Sunday, 28 February 2010

A late visit to Marsh Lane.

A few of my friends have got excellent shots of the Barn Owl(s) at Marsh Lane but have only seen them late afternoon onwards so for a change I went there later than usual arriving at 3.30PM.

It was showery and overcast when I got out of the car so I was not confident of seeing one.The site book showed 2 had been seen mid morning around the railway pool so had they eaten for the day already?

On the main path a birder said the Bittern was showing well to the right of the reedbed but when I got there there was no sign.A very patient wait in the Oak hide till 5.00PM was only rewarded with several Tree Sparrows on the feeders,several Snipe in the marsh(no Jack Snipe though) and a lone Oystercatcher but alas no Barn Owls.

On the way back to the carpark another birder said he'd just been watching the Bittern in the open and it had just flown into the left hand reeds.There was no sign of it when I got there.

So failure with the Barn Owls and also with the Bittern.All I got was some shots of the Tree Sparrows

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

The Dreadful Weather Continues.

Having hidden from this dreadful weather for the last couple of days I was keen to go out this morning although it was still very gloomy.I decided to go to Marsh Lane as yesterday the Bittern,a Jack Snipe and a Mandarin had showed.

Of course it was bitterly cold when I got there and a wind was blowing straight from northern Siberia.It was so gloomy that to take some shots I would have needed a very powerful searchlight.

The first thing I noticed was that one of the new hides was under construction and, judging by it's size, it must be the two storey one.I'm not sure my requests for padded seating,a heater and a small cafe have been included in the design.

I stayed for about an hour and a half before frostbite started to set in and I didn't see the Bittern,the Mandarin or the Jack Snipe.There were 11 Tree Sparrows on the Oak feeders which is a decent number but nothing else out of the ordinary about.

Nothing to point the camera at except a Tree Sparrow.The Blackcap shots were from my garden yesterday and as usual he turned up when it was gloomy.

As I write this it's snowing yet again.OH JOY !!!!!!!!!

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Another Trip to Morton Bagot.

Early this morning I went over to Morton Bagot again to try for some better shots of the GG Shrike.

Despite the heavy frost the journey there was OK until I turned into the narrow lane that leads to the parking spot to find the surface was covered in sheet ice.My car is not great on ice and snow so I was forced to crawl along at snail's pace which was fine until I was suddenly faced with not one but two huge tractors both with trailers attached bearing down on me.Instant panic mode!!!!! I pulled over to the hedge line,braked,closed my eyes and prayed.Somehow they both passed by without crushing me and my car.

In the pond field a birder soon put me onto the GGS which was on a distant oak tree.We were then joined by Pete Walkden who also got a distant view before it flew off into the distance.

A bit later Pete and I walked across the field to the far corner hoping to pick it up there but when we hadn't got even a distant view after half an hour Pete decided to walk up the hill in the next field.Not fancying climbing a hill I headed back and,when I was not really looking for it any longer,it suddenly landed in a tree on the fence line in front of me.I quickly rang Pete but by the time he arrived it had flown again.

Managed a few shots but as usual it was a bit distant.Click on the pics for a larger version.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

A Quick Trip to Brandon Marsh.

When I heard the weatherman say that the weather would go even further down the pan by lunchtime I decided on a visit to Brandon Marsh for a quick walkround planning to escape before the snow arrived.

Met Mike Whelan on the main path and I joined him as he was keen to see the Bittern for the first time at Brandon.When we entered the East Marsh hide there was only one birder there and he had not seen it yet but right in front of the hide a female Goosander showed itself before flying off.

It was bitterly cold in the hide,a bit gloomy outside and smoke from a fire across the pond was drifting over but very soon a Bittern flew in from the back and quickly showed itself in the channel for a few minutes before going into the reeds. Soon I was left on my own and the Bittern showed well again a couple of times both times for at least 15 minutes but each time it let me down and did not catch a fish.

I had to leave the hide even though the Bittern was still in the channel because the damn cold had penetrated my thermals and that believe me you do not want that to happen.Just as I got to the car the snow started.

Click on the pics for a larger version.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

A Trip to Morton Bagot.

Whilst I was pondering whether to go after the GG Shrike at Morton Bagot this morning being put off by the gloomy weather Glen Delaney rang me and said he was going for it so we decided to meet up at the site at 9.45AM.That is if we could find it!!!!

Luckily there were 3 cars parked on a grass verge just past Morton Bagot so we found where to park pretty easily but now we had to find where the bird was. Again we were lucky because we spotted Nic Barlow a couple of fields away and after a very muddy walk he put us onto the Shrike which was about a 100 metres away on a fence post.It stayed for about 5 minutes before heading slowly down the hedge line and then into the distance.

Took some shots although much better than the ones of the Granborough fields bird (could they be any worse !!!!!) the gloomy weather and the distance made getting a good shot very hard.I'm not moaning because we did see it which was more than several birders arriving just after us managed.

Also in the same fields we saw a Common Buzzard,2 Kestrels, several Skylarks and a lone Stonechat.These shots of the Stonechat and a Skylark are not good but very nice to see in the Winter.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Some more videos.

Here are some more Bittern videos taken last week with my 7D camera from the East Marsh hide at Brandon.They are a little better than the last effort but not much I'm afraid.Totally unedited so warts and all.Here they are:-

Bitterns seem to be everywhere in our area.There is one at Marsh Lane in the reedbed where it was seen on Saturday from the causeway screens.

Here is another shot of the Water Rail I saw at Brandon on Friday.I put the same shot in the last post twice.What a clown!!!!!!

Saturday, 13 February 2010


I didn't really need to see the doctor yesterday because I thought I knew what I'd contacted but it was nice to get it confirmed.It was Bitternitis of course a condition where it doesn't matter how often you have seen a Bittern and it doesn't matter how many shots you've got you still have to go again for another look.There is no known cure.

So it was again yesterday morning as off I went to the East Marsh hide at Brandon and this despite the cold, gloomy and wet weather.There were 3 other Bitternitis sufferers in the hide so wasn't alone.

As it has done all this week the Bittern turned out again and showed itself several times including a 40 minute preening session at the end of the open channel.This is a remarkable bird because it doesn't seem to be phased by all the cameras clicking away or the mobile phones that keep ringing out and on one occasion on Wednesday a hide flap crashing down.Perhaps it's deaf because all the other Bitterns I've seen before have been very secretive and only offered a glimpse deep in the reeds.

On the way back to the centre I spotted a Water Rail which was nice because I hadn't seen one for ages.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Another day out in the bitter cold.

I hope this blog is not getting boring because, as I wanted to go out again today with the camera,there was only one place to go with anything decent there and that was Brandon Marsh and the Bitterns.

As I nearly died with the cold in the East Marsh hide yesterday I decided to put on extra layers of clothing.This sounded like a good plan until, when in the car park,I put on the last two layers and found my arms would not go down below an angle of 45 degrees and this coupled with the fact I could hardly bend my knees and I was wearing my Russian cossack hat made me look a lunatic.I did notice that on my way to the East Marsh hide people coming the other way made a hasty retreat.

One of the Bitterns soon made a brief appearance which pleased the birders in the hide but it was another bitterly cold day and everyone had left the hide by the time it showed again.This time it was out for a good 15 minutes but only Kath and I had battled the cold wind that howled into the hide.Even that birding legend Bob Duckhouse had cracked and left the hide.

A few pics attached but the video Itook was a disaster as I'd got a setting completely wrong and burnt everything out.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Brandon Marsh again.

Desperate to go out having stayed in for 3 days on the trot and despite the gloomy weather this morning I went to Brandon Marsh yet again.

Soon ended up in the East Marsh hide where we soon spotted a Bittern moving across the channel into the reeds but it was so gloomy no shots were taken by anyone.The birders who stuck out an hour and a half's wait in bitterly cold conditions (we had to close the flaps on one occasion when the weather got too bad) were rewarded when the Bittern showed in the open for nearly 30 minutes unfortunately with it's back to us most of the time.

Have taken another video which is yet to be processed but my attempts to get a better quality one than last time were dashed when I couldn't use the tripod I'd taken because I'd left the lens ring mount at home.What a burk!!!!

Monday, 8 February 2010

A Bittern Video.

Here is a video I took last Friday with my 7D camera in the East Marsh hide at Brandon of a Bittern.

It has taken me ages to process to get it on YouTube mainly because I did not know what I was doing.New words kept appearing "Codec","Containers" etc when I was trying to convert the original into a format accepted by YouTube.

The trouble is the quality deteriorates when you process the original and makes it hardly worth the effort.I'm probably still doing things wrong.Anyway here it is totally unedited so warts and all.The background chat is amusing and there is a load of camera shutters going off.The jump in the middle is me taking a still shot.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

More Bittern shots.

On Friday morning the weather man said it would soon become bright so I quickly decided on another visit to Brandon Marsh as my other local patches had not reported anything decent recently.

As I walked down the main path from the centre I was greeted by a Song Thrush that was giving a free concert.First time I'd heard one singing out this year.Very impressive.

I soon ended up in the East Marsh hide where I was surprised to find it empty particularly as it was now a fine morning.Where were the Bittern watchers.When I opened up the left hand flaps I got my second surprise when I spotted a Bittern in the hidden channel at the back of the reeds and,just as another birder entered the hide, it moved into the open channel.As it came into the channel I decided to have a first go at taking a video with my camera which was pretty brave as I hadn't got a clue what to do.I've put it at the end of this post totally unedited so don't laugh too loud.

The Bittern to the left of the hide was joined by a mate who remained in the reeds to the right of the hide so for a while we had one Bittern in the open to the left and another showing in the reeds to the right of the hide both less than 10 metres away.I bet not many reserves in the country could match this.

Back home mid afternoon the Female Blackcap paid a brief visit again and a pair of Bullfinches also dropped in.The Bullfinch shot although not good was pleasing as it was taken through double glazing in very dull conditions.

Here is the Bittern video (if it downloads that is).

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Mr. and Mrs. Blackcap pay another visit to my garden.

Trapped in doors by the miserable weather this afternoon I was pleased to see my good friends Mr. and Mrs Blackcap had decided to pay me a visit well not me my feeders actually.

I must have a word with them because they only turn up when the weather is very poor and the light is hopeless for getting decent shots.The last time they came it was snowing.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Some recent local trips.

Still chuffed with getting some decent Bittern shots on Saturday I went out on Sunday and Monday to get some more decent bird pics. So how did I do? Very poorly so no shots attached to this post.

On Sunday morning I went to Marsh Lane for the first time in ages.It was bitterly cold and the light was poor.There was only one other birder silly enough to be out on a morning like this and we struggled to find anything decent to look at other than the usual large number of Gulls,Ducks and Geese.We were so desperate to find something good that we tried to turn a Reed Bunting that had a very pale chest virtually unmarked and with a fine bill into a Pallas's Reed Bunting.How desperate is that!!!!!

I soon left and headed home.Funnily enough I did much better bird spotting in my back garden than at Marsh Lane because during my RSPB hour long garden survey I had both male and female Blackcaps, some Goldfinches, a small flock of Long-tailed Tits and a lone Goldcrest. Did these birds know a RSPB garden survey was being done?

Early Monday morning I went to the Grandborough valley after the Great Grey Shrike.It was pretty cold but very sunny ideal for getting better shots than I managed last time.I should have known I would fail because there were no other cars parked in the lay-bye and near the path gate I slipped on an iced up puddle and only a hedge saved me from disaster ( more about the hedge later).A search lasting 90 minutes failed to get even a distant glimpse of the Shrike and all I got was getting absolutely perished.

After leaving the valley I resisted a visit to Draycote Water and headed to Brandon Marsh as at least I could get a warming cup of tea.Wrong!!!! The cafe was closed.Feeling a bit grumpy by this time I then went to the East marsh hide where I knew some of my birding friends would probably be after the Bitterns.Had some entertaining chat for a couple of hours but the Bitterns didn't show which was a shame as some of the birders had been there since the early hours and some had come a long way to see them.

When I got home I noticed there was a lot of white fluff on my car seat.I soon found out where this was coming from.My new thermal coat bought at great expense in the sales!!!! My falling into the hedge at Grandborough had pierced the wafer thin outer cover of my coat and was letting out the duck down filler.Brilliant!!! I should have known the might be a problem when I bought it as the manufacturer was a firm called "Puffa" .I think these coats are only suitable for wearing in bedrooms.It has now been patched with duck tape.