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Sunday, 19 May 2013

A mixed lot

hey hum... another wet and grey day, so some bits and pieces while I have nothing better to do.

The Blue Tit box is just above the window I gaze out upon the world from and I can watch the Blue Tits come and go. Last year, I thought there was a sudden disappearance and when I checked the box several weeks later there were 13 dead young. I guess the adults succumb to some predator or other, and the main predator around here are the numerous 'domestic' cats. And yesterday while dressing the front lawn there was four fresh cat crap piles for my enjoyment, that I nearly stood in... if it had been dog crap...

The bullfinch are still around but not as regular, mind you the grey squirrels, magpies, wood pigeon, collared doves and feral pigeons are decimating the food before they can get to it, and they wont come when those piggies are gorging themselves. I've noticed tidying up can be counter-productive as the bullfinch will feed on spilt seed on the ground.

I lost all my fish years ago and gave up restocking the pond. Gazing out of the window (you should do so regularly to avoid eye strain while spending hours in front of a computer) ... I could see something high on the ridge line of the house at the back. Sure enough a Grey Heron slowly walked down the roof to the eaves and guttering whereupon it flopped down on to the back garden fence – which has a hedge and trees grown in front of it (a safe haven for the birds), a natural obstacle, or so I thought. The Grey Heron then with a single flap of its wings hopped onto the top of the dividing fence-line... which also has a hedge in front of it and then down onto the flagged patio area! I just watched in amazement. Grabbed the camera and took a couple of shots in the rain. I wasn't about to allow the Grey Heron to clear out the pond of my amphibians and a sudden movement from me and it was off. There is now netting over the pond. I wouldn't mind if I lived in acres of landscaping but the garden is so small, 'pocket handerkerchief',  you can't swing a cat – I've tried!* 

Down at Newton Marsh, one of those mixed days where the skies were grey, leaden and threatening while the sun broke out through a gap in the clouds and I managed a shot of Shoveler in flight. A male came close enough not to be ignored. I've always liked Shoveler but can't help but think how odd they look. I think physchologically I have a soft spot for them because they look so odd – a Friday afternoon job, where while creating the Shoveler, somebody grabbed a beak at the last minute, without looking and threw it on before rushing off to the pub. I always expect to see them on Saturday morning when somebody has corrected the error and put a 'proper' beak on them – but it never happens. So they are left with that daft look for eternity. Of course we all know this is natural selection at work and their bills are a great device for their filter feeding. I still have empathy for them.

A Common Sandpiper or two have been around. The water levels have dropped considerably and this has improved conditions for the waders, especially the Black-tailed Godwits but not of course for the ducks.

Down at Preston Docks for a check on the Common Terns, and a number of hirundines were near the lock gates in a very strong wind, which seizing the opportunity allowed me to take a couple of images of Swallows and a lone Sand Martin. Martin Jump found a Gannet in the dock and we were there to grab a couple of images. Unfortunately it expired that evening. I wasn't going to post the photos of the bird but in retrospect, there is no sympathy in nature only a human projection, and such a magnificent bird it should be appreciated not mourned.

*(just a joke)

hope the Blue Tits do well this year

'tidying-up' can be counter-productive

unwanted garden visitor

'hilda ogden's'

common sandpiper

In flight Swallows... a challenge!

a lone Sand Martin

Gannet at Preston Dock

sadly expired that evening
an early morning

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Fight Club

The first rule about Fight Club is we don't talk about Fight Club, second rule about Fight Club is we don't talk about Fight Club.

I don't understand the rules but as an impartial observer, surely one reports impartially and allows the viewer to make their own decisions. Not sure how Don McCullin would have survived otherwise (not that I am comparing myself with him, just the principle). 

Anyhooo, you decide.

Black-tailed Godwits having 'a serious disagreement' (name that film).

'a serious disagreement' – Last of the Mohicans, Danile Day-Lewis to the English Officer "you and I are going to have a serious disagreement".

Friday, 10 May 2013

Minding my own business

Driving across the Fylde as I do I have at last made a golden rule of going nowhere without the camera strapped in alongside me... of course being my age there are always days when I forget... even getting home can be problematic on some days!

As I crested a high spot in the road, in front of me above the hedgerow I spotted a barn owl coursing the field. The road then gets a bit twisty but I managed to pull up at the end of the field the barn owl was hunting.... and it was heading in my direction and not only that there was a break in the hedgerow! Hastening to unlock the camera, window already down, I turned to find the barn owl upon me and managed to snap a couple of shots – not the best images in the world but imperious when you are looking through the viewfinder into the eyes of theses wonderful creatures. There is no money in the world that pays for that connection. Looking into the eyes of a wild bird such as a Bran Owl is spell-binding.

So fast and so close upon me, as you can see only part of the bird in the image. But he/she looked me in the eye, turned and coursed the field yet again before disappearing past me into an adjacent field where it proceeded to sit on a boundary fence post and view it's domain, looking for that twitch or sound that gives it's prey away. That's just a blade of grass it has caught in its breast feathers after diving into the field but apparently unsuccessfully.

Then a few days later on a much brighter day, minding my own business and indeed concentrating on a completely different subject I nearly crashed the car when I came across another Barn Owl 'fence-post' gazing upon a roadside verge. I fired off a number of images and the bird looked contemptuously at me before continuing it's gaze into the grassland. I crept forward a few feet to get an annoying metal post out of the viewfinder. Another look in my direction of contempt and the Barn Owl just sat there! I couldn't believe my luck.

Into manual mode and adjust the camera settings and I managed these photos of this stunning bird (I have about one hundred!). I even held the whites! Of course a bleeding white van man had to come speeding past and the bird was off to a quieter spot. 

Two magical encounters. Paul Daniels, eat your heart out. Now that is magic.

(and for anyone who saw the earlier post, at least I have learnt something – expose for the whites).

and for anyone who is interested, the title image is one I took last May in the Trough of Bowland

Monday, 22 April 2013

they've all landed

The previous posts were leading up to this I guess. All the migrants have suddenly landed on my patch. Initially the Chifchaffs, Blackcaps and Goldcrests have been around for a week or two while the Willow Warblers have finally landed. 

Those of a less robust constituition and do not want to see nature in the raw may prefer to leave the room now.

The first brood of Mallards appeared and I would think on what was their first swim. Seven young with mum, but it seems two became separated more or less straight away and were hanging around with five juvenile males. A Grey Heron didn't need a second invitation. While a bit distant these record shots illustrate nature in all it's detail. Then there were six.

I came across four Willow Warblers in the morning and four in the afternoon. Plus possible others as they were fairly mobile. They are seen on exactly the same stretch of habitat and walk I do regularly but only one male chiffchaff is singing. The light is always against me and the scrub quite dense so 'picking' them out can be problematic. Again not necessarily all the same bird and one appears to have a mite investation or a problem with its lower leg/ankle/feet.

Anyhoo... the Willow Warblers have landed and this fine male Blackcap was singing and when I returned a little later, he had company with a female Blackcap in the same location... the very same location I had seen them at last year.

A singing male Blackcap, where do they get their names?

Some bits n bobs

I managed a couple of hours off my local patch and was delighted to see a pair of Dippers and this Grey Wagtail. 

I think I said in an earlier email, there were four Bullfinch visiting the garden and just a record shot through the window with an old camera to record three feeding together. The male at the top appears to be the dominant male and has a brighter red chest, whereas the male at the bottom is more 'pink'. Normally they come in pairs and I'm surprised they tolerate this other male, while no evidence does make me wonder if it is their offspring, although he does get seen off if gets too cocky or close!

Just recently I have seen the male Bullfinch appearing more on their own, which may be a good sign... only time will tell.

Back on my patch I was surprised to see two Redwing in mid-April, high in the canopy, I guess on their way home.

And just glad the Tornado is on our side... and as long as he doesn't have any accidents with those things strapped under the wings near my house, always glad to see them.

more chaff's

All been happening on my local patch just recently, you know the score...

I was surprised by the probable Noctule Bat as it was flying and feeding at lunchtime and as it was flying away from me at distance, it at first looked like it might be a swallow... clearly not. THANKS to www.lalows.blogspot.co.uk/ for the id. Goldcrests have been evident with several sightings, inlcuding three together at once, and this chiffchaff was fairly accommodating even though it took quite some time to allow me anywhere near... it was not going to sing though!

it will be ruining my apple crop next... but a fair swap 
waz zat camera shutter noise?

best I could manage in deep scrub

flying at lunchtime!