Sunday, September 30, 2007

Some of the rest

Sometimes you accrue a few shots that don't quite fit in with other posts at the time.
My trips to try and see shorebirds at Severn Beach never seem too successful. Let''s put it this way - for me catching these dunlin was an achievement!
The female speckled bush cricket and the knotgrass caterpillar were just local 'finds' I stumbled over fortuitously.

Good looking caterpillar for a grey speckled moth (OK I know that covers the majority of moths, in my opinion, but I know not how else to describe it).

Friday, September 28, 2007

Golds, Greys and Greens

Kay's folks have a hawthorn tree in the garden, next to their feeding station, and as the light falls kindly in the morning it's a great place to sit quietly and catch the incoming birds. Goldfinch flocks can be 30-40 strong, but not so many at present

Collared doves are equally crowded - 22 at their peak, exceeding even the 19 we had in our garden last week. I know this is similar to a recent post, but I just love the red eye and powder blue feathers, and this is a better shot.

The starlings, however, still look quite rough as the sparkling winter coat comes through This greenfinch was a bit scruffy, but a nice enough snap.

Who're you looking at?

One bird that stood out at Old Moor this time was the heron - 21 according to the guy 2 along - I didn't bother counting, but there were certainly plenty - and some gave good views when the sun came out.

On a similar shot you can actually see the spines on a stickleback in it's beak - this looks more like a bullhead type fish, but you won't see at this low resolution. You'd certainly need quite a few to satisfy a bird this size.
One consequence of this high number of birds was a degree of aggression. I'd not noted this pose when watching herons before, but this is a heron feeling grumpy - wings slightly open and head high.

A while later a juvenile and adult wandered into close proximity, and it looked like something might happen.

When nothing had after 5 minutes my attention shifted elsewhere, so when it did erupt I missed the shot. Well, I missed the shot in focus anyway. A lot of sharpening and on a little picture like this I can just about risk posting it, I guess, but it was another lesson learned - if it looks like something might happen keep watching until it does!
So a little later when a heron was acting distinctly strangely on the bank - I think it was throwing a frog or toad around - I kept watching. It wandered out into the water and then went berserk when a blackheaded gull flew around above it - well above it but it was still pee'd off. I've edited some shots out, but they could almost be viewed the way you flick through 'cartoon' line drawings on set of cards. Hopefully scrolling down will give the same effect.

See what I mean about the gull - you can't even see it on any of the shots!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Old Moor Almanack

A trip up north again and another chance to visit Old Moor and Potteric Carr reserves. Old Moor had the best mix this time.
I had my traditional frustrating time trying to get a picture of a tree sparrow. They weren't very accommodating, carefully choosing spots where the sun was behind them. This was the best effort, but the lack of any spark of light in the eye really detracts from the shot. I'm sure I'll get there with a bit of judicious photoshopping, but efforts so far have just made it look worse!

As last year a bullfinch was at the feeders, but mid moult the bird was more horror show than star - trust me, I've spared you the worst with this snap.

Moving on my lack of birding knowledge was shown up when I was trying to work out why this apparent woodpigeon wasn't - or rather where the white collar patches had gone. The answer was, I found out, that it was a juvenile. There you go, nothing special after all.
Along the path to the waterside hides a migrant hawker dragonfly showed nicely for a short minute .............

common darters were at it everywhere .........................
and a pathside rose was 'decorated' with rose galls.

Down at the hides a female reed bunting did a bit of people watching .......and a greenshank ................and a few green sandpiper added some interest to the distant flocks of golden plover.
A little egret stirred up the mud with it's right foot, poised to pounce - note to editor - doesn't show too well in such a small snap!
Several coot were grazing the grass, tipping their heads to the side to get the right angle. Aren't those legs comical? Truly the thick ankled girl of the bird world. I suppose that's sexist, but you don't really ever hear comments about men with thick ankles, and I could just see this bird in a pair of thick woollen tights.Over at Potteric Carr I finally found what I believe to be a ruddy darter and now understand this business about using the constricted abdomen to tell it from the common version.I took a lazy hand held shot of some water mint in poor light and regretted the laziness on seeing the picture on the big screen. With better planning this could have been a nice shot, due to the way the water formed around the various stems. Old habits die hard, but they do need to die.Also at Potteric Carr I got my usual distant and hurried snap of a willow tit as it posed for a second before grabbing a seed and flying. Old Moor came up trumps though, with a willow tit coming obligingly close - shame about the feeder, but easily the best views I've ever had.

I've been dipping into Birds Britannica again - did you know that the willow tit was the last widespread resident bird to be recognised on the British list? 1900, after being identified in 1897. In fact in 1845 there was a description of a marsh tit excavating a nest hole in a tree. They don't - but willows do. I still haven't found the explanation for the fact that willow tits tend to be near water (OK I get the willow reference), but marsh tits are found in broad leaved woodland. Then again when did logic come into wildlife nomenclature?

Monday, September 10, 2007

I knew it!

As I feared the crake had disappeared by the weekend, possibly the result of some prolonged tractor work nearby - the conspiracy theorists were out in force on that one!
I did get some reasonable views of snipe on the Saturday, but again the light made getting a completely sharp picture quite tricky. Not to mention the reeds in the way.
On the whole I'm delighted with the new camera kit. Last weekend I stuck up a 'hide' in the garden and snapped a few regulars, including a few real in-your-face shots .......
I'll have to watch that tendency to nip off the tails though!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Spotted Crake

You know how things can niggle. They just nag away in the background, leaving you feeling unsettled, and there comes a point where you have to decide whether you are going to do something about them or not.
In the last post I mentioned the spotted crake. About an hour away. The website reports kept saying 'it's still there' and the pictures proved it. But the time to see it is early morning or late evening. And it niggled and nagged. What if it was gone by the weekend? What if it was raining at the weekend?
So I gave in. Set the alarm for 4.30 am. Struggle to get up, but I made it to the reserve car park by 6.20, relieved I found the place as I had never been before - thank god for the internet. Another 15-20 minute walk to the hide, 5 minutes getting set up. Nothing to see, come on, come on - I haven't got all day you know.

And then .........................

OK the light wasn't great, and it would insist on keeping bits of grass in the way, but my new camera and lens combo coped, even keeping the focus sharp enough with a very shallow depth of field.

And I even made it into work on time.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

It's the little things ............ again

It's that time of year again. Something changes in the air - a little cooler, dew appears, the leaves suddenly look tired, and the berries are coming through.

In the grass the orb spiders showed easily on sequined webs .......

and some unknown spider had taken the time to cocoon the grass.
The birds were hiding again - or miles away at Goldcliff - so I turned back to the bugs. Another unknown, but I suspect a sawfly sat with dewdrops glistening on it's back.
A speckled wood steadfastly refused to open it's wings more than just enough to give glimpse
Ivy is always a good bet to see whats around - Mesembrina meridiana,

Helophilus pendulus,
but the bindweed proved another good place (if they called it British Morning Glory perhaps we would appreciate the lovely white flowers more!). Sadly I couldn't snap this hoverfly without blocking some light, but it's still quite a nice effect as it straddles the stamens - I think they're stamens?
Meanwhile the fly with the nice personality (if you know what I mean) - Rhingia campestris had left the cowpats where they bred and were everywhere. This shot on Verbena bonariensis shows the comical, conical snout ........
- at first I though the tongue (OK, proboscis?) would come out the end, but if you look again it's going straight down into the flower. In this one on the bindweed it had swung forwards, making it look like something that would give you a nip.
Those that had visited a few flowers had a sugar coating.
I don't mind bugs - but I do miss something a bit bigger! Frustrating to know a spotted crake is in the region, but I can't get the time to go and see it. Just too far away. Maybe next weekend (but it'll be gone, I know it). Sorry about that, just had an Eeyore moment.