Monday, 25 May 2020

On this Day (May 25th)... Red Footed Falcon

May 25th 2008 - location Ingleby - this was a lifer, I'd forgotten my big lens but what the heck.... Memories are made of this!

So there we were, Mike Stokes and myself, at the edge of this ploughed field in the depths of Derbyshire. And there was this gorgeous little stunner of a Falcon, sat in the middle of the field some 150m distant, wondering just what the hell she was doing there!! A North Easterly gale was blowing, the drizzle was horizontal - was this really the end of May, it felt like winter!!

My motto - never ever birding without a camera. I had gone to get the gear from the boot - camera yes, big lens no! I was gutted but just by luck, the baby lens bag was there. Now, to some folk the 300mm f2.8 lens is not really a baby but it is in terms of reach. I was faced the reality - I was about to find out whether the 300mm with 2x extender combination can compare with the 500mm?? (A favourite topic in the forums!!)

Trouble was, either lens was always going to struggle at that distance.... We waited nearly two hours before she decided it was time to chase an insect or two and move closer! She did and eventually but briefly, it was down to 50 metres.....










A quick dash and a beetle or two met an untimely end....








The taste for food was on and from then on, it was short bursts of activity every 10 - 15 mins. Flight shots against the field background were extremely tricky....












The weather was deteriorating and we decided it was time to head back to the car (nearly a mile away!) Sensing this change too, the Red-foot proceeded to take hunting seriously mixing short glides with Kestrel like hovers - fantastic to watch!








The moments were recorded, given the weather conditions and distance, they are decent record shots. But when that perennial question comes up on the photo-forums - 500mm or 300m + 2x kit? The 300mm 2.8 is a fantastic lens, possibly Canon's finest but (as far as I'm concerned) you need the birds close enough to use without the converter - especially for flight!

Now then, a bit of a celebration was needed! We called into the corner shop in the first village and in true TSB style sought out the cakes - would you believe it - Tunnocks Marshmallows - the box didn't last long!!!

Sunday, 24 May 2020

On this Day (May 24th) 2017 - Ring Ouzel

May 24th 2017 on Cairngorm - If you can't get to the birds, sit down and let them come to you!

A painful Achilles tendon had scuppered any chance of walking Cairngorm this year but I was determined to have a minor wander on the lower slopes with hopes of a Ring Ouzel or two? This male was busy feeding on a grassy slope and kept me occupied for a while, trying to capture what he was eating?

Sit quiet and her he comes...


Sprinting after an 'unseen' small insect!


Gotcha!



Then a pretty one sided tug of war with a worm!


Hmm, this saves catching another 50 of those flies?


Safely down the hatch...


The Ptarmigan can wait another year...

Saturday, 23 May 2020

On this Day (May 23rd) - 2015 Hen Harrier

Mull is an amazing place for Hen Harriers - May 23rd 2015...

What better way to bid farewell to Mull? Another brief Hen Harrier image opportunity - a hunting female.....








Amazing birds......It's not the best image of a distant male but I'll finish with a sight we should be enjoying over upland moors throughout the UK!


Speyside here I come!

Friday, 22 May 2020

On This Day (May 22nd)... 2010 Anglesey

One of my then 'annual trips to Anglesey a decade ago....

I always try and get a day on Anglesey during May to check out the popular sites, celebrate some overdue obligatory year ticks and generally have a good day’s birding! Yvonne thought it would be a good day out too…..

A late decision to take in ‘Worlds End’ got the day rolling with a good number of Black Grouse eventually on view, somewhat distant but the highlight – a group of nine males lekking made good viewing through the scopes.

First stop on Anglesey was Fedw Fawr – I don’t get lost anymore in this neck of the woods as I’ve invested in a new means of transport and travel in by sea!!






Not sure whether the two Black Guillemot seen here were impressed by this though……








South Stack was hard work, seabird numbers appeared ‘down’ to me and the higher crevices normally holding good numbers of Kittiwake and Fulmar were quite barren! Just two Puffin were found after a lot of seacrching from the lighthouse steps. The lower cliffs held 100's of Guillemot and Razorbill as ever though with a few Fulmar and Kittiwake on the wing plus Gannets out to see. Given the calm conditions, we didn’t expect to see Manxies and this proved to be the case! Chough put in a late appearance, just as we were beginning to wonder where they were hiding!!

We got to Cemlyn at about 2.00, it was stiff with Terns and at least 800 Sandwich Terns have been counted in with up to a hundred Arctic Tern and Common Tern. The blue skies and direct sun meant that Terns flying in from the sea gave the only possible angle for photography! Never mind, we eventually coped with the tricky light – here’s all three species….

Sandwich Tern, plenty of fish in the sea, small or large.....










Arctic Tern....










Common Tern.....










The time seemed to slip away like crazy and we suddenly realised at 6.00 that we still had a bit more travelling, back in North Wales, to do to catch up with one more species….. Little Tern at Gronant!

They were doing quite nicely too! A huge area of the beach has been roped off and 300 odd Little Terns were busy pairing up, dangling fish for all they were worth, trying to attract a partner! With the light fading, one or two record flight shots…..








A spat with the local Ringed Plovers provided useful comparison - just hown small Little Terns are!






Here's one very obliging Ringed Plover……






It certainly had terned out nice....

Thursday, 21 May 2020

My Garden Pond - Large Red Damselfly

What a start! After absolutely no Damselflies at all during the past month, a pair of Azure Damsels yesterday and now a pair of Large Red Damselfly show up! These are always the first Damsel species to emerge but they have taken their time to get to me!

These are easy to identify in Shropshire. They are the only 'likely' red coloured damsel in the county but watch this space, one day there may be small reds?

Coupling in the 'tandem' position they were flitting from flower to various leafy perches...







Before egg laying commenced!


Hmm, that's not a good idea - the eggs may perish in the heat of the sun!


But yes, success here - underneath the lily pads will do nicely! Here's hoping for a 'hatch' of my own in 2021?

 

As if to say "Do you mind"!



 As ever, there's more at The Hobby Good Food Guide


On this day (May 21st)... 2009 - Turtle Dove!

Hmmm. Turtle Doves, those were the days! 21st May 2009 was to be the last day I witnessed a Turtle Dove in the County! Here's the original blog bringing in some other locations... 

A useful encounter with a Turtle Dove in the Upton Magna area brought up the County 150 mark. Time will tell but I think last years tally is likely to be out of reach unless something spectacular happens. I also have to get to grips with Sanderling, Knot and Black Tern!!!

I'll have to rewrite the Christmas song for the sake of accuracy!

Here's the Turtle Dove dropping in.....











Plus the Partridges (Red legged)....






There wasn't a pear tree in sight!








Strictly for record purposes or very clever artistic use of reeds to depict (hide) a skulking Reed Warbler at Priorslee....








Meanwhile at Venus Pool, a Green Woodpecker getting to grips with the ant problem? Every garden should have one!






The dutiful pair of Oystercatchers at VP are still sitting and instantly scramble to see off Corvids!!