Saturday, May 24, 2008

You little beauties!

All in all it's been a pretty good week, and there's a fair few snaps below to prove the point. There are much better quality versions on the web album, so please use the link to take a look.
It started with a trip back to my local copse, and finally a nice sharp image of a starling at a nest hole. You can see a rat tailed maggot in it's bill - well you can on a better quality version.
Then it was a trip up north, when I took the chance to visit a place Chris Grady had recommended - Cromford Canal in Derbyshire. It's famous for water voles - the BBC did a documentary filmed there - but must also be one of best places to see and photograph that favourite bird of mine, the dabchick or little grebe (or little footy-arse as a very old blog entry describes).
The water voles were there and did their bit. The light wasn't bad and the water is fabulously clear as at least one shot shows. (Watching the grebes swim underwater was a real eye-opener for me in the UK.) The first shot shows how close you can be - although you'll guess that from the pictures. (I later found out that this photographer was Jodie Randall - unusual in my experience, being a young lass seriously interested in nature photography - click on the link to her website. Don't get me wrong I know there are some young nature photographers, and great women nature photographers, but all I ever seem to meet are middle aged men, half of whom don't even seem to want to get their knees dirty! Mind you the cost of camera kit may be a factor from the age perspective).
This is a cropped shot as I loved the image of the paws and the 'impressionist' leaf.
This is a crop of the crop because I like this bit of the image especially!
To cap everything off I was wandering in the Forest of Dean today and sat to watch a tree with a few holes to see what appeared, if anything. Most of the time you draw a blank, and sure enough nothing used the holes I had seen, but there was something in the treetop. Disbelievingly I finally got my bins on a lesser spotted woodpecker - first ever. But there was more - around the side of the tree was a 10p sized hole - well not much bigger - where these two sparrow-sized beauties were feeding their brood. Fantastic! Light wasn't great, and there were a lot of little twiggy branches in the way, but I did get some shots (shown mostly as crops and sadly at ISO 400 - not great on the 400D), but the pictures were second best to the experience.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

New videos

No new wildlife watching, but I've stuck a few more videos on Vimeo. A couple of them have even been properly edited with music, etc! The music can always be turned off - problem is camera has internal microphpone and picks up every extraneous noise, especially on a windy day, so you have to either have no sound or cover it up.

Just click on the video link to the right.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Hedgerow and copse

Up early again on Sunday, but this time a short trip along the local lanes to a small copse of trees I've previously mentioned in this blog. The starlings were nesting in the trees again, but they're quite shy, and a decent picture may well need a hide. A green woodpecker was frequently yaffling away - I suspect a nest, but didn't see one - only saw the 'pecker once, and then briefly as it flitted between trees. A great spotted woodpecker passed through, and a spotted flycatcher was ............... well, spotted. I couldn't locate a badger dung pit this time, but nearby tracks look suspicious, and about 9.30 a.m. a superbly conditioned fox trotted into view from my left - no time to snap it though. Definitely somewhere worth exploring further.

Walking along the hedgerows I got a decent shot of yellow deadnettle - yellow archangel a better name,

and greater celandine. Despite the name the only link with lesser celandine is the flower colour! If you're ever not sure of the identity, break a leaf and orange sap oozes out.

Jack-by-the-hedge (another example of why I love common names) was flowering in several spots. It's also known as garlic mustard, and as this link shows in the States it can be a real pest. Here it is the food plant of orange tip butterflies - male and female below - sadly the sun led to the white burnout on the male.

A peacock was sunning on the road.

And finally some backlit dandelions (with a little tweaking).

Go on, you have to admit these common-as-muck seedheads are one of the best.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Warbling again

Back to Uskmouth to try again for the Italian.
There were still a good number of sedge warblers shouting from the reeds - a friendly soul recording birdsong told me they stop singing when they find a mate, so this poor guy obviously is still a gooseberry.

Another pair had moved on to collecting nesting material.

No real close-up shots though, which was a bit disappointing. The reed warblers too were in song, and proved a little more approachable.

More bearded tits were pinging everywhere along the coastal reed beds - near enough to view through the lens, but a bit too far for a photo. There really do seem to be quite a few around.
I believe these are the caterpillars of The Lackey. They live communally in this tent - kind of new age travellers I guess. They should be better seen on the web album - I'll use the 'latest' album as I haven't set one up for insects yet.

Finally, at last, I got some decent shots of this Cetti's warbler, which posed quite well in this particular tree. So who was Francesco Cetti? An Italian born in Germay (?) in the 18th century who grew up to be a Jesuit priest, a professor of mathematics .......... and a zoologist. He didn't name the bird, it was named after him, having been 'collected' in Sardinia. And it's Chetty, not Setty - the RSPB website says so! Didn't you always wonder?

To crown another good morning I found that the cafe at the RSPB visitor centre are readers of this very blog, have taken due note of my review (see post April 7th) and now offer bacon butties with their lovely black coffee. Brilliant.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Well, it's a start

Another day off, another grey day. I tell you it's a conspiracy! Went to Nagshead, which was pretty quiet really, but did manage to snap this (grey looking) female redstart. She insisted on hopping along the grey path most of the time. I tell you, a grey day. Sadly no sign of the male that is around.

Word is Nagshead has been pretty quiet this year all round. Seem to be a fair few wood warblers around, but only a few pied flycatchers - I had only the briefest glimpse on Monday.

Monday, May 05, 2008


I've rather neglected Uskmouth this year, so it was about time I made my annual trip to fail to photograph a Cetti's warbler. Heading for the brambles along the coastal strip I found several obliging whitethroats instead.

I did find a Cetti's - the trick is to watch for the calling posts they use when marking their territory, and stake one out. At first I was a bit disappointed as I didn't get a clear view, but I've since decided that this is actually a better representation of what you normally see! And it is quite sharp.

Ducking inland I have some slightly higher hopes for the screens at the lagoons f you can sneak behind without the birds seeing you. Once you are still behind the screen they do show. Never got even a half decent shot of a little egret there before.

Just picked up the camera to move on when I heard a 'ping' along the track. Like the 'tik' of a hawfinch, once you have heard the pinging call of a bearded tit/reedling you don't forget it. And for once, despite the wind, I got a beautiful male in focus (well near enough!).

Better quality versions will appear in web album (see link to right).