Tuesday, September 19, 2017

📖 Diary Update #55

🍂 ⛅19C Tuesday 19th September 2017 ~ A few hours at Brandon Marsh today with the camera in the lovely autumnal sunshine. While making my way down to the reserve from the car park a couple of Skylarks drifted overhead, plus a real rarity for Brandon in the form of a single Rook.

Grey Heron at Baldwin Hide
I think I've just about mastered the camera micro adjustments and lens calibration in time for my trip to Spain tomorrow! Thankfully my flights in and out are not on the Ryanair cancellation debacle!

I spent the majority of my stay around the woodland areas, with an hour or so in the Baldwin Hide. Here there was plenty of Kingfisher activity and an opportunity to practice my photographic techniques with two contrasting species, Cormorant and Grey Heron.

A very confiding Marsh Tit
A very accommodating Marsh Tit in Horsetail Glade gave some close range photo opportunities which I duly accepted.

Marsh Tit ~ Horsetail Glade

Friday, September 15, 2017

📖 Diary Update #54

💨 🍂 ⛅18C Thursday 14th September 2017 ~ Accompanying Dee for a couple of days while she's working on one of her companies drilling rigs in Cornwall, I took the opportunity for a spot of sea watching, my favourite form of birding.

View from Pendeen lighthouse..
Pendeen Lighthouse in West Cornwall, somewhere I haven't been in over a decade, is the ideal destination and affords uninterrupted vistas and superb light. The outer wall of the lighthouse compound affords some shelter from the prevailing westerly winds, which are essential for good passage and especially after a recent storm, in this case, Storm Aileen!

Constant Gannet passage throughout my stay...
I joined around thirty or so other birders for a few hours this morning, thankfully managing to avoid any showers throughout my stay. On arrival, the first thing that struck me was the constant flow of Gannets and to a lesser degree, although still in good numbers, Manx Shearwaters. The first hour was most productive with a group of four Sabine Gulls, and a further two mixed in with a small flock of Sandwich Terns. Among the many Manx, a single Balearic Shearwater was noted and although a second was called a little later I missed this.

This record shot of two Great Skuas (Bonxie) at 600mm gives an idea of distance from the shore!
In total, my personal tally included Arctic Skua, five Grey Phalarope and six Great Skua, plus one of the highlights for me, a Leach's Storm Petrol, although several more were seen before my arrival.

Peregrine directly over the watchpoint!
Also noted among the many passing species were various numbers of Shag, CormorantGuillemot, Fulmar, Kittiwake and Razorbill, plus a Peregrine directly over the watchpoint! A surprise was at least four Ocean Sunfish, apparently, the worlds largest bony fish that can grow up to 1.8m, and from my observations oddly appear to sunbath on their sides, with the dorsal fin breaking water!

One of the local Chough population!
Another surprise was twelve of the local Chough population, which performed a fly-by, two returning a short while later for a quick photo!

Rock Pipit
Other species of note around the lighthouse peninsula: Wheatear, Stonechat and Rock Pipit.

Some of my record shots for ID purposes.......

Manx Shearwater


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

📖 Diary Update #53

💨 ⛅19C Tuesday 12th September 2017 ~ An hour or so at Draycote Water this morning in rather breezy conditions, mainly to have another session on the new camera set up!

A little breezy for this newly arrived Meadow Pipit!
A short walk along Farborough Bank as far as the 'Spit', where conditions were pretty challenging for hand held shots. Meadow Pipits are starting to arrive now in small numbers, with four along the bank. The sky was awash with 100s of House Martins, with smaller numbers of Swallows and Sand Martins mixed in. At the Spit two Dunlin and four Ringed Plover, plus a further two Dunlin and single Yellow Wagtail on the walk back to the car park, along with Terry and Richard.

This juvenile Gull made navigating in the wind look a doddle!
Before heading off to complete some shopping chores I drove along to Grimsbury Reservoir in Banbury, around 12 miles from the marina, for a look at a Grey Phalarope, which was reported yesterday evening.

Grey Phalarope ~ Grimsbury Reservoir, Banbury
Thanks to some excellent instructions from Dennis Woodward I had no problems finding the bird, which was showing incredibly well! In fact, at one point the bird came so close I had to retreat several yards to achieve focus.

Grey Phalarope looking pretty exhausted!

Another shot of a very accommodating Grey Phalarope

Saturday, September 09, 2017

📖 Diary Update #52

Since arriving back at our home moorings after our recent outing I've basically spent my time getting to grips with my new camera and lens! In the last several days I've managed trips to Brandon Marsh, Draycote Water and of course locally.

Sigma 150-600 Contemporary
A few years back I stopped using my Canon 7D~Mk1/Canon EF 100-400 Lens combination on a regular basis, preferring to use my Canon Powershot SX50 bridge camera and a recently purchased Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 when out in the field. I've had some great results using these amazing bridge cameras and will continue to use them on occasions, particularly for Odonata and butterflies. However, preferring to use the eyepiece rather than the LCD screen while shooting I've always struggled with the electronic viewfinders, bridge cameras, of course, being mirrorless. This has on occasions left me somewhat frustrated when I've missed that perfect shot due to focusing. Another downfall of this is missing some great 'birds in flight' opportunities.

Greater Yellowlegs Alaska 2017 ~ In good light great shots can be taken by the SX50!
On a recent trip to Alaska and Canada, I took the decision to leave my DSLR and lens at home, preferring to take my two bridge cameras, and despite taking some great images, its a decision in retrospect I now regret! With this in mind, I made a conscious decision to revert back to using DSLR and have just purchased a Canon 80D ~ Sigma 150-600 Contemporary combination. The results thus far with some fine tuning have been very encouraging.

Juvenile Linnet ~ Draycote Water

Wheater in dull conditions ~ Draycote Water

Little Egret ~ Once again in overcast conditions at Draycote Water

Sedge Warbler at Brandon Marsh at maximum 600mm 

Seven Dunlin unexpectedly through Napton Reservoir gave an opportunity for a low light flight shot!

I'm still waiting to test the combo in good sunlight so more testing to come 📷

Monday, September 04, 2017

📖 Diary Update #51

☁️23C Monday 4th September 2017 ~ Just back from our first cruise out since June, mooring up along our favourite stretch of Grand Union Canal near Flecknoe last Thursday. This particular spot offers lots of opportunities to cycle the uncategorised and gated roads, walk and even explore the old London and North-Western Railway branch line, which ran from Weedon to Leamington Spa until its closure in 1963.

'Quidditch' moored in our usual spot!
For the most part, the weather was kind, apart from yesterday when a weather front brought through wet and windy conditions. As you would imagine the canal has been pretty busy with lots of holiday traffic, hopefully easing as the kids go back to school.

Local farmers busy with their crops!
This is a very rural spot with few houses nearby and in fact, there are no locks to contend with from our mooring at Napton through to Braunston, so it's a leisurely cruise. The local farmers have been busy with their crops and this gives a good opportunity to look out for Hares, Wheatear and Yellow Wagtail on the newly ploughed fields.

On Friday evening a gorgeous moonlit night offered a chance to BBQ, sit out, watch the local Daubenton's Bats skimming the water and just listen! This yielded a Tawny Owl close by and at one stage the unmistakable call of a Whimbrel, which flew through, the calls dissipating as it moved further away!

One of the several Yellow Wagtails along the route!
Saturday evening Dee and I took a walk from the mooring through to Sawbridge Road along the uncategorised road that leads from bridge 101. Several Yellow Wagtails were among the odd cow herd, plus Red-legged Partridge and a distant Wheatear on the ploughed fields, but the surprise came when out of the blue a young, in fact almost adult, Cuckoo suddenly flew along the treeline. We watched the bird darting between the trees before being spooked by a Kestrel. Another feature has been the Ravens, which can be heard and seen constantly and appear to have nested along the old railway line, eleven birds in flight over the boat was an amazing count on Friday.

Sunset Thursday evening!
Other highlights included a gorgeous sunset on Thursday evening, a Hobby fly past and more opportunities to photograph Spotted Flycatchers!

Great year locally for Spotted Flycatchers!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

📖 Diary Update #50

22C Thursday 24th August 2017 ~ Spent the morning with the Brandon Marsh Conservation Team clearing the Islands and Wigeon Bank. Its been a major year for plant growth around the reserve with all Islands completely overwhelmed by excess vegetation. We envisage that the work on the remainder of the Islands will be completed next Thursday. The Wildlife Trust's tractor will also be used to clear the remainder of Wigeon Bank at a date yet to be confirmed.

View from Wigeon Bank!
Interesting that even during the duration of the work waders were already beginning to take advantage with Little-ringed Plover, Ringed Plover and Green Sandpiper all visiting, so let's hope that the trend continues into the Autumn!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

📖 Diary Update #49

☁️21C Wednesday 23rd August 2017 ~ A pretty dull morning both weatherwise and for birding at Brandon Marsh with the only highlights on the pools a Ringed Plover, Green Sandpiper and five Snipe. Kingfisher, Buzzard, Blackcap, Whitethroat and two Raven over were other notables during a three-hour stay!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

📖 Diary Update #48

23C Tuesday 22nd August 2017 ~ A good search of the marina mid morning then on to the local patch at Napton Reservoir and Napton Hill on a very humid day.

Pied Wagtail roost beginning to build!
In last nights Pied Wagtail roost 34 birds, which included the first Yellow Wagtails of late summer, with four on the camp ground! A Barn Owl was also seen across on the adjacent farmland, although very briefly late evening. Today a Peregrine over the marina mid-morning, which continued on through heading east, although it did cause a stir among the Long-tailed Tit flock. Chiffchaffs can be heard calling, almost constantly along the west bank but the reed beds are starting to become less busy, with most of the Reed Warbler young now moving on. Strangely enough, there seem to be more Reed Buntings appearing now that the warblers have moved out!

Napton Reservoir sightings consisted of a Hobby, which stayed for a while hawking over the reed beds, and a juvenile Common Redstart, which had relocated to the horse field through the second kissing gate. Four Lesser Whitethroats moving through the hawthorn on the sheep field, four Bullfinch, two Yellow Wagtails, Yellowhammer and a Raven over were other highlights!

Spotted Flycatcher at Napton Hill
Napton Hill was reasonably quiet, with the exception of four Spotted Flycatchers in the gully, two Buzzard, Green Woodpecker and a Raven. All venues had Swallow, House Martin and the odd Sand Martin passing through but no Swift during my observations.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

📖 Diary Update #47

💨 ⛅21C Sunday 20th August 2017 ~ A similar day to yesterday, although the breeze a little less noticeable, but I do seem to have the uncanny knack of only visiting Frampton Marsh when it's breezy!

Avocet ~ Seems like a good breeding season at Frampton
We began today's visit with a walk up to the sea-wall, stopping off at various points to look across the pools and scrapes. Four Spoonbills asleep in the distance and lots of Avocet, plus like Titchwell yesterday several Ruff in various plumages! Dee picked out a Wood Sandpiper and as we stood watching with decent scoped views at least ten Yellow Wagtails could be seen feeding in the grass.

Over 30 Yellow Wagtails at least today!
We paused for a while at the benches after reaching the sea-wall and here a distant Marsh Harrier. However, a small raptor took the eye low over the salt marsh and this turned out to be a year-first tick with a Merlin, which dropped abruptly to the ground and out of sight.

Greenshank ~ At least five today!
A look back across the wet marsh with mostly similar species to Titchwell yesterday, with the exception of a single Whimbrel, which flew in calling and at least three Spotted Redshanks! Five Greenshanks and a single Snipe were other notables while on the sea-bank, along with a solitary Swift overhead. Just prior to moving down from the wall a huge eruption turned out to be a female Sparrowhawk, which left empty handed.

One of two Whinchat today!
Bypassing the East Hide we continued on along the reed bed trail stopping several times to check through the many waders, which appeared to be sheltering at this side of the reserve from the increasing wind. We managed to pick out a Little Stint, in amongst the many Dunlin, plus a single Golden Plover but sadly dipped on any Curlew Sandpipers that may have been around. Just before the turn along to the '360' hide one of two Wheatears today, along with two Whinchats. While here the calls of Bearded Tits, but similar to yesterday, they remained illusive!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

📖 Diary Update #46

💨 ⛅20C Saturday 19th August 2017 ~ A weekend stay at Kings Lynn gave Dee and I the opportunity for visits to RSPB Titchwell and Frampton Marsh on opposite sides of the 'Wash' estuary.

This Wall Brown has been through the wars!
Today a leisurely stroll around a breezy Titchwell, beginning at Patsy's Reedbed. The highlights here included a Stoat, which ran along the concrete road just after the hide and good numbers of House Martins and Swallows feeding low over the reeds. Only two Swift in among the hirundine's and despite being very worn and battered, a year first Wall Brown butterfly. The pool itself was particularly quiet species-wise with only a single Pochard of note amongst the many Mallard.

Ruff ~ Looking rather windswept!
The Island Hide offered good views over the fresh marsh and feeding close in several Ruff in various plumages, plus the briefest glimpse of a Bearded Tit, which due to the strong breeze stayed low in the reeds! Lots of juvenile Shelducks and plenty of waders to be found which included Avocet, small groups of Dunlin, larger numbers of Black-tailed Godwit, three Ringed Plover and a single Knot, still showing shades of summer plumage.

Black-tailed Godwit
The Islands and spits offered respite from the wind for a couple of Common Terns, plus at least five Meditteranean Gulls, which apparently have nested here. Out towards the centre, we managed six Spoonbills, with one young bird still begging for food from the parent. Across on Thornham salt marsh Little Egrets a couple of Curlew and some small flocks of Linnet.

Spoonbill ~ On the move over to Thornham Marsh
The Tidal Marsh produced a couple of smart summer plumage Grey Plover but nothing further from the above-mentioned.

Sanderling ~ One of many passing along the beach
The beach as you would imagine in the stiff breeze was challenging and even more so with the tide at its furthest point out. We walked along the water line for a while watching some small flocks of Sanderling, Turnstone and Oystercatcher on the exposed areas, a Seal appearing briefly. A small passage of birds over the water included Common Tern, Little Tern and Sandwich Tern, with a Skua Sp. too far out for recognition.