Friday, 20 July 2012

Mink, Voles and Partridges...

The past few days have been fantastic days for photography (certainly not the weather which continues to be miserable). On Monday, the weather forecast was particularly dull so I therefore opted for a day at Dinton Pastures Country Park, Reading so I could shelter in the hides during the heavy showers. The lakes were, unsurprisingly, completed flooded with no sign of any scrapes though surprisingly a Common Sandpiper and Oystercatcher were seen on the lake margins. Last week at the site an American Mink was reported destroying the Tern Rafts and to my amazement, when I left the Bittern Hide there he was on the footpath casually dragging away his prey (a very unlucky rabbit). He quickly ran off but obviously returned later on because the Rabbit was no longer on the footpath upon my return. I then went over to Lea Farm and en route I photographed a Grass Snake again found on the footpath. I then spent the next hour or so photographing the Common Terns conveniently posing on the perches 20 metres in front of the hides.
On Tuesday I took a trip to Birdworld in Farnham to practice on some captive birds. While there I spoke to one of the guides who informed me of a pair of Wild Grey Partridges in a field to the rear of the park and after 20 minutes of waiting I was looking at my first Grey Partridge. This individual however was remarkably tame, though the setting wasn't ideal (bricks!). The collection at Birdworld was extremely impressive with over 160 species of captive birds.
And finally, on Wednesday we went to Arundel WWT. First of all we walked along the moat surrounding Arundel Castle to look for Water Voles and quickly found 2 swimming incredibly close at times. One even came onto our side of the bank and was oblivious to school groups etc. passing by him. We then went into the wetlands centre itself and covered the collection first, followed by the hides. The collection was an opportunity for me to photograph species such as Common Scoters up close which can normally only be seen hundreds of metres offshore! The woodland hide allowed us to get very close views of Pheasants, Goldfinches and Reed Buntings but the scrape hide was incredibly quiet with a Male Mandarin in eclipse plumage being the only thing of note, and is most likely an escape from Arundel's vast collection. The Sand Martin hide however was very productive with a Common Tern perched about 15 metres away.We then found a Juvenile Dunlin very close to the hide. He seemed far smaller than the bird I photographed in Scotland last year though this is perhaps because he was a juvenile. We then went back to the Water Voles and we again quickly found them!
All in all a great few days which has left me with nearly 5000 photos to sort through and edit!!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

A Spot of Flycatching?

Apologies for the highly cliché title but I couldn't think of anything better! Well as the original title suggests, today I went looking for Spotted Flycatchers at a Cemetery in Grazeley, near Reading. We arrived at around 10:00am to be told by a birder who had been on site for the past hour that there was no sign of them. He then departed and after 20 minutes of searching the cemetery and the local recreation ground (where they had been seen the night before) we too failed to find them. Now I presumed that the small patch of woodland adjacent to the Cemetrey had been checked, but I soon discovered that this was not the case and within 5 minutes of entering the woodland I was watching 2 families of Spotted Flycatchers (9 individuals in total). We watched the birds for the next couple of hours and they were almost permanently on show. The light was poor and the birds unfortunately often remained distant but I managed to get a couple of OK record shots. The area was surprisingly rich in wildlife with Kestrel, Buzzard and Red Kite all being seen along with my first Marbled White Butterfly of the year.
As always - thanks for reading :-)

Friday, 13 July 2012

Garden Birds

Welcome to my new blog! Hopefully this will allow me to be a little more flexible with my blog posts and include more photographs. Since breaking up from school (yay!) I have spent a great deal of time in my portable hide in the garden (to be honest the weather has restricted me from going much further afield!) As the weather has been so miserable I have been able to get a perfectly black background from one particular perch which I quite like. To ensure the birds spend long enough on the perch so I have the time to get the photographs I would like, food is hidden inside the perch, meaning the birds have to spend a few moments extracting the food. The sparrows were particularly poor at doing this and would spend minutes at a time on the perch allowing me to get the perfect set up. To ensure the background was solid black I had to (for the first time in ages!) use manual exposure as opposed to Aperture Priority, which took a lot of getting used to!
My next target were the Long Tailed Tits, which have recently raised 7 young at a nest site nearby. Although not visitors to my garden, they can often be found in the scrub areas outside. They were far trickier to photograph than the sparrows as they are very unpredictable in terms of where they are going to perch although with a little perseverance I was able to get respectable shots of the adults and the juveniles.
And finally, one of my favourite birds, the Robin. Hardly the pinnacle of exciting birds but it is one of the few species where I prefer photographing the juveniles to the adults. I was lucky enough to have a pair breeding in a nest on the floor very close to my home and yesterday I was fortunate to witness them fledging! Well I say fledge, they are still unable to fly, so perhaps hop out of the nest into a low lying shrub would be a more accurate description of the event. Of the 3 fledgling, 2 did the sensible thing and immediately sought shelter (it was raining... unsurprisingly!) however one decided to hop the other way into a bog. Now I am strongly against interfering with nature but on this one occasion to decided to help the poor little guy out and helped him out of the bog, and returned him to the patch of forest from which he fledged! Of course, throughout this period I managed to take just over 1000 photographs so below are a couple of my favourites, however more can be found on my website: