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Thursday, 31 December 2009

My Garden on 31st December, 2009

I am currently having very unproductive birding excursions locally. It seems that more is going on in my garden at the moment! Song Thrush is rather rare for our garden, as is Pied Wagtail (although Grey Wagtail is relatively common), so it was exciting to see both today. The Dunnocks are, of course, a regular feature.

Song Thrush

Pied Wagtail

Dunnock

Friday, 25 December 2009

My Garden on 25th December, 2009

Having had twenty-seven species of birds in my garden this year - a figure that I feel is quite good for an urban garden - I was quite resigned to that being the final number, and looking forward to starting next year's list. I was, therefore, more than a little bit excited to get up on Christmas morning and find the twenty-eighth - a lone Redwing (the first that I have ever seen in my garden, although my wife saw one when I was away a few years ago). This, for me, was an absolutely brilliant start to Christmas day, even though I only managed some record shots though the double-glazing of the conservatory in very dull light.



Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Happy Christmas Folks !!

I stopped to look at this little fella whilst I was exploring some field edges today (23rd December), and he came hopping right up to my feet. He earned himself a handful of seed for his confidence, even if I did have to take a ten minute walk back to the car to get it for him. He seemed grateful!


Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Little Owls near Packington, on 22nd December, 2009

Continued my mission to find Little Owls today, and found another site - just as I started heading back home! Went back in the evening as I thought that there might be Barn Owls nearby (there weren't this evening), and there was a Little Owl again. However, I think that it may be the other one of a pair as the markings look a bit different.




Little Owl

Whilst out, I came across a clutch of Yellowhammers. One day I'll get a decent shot of one of these birds!!

Yellowhammer - male

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Little Owl at Staunton Harold on 20th December, 2009

Having been given some good tips by Paul Riddle, as to how to find little Owls, I had my first real attempt to find a site of my own today, and --- success !! Thank you Paul !!




Friday, 18 December 2009

South & West of Leicester on 17th, December 2009

Having been given some excellent pointers by local Little Owl guru, Paul Riddle, about three weeks ago, I found that either the weather was foul, or I had other commitments which meant I had little time to practice my new-found knowledge. At last, on Thursday, I had a spare four hours and weather that was not wet and windy, and decided that I had better get my eye in again by going to a couple of places that Paul had introduced me to - and scored in both places! However, the bird in the second location kept its distance, 'hunting' (I can't think of an appropriate term) from the hedge which went off behind the nest tree. I grabbed a shot at about a hundred metres (see the second picture - you might have to double-click to enlarge, to find the bird!) whilst it was on the grass in the shade of the hedge, and carried on watching it for half an hour or so - magic!! After this, I went off to another location that Paul had shown me, to photograph some woodland birds. Sorry, but I feel that I should not divulge the whereabouts of these locations.


Little Owl



Nuthatch

Great Tit

Coal Tit



Blue Tit

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Staunton Harold on 10th December, 2009

Whilst out and about looking for new locations for birding (particularly with owls in mind), I stopped off at the Round Car Park, above Staunton Harold Reservoir. The Tree Sparrows are always at a very frustrating distance for my lens, but the light was good so I did manage a few very heavily cropped images. I had not noticed, before, that some of the birds were exhibiting the winter pale base to the bill.


Oakthorpe Colliery on 9th December, 2009

A short visit to my local feeding station at the former Oakthorpe Colliery did not reveal anything particularly notable (the constant stream of dog-walkers did not help), although this was the first time that I had seen pheasant there. I always find a flock of Long-tailed Tits to be heart-lifting.
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Pheasant (hen)
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Long-tailed Tit

Monday, 14 December 2009

Looking for Owls on 8th December, 2009

Prompted by ongoing reports of three Long-eared Owls at Rutland Water, I decided to take a visit to see these. In the event, I only could see two of the three, and then they were so obscured by intervening branches, that they were unidentifiable during the hour that I spent watching them. But for one of them doing a little light preening and taking a dump, they could have been dummies. I will take everyone's word that they were LE's. My apalling picture (the best of many attempts) shows the extent of the problem.

From the car park at Rutland Water there was a leucistic Jackdaw in a distant tree, which eventually descended onto the far side of the field by the car park - again not good photographically.

Determined to get a proper view of an owl that day, I set off back towards home, and stopped off a Cossington Meadows (on my route) as Short-eared Owls had been seen there recently. I arrived just before dusk, but no SEs were seen. I was on the verge of giving up as it was too dark for photography, when a Barn Owl flew into view a couple of fields away, and disappeared stage-right. I decided to hang around a while and it eventually flew into a field beside me and started quartering the far side. I had to wang the ISO sensitivity up to the equivalent of 3200, and was getting shutter speeds of around 1/50th (not much good on 400mm focal length!). It is not surprising, therefore, that the results mean that I only have 'atmosphere' shots. It was just wonderful to watch, however

A terrible day photographically, but a most enjoyable one.
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Long-eared Owl (honestly!) - Rutland Water (Egleton Reserve)
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Jackdaw (leucistic) - Rutland Water (Egleton Reserve)
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Barn Owl - Cossington Meadows

Sunday, 6 December 2009

North Wales Break from 1st to 4th December 2009

My wife and I took a short break in North Wales, taking advantage of the Travelodge £10 per night rooms in Bangor. We spent most of our time exploring Anglesey, and I even managed to fit in a bit of birding.
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On the way there, we stopped off at Point of Ayr. We had very distant views of Redshank, Shelduck, and Brent Goose, but the only thing photographable was a Reeed Bunting. We didn't stay long as the wind was blowing a gale, and the thermometer was showing 1 degree C!
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Reed Bunting (female) - Point of Ayr
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A bracing walk along the pier at Bangor (which goes more than half way across the Menai Straits), revealed the usual crop of gulls, but a lone Shag was fishing beside the pier. There was also a large group of Turnstone at the outer end of the pier.
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Shag - Bangor Pier
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Herring Gull (immature) - Bangor Pier
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My wife and I took the longish walk through the ancient dunes, to the shore at Traeth Abermenai. Not much was seen en-route other than a flock of Lapwing, but there was a good flock Brent Goose when we reached the shore.
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Brent Goose - Traeth Abermenai
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A stop beside the A4085 at Malltraeth revealed a good flock of Pintail. There were less of them there when we passed on the second day (probably out feeding on Malltraeth Sands).
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Pintail - Malltraeth
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A short visit to Newborough Forest, just to the south of Malltraeth, did not reveal much of interest round the small lake, but the car park was great fun. Unfortunately I was exploring round the lake when a Sparrowhawk settled in the tree beside our car, closely observed by my wife!
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Jay - Newborough Forest
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Great Spotted Woodpecker (male) - Newborough Forest
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I had been hoping to see Chough during our visit, and so was delighted to find them in a field beside the road, about 2 km from South Stack (near Bodwarren farm). There was a pair there on two consecutive days.
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Chough
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Having had lunch in a Hollyhead 'chippy' we stopped just outside the town at Beddmanarch Bay. I would like to have had more time to explore this place.
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Brent Goose - Beddmanarch Bay
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Redshank - Beddmanarch Bay
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Curlew - Beddmanarch Bay
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Our circuit of the island included a few diversions down side-roads to see the coastal scenery. In Church Bay, to the north of Valley, we found Rock Pipits
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Rock Pipit - Church Bay, Anglesey
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Our cross-country route home took us through Penrhyndeudraeth, and just to the north of the town we found a group of approximately 30 Whooper Swans in a field beside the A4085.
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Whooper Swan - Penrhyndeudraeth
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Before calling in at friends in the border country, we dropped in at Lake Vyrnwy for lunch and a little time in the RSPB hide by the visitor centre.
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Chaffinch (male) - Lake Vyrnwy
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Coal Tit - Lake Vyrnwy