Monday, 29 March 2010

An early morning visit to Brandon Marsh.

Having got frozen to death Saturday evening at Marsh Lane waiting for the Barn Owl to show and having to leave before frost bite set in and failing hopelessly to see it I thought I must make an effort Sunday morning so I set off to Brandon Marsh for the first visit in a few weeks.

Got there pretty early to find a bright sunny morning ideal for getting some decent shots.So how did I do ? Pretty poorly really only getting some so so pics.

I was greeted near the centre by a Song Thrush who was giving an early morning concert unfortunately high up in a tall tree so hard to get a decent shot.Well it was for me!!!!

I decided to walk round past the wind pump and go that route and try for Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers shots.Saw plenty of Chiffchaffs but they were singing out high up in the trees and saw two Willow Warblers but they were too illusive for me to get a shot.Here is the only shot I managed of a Chiffchaff.

For the next hour I tried to get the first pic of the year of a Cetti's Warbler and what a game that is!!!!! Round by the golf course I found a couple singing out but as usual they darted around madly and always stayed deep in the scrub.This is the only half decent shot I managed.

Over the Golf course area there were quite a few Common Buzzards gliding in the thermals but as usual they stayed a fair way off.Here is my best shot of the morning.

By mid morning the clouds were building up so I had a quick look in a couple of the hides.The Carlton hide was very quiet and besides some sleeping Common Snipe the only bird I saw from the East Marsh hide was a lone Redshank.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

A Great Skua at Draycote Water.

Having done my early morning shopping I was thinking of a trip to Marsh Lane before the rain arrived when a message from young Mr. Steve Seal tipped me off there was a Great Skua at Draycote Water.Never having seen one I dashed over there at top speed.

Got there at 9.30AM and luckily saw some birders along the Farborough bank who put me onto it.It was several miles away in the centre of the pond but very nice to see through Richard May's scope.It flew a little closer later on but still a long way off.Here are some of the worst shots of a Great Skua ever taken but they are the only ones I've got!!!!!

There were quite a few Sand Martins zooming around which were nice to see.I tried to get some shots but this is a game only played by complete idiots.Here are my best shots.What an idiot I am!!!!!

A walk round to Rainbow with Francoise revealed very little.There were very few birds around which was very disappointing.Did get a distant view if the two GND's and a closer view of a Kestrel.

Friday, 19 March 2010

The curious incident of the Cat and the Sparrowhawk

I was reading a rather dull book in the conservatory yesterday afternoon, having recently returned from a quick visit to Marsh Lane where I'd seen 2 Little Ringed Plovers,2 Redshanks, 4 Oystercatchers and a Chiffchaff, when the peace was shattered with a loud screeching coming from quite close in the garden.

I dashed outside to see the local ginger tom (damn thing!!!!!) walking down one of the paths and as I moved forward to chase it off I nearly trod on a Sparrowhawk with it's kill.The Sparrowhawk shot off into the distance and the cat disappeared with the the kill.

I thought that was the end of the drama but,as I was cooking tea some 20 minutes later,I saw the Sparrowhawk had returned.I smoothly moved into panic mode and dashed upstairs to grab the camera and open the rear bedroom window (a small top hung window unfortunately) to hopefully get a decent view.

I was lucky because it had returned to claim it's kill not knowing the ginger tom had taken it.It searched from the fencing,then from a bird bath and finally from the top of a garden chair all pretty close to the house.It looked very puzzled when it couldn't find it and it eventually gave up and shot off into the distance.

The tea was ruined but it's nice to know you can have birding dramas even in a small suburban garden.Some shots attached which are OK considering it was pretty dull and I had to wind up the ISO.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Some local birding.

I was quite surprised when I got out of my car in the car park at Whitacre Heath on Tuesday morning to find it warm.This is the first time I've been out birding for several months to find it not cold.Is spring here???

I'd gone to Whitacre Heath to try and get some shots of Redpolls which I've failed to do so at all this year.The feeder hide area was very busy but only with the usual suspects however 5 Redpolls soon showed up but remained feeding on the ground well to the right of the hide.One did pay a brief visit near the hide so I managed a few shots.

The only other birds of interest to show were a couple of Willow Tits.

As the evening was fairly bright I went over to Marsh Lane to try for the Barn Owl.It showed up at about 4.30PM and flew round the crop field which is normally it's favourite area.However the the crop field had been ploughed and it soon lost interest here and flew back towards the railway pool.I left the big lens club by the crop field and followed it which was a lucky move because I found it perched on a post by the railway pool close to the stream path and managed to get a few shots before it flew off to perch near the railway embankment.

Monday, 15 March 2010

The Slavonian Grebe again.

Having had a very poor day's birding on Saturday (all morning at Brandon Marsh and seeing zilch and a late afternoon at Marsh Lane for the Barn Owl and not seeing it but getting frozen to death) and then staying in in on Sunday I needed a decent day's birding.So this morning I thought I'd go to see the Slavonian Grebe again and try and get a better video.

When I got to the lake at 9.30AM I thought it had gone because there were no cars in the car park and no birders to be seen anywhere but a quick scan found the Grebe in the middle.Got him all to myself.

For the next hour I tried to get a close up video of our little friend but managed to mess up every video I took with my 7D camera mainly because it's hard to focus on it especially when it keeps diving all the time.I did end up with some great videos of empty water and had to reject others because the mike picked up my continual swearing as I failed to focus on it.

Here are a few more pics but no video.

My bad mood caused by not getting a video was lifted mid morning when I spotted a great rarity and managed to rattle off a shot.Here it is.

Yes your eyes are not deceiving you it is the living legend Steve Seal making a rare visit to the Midlands.Good to see you again Steve!!!!

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Slavonian Grebe Video.

Here is a video I took of the Slavonian Grebe last week.Not very good I'm afraid it's too bright and the bird was too far off.

You can see it was annoyed with me filming it because he gives me the bird equivalent of a v-sign.

Friday, 12 March 2010

A late afternoon visit to Marsh Lane.

Flushed with success of getting some half decent shots of the Slavonian Grebe in the morning I paid an evening visit to Marsh Lane to see if the Barn Owl would come out to play.

Well the good news it did but the bad news is I failed to get a really good shot again.I've no excuses as it cruised round the crop field and the car park area and the light when it first showed at 4.45 PM was not to bad at all.For some reason I'm struggling to get it focus as it zooms about sometimes quite close so I'm getting loads of crappographs but great fun trying..

Another go at the Slavonian Grebe.

After doing a few chores on Thursday morning I thought I'd have another go at getting some decent shots of the Slavonian Grebe that hopefully was still on the fishing pond at the Top Barn Farm fishery near Holt Fleet in Worcestershire.

Got there at 10.00AM to find conditions not sunny as the weatherman had promised but rather dull and very cold (nothing new there then!!!) but much more important my little friend was still on the fishing lake.

It's not only a great looking bird but it's also very friendly coming in pretty close to the bank on occasions.

What I didn't know before was that it's is a very special bird it's the Slavonian Grebe fish eating champion.A friend who had been there since 8.00AM had seen it catch at least 10 fish and whilst I was there until 12.15PM I saw it catch at least 8 and these fish (all perch) were not small but often 15 centimetres long.God knows were it's putting them all it must have eaten it's body weight in the morning and it was still fishing when I left.

A few pics attached a bit better than last time.Click on them to enlarge.

Monday, 8 March 2010

A last minute change of plan.

My plan this morning was to pay a visit to Draycote Water a place I hadn't been to for ages mainly because I thought I might freeze to death with the winter we have been enjoying.

However,taking a quick look on the internet before I left,I stumbled upon Pete Walkden's excellent shots of the Slavonian Grebe that's been on the sailing club lake at the Top Barn Farm Water Sports Centre near Holt.So a quick change of plan had me zooming over to Worcestershire hoping the Grebe would be still there.

Luckily I found the right lake straight away and just as I started to scan the water a birder appeared from nowhere and said "I've been here for an hour and can't find it.It looks as though it has gone.I'm off " After a few swear words and mainly because it was a nice morning I decided I would hang around a while hoping it would turn up.

After a short while I noticed a small lake to the left of the main one so I strolled up to it and blow me down one of the three birds on the lake was the Slavonian Grebe!!!!!!! This other birder couldn't have checked out this lake.

What a cracking bird.I'd love to see one in summer plumage.I spent the next 90 minutes trying to get some half decent shots which wasn't easy as he stayed most of the time asleep on the side of the lake facing the sun so not good for taking shots unless you want to increase your collection of silhouettes.Attached are a few of my better ones.Click on them to enlarge.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Nailed the Marsh Lane Barn Owl at last.

Having put in quite a few hours trying to get shots of the Barn Owl that has been visiting Marsh Lane in the late afternoons and failing hopelessly even to see it I was not full of confidence when I went down again on Saturday afternoon.Mind you when I met up with Pete Walkden in the car park I was more confident as Pete is great at getting Owl shots.

We joined a few other birders in the Oak hide who were also after the Barn Owl.We got excited at 4.00PM when a large white bird appeared flying to the right of the hide but it turned out to be this chap :-

By 5.00PM only three of us were left in the hide the others had given up mainly because of the very cold conditions.I was outside the hide with Pete and was just about to give in as well when Steve who was still in the hide spotted the Barn Owl near the railway hide.Thanks Steve!!!!!

For the next 40 minutes in fading light we had great fun trying to get shots as the BO cruised all round the reserve paticularly in the car park/crop field area.It was very successful catching at least two dinners during this period.

I took loads of shots but due to the gloomy conditions and the difficulty I had getting our friend in focus I had a hell of a lot of crappographs. Here are a few of the shots I didn't mess up which you can click to get a bigger version.I will definitely have another go at this super bird.