Everything has it's beauty, but not everyone sees it. - Confucius
Sometimes the picture doesn't have to be perfect; it's the captured moment that counts. - me
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Thursday, 31 December 2009

Happy New Year

19th January this year I did my first post, and didn’t have a clue what I was doing.
Faltering steps, and I’m still stumbling; literally sometimes.

I just want to say a big thank you to everyone who stops by; everyone who’s clicked the ‘follow’ link; and everyone who’s left comments over the past year.

A very happy New Year to everyone, from me.

Whatever you’re doing this evening, do it safely, and have a good time.

I’ll see ya all in 2010.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

That’s it then.

So, Christmas done and dusted for another year. Christmas day spent with my mum, and Christmas Eve, and Boxing Day spent with the birds.

Here’s some of the birds………

Christmas Eve, and this poor Snipe had found 90% of the lake at Willen frozen. Very little else around in the bitter cold. Just a couple of unfrozen patches of the lake, which were crammed with ducks and geese; no doubt like the high street with people.
Moving on to the next local that morning, Caldecote. A smaller lake, with houses around, which I guess managed to keep most of the water from freezing over because of the higher temperature. The ever-present Robin was easily coaxed nearer with a handful of seed.

A wintering Chiffchaff was hiding amongst some bushes, but managed to briefly show himself for a picture.

And as I left for home, a Treecreeper flew to a nearby tree, beginning his spiral ascent.

Boxing Day was spent at one of my favourite reserves, Summer Leys. For a change it lived up to the first part of its name; the sun shone for a couple of hours. Most of the waterfowl were on the far side of the lake, which would have meant walking round, and shooting into the sun, so I just strolled round half the lake seeing what was about. Not many pictures to show for my visit; it was just good to be out, and a bonus to see plenty of Yellowhammers in the hedges. These red listed birds with their canary yellow heads glistening like gold in the sun, were a treat to see.
Lots of Fieldfare and Redwing around, being very uncooperative as usual.

They’d almost stripped the bushes clean of berries, but this Blackbird seemed pleased with himself after his acrobatics paid of with a juicy berry.

Most of the snow had cleared, except for the path round the lake. Very slippery, and walking was a slow process. Then something that you hope will never happen. Even at a slow pace, I managed to go crashing down. Thank goodness the camera landed on me and not the icy path. A quick check on the camera as I sat on the cold ice, and then back on my feet; slooooowly.

I inched my way along to a small hide just up ahead, for a sit down and a more thorough check on the camera. And rest my leg, which was beginning to sting a little.
A Dunnock sat gazing at me, as I checked the camera.

Everything seemed to be working ok. A couple of shots at different settings, and all worked as they should. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. A few Tree Sparrows sat in the hedge, waiting for their turn at the feeders,

and then something caught my eye in some shallow water.

A Water Rail slowly picking his way along. Not seen one of these for a while, and never managed a decent picture.
Please come back’, I thought to myself.
He did; eventually. Parading up and down beneath one of the feeders.

My sore leg was soon forgotten.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Round up

A quick round up of a few pictures taken over the last few days of this month. I'm still working on the Christmas outings........

Common Gull, with two Black-headed Gulls.

A distant male Bullfinch, down at the local.

Nuthatch, playing, ‘lets stare at Keith’

A rather odd looking Greylag Goose

A distant Mistle Thrush. (too many ‘distant’ birds sometimes.)

Black-tailed Godwit. Yea, distant.

Grey Heron, trying to look inconspicuous.

Common Gull again.

Male Goosander. A good find on the local lake

A Grey Wagtail, strutting his stuff.

And to finish on.

This little Robin seemed so tame, vying for my attention.

How could I ignore a look like that?

Monday, 21 December 2009

The weekend

Well the weekend was pretty cold, and the snow still hung around, so I decided to keep local. Saturday was spent freezing at Willen Lake. I was freezing; I can only imagine how these poor Lapwing felt. I tried to catch them before they took to the air, but you can still see the frost on their backs.

The sun had just started its slow climb in the cold air, and as I turned the corner, just at the edge of the water, a Greylag Goose was busily having his morning wash and brush up.

The sun cast a beautiful golden glow on the water behind him, as his head popped up over the small dip at the edge. The blue snow is a different type of cast; forgot to adjust the white balance for the cold. Oh well.

This Heron was looking pretty fed up with it all.

His larder was frozen solid.

And this group of Greylag and Canada Geese, were just chilling, literally, in the weak sun.

So, onto Sunday, and even nearer home; Caldicote Lake. Just as cold though. (and I was just as forgetful)

Female Bullfinch grabbing what she can in the early morning sun.

Moving on round the lake, this young Herring Gull was contemplating breakfast.

And a group of Canada Geese flew in after grazing on a nearby field. Here’s just one.

As I moved round the lake, the sun was gaining in strength, but it didn’t seem very much warmer.

This Blue Tit kept high in the tree; nearer the sun.

Finally at the top end of the lake, a nice surprise.

A female Goosander. From left to right, 4 Black-headed Gulls, 2 Common Gulls, and the star.

Showing off her fine red head. The old man wasn’t quite so co-operative though.

Keeping his back to me. Strange how the light made his green head look purple.

And finally a Herring Gull, wondering what all the fuss is about.

Have a great week.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Draycote Water, part two

I eventually left the spartan comfort of the hide, and continued round the top end of the lake, and the walk back to my starting point. The rain came again, a light misty rain.
Onward, along the tarmac road. Not a soul to be seen. I can imagine on a warm sunny day, the place heaving with people, but today, just me and the birds. A large Gull sat by the edge of the water.

Herring Gull? Dunno. But he was big and mean looking.
No sign of Green-winged Teal anywhere. Maybe he’d flown away, or I just couldn’t see him for looking. I did see a Sparrowhawk though, swoop low across the waters edge, sending what birds were there scurrying for safety. He did his pass, and landed some distance away amongst the trees; quickly followed by a Crow, who sat a few feet away. They sat, I watched. Then the hawk left, pursued by the crow.
These birds of prey get a tough time sometimes, being harassed by other birds.
They’re only looking for a meal after all.
I walked on through the drizzle. I’d no idea how long I’d been out. I don’t own a watch, and my mobile was tucked away in a pocket somewhere. It didn’t really matter what the time was, I had the day to myself, and…………
A blue flash caught my eye. It landed just ahead. I slowly crept along, gathering my camera from the dry under my coat. A Kingfisher. My breathing slowed, as I inched along. I could see him. He could see me. He took off, and flew further along.
I hurried my pace, determined to capture this blue tormentor once and for all.
A Blackbird flew along in front of me, shouting his alarm call. ‘Spoilsport’ I thought to myself. The trees gave way to a clear spot, and there he was. Waiting, or so it seemed. My pace slowed again, camera at the ready. I raised it to my eye. Still too far away. I moved forward again. I could hear voices in the distance behind me, getting closer. I stopped, and could only watch in despair as he took off again, flying ever further away.
I turned, and smiled, as two women rode by on their bikes, discussing women’s talk. They peddled off into the distance, as I cursed a thousand curses in their direction.
Silently, of course.
A Great Spotted Woodpecker flew across the road, and disappeared into the trees. I was nearing my final turn now, but still a way to go yet back to the car park.
And up ahead, briskly walking towards me…………..Chinese woman. Three circuits to my three quarters. Boy, could this woman go.
I turned the final bend, water to my left, and water falling from above. Some rocks were lining the shore now, and down on the mud, Meadow Pipits, prodding and poking.

I watched them for a while, taking a few not very good shots, and then something caught my eye. I swung the camera, and fired, not knowing if I was focused or not.

Was that a………?

A Stoat. He paused, and turned, looking in my direction.

Then disappeared amongst the rocks. I stood, eyes searching the rocks. I couldn’t believe what I’d seen. Then he popped up again, watching from a safe distance.

A ruthless killing machine, certainly; but what a beauty. He popped in and out the rocks, constantly watching me all the time. He glided effortlessly over the stone, as I watched in amazement. This was, after all, his territory. He knew it like the back of his clawed foot. He played his game of hide and seek for ages,

until he was eventually bored with all this rushing around, and finally evaporated into the rocks. I had a grin a mile wide.

I was still grinning as I climbed into the car.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Draycote Water

ShySongbird has mentioned a couple times over on her excellent blog, some visits to Draycote Water. It sounded a great place to visit, (just over an hours steady drive from me according to my map), so Monday, up with the singing Robin in the garden, I set off; early. A cold morning, and still dark; I wanted to avoid the morning rush hour traffic if I could.

Light drizzle quickly turned to heavier rain, and I kept wondering if I should turn back; go another day. Nah! Sod it, I’m up now………..I carried on.

I pulled into the car park, just as daylight struggled its way through the rain. I had the place to myself, not so surprising, given the weather. A couple of Fieldfare were gorging on berries, hanging from the bushes, and a Blackbird noisily flew across the empty parking area.
And the rain stopped.

I walked up towards the large lake; about a 5-mile circuit I think. By the new visitor centre, (closed), are lots of sailing boats.

Water sports is quite a feature of this place,

but what I’d come to see, were the birds.

This is only a part of the lake, but it gives an idea of what sort of day it was. Dull and misty.
And then it started raining again.
I turned, and began to walk round the lake, anticlockwise. I don’t know why, but I prefer it that way. In the short distance from the car to the edge of the bank surrounding this lake, I’d counted off 15 different birds already. Nothing rare or exotic, no birds I’d never seen before anywhere else; even at my local, just up the road from me, but I had an air of………excitement. The unknown. I didn’t know what I might see.
I’d read on their website, a Green-winged Teal was loitering at one end of the lake. That would be new to me. Would I see it? I didn’t know. But it didn’t matter, I’d already seen more Little Grebes and pairs of Goldeneye than I’d ever seen in one place before. Coots bobbed in the water with Mallards and Tufted Ducks, Pied Wagtails searched the shoreline with Grey Wagtails, and in a distant field a large flock of gulls. Big, black and white ones. Lesser, or Greater-black Backed ones.
Remember, I’m no Gull expert, but they were there. And there, in the tree tops, sat a Kestrel,

looking mighty fed up with the weather. The rain was coming down hard now, as I carried on. I stopped to scan the lake with the binoculars. Great Crested Grebe were diving for fish, along with the Cormorants, and an Oystercatcher flew up, and crossed to the other side. He must have been on the shore, just in front of me; and I missed him.
And just in front of me, an elderly Chinese woman, briskly walking along in the rain, wearing a splendid blue hat. I smiled, and nodded, as she passed.
I’m not the only daft bugger walking around in this rain’, I thought.
I stopped to scan the trees and bushes on my right. Chaffinch, Blue Tit, and a small party of Long Tailed Tits, noisily flitting from branch to branch. Rain wasn’t stopping their fun; and it wasn’t stopping mine either. Just making it difficult to take pictures.
I watched them for a while, and then slowly made my way up towards the top end of the lake.

Teal were noisily dabbling in the shallow edges, and Lapwing noisily took to the air, announcing my arrival. I watched as they swirled around, and eventually came back down, settling where they were originally. And just up ahead, a bird hide. Somewhere to sit for a while. I looked back the way I’d come, and it seemed a long way off. I still had a long way to go yet, but the rain had slowed, and eventually stopped. For a while.
I carried on towards the hide. On my right were some trees, so I wandered through them, to see if any birds were hiding in there. The ground was muddy, the bare branches dripping raindrops, but no birds. I came out, and walked to the boardwalk that led to the hide. Coming round the corner was Chinese lady, still briskly walking, as though on a mission of great importance.
Excuse me.’ I said. ‘Does the path go right round the lake?
Yes, all tarmac road.’ she answered, as she faded into the distance. Bloody hell, that woman could walk fast. She’d done a circuit already, and I had barely done a quarter.
She must be fit. I lit a cigarette.
I raised the bins, and scanned the shoreline. The dark blobs suddenly turned into Teal. Green-winged Teal in there? I chucked the smoke, and walked down the boards to the hide door. I carefully opened it, and stepped inside.
Empty. Of course. There’s only me and Chinese woman here today; and she’s on a different mission to me. I gazed out across the water. Lots of Teal and Black-headed Gulls bobbing, more on the far side, and Lapwings. I carefully opened a window. To the right, a feeder with Tits and Finches taking advantage of the free food, and below,

three Mallard, gazing upwards, waiting for any dropped seed. They looked comical, standing there, waiting for the leftovers. And when the little birds flew to the bushes, they dropped their heads in disappointment.

Some distance from the hide, were some branches, near the waters edge. Why is it that most hides are so bloody far away from the water? Because sitting on a branch, was a Kingfisher. Now I’ve yet to get a decent shot of one of these. I set myself a personal target this year, to capture one on camera. I fired off some shots, but even cropped, with the poor light, my efforts came to nothing. He flew from branch to branch; posed, then flew back again. I tried. I really did.

I gave up, and just watched instead. Fascinating to watch him going backwards and forewords.

Yea.........I know! The best I could manage. Still have a few days left though till the New Year.

I sat in the hide for ages, just watching. Wet and cold, but very happy.

to be continued………….