Monday, December 21, 2009

A Berry Merry Christmas

A late year trip up to South Yorkshire saw the birds mopping up the berries, even before the prompting of the snow. Most of the images, and all the bullfinch shots were taken at Potteric Carr NR in Doncaster, where yet again the bitterns and water rail also apppeared - but that's another story ...............
Bullfinch (sorry there's a lot, but this is only a sample of those I took - well who could resist a chance like this?!)
Song Thrush
As always better quality shots HERE in the web albums

Friday, December 11, 2009

Barn Owl Leftovers

After too many years I finally got to do something I had read about as a kid. Growing up in the industrial town of Widnes my chances of seeing a barn owl were pretty limited, but this year I had the pleasure of watching Rich's owls raise a brood (and possibly a second - he thinks at least one made it). I know at least one owl is still around because there is a perch it uses, where pellets can be found.
I'll admit, from a distance they look like something else, but close up you can see the fur and small bones.
A soak in water to loosen it up (gets a bit smelly then) and then pick it apart. I didn't have any tweezers, but I managed with a couple of watchmakers screwdrivers to dissect out some bones from at least 3 rodents (from 3 pellets, I hasten to add), and artfully laid them out on some slate!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Paparazzi Birding

On Saturday 28th November a post on the Gloster Birder (sic) website announced a young Pomarine skua at Beachley, a couple of miles along the Severn. On the 29th it rained almost constantly, and I decided not to go and see. I'm never over comfortable when the birds are surrounded by people, and the light was shocking. And it would probably have gone, wouldn't it?
Over the next week I began to get more regretful, as the bird was still there. In summer I'd have got up early and headed down before work, but at present my journeys to and from work are completed in the dark. Come Friday night and the bird was still there. And the sun was promised - at least for periods - the next day.
So there I was down below the bridge, just as the sun cleared the low cloud. And there, under water was the reason the bird was still around - a very 'distressed' sheep - sort of end-stage Turner prize if you know what I mean. It seemed to be mainly bones and fleece, with little to tempt a hungry skua. No bird, submerged food, and half a dozen of us thinking we'd blown it, as an hour or more drifted by.
The keen ones took to the river ..........
(OK that was a joke, not even birders go that far ............. do they?).
Then the message came that it was along the bank, on the other side of the reedbeds.
Anyway, there followed plenty of opportunity to watch a remarkably unphased, and well fed(not meaning to be rude, but there must be some goodness in that mutton), bird, preening,
watching (and being watched - see why I feel a bit like a paparazzo?),
doing some sort of strange stretch,
and finally having a feed.
(I'd swear it was licking it's lips in the shot below)

My flight shots didn't work out really, although you can just about see the streamers,but there were some nice poses on the carcass, including a couple with my new compact camera (good zoom lens of about 300mm). I also took some video with the little gem which can be seen on my Vimeo site - see links. Bit distant, but you can see the enthusiastic way the bird went about feeding.
So there we are, worth the wait. And finally, courtesy of Birds Britannica, did you know that the real name is, or rather was, pomatorhine skua (pomato lid, rhinos nosed) after the thin plates overlying the base of the bill. You can just about see them on this crop
but if you go to the web album HERE you'll get much better views.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Waiting for the light

I'm glad to see the back of November. A dull, dull and pretty wet month where I was reduced to posting pictures of chaffinches on a birdtable. Last weekend there was a promise of some light between the showers so I headed for Slimbridge. If you are a member you can get in to some parts early, and I was pleased to find the one hide where you can get near the birds was empty. Not that I'm anti-social, but the punters at Slimbridge can be surprisingly noisy. Last time I was there 2 people (yeah. I'll say it - 2 women) had the water rail twitching when they were still 15 yards from the hide, and the volume didn't seem to drop as they came through the door. I know birds can tolerate noise, but there are limits. And they had all the kit - good coats, pricey bins, megaphones ...............
Anyway, there was some sunshine between the clouds, and some birds played ball. As usual the tufties dominated the space near the hide, mostly snoozing, but occasionally giving a sly wink with that lovely golden eye.
The pochards were also about, and if you can find one preening and keep waiting eventually it will have a post-preen flap.
Maddeningly, the shoveller kept it's distance - will I ever get close to one?
But it's the chance to catch birds flying in that makes the fun. The greylags kicked up a spray feet in front of themselves, before settling down and trying to swallow a ball of food that was clearly over-ambitious. Or just plain greedy.
The Canada geese went in for some touching wingtip Red Arrows display flying.
A buzzard flew past, mobbed by crows, and upset the lapwings into flight.
But it was the Bewick's swan that was the star of the show. Looking at the train of pictures I felt I could print them off, hold them in a pile, and then flick through and make them look like they were flying.
Wandering home I called in at the Rushy, to find a shellduck shining
and my favourite (beautiful bird) the pintail doing a bit of posing and then having a damn good splash,

a post-preen flap

and finally a good laugh about it all.

As always better views on the web albums HERE
- look in latest pictures.