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Wednesday, 3 September 2014

A Grand Day Out (including a 'lifer'!) - on 27th August, 2014

A slight change of subject from that originally envisaged for this post!

At the beginning of the Bank Holiday Weekend, a juvenile Spotted Crake (Porzana porzana) had been seen in front of Waderscrape Hide hide at Rutland Water. This hide is the one from which Titus and I do our turn of duty on Osprey Watch during the summer. Spotted Crake is a very rare bird in the counties of Leicestershire and Rutland, and this was the first reported sighting since 2010 (and 2002 before that). Sadly, I had other commitments on the Saturday and Sunday, and the Monday was set to be very wet all day with only a single reported sighting of the crake at around mid-day. Tuesday was forecast to be good weather, and I decided to give it a go!

For some reason I had a fairly late start on the Tuesday, and a call to Rutland Water before my departure resulted in the information that the crake had still not been seen since the previous day, and it had possibly/probably departed. I debated whether to continue, and decided to do so, but without any urgency, calling at a few of my owl locations en-route.

At my Little Owl Site No.41 one of the owls was sitting in a hawthorn a little way off the road, looking rather tired.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.41
A bit further on, I was delighted to see a Little Owl at my Site No.23. This was my first sighting here since September 2013, in spite of pretty much weekly visits!

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.23
Next stop was at my LO Site No.34, where one of the adults was out on a post in the field, well away from the nest tree. A gentle zig-zag walk, so that at no time was I directly approaching the owl, got me some much closer views than I'm used to at this site. I suspect, from its scruffy appearance, that the owl had had a good soaking the day before!

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.34
Whilst I was adjusting my camera settings the owl took the opportunity to fly up into the adjacent tree. It was no further away from me, but gave me a different (if difficult) shot. I then quickly departed.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.34
So relaxed about the time was I that, when a dragonfly flew over my car just after leaving Site No.34, I stopped for about 20 minutes to try and get some photos. It was a female Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea)


Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) (female) near my LO Site No.34
I was still feeling quite relaxed about getting to Rutland Water, when I stopped at my LO Site No.42, where an owl (possibly an advanced juvenile) was taking the sun just inside an open door. In fact, I even sat and had my lunch here!

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.42
Having arrived at Rutland Water at around 14:00, I called in the the Lyndon Visitor Centre to be told that the crake had showed for a few seconds about three quarters of an hour previously! Oooops!! I quickly made my way down to Waderscrape Hide, to find that it hadn't been seen since. I whiled away the time trying to photograph some dragonflies, totally failing with the fast-moving and restless Brown Hawkers, but getting some record shots of a distant Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta)

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) (male)  - Rutland Lyndon Reserve
One very pleasing aspect of this visit was that the Water Voles (Arvicola amphibius) were showing well. Early on in the summer I'd been seeing these very frequently here, but then the sightings dwindled to almost nothing. Maybe now they were out sunning themselves after a spell of cold, wet and windy weather. They did seem to be having a problem, however, with the thick blanket of weed or algae which covered much of the water.




Water Vole (Arvicola amphibius) - Rutland Lyndon Reserve
I'd only been in the hide for just over half an hour when the person beside me whispered "Crake"! Although it was directly in front of me, it took me a little while to pick it up! You can possibly understand why from my first attempt at an image.

Spotted Crake (Porzana porzana) (juvenile) - Rutland Lyndon Reserve
I'm pleased to say that the bird was somewhat more obliging after its initial showing. Please excuse my self-indulgence with the number of images that will now follow. It would be a miracle if I see this species again in my lifetime!








Spotted Crake (Porzana porzana) (juvenile) - Rutland Lyndon Reserve
Meanwhile, the Water Voles were vying for my attention. 

Water Vole (Arvicola amphibius) - Rutland Lyndon Reserve
However, I was soon back to the crake.


Spotted Crake (Porzana porzana) (juvenile) - Rutland Lyndon Reserve
The Water Voles didn't give up, however!

Water Vole (Arvicola amphibius) - Rutland Lyndon Reserve
But the crake had the last word!

Spotted Crake (Porzana porzana) (juvenile) - Rutland Lyndon Reserve
I now decided that I'd taken enough photos and set off back to the Visitor Centre. On the way back, two gentlemen who had been in the hide asked me how many photos I'd taken. I told them that I didn't know but it was probably around 300 to 400. It was only when I got home that I found that the tally for the day was well over 700 frames!

On the way home, I found that the Little Owl was still on the beam at my Site No.23, so I chanced an approach up the track in my car. It didn't move, and was still there when I reversed away.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.23
Also, on my way home, I made a small diversion to my Site No.44 where sightings have become sporadic (we think that we've lost one of the owls here), and was pleased to find an owl showing quite well.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.44
It had been a rather special day out for me, and it was rounded off nicely by the sighting of two Hedgehogs in our garden later that evening.

Sorry, but this has been a rather long post. I promise never to publish images of Spotted Crake again, and I'll try and make the next post a bit more brief!

Thank you for dropping by!

20 comments:

  1. Well I hope you do post more Spotted Crake a great tick and images. I love the LO images but the Water Vole still steals the show for me. Did it get ignored by others in the hide?

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    1. I guess, if I ever see another Spotted Crake, Doug, I'll probably have to break my promise!

      Ignoring the few 'serious birders', the Water Voles (there were at least three showing at one time) probably attracted just as much attention (if not more!) from the people in the hide as the crake did!!

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  2. The chance of a lifetime probably with the Spotted Crake, and no need to ask to be excused for your indulgence as far as I'm concerned Richard.

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  3. Hi Richard: Congratulations on the great pictures of the Spotted Crake. A lifer is always a great experience but it's made even better when you can take wonderful photographs.

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    1. Thank you, David. The natural world has been rather kind to me lately with the opportunities it has sent my way - I shall try and make the most of them!

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  4. Well done Richard,great tick to have under your belt,i love the assortment of this post every image a show winner.
    John.

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  5. Richard, For all that suspense I just knew you had the Crake and i don't blame you for indulging yourself. You have a fine set of images, certainly more than my zero.

    A few of your Little Owls do look as though they lead hard lives or maybe because it's at the back end of the breeding season? Nevertheless you obviously have a number of them weighed up as to their favourite spots and how obliging or not they are. Would that all birders took such care with approaching birds.

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    1. Thank you for your kind comments, Phil. Much appreciated!

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  6. I absolutely don't want to believe you'll never post the Spotted crake again... :(

    That said, I am thrilled again with this post!
    Seeing your LO's are doing so well at all the sites you visited is fantastic!
    What a day indeed!
    I have never seen a vole and your pics are revealing on how relaxed they are.
    The hide is very well positioned for the observation of water fauna.
    Congratulations, Richard!
    I hope the weather will be sunny for you this WE!

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    1. I relatively sure, Noushka, that if I ever see a Spotted Crake again I'll be breaking my promise! However, I'd be amazed (and delighted!) if ever I was put in that position!

      Perhaps I shouldn't tempt fate by saying this at this stage, but I keep detailed records (time and date, weather, temperature, etc.) of all my owl sightings and I'm well on the way to doubling the number of Little Owl sightings this year over the number seen last year!

      Don't be fooled by the Water Vole pics. They are very nervous creatures and are gone in a flash if they get any hint of danger. Usually my sightings last no longer than three or four seconds !!! This day was an absolutely exceptional one for some strange reason.

      Having said all that, Waderscrape Hide is usually a particularly good one, and every year seems to be different (but still great!).

      Take good care of yourself - - Richard

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  7. Wow that wat some spotting you did Richard.
    Porzana porzana I look it up for the Dutch name. Wonderfull captures!
    Also your other pictures of the Little Owl are stunning again and also the Hawker is grate to see.

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    1. Thank you, for your very kind words, Roos. Sorry not to have published your comment before now. I've been away on holiday for 8 days.

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  8. Great pictures - always good when a bit of a bonus bird shows up!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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    1. Thank you, Stewart. Sorry not to have published your comment before now. I've been away on holiday for 8 days, and there was no internet access where I was!

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  9. 700, my goodness, do you delete alot of them or keep them? I like the pictures of the Water Vole, pity they have such horrible yellow teeth, they always look like they need a good clean or see the dentist to have them bleached ;-)

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    1. I delete most of them, Linda. It takes a while to pick out the best ones. The absolute rubbish gets ditched immediately, but it's going through the rest which takes time - deciding whether the definition or pose of one is slightly better than the next one - or the next one! I think I ended up keeping 46 images from the whole set.

      Yes, I agree with you about the teeth - I was amazed to see just how yellow (almost orange!) the teeth were

      Came back yesterday from a week in Dorset. Had three sightings of Little Owl. If you want to know where, contact me by e-mail direct (richard@peglermail.co.uk). I also managed some nice shots of Wryneck, and record shots of Red-backed Shrike whilst there.

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  10. Excellent photo documentation! Congratulations, Richard!
    Best wishes from Poland :-)
    Michał and Piotr

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    1. Thank you, Michał and Piotr. Your words are very kind.

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