Friday, May 11, 2007

More local springwatching

Another weekend and this time I did go to Nagshead one morning. It was cold and dark. Typical! The redstart was singing away up in a tree, but didn't seem in any hurry to come down. The pied flycatchers were around, but the best views were 20 yards off. I saw a bird leave another nestbox and patiently waited behind a tree to catch my shot, but it turned out (eventually) to be a great tit. Still the bluebells were pretty .......

and I did find a wren's nest in good view - but dreadful light so there is a snap of the nest (which stays still), but not of the wrens (which don't).

At Parkend the nuthatches were in slightly better light for once and I caught this food pass.

Back at home Kay found a slow-worm by the pond, and so her first snap hits the blog.

The several pairs of starlings nesting under our eaves have monopolised the mealworms to the extent that each feed is gone in a few minutes, ...................

but then given the decline in their numbers I won't begrudge them that. Or the fact that all bar one of the occupied woodland nest holes I found locally turned out to contain starlings. The other? Another great tit!

The 'wild' starlings were surprisingly wary despite nests about 15 feet high, and so I didn't stay too long, but managed a few shots of feeding.
Meanwhile down at the pond recently the warm weather saw a succession of damsel flies hatching:
The nymph emerges, showing the tail 'feathers' that I always tried to copy when tying my damselfly nymph trout flies.

After a while the adult emerged to dry and swell in the sunshine

revealing another large red damsel. If you look closely there is another on the sedge leaf below and behind.

It soon joined the others on a nearby spirea. Don't know why, but they really seemed to go for this bush.

Back at the pond all the empty cases brought a warm glow at the thought that even my little pond could be such a useful resource to the local wildlife. Awww!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

No Pain, No Gain

Last weekend I was left with a dilemma. The pied flycatchers and redstarts at Nagshead, or another go for the Hawfinch. Received wisdom was that Hawfinch may well have moved on, but their attraction still proved too great, and my hide and I ended up going back - twice.

I set the hide up nearer the spot they had shown the week before, despite the fact that it was on a 15-20 degree slope. As usual the tricky little buggers then appeared in the other spot! When they flew I turned the hide round and ....... you've guessed it; they moved and once again I was having to view them out of the little side window.

Over 2 days and about 6-7 hours of very uncomfortable balancing and twisting (cramp and 'dead legs' - couldn't use a seat) I racked up some great views, sometimes within 6-8 feet. The best time was a period of several minutes when a male was feeding a female. The female took on the pose adopted by young birds begging for food - head down and wings fluttering, and the male hopped over and passed food with great tenderness given the size of that beak. Sadly the camera was pointing out another window at the time, but I didn't want to scare them by moving it so I just enjoyed the show.

Overall there were more birds around than the week before, and there was a ticking in the trees for long periods. More extraordinary was the sound I heard once and which Chris had described the week before. A high whistle in a rising tone that sounded for all the world like a camera flashgun recharging. The light was still poor, and I ended up shooting with the aperture wide open, exposure shortened a full stop and I was still only getting a shutter speed of 1/50-60th at best. Unfortunately the Panasonic FZ30 I use is rubbish at anything higher than 200 ASA equivalent. Still in the end some pictures weren't too bad (click on the pics for bigger views). Wait until I get out with a DSLR!

The hide again allowed some great views of the local squirrels, including several youngsters. The most surprising view was the jay that hopped onto a branch 4 feet away and had a good look at me before flying on, sadly before I could get a shot (bloody camera out wrong window again!).

The level of foliage on the trees means that's probably it for pictures this year as the effort is outweighing the results, but it is reassuring to know they can be snapped with some time and patience (and good tips on feeding sites - thanks Chris).