Saturday, 29 October 2011

Out birding in the sunshine.

As soon as I saw that Friday was probably going to be the best day weatherwise of the weekend I thought I'd better grab the camera and get out there so off I headed to Brandon Marsh in bright sunshine.

Got there at 9.30AM and as I met up with a couple of friends in the car park Brandon was covered in a pretty thick mist.Hoping that the mist would soon lift we decided we would take the path past the sheep field to see if we could find anything but it wasn't till we got near to the Wright hide that we found anything to point our cameras at and that of all things was a Dunnock.Oh Dear!!!!!

The mist then started to lift and for late October it became a lovely day but finding any decent birds didn't improve and we found nothing at all from any of the hides on the main path.Two of us soon got fed up seeing nothing in the Carlton Hide so we headed back to the Baldwin hide where someone had seen the New Zealand Scaup earlier in the day.

As we entered the hide we were a little dismayed to find it occupied by a couple of families and when one of the fathers said to his daughter "Pass the bird book Jenny I think I can see a Whooper Swan" my mate and I whispered "Amateurs".However when I scanned the lake I was amazed to see a lone Whooper Swan not that far away and I was forced to eat humble pie and say to him "Well spotted".I was very pleased to see it because I haven't got any decent shots of a Whooper Swan and I missed out not long ago at Draycote Water when some flew off before I could get near them.

A Mute Swan soon chased off the Whooper towards Willow Island where it then went to sleep probably completely knackered having just flown in from Iceland.I then had a go at finding the NZ Scaup which for me is not easy as it looks a lot like a female Tufted Duck.I found it eventually and got a few shots.Although it hangs around with the Tufties it doesn't like them much and constantly has a go at them.

The only other decent birds I came across were a couple of Nuthatches but they were on the Cafe feeders so the only shots you can get is through the windows which ruins your shots.Now I know this shot is no good but it shows how good a shot you could get if you could get near the feeders in the open.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

The struggle to get decent shots continues.

Worried that my camera would soon get rusty due to lack use taking bird shots I hurried over to Brandon Marsh again on Tuesday morning hoping that my poor efforts last Saturday would not be repeated.

Got there just before 10.00AM to find a sunny and quite warm morning with only a light breeze blowing.Things on the camera front started badly because I missed shots of some Redwings and a lone Fieldfare that were just past the sheepfield because they would not show themselves in the open.Not much to ask.

Then when I found a couple of Goldcrests in the New Hare covert I failed to get even one shot off as they were too fast for me.Things got even worse because when I saw everything on the East Marsh pool had panicked and had flown high in the sky I couldn't get round to the hide fast enough to see what had caused the the panic.It was a Peregrine.I found this out later when friends showed me their shots of it on Willow Island.Bugger Bugger !!!!! Don't you love it when that happens!!!!

I did get excited just for a moment when this chap was flying round the EM pool .......

......... but when it landed it was only a Pigeon.Bugger Bugger!!!!!

Did have a bit of luck when this Willow Tit (I hope it is a WT and not a Marsh Tit) that landed briefly along the main path.

One of my targets this Autumn is to get a flight shot of a Jay with an acorn in it's mouth.Time is running out but I did manage some half decent shots near the tip area.

A bit further along the tip area I located a couple of Common Buzzards but they were two fields away.One did come a little closer but not close enough for a decent shot with my lens.

The other one landed at the top of a tree but was still a long way off and my hopes it might come my way were dashed when the miserable so and so went back the way it came.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Out birding in the sunshine.

As soon as I saw that the sun was shining on Saturday morning I thought I must get out there with the camera but where to go was a problem.Nothing decent had been seen locally for ages now with the exception of last week's Spoonbill at Draycote.

As far as I knew the flashes at Upton Warren had dried out as had all the pools at Whitacre Heath.Marsh Lane and Brandon Marsh had been quiet for ages and nothing had been seen at Shustoke Res. for a while now.Middleton Hall gets some decent birds but is not too good for photographers as everything is far too far away unless you've got a monster lens.I'd been to Draycote earlier in the week so I opted for Brandon Marsh again as I knew that there would be a few friends there.

Got there just before 10.00AM to find a very pleasant sunny morning and as expected there were a lot of friends about.So a decent day then? No there was one thing missing.Some birds to point the camera at!!!! It was very very quiet.

I spent a long time both before and after lunch round the sheep field and and Newlands areas hoping for a glimpse of the Short Eared Owl but no such luck.I think I've got a better chance of seeing Cheryl Cole dancing in the sheepfield than I've got of seeing a SEO there.Mind you thinking about it I would rather see Chery Cole.

Mid afternoon I gave up and headed back home.All I'd got after a lot of walking round were some pretty poor shots of a Common Buzzard,a Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk all at distance from the Carlton Hide.Not worth posting!!!!!

Had a bit of a surprise this morning as I was eating breakfast watching the TV news in the lounge.A movement in the front garden caught my eye.It was not one of the cats that visit my garden it was a badger!!!!!!!! It scurried through my garden,crossed the road and went under a neighbour's hedge.Bearing in mind that it was after 8.00AM and I live in the middle of an estate in Knowle this was an amazing spot.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Another trip to Draycote Water.

Although there had been a frost overnight it was sunny on Thursday morning so after finishing a few chores I went over to Draycote Water again.

I got there at just before 10.00AM to find a chilly morning but it was bright and pretty calm.Just the weather then that usually finds Draycote Water quiet on the birding front so I was not too hopeful as I set off to the Spit along the Farborough Bank.

It was very quiet as expected but there were 5 Dunlin and a few Linnets on the Spit but that was all.I was then joined by Francoise and we decided to walk back towards the centre where half way along the bank we met up with Richard Mays and Bob Hazell who had seen very little.

Half an hour later as Francoise and I were trying for shots of a Goosander we noticed Bob was racing back along the bank towards us but not before I got a few shots off.

A gasping Bob then told us 6 Whooper Swans had just landed in front of the Inlet and off he went again charging down the path.I am now going to call Bob "Breathless" as nearly every time I speak to him he is racing off to see a bird and he is out of breath.Very nice of him to stop and tell us though.

Well Breathless Bob was very shrewd after he left us because he hijacked a Severn Trent van and was driven round to the Inlet.Francoise and I had to trudge very slowly round there but I was shrewd enough to take a long distance shot from the Sailing club (about a mile away from the Swans).

This turned out to have been a good move because just as we had walked past the picnic area they flew off down the pond southwards.Did I get any decent flight shots? No I didn't far too far away.I did get a Warks Year tick though.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

A Visit to Brandon Marsh.

Not having been out with the camera for a few days and despite the fact that a strong cold wind was blowing I decided on Tuesday morning to pay a visit to Brandon Marsh.

I got there just before 10.00AM but did not head round the reserve straight away because I was in dispute with admin. (they said I hadn't paid my subs but I had and what's more they had cashed the cheque) and I wanted to sort them out.So going into aggressive mode I very quickly had the matter cleared up satisfactorily.I am pretty scary when I am in aggressive mode!!!!

One shot high on my wish list is to get a shot of a Jay with an acorn in it's mouth and I got the opportunity very quickly when I spotted one in the woods but the distance and the gloomy conditions resulted in a few crappographs I'm afraid.

I then headed out to the Steetly hide to join a couple of friends.The Steetly hide is a small hide but just lately at Brandon this has been the only hide that you have a chance of seeing anything and to prove this at one time there were 9 people jammed in there this morning.I was surprised it didn't collapse.

Kingfishers have been very reliable here and one turned up pretty soon after I entered the hide.It did a bit of fishing but despite the fact there were 5 photographers having a go no one got a decent flight/diving shot including me but I was able to add to my empty water shot collection.

When the KF flew off I did spot a Water Rail but it was a long way off having a bath.This was the first WR I'd seen for ages.After it finished it's bath it then did a lot of wing flapping and running around.Pity it was a long way off.

Things got no better when visits to all the other hides drew a blank and a walk to the Newlands and the Sheepfield was also fruitless.Keith Yates had seen the SEO again on the sheepfield but that was at dawn so it was no surprise when I didn't see it much later on in the day.

Even a chat to the very attractive waitress in the cafe failed to cheer me up.I was undoubtedly suffering from post Spoonbill depression.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

A Spoonbill in Warwickshire.

Having walked far too far the day before at Draycote Water resulting in very stiff legs when I got up on Friday morning I planned to have an easy time at Brandon Marsh just strolling round to a few of the hides.Well it didn't take long for this plan to collapse.

I'd only just got into the Steetly hide when I received a text from Kath "Just heard that there is a Spoonbill at Draycote Water" I thought this cannot be true there had been nothing from Birdguides and texted Kath back accordingly.I then got distracted as this chap turned up and briefly landed on the perching pole.

When the KF departed I sent a text to Bob Hazell who I knew would be on his circuit round DW "Is there a Spoonbill at the pond today?" He soon replied "Not to my knowledge".Well that's was it then no Spoonbill!!!!!.

A quarter an hour later my phone rang and it was a breathless Bob " Max gasp gasp there is a gasp gasp Spoonbill at the gasp gasp Outfall". What had happened was that Bob from the North shore had spotted the Spoonbill way over at the Outfall and was racing round to see it when he phoned me hence all the gasps.Very nice of him to phone me.Observers later told me Bob was running at great speed and along the Farborough bank women with prams,children joggers and cyclists were swept aside as he raced along like a runaway train.Nothing stops a birder getting to a good bird.

When I found out that Kath's news was kosher I abandoned my BM visit and set off to DW.I hadn't travelled very far down the A45 when my phone went again.OH NO!!!! I thought it's flown but it was Kevin telling me it was showing well.

I parked up and set off to the Outfall but by the time I'd raced up the hill and was at the back of the Sailing Club my heart was racing so much I had to rest up after all I'd seen Spoonbills before and had got some decent pics in Norfolk.All this was was a Warks tick so no need for a heart attack.I eventually got there to join up with several Warwickshire birders and find the Spoonbill showing well about 30 metres down from the pathway.

It was a juvenile but still a cracking bird.

An hour later one of the fishing boats came too close and everything took off.Luckily the Spoonbill returned after a while giving an opportunity for some flight shots.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

A visit to Draycote Water.

On Thursday morning as soon as I saw that it would be a calm day and it would brighten up later I decided to go over to Draycote Water.Got there at 10.00AM to find it calm but a bit chilly and pretty dull.

I went down the Spit and soon saw a Rock Pipit which was great because it was a year tick for me but I'm blowed if I could get near enough for a shot.I met up with Richard,Mark and Bob at the Spit but except for a couple of Dunlin they had seen nothing.

Bob Hazell then decided to join up with me on a walk to Rainbow presumably so he would see more birds.No hang on that's not right!!!! I joined up with Bob so I could see more birds.Sorry Bob.

On the walk to Rainbow we did not see much but there were loads of Skylarks passing over on migration.A bit hard to get a shot but I did get one.

At Rainbow I was pleased to see a female Red-crested Pochard was still there despite the efforts of a couple of fishing boats.Not great shots but I was happy because although I'd seen some before I did not have any shots.

Along Draycote bank before we got to the Inlet we spotted at least seven Yellowhammers on the wall but before we could get close a walker coming the other way scared them off.Only got this distant shot.

We were then joined by Francoise and Alan by the Inlet and they had not seen anything that we had not seen.There was a Goosander just past the inlet but by this time it was very dull so no decent pics (excuses excuses).

It was so dull when we reached the Centre on the way back I decided to give in and head home.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Brandon Marsh.

After doing some early morning shopping I went over to Brandon Marsh on Tuesday morning despite the poor weather to try and see the Short Eared Owl (never seen one) and the Hen Harrier (seen one but no decent pics) recently reported there.

Got there just before 10.00AM and headed past the wind pump to the sheep field in very dull weather.I hadn't gone very far past the wind pump when I saw a raptor flying around in the distance.The Hen Harrier????

Having learned the lesson years ago you don't check out a bird first you rattle off as many shots as you can then check later.When the bird flew off I checked out how good my shots of the Hen Harrier were.It was a Sparrowhawk !!!! Bugger Bugger!!!!

After that excitement I checked out the sheepfield and the Newlands for my target birds but saw nothing at all.I then joined some friends in the Carlton hide and they had had no luck either.A stay of well over an hour in that hide and not one of us had cause to use our cameras.It was dead.We did find out later that the SEO was seen over the Newlands.

Off to the cafe for a cup of tea where as usual the pretty waitress cheered me up and took my mind off my lack of shots.Thinking about it she looked so nice I've had to upgrade her from "pretty" to "very attractive".

As we were enjoying our tea we spotted a couple of Nuthatches on the feeders out side the cafe and we could not resist trying to get some shots even though they had to be taken through the window glass.The shots were a bit washed out but were all I could manage on a poor day with the camera.

A week ago I set up a feeder station in my garden based on a mini version of the one at Whitacre Heath (a very mini one!!!).To date as far as I know no birds had paid it a visit but this morning a Coal Tit had a brief look but soon flew off unimpressed so my plans to get some great winter bird shots are not looking good at the moment.

Friday, 7 October 2011

A Draycote Water visit on a foul day.

Being president of the Fair Weather Birders Club it was a brave decision I took this morning in deciding to go to Draycote Water when the weather was very poor.

There were two reasons why I decided to go the first being that all the regulars down there keep telling me you get some great stuff there when the weather is foul and secondly after cocking up the AF micro adjustment on my camera/lens on Tuesday and getting only crappographs at Brandon I was keen to see if my latest effort was OK.

Arrived at 10.00AM and well wrapped up I set off along Farborough Bank to the Spit.I immediately realised I had not wrapped up well enough because there was a freezing north westerly wind howling straight into me and within a few seconds I could feel my blood freezing up.Ice Station Draycote was back!!!

I was pleased to get a few shots of a couple of Meadow Pipits down on the grass bank.Pleased because the wind was making hard to steady the camera and the results were good enough to indicate that the latest micro adjustment was looking fine.

I finally struggled up to the Spit and met up with Richard,Mark and Francoise all of whom were struggling with the icy wind.They reported that nothing decent had been seen so far but there were a couple of Dunlin on the Spit foreshore and a lone Rock Pipit (this I did not see which is a shame as it would have been another Warks tick).

I soon had to make my way back before frost bite set in.On the walk back I was blowed if I could see any Rock Pipits but just as I had nearly got back to the centre I spotted 2 cracking looking Grey Wagtails drop down onto the rocks.The cold forgotten I then pursued them back up the pathway to try and get some shots but they kept moving on before I could focus on them.I gave up a bit later on when I realised that they had lured me nearly all the way back to the Spit.

I think I will think twice before I head back to DW if the forecast is bad.Mind you if something great dropped in I'd be off there like a shot.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

A few disappointing local trips.

I've not done a post for a while now but it's not because I haven't been out it's because when I have been out I haven't seen any decent birds let alone taken any shots.

Last Friday I went over to Draycote Water knowing that because of the fine weather I would be very lucky to see anything decent as DW is a bad weather place but I did fancy a bit of a walk.I couldn't walk to the spit as there were 3 fishing boats almost on the foreshore so I walked round to Rainbow.I did find a Curlew Sandpiper near the outlet but the shoreline is so far away from the path now due to the low water levels it's not easy to ID birds let alone get a shot.

Had lunch sitting on the wall at Rainbow where I was joined by Francoise who showed me this shot she took a few days ago at the inlet.It clearly show two top birders/photographers and Kath.

On the walk back to the car park I again saw nothing of note except a Peregrine that annoyingly flew off before coming close so only a crappograph.

I went to Marsh lane on Sunday morning and although there were loads of Gulls,Geese and Ducks nothing of note showed to point the camera at.On Monday afternoon I had a walk down the Hatton locks canal but the wind was very strong and I saw nothing at all.So that was 3 local trips and only one crappograph to show for the trouble.

I was keen to go out with the camera on Tuesday as I had been dabbling with the camera's micro adjustment facility which allows you to fine tune the AF to get sharper shots.Great if you know what you are doing.I don't !!!!! With this in mind I went over to Brandon Marsh to test out what I had done.

Met Kath in the car park and we headed to the Steetly hide because this had been the best hide recently but when we got there it was closed as vandal damage was being repaired.Oh Dear!!!!

We had seen nothing from all the other hides on route to the Carlton Hide which was very quiet as well.After half an hour a kestrel appeared but didn't come very close but I did manage a few shots.This is the best which shows that my dabbling with the lens micro adjustment facility might not be a success and I may have to go back to the drawing board.

We then went on a walk round and although we found a lot of Goldcrests but seeing them let alone getting a shot was very difficult.Here is my best shot which as you can see is a crappograph.

After a visit to the cafe where the pretty waitress cheered me up a lot telling me about her trip to Rome I went to the tip area to see if I could see any raptors cruising in the warm conditions.There were a few Common Buzzards about but my shots weren't great and I'm not sure if this was down to the birds not being close enough or it was down to the lens micro adjustment.

So four local trips and no decent shots.Oh Dear!!!!!