Tuesday, 30 December 2014

A Review of 2014

As we all say, where did that year go? I certainly spent much of it trudging round various sites with my camera and took thousands of photos, but it is always difficult to remember in which year certain photos were taken. So just for the record here are some of the more memorable shots from 2014 in chronological order.

 Purple Sandpiper Lowestoft 20th January 2014

Crossbill Lynford Arboretum 19th March 2014

Glaucous Gull Dungeness 28th March 2014

Fulmar Petrel Hunstanton 18th April 2014

Yellow Wagtail Abberton Reservoir 5th July 2014

Sanderling Walton-on-the-Naze 3rd September 2014

Spotted Redshank Titchwell 7th September 2014

Ruff Titchwell 7th September 2014

Little Stint Titchwell 7th September 2014

Curlew Sandpiper Titchwell 7th September 2014

 Kingfisher Lackford Lakes 10th September 2014

 Little Owl Walton-on-the-Naze 22nd September 2014

 Hoopoe Willington 7th October 2014

 Steppe Grey Shrike Burnham Norton 12th October 2014

 Red-backed Shrike Lowestoft 20th October 2014

Rough-legged Buzzard Hay Street 12th November 2014

Snow Bunting Jaywick Sands 24th November 2014

I think we are all guilty of not realising quite how much we have achieved in a year. After all, when you look back this year has been stupendous by any stretch of the imagination. But onwards and upwards so lets look forward to another barn-storming year for birds and jusat hope thet all pose in front of the camera.


 from Seymour Birdies

Sunday, 28 December 2014

A Pre-Christmas Visit to Abberton

10th December 2014

Time for just one more visit to Abberton and Mersea before the Xmas break. In accordance with tradition breakfast was served on the Layer Breton causeway at 10.15am followed by a quick scan round with the bins to see what was on the reservoir or close in or on the banks. Nothing!! Therefore the next port of call was the Layer de la Haye causeway.

More luck here with a female Goldeneye feeding quite close in on the western side, so I ducked down below the concrete wall and edged into position. I then gingerly raised my head above the parapet and managed to squeeze off just one shot before the bird took to the air. This came as a bit of a surprise as the bird was at least 50 yards away and would not normally be spooked at that range.

On the eastern side of the causeway things were even better with 3-4 Meadow Pipits feeding at the water's edge. And for once the sun was out and in a reasonable direction allowing some fairly reasonable shots.

So far, so good, so now on to Mersea to see what that brings. Watch this space!!!

Friday, 26 December 2014

An Unscheduled Visit to Welney

7th December 2014

I last went to Welney on a scheduled visit on the 2nd November 2014 on our way home from holiday on the North Norfolk coast, but this visit was different. We had planned to go to Dungeness but the weather forecast was for a front clearing from the north-west and so Welney was predicted to be in full sun from 11.00am, whilst Dungeness could be under cloud all day. Yeh right!!

As we were on our way to Welney, blue skies started to appear and I though that the weather front had gone through faster than expected. WRONG!!! As we drove down the last few miles to Welney the heavens opened and it got darker and darker. OK, during our visit it did clear a couple of times so we did manage to salvage a reasonable day.

For the first time in over 30 years I decided to explore the hides away from the Main Observation Hide and the Wing Hides. On our way past the Swan Tunnel, a familiar visitor was making the most of the seed that had been spilt during the late afternoon feeds. Brown Rats are now familiar visitors to anywhere with seed on the ground or left unattended and this particular individual was no exception.

There wasn't much in the way of birds in front of the hides and what there were were fairly distant. The only exception was this Lapwing which was illuminated by the low afternoon sunshine.

I therefore elected to cut my losses and head back the the main hide and get some shots of the Whooper Swans before the sun went down. As I left the hide and rejoined the main path a pair of Stonechats appeared from nowhere. The male sat at the top of a sallow for just a few seconds before dropping into the reeds, just enough time for a couple of shots. As is so often the case the female was far more confiding.


Back at the Main Hide I chose to photograph from the northern Wing Hide to avoid having to shoot through glass. One of the spectacles today which I cannot recall seeing here before was the large flock of Black-tailed Godwits which would take to the air every time the slightest threat was detected, an absolute spectacle as they wheeled around in the sunshine.

But the main purpose of coming here today was the Whooper Swans. The beauty of photographing these birds here in the afternoon sun is that the birds shine against the deep blue water. I also love the smokey grey plumage of the juvenile birds compared to the dull brown of young Mute Swans.

And it is important to look after those feathers after such a long journey.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Saturday, 20 December 2014

The New Purfleet Scrape at Rainham Marshes

6th December 2014

After a superb morning photographing pipits and Stonechats on the river wall at Rainham Marshes it was time to go on to the reserve and have a look at the new re-profiled Purfleet Scrape. On the way to the hide we stopped off at the feeders and I couldn't resist a shot of that totally under-rated rascal, the Starling. They are the kaleidoscope of the birding world with just a subtle change in position bringing a different range of hues.

And whenever you put out seed for our feathered friends you are always likely to attract what some people would regard as unwelcome guests, although of course this is their home and have every right to be there.

So what do I think of the newly re-profiled Pyefleet Scrape. Well, from a photography perspective, I never thought that the Pyefleet Hide fulfilled its full potential as most of the birds were fairly distant, and on only one occasion were there some Wigeon feeding on the grass bank right outside the window. However, now there is more open water with much more potential for birds to come much closer.

This coot was certainly right in front of the hide and seemed to be feeding on some Water Crowfoot. There were also most of the usual suspects present including Mallard, Teal and Wigeon.

But today's star and testimony to the success of the management work was this fine drake Pintail, just one of the five present on the scrape. I think I will be looking forward to coming back in the near future.

And to finish off a rather superb day this female Reed Bunting was perched high in the Phragmites bed just outside the hide enjoying the glow of the late afternoon sun.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Tales of the River Bank - Pipits and Chats at Rainham Marshes

6th December 2014

Time for another visit to Rainham Marshes and this time with high tide at 12.30pm, just right to start the day by looking for pipits on the tide wrack.  No visit to Rainham is complete without first photographing the lovely House Sparrows which are either in the car park or on the brambles by the river wall. This time we managed a few shots whilst having some breakfast. Even the dull females are a fantastic start to the day.

On our way down to the best spot for pipits on the river wall we passed a bush with a Dunnock taking in the sunshine and was in a particularly photogenic mood. Also on display were a pair of Stonechats although, as is often the case, the male was quite flighty and nowhere near as confiding as the female.

We were now approaching the pipit hotspot and a dozen teal were already taking advantage of the seed washed up in the wrack. Fortunately they were joined by  a number of pipits, both Meadow and Rock, although unfortunately today no Waters. I am not sure quite what it is about this place that makes the pipits so confiding, sometimes approaching to within just 10 yards.

Meadow Pipits

Rock Pipits