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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Wednesday, 30 September 2009

A figure of eight

Sunday I paid my final visit of the month to Willen Lake. A large lake in Milton Keynes, split into two halves by a small bridge. The north lake is the quieter of the two, with a bird hide overlooking an island; the south lake very popular with families at weekends, visiting the various ‘attractions’. Water sports, a fitness centre, rope climbing, fishing, a large bar/restaurant; a magnet for people. And strangely enough, a lot of birds. Ducks, Swans and Cormorants on the lake, and various songbirds amongst the trees and bushes. But my favourite part is the quieter north lake. A few joggers and dog walkers, and that’s about it.
Walking down the grassy hill from the car park at the Peace Pagoda, the usual greeting from Crows and Magpies prodding the earth. But Sunday, the Geese had taken over.

They seemed to be everywhere, enjoying the early morning sunlight, as it cast its long shadows. Ignoring me as I made my way down to the lake edge, and my walk through the long, still wet grass. The thing I noticed most, was the silence from the reeds. No Warblers calling; no Swifts screaming overhead. All gone. The Terns had moved on too. No gliding, and sudden plunging into the water, for a tasty meal.
One sound that was noticeable, but no sight; the elusive Cetti’s Warbler.
I carried on along the path to the hide, the sun burning off the last of the mist clinging to the wet ground behind me, and filtering through the trees ahead. I stopped to take a shot or two, and as I pressed the shutter, a lone jogger ran past me, into the suns spotlights.
At the hide, the water level in front was still low, exposing a large expanse of mud, and the now familiar Snipe,
and Green Sandpiper.

At this rate, this will be two wading birds I’ll be able to ID a mile away. I sat for a while taking in the sights; Geese, Cormorants, Gadwall, Wigeon, and a cheeky Robin who thought it fun to watch me, watching the other birds.
I decided to carry on to the south lake, walk round that part, then cross the bridge, and take a figure of eight route round the lake. Time was my own today, and nothing else was on the agenda. A slow walk got me closer to the ‘busy’ end of the lake. No House Martins chattering from their mud nests, peeking out into the world; they had all flown their incredible journey to Africa on tiny young wings. Their greatest adventure, hopefully to return again next year.
Robins, Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Starlings were busily foraging the ground and trees for food. Pied Wagtails were fluttering along the lake edge, and a Kestrel lazily soared above on his search for food. A group of Swans were busily tidying their feathers, after a night sleeping, briefly stopping to watch me,

before carrying on with the job in hand.

They knew they were beautiful. They were just adding the finishing touches for the crowds of people who would come later to admire them; and perhaps offer some morsels of bread.

The pair of Call Ducks were just ahead, looking for all the world like two toys, at the edge of the lake.

Sleepily watching me, as I got nearer to take pictures. Unmoved by my presence, content to just wait for the day to unfold.
I gradually completed the first arc of the ‘eight’, and found myself back at the small bridge. Four or five Blackbirds were busily flicking the bark chippings on the footpath, looking for something to fill their empty bellies, whilst the Coots, never seemed to tire of chasing and fighting each other.
Back past the hide, and onward round the second arc. Magpies chattering above in the trees, a Robin discretely hopping from branch to branch, studying my progress. Great Crested Grebe families out swimming, the youngsters calling all the time for food, whilst one of the adults duly obliged; diving for a fish to satisfy their hunger.

A lone Swan, majestically glided across the still water,
in the warming sunshine, surveying his domain as he silently passed.

And then, eventually, back at my starting point. The autumn colours of the leaves reflecting in the water,

whilst I reflected on another enjoyable visit.

Monday, 28 September 2009

A bit of variety

A varied bunch from last week, that I’ve finally got round to sorting.

They’re all birds; but a variety.

First up, a Moorhen.

Strutting his stuff across the mud.

Mrs Shoveler,

and Mr. Shoveler.

A family group, a long way off. Heron, Cormorant, Wigeon and Little Egret.

Wigeon again.

He saw me coming, and decided to leave.

Crow, caught having a drink.

Lesser Black-backed Gull, pretending to be a Tern, on their raft.

Black-headed Gull

And finally, a Reed Bunting.

All from the other day at Willen.
I should get out more.

Sunday, 27 September 2009


Had a week of 12 hour days this past week, so I’ve not been around blog land as much as I’d like to have been. I will catch up with everyone as soon as possible.
Work is a cruel mistress! lol

I did manage to get out for a couple of hours mid week, and when I’ve sorted out the pictures I’ll get some up on here. And today? A day off, and what better way to use it than go out somewhere.

I wanted to go somewhere different for a change, but what we want, and what transpires, doesn’t always match up. So, fairly early, and walking zombie fashion, I made my way to Willen Lake again. A good bird count for the morning, the Cetti’s still teasing, but I did manage to see 37 different birds. Plus a pair I can’t put a name to.

A small duck; smaller than a Mallard, shorter beak, and mostly white, with splashes of brown in the feathers. The other half of the pair had a greyish head. They seemed very tame, allowing me to get very close; or else they were very tired like me, and couldn’t be bothered to move. They yawned a lot too. I think I woke them up, so I took a few shots, and then left them to it.

Anyway, here’s a few pictures I’ve managed to get done so far. If any one can shed some light onto what sort of duck they are, I would very grateful. They maybe a hybrid of a Mallard, but I don’t think so.
And the cutest little ducks I’ve ever seen.

Right, catch up time.
Thanks to It's Time to Live for identifying these as a Call Duck.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Return to Willen

I nipped back to Willen on Sunday, in the hope of catching the Sandpipers again. No luck there, but the Snipe was still boldly prodding around on the mud, so he came under the scrutiny of the lens again.

I watched him for a while, and then took a stroll along the edge of the lake. The once familiar sounds of the Reed and Sedge Warblers were noticeably absent. I guess they’ve flown on to their wintering grounds.
One familiar sound that was very evident though, was the Cetti’s Warbler. Still taunting with his call, and still being invisible; most of the time. I sat down by a large tree where he was calling for nearly an hour. Two quick glimpses was all he allowed me, and still no picture. As frustrating as it was, I can’t help feel admiration for his elusive behaviour. I’m sure I’ll get the shot I’ve been after when he’s ready.
I did manage a quick shot of a female Reed Bunting, who thought it great fun to hang around the same tree, and appear now and then, while the Cetti called.
Looks like she has a moustache.
The long grass that was once home to hundreds of damsels, has now been cut,
and as I took some pictures, a Crow decided he’d get in on the act too.

A few Cormorants were in a small group on one of the abandoned Tern rafts,
and the grasses at the waters edge, were blowing in the welcome breeze, as the sun began warming the air.

A flock, or is that gaggle, of Canada Geese, noisily made their announcement as they flew overhead,

and a Magpie sat high in a tree, taking it all in.

No Sandpipers, no Cetti’s; but still an enjoyable morning.

Sunday, 20 September 2009


On Saturday I paid a visit to one of the local lakes, Willen. Haven’t been for a couple of weeks, and I didn’t want it to think I was neglecting it. I just wanted a quick visit to the hide, and then back home.

The water level in front of the hide has dropped a fair bit, exposing some mud, and someone has cut back the grass and reeds a little, so visibility is a bit better than usual.
Over on the island were a couple of Herons, Little Egret and masses of Canada and Greylag Geese, just chilling in the morning. An advance party of Teal lazily floating around, and the Coots up to their usual squabbling. And all too far away for any pictures.
A Cetti’s Warbler was mocking me from the bushes, briefly showing himself, before diving for cover again. One day I’ll catch him; one day!

As I sat there, lost in my thoughts, something began flying towards the mud in front of me. I picked up the binoculars to get a glimpse of a dark colour bird, and long bill.
A wader!

I’m crap with these, but I recognised this one. A Snipe; and there he was, poking around in the mud. Usually very shy, but I think hunger had the better of him, as he ignored me whilst I fired off some shots. Lots. I figured if I take plenty, some would be half decent. Here’s a couple of the better ones. By no means perfect, but I was pleased to get these.

As he poked and prodded the mud, a smaller brown and white bird appeared. I knew this one too! Result.

A Common Sandpiper. The camera was going into overdrive by now. Shot after shot, in the hope something would be salvageable.

A good job I had spare batteries, the rate I was taking these. I kept checking the screen on the back, zooming in to see how they looked.
Two more flew onto the mud. Different!
Click, click, click.
I wasn’t sure what these were, but they were certainly different to the Common Sandpiper, who was still parading around, along with the Snipe.They sat with their backs to me for a while, so I got all angles. I’d check the ID’s when I get home.

After much consultation with books, and video; Green Sandpipers.

They wandered around, and I continued firing off shots. Over 350 altogether; so much for a quick visit.
A lot were fit only for the bin, but a few weren’t too bad. Good enough to get ID’s from later.
I finally left them to it. I made my way home, and the long job of sorting through all the pictures.
That took care of the rest of Saturday, so now it’s time to catch up on all the blogs I’ve missed.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Misty, sunny and frozen

Last Friday I took a ride to Summer Leys, for an early morning visit. The idea was to miss any crowds by going early. Well, that worked. Almost missed Summer Leys too; it was shrouded in mist.

I could barely see the hand in front of me, it was that thick. Instead of sitting in a hide, and waiting for the mist to lift off the water, I decided to have a walk round.The spider evidence was everywhere, like threads of silver on the plants,

webs everywhere

and some of the heads of Teasel were almost wrapped, like early Christmas presents.

The sun seemed a long time coming, but eventually broke through, burnt off the mist, and bathed everywhere in its warmth. The birds came out to play; some even long enough for a picture,

but the birds I’d really come to see; waders, were nowhere to be seen. A shame. I was looking forward to an ID challenge. A good bird count of 33 nonetheless, so not a wasted trip.

It was still fairly early in the day, so I stopped off at a place new to me. Harrold-Odell Country Park, just on the border of Bedfordshire.

A large lake, with an island in the middle, and a circular path round, through trees and heath. The sun had brought out crowds of people enjoying the warm weather; joggers, a few walkers, but most were content to sit around the visitor centre, drinking cups of tea. I joined the walkers, and took a slow walk round the lake.

A pleasant enough walk, a few birds and butterflies along the way; ducks and geese on the water, and the not too distant roaring of engines. Santa Pod Raceway just up the road, and it sounded like they were practicing for the next meeting. The potential was there, maybe, for another visit another time.

A lone bird hide looks across the lake, so I settled down to see if I’d missed anything whilst I’d been walking round.

A Migrant Hawker sat resting on the reeds just in front of the hide.

A couple more began hovering a while, then flying off, to return and hover again.
Ok’, I thought, ‘I’ll give it a go’.

I waited. He returned. I fired. Lots.

1/200 and 1/250. The wings were blurred. I wondered if I could freeze the movement of the wings. I waited a bit more, upped the shutter speed to 1/800, and he came back. I fired off lots more.

Almost! He flew off for another circuit, and then disappeared over the lake. I fiddled with the camera settings. I set it to 1/1600, and waited. And waited.

Maybe he’d found a girlfriend?

Maybe he…………..

He came back, circled round in front of me, and then briefly hovered. I fired off some shots, before he went shooting off like the noisy dragsters up the road. I checked the images on the back of the camera.

About as frozen in flight as I’d get.

Pleased with that, I made my way back to the car. Not a dragster, but almost as noisy.