Saturday, 25 February 2017

A Red-spotted Bluethroat at Willow Tree Fen

13th February 2017

After a superb morning with the Little Bunting at Great Barford it was time to continue up the A1 to see the 1st winter male Red-spotted Bluethroat at Willow Tree Fen in Lincolnshire. The bird had been present for a few days including the weekend, so I was expecting a small gathering, but not the 40 or so that had turned up on a mid-week afternoon.

When we arrived the bird was feeding on the track with two groups of observers keeping a reasonable distance either side of it. Despite the attention the bird was totally unfazed and would frequently approach the groups to within 10 feet, so just a question of waiting your turn. Hopefully the close proximity is borne out in the photographs.

What an absolute cracker!!

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Little Bunting at Great Barford

13th February 2017

When a Little Bunting was found along the Great Ouse at Great Barford it was both mobile and skittish and therefore very difficult to track down and get good views. However, over the last couple of days an area next to the cover crop was cleared and seed put down, which had the advantage of at least concentrating it in one area. Therefore instead of working hard to relocate it, the task now was to wait for it to appear (about every 45 minutes) with the flock of Reed Buntings that were also enjoying the free meal.

Luckily whilst waiting for the bird to appear we were entertained by a strong supporting task including a fly-past by some of the Willington Barnacle Geese, and a lone Brambling that occasionally appeared on the seed. Other than that there were only a dozen or so Reed Buntings to search through for the rare guest.

Eventually, the Little Bunting did put in an appearance, but never for long as it and the other birds were frequently spooked and flew into the copse for cover.

Well, what a great find and thank you to the Beds Bird Club for putting down the seed and making the bird more accessible to the steady stream of visitors.

Friday, 17 February 2017

A Water Rail at Lemsford Springs

9th February 2017

I have been to Lemsford Springs many times over the years and have managed to get some good photos of Green Sandpiper, Grey Wagtail, Snipe and even Kingfisher. But whenever I go, other people in the hide always take great delight in pointing out where they have seen Water Rails. The problem is that despite constant searching in all the hotspots I have never seen a Water rail at Lemsford, and as far as I am concerned they are a figment of everyone's vivid imagination.

Today it was very dull and freezing cold so not too surprisingly I was the only nutter in the hide, so settled down and starting scanning the cress beds. As would be expected I soon found three Green Sandpipers, the compulsory residents at Lemsford, but not a sign of the usual Grey Herons, Little Egrets, Grey Wagtails or Snipe, but I did notice some movement in the vegetation on the far bank. A quick inspection with the bins revealed.........a WATER RAIL, so they do exist here.

Now for the main challenge, to get a photograph. The problem was two-fold. The first was the light was virtually non-existent, and the second was that the bird was spending a lot of its time under the bank in shadow, so extreme measures were called for. I wound the ISO up to 5000 and started clicking away and eventually managed to get 200 shots in various poses.

OK, these shots are not going to win any prizes, but they are proof that I saw one, and when someone tells me about the day they saw a Water Rail here I can nod in an understanding manner. Also, I feel I owe the warden Barry Trevis an apology, as the last time I saw him I did suggest that he was making the whole thing up to boost trade.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Smew at Amwell

3rd February 2017

Having suffered a cough and cold for a week it was time to venture into the great outdoors to get some fresh air and exercise, so where better than my local reserve at Amwell. I was walking down the lane towards the viewpoint when I could see an ivy-covered tree shaking, with obviously a large bird or mammal inside.

It wasn't long before a Grey Squirrel emerged triumphant with a great sprig of nest material and proceeded to run up a tree. I couldn't see any obvious drey, but then after a bit of pushing and tugging it disappeared with the bedding into an old woodpecker hole. I knew that they did use of holes for nests, but this is the first time that I have ever witnessed it. And then, after it had arranged the bedding, it appeared at, what can only be described as a snug fit hole, to see what I was up to.

Fairly quiet at the viewpoint with just the usual suspects including a small flock of Wigeon and Lapwing on one of the islands. It doesn't take much to spook the Lapwings which provides some good in-flight opportunities.

On my way to Tumbling Bay now to look for the two red-head Smews, but by the Lee Navigation there were two reminders that Spring is just round the corner with a couple of sparring Coot and a Great Spotted Woodpecker prospecting a nest hole.

I soon found the red-heads some way up Tumbling Bay but they were very flighty and soon flew towards the southern end of the pit, but no sign when I got back there. As luck would have it they had flown down to the sheltered part of the lake next to the lock which is the narrowest part of the pit and therefore the best chance of some photos.

Even here they were quite jumpy, even when I was standing still, but it did provide me with a great flight sequence. Bye bye cold.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Hawfinches at Lynford Arboretum

24th January 2017

Lynford Arboretum has been very quiet this winter with virtually no reports coming out, but recently Hawfinches have been seen during the day and going into roost so time for a visit. On our way down to The Paddock the first bird to pose for a shot was this little Jenny Wren. There was also a flock of 20 Bramblings feeding on the leaf litter, but very skittish, with just a single alarm call from a Blackbird sending them for cover.

Down by the lake a small flock of Siskins were feeding in the Alders. Conditions here were not very good as the birds were mostly feeding inside the branches rather than the outside, but I did manage to get a few shots as one or two birds became a little braver.

Now down to the bridge and what a result!! As well as providing some seed on the bridge pillars to attract the birds, some fore-sighted photographer had placed some strategically positioned moss-covered logs above the seed to allow some shots of the birds in a more natural setting before they dropped down on to the seed. Even better, the logs were in sun light, but the background was in shade to give a natural black back-cloth.

Blue, Coal and Marsh Tits were all well represented, as well as the local Robin. Some of the Marsh Tits seemed more at home on the seed than on the log.

This female Reed Bunting seemed too shy to come on to the log and the seed, but seemed happier to sit in a more natural pose on some dead vegetation by the stream.

But the star today on the Lynford Arboretum Magic Log was the Nuthatch which paid many visits, but always very fleeting so you had to keep your wits about you. This type of photography without a hide is so effective and so simple that I am sure I will try it at some other sites.

But now on to the business at hand. The Hawfinches have mainly been seen in and around the paddock, but none there when we arrived. However, as time ticked by, one or two birds started gathering at the tops of the very tall pines making photography quite difficult. The smaller bird is a Brambling.

But then one bird moved a little lower down and gave some shots when it was illuminated by the late afternoon sun.

What a great day!!