Thursday, December 30, 2004

Lunchtime dipping is back again

Great Crested Grebe, showing well...

Went to FM again this lunchtime, full of hope of getting some excellent (or at least slightly better) shots of the Red-necked Grebe. The light was superb and we knew the bird was still around.

Unfortunately, we spent the best part of 45 minutes patrolling the shore of Overton Lake to no avail. As we were leaving, we saw Will and Ray Bowell scanning the waters. We pointed them in the right direction and left for work...

Of course, it showed brilliantly again after that, and today's pics are considerably better than yesterday's... That's what happens when the DSLR boys arrive on the scene, and the sun comes out. Gah.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Red-necked Grebe!

Brian Stone has been muttering darkly about Red-necked Grebes for a few weeks now, and look, here's one that Kevin Wicks found at Ferry Meadows earlier (well, yesterday)!

It was about 7.50am when Mike and I - the Early Birders (?) - arrived at FM to search for the grebe. We were very jammy when Mike got onto it quickly, then I saw it, and then it promptly disappeared and couldn't be refound by 8.30am. We left FM regular Don Gardener looking for it... would it be seen again?

Luck was on our side, because Brian put out a texted e-mail thingy onto Peterbirder at lunchtime to say he'd refound it and we had far, far better, closer, longer views than we expected.

Mike, Brian and Kevin Du Rose have far better pics than me, but I don't care. Hurrah! PBC area tick #199!

photos taken with Nikon Coolpix 995 + Leica Apo Televid 62 with 16x eyepiece

Monday, December 27, 2004

Summer Leys LNR

After feeling ill throughout Christmas, I finally dragged myself down to my old stamping ground, Summer Leys, today. There had been a heavy frost and everything had a cold, white coating.

For me, the best birds there were the hordes of Fieldfares just to the west of the car-park.

By contrast, there was just a mere sprinkling of Redwings with their noisier cousins.

On Mary's Lake, this drake Goldeneye swam quite close, but it's often tricky to get photos of birds on water, especially when they keep diving...

digiscoped photos taken with Nikon Coolpix 995 + Leica Apo Televid 62 with 16x eyepiece

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Ferry Meadows


Gadwall I have been hoping to get some good photos of Gadwall for a little while now. Lynch Lake at Ferry Meadows is the best place in the area for this... The birds feed close to the shore and though they initially swim away from you, they soon come back again!

Coot Coot a la Tranter :o)

Round on the nature reserve, there were plenty of Teal (above) and Shoveler to have a go at. Unfortunately, both species spent most of their time either asleep or with their heads underwater.

Grey Heron

Grey Heron

Grey Heron

A Grey Heron had its eye on some fish for elevenses. I accidentally got some action shots! There is a delay between my finger pressing the shutter and the camera taking the picture. This means lots of pictures that don't show quite what you had in mind. I wonder if I will ever succumb to the temptation that is DSLR?

Black-headed Gull
I didn't notice the ripples of light reflecting from the water back onto the gull until I got home...

Song Thrush

Sometimes you stop and wonder whether there is a god of digiscoping smiling down on you. This was very lucky indeed. The Song Thrush hopped up from beside the railway into a tree near where I was standing. It was a bit dark but I got the scope onto it anyway. Amazingly, it stayed while I got a handful of shots - which were in focus! This does not happen every day...

Guelder Rose berries

You can tell where the Bullfinches have been laying into the guelder rose berries...


And, in time for Christmas, a Robin.

digiscoped photos taken with Nikon Coolpix 995 + Leica Apo Televid 62 with 16x eyepiece

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Slavonian Grebe at Ferry Meadows

Now I've seen this Slavonian Grebe (or Horned Grebe if you prefer), I only need Red-necked to complete the Grebe Collection for the PBC area.

Mike and I went before work, and BOY was he twitchy before we bumped into Matt Webb who'd refound it... The light then was appalling, but fortunately the bird stayed until lunchtime at least when conditions were slightly better.

It came quite close to us at one point, but digiscoping wasn't easy - the bird moved fairly fast and being so close, it was tricky to track. Oh, and it kept diving as well. And, when the sun did come out, the bird was directly in front of it...

photo taken with Nikon Coolpix 995 + Leica Apo Televid 62 with 16x eyepiece

Saturday, December 11, 2004

It's a Scaup... or is it?

At first glance, this appeared to be a female Scaup on Rothschild's Mere at Woodwalton Fen NNR this morning, but a closer look reveals it has quite a lot of black on its bill - suggesting Tufted Duck. At some angles, the bird's mantle also looks a bit darker than it should do.

Oh dear...

A Tufty x Scaup hybrid? Please leave your comments.

photos taken with Nikon Coolpix 995 + Leica Apo Televid 62 with 16x eyepiece

The Bogbumper!

After peering into the sun at the Bean Geese, I headed off to Woodwalton Fen NNR with Kevin Du Rose in the hope of some Bittern action. I wasn't that hopeful, because in the past I've spent large amounts of time waiting for Bitterns to appear, and it hasn't happened. But it's easier to be optimistic when it's sunny, and if you don't try, you won't see...

We drew a blank at the Gordon's Mere hide, so we wandered over to Rothschild's, and within a relatively short period of time, the mythical Bogbumper materialised before our eyes, flew around in a big circle, and dropped back down at the back of the mere. We could see it crashing about in the reeds before it vanished again.

What was really interesting was how the assembled wildfowl on the mere behaved... they definitely weren't keen on the Bittern and were unsettled by it. It's always helpful when birds draw your attention to other, more interesting birds.

This Pied Wagtail was at the entrance to the reserve.

photos taken with Nikon Coolpix 995 + Leica Apo Televid 62 with 16x eyepiece

Bean Geese

A truly appalling, yet somehow atmopheric, record shot of the Bassenhally Moor tundra Bean Geese. Yes, it was rather misty and they were rather distant.

photos taken with Nikon Coolpix 995 + Leica Apo Televid 62 with 16x eyepiece

Thursday, December 09, 2004


Black-headed Gull perched on the pontoon bridge. I know they're common as muck, but a picture's a picture... you never know when you might need one.

Coot frolics on the shallow waters...

I'm pleased with this photo of a Carrion Crow. I haven't had much success with these in the past. Their nictating [third] eyelid always seems to get in the way, which doesn't seem to happen with other birds. I think this is perhaps because on a bigger bird it moves more slowly and the shutter speed isn't quite fast enough. Not bad feather detail, either.

Blackbird perched in hedge by the lake.

Since it was sunny, I popped down to Ferry Meadows at lunchtime to chill out and do some digiscoping. I really wanted to get nice pics of Gadwall on Lynch Lake, but the sun was all wrong. They are at very close range there; I'll have to go back for some more. It used to be a boating lake and isn't very big, but lots of wildfowl gather on there for some reason; the feeding conditions must be right.

I settled for some OK shots of common birds today.

photos taken with Nikon Coolpix 995 + Leica Apo Televid 62 with 16x eyepiece

What's in my CD player: Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea - PJ Harvey

Thursday, December 02, 2004


Barn Owls © Nigel Blake

'Twas a great privilege to go owling with Nigel Blake, Paul Hackett and Steve Blain around the wilds of Bedfordshire last night. The aim of the game was to spot as many owls as we could, Though weather conditions weren't ideal (cold and clear; damp weather is popular, apparently, as worms on the road attract Tawny and Little Owls down to hunt), we had excellent views, as you can see...

The two young owls at the top of this post were peeking out of their nest cavity in an ivy-covered tree. Makes a nice change from tea-chests and nestboxes that many Barnies resort to these days.

Tawny Owl © Nigel Blake

Obviously, Pied Wagtails aren't owls or even nocturnal, but they are visible at night - roosting in the local supermarket car-park, right next to a light!

© Nigel Blake

© Nigel Blake

Unfortunately, the only Little Owl we saw tonight was lying freshly dead in the middle of the road. Click here for photos.

On their nocturnal excursions, Nigel and Steve have seen some pretty amazing things, including two Tawny Owls on the rampage, decapitating Woodpigeons (and eating the heads) and a Red Fox running across a field, flushing Woodcock, so it seems that night birding opens up a whole new world of untapped excitement...

What's in my CD player: Awcmon - Lambchop

Berryfest at Asda

No sign of the Waxwings today so Mike and I made the most of what was there - a photogenic female Blackbird and gorgeous early afternoon light.

photos taken with Nikon Coolpix 995 + Leica Apo Televid 62 with 16x eyepiece

Little Owl

A dead bird brings an opportunity for learning... as long as it's not smelly, fly-blown or leaking mysterious fluids. Pick it up, have a look and see how a bird 'works'. Move the wings in and out; see where the different feather tracts lie and how they move together. What does its plumage reveal? What are its feet like?

Don't be squeamish, be inquisitive!

Then send it somewhere where it can be of use: a museum or scientific institute.

Now wash your hands.

photos taken with Nikon Coolpix 995

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Asda Waxwings: three for the price of one

And for the arty shot...

Was midway through a [lunchtime] game of office darts when I discovered that Kevin Du Rose had been to Asda in the city centre and found a trio of Waxwings in the car-park. Play was abandoned and Mike and I headed into town in search of the mythical beasts...

We found the crested beauties lurking in the top of a rowan tree, next to the recycling centre. The light was terrible but Mike managed to get some good pics, I think. I didn't have a scope with me so I used my bins and got the above results. I'm quite pleased with them! I was getting 1/125 at times, but unfortunately my hand didn't quite have the stability of a tripod.

Top twitching...

photos taken with Nikon Coolpix 995 + Leica Ultravid 8x42 BR