Saturday 31 December 2022

Bring on 2023

Another year gone. 2022 has been a good year on patch for locally scarce birds!

I never did quite revive this blog, but it was less neglected than recent years so I'm taking that as progress. Quite a few nice finds this year considering the disappointing amount of time I've been able to put into it, with the Glaucous Gull over my garden being perhaps the most unexpected. The 2nd of the 2 Honey Buzzards (Dorset) was impressive though, flying pretty much straight over me! 

I should probably do a bird montage image but to be honest, I can't be bothered to make it tonight (sorry), so here's one of some of my 2022 astro images!

Good luck to all heading out for January 1st birding, and all the best for 2023.

Thursday 29 December 2022

Isabelline Wheatear & White-tailed Eagle

What a gorgeous wee bird!

Boxing Day was such a superb birding day on patch here with the Isabelline Wheatear continuing to show well, a visit from a White-tailed Eagle, as well as a flyover Great White Egret. There have been triple figures of people visiting us here for the Wheatear, with a plethora of pics appearing all over social media. You can't blame the photographers (or birders or twitchers) for coming for this one, it was both rare and very, very obliging. I crouched down on the boardwalk and waited, and the Wheatear duly hopped towards me, within perhaps 20-25ft at times. It gave a similar feeling to the incredulous views of the 1st Least Sand we had on Black Hole Marsh back in 2016.

With there being so many pics of this bird already doing the rounds online, I made a conscious effort to try and get something different, if possible. A flight shot was an outside hope because as much as we like to get them, they're just so difficult. Something a little more likely was a shot with streaks of rain, something I have a soft spot for in wildlife images (but preferably not my astro stuff...).

These 2 are by far & away my favourite images from the day:

And a very, very distant shot of the White-tailed Eagle. Bun (Kevin Hale) first saw what he thought might be a WT Eagle in flight over the other side of the river but views were distant and brief. He described where he thought it had gone in and I set my scope up on the area. This did show a blob of a bird, but it was just too distant for my 50x eyepiece and no amount of squinting or good eyesight was going to help any of us. Fortunately the camera was a bit more useful, and the very few pixels that were actually on the bird did seem to show it was likely an Eagle; I stuck my neck out and said to the crowd that I was 95% sure it was one. Half an hour or so later it flew and at that point there was no doubt at all. We've had a few passes of WT Eagle over the patch now, but this was the 1st time I've managed to see one, so cheers for initially spotting it Kev!

Saturday 10 September 2022

2 Garganey, Hobby, Pec Sand & Osprey

I hate how sparse my blogging has been over recent years but if I ever only worked 100 hours per week, I'd genuinely consider it part time 😂

On September 1st, in terrible light, and very distant, I had 3 small ducks fly in and park up on the Axe estuary. My immediate hunch was 2 Garganey and a Teal, so I alerted the others in the hide. Some umm-ing and ahh-ing later and the scope & bin views just weren't good enough, but fortunately the camera revealed more, especially when they came a bit closer, 400 ft or so (but DARK). Bang on, 2 Garganey and a teal! I've found quite a few Garganey here over the years, but these were the first that were properly hard work. Hobby was nice to see that same evening, my 1st of the year I think; pretty poor, but birding time has been poor so...

Roll on the 9th, my birthday! An alert went out about a Pectoral Sandpiper at Colyford Common so I quickly popped over for a look before going to work (late...). Got it, in the drizzle, but got it. No sensible pics but I was just glad to see another one here. Keen to have another try after work, I headed back there in the evening, but before I could check the waders, an Osprey approached and flushed everything...

Pec and Osprey, happy birthday!

Tuesday 3 May 2022

Spoonbill at Black Hole Marsh

The decent year for (locally) scarce birds on patch continues! Spoonbills are more or less annual on patch, some years none, some years more than one (like this year), and always a joy to see. I had Black Hole Marsh entirely to myself when I saw this beauty drop in.

At dusk a lot more birds came in to BHM, including 14+ Whimbrel and 2 Bar-tailed Godwits.

Saturday 30 April 2022

Green-winged Teal finally shows nicely

 ...but only for a few seconds. It was on the pool by the Discovery Hut, which is the area I thought it went down in when it flew from Black Hole Marsh on the 18th. 

25th - I had a gorgeous sum plum Barwit on Black Hole Marsh which was joined by a 2nd on 27th

26th - a Cattle Egret flew SW over Seaton, 3 Whimbrel on the estuary

28th - a decidedly less attractive Barwit joined 1 of the 2 sum plum birds

29th - 2 Barwits (1 sum plum), 5 Whimbrel and 3 Ringos

Taken after the Sun went down when most people would have long packed up the camera gear!

Monday 18 April 2022

Green-winged Teal at Black Hole Marsh

I thought I'd missed my chance with the GW Teal on Bridge Marsh on 8th April (I was working), but rather unexpectedly it flew in through the rain and landed on BHM early evening today! I'm not aware of any other sightings between the 8th and now but it's likely the same bird and has presumably been staying somewhere local-ish. It flew in from north of BHM with 3 Teal and landed quite a way off... It didn't linger long and after it flew, a further 90 mins of searching didn't turn it up again either. It was nice to get a few other people onto it as well at least.

Poor pics due to distance, but great to see nonetheless.

Wednesday 23 March 2022

White-winged surprise over my garden!

Glaucous Gull is definitely not something I was expecting to see over the garden today! I had my binoculars and (small) camera handy whilst I was working on my astro equipment outside, and it was just as well that I did. A scarce bird locally, and only the second I've seen on patch. It really did put a smile on my face, it just wasn't something I was expecting to see from home. I've had a few Meds over before, and a probable Iceland Gull over town (we had one on the Axe the following morning so the 'probable' became extremely likely), but still, a very nice surprise indeed!

Poor pics, but I care not.

There were reports of a WT Eagle over Beer at 16:25 on Tuesday, but before I was aware of this, I had a large bird flying high, away from me over Colyton at 16:48-16:50. I had my arms full of daughter, no bins, no underside view of the bird to show any diagnostic shape, but it was big, and the gulls were not impressed. I hope the GPS data gets released and shows that the bird I had heading NNE was not the eagle... Still not seen one, and want to see one properly when it does eventually happen.

Sunday 13 March 2022

Cattle Egrets in Colyton

We've had a few Cattle Egrets frequenting Colyton for quite a while now, numbering up to 5 on occasion. They've been relatively obliging at times, primarily using the same 4 fields. I expect the novelty will somewhat wear off with these in the next few years, but I do rather like them (especially the 2 full breeding plumage birds I had last year)!

Birding time has been a bit sparse lately, as has time to eat or sleep. Having both Delta & Omicron in the house within 4 weeks of each other wasn't ideal either, especially with a 1 year old. 

Roll on Spring.

Saturday 29 January 2022

ISS transit of the Moon! And flat-earthers...

A lunar transit of the International Space Station is something I've wanted to capture for a long, long time. It's difficult in the UK as clear skies are hard to come by, especially, it seems, when you want them most. Using an online ISS tracker, I knew that there was an opportunity to capture such an event quite close to home, so lots of planning later and I was all ready to go on the 19th of January.

The ISS passed in front of the Moon at approx 22:54, with the transit lasting close to 1 second. Yes, 1 second. You can imagine why this type of thing takes a lot of planning, as well as very careful execution.

I videoed the transit on 2 cameras (1 main, 1 backup), and made the image stacks from the footage, as well as from some stills taken just after the pass. It was a 96% moon on the night, but I decided to blend it with an image of the 100% full moon from 2 nights prior, to give it a nice 3D type feel. Not something I've tried previously, but it does make this final image feel more complete.

It's not very often a shoot ends with this sort of feeling, but all the prep and effort paid off.

Colour data was enhanced in post-processing for aesthetic purposes, but the colours here are naturally occurring. ISS positions are accurate and to scale, made from the 25 frames in the video that the ISS appeared in. To ensure each image of the ISS was sharp, I opted for a shutter speed of 1/2000s for the video. This was an educated guess as I've not attempted this before, but physics, maths & photography are kind of my thing(s), so I knew that this would do the job fairly well.

Here's the video footage, played at real-time speed, half speed and quarter speed:

Something I didn't consider at the time was just how triggered FLAT-EARTHERS would be by my night's work. I had one 'interesting' comment on my Facebook post, then another, and another in quick succession, so I soon realised that my post must have been shared somewhere a bit, shall we say, 'out there'. A bit of detective work from my good lady and we found the offending Facebook group, a 'flat-earth' group. It seems the ISS is a real problem for their 'movement' as it's one of the few things they can't provide any remotely conceivable explanation for.

I didn't find the comments annoying. In fact, the extent of delusion was so extraordinary that the comments were highly entertaining!

You're a NASA shill!
You work for NASA!
You're pushing lies for the government!
ISS is fake!
Earth is flat!
ISS is only the size of a football field, you can't see it at 250 miles!
It's the wrong size compared to a plane in front of the moon!
It was a modified plane!
The moon is really close to us inside the dome!

I'm grateful for the laughs, so thanks to them for that! In fairness, the number of flat-earthers that I attracted was low as the images will have been seen by millions across the various platforms. But still, concerning nonetheless... 😂

Monday 24 January 2022

Glossy Ibis photo

Iridescence! I was pleased to catch some iridescence without direct sunlight, as sunlight with field shots like this usually leads to horrible shadows and/or highlights.

There is a fair bit of video footage too but it's unlikely to make it off the PC; I've had a rather busy few days with astrophotography and replying to hundreds/thousands of people about some International Space Station pics/video!

More on that in the next post. It'll likely be worth your time...

Sunday 16 January 2022

4th Glossy Ibis arrives on patch & Red Kites in January

Another Glossy Ibis on patch is something I've been expecting for a while given the number that have been in the UK over the last few weeks, so it was nice to hear that Viv had spotted 3 on Friday 14th. I popped down as quickly as possible but missed them by 2 minutes; apparently they'd flown high and west, normally a bad sign here. 

However, roll on the following morning and I got another chance as Bun spotted 3 on Bridge Marsh! I hurried down but again they weren't there, but I did later see them distantly in flight, and then tracked them down to a field north of Bridge Marsh & the A3052. Not particularly close (they gave spectacular views both before and after, I hear), but great to see nonetheless. I also had a Greylag Goose on Bridge Marsh, my first of the year.

Here's a pic of 2 of the 3 ibises, at a range of 150-200ft, so not too bad.

Sunday 16th arrives and I popped down to Seaton Marshes for a look around and sure enough the 3 Glossy Ibises were still there. A bit later I spotted another one flying in from the south, and after double checking the other 3 were all still together, could confirm that this was indeed a 4th bird. 

Also of note were 2 Red Kites low over Colyton on Friday 14th, my first January sightings on patch as far as I can remember.

More pics as well as some video of the ibises to come once I've had time to sort them out!

Monday 10 January 2022

White-fronts, Cattle Egrets and a Brent

The strong start to the year continues! The 3 White-fronted Geese were still present on the 3rd, and I had a couple of Cattle Egrets on the estuary briefly before they flew north. It was nice to see a Brent Goose on Bridge Marsh on the 7th as well.

The first week in January also provided some clear skies, albeit briefly. Still, I made the most of them. Images taken with my wildlife camera gear and a tracking mount. No fancy astro cameras, no telescopes (yet).

Horsehead & Flame Nebulae

Messier 33

Monday 3 January 2022

January 2nd - Pochard, WF Geese and a Tufty

What a fantastic start to the year for patch birding! Both getting out in nature and spending time at home over the last few days has really put perspective on things that I SHOULD be doing. I'm determined to work less this year. If I stop work now, I've done more hours than a 50 year old working in full-time employment since they were 18. This is at 30 years old. Genuinely, no exaggeration. To say I have been drained both mentally and physically is an understatement. Cue the violins... 

An afternoon trip to Seaton Marshes was very productive, with a Pochard and Tufted Duck being watched by Phil Abbott when I arrived. Bun found them earlier in the day apparently! This is the 1st Pochard that's been here at a time when I wasn't working (violins again), so I was pleased to finally see one locally. Also locally scarce but not really a surprise given the numbers about at the moment were 3 White-fronted Geese on Bridge Marsh.

Pochard and Tufted Duck

Sunday 2 January 2022

January 1st Birding

A rare, brief & somewhat uninspiring blog post! I'd love to say this is the beginning of a resurgence of this blog, but the chances are slim... I have a lot to post from 2021 but that will more than likely stay on the hard drives!

It was nice to get out on patch for a few hours this afternoon. Not much of interest seen, but it was relieving to be back out with the bins and camera after an extremely testing 2021.

Pintail at Seaton Marshes 01-01-2022