Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Supercharged Mini-Predator

I was out the other day looking for some birds to photograph and it was fairly quiet with little showing. The corner of my eye caught some movement in some rocks that had been used to make a sea defence wall. That movment was an actively hunting weasel. My encounters with weasel in the past have always been without a camera in hand and been a brief glimpse as one has shot across a road like a hotdog sausage strapped to a rocket. This too was a fairly short meeting and the speed of this hunting animal was quiet remarkable and coupled with the terrain, made for some difficult photography.
Don't let this 'happy face' and their small size fool you as this is one very efficient and active predator. As they have such a high metabloic rate, which is well reflected in their movements, they have to eat a lot of prey in a day to prevent rapid starvation.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Local Wanderings

I have spent some time recently on my local patch photographing the local residents and some of the migrants as they are arriving. Male kestrels always seem to avoid me so I was pleased when this one decided to hover near by before it made a low and close fly-by.
I constantly find myself drawn back to the skylarks. It is such a pleasant experience just to watch these birds when lying in some grass close-by and observing their behaviour. I have had some birds within 10ft.Some pre-flight checks and getting ready for take-offBefore fluttering upwards for several hundred feet in song (in this case towards the sun)whilst being watched by your competitiors on the ground below.Linnet are such difficult birds to approach and photograph and usually disappear long before you can anyhere close to them. Spring seems to offer some of the best opportunities to get any shots as they perch on the coastal gorse.
Good numbers of Northern Wheatear are continuing to pass through and offer the occasional photo opportunity.Reedbeds are always worth looking over at this time of the year, although never easy to get photos especially if there is a breeze blowing the stems around. The reed bunting are looking at their best and the numbers of warblers are increasing.
Sedge warbler

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Avocets and Godwits
I dropped into Marshside while passing the other day. There was a reasonable amount of bird activity in front of the hide but the light was not at its best. I was hoping there would be numbers of Black-tailed godwit there but the most numerous birds were avocets. Avocets are entertaining to watch and if they are not squabbling amongst themselves or with other birds, they tend to be mating!!
The prelude to mating.Shortly followed by.......
In a brief moment of sunshine
A Common Snadpiper also put in a brief appearance. A difficult bird to photograph as they never seem to stop in their foraging along the water's edge.
A couple of Black-tailed godwits were present and keeping a good distance between each other. Superb looking birds in their summer plumage.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Rare Visitor From the North
Ross's Gull are usually found up in the high Arctic and are a rare visitor to the UK shores. I am not usually one for chasing after rare birds but an adult bird was being reported about an hour's drive north in Lytham St Annes which was close enough to go and check out. I travelled up with my friend Steve and our timing was perfect in terms of the tide. The bird was relatively easy to find by the group of bird watchers and photographers gathered close by.
The bird was quite unconcerned by the crowd and continued feeding on tiny flies around the shore.I must admit that I did not notice the slight pink tinge to its breast feathers until I got the photos back on the computer at home. Probably one of the most attractive gulls I have seen on my travels.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

First Light Birding

It was a struggle to drag myself out of bed this morning for an early start, especially as the light outside was not looking too good. I headed up to a local small reedbed on the coast at Red Rocks which is quite a good spot for migrants passing through. I spent a short while there without much success. So decided to explore a new area further down the Dee estuary. Shortly after arriving I received a text alert on my mobile that a Black Redstart had been spotted from where I had just left and so headed back.

I couldn't find the Black Redstart but did find a Chiffchaff which is either chiffing or chaffing in this photo.
While photographing the chiffchaff which was taking a regular route around a number of bushes, I noticed a wren kept popping up onto a nearby post and bursting into song. This is a species of which, for some reason despite them being very common, I do not seem to have many photographs. So I settled by the post and waited for the bird to appear which it eventually did and ran off a lot of shots of which these are a very small selection.and a close up of the head to finish this post.I did spot the Black Redstart on the way back to the car but there was no opportunity to get in close enough for a photograph. It was good to see one all the same, as the last I saw was in Austria a couple of years ago.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Ninja Pheasants
I came across a couple of cock pheasants battling it out the other day in the middle of a quiet road. Unfortunately I only just caught the end of the dispute but managed to get a few snaps before they disappeared and continued their disagreement in the undergrowth.
Most of the fight consisted of the birds face to face and bobbing up and down waiting for the other show a weak moment for attack.
Then one bird would jump up for the attack.
Before they returned to the orignal squared up positions and the process was repeated.This last shot was the beginning of the final leap before they disappeared into the adjoing undergrowth.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Back on Home Turf
I enjoyed the trip to Cornwall but its always good to be back on home turf. I headed out at the weekend and decided to try a new local site I have had my eye on for a while. It was a fairly brief session but the area looks promising. I managed to find a chiffchaff during this recce visit.
There were also a number of the very similar looking Willow warbler present which gave me a hard time trying to get a clear shot as they hopped around in dense vegetation.
Up on the coastal strip at the north end of the Wirral I found a male wheatear which was fairly accomodating. Here using a mole hill as a look out post.
Also along the fence line a perched Skylark at the moment before lift off for that ascending song flight.
The main rush of spring migrants still does not seem to have occured which may be due to the cold weather and northerly winds we have been experiencing. Certainly the local vegetation is a lot less advanced than it was last year, although April 2007 was unusually warm.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Temporary Feeding Station

I decided I would take a feeder, some sun flower hearts and fatballs on my trip to Cornwall just in case there was some possibilities to set-up a mini feeding station in the garden. On arrival I noticed an existing nut feeder located outside the kitchen window by the front door. So I added a couple of fallen branches out of the garden to attach my offerings next to it, as the birds were already coming into this area. This allowed me to then take photos through the front door while sitting in the house which was probably just as well as we experienced all four seasons of weather during the week's stay. In hindsight my only regret was that I did not spend more time wandering around the garden or setting up another feeder elsewhere and on the last day realised I had missed out on a chance of getting some Marsh tit and Siskin photos. I did not spend a great deal of time photographing the birds, as that was not really the purpose of the holiday, and it was usually either a short session in the morning or after a day out exploring North Cornwall. I have posted a small selection of shots from the temporary feeding station.
Blue tits
and in some April snowFemale and Male Greenfinch
Female House sparrowMale Chaffinch
Goldfinchand Nuthatch
Wandering around the garden I also just about managed a photo of this willow warbler which refused to allow me a completely clear shot as it moved through some low branches.
and one of the resident wrens
They always amaze me that such a small bird can produce such a loud song.


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