Saturday, 27 September 2014

An Autumn Visit to Lackford Lakes

10th September 2014

I thought a visit to Lackford Lakes would be worthwhile to hopefully connect with some migrant warblers. At this time of year I avoid the long trail around the mature lakes and concentrate on the area between the visitor centre and the double-decker hide. Here the ground is more gravelly with more stunted bushes and trees, and therefore any warblers or small passerines are easier to see and photograph.

We hadn't even reached Bernard's Hide when up to four Chiffchaffs were flitting around the bushes on the bank and occasionally coming to the edge of the cover to allow a few quick opportunities. Also, around the double-decker hide there was a lot more activity with Chiffchaffs calling from every bush. We did see the occasional Blackcap but they were keeping hidden, so the results of our efforts were a selection of reasonable Chiffchaff photos.

Meanwhile in the double-decker hide itself quite a few large lenses were waiting for the Kingfisher to appear and hopefully perform on one of the perches carefully positioned in front of the hide. After quite a long wait no Kingfishers had appeared and then one of the assembled crowd said that when the Kingfisher very occasionally did appear, it always came from the direction of Bernard's Hide. I waited for the mass exodus but nobody appeared to have picked on what had been said. Anyway, it was good enough for me so we hot-footed it down to Bernard's Hide and had to wait at least two minutes before the Kingfisher arrived and put on his display which was repeated every 20 minutes. As far as I am aware, the crowd in the double-decker hide are still waiting patiently.

Lackford Lakes is a well-managed reserve and lovely to just stroll round with a camera. So today we only managed to photograph two species but, judging by the quality, I think we've had worst days. But enough of that, now on to Cavenham Heath to see the autumn roost of  Stone Curlews........and a surprise!!!!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

An Absolute Photography Wader Fest at Titchwell

7th September 2014

It had been a good day at Titchwell with plenty of birds close enough for some decent shots. However, I decided to keep the best to Part 2 of the blog which I hope you will agree is an absolute bird photography wader fest that can only be experienced at Titchwell. First up was a Redshank feeding on the saltwater lagoon by the beach. Even better when it walked out on to a spit and was silhouetted against the sunlit water.

Back in the Parinder Hide a juvenile Spotted Redshank flew in for 10 seconds, just long enough to grab a couple of shots. Still brown and spotty like the Redshank and complete with orange legs, but also with that tell-tale dagger of a bill.

As is normal for this time of year there were dozens of Ruff in assorted plumage. However, whereas they are normally far out on the fresh-marsh, today they were coming quite close to the Parinder Hide and the beach path. As borne out by the number of questions we were asked, they are the wader that causes the most confusion amongst beginners and, not surprisingly, frequently get dismissed as Redshank

Also close to the beach path were three Little Stint on the mud with their knitting-needle-like feeding action. Although they were close they were difficult to photograph as they are so fast and only adopt a photogenic pose for a split second. The last shot shows the distinctive "braces" that characterise this species.

But for me today the stars of the show were the Curlew Sandpipers. I have probably never seen so many at Titchwell before but for most of the time they kept their distance. But then, for no apparent reason, a flock of 10 birds rose up and after a couple of circuits landed just 15 yards from the path.

I have been photographing birds for three years now and can easily say that a high percentage of my best close-up shots have been taken at Titchwell, which must be by far the Mecca of the bird photography world.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

An Autumn Visit to Titchwell

7th September 2014

The bird season is moving on so time for my last visit to Titchwell for this year. As for my last visit the beach was incredibly quiet with hardly any people or waders, just the odd Curlew feeding out on the mud beyond the pill-box out on the beach. What has happened to the large flocks of Knot, Bar-tailed Godwits and Oystercatchers?

Back on the beach path by the saltwater lagoon it was quite clear that something was spooking the birds as many of the waders and these Grey lag Geese took to the air. A quick scan through the bins revealed not one but two Peregrine Falcons harassing the milling flocks of waders over the fresh-marsh. Unfortunately, although the Spoonbills were also in the air they kept to the far side of the fresh-water lagoon.

Once peace had been restored a couple of Black-tailed Godwits decided that the vast expanse of the saltwater lagoon was not big enough for both of them and decided to have a fight over this particular spot although it all looked the same to me. If nothing else it gave a good view of their wing-bars.

I have not been a fan of the new Parinder Hide up to now considering it to too large, overpowering and out of keeping with the North Norfolk coast. Also, although providing good views over the fresh-marsh, most of the birds have been distant and therefore not ideal for photography. However today there were a number of birds quite close in, including these Dunlin, Pied Wagtails and Shelduck. The Shelduck continues to be one of my favourite birds, even juveniles in moult.

On the way back to the car park, just next to the Island Hide, a Water Rail that had clearly not read the bird book saying that they were shy and reclusive and normally seen scurrying along at the edge of reeds, was strutting around boldly right out in the open. Mind you it does make photography a lot easier.

Now normally I would regard that as a rather successful day but I have kept the best to last. So if you want to see the results of the Wader Fest at that Mecca of bird photography that is Titchwell, come and see Part 2 on the 23th September 2014.