Saturday, 28 May 2016

A Red-footed Falcon at Vange Marsh

17th May 2016

It was on the 25th May 2013 that I went to Lakenheath Fen and took what I had always had assumed would be my best ever photos of a Red-footed Falcon, a male that was hunting over New Fen. However, when a female turned up at Vange Marsh and seemed quite settled there, the opportunity for some more shots was too great to resist.

Luckily I knew the area quite well from a previous visit to see the Wilson's Phalarope and so I was soon standing in line with the assembled throng of bird photographers waiting for the falcon to perform at close range. It was hunting out over the marsh and never too far away but every now and again would approach quite closely, as witnessed by the machine gun effect of the many shutters all firing in rapid mode. It certainly did perform well and luckily the sun, whenever it made an appearance, was behind us.

When photographing in rapid fire you don't know quite what you have taken until you get home and look at the results on a computer. I was therefore quite taken aback when I saw this sequence. The falcon had locked on to a Mayfly which I have circled in red. Then, 1/10th of a second later it was still locked on, and a 10th of a second later still it had grabbed it with both talons. How amazing is that?

But the most unexpected of the unexpected was when I was clicking away another bird burst into the shot, had a tussle with the falcon and flew off. It was only afterwards that I could see that the falcon had been buzzed by a Kestrel and interesting to note the size difference.


Tuesday, 24 May 2016

A Glossy Ibis at Rainham Marshes

13th May 2016

We had gone to Rainham in the hope of photographing some more Spring migrants and had only just arrived at the reception desk when Howard calmly announced that there was a Glossy Ibis on Purfleet Scrape. Unfortunately it had flown and was now out of view and its whereabouts were unknown. So off we went to hopefully relocate the bird and get some record shots.

We were just approaching the viewing platform before the Cordite Store when I spotted a Cormorant-like bird high in the sky over towards the Butts Hide. Luckily it was flying back this way and I was able to confirm that it was indeed the Glossy Ibis before it plunged out of view once more. It obviously wasn't too happy about the food on offer as three times over half an hour it got up and changed position. It was during these brief flights that I managed to get some shots.

At that point it took to the air once more but this time, instead of just moving position, it gained height flying east and eventually flew south over the river into Kent. For once I was in the right place at the right time. On now to the Cordite Store which as usual was alive with Blackcaps including this rather splendid male which was singing his heart out.

But the star of the Cordite today was this splendid Hobby which was feeding on insects on the other side of the tree line, but every now and again drifted over the clearing inside the wood allowing some great opportunities.

Marsh Frogs are now in the ascendancy and were giggling their song over large distances. They came in all colours including black and brown, but also some rather fetching greens and blues, presumably depending on the fashion this season.

The Lapwings were also obviously benefiting from the anti-predator electric fence judging by the numerous chicks running around.

The last stop today was the MDZ in the hope of grabbing a few more shots of the Kingfishers. Up to now I have only managed some shots of the male as the female has been sitting, so lets see what happens today. During the wait this gorgeous Little Grebe was gliding around outside, apparently guarding the nest bank.

But then the activity started and the female flew in and conveniently landed on the dragonfly sculpture allowing some great shots, especially as the sun came out. What a fantastic end to the day.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Tree Pipits and Wood Larks at The Brecks

4th May 2016

Another visit to The Brecks for more Wood Larks and hopefully a Tree Pipit or two. We started today by the railway at Santon Downham and carried out the loop through the underpass. Sadly it was very quiet from a bird point of view but we did manage to come face-to-face with this little chap. Quite pleased that there was a fence between us, but I suspect he was quite docile.

Next stop was a cleared area near Mundford that I noticed a couple of years ago. I have been meaning to stop there ever since but have never quite got round to it, so today was the day. It had all the hall marks of clear-fell and but no linear piles of tree stumps and no newly planted saplings, so the reason for the tree felling and removal is unclear.

As soon as I stumbled over the trailing brambles I could immediately hear a Tree Pipit singing away at the top of a tree. It then flew to the other side of the clearing to a rather tall Beech and sat there, singing intermittently. Photography was difficult as although it was possible to approach the bird, it was very high up and therefore the angle was difficult. Anyway, theses difficulties were offset by the beautiful light conditions.

Now back to the clear-fell by Santon Downham where surprisingly no Tree Pipits were singing or evident, so just as well that we connected with the one at the other site. We were trying to get close to a Whitethroat singing from the top of one of the log piles when I caught something out of the corner of my eye. There, just 30 yards away sitting on top of one of the newly planted saplings was a Wood Lark. Unfortunately the sun was from the wrong direction so it took a bit of backing off, manoeuvring round and a stealthy approach to get into position for a couple of hundred shots. How good is that?

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Migrants Galore at Rainham Marshes

3rd May 2016

Another beautiful sunny day at Rainham and let's start at the Purfleet Hide. Fairly quiet but this Lapwing was showing off all its colours just outside the window so what a good start.

Further along the track the male Reed Bunting was still clinging on to its head of Phragmites although today was much calmer. Even then the seed head was still swinging around quite a lot. Nearby a Sedge Warbler was in full voice from within a Sallow.

Round by the RDZ a pair of Wheatears had taken up temporary residence although the male was fairly flighty and kept disappearing over the butts. The female, however, was much more confiding and even flew towards me on a number of occasions.

Round by the Cordite Store, the migrants were dominated by Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps, both of which posed for a few shots.

But the star of the show today was the male Kingfisher which dutifully kept bringing fish to the female which did not show at all so presumably still on eggs. Luckily on one occasion it landed on the nearby dragonfly sculpture allowing a nice close-up.

The highlight was when he flew to the nest-hole and stuck his head in as if to ask whether anyone was at home.