Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Egret entropy

I've written before about our local wetland - the Nedern.  In the winter the fields flood bringing in a range of winter wildfowl and waders, and look like a lake rather than the huge puddle it is.
Through spring and summer the land dries out to a variable extent, some years like this one becoming completely dry.  There comes a time when the lake has reduced to a series of small pools and that is when the opportunity to snap the local egrets presents itself.  I am amazed at the sheer number of sticklebacks that end up concentrated in these pools, bringing in the birds.

So it was a few weeks ago the accessible pools were 'just right' and I went down early morning to see what might come in.

First visitor a wagtail, followed closely I was pleased to see by a pair of lapwing. 
The the first of 2 egrets drifted in.  As I wasn't using a hide, just lying under some scrim I wondered if they would spook, but at times they were too close for me to focus. 

There was quite a bit of plant material determined to spoil the view, but I got a few shots of the birds stalking ........

and then striking.  Interesting to see the eyes still open mid-strike.

I've always loved the concept of entropy.  If you ignore the thermodynamic definition the easiest way to think of this is the inevitable process of order descending into chaos.  If you leave them alone things fall apart - always. My favourite shot of the session shows an egret appearing to do just that, as it shakes post preen.

You can see why the milliners loved the plumes.

Monday, August 01, 2016

The redcaps are here

A regular visitor to the woodland feeding station and pool recently is one or more young great spotted woodpecker.

I wrote a while ago about finding the nest - not so hard given how noisy the young are.  I got some shots of the adults visiting with food, the male slightly more wary at first, pausing first before going to the nest hole
and carrying away what I presume were faecal sacs, apparently mixed with sawdust!
but what I really wanted was the shot of the youngsters themselves.  Eventually there was a glimpse of a red head

and over the next few days increasingly confident birds appeared more often.

The ultimate shot I suppose is the feeding shot of an adult with a youngster leaning well out of the hole.  Never quite saw that but didn't want to trouble them too much and was happy enough with this view.

In truth the birds at the feeding station are in a second copse a few hundred yards away, so probably from another nest, but still nice to see.
More to come from the feeding station pool in the future.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The canary and the mine

A flying trip to Kay's home village in South Yorkshire found me up on the landscaped spoil tip from the old colliery.  The colliery itself closed 25 years ago, and much of the land is now a housing estate overlooked by the tip.  A previous visit had led to some distant views of yellowhammer, so I wanted to see if they were still around.

In fact there were at least 4 territories, probably more, and with the hawthorn still in blossom I hoped I might get some decent snaps.  In truth the light didn't really play ball, and their habit of perching high up meant most of the shots became high key images.  I would have ramped up the exposure even more but the white blossom needed to show.  The pinker tinged flowers looked better, but I would have loved some blue sky for at least a few shots.
As I said in the last post I did find a bush with a nest, but didn't go poking around, just took the chance to get a couple of snaps of the female bringing in some food.  She seemed to be finding moths mainly.
It was a real treat to see the yellowhammers as I never seem to see any near home.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Nests kept finding me

I've never been one for trying to find nests, but this year I feel I have been tripping over them. The buzzards are back for the third year running,

but sadly the foliage has now obscured the view this year, so no shots of the youngsters this time.

While watching the nest though it was impossible to ignore the noise coming from an adjacent tree.  I've only ever twice come across great spotted woodpecker nests, but the young are so noisy they truly do find you rather than the other way around.

More from that nest later.

A few hundred yards on Kay had heard smaller chicks calling.  Having come across similar situations before I reckoned the fissure in the huge clematis stem looked a likely bet so I tucked into a nearby bush and waited.  My money was on blue tit, but before long the unmistakable call was from a great tit

- did you see it in the background?

We heard a few other nests, but decided to leave them be as nothing could be easily seen, and why disturb them?  I felt the same too when I realised this yellowhammer (not local this time) kept hanging around the same bush.  After a short while it dived in with the food, but I decided not to look closer.

My favourite find though was another by Kay, this time in our garden.  She's not the greatest bird identifier, but from her description it had to be a coal tit, much to my surprise.  A quick look on the BTO website and sure enough they do use nest boxes - but only if within a couple of feet of the ground.  So the sparrow terrace tucked under the plum tree awaiting resiting was actually perfectly placed.
They shot into the nest at great speed making snaps tricky, but as far as I am concerned this is rear of the year!
Pleased to say all bar the buzzards have now fledged.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Booming lovely

It had been a couple of years since I went to the Newport wetlands, but a friend's tale of a booming bittern drew me there, never having heard one.  I hoped I might pick up a few snaps of some of the other residents too, although it's never been the easiest place to get good views. 

I did catch a reed bunting with a nice black head rather than the half moulted phase I normally seem to catch.

The Cetti's warblers remained as frustrating as usual however.

Wandering over the pontoon bridge I bumped into a pair of hydrophobic swans, which were winding up a somewhat confused territorial male .............

and while I was grabbing a quick snap or two the sound of someone blowing over the top of a bottle seeped into my consciousness.  After a few seconds it clicked!  I heard the bittern a few more times that morning, but wasn't surprised not to see it.

A week or two later I wandered down to the estate lake to make sure the grebes hadn't bred behind my back - no sign, but a sedge warbler was singing away from various decaying reedmace heads - these probably being my favourite views.