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2. Please don't submit comments that include your own web address. For obvious reasons, they will not be published.

3. I'm now on Twitter - @RichardPegler1

Thursday 29 March 2018

When Everything Comes Together - mid-March, 2018

Some of you will be aware that I was on a family holiday to the Isles of Scilly in the middle of March. I also know that a few of you are aware that I had one particularly exciting experience during that stay.

There's a build up to this story which will feature in a future post, when I have finished processing all the photos I took during the stay. Here, however, I'll cut to the chase.

Saturday, 17th March

A report appeared on Birdguides saying that a Snowy Owl had been seen that day on Tresco, North End. I'd already had an unsuccessful attempt at this bird on the Tuesday, after it had been reported as being on Bryher. I made a quick check down at the harbour and found that, coincidentally, a St. Mary's Boatmens' boat was going to Tresco for the day the next day, departing at 10.15. What is more, a check of the local weather forecast revealed that there would be very cold conditions overnight with a chance of snow. It sounded tempting!

Sunday, 18th March

We woke up to a light covering of snow. I checked and found that the boat would drop off at Carn Near Quay at the southern tip of the island. This meant more than doubling the walk that I would have to get to the north end of the island compared with that from a drop-off at New Grimsby. I found the prospect of what I thought would be a six mile (9 km) walk, a significant part of which would be over rough terrain, a little daunting. It had been a long while since I had walked that distance, and I didn't have waterproof boots.

I went out to take some photos in the snow behind the property, and came back just as the snow started falling really heavily. I returned to find an email from Bob Dawson informing me of the owl, and of the boat times. Happily, my wife and daughter both encouraged me to 'go for it' and, with iron rations in my pocket, I set off.

On the boat, I noted one other person with binoculars. This turned out to be a local nature lover and teacher, Nigel Bray, who was going over to Tresco to do some work at North End in connection with a school trip the following week, but who also intended to look for the owl.

We took a circuitous walk to North End and spent some time searching. We'd given up, and said our goodbyes as Nigel needed to continue with his work, and I was taking some landscape images when Nigel shouted from about 100 metres down the path as the Snowy Owl flew across in front of him.

This gave me what will possibly be my bird images of a lifetime. Snow in the Scillies - almost unheard of. Snowy Owl in the Scillies - this is the third in 10 years. Photos of a Snowy Owl in snow in the Scillies - my dream came true, and I'm still buzzing with excitement!

More details will be in my account of the full trip to the Scillies in a week or two.

Coming up to date

Having had a more than encouraging response to one of my Snowy Owl images that I posted on Twitter, I decided to submit one to Birdguides a week ago. Yesterday I was notified that I'd got POTW (Photo of the Week).  This also is something that I'd dreamed of achieving one day. 

My extremely grateful thanks to Bob Dawson for his encouragement, to Nigel Bray for spotting the bird, to all the lovely people who have made kind comments about my Snowy Owl photo, and to Steve Young at Birdguides for his citation, my reaction to which was much the same as my reaction was after seeing and photographing the bird - frequent chuckles interspersed with holding back tears of joy!

Here's the citation:

Author: Steve Young
Comment: A Snowy Owl posing nicely on what looks to be the Arctic tundra in the heart of winter takes this week's winning spot ... apart from this striking image was actually taken by Richard Pegler on Tresco, Isles of Scilly, in mid-March! Snow on Scilly is rare enough, perhaps even rarer than a Snowy Owl, and the two combined together have produced a unique image that will stand the test of time.

This is a truly lovely photo. The owl has assumed a nice pose and appears relaxed, with the head turned towards the camera, yellow eyes open but not alarmed. Exposure is spot on, with detail in the plumage and the landscape is perfect. One of those that I look at and think "I wish I'd taken that", particularly as both the owl and the snow would have been Scilly ticks for me! Congratulations to Richard on his winning image, taken with the 500 mm end of a 50-500mm zoom, at 1/640 th second, f11 on ISO640.

And here's the image (please 'click the pic' to see it at the size it was submitted at):

I hope that you will excuse me 'blowing my own trumpet', but I am rather excited. This will probably remain the absolute highlight of my wildlife photography efforts!

I should be back to normal for my next post!

Thursday 22 March 2018

Turned Out Nice Again! - on 8th March, 2018

If I've been a bit quiet in Bloggerland for a couple of weeks, it's because I have been away on the Isles of Scilly for a family holiday. I'm back in the saddle now, and feverishly working through the several thousand frames I fired off whilst there - hopefully there will be a few good ones (he said with a grin on his face!).

This post concerns a visit to Rutland Water, prompted by an attendance at the Volunteer Training Centre for the pre-season meeting for volunteers on the Rutland Osprey Project. As this meeting was scheduled to start at 18h00 so I set off mid-afternoon with the intention of visiting some of my Little Owl sites as the weather was fine.

Unfortunately, as I headed eastward across the county, the weather got more and more windy, and I realised I had little hope of finding an owl in the cold and windy conditions.

Near Queniborough, a Buzzard flew up from beside the road, but my attempts at photography were rather poor. Further on, near Burrough on the Hill a spotted a distant pair of Buzzards having a bit of an altercation. Here are a couple of images of that, although I wish I had been somewhat nearer the action.

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) - near Burrough on the Hill
 To my surprise, I found an owl tucked in away from the wind at my Little Owl site No.37.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.37
There were no further owl sightings before I got to Rutland Water, where I called in at the Egleton Visitor Centre, enjoyed my first ice cream of the Rutland season, and then set off northwards.

Cutting a long story short, it seemed to be unusually quiet on the bird front on this part of the reserve. I spotted little of interest on Lagoon 4, and only photographed a Pochard.

Pochard (Aythya ferina) (female) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
Most of my photos were taken from Shoveler Hide on Lagoon 3. I missed the potentially most interesting shot as a Water Rail shot across in front of the hide and instantly disappeared into the reeds. I reckon it must have been lurking within a metre of where I was sitting, but below my line of sight - unless I had stuck my head out of the window and looked down!

Here are some of the shots I did take - all of very common birds. There was much strong and low sunshine on occasion and I found photography challenging, although it did give a fine blue colour to the water. Fortunately the wind had died down somewhat too.

Shoveler (Anas clypeata) (male) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
Shoveler (Anas clypeata) (female) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve

Teal (Anas crecca) (male) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
Gadwall (Anas stepera) (male) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
Gadwall (Anas stepera) (female) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve

Pintail (Anas acuta) (male + female) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve

Pintail (Anas acuta) (male) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
I'd taken a picnic tea with me which I'd left in the car and, at the appropriate time, headed back to the car park. By now it had turned very dull and rather cold. On the way back I found one of the meadows to be full of Redwing. However, these flew off the moment I saw them (and they saw me!). One Song Thrush did, however, decide to be brave.

Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
Whilst eating, I reflected that the afternoon had been a little disappointing - little did I know what was in store! Having finished my picnic at an appropriate time, I set off for the VTC. I was nearly there when I noticed a familiar shape sitting on a roadside fence post. I stopped the car at an angle in the road, and took some shots. I then moved forward a bit further and took some more.  The second image is a poor one, but it gives an indication of the depth of the feathering on the head as it was caught be the wind.

Barn Owl (Tyto alba) - near Egleton
Having taken my shots, I had to pass the owl to get to my destination. As I set off it flew to a fence a short way back from the road, and I got some more shots from a closer range.

Barn Owl (Tyto alba) - near Egleton
The owl then flew from this position to another roadside post ahead of me. However, it flew off again as I approached on my way to the VTC.

It was a short and enjoyable meeting at the VTC, where it was good to catch up with old friends and meet new faces. 

Afterwards, the weather had gone downhill, and I headed straight home, with no further sightings - but I was still buzzing from my Barn Owl encounter. 

If someone with a reliable crystal ball had told me that, including this day, I'd see four different species of owl in UK over a nine day period, I'd have assumed Little, Barn, Tawny, and possibly Short-eared. Little did I know that one of those would be missing and the substitute would be fabulous!

I suspect that it will be a while before I'm ready to publish a post on my Scillies visit, so my next post will probably be about something closer to home.

Thank you for dropping by.

Wednesday 7 March 2018

Siskin-fest - February/March, 2018

Warning! This post contains relatively few words (when compared with my usual efforts) and rather a lot of images of Siskins!

For a couple of weeks or so, the most numerous bird visiting our garden on many days has been Siskin. Whilst we get them most years at this time of year, we have never had them in such numbers. It is relatively unusual, at the moment, to look out of the window and a Siskin not be present. The weather, whilst no doubt contributing to their presence, has not, however, aided photography. I have, nevertheless, managed quite a few shots with the camera. If the images look as if they were taken in sunshine it's probably because I have tweaked the white-balance in many cases! All the shots were taken from the comfort of my study, through the window glass.

Tuesday, 6th February

The Siskins had arrived. We had just two this day - one male and one female.

Siskin (Spinus spinus) (male) - our garden
Monday, 12th February

Although, during the preceding week, we'd had up to 5 Siskin in the garden (3m 2f), on this day we had just two again (1m 1f). The females were proving difficult to photograph!

Siskin (Spinus spinus) (male) - our garden
Wednesday, 14th February

It seems that the females wanted to get in on the action. On this day we had 5 females visit, with a solitary male. I got some shots of females!

Siskin (Spinus spinus) (female) - our garden
Saturday, 17th February

We had two of each on this day, and I had a number of photo opportunities.

Siskin (Spinus spinus) (female) - our garden

Siskin (Spinus spinus) (male) - our garden
Sunday, 18th February

We peaked for the week on this day with 8 (4m 4f) Siskins arriving. I had a bit of a field day with photography, but again it was mainly the males that obliged.

Siskin (Spinus spinus) (female) - our garden

Siskin (Spinus spinus) (male) - our garden
Tuesday, 20th February

On this day we had six Siskin (4m 2f). I just managed a couple of shots of a male.

Siskin (Spinus spinus) (male) - our garden
Thursday, 22nd February

On the Wednesday we had peaked at 10 Siskin (7m 3f), and we matched this number again on this day (5m 5f). I only got a couple of shots of a male bird.

Siskin (Spinus spinus) (male) - our garden
Saturday, 24th February

I noted 4 males and 3 females this day. Here's one of the females that briefly stopped just 2 metres from my window.

Siskin (Spinus spinus) (female) - our garden
Tuesday, 27th February

On this day we had 5 male Siskin and 2 females - and a little snow. This was the forerunner of worse to come!

Siskin (Spinus spinus) (female) - our garden
Thursday, 1st March 

The snow had arrived by the bucket load, and so had 14 Fieldfare which kept me occupied for a chunk of the day. I did, however, get a few of shots of Siskin in a snow-free spot outside my window.

Siskin (Spinus spinus) (male) - our garden
Friday, 2nd March

The Fieldfare peaked at 33 on this day, and will probably be the subject of a future post. These birds kept me busy with constantly defrosting the water supply and replenishing the apples that they were feeding on. I did manage a few Siskin shots, however. Here's a final shot for this post.

Siskin (Spinus spinus) (male) - our garden
The Siskins are still with us and omnipresent, and I'm really enjoying their company. The Fieldfare departed on Sunday and have not been seen since, and a sense of normality has returned to the garden.

Garden List - Week 07 - 12th to 18th February, 2018 and Week 08 - 19th to 25th February, 2018

Apart from the Siskin high count of 8, Week 07 was relatively unexciting, although the species count was quite healthy at 22. The Redpoll count had dwindled down to just 2 (m+f), and Jackdaw (with the half-bald breast visited again one day. A male Sparrowhawk put in a brief, and unsuccessful, appearance on one day too.

Week 08 species count was down to 19 species. The two Redpoll were still around and the Siskin count, as mentioned above, had got up to 10 on two days.


I hope that you have not found a long blog post with lots of images of just one species too boring. My next post will either be somewhat more varied, or might just cover the Fieldfares - I suspect the former - just to give a bit of variety.

I'm going to be heading into a rather busy period for a couple of weeks, so do not know when my next post will be.

Thank you for dropping by.