Thursday, 29 May 2014

Mission to Photograph the Ravens at Sandy

14th May 2014

I had put a note in the diary for the 6th May that the Ravens at Sandy should have hatched and hopefully both parents and young would still be around the nest and therefore easier to photograph. In the event I was about a week late but still thought it was worth a visit. This time I took the anticlockwise route and eventually arrived at the nest site and could immediately hear the young calling. So far so good. I then walked round to the other side of the trees to get the sun behind me.

Nothing to do now but wait. The Ravens were calling somewhat intermittently and mostly deep in the foliage at the top of the trees. What I could also hear was a Hobby kee-keeing behind me. No sign of the bird but eventually the call transferred to my right and I was able to see the Hobby perched in a dead tree, sadly a little too far way but near enough for a few record shots.

Eventually the Ravens became a littler more active and started sitting around at the tops of the trees. Contrary to popular belief, the best photos were taken when the sun was in, because when the sun was out the birds were particularly shiny.

Mission accomplished.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

And now Fingringhoe Wick for Nightingales

6th May 2014

Our trip to Fishers Green produced a number of loud and close singing Nightingales but sadly no photo opportunities. However, last year Fingringhoe Wick not only produced singing Nightingales but a number of sightings and a couple of birds singing in the open. Unfortunately, despite a nice sunny day the birds were few and far between and very subdued suggesting that they had arrived early and were already nesting.

In fact the only bird that was at all cooperative was this Garden Warbler. Garden Warblers, it would appear, are like buses. I have been photographing birds for nearly three years now and it was only yesterday at Fishers Green that I photographed my first Garden Warbler, so after three years two come at along at once.

At that point a purring sound alerted us to a nearby Turtle Dove which we eeventually found in a dead tree in the distance. However, by changing tracks we were able to approach reasonably closely for a shot. Fingringhoe is now about the only place I know where you stand a chance of seeing one of these once common but now very scarce birds.

A call in to Abberton on the way back rewarded us with some close-ups of a Sky Lark perching on the fence posts in the car park. Not the most natural of settings but probably the closest I have ever managed to get so far.

 These two shots were of another Sky Lark along one of the trails.

Looks as though the Nightingales will have to wait until next year.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

In Search of Nightingales at Fishers Green

5th May 2014

The original plan was for Andy and I to go up to The Lodge to hopefully photograph the newly-fledged young Ravens, but in the event the weather looked rather unsettled and so we decided on Fishers Green as a lower risk local site. The primary objective was to look for Nightingales but realistically anything that put its head up would be acceptable.

We certainly heard many Nightingales on our travels, many seemingly just 10 yards away but always deep in cover as per their reputation, and a couple of flight glimpses were all we managed. This is fairly consistent with previous visits and I believe that it is much harder to get good views of Nightingales at Fishers Green than at Paxton Pits or Fingringhoe Wick.

We therefore abandoned that plan and moved on to an area of low hawthorn and bramble scrub in the hope of some Whitethroats. There were indeed a couple of Whitethroats present albeit fairly subdued and quite flighty. At that point we noticed a bird shuffling round in a bramble bush and so stood motionless waiting for the Whitethroat to appear. The bird did eventually show itself but instead of being a Whitethroat turned out to be a Garden Warbler. Still, mustn't grumble as these were my first photos of this species!!

Friday, 23 May 2014

Amwell Turns Up Trumps Once Again

3rd May 2014

Following on from the Spotted Redshank and the Ruff, a Wood Sandpiper has now taken up residence on the scrape in front of the viewpoint. Following the experience of the Ruff being continuously harassed by the Redshank I was fearful that the sandpiper would receive the same treatment and be scared off. In fact the Redshank was still present and did on one or two occasions have a disagreement with the Wood Sandpiper, but other than that everything was peaceful.

It took quite a while to get any shots of the sandpiper as it was spending a lot of its time on the outer edge of the scrape and frequently hidden by reeds. Even when it did emerge it was still just that too far for any decent shots but more than sufficient for the record. What a smart bird!!

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Cetti's and Cranes

I normally post my blogs in strict chronological order but this one somehow slipped through the net.

27th April 2014

Another trip to Lakenheath with Mark this time to see if we could connect with some Bitterns, Bearded Tits and Marsh Harriers but, as is becoming the norm, the weather forecast was totally wrong being overcast instead of wall-to-wall sunshine. Our first port of call was The Wash in the expectation of some terns and hirundines, but all we could see was a single Common Tern feeding way over the back. But by way of some compensation a Cetti's Warbler was giving out a series of song bursts in the trees and brambles behind us.

The surge in their numbers over the last five years has been nothing short of extraordinary and what was once a rare bird is present at most wetland habitats, but that doesn't make them any easier to see. This one, however, did seem intent on giving me a chance as it left the brambles and started moving around in one of the sallows. At my first photo opportunity the bird turned round and did the avian world's version of mooning, behaviour which is not mentioned in any of the books. Eventually it did cooperate and I managed to get a couple of decent shot amidst all the branches.

Moving on to Joist Fen it was fairly quiet with just one or two booms but no sign of any Bitterns and only distant Marsh Harriers. But at least one of the resident Common Cranes performed albeit about 200 yards away.

Monday, 19 May 2014

The New Abberton Reservoir

2nd May 2014

Early May and time to visit the new Abberton Reservoir and explore the visitor centre and the trails. The building work to raise the banks to increase the maximum level of water in the main reservoir by 10 feet has been going on for 2-3 years now and has caused a lot of disruption around the Layer de la Haye causeway, and the removal of the old visitor centre. Now, at least to the inexperienced eye, the work is complete and the causeway has been restored with superb lay-byes along its length with footpaths on each side, with the raised footpath on the eastern side in particular providing commanding views over the reservoir.

The new visitor centre has been up and running for some time now but it is only now that the trails are taking shape with two hides in position. At the moment the water is still some 35-40 yards from the hides, but eventually when the reservoir is full, the water will reach right up to the hides providing opportunities for close views of some species, particularly waders. I understand that there are plans for further hides.

We made our way to the Island Hide and could immediately hear the chilling call of Whimbrel, so things were looking up. We could see a few birds feeding some way away out of the left hand windows but far too far for a shot. Five Greenshank were also feeding along the shoreline right in front of the hide and provided some opportunities including some flight shots. Just imagine how much closer these will be when the water comes up.

In amongst them was a slightly smaller bird which was sporting some black on the breast. A closer inspection revealed that this was in fact a Spotted Redshank in its winter-to-summer transitional plumage. What a stunning bird with that needle-like bill?

But now the grand finale. For from the left hand side of the hide was marching an army of 12 Whimbrel, all totally oblivious to our presence and getting ever closer. Eventually, the closest birds were just 30 yards away although sometime partially obscured by tall grass. Nevertheless, a super experience particularly when they called when flying from one point to another.

I just can't wait for the water levels to rise.

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