Friday, 22 March 2013

Night Time Photography

Since January every time I go to my Grandmothers for the night I put out food, set up the camera and wait.  For once it was not a bird but a mammal I was waiting for: a Fox.  The first night I caught a glimpse of it at the end of the garden.  This was when we got heavy snow and I couldn't get back so I stayed another night and this time we were successful.  The only reason this was possible is because there's an outside light which is set off by movement.  It is a nice way to photograph wildlife -although the shots are never great- as you can sit down eating your dinner etc while you're waiting!
 The snow was great as it made the image even brighter, but after then I struggled to get anything.
 Also, when I tried the flash it got white eyes and, as I didn't want to hurt its eyes,  I stopped using it.

I tried various other techniques; using an old 200mm f3.5 SLR and adapter, but the adapter seems to add f1.4 and the lens is MF not AF, so the results were terrible.  The next idea I had -this was last time I was there- was to use the Tamron 70-300mm f4-5.6, although the quality is not brilliant, at f4 it works quite well in low light, but a 1/10 shutter-speed was used with ISO 800.  Despite the slow shutter I got my best mammal shot yet, and it was through a window!

The area my grandmother lives in is suburban and quite 'well off', so it was very healthy looking, and as my grandmother stated 'He has a teddy bear face!'

I am hoping he/she finds a mate and brings cubs to the garden later in the year, one of her neighbours had two cubs in daylight in their garden last year!

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Waxwings Again...

Had a stroll through Hyde Park again today.  We went the same way as last time and yet again there were Lesser-back-backed Gulls close enough to photograph, but this time they were showing some interesting behaviour.  One had caught a Feral Pigeon and brought it into the water where it was trying to kill it, for the pigeon was still alive.  The large gull came closer to the shore with its catch and soon the unfortunate pigeon had died. The Lesser black-backed shared its meal with its mate who seemed equally to enjoy it.

We moved, on crossing the bridge to have a look at the owls, who of course didn't show.  As we walked over the bridge I noticed this odd coloured Great-crested Grebe.  The orange around the head extended to the beak and over the eye, whereas a typical G-c Grebe would have a white patch here.  This bird also had a large crest, and the underside was a darker colour than usual, any ideas?

After looking for the owls I noticed a few crows collecting nesting material, one of them dropped his load and started cawing, so I decided to try and get a shot.  Where I set up (well sat down, I didn't have a tripod with me) I could fit the whole crow in the frame, but with some patience the crow approached so that only its head would fit in frame.

As Waxwings will soon be leaving the country we decided to have another crack at them. 17 had been reported at Forest Gate this morning, so off we went, and I know I keep doing this but if you are in any doubt about me not being a twitcher, please read this, as for one I know my cousin still thinks I am, despite having twitched a Spoonbill and Ring-necked Duck himself.
 We arrived and yet again no Waxwings, we waited a while and still nothing, so we decided to walk around the block of houses where they were meant to be.  As we were walking I thought that I had heard a Waxwing over the din of traffic, we looked around but I couldn't be certain if that was, I then turned round and what was in the tree behind us?  30-35 Waxwing!  My second sighting this year, and the first with a DSLR.  Admittedly they were not very good for photography, sitting high up in a Silver Birch
I noticed that they were feeding on the buds of the birch.  Having only heard of them eating berries and fruit I thought this was quite strange.  In the quite long time that we were there they only visited the berry bushes twice - annoyingly these were behind a ten or so foot high wall.

All in all a good day with some interesting behaviour noted, this included some Dunnocks at Moulsecoomb station: While waiting for a train I spotted two Dunnocks having a scrap on the other platform, they then flew over to our side, one landing on the platform not far off, before being chased by who I assume to be the alpha male.  They then flew behind us into the vegetation where they were followed by who I reckon was a female, the 'beta' male started singing close by while the alpha watched on.

Monday, 11 March 2013

A Wee Bit Early

Yesterday on my way down to Brighton my father and I had an enjoyable 30-40 minute walk around Hyde Park/Kensington gardens looking for Red-crested Pochard which are apparently 'tick-able', and if you want to call me a twitcher for doing so read This.  They they are not 'Plastic' a term I have only learnt recently, actually these Pochards are the only reason I've heard of it.  Horribly dull lighting so shutter-speeds of around 1/160 were the most frequently used.  Luckily the birds here are relatively tame, so I didn't risk to much camera shake without a tripod.
 The Red-crests are on the other side to where I usually walk when we visit, so it was all relatively new to me.
 Most of the Black-headed Gulls were already in there spring plumage reminding me how badly named they are, because they actually have brown heads, the Med Gull would deserve the name better.
 I also had an extremely close encounter with a Lesser-black-backed Gull, this species which usually sits far out on lakes when I'm around taking photos came within about 8-9 foot!  Luckily I was lying down by the side of the water so I didn't have to move to get a better angle and let it come to me.  Although it is not quite as big as its cousin the Greater black-backed Gull, it is still a majestic species, especially when seen at close quarters.

As we walked along I noticed two Black-headed Gulls calling loudly and strutting about, judging the behavior of them I would suggest courtship, and when another bird tried to join in it was driven off.

When we reached the Serpentine Island we managed to locate two pairs of Red-Crested Pochards, one of which gave an amazingly close swim-by.  They have incredible colours, and the male has some what of a quiff, hence my nickname for them 'Elvis Ducks', do you see it?  Probably not.

So that was my 150th life-tick, two months and ten days into 2013, that was my goal for the end of the year, I will have to change it to 175.  My year-list has stalled a little, at 116.  But when the migrants start arriving I should quickly get up to the 120-130 region, with all the more common migrants like Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and a few other warblers, Swifts, hirundines, Wheatear etc...

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Not a Twitcher

Despite having done what many would class as a twitch, I still stand by the fact that I am whole-heartedly not a Twitcher.  Let me explain: every 'twitch' -if you must- has not been because of the rarity of the bird but the looks.  Lets take for example the Buff-bellied Pipit, mega-rare, but quite dull in plumage, did I go to see it? No.  Ones I have 'twitched', Waxwing, Spoonbill (dipped twice), Bearded Tits, a small and oddly charming bird, and showing as well as they were, a rare sight, and good for photography.  The only one I can be contradicted on would be the Baillon's Crake, but that could be a once in a life-time opportunity.
 Now I do understand 'twitching', but I think that it takes a lot of the enjoyment out of birdwatching.  Say you travel hundreds of miles for some monster-rarity, you don't see it, you go home disappointed.  Don't get me wrong I have nothing against Twitchers, quite the opposite, for they have an incredible knowledge of birds and often help you find things you would have never noticed, say my first White Wagtail, Black-necked Grebe, the list is a long one.
 Now the reason this subject came to mind is because on Friday I went to see the Slavonian Grebe at Walthamstow reservoirs.  A twitch?  Well to me a bird of immense charm, the red eye, and quite plain but pleasant black-and-white plumage.  But does that justify it?  It is personal choice.  If you wan't to be a twitcher then so be it but I am not a Twitcher.

 Back to the Slavonian Grebe.  We -Iain, father and I- had an enjoyable few hours at Walthamstow reservoirs.  It didn't take long to find the Slavonian Grebe, and with a bit of patience it came close enough for record shots, and was enjoyable to watch, funny having them show better than any Great-crested this year!  And another lifer.

We then moved on to Lockwood reservoir which was a 15 minute walk away.  After walking along the left-hand side for a half-hour we were almost at the end.  On the gravel at the end of the reservoir were some sleeping ducks,  a few of which from a distance I guessed were Pintail, but when I got closer I saw that they were actually Goosander!  Life-tick 2!  Putting my life-list on 149 (one more til the magic 150) and my year-list on 115.

The Goosanders flew off, all except one, who stayed out in the middle.  We walked around the right-hand side, a female Goldeneye, a pair of Great-crested Grebe and a Carrion Crow eating a dead fox, yum!

 We then went to the Waterworks Nature reserve to look for Bitterns, yet again none showed, but I did see a Snipe, a fox and heard a Chiffchaff.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Ireland Part 2

Another long post I'm afraid, although I now know that some of you enjoy longer posts.  So to all who do this post will hopefully be to your liking.
 On the fourth day we went to Cos Strand.  There were 9 of us going and it was a clear, bright day.
  Cos Strand as I mentioned in my Forth Coming Trip to Ireland blog-post, is good when it comes to waders.  Of course it is nothing like Norfolk or any of those wader hotspots. but it is the best place I have been for these tricky birds.
 The tide was out, and luckily I was wearing wellies, as there was not a wader in sight.  So out over the mud it was, and when I finally got to the waters edge I could see waders.  Before I started my approach I checked what was there; Oystercatcher, Redshank, Ringed Plover and Dunlin.  As I approached the first three obviously took off, despite my best efforts.  Luckily though the Dunlin stayed, but I was still too far out to photograph them.  As I got closer I noticed a couple of Turnstone's, their cryptic camouflage had deceived me.  The Dunlin flew off...but who stayed?  Nope no one; the two Turnstone flew off.  As I was about to walk back to the shore I noticed another Turnstone on the other side of a pool (or at least I don't think it was one of the last two), I quietly approached, keeping low so as not to seem big and - success! It didn't fly off and I had a great time photographing it for about twenty minutes.  One explanation for this could be that it was in moult and so could not fly, so any time that I thought the bird looked a bit concerned about my presence, I would back off a little bit.

Around the rest of the beach we saw more Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Redshank, Greenshank, a Turnstone, a Little Egret, a Grey Plover sped past.  But no more photographic opportunities.
 So back to the others and as we were sitting there one of our number pointed out a large bird flying over, and what do you reckon that was - Buzzard? Red kite?  Nope,a White-tailed Sea Eagle!  And my best views yet!  It just circled over allowing plenty of opportunity for record shots, as the underside of a B.O.P. is never an amazing image.

I got slightly sharper images but picked this one as it shows the head of this majestic bird better.  So another great day out and my year-list is now 106.
 Next day was the biggest outing though as my aunt Addie kindly drove us to Cromane!  An hours drive away.
  When we arrived a quick scan of the beach, and a small flock of Black-tailed Godwits could be distantly seen.
 Walking out on the beach as the tide was out we could see Brent Geese and eventually managed to get close to them.  Red-breasted Mergansers were in good numbers, about eleven.  Great-northern Divers, a Shag, Oystercatcher, Curlew, and a life-tick; a flock of Bar-tailed Godwits flew over!

On the way back to the car to try and find the Spoonbill I took a diversion across a field to see what was there, and was rewarded with some Meadow Pipits!

We then drove a bit further on to an inlet where the tide was out so far that a large boat was grounded.  A small lake was the only water left, and there were hundreds of gulls!  Caleb was looking through the scope and thought that he might have had a white-winger, so we walked on a bit and a large white-winged gull took off and flew away before coming back to the water!  The gull was a Kumlien's, and probably the rarest bird I have seen!  Taking my life-list to 147!
 A great bird!  It is always a thrill to see a white-winged Gull, and especially as this is only my second species!

We had a look for the Spoonbill but with no luck.  We accidentally flushed a couple of Snipe as well, so another year-tick taking my year-list to 113.

 On Wednesday, my last full day in Ireland, Caleb and I got a lift to Kenmare and walked to the beach again.
 The tide was way out again but nothing new to be seen.  Before heading to Caleb's patch I decided to have a quick look for Rock Pipits and Redpoll.  The moment I left the pier and started walking a small bird flew towards me and landed on the beach, a Lesser Redpoll, it showed incredibly!  About 15 foot away completely oblivious to our presence.  When it finally flew away we sneaked up on it once more and this time got within 7 foot!  Unfortunately I didn't manage a photo at this distance.
 Another annoying factor about litter is clearly obvious in this image, spoilt or what?

So an extremely fun and successful trip, lots of photos which I wouldn't have been able to get round where I live, 5 life ticks and 24 year-ticks.  Hopefully I will be going back later this year.
 Did this live up to your expectations of a long post?  Or should it have been longer?

Friday, 1 March 2013

Ireland part 1

Having just returned from an eventful week in Ireland, I thought I would get started on the blog-post, as it will take a while.  As fitting it all into one would be just a 'little' too long, I thought I would split it up.  So part one.

 I arrived last Thursday, and by the time I got to my Grandma's land I had two year-ticks; Rook and Hooded Crow.
 Next day we went to Ross Castle, before we left out however I had a quick look around the land and found a male and female Bullfinch.
  In typical Irish fashion it was a dull day, amazingly though no rain!  Walking through the forest we saw Treecreepers and Goldcrests, unfortunately, as you most likely know, both these birds are not likely to be found sitting still, so with high ISO (as usual) and slow shutter-speeds I obviously didn't have much chance of a good photo, I did though put all my effort in, and guess what the results were...terrible.  But more than making up for this, while chasing after a Goldcrest my cousin Caleb showed me a picture he had just taken of a duck out on the loch, I immediately identified it as a drake Scaup and quickly got him to show it to me.  It was frustratingly un-photogenic.  Sleeping almost the whole time, but still a great find and life-tick!

  We walked all the way from here to the river where I had seen Dippers last time, the 'Domain' I think?
  Walking along we saw Red Deer on the other side of the river, yet again, why does the weather have to be dull?  Too slow a shutter-speed, but I carried on taking photo's nonetheless.  This Stag is my favourite, I positioned the tree here on purpose to give a feeling of the wood in which he stood.  As well as two Stags there were a few Does and Fawns.

We walked as far down the river as we could without seeing any Dippers, but on the way back I spotted one on a log on the other side of the river, so 30-40 foot away.  It flew off before I could get anything good, or well, as the weather would permit, decent, and went back down the river the way we had come.  Caleb and I were given five minutes to photograph them.  When we arrived there were two Dippers.  Both too far out in the river to photograph well.  Soon one flew off under one of the bridges and out of sight, the other did then come closer, but I had the camera settings set for under the cover of the bank so the images were over-exposed.  When it eventually came into the middle and I had the settings set right its head kept blurring.  When this flew off and landed under the bridge we tried to sneak up and get a close up.  When we got onto the bridge and looked down we couldn't at first see anything.  But then we saw one below us with a beak full of moss! It landed under the bridge and then flew up beneath it to a nest to leave its precious cargo.

I know that there are a lot of Dipper images circulating at the moment, but mine's not from Thetford so don't complain.

 The next day I went with Caleb to Kenmare Pier and his patch for about 5 hours birding.  My aunt and uncle have  shop in Kenmare (Bath and Crafts), they gave us a lift there, and we walked the rest of the way.
  Not long after arriving Caleb called me to have a look at something he had found in his scope (my old scope which I gave to him for his 16th birthday), this turned out to be a Red-breasted merganser! Life-tick, and then a Great-northern Diver!  So far three life-ticks in two days.  Other birds at the Pier were: Curlew, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Rock Pipit, a possible Redpoll, Grey Heron and Wigeon.
  We then went to his patch and one of the first birds we saw was a Greenshank!  We walked around to get to the highlight of his patch; Robins.  I know we all see Robins at our local parks/patches, but these are slightly different.  When we arrived I stayed back a bit and lay down flat on the ground to get eye-level shots.  Caleb then turned over a couple of rocks and Sand Fleas were jumping everywhere.  In just a short while a Robin landed and started eating, it actually seemed interested in us. And indeed was curious about my shutter, cocking its head to one side and listening. There were occasionally two Robins, usually one would chase out the other, but at one point while I was photographing one the other snuck up to about a foot away!  So close I could see the insects wriggling in its beak.

As there did not seem to be much else here, we headed back to Kenmare Pier, as we were passing by the Robin area we saw three Lesser Redpoll feeding in the driftwood.  One of them -clearly a male- had a lovely  reddy hue to his breast as well as his head.
 As we were approaching the Pier we noticed a Great-northern Diver near the end.  A quick rush was rewarded with my closest views yet, but still to far off for anything decent in light like this.  It was soon swimming off, and after a long dive popped up a long way off.

Along the beach were more Redpolls and Rock Pipits, strangely one of which  landed in a tree!
 The third day was spent photographing at my grandma's feeders.  The highest numbers I managed to count of each species are this: 6 Coal Tit, 3 Great Tit, 2 Blue Tit, 10+ Chaffinch, 5 Goldfinch, 2 Greenfinch, 2 Siskin, 2 Robins, Blackbird and 3 Dunnocks.  The species I put most effort into photographing was the Coal Tit, as around where I live they are not very common, so to have them as one of the tamest birds on the feeders was an excellent opportunity.  I set up a perch, and because they wouldn't use it as a stop off point between feeders I had to put seed on it.  The birds were very flighty at the shutter, but occasionally I got lucky and a few hours or so out doors got some decent results.

So there is part one of my Ireland trip, and like my last couple of posts it is horribly long, so hopefully you will not be to bored by it.  If you like long-posts then you will love part two, three more trips out and two more lifers!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...