Friday, December 28, 2007

For goodness sake - sit still!

Why won't all birds pose for the camera?
I suppose everyone has certain birds that become something of a 'challenge'. I have generally failed dismally in the past to get any decent shots of wagtails, but the two daily visitors we've had in the garden over this last couple of weeks got me going again - a pied and a first winter grey (I think). Trouble is they don't stop moving, so if you can't get some decent light the tail wags into a blur. I suppose if you get it right it might look artistic, but so far my efforts just look like bad shots - the whole body tends to bob, so they always look just that bit unsharp.
First efforts were through the windows, hence the slightly opaque appearance.

While I was watching we had male and female blackcaps investigating our orchard. Not that we've got any fruit trees, just a lot of bags of 'value' apples to see what we can pull in. Only the female smiled for the camera though - again a window shot.
I decided to stick up a 'hide' near the apples. Sadly the blackcaps had found the dishes of sultanas and weren't coming out to the apples, but the wagtails appeared and I finally got some better shots.

Despite appearances they don't eat apples - but they do seem to be eating shortcrust pastry! Perhaps it attracts insects?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Feeed Me 2

OK, feeding station nearer home - near Cannop ponds in the Forest of Dean. Put some peanuts in and around the old post, chuck a bit of seed around and what comes along .......................

those well known woodland birds the goose and the mallard! A nuthatch demonstrated a different pose to normal as it warned off a rival
but the target bird was the jay. Several soon appeared, with just one thing on their minds - peanuts!

It's amazing just how many they can cram in at a time
Eventually the chance came for some shots that didn't feature nuts, just a shame the light wasn't better

More unexpected was the visit from a (rather shy) crow
Quite good views in the end - but aren't black areas difficult to expose well?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Feeeeed Me!

Getting close to wildlife is always a problem. A hide is a big plus. A hide with a feeding station in winter is a really big plus. The water rail pictures in the last post were from just such a spot, and it also pulled in other birds including the male and female common pheasant, the dark female - possibly golden pheasant - and the jay and grey squirrel.

But don't the feeding stations spoil the picture you might reasonably ask? I would say yes, but the point is the birds and mammals present other opportunities for pictures that look much more wild. These next few shots were all taken without changing seat, but could have been in the middle of nowhere .......................

(OK I'll admit the goldfinch - at last a teasel cliche shot(!) - didn't use the feeders, but I'm sure the bird activity helped draw it in!)

Phragmites, buntings and rails

The feather-topped Phragmites reed is the mainstay of most of the shallow water wetlands, encouraging the bogbumpers (see last post), reed and sedge warblers and the elusive bearded tit. In the winter I tend to associate two other birds - the most visible being the reed bunting.
In winter the dramatic black head of the male fades - much like the brambling of a few posts ago,
and a couple of years ago the bird below caused me much excitement until I realised it was a reed bunting moulting into summer plumage rather than some kind of exotic relative!

The other bird I tend to associate with phragmites is one I rarely see at my local wetlands patch, although as you walk around Newport wetlands the pig-like squeals seem to be heard all over the place. One of the hides at Potteric Carr holds a strong promise of seeing this shy bird, although sorties out of the reeds do tend to be quick dashes. Still, enough this time to get some better shots.
Kind of cute, eh? Again try clicking for a bigger view - if blogger is playing ball!

Friday, December 14, 2007


OK, I know it's childish, but I have this sort of competitive streak. Last year I arrived in the hide and THERE WAS SOMEONE ALREADY THERE. I still saw the bird and got some photos, but selfishly I wanted it all to myself.
So this year I arrived at the reserve on the dot of opening time and walked briskly to the hide - still a good 15-20 minutes. Open the door and ............ yes - all by myself! Next came the task of examining each clump of reeds for any tell-tale sign. Because I'd rushed my glasses kept steaming up! The first 2 clumps drew a blank, but then peering through the bins I was sure there was something there in the third. Just a hint, but worth watching.
Sure enough after a few minutes the view became clearer. Well a bit clearer, and definitely something there.
Keep watching. Slowly, so slowly it moved, and then a head appeared, scouring the shallow water for food - can you see it yet (as Rolf would say)?
In time the stunning bird crept out, and for about an hour it moved around the patch in front of the hide - although for about 30 minutes it was in another clump of reeds - so hidden I kept losing it, even though the clump was only about 4 yards long and 2 thick.
So there we are, great views of a bittern from Potteric Carr - must be one of best UK spots for good winter views. There were at least 3 and probably 5 on the reserve when I was there. And all for me alone ..................................

(try clicking on the picture for a bigger view - soemtimes it seems to work, others not!)

Friday, November 30, 2007

Cardiff has wildlife

The report of water rail was enough to drag me to the wilds of north Cardiff. The Glamorganshire Canal nature reserve is a part of a bigger country park, and proved to be a pleasant enough place - wander along the canal on your right, with a small river on your left, a couple of bird hides and a feeding station - it all seemed promising.
It was particularly nice to find a spot with lots of moorhen and no coot squabbling away.

Down at the hide another moorhen was doing a black grouse impersonation in the sunshine (yes - real sun - in some places!), ..........
whilst the mallards and kingfishers glowed.Annoyingly the kingfishers would perch quite near the hide, but always took their fish further afield - good views, but not photos - at least not at 600 pixels!
Several jay joined the usual birds at the feeding station, ..........but sadly the water rail were largely conspicuous by their noisy calls, rather than views. I did get some glimpses on the far side of the pool, though, and when I first walked into the hide I found a rail was swimming in open water - a first for me. The light was poor and my shot rushed, to catch it before it reached dry land, but you can see what I mean.
Definitely worth another go, even the hassle of all those roadworks on the M4. The final bonus (well a bit of a mixed bonus really) was some pretty good views of a mink. It was down on the river bank at first, right below my feet so I saw it well, but the vegetation made any pictures impossible. When it crossed over it to the other bank I managed one quick snap though.

Next time I'll try and have a look for those dippers as well.