Thursday, 2 July 2009

Back to Wales

I went back to Wales largely to see what Conwy had to offer in the mornings, I arrived at about 7.00am before the centre opened, so I had the place to myself.

I loved the peace and tranquility which was only broken by the calling of the Gulls and Oystercatchers. I have to say that I was slightly dissappointed. I had hoped for more but the place was pretty devoid of interesting birds. However it improved before I left. Black Tailed Godwits came in and landed too far away for decent photography, I could see them with the bino's and big lens but the detail was useless.

Redshank came in too, but again too far away from me to get good pics. A curlew flew away from me as I walked into one of the hides so an opportunity was missed there. Two heron came in to the reserve I managed a few pics of this one. I'm bemused by the pose. I've seen Heron do this before, Woor Greens and Slimbridge are both places I've seen it. I can only imagine that its an attempt to warm up, or perhaps cool down.

I'm going for the former as he was facing into the sun.

The Oystercatchers were there in numbers, this one was the closest.

However, present in the largest numbers were the Rabbits. There were lots all around the reserve, mostly braver (or more stupid) young ones.

By 9.30am I was aware that Chris Grady was rapidly approaching Conwy on the A55 on route to Anglesey. I agreed to follow him up in the hope that Chough may be on the cards.

They were. Unfortunately not in the numbers that I'd seen last week, Only a single fledgling remained and only one adult came to try and tempt him or her away. The efforts were successful, but not before I managed these shots of the juvenile.

Also present were Stonechats and Pipits. This Stoney was going past his prime in the plumage stakes.

Whilst on Anglesey we located some of these little beauties, Silver studded Blue butterflies.

Lovely little things.

The day was very enjoyable, although I have to say the heat was hard work, several ice creams and cans of pepsi max were consumed in an effort to stay calm. One dissappointment was that there is no Peregrine nest visable from the steps down to the lighthouse this year at South Stack, the RSPB warden said the nest could not be far away though as the birds kept making fly pasts.

Back up north tomorrow, Martin mere and Leighton Moss to start with and then the lakes.

Oh a P.S from the last post from Martin Mere, I saw and photographed this little beauty albeit from a distance. This is a cropped pic of a corn bunting found near the reserve but not actually in it.

Heavily cropped so not the best shot but another bird for the list, confirmed.

Martin Mere

I have wanted to go to Martin mere for some time. Springwatch or autumn watch turned me on to it. So on Mon (28th) I put it into action. I arrived at the centre at around 11pm and slept in the MH ready for action the next morning. Slightly dissapointed that the centre opens at 9.30am and that the weather was decidedly grey and overcast, I set about after the Tree Sparrows and a Stoat that had been reported near to the Ron Barker hide.

Firstly I saw and photographed three Green Sandpipers, a first for me.

These were outside a hide on the approach to the above mentioned hide so already I was feeling chuffed.

On my arrival at the Ron Barker hide I had barely stepped in through the door when an opportunity presented itself, a Kingfisher sitting on the fencing around a bridge over a drainage ditch

Not quite close enough to get real detail but I like this shot which is cropped by about 30%.

A juvenile Heron then made an appearence. He was closer than the Kingfisher and was very active amongst the reeds looking for food.

This shot is almost full frame, I have cropped a little from the left of the picture and of course reduced it to fit here.

I was thrilled to see a Marsh harrier quartering over the mere to the front of the hide. I watched him for an age but he never came anywhere near to photographic range, still a thrill though.

I saw the stoat on three occasions, but never once was he still enough to capture a picture of. He was busily chasing around trying to find a way to get to the swallows nest un derneath the aforementioned bridge. He did do something that I and others in the hide found quite amusing, there were a few birds sitting on the top rail of a five barred gate and he was jumping into the air trying to reach them. he stood no chance and they knew it as they did not even bother to move. I certainly had never seen this kind of behaviour before.

The swallows on the bridge were unconcerned by him as well.

So, did I see Tree Sparrow? I did, I saw lots and lots. Here are some of the many photos I took. How I wished the day had been different. I wish there had been good light. But i'm fortunate in that respect because I can go again, indeed weather permitting I'm going to, soon.

I only walked half of the site, I was impressed by the standard of the hides I visited. I was pleased that there were three species that I can add to this yrs list. Ringed plover, Green Sandpiper, and Tree sparrow. I also enjoyed Sausage casserole at the cafe.

My next post is another trip to Conwy RSPB reserve and Anglesey for the Chough. Some nice shots to post so come back and have a look.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Tales of Ghosts.

South Stack on the Island of Anglesey is another location featured on Spring watch this year. Famous for two reasons, firstly the colony of seabirds such as Guillemots that line the cliffs around the RSPB centre, and secondly for it's haunted lighthouse, rumoured to be the most haunted in the country. I didn't pay the three pounds required to walk out to it to find out.

I did however spend quite a while on the cliffs. I wanted to try and photograph the Chough that use the cliffs to raise their young. I spent a while chasing up and down, exactly as Chris had done in Pembrokeshire, trying to photograph the adults feeding the young. Then I realised that the adults were tending to feed the fledged young in one or two of the more difficult places to capture due to the light. So I decided to sit where the adults were collecting food and see what I could get.

I think that this picture justifies my efforts. There were other species to be seen of course, in addition to the Guillemots and puffins. Stonechat, Linnet, Shore Pipit, Meadow Pipit, All the Gulls, Jackdaw, and Peregrine just to name a few.
Whilst on Anglesey I had spent the previous night on a campsite nearby. It was the Valley of the Rocks at Treaddur bay. It was within a few miles of South Stack and was set on some lovely grounds. A very large site which was unfortunately let down by the condition of the Toilet and shower facilities. They were dirty and in poor repair. Fortunately it was only ten pounds fifty a night including electric hook up. What the site did provide for me however was the best opportunity for sedge warbler I've had to date.

This is just one of a great many shots I took of a pair that were collecting food for chicks nearby. I will be putting other shots onto my website in due course (check out my links for the website).
After a spell at South Stack I headed to RAF Valley still on the Island. RAF Valley is the home of the 208 Reserve squadron flying Hawk mk1/1a aircraft. it is a training squadron that trains newly qualified pilots in their final advance training. There is, surprisingly in this day and age, a viewing area at the end of the runway where members of the public can watch the planes. I had a very enjoyable time watching the aircraft buzz over our heads.

The above is a full frame (camera cropping excluded) shot reduced to fit on this blog, the full picture is much more impressive. Taken on the 300mm lens without a convertor.
I left Anglesey and headed towards Chester and a visit to my mother. On route though I called in at the RSPB reserve at Conwy. The reserve is easily found just off the A55 clearly marked on the approach in both directions. I had never been before. I am saddened to say that when you consider how close it is to my home city of Chester. I should have been on many occasions. I will certainly pay a return visit or two. It was fabulous, a great shop and cafe and a great reserve with an absolute abundance of birds both on the reserve and on the river bank immediately adjacent to the reserve which is walked along to access one of the hides. I saw, Godwit, Oystercatcher, Geese, Merganser, Gulls, Spotted Redshank ( I think, I've yet to confirm identity), Heron, Mallard duck, Canada Geese, Little Egret, Mute Swan, Greenfinch, and Long tailed tit. There may have been others.
Unfortunately I arrived late and the light was against me. Also the best hide for photography according to a member of staff was just about to be shut for the night, It encourages vandalism if left open so it is now fitted with a very secure lock. Take note Teifi Marsh!

With the exception of the oystercatcher these pics were a bit rushed. The light was also against me. I was finding it extremely difficult to get the exposure right. I will return early one morning this coming week.
The weekend at mums has so far been filled with jobs and shopping. I am staying at a Caravan Club certified location in the village of Mickle Trafford, it is called Beech Farm. It is very nice. It has a toilet block and shower and facilities for fresh water and waste water disposal. It costs Twelve pounds a night with electric hook up.
I am envious. It was my initial intention to travel straight to Scotland when I got my motorhome, but plans change and the Welsh coast seemed a better place to start. I have no regrets about this decision but I am envious of Chris G who has been to Scotland this week and has apparently captured some great shots of Pine Marten. I look forward to seeing them on his website (see links). I will get up there soon.
I'm going to do Martin mere and have another crack at the Black necked grebe this week. A days fishing back on Anglesey with my brother is also scheduled.
I hope for good weather and will of course keep you up dated as often as possible.