Thursday, 31 January 2013

Siberian Chiffchaffs.

Having followed all the chat on the internet and seen Dave Hutton's and other's superb shots of the Siberian Chiffchaffs at Ladywalk I headed over there myself on Wednesday morning to see what all the fuss was about and get myself a life tick.

Got there just after 10.00 AM to find it bright and not too cold but there was a strong wind blowing.There was no one else about to get any advice from so I stood on the adjacent river bridge which I thought was the place to see them.However after an hour without seeing any birds at all I gave up and went back to the car park to have a go at the birds on the feeders there.

The feeders were very busy and I got some decent Bullfinch shots a bird for some reason I'd always struggled with for some reason.

Also on the feeders were some Lesser Redpolls including some Mealy Redpolls.

Just as I was going to have another go for the Siberian Chiffchaffs on the bridge I had a bit of luck because a warder showed up and told me I was looking in the wrong spot and to cut a long storey short he took me down to the spot where they are often seen (just to the right of the double gates) and it didn't take him long to find them for me. Yipppee !!!!!! A life tick for me.

On the picture front the news was not good.They were a long way off.The tree they were flicking around in was gloomy with the light coming from behind it and they soon disappeared.To give you an idea here are a couple of unedited shots taken with my 400 lens.Can you see the birds ?

Here are a couple of cropped shots which are good examples of crapographs but who cares great little birds.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Brueton Park.

By Thursday lunchtime I was so fed up staying in I decided to be brave the conditions and venture out with the camera.I played pretty safe and drove the couple of miles to Brueton Park where although the car park resembled an Arctic glacier the water was surprisingly clear of ice and the paths passable with care.

As I walked towards the lower bridge I noticed a film crew but instead of a shooting a rare bird as I hoped they were making an advert.My hopes of them asking me to join in as I got closer were soon dashed when a fierce looking woman said "Do you mind".

The visit was a dead loss on the birding front as I saw nothing remotely interesting.Whilst in the small reserve area waiting for something to land on the feeders a large dollop of snow on a branch I was standing under crashed down on me,my bins and my camera.Wonderful !!!!!!

As I left I spotted these two chaps who fooled me a few years ago and fooled a friend quite recently.To my knowledge they have been around for a few years now.

The back garden continues to be good but although I've tried I've failed to get any more fighting Fieldfare shots.

Thursday, 24 January 2013


It's funny because until all this snow arrived in our gardens I'd struggled to get shots this winter of Fieldfares as they were thin on the ground at all my local patches.Now they are an ever present in my and my neighbour's gardens and from what I hear in everyone else's gardens as well.

Yesterday trapped indoors by the bad weather I was able to watch all the bird activity in the two gardens on and off all day.Two Fieldfares were present most of the time one of which became dominant and aggressive during the day and not only saw off it's mate but took on the gang of Blackbirds that are the bosses usually in our gardens.Took a load of shots which aren't too bad considering they were taken standing on a stool and poking the camera through a top hung opening light.

Things first thing were quite peaceful at first.

Then lunchtime things got a bit rough when my neighbour an avid feeder put out an apple or two.The Fieldfare then took on both the gang of Blackbirds and some Starlings.Great fun to watch.

Saturday, 19 January 2013


The one good thing about the snow that keeps you from going out is that it can attract loads of birds into your back garden onto the feeders.This morning was no exception with the heavy snowfall of yesterday attracting birds into my garden and my neighbours. I am a keen bird feeder with a decent feeding station but my neighbour is excellent putting out loads of feed.

Getting shots of the birds in these conditions is not easy as it can be very gloomy and things in my case are made worse because I have to take my shots standing on a stool  and poking the camera through a narrow top hung opening light of a bedroom window.

This morning I don't think I've seen our small back gardens (in suburban Knowle) any busier with birds flitting around everywhere.Blackbirds,Starlings and Chaffinches were by far the most numerous with up to 20 of each.Amongst the better birds were 6 Lesser Redpolls, a lone Jay, 7 Siskins, a lone GS Woodpecker which seemed to like the suet balls and a flock of 25 Fieldfares that landed briefly on a neighbour's tree.

Here are a few shots with nothing decent but OK in the conditions.


Friday, 18 January 2013

Out and about in the cold.

Although this is my first post for a week I have been out and about with the camera in the bitter cold which is pretty impressive for the president of the fair weather birders club but I struggled to get any shots.

On Sunday morning I went to Marsh Lane which although it was sunny it was too cold for me and I left after an hour.No pics.

I went to Marsh Lane on Tuesday morning and again it was sunny and very cold.Surprisingly the Oak hide was full of photographers but unfortunately there was nothing decent for us to point the cameras at.I then made a major mistake because when I spent the best part of an hour at the causeway screens searching the reeds on the left where the Bittern was last seen and seeing nothing I didn't know it was perched in the reeds on the right.I didn't search there and missed it.What a burk !!!!

On Thursday morning when the forecast for heavy snow was forecast for the next day I thought I'd better go out today before it all arrived.Just before I left I spotted this lone Lesser Redpoll on my feeders in the back garden.First one of the year to visit my feeders.

Got to Marsh Lane just after midday.There was no one there and it was very bleak.The car park pool was frozen up but there was a little open water on the railway pool and the marsh was not frozen but after nearly an hour the only shots I'd taken were of a BH Gull on the ice and a so so pic of a female Brambling.Oh Dear this is not good.

I then headed to the causeway screens to have a go for the Bittern.This time I searched the right hand reeds because that's where it was seen on Wednesday but didn't see it.Having learned my lesson from Tuesday I then searched the left hand reeds and what did I see immediately.This :-

Yippee !!! I'd found the Bittern.I then made another mistake because when I was on the phone to Nic Barlow telling him the Bittern was now in the left hand reeds it came out of the reeds onto the ice.By the time I'd got onto it again it had gone back into the reeds.Damn Damn !!!!!

For once I was patient and had it in view for the next hour and a half but most of the time it was in the reeds.I did get some shots when it showed a little better.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

A Smew in the fog.

I could not have picked a worse day to go on my first visit for many months to Draycote Water if I had tried.Why ? Because the place was shrouded in thick fog all morning.

I only thought to venture out with the camera on Friday morning when it started to brighten up in Knowle.I decided to have a go for the drake Smew that friends had got some great shots of earlier in the week at Draycote Water.Got there not long after 10.00 AM to find the place shrouded in fog.

Out of the gloom as I walked along the Farborough bank I came across two top local photographers Dave Hutton and Kevin Groocock. After some chat I joined Dave to search for the Smew which he found near the Spit.

I then spent over an hour trying to get some shots but the fog refused to lift and the Smew would not come in any closer than 50m.These are the only shots I could get which are pretty ordinary but not too bad considering it was so foggy.

By this time I had slumped into wimp mode and was feeling the cold also if anything the fog was getting thicker.On the way back to the car park I spotted this chap that I think is a winter plumage Lesser Black-Backed Gull who looked as fed up as I was.

I cheered up considerably in the car park when I met up with that Draycote Water living legend Bob Hazell. Bob checks out Draycote Water nearly every day and lets everyone know if anything decent shows.Bob also gave me some interesting information : The Centre/Cafe is to re-open in March and the sailing club will  allow visitors in for food and drink.This is good news now all we need is some decent birds to show up this year.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

A Firecrest.

Although it hadn't been seen the day before I thought I'd press my luck and drive over to Hams Hall on Wednesday morning and try to see the Firecrest that's been there for a few days now.

Parked up by the bridge at 10.00 AM and walked down to the sewage outfall stream bridge where I met an old friend Alan.He'd been there a while and had no luck so when he left I thought I'd try my luck along the path that goes under the road bridge and along the river.

Just as I began to walk under the road bridge I had some luck when I met up with Bob Duckhouse who showed me where he had seen it a few days earlier.Quite soon we met up with another birder who put us onto the Firecrest approx. 70 m along the path in the hedgerow/trees on the left.

I then had an hour battling to get a shot of our little friend who was pinging around as they do mainly in the gloom of the hedgerow.My god it was difficult to get onto it and I now have a vast collection of out of focus twig shots.When I did managed to get onto it this happened.

Here are my best shots which although nothing to write home about I was chuffed to bits to get them of a cracking looking bird.

On the way home I had a quick look at Shustoke reservoir to check on the Great Northern Divers but as usual for me they were way out in the middle.They did show great interest in one of the buoys.