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Thursday, 16 December 2010

Turnstone, one of a number by the carpark!

Lying flat on my belly allowed me this shot!!

Feeding amongst the seaweed.

Busy Sanderling.

Ringed Plover
I decided to return to Fleetwood last week on the strength of there being some high tides forecast.It was a lovely bright morning as I arrived and I pleasantly strolled along the shoreline looking out for the Sanderling that feed there.They were easily located feeding amongst the seaweed, a small flock of about 25 birds were present and they allowed me to approach to within 15 metres undisturbed!They really do scurry along the waters edge, dodging the waves and spray.Amongst them I noticed another small wader with the busy Sanderling,it was a Ringed Plover,it too dashed about looking for food.You never know whats going to be there when you arrive, so its well worth the effort scanning the birds with the binoculars.There had been reports of a few Purple Sandpiper present, but I couldn`t locate these .I think they had moved further along the shoreline towards Rossall Point.It was an enjoyable experience with the waders and I must thank my good friend Bryan Rafferty for putting me on to them and hope you again enjoy a few of my images!

Thursday, 9 December 2010

More Winter Visitors!!!

Immature Great Northern Diver !!

It really struggled to consume this small flounder.Wrong shape I suppose..

Male Red Breasted Merganser....

Drake Goldeneye,a few pair breed in northern Scotland!

Amazing bottle green head and white cheek patch!!

Makes a change when you have some nice light to work with!!

The small marine lakes at Fleetwood were recently on the birding grapevine due to the appearance of an immature Gt Northern Diver.Many bird enthusiasts and photographers took the opportunity to visit and admire this winter visitor at really close quarters.The Diver sometimes came to within a few metres of the side of the lake and didn`t seem at all bothered by the possee of people gathered around.It was a dream to photograph and I even managed one shot of it trying to swallow a small flounder it had caught.It seemed to struggle with its meal, but eventually it managed it .Other birds of note were some Red Breasted Mergansers which continually dived looking for food.They all seemed to hunt together as a team.The males looked nice in their winter plummage and again gave good views.On another visit there, after the Diver had departed, a few Goldeneye took up residence.With the lake almost frozen, they were coralled into a small section of open water.You usually can`t get anywhere near these to photograph, so again I made the most of the opportunitywith the lens and in very good light too.They really are a gorgeous looking bird,dont you think!Just over the ridge was the beach and on a high tide, it pushes small groups of Sanderling close in.I took some lovely images of these arctic waders of which I`ll post about in my next blog...

Saturday, 4 December 2010

They came from the East

Plenty of berries were to be found by the birds.

Hungry birds, red berries and blue skies...fantastic!!

Oops I`ve dropped one!!

During the last month or so, we have had the good fortune to experience a massive influx of Waxwings into the country. Initially they were reported in North East Scotland around Aberdeen, but slowly they started to drift down the country to the Borders, then further into Northern England.I had awaited their arrival with great anticipation, knowing full well they would offer fantastic photographic opportunities,when they descend on to the berry laden trees to feed!
About 150 birds had been reported locally nr Clitheroe, and a twenty minute drive found me amongst the throngs who had come to observe and photo the Waxwings.The morning light couldn`t have been better with brilliant blue skies and trees laden with bright red berries,a perfect combination and a pleasent few hours were enjoyed in the company of some good friends.More people were coming by the minute,cars were stopping to ask what the fuss was about and locals all played their part,asking questions about the birds.It was as if a film star had been spotted with all the tripods and cameras about and the camaraderie was excellent.As I type this now some 3 weeks later, the birds are spread from North to South giving pleasure to many people across the country.I indeed never tire of these birds and some absolutely fantastic images have been posted by all and sundry.I hope you enjoy some of my attempts at capturing these great birds!!!!

Friday, 3 December 2010

Algarve continued

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker searching for insects.
This ones a female noticable by its lack of red on its nape.

Juvenile Little Stint!

Arctic visitor stopping off en route to Africa!

Constantly probing the soft mud.

As we are gripped in the throes of Siberian tempretures,I thought I`d conclude my time spent in the Algarve earlier on in the year.How distant this now seems, with roads frozen all around, public transport in disarray and no sign in the let up of these freezing conditions! Anyway back to warmer climes and the first few images are of a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker I stumbled upon literally 50 yds up the track from our apartment.I could not believe my ears when I heard it calling from a small dead tree.I was quickly into position with the camera and managed quite a few images before it took flight and disappeared towards a large clump of trees in the distance.Even in the Algarve they are not common and I felt very priveleged to have seen this one feeding close by.
The next set of photos are appropiately of a juvenile Little Stint! I say appropiately, as it is a visitor from the Arctic tundra,this one no doubt on its way to Africa for the winter,only wish I could do the same as I write!!!It was feeding at the side of a lagoon I was walking round.At first I didn`t know what type of wader it was, but a quick check in the fieldguide and its small size gave it to me instantly.They really are small and diminuitive,quickly running to and fro, constantly probing the soft mud for invertebrates.It was oblivious to my presence and at one stage came within a yard of me.It had definately never come into contact with humans before and carried on its feeding as if I wasn`t there.The sun was low in the sky, so I made the most of the opportunity to photograph this Starling sized bird!I am already planning another trip to the Algarve in Spring next year when I`ll be able to spend a full week there.I`ll let you know how it goes on my return!!!!

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Raptor viewpoint

Staggering views were had.

Awesome Black Vulture.

Griffon Vulture.

Huge birds.

3 metre wingspan.

Beautiful Beeeater on its way to Africa..

One of the larger butterflies Two Tailed Pasha!

Scarce Swallowtail.....
Simon my guide decided it was time for lunch,, so we drove a few kilometres to a small village .The restaurant had been recently renovated and the owners really made us feel most welcome!A snack was all I had in mind,so I was surprised when the owner sat us down at a table with parma ham/bread, fresh melon and an assortment of other delicaeses all laid out before us.As we started to tuck in, 2 large ice cold beers appeared from behind the bar,fantastic!
The owner then came over with a large plateful of barbecued lamb accompanied with chips and a bowl of local salad to boot.It tasted absolutely delicious and was well worth the wait.More beer was brought plus another big bowl of local rice pudding which they begged me to try!Well it would have been rude not too.I could hardly move after eating so much food and could gladly have stayed longer.We squared up the bill which came to 7 euros each,including drinks by the way and headed out into the blistering heat.Boy I was ready for a good sleep I dont know about raptor watching!!!
Simon had found this place by chance and it was a closely guarded secret.We took a track off the main road which just led up and up and up and then came to a dead end at a big `fire watch tower` which was manned 7 days a week!As you could imagine the views were staggering,overlooking miles and miles of plain,you could just make out Spain in the distance.
After a short wait the first of the raptors appeared,it was Griffon vulture gliding steadily towards us.although not very close you could make out its long neck and two tone colouration under its wing,its wingspan was massive nearly 3 metres across.Good numbers came past over the next hour and half with an odd Black Vulture for good measure.A few Short Toed Eagles were seen in the distance, hovering over the hillside,this species feeds on snakes and small reptiles but we didn`t get close enough for any photos.Kestrels were evident as were big numbers of Bee eaters heading South to Africa.They were very noisy on their way through, but were none the less a welcome sight.A few juveniles perched on the wires lower down, and I managed a few images!
Two species of butterfly were present,Scarce Swallowtail and one of the largest species the Two Tailed Pasha,its underwing more attractive than its upper.I hadn`t seen any of these before, so was made up!
What I thought was a crow flying by turned out to be a Chough, again another first for me.Simon decided enough was enough and we made our way back down the track.Usually there are lots more raptors,especially Eagle types but today was just a bit quiet!We had a few more hours left yet and Simon headed for another of his secret places where a very rare Swift was breeding,More about this in my next blog though!!!!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Montagues Harrier.

Adult male hunting!
Juvenile Harrier.

Splendid male Montagues Harrier!!

Awesome views were had!!!

Gorgeous plummage of the adult male..

He was so close to us!

Searching for small mammals and insects....

Juvenile resting up..
Another species that inhabits the Alentejo plains are the Montagues Harrier.During Spring time they return from their wintering grounds to breed amongst the lush crop fields that dominate the area!Once over, their nests would have been trashed by the machinery used to gather the crops,but times have now changed and farmers have been made aware of the importance of these birds to the area.My guide `Simon Waites` has been instrmental in the upkeep of the Harriers and now works closely with the landowners and farmers.,who are more than happy to help out!
At this time of year the youngsters have fledged the nest and are getting ready with the adults, to migrate South to Africa.There were at least seven birds present in the area and it was these that kept me and Simon intrigued for a good hour or so,they would regularly come to within 20 metres of the car affording me great photo opportunities.The males were absolutely stunning with their black and grey plummage shimmering in the sun.We could have spent all morning observing the birds but Simon pointed into the distance towards a small range of mountains about 15 miles away,`thats our next destination`he excitedly exclaimed,..`Vultures and hopefully Eagles come through there and the conditions are just perfect for them`, so with that in mind we left the lowlands of the Alentejo and headed for a spot of lunch at a small village restaurant Simon regularly uses,and that is another tale in itself which I`ll discuss in my next blog!!!!!!

Thursday, 16 September 2010

The Alentejo region of Portugal!!!

Savannah like plains!
Great views of one of the largest flying landbirds...

Easily spooked....

Drab Little Bustard!

Seen distantly...

They don`t usually hang around!!!
I decided that I wanted to see some of the rural parts of Portugal during my stay,so an hours drive North found me in the Alentejo region.This area is a wilderness covering some 800 sq kms.Farmed in the Spring and Winter for crops and then left desert like and barren throughout the Summer,this is one of the most important places for species such as Great and Little Bustard and the very wary Black Bellied Sandgrouse.All of Portugals raptors breed here too so I was full of excitement when I arrived early one morning!I`d got the phone number of a highly recommended guide called Simon Waites,he`s an Englishman that has lived out here for the best part of twenty years.Simon does a lot of work for the Portugese wildlife and Fauna societey and was an absolute joy to be with.As we approached a track leading to one of the many stubble fields, he slowed right down and gently rolled the car into a small lay by.Three days ago he`d found a small group of Great Bustard nearby, albeit some 400mts away,this time they were literally 70mts from the car, but they`d seen us approach and were slowly moving away.'Usually you just cant get near to these' he whispered',must be our lucky day!They are one of the largest flying birds in the world,just like an overgrown Turkey.Suddenly they spooked and were up and away,but not before I`d took a few shots with the camera!Great, what a start to the day.Simon reckoned there were some 500 adult birds throughout Portugal with most being here.
As we carried on through the stubble fields, Simon gave me a brief history about the area and its wildlife.Hares were prevelent here and many were seen, as well as a Fox scurrying away in the distance.'Keep your eyes out for Raptors' he enthused,as anything can be encountered here.Suddenly he stopped,look there on the ground 30 metres to the right,'male Montagues Harrier,they use this area as a roost but we should see some more later on'

Wow things were really beginning to hot up and we`d only just got here.
Ten minutes later and he`d located some Little Bustard,and we were treated to some more good views of these unusual birds.They seem rather drab and uncomprimising when amongst the stubble but their true colours can be seen when in flight with their broad wing bar and black primaries,beautiful!
The Black Bellied Sandgrouse were another proposition though,'they`ll spot us before we see them' Simon echoed',usually they`ll head away but come back to take a look at us, so get ready with the camera and you might get a few images!
True to form a small party were put up, but this time they kept on going before they were lost in the distance.Ah well two out of three aint bad I muttered.
I was looking forward to obtaining some decent raptor images and Simon promised me I would,so I`ll sign out for now and tell you all about it in my next blog!!!!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Adult Black Winged Stilt

Adult Black Winged Stilt, originally uploaded by PAULIFOS.

Plenty of these birds around on the lagoon amongst the Flamingoes!!