Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Don't forget to scrub behind your ears .............

I've seen ducks having a bit of a splash when they are freshening up, but that would be like a quick wipe with your mum's spitty hanky compared to this swan's bath! These are just a selection of (long range) shots from a session that went on for about 5 minutes.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Playschool wildlife photography

You know - through the window! Ok that will sort any readers by age into those who get it and those who who think I'm barking mad.

But the weather this weekend was truly crap. Brief flashes of almost daylight flickered through the dismal cloud cover. Sunday was meant to be brighter - cobblers. And to cap it all I was on-call so a mission after the FoD boars was out of the question as the mobile doesn't work there.
So I was left occasionally grabbing a camera if I happened to be adjacent to a window where something was happening. Did remind me it might be time to clean the windows again.

Our brambling was back, albeit a bit nervously and briefly. This was a garden first for us, but where our feeders are was not designed for succesful photography - unless you count upstairs bedroom windows at some distance.

The blackcaps were back (we have 2 males and 2 females coming daily) and almost too close to the the window for the lens I had on, as these uncropped shots show.
Losing the converter didn't help as we went into what seemed like a solar eclipse
As you can see they still like sultanas, but most recently have also started nicking the cheese we put out for the robin (he comes in the back door looking for it). Amazingly the highly insectivorous wagtails have moved on from pastry and are also eating cheese. So is one of the dunnocks.
It makes you realise how much birds adapt in winter. At Old Moor the long tailed tits were ground feeding - something I'd never seen before.
Mind you it looks more like it's playing 'Pope' than feeding.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Up close

Finally got around to posting again - photo's are backing up a bit - after a few days up north.

When I got my new camera kit the ability to get in closer to the subject led to the inevitable habit of trying to fill the frame every time. I now realise that the right thing to do is to achieve a balance between the desire to go in close on a subject and the equally relevant - and often more relevant - need to set the subject in the context of it's environment. If you want to see what I mean have a look at some of Dave Slater's pictures - very good pictures may have the subject as a relatively small component, but set the context so well. Examples would be his snow bunting or redpoll shots. In both cases reining back a little makes for a lovely photo.

That said I am now going to ignore the points I've just made and post a selection of uncropped near frame fillers from a recent trip up north. Many were simply a consequence of the lens combination I was using when a bird flew to a certain position, and I snapped away! You may or may not be able to click them for larger versions. Sorry about the seed in quite a lot of the pics - bit intrusive, but that's why the birds were there. I've got other shots without it, but not necessarily so close.

Mute swan
Reed Bunting - male (not old and greying, just coming into breeding plumage!)
Reed bunting - female
Pheasant - female
Blackbird - male
Blackbird - female
Greenfinch - male
Willow Tit
Long-tailed Tit
Tree Sparrow
Bullfinch - male
Bullfinch - female
My last shot is a close up - more than filled the frame - but also a bit of an abstract crop, because I liked the patterns and the light.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Now that's what I call a tufted duck!

New TRESemme Extra Hold Defrizzing Tuft Gel
"Nip flyaways in the bud with this frizz-killing gel"

Monday, February 11, 2008

Let sleeping ducks lie

Sunshine and a high tide led me to Slimbridge on Saturday, having failed miserably to find the Frampton cattle egret en route. I eventually got in - what time is 9.30 to open - and found the birds well down on recent numbers. And all asleep - at least that's how it seemed.

Common Teal - who sleep standing

Tufted duck

Pintail - with a flicker of life at last
The waking up thing slowly caught on

and soon the wigeon looked positively energeticWaders were a bit distant, but the usual suspects were there, with a curlew
and a redshank just about coming into range (thank God for 10MP)
Nice enough couple of hours before the hide population became intolerable - I bet it's great midweek, but when there are more people than birds it's time to leave!
[OK I know that's an exaggeration, but I just can't handle the elbow-to-elbow thing]

Friday, February 08, 2008

Winter blues

Some days it's hard to remember we're still in the midst of winter. The snowdrops up the lane are a week or two ahead of last year, and the sky can be summer blue.
We have loads of blue tits in the garden at present. Our garden birdwatch count may only have been 7 at one time, but flocks are clearly moving through constantly, judging by the rate we are getting through peanuts.
It's all too easy to forget how tough this time of year can be for the little guys though, and even though the winter has been pretty mild here so far, not all are going to make it.

Mind you it could be much worse. On Mike McDowell's blog (see digiscoping link to the right) he describes Wisconsin mornings when all the local birds have lost their tail feathers, because they've frozen to their perch overnight.
I was surprised to see how healthy this one looked given that massively overgrown bill, but he can certainly eat pastry, and I guess must still be managing other food as well.

Fingers crossed we keep some decent weather beyond the next week.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Big Garden Birdwatch II

Back online, and now on broadband - at last! Another Big Garden Birdwatch last Staurday, and last weekend actually saw some reasonable weather at times. We've been doing a lot of feeding this year, and the addition of pastry to the mix has added another strand to the attraction bow, so our numbers were generally up this year, with the exception of house sparrows.

Stars of the show this year were the starlings, with 22 being the highest number.
This lot come in mob handed, aiming for the pastry and raisins. The same mix has proved to be the main attraction to the blackcaps. The male we have this year is pretty shy and hard to snap ........

but the female is bolder. The second of these shots was taken yeaterday with me lying full length, but in full view, on a frosty patio.The newcomers to our BGBW records (that sounds a bit anal to me. I don't keep a record, but I don't recall us ever having them regularly, and I certainly didn't mention them in last years blog entry) were the wagtails, and the pair of pieds are also getting quite tolerant of my presence. The grey has taken to sitting around the base of the birdtable, which is really not very photogenic.
Of the rest greenfinch did very well at 11, house sparrows and blue tits 7 each, chaffinch at 6. We only had 1 goldfinch, and this has been the pattern so far this year - usually a pair - but I've just seen a group of 8 on the feeders, so perhaps the weather change might have moved some around.
I always feel it's nice to contribue to this annual event. It's been nicer still having some sun and the chance to take some photo's! Try clicking the pictures for bigger versions.