Sunday, 30 December 2012

2012 In Pictures

We are now approaching  the end of the year; and what a year it has been; my Birdwatching and Photography only started seriously this year, and I am pleased with the results; I have been short-listed for two competitions and came runner-up in another.
To celebrate the coming of a new year I thought I would post my favourite image from each month this year

                                   An extremely confiding Robin at Fisher's Green Lea Valley

                              Walking along a beach in Ireland I came across this flock of Turnstones well                   
                                  camouflaged against the Sea-weed Cos Strand Co. Kerry Ireland

                                The beginning of Spring!  My Grandmother's ponds were filled with frogs, and I              
                                learned that they can't see straight ahead so I could get some interesting close-ups
                                    Kilgarven Co.Kerry Ireland

      I found this Male Greater-spotted Woodpecker building his nest on the edge of the foot path          
                 on my local patch!  Unfortunately in the strong winds the tree was blown down  
                                           Valentines Park Ilford Essex
                        In May I was fortunate enough to see Kingfishers fledging!  There were at least 7 
                        juveniles  being fed by both adults.  RSPB Rye Meads     

                          While waiting for a train I noticed a family of Blue Tits and managed to approach      
                          this one, and got within two foot!  Moulsecoomb Train Station.

                          The first day I got the Raynox DCR-250 I was in the garden photographing and      
                          came across this Willow Gall Weevil!  Ilford Essex

               I was back in Ireland again and when  photographing Dragonflies by the pond I  
               noticed a dead ant being carried!  Kilgarven Co.Kerry Ireland

                               After unsuccessfully looking for the Baillon's Crake at Rainham Marshes I found 
                               this Water Vole posing out in the open!  RSPB Rainham Marshes London

                               This flock of Goldfinches was busy feeding on Thistle Seeds before flying over to a    
                                muddy puddle to drink!  Abberton Reservoir Essex

                This shot of a Grey Plover was Digiscoped at Two Tree Island .  It was taken at dusk. 
                Two Tree Island Leigh-on Sea Essex Canon Ixus 120 IS

                              While waiting for a Nuthatch at my local Patch I saw this Robin who looked like
                               it had a scar on its cheek!  Valentines Park Ilford Essex
All of these shots were taken using a Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ38 and adapters unless otherwise said.
Definitely the most shots I've yet done in one post!

Friday, 21 December 2012

Brighton Robins

I am still ill, and so haven't done much photography today.  Of the pictures I did take my favorite was of a singing Robin.

                                                  Heavily cropped

As my mother and brother are watching some silly vampire program called True Blood which is not suitable for me, so I thought I would post some pictures of the Robins we have in the garden in Brighton.

Of late I have been seeing two Robins in the garden, they are constantly chasing each other and the other day I caught an image of them having a face off;  it is a little obscured and I had to high a shutter-speed.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Perch Photography

I have caught a cold which everyone in the house has at the moment, meaning no photography today, but hopefully it will clear soon.
 Over the last three days I've been photographing birds coming to a perch I set up; I used two small sticks which I stuck in the ground and then balanced a bigger branch on top of them.  Putting Suet Pellets, Peanuts and Mealworms out below it I managed to attract some birds down, they are quite nervous and flighty but I managed some shots.  As we have around 6+ Blue Tits, 3 Great Tits and 2 Robins there is often a lot of squabbling so the less dominant birds would use the perch rather than the feeder.
As I didn't want the images to be 'Noisy' I used an ISO of between 400-1600, this means a shutter-speed of around 1/160 and for some shots an aperture of F5.6, but the lens lacks sharpness at an F-stop that low, so for the most part I used F8.0.

This is the first result and probably the best result as I didn't get good light again.
 So far Blue Tits, Great Tits and Robins have landed on the perch and I also believe that a Jay did to, as something knocked it down.

Yesterday was hardest for photography as it was raining most of the time and so a shutter-speed of 1/100 was required so I couldn't catch the Robin looking the right way.
  Only five days until Christmas! I hope you all enjoy yourself!

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Unlucky For Some

On Thursday (the 13th), we had a great bad days' birding.  The plan was to go to Shenfield station, here Iain would pick us up and take us to Costco Lakeside car park where 23 Waxwings had been seen the day before.  If that failed it would be the nearby Chafford Hundred where 100 had been seen.  We arrived, and drove around the car park for a while seeing nowt.  We parked up and headed around the car park on foot.  As we walked round a fellow birder pulled up to ask if we were here to look for them, we said yes and he told us he had been here for a while and also had been to Chafford Hundred and had seen no Waxwings at all!  So we probably had no chance.  Iain went to the main Lakeside complex and we walked over to B&Q.  As we were walking up to the building there was a crash as something hit the floor; something black went bouncing ahead of us.  As it stopped I realised to my horror that it was the teleconverter:  Somehow it had come off the screw thread.  I grabbed it and on first inspection; "Phew!", it seemed alright, but then a crack along the plastic/metal holding the lens in place showed up, there was also a rattling from within. Great, my zoom is now reduced from 30x to 18x and a replacement would cost at least £40.  After buying an Outdoor security lamp for my Grandmother Amy we were back out and saw some Redwing in a disused part of the car park.

                                                             Heavily cropped
We walked around the back of Costco and my father pointed out a bird which turned out to be a warbler, not sure what kind.

Back at Amy's I took some macro frost images.

Oh, and I also managed to pull a muscle in my neck, A nice addition to the fact my Oyster Zip card stopped working and my father's Tivo (or something similar) Box needed replacing.
Today We went to the park, my neck is almost fine!  We saw Shoveler, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Mallard and Little Grebe and that is just some of the water birds.  Some Goldcrests were also seen.  A total of 29 species.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Patch Ticks

Yesterday I read that someone had seem a male Brambling and Nuthatch over at Valentines, so this morning we headed over to check it out.  The Brambling was last seen along the canal so that's the way we headed.  There were loads of birds: 2+ Chaffinch, c.30 Goldfinch, Grey Wagtail, a white headed Blackbird!  And a Great-spotted Woodpecker, the first we've seen here for about eight months!  No Brambling, so we headed to the feeders to look for the Nuthatch.  During a roughly fifteen minute wait e saw Blue Tit, Great Tit, Goldcrest, Collared Dove and Robin.
                                                        Looks like he's been in a fight!

As I was thinking the Nuthatch must have moved, my father pointed it out in the trees!  After surveying the area it flew down onto the feeder!  It was quite tolerant of other birds; allowing a Great Tit to use the same feeder, this must mean that it has not fully made this its territory.  Lets hope it will stay!

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Birthday Birding

Yesterday was my Thirteenth birthday!  I got some great presents; my father got me a better tripod which is amazing!  My mother got me a replica of an Eagle Owl skull, from my brothers I got a huge bag of mealworms which freaked everyone out, probably the fact they were abnormally large; about 2-1/2 inches.

At about twelve I went with my mother and father to Pulborough Brooks nature reserve for the first time.  It was a forty minute drive during which I saw: Buzzard, Lapwing and  Pied Wagtail.
As we pulled into the reserve I saw  a Green Woodpecker.  At the feeders were Nuthatch; too fast and infrequent for pictures. Also Blue Tit, Great Tit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, House Sparrow, Robin and Dunnock.  There was also a posy Dunnock outside the visitor centre.
As we were walking we came across a small group of people taking pictures, I though that they may have seen the Lesser-spotted Woodpecker, but asking one of them found it to be two male Bullfinches! They were a bit distant for god pictures so this was the best I could do. They kept hovering but I couldn't catch this un-obscured

                                                       Catching the sun

We came to the first hide: Netleys Hide, I saw loads of waterfowl; Teal, Widgeon, Shoveler , Mallard, Pintail, Mute Swan (no Bewick's), Lapwing, Grey Heron and loads of Black-tailed Godwits on the far shore.  There were a load of birdwatchers in the hide and suddenly they called Hen Harrier I looked and there in the distance was this raptor causing an up upsurge of Waders and ducks, my first Hen Harrier!  The distant record shot below shows the white (ringtail) of the female Hen Harrier, a good way to separate it from Marsh Harrier.
When we left the hide a Kestrel flew over!

                                                          300mm lens and still a huge crop!

There was not much of note in the Little Hanger Hide save for a Green Woodpecker.  On the way to the next hide I saw some Rabbits, a Song Thrush and another Green Woodpecker!  We entered this hide and saw: Fieldfare, Lapwing, distant Roe Deer and more Wigeons.
On the way to the next hide I saw hundreds of Rooks and some nice views of a Rabbit!

                                 Probably my best action shot of a Rabbit, shame it was in the shade

In the next hide there was an amazingly close Lapwing! Close by Lapwing standard anyway; about thirty foot.  It was in some spectacular light!

All in all a great day and would highly recommend the reserve, great wildlife, next time I come though I don't think I will bring my mother as she was a little bored!  The new Tripod was also brilliant!

Friday, 30 November 2012

17 Ticks (Not Mine)

Yesterday morning in the garden in Ilford the Starlings were back!  There were eight on the suet block feeder!  As I was watching them I saw something fly up and land behind a post on the fence, now, the garden is small, about 15x20 foot, with one small tree, there are also no big trees around, except for a conifer, so when the bird poked its head round and showed itself to be a Great-spotted Woodpecker I was surprised!  The garden was in shadow at this time in the morning, so I had to use slow shutter (sorry if you are bored of this), about 1/100-1/200, and with the excitement my hands were not that steady.

On Tuesday my Grandmother and cousin Caleb from Ireland came over, and on Wednesday Caleb and I went up to London as I was planning to get him some bird ticks, as I have turned him into a bit of a birdwatcher, which is good as so many young people have no interest in nature, but I suppose for him living in the country side its difficult not to be.

Well, later on Thursday, at about eleven we headed to Thurrock Thameside Nature Park as I had heard some good things about it.  We saw nothing too interesting as the tide was in, all the birds were miles away.  On one island I saw about c.50+ Curlew.  There was also a Kestrel about.

After that we headed to West Canvey to try and get for Stonechat and Short-eared Owls for Caleb.
 As we walked to the Sea wall we saw Fieldfare and Redwing feeding on berries, none close enough for images.  There were no Stonechat in the area were we saw them last time, or anywhere else as far as we could see.
We walked along the Sea wall seeing: Little Egret, a huge flock of Teal and Shoveller and a flock of Stock Dove.  Also a Snipe flew over on rapid wings.
 We walked around a long way and Caleb complained about losing feeling in his fingers, admittedly it was freezing.  Unlike last time the marsh wasn't there, instead was a big water-wayed grass field.

No luck with either S.E-Owl or Stonechat.  In the hide near the car park I saw: Redshank, Shovellor, Rabbit and Canada and Greylag Goose.

This morning we went to Wanstead Park to try and get Caleb one of the ticks he most wanted; Kingfisher.  We found a fair few friendly Robins and I almost hand fed one, not quite though.
We came to the bit by the river where I had seen Kingfishers before, and waited for a fair while.  The ground was frosted and there were two Robins feeding in the grass here, surprisingly close together.

After a long while I saw the Brilliant flash of blue of the kingfisher speeding over the water, it flew up into the bushes out of sight and then came  back down allowing Caleb and my father to see it,  mission accomplished!
As we walked back along the other side along the lake we saw Cormorant and two Siskin!
Altogether we got Caleb seventeen ticks!

Friday, 23 November 2012

Records Smashed!

This afternoon we smashed the patch records.  We left out at about 14:30 and got back about 16 :15, so a long time!
On the lake were over 12 Pochard sleeping, and a Grey Heron on the island, as well as the usuals.
As we were walking by the Canal I scanned the field for interesting gulls and was rewarded with Valentino the Med Gull!  Also there was: Black-headed Gull, Common Gull and Herring Gull!
Other highlights were: Grey Wagtail, Jay, plenty of Mistle Thrush's and a Long-tailed Tit flock (I was gutted that someone else saw a Nuthatch with them at 15:00).
At the end of the trip we had racked up 32 species of bird!  That smashed the record by 3!

                                                   Puffed up Black-headed Gull

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Thriving Garden

Early this morning while sitting with the cat watching the original Adam's Family (no-one else was up),  my attention was caught by a small bird in the Laurel, i looked and saw what looked like a small Great Tit, which meant one thing, the long awaited garden tick; Coal Tit! I stood up and reached for the camera, accidentally tipping the cat off my lap, fired off some shots before it came down closer to the feeder, it hanged on a branch and as I tried to focus I lost it.  After that I payed more attention to the garden.  I saw a movement in the small bush's around the pond, thinking it was one of the Chiffchaff's I took a few images; realised it was a Firecrest and took some more!  I climbed out the window barefooted (not even socks!) to get a better image, the Firecrest had by now moved and after that it was elusive   Due to bad light this was the best I could do.

                                                   Partially hovering

Later on I went back out (this time with foot-ware! and through the door) and straight away I saw the Coal Tit on the gate down to the back part of the garden! I snapped off a few shots but for a bird of its size it was to far away.  During the time I was out there a flock of Long-tailed Tits were about!  As well as a Chiffchaff.  After a while I got better views of the Coal Tit and some better images.  Unfortunately the computer is stupid enough to believe that the file doesn't exist.
So cut a long story short I got some good views of a Great-spotted Woodie!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Hungry And Thirsty

Down in Sussex there has still been no further signs of the Firecrest, but as usual there are still plenty of other birds to keep me occupied; such as Goldcrests who are probably one of the only birds where sitting waiting patiently isn't usually the best idea.  I often end up moving from one part of the garden to the other just to get some shots; which are never that good.  I was quite lucky to get this shot, as this is the only conifer around, so the Goldcrests look more natural in it.  Goldcrests usually live and breed in coniferous  forests.
The Focus is a bit off as the lens wouldn't focus so I had to use manual-focus and the wee bird wouldn't stop moving for long!

The Squirrel Buster+ feeder I bought is know working successfully, And my brother tells me that he has seen both Jay and Great-spotted Woodpecker, once both on the same branch!  So far I have only seen the Jay about the feeders, he usually hangs about on the floor below the feeders.
Recently whilst browsing lenses that I won't be able to afford for a long time; I discovered that with my mother's lens, when fully extended to 300mm the images are a bit "soft", but this can be counteracted by having a larger F-stop, such as F9, I usually work with F5.6 and have frequently lost great opportunities to "soft" images.  So yesterday I tried between F8-F10, and I believe some of the pictures may be a little sharper!

Yesterday whilst trying to photograph the Blue Tits bathing in next-doors gutter this Jay swooped in for a drink! at first I didn't take any pictures, I waited until he put his head down for water before I got into a good position, and when he looked up I fired off some shots! This image is cropped so as to remove the distracting white plastic/glass roof.  As I went to show this shot to my brother I noticed a Collared Dove (Garden tick) on the garage roof!  He too was having a drink!  Also some Blackbirds drinking from the gutter but I won't bore you with loads of drinking bird pictures.

The Squirrels seemed to be dustbins today, I sprinkled some seed beneath my window and accidentally poured out way too much I also put out an old Brazil nut, all of this the Squirrels ate, and they still attempted to feed on my Squirrel Buster+, and searched all the empty feeders for food too!
I tried to focus on the eye in this shot, which was difficult as it kept putting its head to the ground, and this isn't cropped!

Saturday, 17 November 2012

"Canvey" Really Be Seeing This?

Yesterday I went to West Canvey Marshes.  As well as my Father,  Uncle Iain came too.  We didn't leave until after eleven as some people came round to my Grandmother Amy's to fix her television.  It was very misty when we arrived and I had to use shutter-speeds under 1/320th of a second, which is horrible to work with.  In and around the car park and play area we saw Meadow Pipits, a Pied Wagtail, Chaffinches and my first confirmed sightings of a Fieldfare this season!
In the first hide there was little to be seen; most of the Water-fowl was up the other end of the water, and looking through my scope I managed to find a Med Gull!  It was super distant but I could see the distinguishing features: all white wings and heavier red bill.
On the way around to other parts of the reserve I saw this Robin who made quite a nice image against the mist.

Also seen: Kestrel which Iain spotted, a flock of c.50 Stock Dove, a Little Egret, Blackbird and then as we were walking along the the path my father pointed out a small bird on the fence. I looked through my scope and was surprised to see a male Stonechat! (Life tick!) He was constantly flicking his wings and tail before diving into the reeds.  After he disappeared we carried on and then a Stonechat popped up just ten feet away - this was a female!  The pictures are rubbish due to low light, but I am pleased to have seen them!

                                                       Male note: black head

Also in one of the fields my Father pointed out a huge bird  on top of a tree, looking through his Binos' I thought Buzzard but, looking through my scope showed it to be a corvid (of the crow family).  Today I posted it on the Bird-Forum and had it confirmed as a Raven!

We carried on until we came to the Sea Wall, which was a bit disappointing because it certainly looked more like marsh than the Sea!  We walked along and saw a hovering Kestrel which I could tell was a male due to his blue/grey head, the female has a brown head.  He landed on a wire but was too far to get a decent image.  Carrying on the Kestrel kept taking off hovering and landing again on the wire, this he kept doing every time we moved, odd for a Kestrel to follow us!

By now Iain was a long way ahead and as we continued to walk he flushed a Pheasant which flew into a field.  I then noticed as the pheasant flew in,  he himself flushed something; I only got a glimpse but I called it: "Short-Eared Owl!" Despite my best efforts my Father couldn't see it, Iain came back to see what I was calling him for and then we were all treated to fabulous views of the bird which confirmed that it was a Short-eared Owl!  And there were at least two!  One of them flew up quite high and flew towards us showing amazingly! This was also a Life Tick!  I was extremely pleased to see these wonderful birds so well!

On the way back it started to rain so we went quickly to the last hide (the one close to the car park).  We got a lot of day ticks from here including a hunting Heron, who caught a tiny fish and I managed to find a Common Sandpiper!
Altogether a great day with two life ticks putting me up to 127 in my life list.  On the reserve we saw 40 species of bird!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

A Patch First

Late yesterday afternoon we went to the Park for a quick stroll around the lake.  The light was fantastic so I got out the camera and took a fair few images.  Taking pictures in interesting light is enjoyable but getting the shutter-speeds right can be difficult.
As we were walking around the lake a small raptor which I believe was a Sparrowhawk gunned past over the lake at waist level before going up into a tree, we had a look but couldn't see him.

There were also a couple of Mistle Thrushes up in the trees and as we were approaching the gate to leave I saw something tiny flitting around the tree tops, I believe it was a Pipistrelle Bat due to its tiny size, it was seen at 16:25.  I am surprised that it was not in hibernation in mid-November. A first for he patch!  I manage a shot without flash but it was only about 5 pixels  big, so I won't post it!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Patch Records...

After a Fireworks party last night I was not up until 8:50!  I mean thats almost the latest I've been up all year, any way I went to the park some time after ten.  First thing of interest was a male Sparrowhawk soaring up above being mobbed by a Carrion Crow and a Black-headed Gull.  I do not know why birds bigger than them like the gull, mob hawks, a female Sprawk can only take prey up to Wood Pigeon size, and the male is much smaller so why would a gull attack him?
The lake held a nice surprise, a Cormorant on one of the boats in the middle of the lake.  Also: Black-headed Gulls, Common Gulls and Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

At the feeder stations I saw two Collared Doves which made nice photos.  For this image I was only part the way zoomed in and used a fairly slow shutter; around 320/1

Also I came across this cheeky wee Squirrel,  he came right up to my tripod when I was right next to it and sniffed my scope!
Maybe he/she wants to buy one?  It would be helpful to spy out bird-food!

My record number of bird species for one trip to the patch is 28 which I set last week, today I got 27, missing out some usuals like: Jackdaw and Grey Wagtail,  hopefully I will soon get 30!

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