Saturday 30 March 2013

Great birds, lots of pics (Axe Estuary)

I spent as much time I could out with the camera yesterday, making the most of a nearly free day. I was up early to see if the Marsh Harrier was about. Unfortunately it appeared in the 2 hour time slot that I couldn't be out birding. Grr. I managed a few more Stonechat pics, although I still haven't seen a male bird which is a shame. I took quite a few pics of some very approachable Chiffchaffs, and some pics of the Little Ringed Plovers and Ringed Plovers on Black Hole Marsh:

It's worth clicking on all of these pics to get an enlarged view.

I took my old camera arrangement (Canon 500D + 300mm F4 L IS USM lens + 1.4x extender) as well as my Canon 7D + 70-200 F2.8 L IS USM ii so I could choose whichever set-up best suited the distance of the birds. Unfortunately the Plovers weren't particularly close so I used my old gear with greater focal length. The results are okay I suppose. The Chiffchaff pics were taken with the 7D set-up, they were plenty close enough for the shorter focal length lens!

Thursday 28 March 2013

River Axe- Marsh Harrier. Osprey. 23 Little Ringed Plovers.

Needless to say I missed all of the species mentioned in the post title due to work. ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. I headed out as soon as I finished work but the Osprey had gone and the Marsh Harrier hadn't been seen for about an hour. I then got a text from Steve saying that Ian (W) had 23 LRPs on Coly Common! Blimey! I quickly motorbiked over and when I arrived, Ian dealt me the news that 21 of the 23 had just flown off. Absolutely... Terrific...
On the plus side, I did see my first Stonechat and Wheatear of the year. There were approx 10 Wheatear around the path leading to the Colyford Hide (mostly male). With the following pics, please be aware that they were taken at annoyingly long distance (30m?) and it was gone 18:00 so light was... not good (bloody awful). The other pics of Chiffchaff, Red Breasted Merganser, Black Tailed Godwit and Green Sandpiper were all taken after work yesterday.
Bank holiday tomorrow so I'll spend as much of it out with the camera as I can! Although I haven't got a totally free day, unfortunately. Alarm is set for 06:00 so fingers crossed it's worth the effort and discomfort...

Mega distant!

Monday 25 March 2013

Big fall of migrants around the Axe Valley

Here's a few pics from the last few days. I headed out in the pouring rain on Friday to see the Sandwich Terns at Bridge Marsh. My camera and new lens got completely drenched. Here's a very distant pic of some of the Sandwich Terns through a lot of heavy rain:

MASSIVELY cropped pic
I also took a pic of a Buzzard which was struggling in the wind and rain. Shame I wasn't close to it as it would have made a nice shot. Again, this is massively cropped:

Like near the Axe, there's also a crazy amount of Chiffchaffs around the River Coly. Must have seen a good hundred or so over a 2 mile stretch of river, and that's without looking for them. Hopefully they get through the cold patch!

A good couple hundred of these in the fields by the River Coly
I missed both Ospreys due to work commitments... but at least I did get the Little Ringed Plovers yesterday evening. Yes, evening. I was out on a walk until 16:40 so then rushed to Black Hole Marsh and managed these lousy pics in ridiculous light (lack of) at gone 17:30. I think the new lens did a fairly good job considering the conditions. Definitely made use of the f2.8 even if the focal length is only a 1/3 of your average Bridge camera...

I really hope that the decent fall this 'Spring' continues. And also that it warms up soon!

Thursday 21 March 2013

NEW LENS- some experimental pics

I took my new lens into work with me a couple of times this week, along with my Canon 7D. The lens is a Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS L USM mark ii. Quite a brute even though it features a very modest focal length at the long end. I'd hoped to take some pics of a Pied Wagtail out of my office window as there's frequently one nearby. Sure enough it didn't put in an appearance on either of the days that I took the kit in! I had to resort (desperate times call for desperate measures, sorry Gavin and Steve) to GULLS. Not 'interesting' ones unfortunately, but it's the sort of thing I'm intending to use the lens for (birds in flight) so it was worth a try. Here's a few of the pics. Please note that they were taken through a VERY dirty window. Thankfully I was quite close to it so it hasn't affected the image quality too much, but it would have been better without the dirty glass in the way. Still, I think the resolution is simply stunning, despite the sub-optimal circumstances.
The top three images are the same picture, cropped to different extents.

Un-cropped image

50% view cropped

100% view cropped

It's worth clicking on all of these to enlarge the pics. I think the detail is amazing!
Okay, so it's a short zoom and I'm into birds, so why did I buy it you may ask... Well I also like dragonflies and butterflies (as regular readers will know) and the super fast focussing, f2.8 wide aperture and 4-stops of image stabilisation are HOPEFULLY going to enable me to get some decent insect-in-flight shots. That's the plan anyway. Obviously it'll be okay for birds, but it'll be pretty restrictive. Just have to hope for some tame ones this year!

MAJOR Blog Makeover

I'm in the process of giving my blog a serious makeover! Please give feedback if you come across any problems. I'm aware that the pics on some of the posts have stacked next to each other; I'll sort that out in due course. The most recent posts have been adjusted to suit my new template and formatting.

A couple of in-progress changes are the pages which are click-able underneath the header to direct you to:

- Exhibition pics (not uploaded any yet)
- Artistic(ish) Photography (there's a link to my other blog on this page)

Enjoy :)

Tuesday 19 March 2013

Spoonbill video and better Spotted Redshank pic

My new lens arrived yesterday! I'll put up some test pics from it soon; so far I am incredibly impressed with it. It's the Canon 70-200mm F2.8 IS L USM mark II.
As the post title suggests, here's a short video clip of the Spoonbill which I took with my Lumix on Sunday, and also another Spotshank pic:

Sunday 17 March 2013

Spotted Redshank and Spoonbill, River Axe

Short post cos I'm knackered! After a tough week (more on this if I get time. 90+ hours of work in the last 6 days to give you an idea!) I was hoping for a nice lie in until at least 08:00 this morning. So much for that! I received a text yesterday about a Spotted Redshank viewable from Seaton Marshes, and as I was busy working at the time the only option was for an early start today. So 6am and I was up and biked over to have a look around. It wasn't a particularly appealing view of the River as it was still slightly dark and visibility was poor due to constant light rain. But nevermind!! The Spoonbill was asleep on one of the banks in front of the Seaton Marshes hide so it was worth the trip already. About 5 mins later I located the Spotted Redshank; all pics are naff because of the rain, 7am light and distance but it's recognisable and it was just stunning in its winter plumage. Here's a couple of pics of the Spotted Redshank, and also the Spoonbill after it moved onto the field near the park a bit later on:

It was a good job I did go down early; my sighting of the Spotted Redshank at approx 07:50 was the last (as far as I've heard). Hopefully it's still around and just moved off for the high tide and then hid...

Friday 15 March 2013

Art, Birds & Environment EVENT

Just thought I'd advertise this on here in case people haven't seen the posters around town.

It should be a fantastic event! My only input is photography but it won't be repeats of what I post on here; I keep my best works strictly OFF of the blog!

Saturday 16th March, 17:00, St. Andrews Church, Colyton.
Hope to see you there...

Sunday 10 March 2013

River Coly birding (primarily pics)

Here's a few pics to close out the birding for this week. I had a brief walk along the Coly after work yesterday and got some shots of a Grey Wagtail, Grey Heron and a Buzzard. I went for another walk there in the rain this afternoon, with a friend. Just a few pics from each day. Light was terrible again (raining both days etc) but the 7D handled the high ISO settings fairly well.

Against a small patch of blue sky! 

Female Grey Wagtail asking for the affections of a nearby male, but to no avail

Friday 8 March 2013

3 Avocets on the River Axe

After yesterdays moderate success of taking pics of the single Avocet, I was rather excited by a text from Steve informing me that two more had turned up! So in 11 years of birding (wasn't in the communication loop until recently, and time has always been a problem) I see 0 Avocets, and then I get 3 in two days! Can't complain! :) Thanks to Steve for the tip off.
I looked over the estuary, Seaton marshes and Black Hole Marsh but didn't see the Avocets. It was fairly high tide on the river once I'd arrived after finishing work mid-afternoon. I decided to wait in Tower Hide in case the water level encouraged them to drop into Black Hole Marsh. It didn't; but they did do a distant fly by. Lucky I was looking up in the sky at the time otherwise I would have missed them! Here's a few shots. The image quality is far from amazing due to the distances involved, but who cares?! 3 patch Avocets in the same area of sky!! Gotta be chuffed with that.

Wednesday 6 March 2013

Spoonbill, Avocet & others on the Axe

After receiving a message from Steve last night informing me of the presence of a Spoonbill on the Axe, I set the alarm clock early (05:30) and headed to Seaton Marshes whilst it was still nice and dark. I had a look around the estuary with Gav and Steve but didn't have any luck. After we parted ways I decided to head back over to Seaton marshes for one last look before having to move off for work. It's a good job I did! The Spoonbill was feeding near to the Seaton hide. I inadvertently flushed it (although Steve didn't complain because he then saw it from the other side of the river as it was flying upstream) and took a few naff pics. This was at 06:55 so you can imagine what the light levels were like for photography!!!
I had to leave at 07:20 as I had to get to work. It wasn't easy to drag myself away from the Spoonbill (and Avocet). Whilst at work I saw Steve's tweet with Gav's pic of the Spoonbill at Black Hole Marsh (absolutely stunning image). TYPICAL, nicely posing for all of the other photographers whilst I'm stuck at work. I booked the afternoon off to try and get some shots in less dark conditions but the Spoonbill remained distant at all times during the afternoon (50 metres at it's absolute closest, from the hide at Seaton Marshes). I did catch up with the Avocet though so the holiday hours were well spent. Avocet and Spoonbill were both firsts for me. Not bad to get them both on the same day! I hope the latter hangs around for a few days and poses for me like it did for all the others!! We'll see. Here's a few of the pics: