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Sunday 30 May 2010

Dipping Out in Dovedale - on 28th May, 2010

Having had an upsetting day on the Thursday (see previous posting), I thought a change of scenery was necessary on Friday and decided to do a bit of off-patch birding by heading into Derbyshire. Dovedale was my destination, with Dipper as my target. The start of the walk (I walked for approximately four hours) is quite open and extremely beautiful, as shown below. Then you enter the tree-lined gorge, and this is beautiful in a different sort of way, and is where the Dippers can be found.

The area by the stepping stones is good for Crows and Rooks.


Once out of the open area, and into the trees and gorge, it did not take long to find a Dipper. There was an adult with two juveniles, but they kept to the far bank and in deep shade, making photography extremely difficult, and I got very poor results. On previous visits I have been lucky enough to find them close to the near bank, and in the sun. However, today was busy with dog walkers who allowed their dogs off the leash (in spite of notices saying the dogs should be on a lead) and even encouraged their dogs to jump into the water, so I'm not surprised that the birds were keeping as far out of the way as possible.

Dipper (note the white eyelids on the picture above)

Dipper (juvenile)

Bee - unidentified

Common Blue (male)

A short way further on, I found a female Goosander with four chicks. Goosander are another speciality of Dovedale, but I have never had a proper sighting of them before. What a treat!

Goosander (female + chicks)

Goosander (female)

Continuing my walk through this beautiful place, I stopped to photograph more insects.

Buff-tailed Bumblebee

Red Admiral

Further on, I found another Dipper - this time a juvenile on its own. This one was even further away and kept in very dark shadow. You will probably have to double-click on the image to enlarge it before you can spot it!

Dipper (juvenile)

There were many Mallards on the Dove, but several of them were exhibiting signs of hybridisation. These chicks had a hybrid mother in attendance.

Mallard (hybrid) chicks

On my way back, the Goosander and chicks had moved closer to the near bank, but the light had moved round to a more adverse position.

Goosander (female + chick)

I wanna be a surfer dude when I grow up!

Goosander (female)

There were plenty of Brimstone butterflies in Dovedale. At one point I came across four fluttering about together. I managed to get three of them in flight in one shot - I've never tried butterfly flight shots before! No, this is not a Photoshop photo-montage! I must try this again sometime and try to perfect the technique.


Thursday 27 May 2010

Sparrowhawk Blues - on 27th May, 2010

I usually thrill to the sight of a raptor, even/particularly if it's in my garden, but today it got a bit personal! All started well when I paid a visit to my latest Little Owl site (No.12) where, previously, I had only had two brief glimpses of departing owls. Today I found two owls at the back of a very dark barn. I didn't enter and disturb them, so only record shots (taken at 400mm, 1/60 sec, 1600 ISO - handheld!) were obtained. I then returned to my car by my LO site No.02 (no owl seen), and took the path beside the nest site. I'd only gone a few metres when I found a whole mass of Little Owl feathers. It seems that my male owl from this site has met his maker - the most likely culprit being a Sparrowhawk. I'm now greatly concerned for the female owl, which I believe is incubating eggs. I hope she (and any hatchlings) survive, without a mate to provide for her.

I decided to try and drive away the blues by taking a country walk. However, twice I turned back when I encountered bulls in fields, one of which hurried towards me, followed by the rest of the herd, as I entered the field. I just couldn't be bothered so decided to leave.

I returned home feeling thoroughly miserable, and as I sat in my study, contemplating the LO feathers, a racket outside my window took my attention to a Sparrowhawk taking one of our baby Starlings, just 3 metres from me! At the moment, I feel it's got personal! I hope that I can soon get back to thrilling to the sight of a raptor!

Little Owl feathers from my Site No.02

Little Owl (a) - at my Site No.12

Little Owl (b) - at my Site No.12


Monday 24 May 2010

A Sparrow's Bath Time Adventure - on 24th May, 2010

I mentioned in my previous posting that the young Sparrows in our garden seem to have befriended the young Starlings (of which we now have at least 10, and the noise is deafening). One of the young Sparrows, in particular, seems to look upon the Starlings as his older siblings. I also mentioned that the Starlings had found the waterfall outlet as a bathing place. Well this afternoon I managed to capture a charming interlude (although the light was all wrong!), and the story unfolds below!

Hi Guys - what are you doing?

We're having a bath!

It looks like fun!

If Mum says it's OK, will you take me in there, please?

Thanks Mum - I promise to behave!

It looks very dark in there!

I'm beginning to have second thoughts!

What's that wriggling in the water?

MUM!! I want to go home!

Bath Time! - on 23rd May, 2010

It's incredibly noisy in my garden at present. We have at least 8 baby Starlings, and a number (no idea how many!) of baby Sparrows. Our baby Blackbirds were charming, but the Starlings are giving real amusement. They are incompetent flyers, and keep falling over each other. We're getting a window strike approximately every 10 minutes (thankfully, without any serious consequences), and have had several near escapes with them landing in the pond. Yesterday it was particularly amusing when they found the 'drinking stone' (a stone which I've placed partly underwater at the edge of a smaller pond which feeds the main pond), and decided that it was bath time. The racket was unbelievable!

Is it my turn yet?

I've got a feeling that there may be another posting on this subject soon as, whilst I am looking out of my window as I write this, I see that the baby Sparrows have actually teamed up with the baby Starlings, and have found the entrance to my 'waterfall', and are all clamouring to get into that for a bath! Ive just watched a Sparrow go in riding on the back of a Starling!!!

Burton Washlands - on 23rd May, 2010

This day I went on another of Dave Scattergood's excellent birdwalks. This one was on a patch that I've never been to before. Dave is a life-long birder, has amazing powers of observation, and hearing that can pick out a Lesser Whitethroat cough at 500 metres! He, therefore, always manages to find a great number of birds that I would never have spotted, or would fail to identify. However, his walks tend not to yield too many photographic opportunities, and this was to be the case on this day.

I was very pleased with the Speckled Wood that settled on a nettle that was in bright sunlight whilst the surroundings were in deep shadow.

Speckled Wood

At one point a male Whitethroat flew onto the fence in front of us - closely followed by a female! - closely followed by a male!! - closely followed by a female!!! There was then a bit of a 'ding dong' before they flew off - presumably some sort of territory dispute.

Whitethroat (male)

Whitethroat (female)

It was also good to see the Banded Agrions (my first damselfly/dragonfly sightings this year).

Banded Agrion (male)

Having listened to a few Garden Warblers singing from well inside the foliage, and occasionally flitting from tree to tree, one eventually came out into the open to sing, even if it was distant!

Garden Warbler - record shot!

Just as we were heading back to the car park, we came across a group of newly fledged Long-tailed Tits, which were quite confiding, but which I could not get a good photographic bead on.

Long-tailed Tit (juvenile)

Thank you, Dave, for another fascinating walk.

Sunday 23 May 2010

Patchwork, with Paul Riddle - on 22nd May, 2010

I have had a few very interesting days with Leicestershire Little Owl specialist, Paul Riddle, over in his neck off the woods. Paul had left a note in response to my posting of my Fox cub images on this blog, so I invited Paul over to see them, and also (if time) to see some of the LO sites that I've found this year.

It was intended to meet up at around 08:30, but this was not to be - that's another story!! I was awoken at 04:30 by the baby Starlings in the garden (we have six!), so set off around 06:15. I first called at a farm near Sibson to check out a LO site where I have not seen the birds for a few months (neither has the farmer). There was, however, a Kestrel on the nest tree. I had a while here before heading off to a farm near Shenton. Not much was seen, but there were some decent sized fish in the brook (each would have made a good breakfast). I do not know what they were (now been informed that they were Chub - thank you, Paul). The images have had to be very heavily processed, as the light on the water resulted in images that looked virtually white all over. I was also pleased to get a photo of a Bumblebee on Bluebells.


Red-tailed Bumblebee

I had arranged to meet Paul at Upton, because it was the nearest place to me that he knew how to get to. In the event, he got lost and I eventually found him several miles away in Congerstone. The main objective was for me to show Paul the Fox cubs which I found earlier in the week (see my posting below)
at what is rapidly becoming my 'local patch', near Packington. Having parked near one of my Little Owl sites, we set off on foot, spotting the owl almost immediately. I showed Paul the Fox location from a field away, stopped off near another of my LO sites and set up my hide in the hope of photoing the male emerging from the nest. He was probably already out (unseen by both of us), as he didn't emerge whilst I sat there for an hour and a half. The only bird I photoed was a Crow, which was totally unfazed by my hide.


Having got back to the car, I heard the LO calling briefly. I dropped off my hide and went up to the farmyard to have another look round and a chat to the farmer. On the way I snapped a Yellowhammer. I reckon that a session of about three hours locally is currently raising about 10 to 20 of these birds, but in these parts they are very skittish and difficult to photograph - unlike they are on Cannock Chase! Paul then texted me to say that he'd got some Fox cub images that he was not too happy with, but the cubs had not come out again and he was giving up. You can see Paul's Fox cub images on his blog

Yellowhammer (male)

After spending a couple of hours near Packington, we headed out to a farm near Snarestone where I have a couple of Little Owl sites. Owls were seen at both sites, making a total of 3 Owls seen at 5 sites - not too bad for this time of year, as LOs in trees are often difficult to spot amongst the leaves! I look forward to welcoming Paul back at some time in the not-too-distant future.

Little Owl (male)