Thursday, 24 November 2011

A day out in the countryside.

Having been invited the day before by those two top Warwickshire wildlife photographers Kath Everitt and Geoff Haynes to join them on a trip to an open air theatre I found myself early on Wednesday morning setting off to meet up with them.

So where was this "open air theatre"? Well it was in a set aside field in deepest Northamptonshire two miles west of the small village of Hanging Houghton.So what was on show? An exhibition of hunting and flying by a group of Short Eared Owls.If they turned up that is.

We got there just before 11.30AM and immediately saw a pair of SEO's on the set aside field (sorry I should say the open air theatre). Here are a few shots of these cracking birds before they flew off.

After 20 minutes they flew off and a long intermission followed of over an hour when nothing was showing.Unfortunately by this time any early brightness had gone and it became a little gloomy.Getting a bit bored I wandered over to the hedge line and was lucky to be in a decent position when one appeared again just after 1.00PM.It appeared to catch something and settled down to eat it.

Although a bit far off I did manage a few shots and if you look carefully you can see the vole (?) it's eating.

After this at least five of them were on display flying all over the place.Wonderful to watch but for me damned hard to get a shot of as I'm blowed I could keep them in focus as they zoomed around.I'm pretty certain I broke the world record for the number of out of focus shots taken in one session.Here are a few I managed in focus well nearly in focus.

Just before we left one of them posed for us as it settled on a small bush.Oh for a big lens and of course someone to carry it as I'm blowed if I could.Great day.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Coming down to earth again.

After being both entertained and mesmerised by a couple of Short Eared Owls last Saturday at Dostill I came back down to earth this morning when a visit to Brandon Marsh was a almost a total washout on the birding front.

Things started well when in the Steetly hide we saw a Bittern fly in from the East but the miserable so and so landed in the reeds right at the back and was not seen again as far as I know.Things went rapidly downhill after this bit of excitement because we saw nothing from any of the hides and there was a complete lack of any birds in the trees and hedgerows.Desperate to use the camera I took shots of some toadstools.Hells teeth !!!!!!

By the sheep field we did spot a raptor high in the sky which one or two of us thought might have been a juvenile Peregrine but we were wrong.It was a Kestrel I think ????

After a lunchtime cup of tea in the cafe and a chat to the very attractive waitress (who had flowers in her hair today) I gave up and went home.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Fun and games at Dostill Lake.

Ever since I'd seen my first ever Short Eared Owl several days ago at Dostill Lake I was dead keen to go back and try to get some better shots but the recent damp gloomy weather had put me off going.So when the weather man on Saturday morning said it would get a bit brighter by mid morning I decided to shoot over there.

Knowing that Kath a fellow photographer was also keen to get some shots I persuaded her to join me and we met up in the car park at 11.15AM.As usual there was good and bad news.The bad was it was still very gloomy and any bright interludes were thin on the ground but the good news was that whilst still in the car park I spotted a SEO gliding down the side of the central bund.It then landed on a small tree so we raced down to the decking area in front of the centre to rattle off some shots.It was distant but who cares we had spotted one straight away.

It quite quickly flew off.

We then made what turned out to be a great decision.We decided to walk down the pathway next to the big bund on the western side,picked a spot about half way down and just waited for one to turn up.Quite quickly one landed on the bund about 60m away.

For the next hour and a half we had numerous views of two of them flying around.One even flew low over our heads but my shouting "It's only a Gull" didn't help us getting a decent close flight shot.Here are a few of the shots I took from this spot.

I'm not going to complain because we had some good views over a long period (pity it was so gloomy) but the peace and quiet was spectacularly shattered when this chap roared down the lake and everything flew off.

After all it is a water ski lake and the very young skier put on a tremendous show.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

You can't win them all.

No.You cannot win them all and today I didn't win in fact I got badly defeated.

In the middle of some household chores on Wednesday morning I received a text from Kevin Grocock and then from Kath Everitt both telling me that a Purple Sandpiper was on the Spit at Draycote Water.

I was in a quandary whether to go or not.I'd seen the last one at Draycote (in fact I found it at the Outlet).I'd got some decent shots of one a few years ago at Titchwell.The weather forecast was poor but despite all these points against going I went just to get a Warks year tick.

On route there I got a text telling me it had flown to the small island. Bugger !!!! When I started to walk down the Farborough Bank in very gloomy weather John Judge told me it had flown off again possible to the Inlet. Bugger !!!!!

I did have a bit of luck a little later when I spotted a flock of nine Brent Geese way down towards Toft flying East.So I got a Warks year tick after all.

I then joined a couple of other birders and we headed to the Outlet hoping the PS had landed there but no luck.I can only presume it had gone but you never know with Draycote Water.

As it was getting even more gloomy and rain was threatening I decided to go home but when I got to the sailing boat park I spotted a Kestrel on top of one the masts.Using my incredible fieldcraft skills I was able to get close and rattle off a few shots.I was chuffed to get these shots in the gloom (it was raining by this time) as I've struggled this year to get ant Kestrel shots at all.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Well it's about time.

All my birding friends have seen one and nearly all of them have got shots of one ( some of them have got cracking shots) but yours truly,despite birding for seven years,has never seen one.What am I talking about well a Short Eared Owl.So when I heard that as many as four had been seen earlier in the week at Dostill Lake I thought I must get over there because it's about time I saw one.

So after lunch on Friday despite the poor weather forecast I headed over to Dostill Lake.I'd never been there before but it was easy to find being just north of Kingsbury on the A51.As usual there is good and bad news.You get a great view over the lake from the elevated car park but you are a long way from the bunds which the Owls favour.It was free to get in which was great but it cost £3 to get out which was not.

I got there at 1.30PM and had no luck scanning the bunds that run along the lakes when another birder showed up at 2.00PM and as luck would have it I knew him.Just as we had a good chat for 15 minutes Andy called out the magic words "There's one on the far bank and there's another on over there".They were both about 300m away.

Yipppeee!!!! At long last a Short Eared Owl (well two of them actually).A life tick and a Warks year tick (I think Dostill lake is in Warwickshire ????).

Here are a few shots.Not much good but for once I don't care seeing these cracking birds for the first time was enough for me.I did make a mistake by staying by the centre as the Owls were always way off in the distance.If I go again I will walk down the path along the west bund and hope they come a bit closer so I can get some decent shots.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Yet another day out in the sunshine.

As soon as I had finished some early morning shopping on Tuesday and had seen it was going to be another nice day I thought I'd better go out with the camera.

I wasn't sure whether to go to Marsh Lane or Middleton Hall or Brandon Marsh but decided on the latter as I knew some friends would be down there.This was a mistake as I later found out Marsh Lane had a Black-tailed Godwit,two Dunlin and an Egyptian Goose.Bugger Bugger !!!!!

When I was walking past the sheepfield I was convinced a large brown bird flying low over the bushes was the Short Eared Owl but when it landed high in a distant tree I realised it was a Common Buzzard.Bugger Bugger !!!!!!

When I got to the Wright hide I could see that there were 50+ Golden Plover on the far side of Willow Island but before I could get round to the EM hide something put everything up and they had flown off.Bugger Bugger !!!!!

I saw nothing from the Carlton hide or the Teal Pool hide but had a bit of luck from the Baldwin hide when a hand full of the Golden Plovers returned and settled on Willow Island.

After a cup of tea in the cafe and a chat with the very attractive waitress I headed round to the back gate area where Keith Yates put me onto a few Siskins and Lesser Redpolls in the Alder trees.These were my first of the winter for these chaps.Managed a few shots but nothing special.

I don't know if anyone else spotted the glaring error in David Attenborough's latest programme "The Frozen Planet" where he clearly said he was visiting the coldest places on earth.He went to the North Pole (fair enough).He went to Antarctica (fair enough). He didn't go to Ice Station Draycote known to all who go there in the Winter as the coldest place on earth.What a glaring omission!!!!