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Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Great Northern Diver (Salford Quays)

Tuesday's forecast was judged to be the best day of the week, re weather condition,a
 most welcome  break from the torrential rain and high winds that we have been experiencing of late.Locally to where I live,rivers have burst their banks and villages close by, have endured major flooding,the likes of which we have not seen for decades!

This gave me the ideal opportunity to grab the camera and head for Salford in Manchester,where a juvenile Great Northern Diver had taken up residence.The bird no doubt had been driven inland by the recent gales and had found peace and solitude within this urban landscape.

Salford quays was once the third busiest port in the UK in its heyday,but with containerisation throughout the 1970s, it declined dramatically and ceased to trade!However in the early 1980s it was transformed, with the aid of grants and regeneration funds, to become what it is today.

In 1983, 12000 coarse fish were introduced into the complex as water quality improved.The water was aeorated by using a  compressed air mixing system, which can still be seen working today!Water quality is monitored fortnightly by Manchester university and the fish continue to thrive!No doubt this being the major reason the Diver has decided to remain for the last few weeks!

Its not the ideal location for nature photography,but with the bird showing down to a few metres,it was too good an opportunity to miss and with accomplice and fellow  enthusiast Craig Bell,we spent an enjoyable couple of hours rattling off a few shots.I hope you enjoy looking at the images and would just like to end by wishing all my followers and friends a very happy new year,.....stay well and I hope to see you all soon!

Salford Quays today!

A nice reflection off the red brick buildings added to the flavour!

A very obliging bird!

So close at times I lost focus!

Craig waits patiently for a shot!

Saturday, 21 November 2015

A visit to the east coast.Spurn point!

Apologies for the lack of news recently,but work commitments,being unable to get out with the camera,combined with terrible weather have all taken their toll on my blog posts,so anyway I have to go back to early october to find some half decent images that I hope can interest you.

In fact it was a trip to the east coast at Spurn,  with good friend Craig Bell that enables me to put together these few images!There were one or two yellow browed warblers about the headland, but try as I might,I couldn,t manage one decent shot with the camera of these small warblers.

A similar sized bird that I did capture a few images of was this Firecrest below,its high pitched call alerted Craig to its presence and we spent an enjoyable half hour in its company.It was only the second firecrest that I had seen and I was happy to succeed with one or two close shots!

Around the hide at canal scrape, were a couple of jacksnipe that gave good close views,their constant bobbing action always giving them away! They were usually hidden by the reeds but one would occasionally venture out for a foray in the mud.

The Sparrowhawk,or is it a male Goshawk, put the waders up with its flypast,though it was unsuccessful in its attempt to grab one.I'm sure it would,t go hungry for long, as thrushes and migrants were quite abundant in the bushes...So I,ll try to post some more images shortly, from last months outings..stay well and see you soon!!!


Firecrest,one of two that were present.

Sparrowhawk or Goshawk!

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Whinchat in the fells!

     I decided to take a trip out to the Bowland fells this week,in the hope of finding a few Whinchat.I'd heard reports that numbers were quite down on previous years and I wanted to see if a few known territories were occupied.I know that earlier in the year on a previous recce, I didn,t see a single bird on territory, where usually you  were guaranteed at least 4 pairs.A sad reflection of the times indeed!

It was a good mile hike to the area that I was heading to and there was usually the chance of seeing various raptors en route.Kestrels were quite numerous,as were about 5 Buzzard but sadly no Harriers were seen.It used to be a stronghold for stonechat too down the track,but again these were conspicuous by their absence!

If the Whinchat hadn,t returned to their territory, it was always worth the effort, just to be in these wonderful fells, on such a glorious day as this.The temps were into the high 70,s and lugging all the gear with me was quite arduous,I tend to think that I,m still in my 20,s,but the strain on my shoulders and knees tell me differently!As the saying goes...no pain..no gain, but I really am going to have to cut down on the gear!

Approaching the decline, down the last bit of track, I stopped to scan the heather and bracken in front and to the side and sure enough the first bird I saw was a Whinchat, sat proud as punch on a thistle.Great, at least there was the odd bird about.By now they should be feeding youngsters, thus making them quite active.They seem to pick a favourite thistle to use as a viewpoint for catching insects and true to form this bird would disappear for 5 to 10 mins and return again, looking for more food!

This gave me time to get in position with my throw over cover and position the lens and tripod, in readiness for a few shots.Sometimes the bird would be away for up to 20 mins and with the heat,  it made for an uncomfortable wait.However it was all worthwhile, when the shutter did come into play.Ive learnt not to be impatient with the shutter button now and let the bird settle before I start taking shots.I always set the shutter count to 'S' for silent mode now,especially with everything happening at close range.In high mode, 10fps, the rattle of the shutter, usually has the subject scurrying for cover.A big plus too, is that it reduces the editing side of things.

Later that morning I found another pair of Whinchat busily feeding fledged youngsters,so 2 pair had made it back to the breeding grounds.Lets hope they have a safe journey south and come to return to the fells of Bowland next Spring...Bon Voyage!!

Again thanks for dropping by and do keep well!!

Thistles are a favourite perch that they use as a viewpoint,plus it makes for a pleasing picture.

                               The backdrop of the fells makes for a nice bokeh too!

                                          Bracken and Whinchat certainly go together.

                                                           Posing nicely about 15 metres away!
Typical Whinchat country,with plenty of foxglove to use as vantage points to catch prey!

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Grasshopper Warbler

A bird that I'd always wanted to acquire a few images of was the elusive and skulking Grasshopper Warbler.In previous years I,d failed miserably,trying to obtain decent images.I could find their whereabouts no problem at all,however they were usually tucked away in a deep thicket or hidden in large clumps of reeds.Trying to get good clear shots was frustratingly difficult, with the obligatory reed or twig being smack bang in the way.Their charismatic song echoing all around,but usually always out of view.

I knew my time would come one day when one would present itself out in the open to me!This happened one evening last week, when I was out for a few hours,watching the local Peregrine falcons.

On my way back to the car, I stumbled across a reeling bird sat tall and proud amongst some thistles.It was too late to start setting the camera up, as the light was fading fast!I vowed to return early the next morning knowing that the conditions would be more favourable!

Stumbling out of bed at 4.00 am wasn,t easy,but I knew what the rewards could be with this rather showy bird!They usually have 2 broods when breeding, so this male was obviously advertising himself again to any passing females!I was a bit concerned that he might have moved on from his little patch,but as I drew up in the car, I could hear him reeling away like mad about 100yds away!
I,d brought along my throw over camo cover which I,d planned to use to gain an advantage on the bird.From observations gained the previous night,I,d noticed that he would perch atop one of the thistle, belt out his song for a good few minutes,then fly down into the grass,reappear and  fly to another different thistle and repeat the process,therefore covering quite a good  area to hopefully connect with a female.                                                                                                                                       

Hopefully it would just be a case of get into position under the throw and wait patiently for him to come within range.Sure enough the plan worked to perfection and I made the most of it with the camera.It was sort of mesmerising being within 15/20 yards of the bird,listening to his continuous reeling song.I,ve put together a few of my attempts for you to look at and certainly enjoyed the challenge  of photographing  this sometimes elusive warbler.

As a footnote, this year seems to be an exceptional one re local grasshopper warblers.I know of about 10 sites where these birds are now known to breed.A refreshing change to the usual decline of most of the other species in the area!
                         The good light and backdrop made for a pleasing image!
Sometimes he was just happy to sit there and take in the warmth of the early morning sun.The subtle colours and shades of his plumage  are evident in this shot too!So thanks again for dropping by and stay well.PPS, I put together a brief video of the reeling bird just to give an insight into his song...sorry for the poor quality!!

Saturday, 20 June 2015

More from Cyprus

Corn buntings were extremely abundant on the farmland areas,shame its not the case here in northern England,the jingly call is never far away in the countryside!

This trip I hired myself a decent 4 wheeled drive to navigate the many off road situations that I found myself in.It served as my hide when i was out with the camera too!It just give you that extra bit of elevation when behind the lens!

 Red footed falcons were feeding voraciously on the abundant insects that were about.I could have spent the entire day just photographing these birds alone!

One of the endemic species to Cyprus is the aptly named Cyprus warbler.The male was catching grubs and insects for its brood of chicks nearby!

A quiet few moments were spent with these birds,they were pretty common,once you picked up on their call!

Another farmland bird was the black headed bunting,numbers seemed to be down on previous years visits!

Female Cyprus warbler!

Male again!

Spur winged Plover were to be found around Lady's mile near to Limassol!

Possibly my favourite of all the Shrike family...Masked Shrike,I was told of a good area were a few pairs breed!

What I took to be a female Montagues Harrier turned out to be a Pallid Harrier,2 birds were present in Anarita!
The light neck collar is a key identification feature in females and juveniles!

A Reed warbler gives an angry glance to a Cettis warbler,possibly disputing territories!
Short toed larks were about on the farmlands around Mandria district!

Crested Larks were common too!

Good numbers of Turtle doves were about the areas but were difficult to get near.A very skittish bird!What a shame numbers are rapidly declining here in the UK!

A good landscape  with plenty of wild flowers in evidence!

Female Red Foote Falcon

Another male Red Footed!

I only saw 3 of these birds on my trip..Creutszmar Bunting.Currently there is one present on Bardsey Island in Wales, attracting good numbers of birders from far and wide!

The only Hoopoe that I saw all week!

And to finish off a female Kestrel poses nicely!
Thanks for looking in and hope you all stay well!