Tuesday 30 October 2012

Cattle Egret, Kingfisher & a close encounter with a Water Rail

With some unfortunate circumstances preventing me from getting decent views of the Cattle Egret on Sunday, I took this afternoon off work (as holiday hours) in the hope that it was still about. It was! I ended up doing a lot of running around between the A3052 and back to the viewing platform at Colyford marshes as the bird kept changing position and going in/out of view. I did manage some pics where the bird is recognisable as a Cattle Egret, although they were pretty distant. Unfortunately a helicopter scared it away; it headed a LONG way upstream (I lost sight of it through binoculars so it must have been a couple of miles out). Hopefully it's still around. Here's some of the pics (pretty poor but certainly recognisable):

Whilst rushing to the viewing platform for the second time, I got very close to a Water Rail. It's a shame I didn't see it until I scared it off; I was preoccupied with trying to get the Cattle Egret. There was also a Robin posing nicely.

Next up was a visit to Tower Hide. Unfortunately the light remained really poor thanks to the prevalence of dark clouds. I took some naff pics of Lapwing; there were around 60 on show from the hide.

There was also the usual Kingfisher activity, although they didn't come close until around 16:45 by which time it was pretty dark. I took some pics anyway, but as it was so dark, I deliberately underexposed the shots (make everything look black to increase shutter speed of the camera) with the view to rescuing the colours and detail in RAW processing. I also took a couple of shots with my external flash and I was surprised that the Kingfisher wasn't remotely phased by it; not even a flinch or glance in my direction. Here's some of the pics. They're very underwhelming, but I'm pleased with how they came out considering they were taken after sunset, and on a cloudy day...

Holiday hours well spent I think!

Monday 29 October 2012

Redshank in flight pics

Well what a disastrous weekend I had! I missed the Cattle Egret on Saturday as my day at work was longer than anticipated, and I got VERY distant views of it on Sunday by the A3052 from Colyford Hide. I thought I'd quickly visit Tower Hide to see if there was anything of interest about. There wasn't. I took some pics of a Redshank and that was about it. I later got a message from Steve Waite saying that the Cattle Egret was showing on Colyford Marshes, very close to the viewing platform; so I quickly headed back out but something fairly substantial had a firm collision with my left eye. Whatever it was became embedded in my Cornea for a while. I did manage to get home but not without vomiting from the pain (or shock, one of the two). Not something I want to repeat in any hurry. I have booked tomorrow afternoon off of work as holiday so hopefully the Cattle Egret is still about (although I haven't heard any reports of it being seen today). Worth a shot anyway. Here's the Redshank pics:

It's worth clicking on these to enlarge them if you'd like a bigger view, especially the bottom pic.

Also, I've updated my 'new' blog at:

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Exciting couple of days on patch!

...but unfortunately not for me as I didn't have time for the Long-Eared Owl or the Marsh Harrier due to work. Ahh it's demoralising to be almost completely without the luxury of free time (however at the current time it's also sensible). Here's a couple more pics from the weekend which I didn't have time to post previously. They're rather unspectacular as it was really dull late afternoon/early evening on Sunday, and the drizzly conditions that the pics were taken in certainly weren't ideal.

It's slightly annoying that Kingfishers are so 'easy to get' from Tower Hide. I've spent literally hundreds (possibly thousands??) of hours trying to achieve decent shots of them on the River Coly over the last 10 years, where they are incredibly hard to get within 30 or so metres of. The work did pay off last year and the resulting pics were suitably satisfying, especially with all perches being completely natural rather than man-made which is almost unavoidable with the birds on the Axe (I hasten to add that I didn't have bags of time in 2011 either, it was a case of working 7:00-16:00 or 8:00-17:00, rushing dinner, then spending the evenings by the Coly until it was too dark to see the bird(s)). It's just odd how I like Kingfisher's on the Coly but don't hold much excitement for seeing them on the Axe. Totally natural habitat pics from the Coly are always going to be that bit more special (and actually worked for). Oh and adult birds only of course, the juv's are so drab by comparison (like my shoddy pics above!).
Revisiting the Coly birds from last year... These are cropped to show an insignificant proportion of the picture as I've had copy/theft problems with them in the past.

I think I'm always going to have a soft spot for these. If you haven't heard of Malcolm Brown (Malckingfisher) or seen any of his pics, then type him into Google. Some of his shots are simply mind-blowing and make mine look distinctly amateur (which probably isn't an inappropriate classification given the relatively cheap camera gear which I can sensibly afford).

Sunday 21 October 2012

Not a bad day of birding, and mothing (Hummingbird Hawk-moth)

Today was my completely free day (get one every 2-3 months due to work). I spent most of it out with the camera hoping to see something worth snapping. I started by walking a fair way up the River Coly but there wasn't much around. The best was a Buzzard and a Jay:

I headed out again in the afternoon and saw this Hummingbird Hawk-moth in the garden. I managed to get a few poor quality shots (it was only present for about 8 seconds and was struggling to fly in a stable manner due to the wind). This is the first one I've seen here since 2010!

I then spent the afternoon in Tower Hide; pics (lovely male Kingfisher, and many Little Grebes) to follow in my next post if/when I get time!

Saturday 20 October 2012

Pics from Tower Hide

With a brief time slot free after work & a dentist appointment yesterday, I visited BHM. I checked the marsh from Island Hide first, but with the only interesting birds being 2 Green Sandpipers, I headed to Tower Hide. Again, nothing unusual here, but I did take a few pics (got to keep this blog alive with something)!

I've also updated my other blog (Artistic (ish) Photography) so please have a browse if it's of any interest:

Monday 15 October 2012

New blog

This will probably only interest a select few of my readers, but I've started a new blog which concentrates primarily on photography projects and techniques. These will generally not be related to wildlife.
Here's a link:


Saturday 13 October 2012

Pics of Green Sand, Little Grebe & Little Egret

Quick post just to show a few pics from Friday afternoon. The pic of the Green Sandpiper was taken by my phone (Samsung Galaxy S3, technically the best phone available at the moment, so needless to say it'll be old hat by Christmas!!) which was tethered to my 7D via the camera cable and USB Host OTG cable (different language to most of you I imagine. I'll put up some annotated pics of the set up to give you an idea when I get around to it).

Thursday 11 October 2012

Better Pectoral Sandpiper pics, Black Hole Marsh

Here's some pics of the Pec. Again these were taken late due to when I finish work (taken at 6pm), it was dark and very wet. It was just one of those times when I had to let the camera gear get wet and hope that there wouldn't be any detrimental consequences. The bird was still pretty distant but I could quite easily see over the bank to take a couple shots (no, I did not climb up the fence, like a passing person did!!).

Tuesday 9 October 2012

Pectoral Sandpiper at Black Hole Marsh, with pics

Like yesterday it was dark and damp by the time I finished work, but a chance of getting better views of the Pec was just too tempting! It proved worthwhile too. The Pec was initially quite distant from island hide, sticking to the far edges of the marsh, but it was flushed by something along with the Green Sand it was near to. At this point I lost it, and Dad was all ready to go to home. So I had one last scan with the bins and s***! It was posing quite nicely on the other side of island hide. I was SURE it wasn't there before so maybe it hid behind some grass briefly before re-appearing. Unfortunately most of the birds on BHM flew up about 5 seconds after I noticed that the Pec was in good view, and the Pec was not an exception. Needless to say when it next landed, it was rather more distant again. Here's a couple of pics. To give you an idea of how dark it was, the general shot settings of (some) of the following images were:
ISO 800
Shutter speed 1/30 sec (about 17x slower than what I ideally needed)
Aperture f/4.0 (wide open)
If you have a vague knowledge of the more technical side of photography then you will appreciate that these shooting conditions were TERRIBLE, if not, then take my word for it!
The distance also made pics tricky, but it is recognisable so I can't be too disappointed considering it's my first Pec!

The Green Sands were slightly more obliging:

Now let's hope something else unusual turns up before autumn is completely over!

Sunday 7 October 2012

River Coly ringed Dipper info!

Frequent readers will have seen my multiple posts from this year about Dippers. If not then here's some posts that they featured in:





There were other posts but that'll do!
I made it a mission to get enough shots of the ring to work out what was on it. I eventually succeeded by the end of August. I've now heard back from the BTO and the bird was ringed as a nestling on May 9th 2011, at Wilmington Trout Farm. So it turns out it's only come about 8km to here, but it's still interesting to know where it came from, and nice to get a response after a LOT of effort went into trying to get close enough photos of the ring.

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Catch up (BHM, some pics)

With nothing else of particular interest turning up recently, I thought I'd post a few pics from the end of September to keep this blog ticking over!

A very tame one! Too close to take a decent pic of.

The Moon is definitely one of the more exciting sky-going objects at the moment!