Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The bees and the birds

After the relative quiet of winter, action builds through the period of migrant passage into the frenzy that is Spring. 
The bees were a cracking and totally unexpected local find whilst walking the dog.  Not the buzzy, busy kind, but one of my favourite plants - bee orchids.  Taking snaps with the dog isn't ideal, as plant photography is, I find, quite hard, needing much more time than you might think for something that doesn't fly or run away.  The problem with bee orchids is the 'depth' of the flower which calls for a good depth of field.  this, however makes it hard to establish a nice blurred background, without a substantial amount of pruning!  I took quite a few shots, of which I liked these two in the evening light.

But it's the birds that remain the focus of attention project-wise.  In a local wood (near the orchids and also on the dog walking route) we had got permission to put up some nest boxes.  It's a young and poorly managed woodland (a future practical project we hope) so we are not talking big three woodland migrants, but we did manage at least 3 blue tit nests and two great tits.  In one sense I lost a mornings photo time, but it was good to get a record of our village wildlife group's first practical successes.

Walking the dog also resulted in the finding of a natural blue tit nest in a tree stump, whilst in the garden our starlings and sparrows have fledged.  Noisy garden at present!

A couple of visits to the Forest of Dean.  First a trip to view my favourite tree - in past years home to pied flycatcher, spotted flycatcher and lesser spotted woodpecker nests.  This year ...... a flicker of movement, anticipation builds .........

yes - another blue tit.  Only interesting feature here was the entrance hole which required a vertical approach.  Might be a challenge for the fledglings!

The tree along the track - again past home to pied flycatcher - caused a double take.  The old hole, surprisingly large in a main branch, had shrunk to about a quarter the size.  Only one answer - nuthatch nest, confirmed shortly afterwards.  They were a bit shy, but the remote trigger meant I could set up the gear and walk back, taking snaps when I saw movement.  A bit far away, but you can just about see the bird and the original hole.

During the first visit, apart from a brief view of golden ringed dragonfly,

the other find was a possible redstart nest.  Wasn't sure, but a visit a week or so on confirmed the nest site.  A prolonged and careful approach allowed some shots of the birds at the nest with natural food.  Not the ideal angle but the best spot to 'hide'.  I didn't linger too long, but was pleased with the outcome - just a shame I missed the flight shot which I've included just as a form of self-punishment.

Pied flycatchers and wood warblers will have to wait another year.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012


In recent years I have found that if you want to get decent pic's you really need to know the location and/or the targets.  Not new, it's what all the books say, but it is generally true.  This means you have to put some time in.  So far this spring my projects haven't quite met expectations, perhaps reflecting the weather as well as the undoubted impact on free time of having a dog join the 'family'.  Fair share of walking and all that.
I wanted some decent wheatear snaps, especially a nice male.   A couple of weeks ago there seemed plenty around and a dog walk on the Saturday morning (forecast to be cloudy, but actually sunny) saw a couple of nice males at my local spot.  Back the next morning (forecast to be sunny, but actually cloudy) saw no males, and when the female did pop up nearby as planned the dull weather rendered the snap a disappointment.  A slightly brighter, softer looking snap later was scant reward in the greyness.

As previously noted the foxes are around, but not yet showing in the light.  Like last year I probably need a couple of youngsters to find the peanuts.  You never know though, and as the adults are around I will have the odd evening down there.

The other project, again hampered by work, free time and the weather was to get a decent shot of the local whitethroats.  I knew the spot, as they frequent it each year.  Trouble is the high hedges are now growing quite fast and the lovely isolated perches I see in other's snaps just don't exist.  The sheer number of possible perches means they don't really have favourite spots.  So I hatched a cunning plan.  I recently found a nice branch, almost walking stick shaped, with a 'handle' that looked a bit like a dragon's head (OK eye of faith!).  Fastened to a fence post I positioned it just above the twig line, perfectly positioned where I could park in the only space on the narrow lane, and catch the morning sun.  Frustratingly the only chances I was getting were in the evening, but nowhere to put the car, or any other sort of hide, that would work with the light.  So here are a couple of hedge-bound snaps, complete with twiggy intrusions. 

There was one bird that sometimes used the branch, but only fleetingly.  I persevered and finally on perhaps the fifth visit, got the snap I had envisioned, although not quite as full frame as I hoped, as the car just had to be that bit further back for the bird to settle.  Still the picture looks fine on the screen.

I may have missed all the spring migrants in the Forest - just possibly a chance of a redstart next weekend if the weather holds......