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

.

.
No Google Adds here.

Saturday, 28 February 2009

I remember....

A lot of people at the start of the New Year set their selves targets for the forthcoming months. How many birds to see, places to go, etc. Bit like New Year resolutions; I’ll do this, give up that, that sort of thing. (Ok, some people reading this are thinking, ‘wake up Keith, we’re nearly 3 months into the year, yer a bit late.’ I know, but bear with me.)
I’ve never been one for dashing all over, just to get a tick, however, I got to thinking the other day. There’s a bird I’ve not seen since I was a kid. A small brown bird, that I used to see nearly everyday, and hear. It always reminded me of summer, iconic of warm days and freedom. It was always there, and I took it for granted. But it’s not there now, or at least I haven’t seen or heard it.

It’s the Skylark.

I want to see one again. I want to see it rising into the sky, singing its song, and finally plunging earthward. Every time I go out, I look to no avail. Every new place I visit, I look to no avail.

Today, all being well, I’m going to RSPB at Sandy, always worth a visit. If you’re there too, and see a long haired bloke wandering about with a camera, and eyes gazing skyward, that’ll probably be me.

Looking for birds of prey and such; but mostly looking for days gone by, in the shape of the Skylark.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

One of those days

Went out yesterday with a fellow photographer from a Photography Forum I’m a member of; the idea being to photograph some of the birds round my local lake. I think they knew we were coming.
The weather could have been better; very dull and overcast, but we persevered.
Started by the car park, to see if we could catch a view of one of the Kingfishers that hangs out in that part. We were joined by a local landscape company, who had decided that yesterday would be a good day to start butchering some of the bushes there too. No Kingfisher then.
We carried on and I mentioned that just round the corner would be some Bullfinches. Always there; but not yesterday. Oh well, just further along there’ll be a Grey Wagtail. He’s guaranteed to be searching along the shoreline. We searched, and briefly glimpsed him before he flew to the other side of the lake. Embarrassment was beginning to creep over me, but we walked on to where I’d seen a Bittern on two previous occasions.
Yea, he’d moved on too, and so had the crowd of assorted ducks that usually choose this spot of water. Even the Herons were noticeably absent so far. A few regular joggers and dog walkers, but it was birds we had come to see.
Onwards. Now I know this lake really well, probably better than my own garden, but I was beginning to think I was somewhere else. Just a few of the ducks and birds that are usually there. Where were they all hiding? Even the Gulls were down on their usual numbers. I began thinking to myself, if this was my first visit here, it would probably be my last, there’s not much to offer. Even a couple of guys walking some dogs remarked how quite it was. Hmmmm.
A brief bit of excitement as a Mute Swan made a slow fly past, and the shutters clicked into life. I had a plan; and some bread in a bag.
I’ll throw some in the air to draw the few gulls over, so my friend could get some ‘flight’ shots. It worked, and I began to feel a bit better about things.
“The trees along here have Treecreeper” I confidently predicted, as we moved on.
Confidence shattered. None.
Onward, and then we spotted a Heron. We got a few shots in the bag, and I suggested I walk to the left a little, while my friend gets ready for a ‘take off’ shot. “He’ll go right” I offered.
He flew left, past me. I did manage one shot though.
We continued our circumnavigation, taking a few distant birds on our way, and eventually arrived back by the car park. The ‘butchers’ had moved on, and all was peace and quiet again.
We chatted a while, spotted a Green Woodpecker, not being very co-operative, but they were shots nonetheless. And while we chatted some more, from the corner of our eyes we spotted a bird land high on the reeds. The Kingfisher. Before we could raise our cameras, he was gone.


I’m sure he waved goodbye, with a smile on his face.

The unpredictable Heron

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Another week starts

Had a good weekend bird watching, one day local, and yesterday somewhere new, for me.

Started Saturday at a local lake, and spent an enjoyable few hours watching the residents. The Herons are starting to construct their nests of sticks high in the trees on the island they call home and share with some Little Egrets. And some goats. Yes, goats. They’ve been there for some time now; the idea being to keep some of the vegetation down. Seems to work ok. A few Snipe in the reeds; I counted eight, but an entry in’ the book’ at the hide, registers 47 a couple of days ago, and another highlight for me, was watching the antics of some Goldcrests high in some trees.
I met a fellow picture taker whilst wandering round, had a chat, and he mentioned a place not far from here where there are quite a few Tree Sparrows. These are on the ‘red’ list in the UK, so I was very interested. They used to be a common sight when I was a kid, but now in decline, and very localised. In Britain and Ireland their numbers have fallen by 93% since 1970.

So, Sunday I set off in search of the Tree Sparrow. The destination was Summer Leys Nature Reserve, in Northamptonshire. And I wasn’t disappointed. My first visit, and won’t be my last. A very well managed reserve, with some large, smart hides. And the people I met were very friendly and helpful too. A pity the weather wasn’t so good, dull and cloudy, not very good for pictures, but I persevered.
A number of birds on view and of course, the Tree Sparrows.

A selection of pictures below.




Robin

Reed Bunting female


Reed Bunting male


Chaffinch male


Dunnock


Greenfinch


Tree Sparrow watching a Greenfinch


Tree Sparrow


Saturday, 21 February 2009

Weekend

A free day, off work, and a little undecided where to go. I was mulling over the possibilities this morning whilst taking the dog for his morning jaunt, when a gang of noisy House Sparrows swooped just above my head, and landed with all the precision of an aircraft pilot, into some thick bushes. Half a dozen lusty males in pursuit of a female. Quite amazing how they land so effortlessly, and not in a jumbled heap. I stopped to watch and listen for a while, but Jim was getting impatient, so we carried on our way.

Amazing how such little things that a lot of people don’t even notice, can really lift your spirits and make you glad to be alive.


A lusty male

and the desirable female


Friday, 20 February 2009

A quick one

A quick update for now.

Yesterday I had a trip to Lister Hospital, to pick up my mum who’s been in there all week. She’d had a suspected heart attack earlier in the week, but thankfully, now been given the all clear. We were having a chat once we’d got back home to her place about what had happened.

Seems she had gone up 4 flights of stairs to her dentist. It was closed, so she walked back down again. (The relevant part in this, is ten years ago, she had a heart attack, and spent some time in hospital, and finished up on various potions and has to take things a bit easy.) Now, back to the stairs. She reached the bottom and began to get some discomfort in the chest area; and short of breath. So what did she do? Walked back home, thinking to herself, ‘this is like the time I had a heart attack.
Did she seek any help on the way? No.
Upon arrival at home a neighbour remarked that she looked extremely unwell.
Did she phone me, or my brother who lives about 5 minutes away? No.
Ring an ambulance? No.
They both walked down to the bus stop, and got a bus to the hospital. Well, in her words, ‘I didn’t want to bother anyone, and cause a fuss.’
I sat listening to all this in disbelief.

One of those moments when I think it’s ok to tell yer mother off.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

A bit of good news

….for a change.
For me, anyway. The Dunnock, who has been absent for a few days from the garden during the snowy weather, finally put in an appearance yesterday……..with a friend. This will no doubt confuse the resident Robin, who seemed to take great delight in chasing him round the garden whenever he appeared before. Safety in numbers, perhaps? All I need now is the wayward Pied Wagtail, and the garden ‘family’ is complete.
A few scuffles broke out between the Blackbirds yesterday too. Five turned up in the morning, three males and two females. The two females have been fairly regular, and chase each other on occasion when getting too close whilst feeding.
A couple of the more macho males decided to flex their muscles yesterday, and perform some brief aerial combats. Staking their territory, or just impressing the ladies?

Not sure, but who needs television, when all this real life soap opera is being performed right before your eyes.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

A Grand Day Out

Well, I thought so.
Went to my local patch this morning, Caldecote Lake; a day off work, but dull and cloudy. Not ideal conditions for pictures; or anything else for that, but it’s been close on 20 days since my last visit, due to work and mainly the snow. Thankfully that’s fast melting now, but bringing with it the problem of flooding. Most of the lake edge was accessible, parts with care, but one area near to the river was completely flooded, which involved a large detour through a very muddy field, and a road. Got back on track eventually.
Saw most of the regulars whilst out, a total of 32, plus a couple of Gulls, which I’m hopeless at identifying; especially when they’ve got immature plumage. I’m guessing they were Great Black-Backed, or Lesser; possibly Herring in there too.
Maybe this year I should make more effort to hone my ID skills in their direction?
Anyway, some of the highlights this morning, for me,
A Chiffchaff, usually a summer visitor, but more and more are spending their winters here. A fleeting glimpse of the Bittern again, which was good to see. A pair of Goosander fishing was enjoyable, and a lone Shoveler with a group of Pochard.
And, a first for me, a Pintail. He was swimming with the Pochard too, a fair way off in the lake. Thank goodness for binoculars, or I may have missed it! All in all, worth getting wet feet for. A few pictures of the highlights, not brilliant, but serve as record shots.



The Bittern escapes to the reeds before the Gulls spot him.

Goosander pair

Handsome male Goosander

Shoveler with the Pochard


And my first Pintail!

Quite a crop, but I think I got away with it.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

The weekend is coming

And a good job too. Had a lousy day at work; that’s not to say it’s usually good, far from it, but today was especially bad. I won’t go into details, but as a shop steward it’s certainly varied, and some days downright tough.
Today was a tough day.

The long awaited phone arrived yesterday, and it’s pretty good; almost. It seems it has developed a ‘beep beep’ every so often. No idea what it is, but dam annoying. I’ve tried unplugging the mains adaptor for the answer phone, but it still beeps. Must be the line and the Internet connection clashing? No idea, but it’s driving me nuts.

Watched the birds in the garden for a while when I got home, and I’ve noticed the Pied Wagtail has been absent for the last 6 days, along with the Dunnock, for the last 4. I do hope they’ve not perished in this cold weather. The Long Tailed Tits are down from 9, to 4 too. Maybe it’s just a temporary thing; I hope.The usual regulars are still appearing though, along with a male Blackcap today, who was around for about an hour. Hopefully the last of the really cold weather is over, along with the snow, and the rest will return.






Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Some old ones for now

A few from the archives, till I can get out.

Cormorant
Goldcrest
Mute Swan cygnet
Nuthatch
Yea, the weather is still bad, and I'm fed up.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Enough of the snow

We've now got rain, so I suspect flooding next. I can't wait for a bit of Spring like weather, and warm sunshine, so I can get out and take some more pictures. I should think these will be looking forward to a bit of sun too.


This Robin enjoyed some early morning sun in the begining of the year
The Pied Wagtail fell in love with his reflection

Mr. Chaffinch happily posed for some shots


and the good old House Sparrow just showed me his best side



Bring on the sun!




Saturday, 7 February 2009

Another weekend

The weather continues to be a bit dire here; although it hasn’t snowed today, (yet), what is still here has now frozen. The roads are like glass, so that may scupper any plans I had for going to the local patch. I’ll have to be content with the visitors to the garden.
It’s good to see the regulars still turning up, it means they’ve survived another freezing night. I’d like to think my efforts of providing a variety of food during the day is helping.

There was to be an ‘open day’ at one of the local reserves this afternoon, which I was looking forward to, but that has had to be cancelled unfortunately, due to the weather. A shame, but I am assured there will be another soon.

On a very different note, I’ve just bought a new phone for the house. Built in answer phone, large numbers, and a light that flashes when it rings.
I guess that means I’m getting old!


Back to some regular visitors to the garden. I never tire of these beauties.





Wednesday, 4 February 2009

No rarities here.

I’m not a twitcher, or a birder; I’m a birdwatcher. I like to watch birds. Observe them, see what they do, how they interact with each other, be it their own or different species. I’m by no means an expert, just an interested amateur.
I’m happy to sit by my backdoor and watch who ever comes to the garden. (the Long Tailed Tits turned up yesterday, all nine, much to my relief, so all’s well in my world again). My bird books are to hand, the binoculars sit on the shelf, and the camera is behind me on the sofa, while I sit at the computer. My local patch is a five minute drive away, and I know pretty much every nook and cranny. My next ‘local’, is about 10 to 15 minutes. I guess that makes me a ‘lazy birdwatcher’.
Well, I have been known to venture further a field at times, for a change of scenery, but I certainly don’t ‘drop everything’ and head off hundreds of miles up the nearest motorway to join the other twitchers, jostling for a position to see that rare visitor from the Continent, or across the Atlantic. Just think of the carbon footprint made by all those people. I think the environment is in enough trouble, without me donning big boots to add to it.
Nope, I stay fairly local most of the time. I keep a list of what I’ve seen, and where, purely for my own benefit. A large diary, and electronically on the computer.
Now the point of all this is not to knock the twitchers, far from it, but to just say there is probably more on our own doorstep, if we just open our eyes to it.

Last year, in May, whilst at one of my ‘locals’, I did happen to see a ‘rarity’. Purely by chance, and I didn't even know I had at the time. I was enjoying some Reed Warblers going about their business, and heard above all their cacophony of song, a deeper more gruff sound. I scanned the reeds, and there it was. A bigger bird, singing his bigger song.
What the hell is that, I wondered. I managed to fire off a few shots, and also recorded some of his baritone on my mobile phone. I’ll check that one out when I get home, I thought, and continued my journey round the lake.
Back home, pictures and sound downloaded, I checked through my books. A Great Reed Warbler was the nearest and most conclusive I could come up with. Can’t be, I thought. They don’t come round here. Must be a mistake.
I e-mailed some pictures to our local bird club, along with the sounds. They’re more expert than me, they would know. I got a quick reply; yes it was a Great Reed Warbler, and only the second sighting in the County since 1946.
Well I was chuffed, to say the least. Needless to say, it was gone next day, and no-one else saw it, despite a few local birders going down there, but I had the proof in pictures and sound.

Just goes to show you never know what’s on your doorstep.Here’s some pictures:






Tuesday, 3 February 2009

How do they manage?

A fair bit of the white stuff fell yesterday and it makes me wonder how these poor birds mange to survive it all. The regular gang of Long Tailed Tits didn't show all day, but here's a few that did.

The Pied Wagtail was having trouble moving around at some times, but managed to find some food.
An old roasting dish makes a good food holder for the ground feeders. Sighted under a small garden table to keep the worst of the weather off.

Starlings decided to tough it out in the open.

The Dunnock looked on, wondering where it all came from.

Meanwhile the Robin took over when the Blackbird had finished

This poor Blue Tit looked so vunerable


Facing the storm.

Well, today has been sunny, and a lot of snow has begun to melt; but the clouds are gathering at the moment, so perhaps more on the way.


Monday, 2 February 2009

Snow

Well, they promised it, and it came. Woke up to about an inch of the stuff this morning, which is unusual, because we don’t often get any here; or very little. Started again about 6 a.m., and it’s still going strong. About 2 to 3 inches now. The poor little Dunnocks’ seem to be struggling with it; leaping into it with their chests to try and move around the garden, and the Pied Wagtail looks like he’s got snow boots on.

I took the dog for a run earlier; he loves snow, strange dog. There’s a small wood near here, or spinney, or whatever it’s called. Small anyway, with mixed trees, Conifers and Deciduous. I’ve never really noticed that many birds there before; the odd Crow, Magpie, that sort of thing, but what struck me today, was how many there were about. Plenty of Blackbirds, a few Song Thrush, (always good to see them), Blue Tits, and more Redwings than you could shake a stick at. Well, about 15.

I’ve either not had the eyes to see before, or maybe it’s all this snow.