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.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

....... And blow the birds about the sky

Well that was one windy weekend. The sun on Sunday was a bonus, and I headed over to Rich's field to see what I could find. It seems at least one of the barn owls has survived, although it was well tucked up by the time I got there. I could see some finch flocks coming down to the sacrificial crops, but they were as flighty as most finch flocks are, and I was never going to get close enough for photos. I decided to try putting up the hide near a small feeding area he has set up where I could hopefully catch birds in the crop, but if not, on the table.
Perhaps unsurprisingly the finches were twitchy and at first even the chaffinches stayed in the tree. In the Forest I have found the first finch down to food is usually a female chaffinch, but here it was a male, on, I think, quinoa - or possibly millet. Sadly the best of the crops at are the far side so the shot is a bit distant, and the angle meant the fencing couldn't be blurred out.
In the end it was only the chaffinches that came to the table, but they did provide good views in the morning sunshine, and reminded me of the full range of colours present in the male bird. I love the way they pick up a sunflowers seed and rotate it with their tongue, splitting off the shell (and all with no hands!).
I'm going to leave up some form of hide so they get used to it as he's had linnet and siskin recently. Probably needs a few 'rustic' perches popping in - never was over keen on snapping birds on feeders.

As always the pics look better here on the web album

Friday, November 13, 2009

Running rail, Stepping goose

I've been getting post withdrawal, but you have to have something to post. Slimbridge is always a good bet when the late autumn quiet patch arrives, so after an unsuccessful dawn visit to see if there was any sign of the late barn owl brood at Rich's (no sign - hope they have made it), I headed over the bridge and up to the duckponds.
A water rail had been seen quite regularly at the Robbie Garnet hide, but after initially showing quite well I had heard from Chris G that it was quite skittish. True enough, it sneaked out from the reeds, broke into a surprisingly quick run and flew across the gap to the safety of the next patch of reeds. However being the top class wildlife photographer am I caught this superb image.

Aren't you jealous - hand and eye in harmony?!
A rail often is seen under the feeders in the winter, but the only real interest was the jackdaw that had worked out the peanut feeder and posed quite nicely.

A rather distant snipe showed quite well in the sun, enabling a heavy crop of a prolonged yawn - you really need to look at the web album to see it clearly.

Otherwise we had a goose goose-stepping,

a moorhen enjoying the sunshine

and a few of my favourite duck, the pintail - you must admit he's gorgeous.

I always have a quick look at the captives and had a nice view of this goosander, showing well the 'teeth' that give rise to the name of sawbill. Again you'll need to look at the web album to see this clearly.
On the way home I took the short detour down our little valley to see if any winter thrushes were around and sure enough there were a couple in the grumpy farmer's field. Taking my life in my hands I drove down the farm track and got near enough for my best yet fieldfare shot. That doesn't mean much, mind, but creeping ever closer to an accpetable shot. And best of all I escaped without having to endure any grumpiness. (He's alright really, just a bit glass half empty in personality which isn't ideal when you run a farm with a public footpath which you don't want people to use)
I also snapped this pipit, which I presume is meadow, although I always thought they had pink legs.

As ever better quality images in the web albums HERE