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Wednesday, 29 February 2012

A Little goes a long way...

I can't remember the first time I saw a Little Egret up north or at all, but that shows nothing other the state of my memory, but I don't think it was that long ago (when you get to my age... in the last ten years!), suffice to say I am sure I did a double-take and thought I was dreaming, I mean a relatively big white bird? Are you sure? 

In fact now I think about it, I think the very first time I saw one/them was on a business trip to Singapore but I wasn't in 'birding' mode at that time (96 degrees and 95% humidity!) and I was working, honest. UK populations seems to have begun about 1989, so not that long ago either in the bigger scheme of things.

Anyhooo, the point being is the Little Egret has become 'so common' that I/we don't give them a second look, turn up on the south coast of Morecambe Bay and 'oh hey, one, two, three Little Egrets... next? 

My visit to Knott End found me at Pressall Sands, nothing planned with a spare hour to spend and for once spent it following and watching these engaging birds. At first there were two and they were squabbling, or at least the dominant one was, over the same patch of salt marsh the tide not long receded. As always it was a horrible day with constant drizzle, no horizon, the sea disappearing into the sky. So here are some pics, really right on the edge as always, not close enough, and not enough light for them to be any good, but again a record of the bird and part of its activity.

"I thought I saw a twitcher'

I have to say it does make me laugh when the RSPB state the Little Egret is a bird of the south coast, (not unlike Avocets) albeit spreading into Wales and East Anglia and northward. Considering how many are at Leighton Moss RSPB reserve, you think they might update the website information.

There are not many places where you get down onto the shoreline at Pressall Sands. Having spent an hour watching and following this Little Egret, which is one thing I really do enjoy, watching a species going about doing its own thing especially when for me it is 'opportunistic', I managed to do that 'move without moving' thing, (like the SAS!) where anyone watching must wonder 'what is going on?'. Anyway I crept motionless into position for the advancing Little Egret, waiting patiently, a bit of cramp (age),  hidden in the sea wall rocks, camera set, on a monopod, in focus, much closer than these images, perfect ...

Press the shutter, these are going to be good... 

'card full'!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Those 'noxious voles' and Tyto Alba

There are some days when I can arrive home and conjure up a posting for the blog straight away and there are other days when I simply cannot be objective about any images I have captured or get my head around what I have seen. This is the latter, I was disappointed with the images and felt the birds were too far away and unworthy of any attention, but a month later and less emotion and there's a certain barn owl savoir faire...

These images, taken on 28 January will never compete with the 500mm lens and those fabulous photos that others capture (for which I will remain envious) and perhaps it is a deep Freudian excuse but often my images relate more than the detail and hopefully reflect 'the essence' as I appear to keep referring to it... basically a record of the day and what I saw and no more.

The simple reality was I was driving down the road (which I do regularly) much later in the day than normal and I twitched and twitched again, those hidden sensors (in reality out of the corner of my eye) clocked pale movement in the right sort of location. Now was I going to simply drive past to my destination... what would you do? (and I've finally learned not to go anywhere without the camera... for just these very encounters).

No award winning photos but perhaps a reflection of these fabulous birds – many of you will know the detail and have much better images... but you know where I've been. The light was low and then the sun broke as it sank below the horizon with that wonderful 'orange cast' and sitting on a post was just the right thing to do... I had one stuck up my

One lesson I have learned, no point looking skyward for barn owls, look low, just above the height of the grass; all those wasted years...

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Signs of spring ?

I have two small ponds in the garden and I noticed, after all the cold weather, the frogs were 'on the move' on Monday, meaning no doubt there will be considerable action in the coming weeks.

Attached are a couple of images from 2009 when you could have virtually walked across the water on the backs of the frogs, so numerous were they. And the great thing about, even small ponds, is the wildlife they bring to a garden, I am fortunate in having newts, and all sorts of creepy crawlies...

the noise at night can be considerable

Unfortunately the local domestic cats take great interest in the frogs as they go about their breeding and take some pleasure in playing with the frogs, which includes biting their heads off! 

The cold weather of earlier years has also took its toll when I fished out over 35 dead frogs floating in the water despite its depth. I will be interested to see how many frogs turn up this year.

A female bullfinch made a visit to the garden again on Monday, which was nice to see; again in 2009 a pair spent most of the year with me. Fingers crossed.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

A view from a window... Treecreeper

These images were taken from my lounge window, on 15 March 2011. It appears I forgot to post these and I would like a record of them hereabouts.

Sadly not seen since, then again I haven't spent quite as much time gazing aimlessly out of the window... I must develop more bad habits.

The Grey Wagtail saga... five years or so

You will recall an earlier post dear reader of my encounter with a Grey Wagtail some weeks ago in poor light... I returned...

as you can see in sunshine.... I prepared the post yonks ago but didn't want two posts on the same subject and time passes...

...however the real reason for the post is because I was going through the archives and starting to think and plan about the coming months and what I might think about catching up with, for instance I have an 'odd' Chiffchaff on my patch that has returned over the last two years and hopefully he'll be back ('he' because he does all the singing) and I'll try and catch up with him, but he tends to conceal himself very well and high up in the tree canopy...
...and also, I suddenly realised I have had Grey Wagtails on my patch for the past five years or so in the same location, a pair last April; and then I remembered photos I had taken in 2007, of a Grey Wagtail collecting food in June...

collecting food in June 2007... for? (old camera equipment)

obviously to feed the young.... and I hadn't appreciated the significance of it at the time... breeding Grey Wagtails! I will have to make more of an effort this year. Must do better (as my form master always said).

Short Eared Owls and those Victorians

I have a thing about old/antiquarian books... in fact, books full stop!

"The Short-eared Owl is most generally known in England as an autumnal migrant; but a few pairs still breed in certain fens and moorlands in our country, which, in the interest of the bird, I refrain from Specifying; in certain parts of Scotland and its adjacent islands it nests commonly and is very frequently met with in Ireland in winter. The habits of this Owl differ from those of almost all other species of its family in the fact that the present bird is eminently terrestrial, seldom alighting on trees, and preferring open country with covert of heath, fern or sedge. We often meet with this Owl in turnip-fields or rough pasturelands in the midlands towards the end of October, sometimes in considerable numbers, but as a rule, singly or in couples; in West Norfolk at the same season, I have more than once seen a dozen or more during a day's shooting.

The Short-eared Owl is a very powerful flyer, and, as he often hunts not only by daylight, but in bright sunny weather, it is evident that his vision is better adapted for diurnal operations than is the case with our other British Owls. The nest of his bird when situated on dry heatht-lands is merely a scraping of the earth, but in the fens the eggs are often laid upon a few pieces of broken reed-stems, with occasionally a few leaves of that plant, or blades of broad sedge; the eggs are pure white, and vary in number from four to six. This is one of the most useful of birds, as its favourite prey are the noxious voles that invest our low-lying lands."

Birds of the British Islands

Lord Lilford FZS etc
President of the British Ornithology Union 


There was a page on the Black Kite and how just one had been found in Northumbria... "now in the Newcastle Museum" !!! Clearly someone had shot it... don't you just love the Victorians!

Friday, 10 February 2012

Short Eared Owl... rubbish images

I don't know why I'm posting this really, merely a record of what's out there. Most locals know where it is and sadly too much traffic, dog walkers and disturbance for any daylight showing, which means these rubbish images were taken with no light left... just a record. Quite a few hours spent seeing nothing but of course delighted to watch this magnificent bird in flight and hunting.

31 January over at height after the sun had set
demonstrating how far away it really was
if only there had been sufficient light.... 7 February

compilation that captured the essence
I was spoilt back on 3 January 2010 Over Wyre when I fell upon a Short Eared Owl and I anticipate it will take me many years to surpass that encounter, see this page. Thanks for calling in and to those of you who comment, I don't always reply but I do welcome any input and feedback.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Black Redstart at Clifton Waste Site

As you will know dear reader, Newton Marsh is a regular venue for me, well yesterday Friday 3 February (where's the year gone, what happened to January?) I drove down the access road to the United Utilities site at the end of the road. Simple reason for this post, I came across a Black Redstart hopping along the fenceposts and down onto the adjacent embankment – spooked by traffic it didn't stay in one place for long and was always too far off... anyhooo so you know I didn't make it up, here are a couple of record images to illustrate the fact (and annoyingly the sun was out... annoying in that I couldn't get a 'good' photo, then again any photo of a Black Redstart is a good one for me). Not great images but sufficient proof I hope. I should also mention the fact that the site was the venue for a local Car Rally on Friday and Saturday, so I am not hopeful it will remain for any length of time but you never know ... however I'll be back so watch this space.