Friday, 31 December 2010

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Merry Christmas

                 
                       My best wishes for a very merry Christmas to everyone.

Monday, 20 December 2010

My Friendly Robin - not! (Part 2)


"is that him over there?.....where?"
"best wait till it`s dark!"
"com`on, i`m ready"
So when you receive a card this Christmas with a cute little Robin on the front, remember, things are not always as they appear to be !!


 

My Friendly Robin - not! (Part 1)


Over the last few cold and snowy days I have spent a couple of hours just watching the goings on around my bird feeders and table in the garden, and I`ve noticed one individual who seems to think that he owns the garden and everything in it! Yes it`s the friendly garden Robin, you know, the one that has its picture on countless greetings cards at this time of year, accompanied by such phrases as Seasons Greetings, Peace and Good Will, Merry Christmas, Best Wishes etc. etc. Well ‘my’ Robin certainly doesn’t live up to these sorts of greetings, oh no!!
I`ve got an evergreen bush in the garden (I`m not up on garden plant names so I can`t tell you what it`s called) that the House Sparrows love to sit in with just their heads poking out just before visiting the feeders, a lowly Dunnock was employing this same tactic when suddenly a brown streak shot across the garden and hit the bush in an explosion of snow right next to where it was sitting. Then on the bird table happily feeding away was, what I thought was ‘my’ Robin when, BANG it was knocked off the table by the same brown streak. So far I`ve seen my seasonal bringer of goodwill messages attack House Sparrows, a Dunnock, Blue tits, Great tits, Goldfinches, a Blackbird and Starlings in the same way. The only things that seem to be too big for him to attack in this manner are the Wood Pigeons and the Collared Doves although he does treat them to a lot of scalding and wing flicking to which they seem suitably unimpressed.

"Now, let`s see who`s next"


"I want my mum"
"Is that him over there?"
"Oooo help"
"I`m scared"
"I`m not, bring it on pal!"

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Wow! Wow! Waxwings in Woburn

Well today it finally happened, I managed to get my first ever photos of Waxwings. It was cold and sunny when I arrived in Woburn (Bedfordshire) at about 9:30a.m. On scanning the trees I spotted about ten Waxwings feeding on White Sorbus berries, they were rather skittish, as the trees are situated beside one of the busy roads leading into Woburn, and every time a big truck went by they flew away. After about an hour the flock steadily increased to about a hundred birds.
And Wow what a stunning bird they are, I was just knocked out by their beauty, especially when illuminated in the bright sunlight. I`m afraid I got rather carried away and spent the next three hours snapping away like my life depended on it, finally stopping when the light started to go. But I`ll definitely be back, for another fix, in the next couple of days.


 

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Freezing Cold Friday

Yesterday dawned  frosty, overcast and grey. I set out from home at about 9:30 a.m. and drove to Woburn in Bedfordshire with the intention of trying to spot the flock of Waxwings that had been reported feeding there over the last few days, but alas the only birds I found feeding at the reported site were a flock of about 30 Starlings. With no joy in Woburn I decided to drive a couple of miles down the road to Stockgrove Country Park. This park covers about 80 acres and straddles the borders of Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire and is managed by the Greensand Trust, it consists of a variety of wildlife habitats including ancient oak woodland, conifer woodland, meadows, marshes and a lake and has been in use since medieval times.
When I pulled into the car park the temperature gauge in the car read -4* Celsius. Loaded up with camera gear and a big bag of bird food I walked the short distance to the lake where I knew there should be some birds to photograph (many people feed the birds in this area). The lake was completely frozen over apart from a small  section by the footbridge about 10ft x 3ft. which was occupied by 12 Mallard.

Stockgrove lake with the remains of the boathouse which burnt down in 1963. Incredibly (stupidly) there were human footprints in the snow covered ice going across the whole width of the lake !! 
The birds must have been finding the icy conditions very difficult, as they started to gather before I had begun to put any food out.



Blue tit


Great tit
Coal tit
Willow tit (note the crossed beak)
Robin
 This Robin has a large lump of ice on it`s right leg, It looks like the ice has formed over the ring that was put on when the bird was young, the good thing is it didn`t seem at all troubled by it.


Nuthatch
Blackbird (young female ?)
Dunnock
Carrion Crow
This character was feeding on the seeds that had fallen out of the bird feeders by the visitor centre and was being very vocal about it, but seemed very happy to pose for a photograph after I had put some food down for him!

After about three hours my hands were so cold I could no longer feel the camera and with the light fading fast I decided to call it a day and head on home.
All in all, after the disappointment of not finding the Waxwings, I had a most enjoyable few hours.

Photography notes :-  75-300mm lens, ISO 800/1000, f 7.1 to f10, RAW.


And finally.....


.......a grumpy Robin.

Sightings List
Wood Pigeon
Carrion Crow
Rook
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Magpie
Blue tit
Great tit
Coal tit
Willow tit
Nuthatch
Blackbird
Mallard
Moorhen
Dunnock
Chaffinch
Robin 





 

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Birdwatch through the window

I`m afraid I`ve been rather wimpish these last couple of days,with most of the country gripped in an icy blastI`ve stayed indoors in the warm catching up with paperwork and sorting photographs on the computer (that`s the excuse anyway!). however, I did manage to take a few pictures of the birds that came to visit the feeders in the garden.

Robin  
Starling
Collared Dove
Wood Pigeon
Blackbird
House Sparrow
Blue Tit
 All these photographs were taken through a double glazed window so are not as sharp as they could be. The snow, however, acts as a large reflector bouncing the light upwards to great effect.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Frosty Friday on the Downs

Yesterday dawned cold and frosty (-3 overnight) with a sunny hazy blue sky. I decided to visit Dunstable Downs, Bedfordshire.
The Downs, as they are locally known, are a chalk escarpment overlooking the Vale of Aylesbury and forming part of the Chiltern Hills standing at 243m (797ft) above sea level they are the highest point in Bedfordshire. Ivinghoe Beacon to the South West stands at 233m (757ft) and is one of the highest points in Buckinghamshire.

Ivinghoe Beacon is the high point to the right of the tree and the village on the far right is Edlesborough

Heading downhill on the footpath from the visitor centre, (I`ll do a post on that at a later date), I coudn`t help but notice how beautiful the grass and wild plants looked covered in ice crystals and sparkling in the sun.

 I then came across a cluster of  Seven-spot Ladybirds on a frozen bramble leaf that had been turned over by the breeze.



Scanning the trees and bushes through the binoculars I located a flock of about 20 Redwing feeding on Hawthorn berries, so as not to disturb them I took a long and arcing route to stay under cover and slowly get closer to them with a view to taking some photographs, After about 15 minutes of slowly creeping closer I was 'found' by a Golden Retriever closely followed by it`s lady owner calling "hear Toby, good boy Toby" hence birds gone and no photograph !!
I could, in the distance see a Kestrel hovering on the updraft from the slopes and decided to position myself in a spot where I hoped it might eventually come to. After about 20 minutes of me standing in the cold and frosty shadow of a large Hawthorn bush the Kestrel, a female, came within camera distance.


Kestrel (female)
It`s amazing to stand and watch these birds hunting for prey, if you can get a reference mark, you will see that when they hover they are stock still in the air just with a slight flutter of the feathers. Also using the updrafts were Common Gulls, Herring Gulls and Carrion Crows.


Common Gull


 As I was slowly getting colder and colder with all the standing about I decided to head for home and a nice warm cup of tea.

And finally a different type of aviator making use of the updrafts.

 
Have a good (rest of) the weekend.

Sightings List
Redwing
Blackbird
Great Tit
Pheasant
Wren
Common Gull
Herring Gull
Carrion Crow
Rook
Kestrel
Magpie
Robin
Wood Pigeon
  (Total 13)







Sunday, 21 November 2010

RSPB. The Lodge, Sandy.

Last Friday, in the company of Keith (caldecottelake.blogspot.com and holdingmoments.blogspot.com) I paid a visit to the RSPB Headquarters reserve at The Lodge, Sandy. Bedfordshire. We arrived just as the sun was rising through the early fog and mist.




 Our main objective was to find the 100 strong flock of Redpoll reported from earlier in the week. Our first stop was the Meadow Hide which supplied nothing more than a lone Pheasant some Chaffinch and Blue Tits. Next it was a short stroll to the Formal Gardens which are located behind the main RSPB office buildings, we noted a few Jackdaw on the roof of the main house, keeping up a constant chatter of "jack" "jack"! We also saw Blackbirds, Redwing,Blue Tits (lots) and fleeting glimpses of Goldcrest as they flitted amongst the branches.
We then moved onto the "old" Heath where the bird life was noticable by it`s absence. There were however lots of dew laden spiders webs strung between the dying bracken shining in the sunlight.

  We then moved across to the "new" Heath, encountering a small flock of Long-Tailed Tits as they busily flitted from branch to branch, the new heath again showed a remarkable shortage of bird life, our only sighting being a couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers, and a Sparrowhawk flying over. We then moved back to the main office car park area where we found Blackbird and Redwing feeding on the berries from the Yew trees.

 Again there were lots of Blue Tits in evidence, (they must have had a good year). Also showing briefly was a Goldcrest (but still all to briefly for this photographer !),
We never did find the flock of Redpoll (I later found out that they were in the one area that we didn`t visit ! sods law I guess). Still I had a very enjoyable time on what turned out to be a fine and sunny blue sky day, despite the forecast being for a day of mist and fog.

Sightings List
Chaffinch
Pheasant
Goldfinch
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Long-Tailed Tit
Dunnock
Wren
Blackbird
Redwing
Rook
Carrion Crow
Jackdaw 
Jay
Nuthatch 
Treecreeper
Mistle Thrush
Green Woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Goldcrest
Sparrowhawk
Buzzard (on way home)
        (Total 22)

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Caldecotte Lake (Milton Keynes)

 Yesterday I went for my second visit to this beautiful lake in Milton Keynes. I left home for the 15 mile drive in thick fog, after scraping the frost off the windscreen of the car, relying on the weather forcast which said that it would be sunny after the fog had cleared.For once the weather forcasters had got it right, for right on cue, as i arrived the sun started to break through revealing bright blue water and birds as far as the eye could
see. Unfortunatly I only had time to walk around the North lake. Here are a few photos.

Cormorant (phalacrocorax carbo)
 You have to be quick it`s surprising how fast these things fly !

Great Crested Grebe (juvenile ?) (podiceps cristatus)
There were lots of these around busy diving for fish.

Greylag Goose (anser anser)
 I was slowly moving closer and closer to try and get a close up shot when they were chased by a very excitable dog !

Mute Swan (cygnus olor)
Always a graceful bird.

Wigeon (male) (anas penelope)
 Just a little wing exercise.

Wigeon (pair) (anas penelope)
 Mr. and Mrs.


Mallard (female) (anas platyrynchos)

And finaly two photos of something I found, that someone or something had removed from the lake and thankfully deposited on the bankside (close to the pumping station).


 The dreaded North American Signal Crayfish (pacifastacus leniusculus)  which is devestating our native White-clawed Crayfish.


Have a great rest of the week.