Friday, 31 March 2017

February 2017

Mostly dominated by our trip to Gambia. One day out at Titchwell beforehand to photograph some waders. As usual Titchwell RSPB reserve itself was quite busy due to the large numbers of sea ducks offshore, Velvet Scoter, Long-tailed Ducks and some Divers. But walk away from the crowds at the end of the board walk and you find yourself alone, well not in the company of people. So a chance to creep along the shoreline and photograph some waders.

A Black Redstart was frequenting Wells and spending much of it's time by the sailing club. I tried for it one dark morning after the school run. It was starting to sleet, bitterly cold and dark as hell. A rather quick search of the roof tops by the sailing club revealed no Redstart just a few Gulls. Even though I'd only been looking for a few minutes the east wind was biting through my ill prepared cloths so I turned to get back in the car and out ran the Black Redstart from under the car to start feeding on the pavement. Near impossible to photograph in the conditions but managed this record shot:
And then it was time for The Gambia---- a family holiday arranged by Sam. I was granted leave of absence during the day time but expected to dine with Sam and Tom in the evenings. Scarce believing this generosity I spent the first two days birding in the hotels grounds and hired a guide for the next three days. We visited  a friend Colin Cross at Kartong Bird Observatory and had a truly wonderful time. Evenings were spent haggling with restaurants, mostly done by Tom and daytimes for Sam and Tom involved a few trips out and some poolside relaxation. All livened up by a heavy military presence following the recent election of the new president, which had nearly cancelled our trip due to the Foreign Office's advice not to travel. Tom awarded the trip ten out of ten and I had to agree.
A few pics:

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

2017 Catch Up

The year started with a trip down to Burwell Fen in search of Short-eared Owls. Several birds had been gathering in this Fen near to Wicken. I have always wanted to photograph these birds and up to now the only semi decent shots I had been able to get were of a bird at Holme back in 2014. This is it, always distant, great to see but I was disappointed I couldn't get close.
It was therefore with great excitement that I went to Burwell to get the job sorted. So on the 11th off I went with Oliver Reville and as we drove to Burwell the weather took a turn for the worse with darkening skies and very poor light. We did see owls but the appalling light meant iso levels were pushed to 3200 and that decent shot of a short-eared remained still elusive. The best of the day was a pic of two Roe Deer
Mid month saw a trip to Scotland and a re visit to Kilconquer Castle in Fife, the place of Sam and me getting married. Things had gone downhill a bit (at the accommodation) and we spent a few days in a Basil Faulty type experience (mis spelling deliberate), but it did allow for a little birding time. Best of the sightings were a couple of Surf Scoters, 70 Scaup and lots of velvet Scoter and Long-tailed Ducks. All at a distance.
A group of seven Waxwings were fairly local but best capture was probably Rock Pipit a bird I've never got that close to before, despite hours on Lundy creeping round the Landing Bay.

Returning from Scotland via Holy Island which was like a cross between The Scillies and Lundy and it was time for another crack at The Owls ! This time Oli and I had better conditions, bit more light but the owls still at a distance. Better than last time but some heavy cropping meant that corker of a shot was still eluding me. That said these are the best pictures of Short-eared Owls I've ever managed.

Very satisfied but looking forward to having another crack at these if they return next year.
And a nice Stonechat to round off the day

En route to the owls we stopped off in Bury St Edmunds at the local council offices car park as some Waxwings had been reported coming down to some sorbs trees. And indeed that did, and they did so in sunshine. So some decent results.

The month ended with a visit to Lakenheath for a crack at some Bearded Tits on a very windy day. Beards are renown for staying at the bottom of reeds in windy conditions so Oli I and I knew it would be a challenge. However we were treated to an hour of these delightful birds feeding and taking little notice of us. The only challenge was trying to focus on them as they swayed around in the breeze and  stop the camera from locking onto ever moving reed.