Friday, 15 February 2008

A feeding Frenzy

Not a great day today weatherwise. This afternoon I visited Andy's and got some shots of siskins on his feeders.

We then popped to Cannop to look at the feeders there. Managed to get some more of my favourite Robins, also saw Brambling, Reed Bunting, Song Thrush, Jay, and all the usual tits.

Better weather tomorrow they predict, Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Check it out.

You may or may not have seen postings on the Gloster Birder site from Lewis Thomson. If you have then you'll know he has a good eye. Lewis has recently started his own web site. Check it out at its very good.

Short Eared Owls

I used to have a colleague at work that everyone called the phantom. You knew he was there but no one ever saw him. He'd book on at the start of a shift and book off at the end but in between no one would see or hear from him. Short eared Owls leave me feeling the same way. Thats not to say i've never seen them, I have, but i've spent more time looking at empty sky than anything else.

Aust Warth on the Severn Estuary is a well known spotting site. I've seen them there twice. I have also spent at least twice as many times freezing my bits off waiting and waiting for them not to show. They have been reported as being seen at all times of the day, early morning to last light.

A trip today to Bleanavon in the Welsh Hills to see them was planned. Dave Slater and I set off full of hope. On our arrival there were other birders, always a promising sign, there was sunlight, relative calmness, and an air of expectancy equal to that when England play a semi final in the world cup that today was going to be the day. But you guessed it, nothing!! Four buzzards, a few Raven but not a sighting of the elusive birdie phantom. Here's a picture of a Pied Wagtail taken on my last trip to Aust.

Habitualised Kite.

Gigrin Farm, near Rhayader, what a place.

Bird watchers the country over and Photographers too should have heard of this place. If you haven't then please Google it and go visit it.

What is it? The short answer is it's a feeding station on a grand scale predominantly for Red Kite. Red Kite that have been part of the re-introduction programme for Wales.

From a wildlife photographers perspective is it pukker? The arguments will continue long into the future. These are Captive bred Kite that have been released and have succesfully raised their own young, those young are surely wild. There are obviously a large number of Kite that come to feed daily that are tagged, the reasons for this are self explanatary. There are others that have no tags and one presumes these are the first, second or whatever generation of kite bred from the released originals.

As a spectacle and photographic experience, it should not be missed. If the purists don't want to publish pictures onto their sites because the birds may not be truly wild then thats fine by me. However I defy any wildlife photographer to deny that it is an opportunity to enhance your skill and test your kit to the limit.

I've said before and will continue to do so I am no expert. I am a novice at both photography and wildlife watching. But I learnt a lot from taking part in the experience. Dave Slater went with me and gave me some pointers, things I would never have even thought about, things as simple as checking the settings on my camera regularly to match the changing light. I know you long standing photographers will say "thats basic" but it's the basics i've got to get right. I could hear Dave giggling next to me as I continually cursed myself for taking a shot too soon or too late or not at all. His giggles got louder as I prayed to the big being upstairs that a shot was sharp. The first feeding session of the kite was manic, birds twisted, turned, plunged, swooped, and soared all around us. It was impossible to pick one to shoot. Dave would say "Watch one bird, follow it and snap". Impossible I thought. The birds crossed over each other followed each other and quickly became blurred into one mass of talon and feather. I was knackered, and prayed for a break and surprisingly when it came it was total. It seemed as if someone had flicked a switch. Everything was still, the crows were back in the trees and on the posts around the field, the kite were in the trees too, nothing moved. The pattern repeated itself three times, each time becoming slightly less manic. Below are shots that i've sorted so far. They are not brilliant but believe me I worked hard for them.

I've been advised that when you click on an image and a new page opens that if you click on the "x" to return to the original page it doesn't . PLEASE CLICK ON THE RETURN ARROW until i sort it out. Thanks

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Back to the birds.

Another great Sunday (if you ignore Utd's shocking home defeat by City). Spent a few hours with Andy Carey looking for Siskins and Redpoll at Woor Greens. Unfortunately with negative results.

I left the football with 20 minutes to go and went back out into the Forest. managed to get these shots at the Arboretum.

I was really pleased with this Nuthatch. A cropped shot of it shows the sun glinting in it's eye. The mark of a good photo i'm told.

I love the darkness of this shot which i have not changed.

Having had my fill of the birds at the Arboretum I went for a drive around the Clearwell and Newlands areas. I was driving along a quiet stretch of country road when i saw this Kestrel over the hedge. I couldn't believe my luck when it didn't fly off as soon as i opened the car door.

A closer shot using the 1.4x convertor showed why. The poor thing had a duff eye. Initially i thought i had caught it with the eye shut but other pics taken showed the eye was permanently shut.

I was a little disappointed that this shot wasn't a little sharper, but as i've said before it's a learning curve.

I also saw but couldn't photo a Buzzard being mobbed by two crows, Amazing to watch how despite it's best efforts it couldn't shake them off. I can only imagine that they had watched him take food and were trying to get him to cough it up, as i believe they do.

A Rally Good Day

I went to watch the Rally, or more precisely one stage at Sallowvallets. It was very enjoyable. I also noted with interest that someone, presumeably the Forestry, had lain down new gravel on a large part of the route for this stage. Perhaps they are aware of the wider implications and have addressed them. I was back in the forest today and all was back to normal as far as i could tell.

Car N0 6 Subaru driven by Will Nicholls from the Isle of Wight.

Car N0 67 Mk 2 Escort driven by Jim Swift and co-driven by Sam Haile both whom I know well.

Here's one you don't see very often, car 214 Lotus Elise driven by Bernie Mclean from Birmingham.

I hope that all three managed to fulfil their ambitions and finish well. I haven't heard who the winners were but hopefully the day was a success without injury to anyone.