Friday, 30 May 2008

Ruyton - Spot fly (Bee-eater)

Thought that would get your attention! Whilst everyone was getting worked up about the Cranes, this is a good time for Spotted flycatcher!! This species was voted 'best pic' from 2007 on the blog and I have a sneaking feeling that one of these may not be far away for 2008?

A 30 minute visit to a private site yielded about 15 secs of action! You learn to make the most of every fleeting chance in this game and fortunately I grabbed this one....










Shropshire - Peregrines......

Patience isn't always rewarded but several hours went into waiting for the fleeting moments provided by the next pictures! Peregrines are in the news right now thanks to the appalling actions of nameless individuals within the Midlands. They are fantastic birds and Shropshire is lucky to have seen success with their establishment......





Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Crudgington - Cornflakes and Cranes

I had a feeling something might happen today! I was up early noting the heavy rain and low cloud as I prepared a nice big bowl of cereal...

A chance of something dropped in at Venus Pool? The cereal was put to one side and a quick drive down to check things out. Apart from a bedraggled Common Tern and 4 LRPs, nothing special.

I was just going back to the car when I got a call from a somewhat animated Andy L. Crikey Jim (or words to that effect!!) got two Common Cranes near Crudgington! I agonised: back for breakfast or the Cranes, I only had 40 minutes to get there and back....

No contest in the end and I'm soooo glad I didn't have to spend the morning at work fretting whether they would stay? The camera does lie as these record shots prove! It was torrential rain and total gloom as I grabbed these.....








Shall we dance? An interesting bit of interplay before one of the twosome strutted away....










Phew, back just in time and still manage to eat my breakfast before work!! Now then, what did you see on your way to work today' - nice one Andy!!

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Ingleby - Red-footed Falcon!!

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!!!

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Shropshire - Red is the colour.....

A Bank Holiday Saturday with fine weather is a very good reason to avoid travel! I decided to stay close to home with a session around the South of the County.

First stop was Pole Cott on the Longmynd and first bird seen was indeed a surprise. I thought all the winter migrants had long gone but there scratching happily away in the turf was a Redwing!!








I had come to try and find a Whinchat, a walk down Ashes Hollow drew a complete blank except for Stonechats. Walking back, just 50m from the road, my luck changed - there sat on top of the dead bracken - a cracking female Whinchat - job done!!








If the Redwing was a surprise, a pair of Redstart at Bridges was not but they seemed intent on remaining in the canopy. The South Shropshire trip of three weeks back came flooding back to me - there was a very obliging Redstart seen by Yvonne - but could I find it again?

I could and what a stunning bird, together with a more elusive female. A young family somewhere nearby too - judging by the number of insects (and Spiders!!) which were being collected. I kept to a safe distance, sat down ignoring them - they ignored me and kept up their busy activity.....




















A male Pied Flycatcher nearby broke the monotony!!








Hmm, the roads must be clear by now - getting itchy feet and thoughts turning to Red-footed Falcons - one of them must be worth a try for a Sunday out.......

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Farne Islands - A Farnetastic day!!

Things were looking up for today - I woke up and a quick look outside revealed clear air with a brisk Northerly blowing. At least visibility would be OK, never mind the temperature!

I rang to book my place on the boat...

If you are in the area and fancy a trip out to the Farnes, I really can recommend Billy Shiel's operation. They are really friendly and well organised with a small fleet of boats and there's no pressure when booking tickets etc (this may change in high season of course!)






The harbour was looking good - the Farnes were actually visible - there was just one slight snag! The Northerly was developing a bit of a 'sea' and I was warned that landing on Staple island may not be possible. What the hell I thought, there was no way I was not going now......






I was not alone either, the boat was packed with like minded individuals although no-one seemed to be carrying the 'boatload' of gear I had with me!! We made our way out of the harbour and then caught the swell. I guess it was only a metre or so but in a small boat, it was shall we say, interesting - everyone kept their breakfast down though!








After a general tour with close views of the seabird and seal colonies, the skipper decided to attempt a landing on Staple Island. After a couple of aborted attempts to come alongside the landing steps, we finally had a sort of loose connection with land. The swell meant the landing ropes had to be loose to allow for the vertical motion and slowly but surely with masterful timing with the rise and fall we all made it off the boat (and no-one got wet!)






Everyone disappeared, not that there was far to go! I realised that on top of the cliff I was in a good spot for Puffins.....












.....especially inbound Puffins. They were just starting to sit in their burrows with some carrying in nest material - which makes a change from the classic sand eel shot!








Here's a few more representative flight shots. This was the reason I had made this trip and at the end of the day, I had to be well pleased with the results.












Puffins may be good in flight, they move pretty quickly but they are very very bad when it comes to touching down!! No grace, just a steep glide and then splat - it was not unusual for them to fall over....










Staple Island also provided a fly past by a Great Skua - brought to my attention by the screaming large gull in tow!






We rejoined the boat at lunch time and made our way to the next landing on Inner Farne. There were some great views of the Grey Seal colony on the way.....








I turned my attention to the other birds here, Razorbills for starters.






And there is nothing quite like having a Shag on a lonely windswept island is there? They were nesting within touching distance although that razor sharp bill is not to be trifled with!






Kittiwakes are one of the most endearing of resident UK Gulls. The pristine white plumage with striking black primary tips make them a scarce 'must see' inland. Here they were present in the thousands!! But yes, endearing or not, the constant Kit-ee-wake screams do grind you down after a bit!!






Terns - Arctic and Sandwich here in flight.....








Fulmars may not may not have elegance and none seemed to be nesting just yet but there were plenty of flight opportunities to catch these stiff winged masters of effortless glide.....










An Arctic Skua flew by, mugging a Tern but this was overshadowed by a mean moment I sadly missed. A Bonxie, probably the same one I saw on Staple, took on, killed, then proceeded to feast on a Herring Gull!! (I really did wish those lucky witnesses hadn't told me)

It was over all too soon and time to head back to Seahouses. Time then for the local post sailing ritual - a bag of fresh hot Doughnuts!!






Then more calories to follow - fresh fish and chips!! The gym will be beckoning when I return home, to shed a pound or two!!

It was truly, a Farnetastic day......