Sunday, 28 February 2010

Is There Still Life?

Yes I am still here!! Sorry for the lack of updates, but due to a recent hectic work schedule I just haven't had any time!

I have a little time in the morning though, and hope to see something worthy of a blog post!

In the mean time though, check out this for a bit of fun! You must wear headphones and shut your eyes when you press play....



Saturday, 20 February 2010

Kite Bonanza At Gigrin Farm

I've not visited the Red Kite feeding station at Gigrin Farm in mid Wales since Nov 1998...when I was just 13! And the Black Kite which has been their since Christmas has been severely irritating my one remaining twitching gland. So yesterday, to the shock of many, I went...

I collected fellow AERG member Barrie from Merriott at 09:30, and drove us north. The drive through Wales was spectacular, with snow all around us....

...simply stunning

We arrived at Gigrin at 12:20, there was only snow here on the top of the hills to the south of the farm. After a bite to eat and a mooch about, we headed for the hides...

Check out Barrie's mega camera!

There were Kites loafing about already, even the hoped for Black Kite made an appearance for five minutes from about 13:30. But at 14:00, that's when this happens....


Which in turn, leads to this....


And here's a quick video to show how it looks...

video

After the first few Crows and Buzzards drop in to feed, the mayhem REALLY begins!

The Buzzards are nice and obliging and sit on the ground to feed....


Whereas the Kites don't land! This is a typical photo of Red Kites getting food...

They are so fast!!!

Though one did briefly forget what it was...

Gotcha! This is the only time I actually saw one land on the ground, and it only stayed there for about two seconds!

The third reason I came to Gigrin was to test how my Lumix is with flying targets. The ever changing weather made it a little more challanging, with sunshine, dark clouds, light clouds and even some snow during feeding time! Anyway, here's a few of my favourite Red Kite shots...

I took over 400 photos in all!!!

There was also this striking bird...

Is this an Iceland Gull?

So what of the Black Kite I hear you ask? Well as I said earlier, it gave us a brief showing early on, but it was quite distant. It did allow me to get this 'educational' video of it soaring with a Buzzard though...


Feel free to replace the word 'educational' with 'crap'!

During feeding time, it came in on at least four occasions to get some grub, allowing me to get the following shots of it. The Black Kite was totally different from the Red Kites in many ways (size, shape, jizz, colour), but due to the sheer speed all the Kites were whizzing round at, it was very easy to loose, making these photos even more pleasing....

A stunningly plumaged bird!

And here's a closer video of it, which ends nicely blurred....



Non-raptor birds here inlcuded a couple of Siskins and a flock of at least 60 Lesser Redpolls.

What a cracking trip, to see a cracking bird, accompained by 300+ of it's equally cracking cousins! The drive home was again fantastic, the snow covered mountains looked specactular


I shall end this post with a few very much meant words, something I can conclude after yesterday's trip.... I like Wales a lot!

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Oh What A Grey Day!

It's been drizzly and grey pretty much all day today, not nice. I started at Branscombe where the sea was lumpier than I was hoping, so picking things up on the sea was pretty tricky. Eight Common Scoters and two Red-throated Divers flew west, with another three Red-throats on the sea with a few small Razorbill flocks.

After this, an estuary sweep revealed little, though this made it a tad more interesting...

India-99

A little closer

The chopper was hovering over an abandoned canoe on the salt marsh, they stayed for a few minutes, then headed off back towards Exeter.

Lower Bruckland Ponds showed just one drake Tufted Duck, then I headed for Trinity Hill. I saw at least three Crossbills, but all were brief so couldn't get any photos, will try again on a brighter day. Nice to see plenty of Siskins too, including one male song-flighting.

On the way back to Seaton, I stopped off to see both the Bewick's and Whooper Swans. The swan flock are very hard to get a look at, but after a bit of scrambling about I got a good view of the whole flock...

Best viewed from the A358 near to that farm at the back

Whooper looking left and Bewick's looking right...and looking titchy!

Another look along the estuary later on revealed six adult Med Gulls, which was nice. Now time for a couple of random photos...

Whenever I slow down to take photos of any road side raptors they ALWAYS take off, like this...

Three Buzzards also did this to me today!

And MY last picture of the day (but not THE last picture) is this rather smart Cormorant fishing on the estuary...

A nice white headed one. This will probably be the only photo you'll ever see of a Cormorant on this blog! Unless one of the Double-crested variety ends up here, or if I get a photo of a White-tailed Eagle tackling one to it's death!!!

Lastly I must show this lovely photo sent to me today, taken by Catharine Willerton on Sunday evening showing the convoy of trams I was a part of the night before...

Cracking photo!! Thankyou Catharine :-)

Monday, 15 February 2010

Check Out This Beast!

I'm sure it has partly got something to do with the Taiga being a little closer, but look at this superb photo taken by Roger Riddington of two Tundra and one Taiga Bean Goose on Shetland...

http://www.nature-shetland.co.uk/naturelatest/pics10/3beans.jpg

It's like a bloody giraffe!!!

Hope to get plenty of birding time in tomorrow, watch this space.... or this blog I should say :-)

Saturday, 13 February 2010

A Wet And Wild Winter's Afternoon

Today marked the beginning of three days of Wet and Wild fun with EDDC on the local marshes. This is the winter cousin of the couple of days of similar fun in late summer.

I joined the Axe Estuary Ringing Group late morning, where we showed visitors what we get up too. We weren't based in our usual ringing hut though, we had one of Fraser's tents as base camp...

It wasn't quite tall enough though!

Things were slow...and it got very cold! We just had the usual culprits in the nets; Blackbird, Wren, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Robins. And these are always good value...

Caught two of these long-tailed balls of fluff!

Our temporary ringing hut was in a nice location though, right on the water side of Blackhole Marsh. A couple of Green Sands, two fighting Little Egrets and a fly over from the Spoonbill kept us entertained when we had no birds to fondle.

It flew from the estuary, up river, circled over Colyford Common then returned back to the estuary again

Later on, at 17:00, seven trams were lined up FULL of punters for an evening birding session from the tracks. I was leader on tram number three, and it was good fun....

Glad everyone wrapped up warm!

The return leg was in the dark and the night sounds of the estuary were supposed to keep us entertained...but there were very few sounds to enjoy!! The first leg of the trip was much better, and a Knot with a couple of Redshank besides the track just south of Seaton hide was a genuine surprise. Otherwise just the usual ducks and waders were on show. The trams do offer a unique view of the river, well worth a try one day if you've not experienced it.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Fun With Otters...

My memory card has arrived! The internal memory of my camera can store no more than five full sized photos, with my 16GB memory card I can now store 2,317!! I think that's enough...

Watching Simon King in Shetland last night inspired me to get some Otter shots, so this morning I went down to the Borrow Pit at about 9am. On my arrival I could instantly see an Otter feeding in the middle of the water so I started snapping away. It wouldn't stop moving, and only stayed up for a few seconds at a time. Meaning most photos turned out like this....

I do love their tails though!

But the odd shot did come out like this!!

And here's a very short video of this animal...

video

Then I noticed a second Otter, much closer to me feeding amongst some short reeds. This one just wouldn't show in the open though... not at first anyway....

Nice view of it's ear!

I think it's seen me, surely it won't come any closer now.....

.....WRONG!!!!

Then it did see me! He/she 'barked' at me three times, before disappearing under...

'woof woof'

What an experience! We are soooooo lucky to have these relatively 'easy' Otters on patch.

After this brilliant start to the day, I started birding. And first stop was Lower Bruckland Ponds where these were nice to see...

Two drake Tufted Ducks

A sweep of the estuary showed a drake Gadwall and the Spoonbill distantly north of Coronation Corner, doing what Spoonbills do best...

....sleeping! Note the size compared with those hulking Great Black-backs!

I then spent half an hour with a lone female-type Black Redstart at Seaton Hole. Yes sorry, more Black Red photos...

No sign of the male whilst I was here

And just so the Rock Pipit didn't feel left out...

snap!

And that was my few hours out this morning...

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Black Redstarts

There's been a couple of Black Redstarts showing at Seaton Hole over the last couple of days. So after I had a look around Beer Beach this morning and saw not a single passerine, I tried my luck here.

When I got down the bottom it was soon apparent there were more than two... there were in fact FIVE! This may explain why there were none on Beer Beach!? I guess this is actually a very good single site mid-winter count for Devon; I'm sure there is no where else you can go in the county at this time of year and see this number of Black Reds?

The five were made up of a fine adult male, and four female-types, and this is their favoured spot...

Four of them (including the male) seem to prefer the red cliffs, whereas one was much more faithful to the large white rocks at the cliff base- presumably the one Gavo managed to snap so stunningly yesterday, see his blog

I gave my camera a bit of test out whilst here, but as I've still not got a memory card, to enable me to store a few more pics on the camera's internal memory, instead of shooting at 12 mega pixels, I was snapping at just five.

One thing I can say about Black Reds, except of course how stunning they are, is that they don't like their faces being photographed...

Show us your faces!!!!

Eventually they did play ball a little more, though the male was always a little way up the cliff face...

Damn sea weed!

A stunner!

As soon as I get my memory card (which should be today or tomorrow), I'll get back down there ASAP and snap away at the camera's full capacity