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Sunday, 29 April 2012

Southport RSPB reserve.

 An afternoon visit to Marshside Reserve at Southport was enjoyed with friend and fellow photographer Brian Rafferty.The Avocet was much in evidence and we had an enjoyable couple of hrs watching them go through their mating rituals.
 The female would remain motionless in the shallow water with head bowed, whilst the male would walk around her in decreasing circles having to stoop to creep under her tail.He would then stop and continually splash water at his mate.
 The water splashing must be a sign for the female to ready herself and the male duly co operates.
 To finish off the male seems to cuddle the female and duly gives her a peck on the cheek as a thankyou token.
 Black Tailed Godwit are also present in large numbers on the marsh and most are coming into spectacular breeding plummage.
 When viewed close up they show their true colours with russet neck and head leading to a black tipped bill.
A Little Grebe continually swam in front of the hide, again in nice summery plummage.Another name given is the Dabchick.
This Godwit preens, showing its namesake tail.By now a lot of the Godwits will have left the area to head North, probably to Iceland and eastern Europe where good numbers breed.I believe a few isolated pairs breed in Northern Scotland but numbers are low.
There is always plenty going on at the reserves this time of year and are a good place to visit and observe the waders.I hope you enjoy the images posted and look forward to posting my next blog shortly!!!

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Local Patch.

 Closer to home now and I`m fortunate that my local patch includes a good stretch of moorland, which incorporates the Pennines.On a good clear morning one can see as far as Blackpool towards the West and the 3 Peaks of Ingelborough,Pen y Ghent and Whernside to the North.I always like to be up here late March early April looking for migrants returning from Africa.The Wheatear is one of the first to return and good numbers stop here to refuel on their journey North.The most birds Ive had together was 24 one morning.
 I was in the right place here, as this bird landed only 5 metres away on a lichen covered wall.
 The male is such a handsome individual isn`t he.
 One early morning, I located this Ring Ouzel in one of the meadows but it was super alert and this was the best I could manage.In fact he stayed for 5 days , but I didn`t hear him sing once,obviously only passing through to his breeding grounds.
 He was always feeding on the sheep mown meadow and never wandered far.I was sad to see him depart, as he is not a common bird round here.A few pairs breed up in the Bowland fells but numbers have been diminishing!
 A pair of Pied Wagtails seem to be setting up territory nearby and are to be found hunting insects amongst the sheep!
 Raptors are usually thin on the ground, but this Buzzard sauntered North early one morning.Once over, Merlin used to breed up here amongst the heather but I`ve only seen them on passage and are very difficult to photograph,,,, but one day!!!
There was only one pair of Curlew up here last year,but at present, three pairs are setting up territory.Their bubbling calls complimenting the rough moorland.Lapwings on the other hand have all but disappeared with only the odd pair in evidence.Its hardly surprising with the amount of corvids knocking about!
Unfortunately all is about to change on my local moors,for as I speak, 12 no, 100 metre high windmills are being erected to scar the beautiful landscape.How nature copes with these remains to be seen,I`ll keep you posted on the events....

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Hawfinch haven!!

 I am fortunate to live an hours drive from a known Hawfinch site,so am taking this opportunity to post my latest images of a few of the birds that I encountered.I found that an early start is a must to be in position for when the birds appear.Hawfinch are a notoriously shy bird,usually to be found foraging amongst the treetops.
 Here they have become accustomed to being left seed, by one of the staff, who works in the gardens.They are very wary when on the ground generally taking flight at the slightest alarm.The carpark area is where they gather, so providing you`re still and quiet, you can have them feeding within 6 metres of your vehicle.
On this occasion there were 4 birds present,3 males and a female.They are the largest of our finches by far, with the main features being their massive conical bill,large head,thick neck and short square tail, banded white.Supposedly 4-6000 pairs breed in Britain mainly in and around broad-leafed forest, especially with mixed Oak and Hornbeam.This particular site is becoming more and more popular with birders and photographers and I feel it will soon be lost to the public due to the amount of people visiting. Lets hope it can be enjoyed for years to come!!!!

Friday, 20 April 2012

Crossbills at last.

 During the earlier part of the year,I heard of a place quite local, where decent numbers of Crossbill were showing.I`d only ever seen fly overs of this bird, when I visited Kielder Forest a few years back.Arriving early on a lovely frosty morning, I positioned myself in readiness of the birds to arrive! An hour or so elapsed before one came into view, a lovely brick red male.These are the only bird with a crossed mandible,hence the name.They are designed to pick out the seeds from the pine cones, on which they feed.
 Some years there are really good eruptions of Crossbills to our shores with some stopping on to breed.They breed in the earlier months of the year, when the pine cone crop is at its most abundant.
 This pair were attempting to mate.The male is not fully coloured up yet so he appears to be a first year bird.The females are olive green in colour but in this light its difficult to see!
 Again a nice looking male in breeding plummage, one which I found on another trip there!
This female is showing her true colours here atop a pine tree.They always seem to be at the very highest point of the trees, making them a good subject to photograph.They infrequently resort to the ground where they come down to drink, but those I`ve seen have been well up in the canopy.They are not a common bird with an estimated 2000 breeding pairs, but again that depends on the pine crops.I hope you`ve enjoyed looking at the photos of the Crossbills,as it was a bit of a challenge, involving 3 seperate trips and a lot of waiting around,but I was glad I put in the effort and am happy sharing with you my results..

Thursday, 19 April 2012

More from the reserves!!!

Another of the reserves I visited was Mere Sands Wood near Rufford.I was accompanied by my friend Brian Rafferty from Preston.Brian initially introduced me to the reserve a few years back when a Kingfisher was present,however on this occasion it wasn`t to be seen.Maybe the harsh Winter was to blame for its non appearance!Reports of Bittern `showing well` drew us both there this time.Whilst waiting for the Bittern to appear, this Heron was engaged with quite a large bream that it had caught, try as it might it could not swallow the fish and in the end gave up in frustration.
 This female Goosander wasn`t to be outdone though.She had taken a good sized Crucian Carp and after a bit of a tussel swallowed the unlucky fish in one.It just goes to show the richness of these waters when carefully managed.They provide a vital food supply for a lot of water birds that congregate here during the Winter months.Plus it keeps them away from Angling society waters whose members frown upon them for pillaging their fish stocks.
 So we`d initially come to see and photograph the Bittern which had set up home here for the time being.After much patience and scanning of the reeds, it finally showed its self in front of the hide.Though views were rather limited, it was still great to observe this master of camouflage amongst the reeds. 
 If you look closely you`ll be able to pick it out in its reedy home.
                                   Again its hidden,concealed amongst the reeds!
Although not the same bird as above,this is how one looks out in the open!!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Leighton Moss Silverdale.

 With this dreadfull weather upon us at the moment I`ve decided to catch up on my blog list.A few months back I decided on a sortie to Silverdale to see what wader species had dropped in.It`s usually a reliable site for Godwits,Redshank,and various other waders.On arrival I was pleased to see a Marsh Tit feeding amongst the reeds.In East Lancs this is somewhat of a rareity, so I was really glad to stumble across this bird in its natural habitat.A good start to the day indeed!
 I wasn`t to be disappointed as I settled into the Eric Morecambe hide for there were plenty of waders feeding out on the scrape.Amongst these were a few Spotted Redshank,what I`d give to see one of these birds in Summer breeding plummage,a bird of the high Arctic indeed.A bonus was that they were showing relatively close.
 They have a slightly down turned bill than the Common Redshank and longer legs.Though only in its Winter plummage,it still was a lovely bird to observe at close range!!!
 Now Snipe are usually very difficult to get near to,usually they zip up from your feet when flushed, giving you that zig zagged flight as they head away at a great rate of knotts.I don`t think there is a better sound of Spring when walking the moors than to listen to a drumming Snipe as it tries to impress a female,only yesterday I was listening to the very same whilst walking up in Bowland.I quite like the distinct sound it makes as it stands atop a fencepost or wall emitting that see-sawing call...unmistakeable!!Today from the cover of the hide, there was up to 10 feeding,all were within  12 metres of where I was sat...
Making my way back to the car after a good few hrs in the hide,I spotted 3 Roe deer, sneakily picking their way through the long grass.Again difficult to approach,but this one let me take a couple of shots before together, they bounded away out of sight!I`m not usually comfortable sat in hides on the reserves,but providing you can get there at first light, you can be alone for the first hour or so before the crowds arrive.Again I`m pleased I was on the road early and I am glad to share some of my images with my followers a lot closer to home !!!!!!!!!!

Caribbean conclusion!!!!!

 So to capture the flavour of the islands,I`ve shown some shots that convey what the Caribbean entails.As you disembarque the ship,you`re usually greeted by the sounds of steel drums and dreadlocked rasta musicians.It is the culture of the locals to play these instruments and some of the tunes they portray are a delight to the ears.We always left a few dollars tip, as in 80 degree heat they fully deserved it.
 The photo above was a small secluded beach I came across whilst on my wanderings.There was hardly anybody about. The sand was like talcon powder and the water was crystal clear down to about 5 metres.Walking along in my bare feet Robinson Crusoe sprung to mind!There wasn`t a sunbed to be seen anywhere so I unwrapped my towel and savoured the occasion.It was too far away for most people to venture, but as I say `no pain,no gain`.
 Here are a few images of some colourful charachters that were in attendance.The old Rastafarian above was chillin out at a local beach bar.The guy below was earning a few dollars at the quayside doing a spot of painting,he was only to happy to be photographed and enjoyed the moment!
 Being in the Carribbean lends itself to some stunning sights.Non moreso than its vast array of tropical flowers which thrive on the moist trade winds from the East,perfect growing conditions for all of the  species. To walk through these botanical gardens and to admire and smell the various plants and shrubs was mind blowing.I`m not to clued up with the names of all these flowers but the experience of just being there was more than enough to compensate!
                                       A type of bell flower.
                                      Red Hibiscus.
                                         This one`s an Anthurium or Flamingo Flower.

                                  This I think is `Bird Of Paradise`
 So finally I`ll close with a few more avian shots.This Osprey took me by surprise.I could hear it calling in the distance but couldn`t locate it,search as I might nothing.Just as I was about to give up I turned a corner and there on the top of a 40ft telegraph pole was this man made platform.I certainly wouldn`t call it a nest but the Osprey seemed to like it!
This was flying in and out of the scrub, a Yellow Rumped Warbler.Thousands of these migrate south from America through October onwards.I believe they are common to the islands but it was the only one I saw.
So thats it finally on my adventure through the Caribbean islands,although primarily a familly holiday, I feel as if I didn`t do to bad on the nature side of things with the lens.Oh yes having a teenage daughter and wife, I did my fair share of trolling through the markets and boutiques and plenty of shopping thrown in to boot.It makes me wonder how I fit everything in but it was more than worth the effort.Roll on next year!!!!!

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

At Sea

Whenever we had a day at sea,photo opportunities were somewhat limited.A few seabirds would accompany the ship on its journey through the Carribean mainly a  bird called a Brown Booby.Very similar to our European Gannet, but smaller and lacking the yellow appearance around the neck.I spent hours in close proximeter to these birds, watching them on the lookout for flying fish and then diving from considerable heights to try and catch them.Sometimes the birds would take the fish whilst airborne, other times they would dive down into the water to take them.It wasn`t till I was at a local fish market in Barbados that I could get a good look at their actual food source.The seas were full of these fish and they would cover quite a distance  with their broad pectoral fins enabling them to glide effortlessly a few feet above the water.They are Barbados` national fish and appear on flags,coins and are the official logo of the Barbados tourism industry.They are part of Barbados`main national dish known as cou cou and are a vital part of the culture there.In ancient Greek times they were believed to leave the water and fly onto the shore and rest!I hope you have enjoyed reading my accounts of the Carribean and will finish off with one more, before I move closer to home with more tales from `A Walk On The Wildside`.