pinker tinged flowers looked better, but I would have loved some blue sky for at least a few shots.
As I said in the last post I did find a bush with a nest, but didn't go poking around, just took the chance to get a couple of snaps of the female bringing in some food.  She seemed to be finding moths mainly.
It was a real treat to see the yellowhammers as I never seem to see any near home.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Nests kept finding me

I've never been one for trying to find nests, but this year I feel I have been tripping over them. The buzzards are back for the third year running,

but sadly the foliage has now obscured the view this year, so no shots of the youngsters this time.

While watching the nest though it was impossible to ignore the noise coming from an adjacent tree.  I've only ever twice come across great spotted woodpecker nests, but the young are so noisy they truly do find you rather than the other way around.

More from that nest later.

A few hundred yards on Kay had heard smaller chicks calling.  Having come across similar situations before I reckoned the fissure in the huge clematis stem looked a likely bet so I tucked into a nearby bush and waited.  My money was on blue tit, but before long the unmistakable call was from a great tit

- did you see it in the background?

We heard a few other nests, but decided to leave them be as nothing could be easily seen, and why disturb them?  I felt the same too when I realised this yellowhammer (not local this time) kept hanging around the same bush.  After a short while it dived in with the food, but I decided not to look closer.

My favourite find though was another by Kay, this time in our garden.  She's not the greatest bird identifier, but from her description it had to be a coal tit, much to my surprise.  A quick look on the BTO website and sure enough they do use nest boxes - but only if within a couple of feet of the ground.  So the sparrow terrace tucked under the plum tree awaiting resiting was actually perfectly placed.
They shot into the nest at great speed making snaps tricky, but as far as I am concerned this is rear of the year!
Pleased to say all bar the buzzards have now fledged.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Booming lovely

It had been a couple of years since I went to the Newport wetlands, but a friend's tale of a booming bittern drew me there, never having heard one.  I hoped I might pick up a few snaps of some of the other residents too, although it's never been the easiest place to get good views. 

I did catch a reed bunting with a nice black head rather than the half moulted phase I normally seem to catch.

The Cetti's warblers remained as frustrating as usual however.

Wandering over the pontoon bridge I bumped into a pair of hydrophobic swans, which were winding up a somewhat confused territorial male .............


and while I was grabbing a quick snap or two the sound of someone blowing over the top of a bottle seeped into my consciousness.  After a few seconds it clicked!  I heard the bittern a few more times that morning, but wasn't surprised not to see it.

A week or two later I wandered down to the estate lake to make sure the grebes hadn't bred behind my back - no sign, but a sedge warbler was singing away from various decaying reedmace heads - these probably being my favourite views.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Back to the woods

Our little community woodland is looking good this spring.  At least three of the nest boxes are in use - just tits, but hey it's good.

The feeding, drinking and bathing station now boasts a proper little hide and I think this will pay dividends, although the jay and crow still seem a bit nervous.  The woodpeckers are regular visitors at present to the woodpecker tree we put in - wondering whether to be a flycatcher

and a bit of shadow puppetry - note the bottom right hand corner.  Still it needs to learn to make more than a woodpecker.

The treecreeper isn't bathing at present, but it does like the woodpecker tree.

The woodpeckers also drink from the pool

 as does the woodpigeon.

I had a magpie down but struggled with framing.  One problem is the lens needed for a magpie doesn't work so well for a treecreeper.  Maybe I need to try the zoom.

A pair of asian longtailed woodchickens are prowling around - legs cropped to avoid showing the plastic bird table.

To close an new one for me.  The long tailed tits are enjoying the suet / fatballs, but one showed some acrobatic skills while it ate a sunflower seed.

Those legs don't look strong enough do they?

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

If at first you don't succeed .........

Our early purple orchids crept up on me again, and I nearly missed them.

I had another short spell in my quest to do something a bit different flower snap wise.  I'm starting to learn how some of these images might work, but it is harder than it looks to get something worthwhile!  Truth is I need to spend some proper time on this.  Orchids, bluebells and our garden's little pink leaved horse chestnut species.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

The fox and the earth

Foxes have their habits.  Like badgers they stick to their paths, giving you the prospect of intercepting them.  Wild foxes are wary though so there is always some doubt about the prospects of getting a snap.  We had seen this vixen a few times crossing the newly worked field and always about the same time in the evening, so I took advantage of one of the deep ruts and bedded down early one evening to try my luck.
Sure enough she popped up, although not from the direction I expected.
I realised she knew something was in the field, but the advantage of a long lens and some scrim is that you are not obviously a person, so she just watched, leaving because she was heading on her way, not from fear.

Despite appearances in one shot no feeding used for this session.  Just a shame the light is shaded off the earth by this time as in the sun the colours would have glowed. 

In the woods the badger tracks run though the spring flowers. 

I had a shot in mind so another evening sat late to try my luck.  I did see a badger, but frustratingly the flash set up I tried misfired so this wasn't the standard I hoped.

Still you learn a bit more every time - like trying it out more first!