Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Snippets from the year gone by.

To be able to wander into the countryside and escape the ever maddening world is a gift. Once off the beaten track I totally switch off from all that gives me grief, wind down and enjoy. Often I am able to persue my hobby with like minded friends which adds to the enjoyment. I am a  Stodmarsh regular which although can be hard going on the birding and photography front will always be special. I can remember as if it was yesterday seeing Bearded Tits when they were considered extremely rare back in the 70's.This year the weather has made it hard going for the wildlife that we strive to see, I don't think I have ever had so many soakings, the ground nesting birds have struggled to bring up their broods and many treetop nesting birds have been battered and blown from their lofty homes,  We are lead to believe its climate change. As I write this blog the wind is still blowing and its raining yet peering out of the conservatory window there are six Goldfinch and four Chaffinch on my feeders, armchair birding as I get older,no, I would need a much bigger garden with a lake, Kingfishers, Bitterns, Harriers, Owls the list would be endless. This year is rapidly coming to an end, the bird lister's out there are starting to twitch, will they beat last years total.  For me I am happy watching and photographing anything that should come to my notice. The following pictures are from some of my trips out through the year

                 The first picture was taken at Dungeness, there is a small localised colony of Tree Sparrows
                  in and around the entrance to the reserve. Being one of my favourite birds I was delighted when
                  a male House Sparrow came and posed as well. One of the rare January days that the sun shone
             This Purple Sandpiper shot although not one of my favourites is one that tells a story. On my way
              home from Dungeness with the sun still shinning and pleased with my day out I decided to stop at
              Hythe and grab a few shots of the local Purps, this I did, and after filling my boots with them I
              slipped on the rocks and crashed down with a huge thump, my camera  and lens ended up in the
              sea and I was badly bruised. I retrieved the camera and quickly removed the battery and card.
              The card with this picture was the sole survivor. For me it could not get much worse, I had just
               been made redundant and now lost all my photography gear.

      From a huge low to one of my best moments out in the field, fortunately I had my camera gear insured.
     Steve Ashton and I went for a morning trip to the cliffs at Dover. We wanted to see and if possible
     photograph a Peregrine. We could not believe it when we came across this bird, it just watched us, we
     were  able to get very close. it moved a few times, never far away. Our cameras were on fire filling
     several cards. We were on such a high. I had experienced the ups and downs life can throw at you
     with in a few weeks. Strangely the cliff where we stood taking the photos fell into the see the following

       This Grasshopper Warbler was showing well along the footpath to the west hide at oare marshes.
       It often reeled from the top of a bramble. Another very wet, dismal day, photography was hard going.
      oare marshes is another site I love to visit , especially on a summer's evening as the sun starts to go
      down sending glorious light and colours across the flood making a wonderful spectacle.

     Whilst walking through the woods at Stodmarsh I came across this young Tawny Owl, although I often
     hear Tawny Owl's in the wood I have never seen them. This one was branching out as they say and gave
    good views for a few days.

        A visit to Rhayader, mid Wales with  photography friends gave me a wonderful few days
        with the camera photographing Pied Flycatcher, Redstart and Siskin to name a few.We stayed at the
        Elan Valley Hotel which was situated along side the river Elan. We were lucky to be there on what
        was probably the only sunny dry week in Wales throughout the year, indeed the following week saw
        serious flooding. Each morning we wandered out form the hotel before breakfast along the river setting
        out at 5 am, the scenery and wildlife was stunning, Goosanders, Wood Warblers,Grey Wagtails and
       Dippers were all plentiful and of course Red Kites, Ravens and Buzzards all showed well. There were
       also Otters in the area with Steve being lucky enough to see one very close.We were well looked after
       throughout out stay at the hotel which was in a perfect location for the Red Kite feeding station,
       and Gilfac and the beautiful marteg valley.  

     After the welsh trip I slowed up with the camera catching up with the diy jobs around the house and
    garden. I had a few evening trips to the coast together with a few woodland walks but it tends to go a bit
    quite on the bird front with lots of photographers spending their time and efforts with butterflies and insects
    etc during the summer My next real trip out with the camera took me to back sands scrape at Sandwich,
     here is a location where you can get very close to waders. You need to time your visit an hour either
     side of high tide. Its a good 20 minute walk across the fields but well worth it.

    At the reed bed hide Stodmarsh we had a few weeks with a young Kingfiisher coming in to the posts in
    front of the hide. It gave a fantastic show often staying for 30 minutes or so. Attracting many people all
    the local snappers were able to fill their boots with some lovely action shots. It was great to be able to see
    them all on flickr. Sadly for one reason or another the bird disappeared after a few weeks. Whilst we
    were all there one Sunday morning a Black Necked Grebe paid a visit giving us all a splendid bonus.

     It came in close at times. I have only ever before seen them at a distance whilst at Dungeness. A few
     weeks passed and the next close encounter from the reed bed hide was a Bittern. I saw it land 30M
     or so  out in the reed bed. I waited for it to make its way to the edge of the pool. Something I have seen
     them do often. As I waited I could hear it coming through the reeds so I was able to be ready for a few
     photos before it took flight.

    The local Bittern population is boosted through the winter with visitors from the continent. This is one of
    the best hides to view these magnificent secretive birds during the winter months

     The  female Stonechat, Shorelark and Snow Bunting pictures were all taken at Reculver. there was 3
      Snow Buntings with the Shorelark and we were able to get very close. My thanks to Steve Ashton who
     contacted me to say they were showing, I had gone to Stodmarsh for Bearded Tit shots but was failing
    miserably. Reculver is well reported on the KOS web site, you never know what goodies will turn up


     The final 2 shots were taken at Sandwich. The Brambling gave me a life tick so I was delighted. It was
      taken at the observatory and the Waxwing was from stone lees where many were feeding on the berries.
      So there we are, a great year out with the camera  together with like minded friends.

                                   MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR!!


Steve Ashton said...

A splendid end of year write up Tim, even if it is a tadge bit early. There is the best part of a month to go yet, enough time left to surpass all that has been and gone earlier in the year. For me the Peregrines were special, probably one of my all time highlights since arming my self with a camera. I remember at the time of your fall, asking how can you do that, just 6 months before I went and done the same thing. Hopefully next year will see the weather behaving in a bit better fashion. You have posted some great photos here, well done. Regards Steve A.

Marc Heath said...

Lovely collection Tim and some quality images nicely showing off your skills. There has been some good stuff when you look back through the year. Maybe the next few weeks will deliver one last special bird.

Mike H said...

A great reflection on a mixed year for you Tim, I am sure that your birding highs have far outweighed your lows. You have posted some real quality photos which reflect those highs and as Steve says there is still time to get a few more ,maybe from Dover Pier and rare gulls or a close and confiding Diver or Grebe.
If I don't see you before year end have a good one and see you again to do it all over again in 2013. Best wishes Mike

Steve said...

Superb recount of the year Tim, great photos as always. Hope 2013 is kinder to you than 2012. Hope you have a great christmas and new year, all the very best Steve
It's always great to catch up with you!!

Christian said...

Love the sparrows, Tim. Great to have house and tree in one lovely shot.