Sunday, 1 May 2016

Bonny Scotland

A long weekend in Scotland was undertaken (Friday 22nd to Tuesday 26th) and although not a birding trip, the camera accompanied me for those "just in case" moments. I joined eight friends, four of whom were cycling in the etap Loch Ness, a 66 mile trek around the Loch. No mean feat after driving the course the day before the race and witnessing the steep climbs out of Fort Augustus as the cyclist returned alongside the southern side of the Loch back to Inverness. We all managed to visit Aviemore and a trip up the mountain train to the summit of the Cairngorm Mountain where we were met with a wind chill temperature of -19 C and blizzards like I have never witnessed before. To be honest, it did make the trip worthwhile, experiencing the harshness of the weather in extreme circumstances. It became apparent as to how easy it can be to be caught out on the mountain side, as some people are. A few images posted below but in truth, the camera never got a lot of wildlife action.

Loch Ness (the South Western end)

Above Fort Augustus

Deer on the top of the climb out of Fort Augustus

Song Thrush in Fort Augustus

Hooded Crow along the River Ness

Snow Buntings seen in the Cairngorm National Park

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

A trip up the M40. (Oxfordshire)

After a discussion with Tim Gutsell, it was decided on a day out to Farmoor Reservoir, just short of Oxford, where a smart looking summer suited Red-Necked Grebe had taken up residence en route back to its breeding grounds. Leaving at 5.00 am, four of us, Tim, Mike Gould, Steve Ray and yours truly arrived at Oxford services in under two hours, the early start ensuring we missed the morning madness along the M25's notorious daily rush hour trouble spots. The only excitement was deciding who was going to pay the toll on a bridge we had to cross just outside of Farmoor, with everyone offering when we found out the toll was only five pence per car. We had to chuckle, the toll money collected probably never covered the two attendant's wages for the day. Arriving at the reservoir, we walked around the perimeter when after about half a mile the Grebe was seen, fishing and looking rather smart. I have seen several Red-Necked Grebe's but this is the first time I have seen one summer suited.

The Grebe was most obliging and after a couple of hours we decided to head back towards home, stopping for lunch at the Carriers Arms in Watlington, a small village just off junction 5 of the M40. After lunch we stopped at Christmas Common and had a couple of hours with the Red Kites. They gave us some amazing photo opportunities and although we had lost the sun it was an all action affair, with Kites everywhere.

A great day out with some quality camera action thrown in. As always, thanks to Mike, Steve and Tim for the company. I feel a return for the Kites will not be too distant in the future.

Monday, 28 March 2016

A Sun Filled Good Friday.

Thursday (24th) and a quick walk along the cliff top at Foreness to the east of Margate whilst awaiting a hospital appointment alerted me to a small group of Fulmar's that were nesting along the cliff by the pumping station. Dull and dismal conditions meant no camera but a mental note was taken for a return when the sun popped out. As it happened, the next day, Good Friday (25th) saw unbroken sunshine and a delightful spring like day, so I returned with the camera. The Fulmars put on a spectacular performance showing off their aerial mastery and also giving ample photo opportunities along the way.

Click on images for full size.

Other birds seen whilst there was a very high male Hen Harrier, flying North and probably an incoming migrant crossing Thanet en route to its destination, a pair of Stonechat's, my first Migrant singing Chiffchaff of the year, several Meadow Pipits and a Song Thrush, belting out a song from a garden in Botany Bay. Taking full advantage of the warm and sunny day I moved on to Oare marshes (via a refuelling stop at home) where I stationed myself along the road that splits the two floods, waiting and chatting with other photographers in hope of the preceding day's Spoonbills returning. Alas, this was not to be but the Pintail and Black-tailed Godwits on the east flood gave me something to aim the camera at.

On a couple of occasions the Pintail would cross over to the western flood enabling a few images of these smart looking ducks (especially the Drakes) in flight.

There were two rather smart looking Mediterranean Gulls having a wash and brush up on one of the islands and a handful of photographers were waiting in the hope that they would exit the flood in our direction. Although they never came too close, with a large crop it shows just how nice they look in their breeding attire.

After waiting for what seemed an age for the tide to drop, I positioned myself ready for the departing Godwits as they left the east flood to forage for food on the newly exposed mud of the Swale, hopefully being in the line of their flight path. Eventually they began to depart but all in the opposite direction to where I was, then at last, small groups headed off out over the western flood enabling me to grab a few shots as they passed over the road between the floods. I was also able to take advantage of a low flying Grey Heron arriving onto the flood and crossing the road close to where I was standing.

As I was leaving a Barn Owl put in an appearance, capping of a fine day spent in pleasant and warm sunshine with also a few photo opportunities along the way. It's more than I can say for this morning, Easter Monday, it's blowing a hoolie and chucking it down out there.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Catching up once again.

I have not been out much, the cold North and Easterly winds have sometimes been eye watering, especially on the more exposed parts of the Kent coastline, also the cloudy and dull conditions have been far from ideal for the camera. That said, there has been a few windows of opportunity and I thought it was time I caught up with the Purple Sandpiper's at Hampton (Herne Bay) before they depart for their breeding grounds. There were two birds present and as the incoming tide swallowed the beach they were very easy to find, in the company of several Redshank.

I visited the Oare marsh nature reserve on a couple of occasions during the past few weeks  where the Pintail took star billing looking rather dapper as they went about their business. The water levels on the east flood are rather high at the moment so the wader activity was pretty poor, even the Godwit's were struggling and very low in numbers.

Short-Eared Owls have continued to be seen in various locations around East Kent and although the internet seems to be awash with SEO images of late, it's hard not to point the camera at them when they continue to show so well. It's the first time also that I have been able to get images of this species with prey; I assumed that they always went hungry, lol.

Other locations that have attracted my interest is the Restharrow scrape at Sandwich Bay, not a lot to send the pulses racing but a few ducks were close in, the drake Gadwall and Shoveller looking particularly dandy in the afternoon sunshine.

The Grove Ferry reserve where finding anything to point the camera at seems a challenge.

Also the entrance track to the reserve at Elmley on the Isle of Sheppey. This consists of approximately a mile of track leading to the reserve and is ideal for sitting in the car, hidden, and taking advantage of the birds on and out over the wet meadows.

Nothing out of the ordinary but a mixed and varied bag. No doubt the coming months will see an influx of activity as the migrants return to our shores for the breeding season. Thanks for looking.