Thursday 4 April 2013

Bank holiday and a Penduline Tit.

    I've been stuck indoors for the last few weeks decorating, the camera put to one side its been full steam
    ahead with the paint brush and rollers. I think I am losing the plot somewhere but I am sure if it had have
    been better weather I would have been out in the country air doing what I do best, enjoying it. This bank
    holiday weekend I ventured out into the cold in search of the White Spotted Bluethroat which had taken
    up residence at Samphire Hoe. I had three mornings there seeing it on each occasion but rarely getting a
    photo opportunity. However, at least the tea hut was open. It was absolutely freezing in the cold north
    easterly wind but a few hours on each visit was spent none the less. Sunday morning Steve Ashton picked
    me up early and we had intended to go to Dungeness however with sunshine on the forecast we again
    headed for the hoe. On arrival we soon found the Bluethroat feeding along a newly dug trench. It was
    difficult trying to get a picture because it was in and out the trench and only briefly sitting up. More people
    arrived and the bird disappeared, we soon followed as it was so cold and headed along the path below
    the cliffs towards Folkstone. We watched a pair of Peregrines put on a stunning display high in the sky,
    climbing to tremendous heights then diving using the wind and aerodynamics to the best of  their
    advantage, simply stunning to see. We sheltered at the path end where there was a small wall. The flask
    of hot tea was most welcome whilst we watched a few Rock Pipits. Stonechat, Chiffchaff and a possible
    Tree Pipit were also noted. We made our way back against the wind it was a real battle and on arrival
    at the car decided to go to St Margarets where there was a male Bluethroat seen earlier. Joined by Mike
    Gould the three of us found the dung heap where the bird had been spotted but it was not visible. Apart
    from two Green Woodpeckers not a lot was seen, neither of us had a photo to show for the day,
    frustrating or what, especially as the sun was out. I was off work Tuesday morning so with the sun shinning
    again (that's twice this year) I headed for Stodmarsh and the long staying Penduline Tit. Again meeting
    Steve we enjoyed the sun and good views of the bird.  A few pictures were obtained and I also noted
    three Chiffchaff a stunning Cetti;s Warbler, two Blue Tits and a great view of a soaring Marsh Harrier
    looking magnificent against the blue sky.
                                                        White Spotted Bluethroat.   (female)      

                                                                               Penduline Tit.

      This is only my second blog of the year its a bit slow I know but if a few more photo opportunities come
      about there will be more. I did have a close encounter with a Slavonian Grebe back in January, again
      dull weather played a big part with the photos I obtained.

                                                                       Slavonian Grebe.

Friday 18 January 2013

A New Start With Winter Up The Woods

I thought I had better make a start with the blog as January is nearly half way through. Ive decided as its
 the first for the new year that I would change the blog title.  I have been to Stodmarsh a few times not seeing much of note except for two different female Hen Harriers and a Bittern close in by the reed bed hide. Its been so muddy in fact the path to the marsh hide has been just passable. The camera didn't come out of the bag as the sky's were so grey so it was back to the woods to try for some action with the woodland birds. Much the same as my last photos but I will share them anyway. First up is the Marsh Tit, my favourite by far, although it would take second place if  I could only locate Willow Tits locally. I watched them regularly back in the 80,s.

                                                                          Marsh Tit..

                                                                        Marsh Tit.

                                                                           Marsh Tit.

     I've visited the woods two or three times this year hoping for the sun to shine but as usual on arrival the
     sun has disappeared making exposure tricky. For me the Coal Tit is the hardest to capture as the whites
     can easily over expose and they are extremely skittish.

                                                                              Coal Tit.  

                                                                          Coal Tit.

                                                                            Coal Tit.

        As said earlier I once knew where Willow Tits could be seen and I have managed to find an old  photo
       of one back in the 80s. .A characteristic of Willow Tits is they bore out rotten stumps for their nest site      
       as this pair had done to nest in along with several other pairs in a lose colony.Sadly this top woodland
        bird is now extinct locally.

                                                                     Willow Tit.
      Next up is the Great Tit , there were several on the go they are another tricky one to get right with the
                                                                         Great Tit.
                                                                           Great Tit.

       Two Blue Tit shots next, such  colourful birds  that we take for granted,  hopefully it won't be to long
       before we hear the sound of them  as they start to sort out their territories.      

                                                                              Blue Tit.

                                                                         Blue Tit.

     This Chaffinch joined in the fun it seemed huge against the smaller Tits and was happy to pose for the

      This woodland beauty was a joy to watch and for a while it came to gather seeds and nuts and I could
      see where it was stashing them. I can;t take to many Nuthatch photo's they are fantastic to watch.


       And so there you are that is what I have been up to, nothing exciting but several enjoyable hours away
       from the rat race. Not a lot different from my last blog from 2012 and  no doubt I will be back up the
      woods for more very soon.

Thursday 27 December 2012

A woodland challenge.

This time of the year I really enjoy the challenge of photographing our woodland species. With all the leafs now down maximum light can reach the camera sensor especially if the sun should poke its nose through the ever present cloud. For me bright sun light is not the best, shadows off the branches etc giving another angle of difficulty,but without doubt using the canon 7d the more light I can get is most welcome as I do not like high iso results that the 7d produces, even at close range. The challenges presented in the woods test us well with the conditions constantly changing and even when taking lots of shots the majority of them end up in the bin for one reason or another.

        Several Blue Tits could be found amongst the woodland birds,there were numerous Great Tits as well.
        They did not stay still, chances to catch them with the camera were few and far between.

           Coal Tits are even quicker, they are a rapid fire with the camera job and hope you capture a shot
           somewhere within the burst.    

                                                                             Coal Tit.

      The Marsh Tit in the picture below for me is my favourite, you can see the diference between them and
      the Coal Tit above. In the above picture you can see the white patch on the back of the Coal Tits head.

       Here is a few more shots of this little gem of the woods. I've not yet got the shot that I want but I will
       keep at it however long it takes.

     Finally everyone's woodland favourite the Nuthatch. There are a couple that we see regularly and at times
     show well. You need a fast shutter speed for these unless you are really lucky.

       Well I probably won't have time this year for another blog so I wish you a Happy New Year and may it  
                                                            stop raining and the sun shine.

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!!