Broad-Bodied Chaser

Broad-Bodied Chaser
Wing Mosaic (Broad-bodied Chaser): Winner, Nikon In-Frame Competition August 2010

Spoonbill

Spoonbill
Spoonbill: Birdguides Photo of the Year 2012 Runner-up

Thursday, 26 May 2011

We're All In It Together....

.... well these brave souls are anyway.  I popped out at lunchtime to find a group of disabled people and pensioners protesting against the cuts; a very effective, if short lived, protest.  As a bus stopped at the lights they group moved into action by standing in front of the bus.  While two in wheelchairs handcuffed themselves to the back of the bus, another fixed himself to the bus door entrance.


The placard above left reads "Stop the cuts - the disabled didn't cause the recession".



A large good natured crowd gathered to watch.  The police eventually arrived and after a few discussions soon had the handcuffs off to the disappointment of the lunchtime shoppers.

More here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-13565111

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Dawn in Surrey - 21st May

An early start on Saturday with a dash to get somewhere before dawn.  Didn't quite make it!  However, I wasn't too far behind as I arrived at Thursley Common at 5.30am.  The place looked quite beautiful and eerie as the mist blocked the early morning sun before it broke through from a cloudless sky.






A Curlew was calling in the mist, and a pair of Lapwings were the first to show.





A couple of hours walking produced a number of hoped-for species.   Both Tree Pipit and Woodlark were singing in their typical habitat, with Tree Pipits engaging in their flight song between two treetops.  A fox was surprised and made a run for it as it was mobbed by Crows and a noisy Curlew.

At least three pairs of Common Redstart were located all close to the public footpaths.



The reason for the visit was to catch the Hobbies that sometimes hunt close to the paths.  Despite a windy day which seemed to keep the dragonflies low near the water, only a couple were showing intermittendly and despite a couple of low sorties across the water seemed to be hunting away over the grass.  Only relatively distant overhead shots were possible of these agile birds.




I was able to call at the London Wetlands Centre on the return journey.  Most of the time was spent waiting for the Common Terns to do the rounds.  A couple of birds came close at times:



A terrific close Marsh Frog was surrounded by photographers on one of the boardwalks, waiting for it to call:


Having fallen asleep briefly in the long wait, I was poked awake as a Grass Snake made its way across the pond towards the frog.  It was seen diving down into the pond weed, then came up for air briefly before diving again:


After almost giving up, the Frog finally called and it was captured in typical pose:


Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Flying Monsters 3D, Just off the M1

Driving south down the M1 on Sunday afternoon, I stopped at Watford Gap to find that the Black Stork was still being reported present just west of Northampton.  It would have been rude not to try and have a look at this so I pulled off at the next junction. Within five minutes I was stood looking into a field in a beautiful spot in Northamptonshire.

After a short while it was located in the river but out of sight. As we walked towards the river along the edge of a field, the stork was flushed by people walking up river towards us.  The stork was suddenly up over the bank and flew high, gaining height whilst being mobbed by Rooks.  The size was impressive.





Having seen the new David Attenborough film - Flying Monsters 3D - at the IMAX the previous week, I couldn't help notice how prehistoric the face of this bird looks.  The film concludes with the extinction of the flying dinosaurs or Pterosaurs, and the evolution of early birds, a smaller relation of which is now in England!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

A Lucky Stint in South Yorks - April 14th

A weekend in South Yorkshire gave me the chance to spend a day at Hatfield Moors.  No sooner had I parked that the Temminck's Stint found the previous day was located back on site.  It was showing relatively well with a pair of LR Plovers:


After ten minutes it few off but was back later in the afternoon.  Further along the same path a Woodlark was singing, and fed distantly on the ground for some time:



There were a few Yellow Wagtails around the site:


I spent two hours in the afternoon trying to photograph the speedy Sand Martins on the lake.  This wasn't made easier by poor light, and at the wrong time of day when the sun did come out the birds were often in too much shadow:



Must try again with better light!

Monday, 9 May 2011

Heron Walks The Plank - London WWT 7th May

A day back at London WWT was relatively quiet, although one of the Reed Warblers was venturing a little higher up the reeds than normal, allowing a few relatively reed-free shots:




From the wader scrape hide there were no signs of the recent passage of waders, although a Common Sandpiper put in a brief appearance.  Following some recent foliage clearance a new perching place was visible.  A Grey Heron took flight and landed on it, clearly using it as a viewing post.  I was hoping for a spectacular dive into the water.  Unfortunately it simply stood and observed everything.




In the meantime a Redshank was feeding and bathing:




Two hours later the Grey Heron was still there, although it had turned around, and was caught making some odd gestures!

Friday, 6 May 2011

Suffolk Pheasants; Dual At Dusk - 30th April

Before leaving Minsmere in the evening I came across a couple of male Pheasants.  They were clearly squaring up for a fight.  Unfortunately they were so engrossed in each other they didnt bother to keep their distance and were far too close for photography, even with 300mm.  I decided to simply stand and watch as they fought about three feet away - an amazing sight.
After about a minute this defeated male retreated before trying to gain some respect with a few calls into the evening.  The sun was very low which helped create some nice side-lighting:




Further along the road rabbits were everywhere as they emerged to feed:


Thursday, 5 May 2011

Suffolk Day 2; A Nightingale, A Closer Tern And A Stupid Duck

With lovely weather (despite a very cold wind) I decided to stay on for another day.  First stop was Westleton Heath which I have never visited before despite driving past it on numerous occasions.  A pair of Stonechats were the first find, and the highlight was a singing Nightingale.  Although I couldn't see it, it was only a matter of feet away as it produced its incredible song.

On to Minsmere again. Plans to try the Marsh Harriers again were forgotten as the White-winged Black Tern was still present and had moved closer to one of the hides, sometimes coming within striking distance:



Waders present included Greenshank, as well as a good number of Bar-tailed Godwit and the resident Avocets:



The pool near the visitor centre held a couple of dragonflies which were posing nicely.  I believe this is a Four-spotted Chaser:


Back in the Bittern Hide a large family of Red Deer swam across one of the channels:


Just before leaving a duck Mallard decided to take its seven ducklings right in front of a fishing Grey Heron.  Shrieks of horror came out of the hide as, not surprisingly, the Heron took one of the young birds.  It flew a short distance before giving the bird a shake to break its neck, before swallowing it whole, head first.  Slightly bizarrely it spent about a minute with the birds legs sticking out either side of its mouth. 



The Mallard went on its way with six ducklings left to live another day.

Weekend in Suffolk; Marsh Harriers Take a Tern for the Worst

I had planned getting to Suffolk for dawn, but didn't quite make it.  After a quick 2 hour drive I arrived at 7am at Hen Reedbeds near Southwold.  I was hoping to find Marsh Harriers in the morning sun, but I was a little late and they weren't coming close.  It was great to be out there without another person in sight.  A walk up to the estuary produced a pair of Pintail:


On to Minsmere for another attempt at the Marsh Harriers from the Bittern Hide.  Over the two days I managed some nice attempts but never got the light for a great shot.  The problem with these birds is that they spend most of the time looking down!  In addition they seemed to fly in a general circular direction away from the sun which didn't help:





A Bittern came relatively close during the morning with a nice fly past:




The Marsh Harriers were abandoned when news came of a White-winged Black Tern on the scrape.  Unfortunately it was feeding right in the middle of the water, too distant for any shots.  Still, a beautiful bird though in nice summer plumage. 

Later in the day a couple of nice shots of Red Deer and Rabbit were possible: