Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sharpening up my act

I swithered for a long time about an SLR camera and lens. I'm delighted with the Canon 300mm f2.8, and by and large the 400D has coped well, especially given that the majority of shots are taken with a 2x converter in place. However as my recent bearded tit pictures showed the autofocus can struggle when there are sharp edges near the centre of the shot. Look sharp in viewfinder, but just a bit 'processed' at a larger size.

The wetlands have a lot of reed warblers in the reeds, and sedge warblers in the .... well in the reeds. I got a few more shots of both, but have taken probably 10 shots for every one that is sharp enough. The others are just slightly out, but don't look right. Anyway here are a few of the slightly better ones.

The whitethroat are also pretty evident and this juvenile posed quite well, if not quite near enough.
How do I know it's a juvenile? Here's how.
Sadly this shot is also unsharp, although just about acceptable at this size! The bramble branch above is sharp. Bugger.
A juvenile blue tit was still trying to learn some balance control, and that you can't eat through your tail - again not really sharp, but this was a tricky focus.
Despite the wind I fared better with my new macro lens however. Cinnabar moth caterpillars, bonking beetle (Rhagonycha fulva) and six spot burnet moth. I found a six spot caterpillar last year, but this was the first time I'd seen the adults at the wetlands.

Despite my recent comments the beardies were conspicuous by their absence on this occasion.

As always some of the pictures can be seen in better quality
in the photo gallery - follow the top link to the right

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Best of the rest July

Every so often I get a build up of pictures that I'd like to post, but for one reason or another haven't fitted into the blog. For me that often means wildlife other than birds. So here are a few recent examples (starting with some birds, just to be contrary!)
Swallow (Durdle Door campsite) - shot with a macro lens!

Whitethroat with twigs (Uskmouth) - I was torn here because there were a few family groups flitting around, but I wasn't getting clear shots and decided to head for the bearded tits again

Sedge warbler (Uskmouth)

Fallow deer (Arne)

Meadow brown (Durdle Door) - the week's only butterfly that braved the winds!

OK from hereon in they're flowers, so if that's not your bag farewell! You have to love the names though. All from Dorset - either Durdle Door or Radipole. Remember flowers are my second most guessed at identifications (after fungi), so if they're wrong just let me know.

Viper's Bugloss

Common Toadflax

Purple Loosestrife

Burdock (Lesser?)

Marsh woundwort

Common mallow

Orchid at Radipole - the flowers look like pyramidal, but never seen such a big head, so really not 100% sure. The guides say pyramidal and southern marsh grow at Radipole, and it's not the latter.

And finally this little plant growing on the downs at Durdle Door really has me stumped - just can't work it out from my books - so if you know please post a comment
As always better quality versions of the photos will be added to the web gallery
- see link

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Anything Dorset can do ...................

After Radipole I was again tempted to Uskmouth where the beardies seem to have been more in evidence this year - or perhaps I'm just tuned into the calls better.

A reed bunting was working it's way through an elder bush ....

and just for a second I thought there was something unusual in sight, until the profile changed and revealed the classical robin shape. Then again ...... Lewis Thomson (see comments and links to right) has kindly pointed out this is actually a juvenile stonechat, so it was somewhat unusual after all!

But there was more success on the beardie front. As well as the quite frequent pinging, I had another reasonable view of two juveniles although I was disappointed with the clarity of the shots. No wind and reasonable sunshine, but they do tend to bounce around a bit .....

and fly off.
Brilliant to find the evidence of breeding locally.
As always better views via the photo gallery link, in the 'latest' album.

Dorset 2 - Some tell tales of bearded babies .........

In contrast to the relative isolation of the wild and windswept heaths, there is an RSPB reserve right in the middle of Weymouth - Radipole Lake. I managed to wangle couple of hours there on a day where there was some sun (and wind). A local was enjoying the chance to sunbathe on a special RSPB bathing terrace .........

whilst another watched the world go by until it's feathers grew.

A female ruddy duck came for a look, but sadly no male and no sign of the hooded merganser seen recently.

Unfortunately, half of the reserve was off limits due to flooding (told you it was wet!) and there was no sign of the hoped for bearded tits. Still a nice RSPB man tipped the wink about Lodmoor reserve just up the road and Kay and I called in to see a spoonbill (why are they always next to the far bank?), some black tailed godwits (ditto), and a small flock of beardies, of which two youngsters came in camera range - albeit briefly. Some birds just don't know how to pose properly.

Still, a pretty good day out. As ever, better quality views in my 'latest' album via the web albums link.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Dorset 1 - Gone with the Wind

I suppose in some ways my interest in Dorset wildlife began with Aidan Brown's 'A Dorset Diary' blog on surfbirds A good mix of birds, butterflies and flowers from a range of places with names like Arne, Middlebere, Hartland Moor, Morden Bog, to quote just a few recent examples. It's one I check regularly because it's not wildlife I see locally. So when we decided to have a short holiday down there I did a little research. The Dorset heaths are, apparently, home to hobbies (never had a good view), sand lizards (never seen), smooth snakes (ditto) and the almost mythical Dartford warbler. I'd have been happy to see one of this list. Let's face it for reptiles you really need a bit of sun (we had a few minutes here and there), and for the DW it was always going to be pot luck. The guide said they were skulking birds that flit from gorse bush to gorse bush, and DON'T LIKE WIND. The gales didn't let up for 5 days so you can guess the rest.

So you won't see any of the above. But don't despair, there are other more common heathland birds. As always click on the link to my 'latest' web album for better quality pictures. The wind did make clear shots a little tricky, but some worked out.

Surprisingly hard to get near at Durdle Door where we were staying, but I eventually found a pair feeding young. The female was more accommodating.
A later visit to Arne produced better views of this male (clearer on the web album)

The most common with several family groups flitting around Durdle Door.

A little shyer than I expected, but eventually some passable shots, again at Durdle Door.

Meadow pipit.
To my surprise, sitting next to a fence to try and get some linnet produced some good close views of this Mipit.

More Dorset to follow in a later post - I just bet you can't wait.