Thursday, 31 December 2015

End Of Year Blow Out. 3 New Birds

First off, apologies for the complete lack of updates.
It's been a difficult few weeks, due to terrible weather and lots of freelance, and all of a sudden it's the end of the year. I'll try and get some more regular updates going forward and will most likely rethink my strategy, as it's proving difficult to get away to see the birds I need to see.

Anyhoo, you don't want to hear about that, you want to see the new birds. Well here they are :)

Slavonian Grebe
I headed off to Blashford Lakes today in the hope that I would see the Ring-Billed Gull. It eluded me, but I still got some crackers.
First up is strictly a record shot, but it's a great finish to the year. The Slavonian Grebe is arguably our most beautiful Grebe thanks to its gorgeous summer plumage that makes it look like a more majestic Black-Necked Grebe. Sadly, this one was in winter plumage and proved incredibly tricky to spot due to being on the other side of a huge lake. It was kindly pointed out to me by some more experienced birders. Just over a 1,000 birds are thought to winter here, with a handful breeding (typically in Scotland). This one was on its own, diving for fish and other goodies.

LOL, here's the original uncropped shot.

And here's a cropped shot. Thank goodness I have a decent lens!

Next up was a GoldenEye. This is a fantastic looking duck, but I missed every single one that showed up this year. Annoyingly, the drake was on the other side of the lake, so it's strictly a record shot again, but luckily a nearby female proved to be slightly more photogenic.
GoldenEye are medium sized diving ducks that spend the winter months with us (although they are more common in Summer in Scotland where they breed). They are very distinctive looking birds thanks to their piercing yellow eyes and white head patches (on the drakes). They are lovely looking birds and I'm pleased to see these ones, even if they were really far away.

He's very far away, but you can see the distinctive patch.

This female got slightly closer, but was constantly diving!

Every time a Brambling appeared at Arne last year I missed them. Luckily, I saw one of Blashford, although I had to go to lengths to see it. Because the Woodland Hide at Blashford is used for children, only the two side windows open. And annoyingly, the Brambling wasn't visiting the feeders near either window. Luckily for me, my new lens has decent reach with the teleconverter added, so I was able to take shots from a side fence about 50 foot from the feeder. Something I couldn't do with my old set up.
Anyway, the Brambling looks like a more beautiful Chaffinch, with lovely markings and colours. It typically appears in the UK from September onwards and likes to flock with other finches. Typically a ground feeder, I was unable to see it in its natural habitat, so settled for when it landed on the feeder.

What a smashing bird it is. I love the colours on it.

And here's an uncropped image to give a sense of distance.

So that's it for the end of the year. I've now spotted a total of 143 different birds, which I feel is pretty good going. I may restart my list next year as it keeps you fresh for identification, but I'll see how it goes. I was going to include a Redpoll, but it appears to be a Lesser (which I spotted last year). Still, it's a much better shot mind :)

Coot enjoying a swim in the rain.

A distant Tufted Duck.

A Robin, with cropped feet :(

A gorgeous Lesser Redpoll. This one's a male I believe.

A Greenfinch contemplating whatever Greenfinch contemplate.

A Bank Vole, which I've never seen before. It was after seeds from the tables.

Goldfinch crop. Too harsh?

A very fluffy Blue Tit.

I love the detail on this Chaffinch.

And here's a female Chaffinch.

Happy with this Great Tit :)

Love this male Siskin.

And here's a female Siskin.

More Goldfinch love.

A Kestrel which received over 10,000 views on Flickr!

This was on the same feeder as the Brambling, so not bad considering the distance.

Possibly another Bank Vole. There were four of them in total.

Lesser Redpoll hiding behind a branch. Boo!

Another close Robin.

And a Blue Tit.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

New birds spotted!

I'm just doing a short update this week, mainly because I've had teething problems with my new lens and am not too happy with the shots I've been getting (it turns out it needed some micro adjustments).
As a result I'll simply be posting the two new birds I saw, which should bring my total to 140.

I saw a Fieldfare for the first time last year, but I was unable to get a photo of it.
I saw this one in Wales, while visiting my sister. It was part of a fairly large flock and a few Redwings were there as well (again, I missed images).
Fieldfares are thrushes and typically live in countries such as Scandanavia. They travel to the UK in October, typically staying until Mar-May. They are gorgeous looking birds and are easy to pick out in the field due to their grey heads and distinctive spotted breasts. They love berries and fruit, and will typically strip any bushes and trees they come across.

This fellow was high up in a tree, meaning this was the best shot I could get.

Common Gull
I headed off to Radipole Lake in search of Bearded Tits. While I did see some, they were too far out for good photos. The hide was also a wasted trip due to workers scaring all the birds away. Oh well, there's always next time.
Common Gulls are so named, not because they are exceedingly common (they're not) but because they favour common ground. They look quite similar to Herring Gulls but has gentler looking features, a black eye and greenish legs. This one was swimming, which made it harder to identify, luckily, a fellow birdwatcher pointed him out to me.

An uncropped shot of the Common Gull.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

A trip to Hengistbury Head

Freelance meant I didn't have much time for birding, but I was able to get out for a while on sunday to visit Hengistbury Head. It was pretty quiet and I was continuing to practice with the new lends, which is proving extremely difficult for birds in flight. Still it wasn't too bad to spend a couple of hours out, even if I didn't see anything new.

I think this is a Herring Gull, but I could be wrong.

Most of the birds were very distant. Here's a Carrion Crow.

A Meadow Pipit out for a forage.

A Little Egret takes off.

Another Gull I'm not too sure on.

A Stonechat which landed about 15 feet from me.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Dartford Warblers and Dragonflies

Crowded weekends are making it extremely hard to give my new lens a testing. I was able to go out for an hour on both Saturday and Sunday, but not in the conditions I'd like, meaninganother disappointing weekend.

I headed off to Ham Common Nature reserve on Saturday as we were visiting friends at Rockley Park. The bird life was incredibly disappointing with just starlings, wood pigeons, black-headed gulls and a lone Oystercatcher which was too far away for decent shots.

The only real highlight was a Dartford Warbler and a near flying buzzard, but the former was far too close with even 840mm of lens, while the buzzard flew by so quickly I couldn't get a shot of it.

Oh well, there's always next week...

This Red Admiral dropped down about 10 feet in front of me.

A lone Oystercatcher working the beach.

And a cropped shot of him.

Dartford Warbler, a good 60 feet away, so not ideal at all.

And a crop.

I visited Avon Heath today, as it has a hide but it was pretty disappointing.
A lack of budget meant that no feeders were out, so birds were nowhere to be seen. They've also added a huge net as there are bees at the far end of the site and children have started to use the pond for pond dipping. It seems strange why they don't move the bees as the location is now ugly due to netting.

While I didn't see any birds, I saw a few dragonflies, so thought I'd post pictures. Ids would be most welcome. (Thanks to Tim White and Pete Harris for the id help :)

A female Southern Hawker, uncropped from 20 feet away.

Here's a crop.

A Common male Darter resting.

A couple of Common Darters mating.

A male Souther Hawker in flight.

I've been advised to not shoot with the lens wide open as it's sweet spot is apparently F7.1, so I'll hopefully have some better shots next weekend.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Kingfisher Blow Out

I headed down to Blashford Lakes this morning as I wanted to test my new lens and was hoping to get views of a kingfisher. Lots of people had the same idea as the hide was completely packed with just enough room for me to sit down. Once I got there I realised I'd forgotten my tripod, meaning I struggled to get super sharp shots. A couple of Kingfishers did turn up and despite the noise from many of the other lenses, they happily fished for a good couple of hours.

Initially it turned up at the far end of the hide.. I was glad for my 1.4 teleconverter.

This is probably one of the best shots I took and it's barely cropped too. I love the reach of this lens.

I'm a little too high for this shot so he looks dumpier than usual.

This shot was just after he did a little poo. It's probably a little too soft if I'm honest.

This is the first time I've ever been too close to a Kingfisher. It was right at the low end of my lens. Moving back I ended up getting some of the hide in the bottom of the shot :(

Look at the size of this fish! Annoyingly, the focus seems to be on it :P

He  spent a good couple of minutes beating it to death and the other photographers were going crazy with shot.. I still managed this with just a couple of shots at a time.

You'd think that after this he wouldn't be hungry, but he was back about ten minutes later. Greedy bird.

While some of the shots are good I'm still in need of a lot of practice with this lens. I think I need to keep practising and choose an acceptable shutterspeed too. 

My focus was pretty much on Kingfishers all morning, but I did head to Longham in the afternoon. Sadly, many of the birds were far too far away, being 60-70 feet out. No new birds this week, but hopefully that will change for the weekend.

This Reed Warbler was hiding in the reeds.

I quite like this Mute Swan shot, but it might be a little overexposed.

A Black-Headed Gull. I wouldn't want to say how old though.

Lots of juvenile Coots were active.

Adults were rarely far away.

Tracking gulls in flight isn't easy.

A group of distant Tufted Duck.

Lazy Cormorants on one of the floating rests.

Very distant Great Crested Grebes. I must have saw around 15.

I find exposure on Swans really tricky.

A pair of Black-Headed Gulls.