Friday, 29 January 2016


There has been a few Short Eared Owls just west of Kempsey a village some miles south of Worcester so yesterday morning armed with info where to find them from my good friend Pete Walkden I set off at 8.45 AM to try my luck at getting some shots.

Despite using the M5 to get there which is such bad shape it looks as though it has been strafed by RAF fighters on an exercise that has gone wrong I parked up by the church in Kempsey just after 9.30 AM.I then walked the few hundred metres to join up with the photographers already in place.

So how did I do with the Owls then ? Well not too well really despite a stay of over 3 hours.There were 4 about but the trouble was that they were very elusive and distant and they insisted on landing in the middle of fields and staying there out of site for ages.Also it was cold ( very cold later when the wind got up) and very muddy (this not surprising as only a few days ago the nearby river had flooded the area) and there were loads of dog walkers about.

A disastrous trip then ? No not at all. It was sunny and area was very nice with great views of the countryside There were several friends there and it's always great to catch up and it's also nice to chat to the other photographers of which there were quite a few.I did notice however that all the other photographers had bigger lenses than me and this took me back to my younger days and embarrassing times in the showers.

Also there were other birds about to point the camera at including loads of singing Skylarks.

We were also entertained by a pair of Stonechats that were flying around nearby as we waited patiently for the Owls to show.Couldn't get the male to come into range though.

Did manage my first shot for ages of a Kestrel that was hanging round the pumping station.

Right back to the Short Eared Owls.I did manage a few shots that weren't too bad but no keepers though.I didn't help myself at all because twice with my good friend Vince Garvey we decided to move to a better spot and both times an Owl flew over where we had been standing and when we finally decided to stay in one spot we never saw one.Then when they did show I managed to have the settings on the camera wrong which you can see from the shots below the exposure compensation was not set right.  

I gave up just before 1.00 PM mainly because standing up for so long was making my back ache.What a wimp ! !  On the muddy walk back to the car park the 3 dogs with a couple of dog walkers decided to "play" with me jumping up me with muddy paws.The comment "They are only being friendly" didn't go down well with me.I cannot print what my comments were.

My troubles were not over because my wellies were so muddied up by the time I got to the car I had big trouble getting them off.Only some very heavy duty swearing and metal fence post saved the day.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016


After some early morning shopping on Monday and seeing that it was sunny I thought I'd pay a quick visit to Marsh Lane.However when I arrived at 10.00 AM any brightness had gone and it was a bit gloomy but at least it was not cold.

The water was still very high on the CP pool with the islands beginning to disappear.There were masses of Gulls ,Geese and Ducks there but I could not spot anything new.I thought I'd spotted a decent bird but it turned out to be a white necked Cormorant.Also there was a Shellduck on one of the islands.

Joined Jeff Rankin in the oak hide and despite a patient scan we couldn't spot a Jack Snipe in the marsh.I'm sure they were there but very well hidden.At long last I caught up with the Little Egret named "Buffy" for obvious reasons by the Marsh Lane regulars.Very attractive bird.Here are a few shots that show it's unusual colouring.

Saturday, 23 January 2016


After the wet morning on Friday I had not planned to go out with the camera but as I had to pick up a prescription I thought I might as well make a quick visit to Marsh Lane as well.Got the just after 1.30 PM the rain had stopped and it was threatening to brighten up.

Nothing much on the CP pool which was no surprise as the water levels were very high.I then headed down to the Oak hide where my good friend Jeff Rankin had spotted 4 Jack Snipes among the 60 + Common Snipes in the marsh.

The good news was one of the Jack Snipes was fairly close but as usual there was bad news it was very well hidden and was refusing to move even a few millemetres.Here is a shot of all you could see. 

Whilst waiting for the Jack Snipe to show better I did spot a Water Rail that raced through all the Common Snipe at the top of the marsh before disappearing into the reeds.This is all I could get.

After 90 minutes of waiting patiently the Jack Snipe finally moved and very luckily moved out into the open before heading into the reeds.It was only in view for a minute but more than enough to get some decent shots.The shots are in sequence as it headed across the marsh.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016


For a change I went to Shustoke Reservoir this morning getting there just before 10.00 AM.It was very cold but quite bright when I parked up near the disabled car park.It turned out to be a good move going there because I had a pretty decent morning and I didn't need to move too far away from the car.
There was quite a lot of ice on reservoir which was good because it brought any birds about a bit closer in.A pair of Goosanders came in pretty close and I managed a few shots.

Some Grey Wagtails were also feeding fairly close but they were too lively for me to get a decent shot.I was more lucky with the Great Northern Diver that I eventually found in the bay between the disabled car park and the sailing club jetty.I had to be very patient but managed a few decent shots among a mass of pretty dire ones.

Mid morning pandemonium suddenly broke out as all the Gulls,Geese and Ducks converged near the bank by the jetty.A guy had arrived with two big bags full of bread and was throwing great junks into the water.It was an amazing feeding frenzy to watch.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016


Went to Marsh Lane again this morning getting there at 9.30 AM to find it sunny but bitterly cold.The pools were in the main iced over but luckily the only clear water on the CP pool was right in front of the hide so there were great views of hundreds of ducks and gulls etc but other than a Shellduck nothing new was found.

Joined some birders in the oak hide and it wasn't long before we found 3 Jack Snipes among the numerous Common Snipe.At one time they were very close to each other but were a bit distant and asleep.Here a few cropped shots of them (the flight shot I pretty certain is a Common Snipe ??).  

Sunday, 17 January 2016


On Friday morning having layered up to beat the cold I set off just before 10.00 AM to Marsh Lane however my journey there came to a dramatic end after only 50 metres down my own road.A jolt from the back of the car had me pulling over to discover one of the back tyres was as flat as a pancake.

I then drove very slowly to Plumes the local tyre place luckily only half a mile away where they pulled out a piece of metal out of the tyre.It was 120mm long and 5mm diameter.How on earth I didn't just drive over it I have no idea.The tyre was ruined of course.Less than an hour later I was back home sulking and £110 worse off.Not my best day's birding ! !

Saturday morning layered up again I had better luck and got to Marsh Lane arriving not long after 10.00 AM.It was bright but bitterly cold.Most of the CP pool was frozen over and the only bird of note that I could find was a Herring Gull although a couple of Goosanders and a Raven did fly over.

The path down to the oak hide was frozen and very tricky to negotiate without falling.When I entered the oak hide there were a few birders there all looking at a couple of Jack Snipes in the marsh.As usual they were well hidden and asleep and to make things harder to spot them there were 85+ Common Snipe also in the marsh.

Nearly an hour later when nearly everyone  had given up and the cold had penetrated my thermals one of the Jack Snipes woke up but after only moving barely a metre it flew off.Lots of heavy duty swearing ensued but me and the other birder still there did manage a few shots.  

Thursday, 14 January 2016


This is my first post for several days the reason being that not only has the gloomy wet weather kept me from going out with the camera but more recently a herniated disc has kept me indoors.I seem to get these every so often in recent years so there is an obvious weakness to watch out for here but it is not some heavy duty lifting that is the cause more often than not it's something very insignificant that causes the problem.In this last case it was picking up an empty shopping bag.

After a few days of hobbling around accompanied by lots of heavy duty swearing I am now not too bad.The good news is that I might have broken the world record for taking Ibroprufen tablets.

So being very brave I ventured out yesterday down to Shustoke Reservoir hoping that the Great Northern Diver reported there recently was still there.Got there at 10.00 AM on a cold but bright morning and parked up near the disabled car park where I intended to remain and see what I could see from there.No walking around for me ! !

Had a good scan round but could not see the GND but a female Goosander came fairly close and I was pleased to get some shots.

After nearly half an hour scanning around the GND was spotted.It was right across the water very close to buoy 2.

As I said earlier I did not intend to leave the car park area but the lure of getting closer to the Diver was too much and I set off to walk round the reservoir.This turned out to be a major error on several fronts.It was extremely muddy and I was just wearing boots when wellies were essential  and what I should have remembered from previous visits that when you get to the other side you are usually no nearer to the bird and if it's a sunny morning you cannot see very well looking into the sunshine. 

I soon gave up and plodded back to the car park area but guess what when I scanned the water again there was the Diver near buoy 2 again.After a while it started to move to the south west part of the reservoir going in much closer so I had to plod most of the way back through the mud to try and get a decent shot.Very briefly it did come fairly close and I did manage a few shots before it moved off again.

Completely knackered I decided to head home.My boots and trousers were so muddy now and with nothing to change into I messed up the inside of the car so much that it looks more like a tractor.Another lesson learned.

Sunday, 3 January 2016


It was hard work but I did manage to see and get shots of some better birds in 2015 including a couple of life ticks.Here are a few shots.

In June a Melodious Warbler set up home for a few weeks down the track opposite the main entrance to the Marsh Lane reserve.It was a life tick for me and it attracted a lot of observers who enjoyed getting some great views.

In March I went to see a Yellow Browed Warbler that had been at a sewage works  at Sedgeborough  not far from Evesham.It had been there for quite a while and I thought I'd left it too late especially as there were no other birders there but luckily I found it.My first shot of one of these chaps.

Another bird I thought I might have left it too late to see was the Red Footed Falcon that was favouring a paddock north of Stoke on Trent in July.Another life tick for me.

In April a Ring Ouzel  dropped into a field close to Napton Reservoir so I raced over there to get my first shot of one of these chaps.

Alright this is not a rare bird but every year in April I pop down the M40 to Watlington and get some shots of the Red Kites.Cracking birds.

Twice this year I've been lucky on both occasions to see a Whinchat  that favoured the car park fencing at Marsh Lane.This shot was taken in May.

One of my favourite birds is a Hobby and every year in September I go and try and get shots of them zooming around.The one that favoured Marsh Lane this year put on some superb displays. 

In May I visited the Somerset levels and got some shots of the Great White Egrets.

Another bird I love to bits are Spotted Flycatchers and I try to get shots of them every year.This shot was taken in a churchyard near Nuneaton in June.

In March I went all the way to Parkend which is near Chepstowe to try and get some shots of a Hawfinch.Never been able to get a shot of one of these before and I was lucky to get even this so so shot because the bird favoured the gloom under the trees. 

In October a  SnowGoose spent a short time on one of the islands in front of the car park hide at Marsh Lane.

After a good friend tipped me off in June that a Grey Phalarope was at Brandon Marsh I only made a move to go and see it after I realised that it would be in Summer plumage and all my previous shots were of them in Winter plumage.Luckily it was still there when I finally arrived. 

Finally got a decent shot of a Little Gull at Titchwell in June.

Again not a rare bird but this shot of a Barn Owl taken in June in Norfolk in June was rare for me as it was my first shot of one for several years.

Another life tick for me was this Marsh Warbler that was along a stream in Narborough in Norfolk in June.Unlike the Melodious Warbler this bird was more like the Dusky Warbler at Marsh lane a few years ago which sung out a lot but never showed.This is the best shot I managed and it took me 4 hours to get it.