Thursday, February 26, 2009

Getting some buzz back ......

The weekend sunshine saw me back in the garden for the first time in a good while. As usual the main purpose of gardening was invaded by the need to get the camera out. From a distance the
bee looked like a new super-yellow species, but the reality of the colour and the source were all too evident.
A hoverfly and a small black thing were also in on the act - should look better on the web album.
Up the road the farmer had managed to mash most of the winter heliotrope patch with his tractor tyres, but some had survived, again complete with flying insect.
It was so nice to be out in the sun again, and the light even allows a decent days gardening. Which is good for the soul, but it turns out isn't so good for the back!

As always bigger and better quality pictures HERE in the latest pictures album.

Monday, February 23, 2009

More Black Redstart

I remember once reading a quote by Frans Lanting about not wanting to take 'Bird on a Stick' photographs (sometimes known, I read elsewhere as BOAS pictures!). Pictures should do more to inspire, showing behaviour, or telling a story. For a weekend snapper like me that's a challenge. You either have to be very lucky, or put the hours in concentrating on a single species until you can get the best position, timing and light - and still you need an element of fortune.
As the Forest of Dean was out of bounds this weekend (dreadful mobile phone signal), and with a pretty small list of options I headed back to the delights of Costa Sudbrook to see if I could do better with the redstart. You can see that the environment leaves something to be desired - litter, mud and the roar of traffic on the Second Severn Crossing. When the bridge was closed recently one of the locals said his walk along the shore was weird - something missing.
I put in quite a few hours over 2 mornings, but the bird was conspicuous by it's absence most of the time. So too were the pipits, wagtails and stonechats of the previous weekend, so I suspect it was more about food than anything else. Still the bird did show 3 times and on one occasion came near enough for some close ups. On the sticks. Sticks which I, and I presume Chris Grady (see his website links to right) had positioned in range, in the hope they would be used.
Look how the thinner stick gives a better balance to the composition. I had also placed a blue bottle at a jaunty angle and was delighted when the bird used it for a sort of Chris Packham shot. Could have been a nicer prop and sharper picture, but a bit different. I can hear the purists shuddering.
Sadly the preening shot was from the wrong side.
At one point it almost looked like it was singing, although I couldn't hear anything (the articulated symphony from the bridge might have played a part in that).
Then it did open it's beak a number of times, but didn't seem to be singing so much as yawning. Just a bit too far away so this is a crop, and again not pin sharp. Still a BOAS, but at least there was some life there.
As always check the 'Latest Pictures' album HERE for better views.
And if you want to see some shots with life in them click HERE to see Chris Grady's recent non-BOAS goosander shots.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A sign of the times?

So there I was down on the saltmarsh at Sudbrook, with my 'I-Spy' book (remember them - an age definer if you do) of Flotsam and Jetsam, looking for some interesting discarded or lost items to photograph. There were plenty there, mostly common or garden plastic species, but the odd nice bit of glassware. The problem was this bird kept getting in on the act.

But wait - was that a flash of red?

Look it was.
Yeah, okay, nonsense over. I had found the young male black redstart I was seeking. In time with a bit of patience (just letting him come to me) his inquisitiveness got the better of him, and I had good views.
They're not common residents in the UK, being mainly a bird of 'rocky montane', but after the war they were known as the bomb-site bird. They liked the ruins which stood in for their rocky habitat.
Reading the section in Birds Britannica, one paragraph caught my eye:

'Certainly (the habitat) loses its ecological value once it is redeveloped as happened in the London dockland area, once a stronghold for black redstarts. It is not surprising to find that the fortunes of both bird and habitat have tended to fluctuate in inverse proportion to the national economy. Both tend to be squeezed at times of boom and inner city regeneration, and thrive when there is a slow-down. The black redstart thus acquires another strange symbolism: it is the bird of economic depression.'

Sadly I guess we may see a few more.

As always better quality shots can be seen HERE in the latest pictures album

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I've not been out really for a couple of weeks. A trip up to see my family and then a weekend for other things. Sorting through some recent pictures I decided to post a few that could have gone up first time around.
The sparrow was through the kitchen window, the reed bunting at Cosmeston, the long tailed tits, tufted duck and goldeneye at Slimbridge. The serrated bill shows well on the latter.

Click here for better views.