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Thursday, 24 December 2009

A Touch Of Velvet

Female Velvet Scoter
She gave really good views!

A real rarity inland.
We were graced by the prescence of this sea duck this week at one of our local lakes.Not normally found inland at all, but for some strange reason she dropped into Barrow lower lake near Clitheroe on the 22/12/09.
It caused quite a stir amongst the local birding groups, as I`m led to believe its only the third sighting of this species in East Lancs for a good few years.About 80% of the lake was frozen solid, so the duck was easy to locate and photograph.She seemed almost tame at times coming within a few yards of the bank.She was feeding avidly on freshwater mussels, which she swallowed whole.
The lake seems to hold good numbers of these, so maybe the Scoter will remain for some time.I for one will be keeping a close watch on the situation in the hope of observing this delightful bird on my doorstep!!!!

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Jackhouse Nature Reserve.

Cock Bullfinch
Great Tit

Blue Tit.

Coal Tit
What dreadfull weather we`ve had this last week,the rain and winds seem to have been constant throughout this last seven days.However I picked up a new second hand camera and have been mad keen to use it.The only chance I have had. was literally `in between the showers`.
Close to where I live is a lovely little nature reserve called Jackhouse,except for a few dog walkers and one or two walkers,I literally have the place to myself.It`s a little piece of heaven, where I can go for a few hours and totally be at one with nature.
In Summer its alive with visiting migrant birds, willow warbler/blackcap/garden warbler etc.
For now though, redwing/fieldfare are common, as are numerous members of the tit familly.These inquisitive little birds are a joy to behold when observed at close quarters and really do perform well for the camera.I have spent many an enjoyable hour watching and photographing them and they never cease to amaze me with their antics.
Another bird that frequently appears is the Bullfinch.There are a few pairs that seem to inhabit the reserve and the cock bird with his fine array of colour, is always a pleasure to see and of course photograph!
One bird I haven`t been able to get on camera yet is a greater spotted woodpecker.I usualy hear him calling in the vicinity, then on a few occasions he visits the table, but doesn`t stay very long ,the slightest movement and he`s away.I`ll have to persevere with him,maybe set up a piece of birch with a few holes drilled in crammed with peanuts,I`m sure he`ll stay for those!
I`m just glad to be able to get out and about at the moment, so any break in the weather and I`m reaching for the the wellies and camera gear.Looks like I`m going to be busy with work up to Christmas so opportunities will be at a premium.Roll on Spring!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, 16 November 2009

Great Northern Diver

Great Northern Diver.

Up early this morning having got wind of this bird nearby.What I hadn`t contemplated was the gale force winds and lashing rain I encountered on my way to the reservoir.Must be completely mad I thought as I made my way over the tops to Rochdale.At one stage I nearly turned back!

Arriving at the carpark, I wasn`t surprised to find I was the only one there,Had the bird gone!An hour later I`m still sat in the car, the rain hadn`t abated since I set off and worse my flask was nearly empty.A slight chink in the skyline gave me some encouragement.Ah well, get the wet gear on and I`m walking down the bottom end of the lake keeping an eye out.Nothing except for a few Grebes,and not even another birder to talk to.I head back towards the car, the rain has nearly stopped now and I scan the lake for further signs.A few comorants get the heart beating faster, surely it has to be around.Looking beyond the comorants and something `s patrolling the far bank,just can`t make it out at this range with the binocs.Moving closer another birder appears in the direction I saw the bird.She`s looking intently at something.Yep it`s the Diver, and by the time I get the tripod set up,it`s moved directly in front of me about 45 metres out.Thank God for that I think as I take a few shots.Iv`e never seen one before so its a lifer for me, but blimer what a challenge in these conditions.It just makes it worthwhile when you do finally get a few images, though this new found hobby of mine is becoming harder in the Winter months.Roll on Spring!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Sizeargh Revisited!

This one showed briefly.
Luck was with me this morning as I managed to capture a few decent images of the elusive Hawfinch.This one was one of a group of three that flew in and landed right at the top of a Hornbeam about 40 metres away. They are quite a flighty bird and I didn`t have much time before he was lost in the dense foilage!

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Hawfinch and Hornbeam.

The fruit within the cluster.
These fruit clusters are one of the reasons the Hawfinch gather at this particular site.

One of the Hornbeam trees in the centre of the carpark at Sizeargh.

A beautiful sunrise greeted me as I made my way up to the South Lakes,I was heading for Sizeargh Castle owned by the National Trust.However it wasn`t the splendid residence that attracted me here, but the good numbers of Hawfinch that had been reported recently.
These birds probably come from Eastern Europe, namely Bulgaria and Hungary, where they are common! At Sizeargh, especially around the cafe carpark ,there are quite a few Hornbeam trees.They are laden with small kernels which lie within the fruit clusters.The Hawfinch uses its huge beak to crack these open and feed ravenously on them.This time however I wasn`t able to capture any good quality images of the birds as they were well concealed at the top most part of the trees.The few shots I did get were distant and I was rather disappointed at the quality.None the less I`d spent a marvellous few hours up at Sizeargh especially as the weather for once was obliging.It was well worth the early start as I still had time to call in on Leighton Moss on my way home.I`ll just finish now on some interesting facts about the Hornbeam tree which I researched when I got home later that day,
The Hornbeam besides being a good food source for the Finches, is one of the hardest and strongest of all timbers .It is still used today for making of all things,piano hammers and chopping boards.It is a good fuel source and makes high quality charcoals!In years gone by it was widely used to make waterwheels before castiron was brought in!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Spurn Point(part 2)

Jack Snipe
Common Snipe.

Fieldfare alongside a Redwing,a nice comparison!

The pilots pier at Spurn .

The present lighthouse at Spurn.

Picking up from my last blog,the lighthouse above was built in 1893/95 however it was decommisioned in 1986 and now the only visible lights flashing are the green lights at the end of the pier which the pilots out on the Humber estuary use.The lifeboat station however was built earlier in 1810 and is crewed by staff who are the only crew to be fully paid,52 weeks a year.

Going back to the bird theme on Spurn, which is what I really came to see,I noticed a few Fieldfare in amongst the Redwing,usually they are rather flighty and are difficult to photograph,but I was allowed to creep quite close to one near to the lighthouse.They are about the size of a Mistle Thrush and have a beautiful slate grey head and mottled chest.On this particular day, the Redwing far outnumbered the Fieldfare

Walking back towards the main bird observatory,I called in to a hide overlooking the canal scrape,the two species of Snipe were both present.It`s not that often you see these at close quarters but I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time and managed a few decent shots.Size is the main difference in these birds with the Jack Snipe being much smaller,it also seemed to prefer the cover of the reedbed to feed, and has has a very particular bobbing motion when viewed.Moving on back towards the carpark the light was now beginning to fade so I decided to call it a day.I was well pleased with my efforts to capture a few images of the visitors and inhabitants of Spurn and can throughly recommend a days visit to anyone.It is well worth a trip and you never know what type of migrant rarity you may encounter.I`ll be returning next year at the middle of September,I`ll keep you informed!

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Spurn Point

This Sparrowhawk was combing the bushes,looking for its next meal.
This Redwing was feeding on insects.

Brent Geese coming in to feed.

Noisy Little Wren.
I had a pleasent few days lately visiting the East Yorkshire area of Spurn Point.It is a well known bird observatory, where they monitor and ring birds for record purposes.At this time of year there are lots of migrants passing through,the majority of which are the Thrushes from Eastern Europe and Scandanavia,namely Redwing,Fieldfare and good numbers of Blackbird.On one of the days there, some 7500 were recorded flying South.
Good numbers of Brent Geese were present feeding on the estuary,these are one of the smallest of the goose species and again come to our shores to escape the harsh climate of Eastern Europe.Here they can rest up after their arduous journey and I enjoyed watching them from the comfort of the hide.Wrens were quite numerous in the Buckthorn and I managed to take a few quick pictures of one as it showed noisily close by.
Spurn is a 3 mile strip of land and in places only 60 metres wide covered in Buckthorn bushes.The Yorkshire wildlife trust manage this inhospitable piece of land, but spare a thought also for the lifeboat crew and their famillies, who permanantly live on the very tip of the point.Some seven famillies live isolated together in a little community 12 momths of the year.What a marvellous job these people do, saving the lives of people who get into difficulty on board their vessels.I believe there has been a lighthouse here for the past 200 years,sending out its warning to unwary seafarers.
I hope to post a few more pictures in my next blog of this maevellous place.

Sunday, 11 October 2009


A bellowing stag.

Alert and on guard.

Another stag defending his territory!
A fine set of antlers.
All these red deer stags were viewed ftom the Griesdale hide at Leighton Moss.It was a couple of hours before dusk when they appeared.I had been sitting patiently listening to the stags bellowing within the cover of the reedbeds,when they decided to show themselves in a small clearing.I was certain they would clash ,but all they did were eye one another up and roar their disapproval at each other!Maybe they had allready duelled earlier, and were just content to keep their distance!

Friday, 9 October 2009


With the forecast good and a few days off work,I decided on a trip to Leighton moss to see if I could get some decent wader shots.There`s always plenty of Redshank present at this time of year with the added bonus of a Greenshank or a Spotted Redshank on the cards.
I wasn`t to be dissapointed as both these waders were present !They were within reasonable distance to the hide I was in and I managed a couple of shots with the camera.Also present were considerable nos of Little Egret, 58 total,plus 1 Great Egret which was away in the distance, but still caused considerable excitement amongst the many birders there!
The Egrets were also very obliging for the camera and I enjoyed my time watching them chase around the shallows in pursuit of small fish.In fact they worked as a team, coralling the shoals into the margins where they picked them off at leisure.
Later,after some lunch, I headed for the other hides on the reserve in the hope of catching some more interesting subjects to photograph.I`ll tell you how I got on in my next blog!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Time spent with Hobbies!

Thought I`d post a few shots of some juv Hobbies that I had the good fortune to watch earlier on this year.It is only in the last few weeks that they have departed our shores for the warmer climes of Africa,who can blame them for that!
The Adults raised three youngsters in an old crows nest within the branches of an oak tree.On leaving the nest they remained close by for over 4 weeks giving me a great insight on their daily goings on.
They really are masters of the skies, catching insects /dragonflies/butterflies and eating them on the wing.The adults can outfly Swifts and swallows which make up the bulk of their prey.When the young fledged the nest if any other raptor approached nearby the adults were quickly on their case chasing them away.
I spent many an hour watching their antics and can`t wait for them to hopefully re-appear next May!

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Loch Lomond trip

Having not had the chance to get out much lately, mainly due to work commitments,a brief trip to Lomond was seized upon with Paul, a good friend of mine.
The weather was kind to us and prospects were good for a fish or two on the fly.The Loch holds some fantastic salmon and sea trout but catching them is another matter.Luck was with me this time and I managed to net this wonderful sea trout of just short of 5 pounds.
Although mainly a fishing trip ,the camera is never far away and I took a few snaps of the stunning scenery and beautiful colours of the changing leaves in all their glory.
Lomond can be a very moody intimidating place, but catch her right and the rewards can be outstanding!
Hope you enjoy the shots!

Thursday, 3 September 2009

A Week In Corfu

A weeks holiday on the Greek island of Corfu was recently had by the Foster familly.It really was a last minute booking but never thr less was well worth it.Now this was a familly holiday,with no intention of birding contemplated.However like one does, I threw in my binoculars/camera and a couple of lenses.
The first half of the week was spent lounging about the pool and beach areas.The local tavernas were tried on numerous occasions and never failed to disappoint!I just love the Greek cooking, and the Greek salads with feta cheese is to die for!
Curiosity got the better of me, so early one morning I grabbed the camera and binocs and ventured out into some scrubland I`d spotted the previous day.Straight away a Lesser Grey Shrike was spotted perched on the wires.Further on around the back a large butterfly landed 10 ft away,Swallowtail.They seemed to be numerous around here as the farther I walked the more I saw.
A small river ran through the edge of scrub and Nightingales were seen skulking in the thorny bushes.There were other species of birds which I couldn`t identify,but Golden Oriole were singing in the distance.Woodchat Shrike would suddenly appear on exposed branches,but never close enough to photograph propely.As the morning wore on it got progressivly hotter,which seemed to put the birds down.I`d seen some good species on my early morning walk and identified about 6 types of butterfly.
Making my way back along the path a spotted flycatcher showed well,darting backwards and forwards, returning to the same perch,its beak full of insects of which there were hundreds zipping about.
The Olive trees were bare of fruit but I noticed how the farmers had laid out their long black nets beneath the trees,ready for the forthcoming harvest.All too soon the holiday was coming to a close,but we`d had a fantastic time on the island.My wife and daughter were very happy with the tans they had built up in the week,and my son Giles had met some new mates.As for me, well it was an experience birding in foreign climes,one I hope to do again sometime!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

A Day At Lakenheath!

So my final day was to be spent at Lakenheath Reserve.The weather,unlike the previous day ,was a lot cooler with plenty of cloud cover.As I pulled onto the carpark,I was surprised to find I was the only one there!It was only 7.30am as I made my way down the path to the first viewing point.Nice and quiet, just as I like it.Don`t get me wrong,I like company and a good chinwag,but early morning,I do like to be on my own for a few hours.I just love the piece and solitude it offers.Sometimes I just observe, and listen to the goings on,taking it all in.

A few Coot and a Grebe were having a good squabble on the open water in front.Not much else was about!I wandered 400yds further on and heard the honking of the Cranes in the distance,They were on the move as I scanned for them with my glasses,I just caught site of them, as they disappeared over the river and landed amongst the crop fields.The last time I was down here I only caught fleeting glimpses of them in the distance.

Moving on again towards the last viewpoint,a Bearded Tit started zitting in the reeds to my right.I hadn`t seen these the last time I was here,so I froze and made ready with the camera.As if by magic,it suddenly appeared ,pearched on a reed stem, no more than 10yds away.I took a few quick shots before it disappeared out of view.What a bonny little bird I thought!I was quite chuffed at hearing and spotting it, and hoped to come across them again later in the day.

Out towards the river,a Barn Owl glided into view carrying a small field mouse.I followed it low across the meadow.It seemed to be making a bee line for a small building in the corner of the reserve,Walking around the side of the Poplar trees,I could just make it out, perched in the window opening.I was told later that 4 youngsters had fledged and were still in the vicinity of the building,what a fantastic brood.Mind you the habitat was superb for them here!

Whilst having a cup of coffee, another guy came walking down towards the shelter.It was Dave,a local lad I had met on my last visit.He asked me if i`d seen the Cranes.I told him that they flew across the river about 2 hrs ago.Ahh ...thats were they go to feed in the crop fields.Out of the two chicks that had hatched,only 1 was left.The other having been predated by a fox.Sad news indeed I thought!Nature at its worst!They should return back to the pasture shortly, he informed me.

We chatted away for an hour,whilst watching the Marsh Harrier combing the reeds.The Golden Oriole had since dispersed,as had a lot of the juv Harriers.They usually go first, followed by the adults he said.Whilst checking the notice board,Dave shouted` Cranes approaching from the right`.Iwas instantly on the camera, as they flew directly in front of us.Two adults and the juv all present.They landed way out of sight,but I was happy I`d had the opportunity to see them at close quarters.What a marvellous end to my trip to the Fens,I thought,I couldn`t have planned it any better, and am already looking forward to next year, when I will return!