Friday, 27 February 2015

A Study of Siskins at Amwell

9th February 2015

A quick visit to Amwell to try out the new camera on focusing on small finches high in the trees amid a tangle of branches. As I walked down from the viewpoint to the James Hide I could hear a small party of Siskins by the railway, ideal conditions for my test.

I crossed the river and there were Siskins everywhere, so I walked south to the far end so that I would have the sun behind me although the canopy was fairly well shaded. I eventually got into position and found just three birds high in the Alder above me. With my old camera I would never have attempted a shot as the birds, although reasonably unobscured, were surrounded by a tangle of twigs. Time to test the pin-point focusing of the Mk 2 with a 1.4x converter fitted.

Well, I was reasonably pleased but you can judge for yourself.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

A Return Visit to Burwell Fen

6th February 2015

My first visit to Burwell Fen was on the 24th January 2015 and was spent finding my way around and taking my first shots of Short-eared Owls. I had intended to come back for some more photos, but this visit was prompted by fellow photographer Ron Baber who wanted to hone his skills on flight shots. It was also an ideal opportunity to try out my new camera which had a larger sensor and a better focusing system, but also allowed me to auto-focus with a 1.4x converter fitted. Luckily, as I stepped out of the car a Song Thrush was running around searching for worms in the adjacent paddock and posed in a most obliging manner. Well, that's not a bad start and the camera/lens/converter combination performed well. So far 10/10.

We crossed the footbridge and had only walked about 20 yards along the river bank when Ron gave insufficient respect to the Cambridgeshire mud and ended up flat on his back. Luckily we had both been on first aid courses and, acting like trained paramedics, set about our tasks with Ron checking his camera and me checking his lens. And then, just so we could finalise our Treatment Report, we checked whether Ron had any broken bones. Luckily only his pride was dented and so we continued on our way with both of us treating the muddy conditions with a little more respect.

I was very impressed during my last visit with the number of Roe Deer present and was hoping for some better shots. There were fewer deer on view today but I did manage one shot, perhaps slightly better than last time.

But now down to business. One of the Short-eared owls appeared on cue and flew west crossing the path as it did on our last visit. This is probably the best place to wait although, realistically, you have only 30 seconds to get your shots. Quite nerve-wracking!!

Overall, quite pleased with the camera and now to check it out on some different subjects.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Two Tree Island at High Tide

4th February 2015

We arrived bang on high tide so straight down to the hide overlooking the saline lagoon at the western end. This was my first visit to this site without hundreds of godwits being present at the high tide roost and they were replaced by just a handful of Dunlin.

Fairly quiet otherwise apart from some very smart Shovelers that were hunkered down out of the wind and this one seemed to have heard of the relatively new craze of saluting, or at least I hope that's was it was.

As with most sites, if you are patient the birds will come to you and today was no exception. Although when we arrived there was nothing in front of the hide, we were treated by a procession of Avocet, Grey Plover and Redshank over the hour or so we were there.


Back at the slipway the tide was well on its way out with a fair amount of mud and sea weed exposed, ideal for the Turnstones which were more than happy to feed just a few yards away. 

Well, what a fantastic day with Serin and Stonechat in the morning and a selection of waders in the afternoon. I wonder where the next adventure will be?

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Serins at Gunners Park Shoeburyness

4th February 2015

For such a well used public recreational facility Gunners Park at Shoeburyness does seem to pull in more than its fair share of goodies. Last year it was the long-staying Long-tailed Duck and Common Scoter, which were followed by the highly twitched Parrot Crossbills, which I somehow managed to miss by 20 minutes. So this time I wasn't prepared to risk missing out on the two male Serins there, so headed off down the A127.

As per usual we were met with "you should have been here 10 minutes ago, but they've flown off now", so we settled down for what could be a long wait. What always impressed me with the theme parks in Florida was the way they used to entertain you while you were queuing up waiting. Well, Gunners Park is no different. The entertainment today was a cracking male Stonechat who positioned himself between the Serin tree and the row of twitchers and worked his way up and down the row entertaining them while they waited. Full marks to Southend Borough Council. Not only would he pose for the camera, but would also select some of the local flora to compose the photo, in these cases some rose hips, a young Turkey Oak and some Bramble. MAGIC!!

But then the moment we had all waited for. A couple of small yellowy-green finches had flown into the Corsican Pine so now it was just a matter of time before they would put in an appearance. Eventually, a slight movement amongst the needles gave away their position and gradually they came into view and allowed a few shots to be taken. Success. Not quite as close as I would have liked, but now time to move on to Two Tree Island for the high tide roost.

Monday, 16 February 2015

......and now on to Fingringhoe Wick to catch the High Tide

3rd February 2015

After a superb morning at Mistley despite the paucity of birds, there was still time to detour to Fingringhoe Wick to catch the high tide on the River Colne. We headed straight for Geedons Hide where the water the lapping right up to the hide and, unfortunately, there was not a single duck, diver or grebe on the river. We therefore relocated to Robbie's Hide which obviously had far more potential. Here, despite the tide just being on the turn, there was already a small shingle beach and a flock of Shelduck on the saltmarsh just upstream.

What was impressive was the large number of Avocets present, possibly up the 200, which rather than seeking out a high tide roost until the water was shallow enough to feed, were content to bob up and down on the water just biding their time. Then, as if under starting orders they suddenly took to the sky and flew upstream to let the feeding commence.

With the imminent exposure of vast acres of mud the Brent Geese were also starting to gather and filled the air with their guttural cronking sound. More and more birds were flying in providing opportunites for some flight shots.

The Shelduck were also becoming more active. The Shelduck was the first "rare" bird that I ever saw, ie not a Mallard on the local pond, and I was able to ID it with the aid of my trusty Observers Book of Birds. Ah those were the days and they are still very special.

Now the tide was receding fast and mud was being exposed at a high rate, pulling in large numbers of waders, some of which were thankfully close like these Curlew, Grey Plover and Redshank. Although Grey Plover are resplendent in their summer plumage they are still quite charismatic in their winter attire. And even the humble Redshank, the Warden of the Marshes. has some delicate markings when seen close up.

By now the tide was way out as were all the waders, so time to call it a day and make our way back to the car for a quick cup of coffee before setting off for home. It was still only 2.30pm so I was rather surprised to see a Barn owl fly in from Geedons Marsh and settle in a tree at the bottom of the paddock. At a range of some 60 yards and in the shade this was going to be a tricky shot with the ISO being wound up to 1600. The bird then flew and I was able to get a couple of flight shots before it disappeared once again over Geedons. What a fantastic end to the day!!!