Thursday 25 February 2016

Fighting Green-Winged Teal

The GW Teal and Glossy Ibis are still in the usual places up to at least 24th Feb. Here are a couple more pics:

Monday 22 February 2016

Rather Frisky Green-Winged Teal Displaying

I was concerned that readers may become bored of the same duck repeatedly appearing on this blog, but the web traffic over the last couple of days is suggesting that the monotony is no bad thing!! So here are a couple more pics from when the bird was displaying:

Sunday 21 February 2016

GLOSSY IBIS - Seaton Marshes

I thought it was about time something other than the GW Teal appeared on this blog, so popped out to see the Seaton Marshes Glossy Ibis this morning. It was hiding most of the time, but did come out for a few pics eventually.

Friday 19 February 2016

Bird of the Month - February

Perhaps slightly premature, but I fancy a change of header image so doing a 'bird of the month' is a good way to keep changing it. The bird for February without a doubt has to be the stunning drake Green-Winged Teal which is (primarily) on Black Hole Marsh. A lot of cold, wet, windy hours finally paid off this afternoon; I've clocked up over 50 hours on this bird now, even taking a laptop with me so I could work in the hide. This is one of those scenarios that fits in with the 'obsession' side of the hobby which I mentioned in this post. An aesthetically pleasing scarcity on patch is basically Heaven.

These pics were taken at 16:30 in dull and rainy conditions, but I had the hide to myself and the bird came the closest I've seen it to date!

And here's my favourite pic; a bit further away but it's nice and natural with a clean background. Lovely! This is the one that will be the new header of this blog.

Barn Owl

A pic (two different crops) taken of a local Barn Owl. I wasn't expecting to see the owl so didn't have the right gear with me; I had the 600mm + 1.4x extender & had to manual focus as the bird kept dipping behind trees. Only 2 shots of a dozen or so were in focus! These birds are always such a joy to watch.

Tuesday 16 February 2016


Late this afternoon, the Black Hole Marsh GW Teal showed the closest I've seen it to date, perhaps within 60 - 70 foot! The light was tricky as the Sun occasionally broke through the clouds but it was generally fairly dull conditions for photography. I offloaded a hideous number of photos over a period of 30 mins or so; it would have been rude not to! There's loads more pics to post here but here's just one for now:

(Medium resolution file so will appear larger in a new tab if clicked on)

Thursday 11 February 2016

Birder or Photographer?

Be warned - this is a very different kind of blog post to the normal short & blunt text plus a few images that you usually see here. After reading Steve Waite’s post regarding his beginnings and development as a birder, I started to question what ‘makes me tick’ in this hobby. I spend nearly all my birding time on my patch; this is an area of 5km radius from Axmouth Bridge. I nearly always take some camera gear, and nearly always make an effort to get ‘that shot’ regardless of what the subject is. I have also been known to go on the occasional twitch, but never travelling particularly far. This is where the lines between birder and photographer become blurred for me; I won’t go on an off-patch twitch unless the bird is showing well enough for a decent photo. Does this imply that photography is my priority/passion?

Now for the patch.
I spend a great deal of time looking for scarcities or birds of interest on patch. In the peak migration periods I would go to Black Hole Marsh or Beer Head at first light most mornings, have a look around for an hour or so, and then head to the office for work. I was fortunate in my previous place of employment that I could pop out if another birder had found something of interest - I had a few patch ticks from midday trips from work (Kumlien’s Gull being a highlight - thanks Steve Waite). Also with office hours usually finishing at 17:00, there’d be just enough light to have another hour or so of birding (Spring/Autumn). The fact that I would spend as much time looking for birds as I could possibly squeeze into a day, really emphasises to me that I am first and foremost a birder, but with my interest being concentrated around the patch. There’s something incredibly satisfying about finding/seeing unexpected birds on patch. We have a great patch around the Axe, and a great network of birders, with most of them being generous with sharing information; I know there is one individual who has come to blows with a few birders (and many non-birders) but thankfully this poor attitude is not the norm here. It does happen a lot in birding though, it’s not difficult to find disagreements and bitchiness on social media such as BirdForum and Twitter. On the whole my fellow patch-ers are a great bunch and they add to the enjoyment of the hobby immensely.

The time that photography becomes more important to me is when there is a rarity on patch. Take the Baird’s Sandpiper on Black Hole Marsh in August 2015 as an example (see here). As it was a patch first the initial thing I had to do was see the bird and take a couple of snaps as a record. This was a fairly busy twitch for the reserve, so I then stepped aside to let other birders see it. I saw people come and go, all within a few minutes; they literally pop in the hide, see the bird, tick it off the list and then leave. Personally that type of birding does not appeal to me at all, but everyone handles their hobby differently and that’s perfectly fine. With this bird, I remained on site until near-darkness (can’t recall just how long this was, but it was many, many hours) to try and get a good photo of it. If the bird was to show well or come close, then I wanted to be there. This paid off with this particular bird; all other birders aside from myself and Dad had left the site as it became dull, yet I would stay there until it was too dark to see the bird any longer. With a quiet hide to ourselves, we were treated to point-blank views of the Baird’s Sandpiper. Yes, it was getting dark and that made photography difficult, but the closer views and subsequent pics made every single second of waiting worthwhile. 

I suppose this enthusiasm/determination to get the best photo I can (given the circumstances) of a locally unusual bird is verging on obsession. But ultimately a hobby is an obsession, isn’t it? It’s moments like this one with the Baird’s that I will never forget, and it’s the chance of another such experience that keeps me coming back to both birding & wildlife photography, at every possible opportunity.

Regarding the title of this post, I am first and foremost a patch BIRDER; but I’m one who strives to take the best photos possible if that special bird turns up…

Wednesday 10 February 2016


A few very chilly, slightly damp hours at Black Hole Marsh yielded a few minutes viewing of the drake GW Teal. It was at the very back of the marsh for the entire time but I managed to get a flight shot of it. Please excuse the graininess - the distance meant that I had to use a 2x extender and then still have to heavily crop the image in post production anyway! 

Sunday 7 February 2016

GLOSSY IBIS having a bath with a GW TEAL...

A brief check of Black Hole Marsh yielded some distant views of a nice moment; the Green-Winged Teal was snoozing on one of the islands and the long-staying Glossy Ibis decided to have a bath next to him! Pretty rubbish photo, but I thought getting these two scarcities (rare for the patch) in one photograph was rather good!

Another good bird for the patch appeared this morning - a Marsh Harrier. I had distant views of it flying fairly high, being hassled by a couple of Corvids.

Monday 1 February 2016

Green-Winged Teal pics and video

I spent a few hours on Black Hole Marsh in the hope that the GW Teal would do a close swim-by; there's great potential to get a brilliant pic of it if it stays on the marsh. He stayed distant again for most of the day - although did do one closer approach to Island Hide... Sue Smith timed her visit perfectly as this happened moments after she arrived! By closer, I do not mean close, more like less distant! I took a few snaps and some brief video clips:

(Video is refusing to work at the moment).

There was also a Scandinavian Herring Gull on the Estuary but unfortunately it left 3 mins after I got the message! Turns out I was on the wrong side of the river so it may have been out of sight anyway. The interesting birds can keep on coming...