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, 30 April 2009

A quick visit to the local

I was aware of a weight on my chest, as I came out from a deep sleep. Opening one eye, very slowly, there was Jim, nose inches from mine, with a glint in his eye. It was still dark, so I guessed it was in the region of 4 a.m. His favourite time of day, I think.
Wake dad, then we go out.
Not yet boy, I’m tired.
I slowly closed my eye, to match the one beside it, and drifted back to the land of rest, aware of a tail brushing the bed, as the weight subsided.

I woke again with a start. The phone was ringing, and again, there was Jim. I hauled myself out of bed, grabbed the phone, and heard a ‘hello.’ I glanced at the clock, 8 a.m. I yawned.
hello’ said my mums voice again.
We chatted; well, mostly stifled yawns from me, about not very much. She wondered how I was. ‘Tired’, I thought.
Yea, fine.” I said.
More chat, then goodbyes, as the phone sat back down silent again.

Morning bits done, Jim fed, cat fed, Jim walked, and I decided a walk for me round the local was in order. Gardening should have been on the agenda, but……

It wasn’t quantity of birds on my mind as I made my way to the lake edge. I didn’t have much time really; the proper job was waiting for me later today. Just a quick visit for this morning, to check on a couple of birds that I’d seen on previous visits, and to see if another had arrived yet.

First up the Coot family, and there they were.

Still well hidden amongst the reeds. Three chicks sat on the nest, calling for mum, or dad, who soon arrived. No idea where the other six were, but at least three were still around.
I moved on, listening to invisible Chiffchaff singing, and Willow Warblers accompanying them.

I stopped to listen to some Sedge Warblers, singing their song, hidden amongst the reeds. Compared to a Nightingale, or even a Dunnock, not really a ‘song’, but since they’d flown such a long way to be here, it was only right I stopped to listen to what they were offering.

I carried on, carefully making my way round the edge. The Blackbirds with their keen yellow ringed eyes, were doing their best to announce the arrival of this longhaired bloke to all the other birds hidden in the bushes.

I stopped off to check the Swans nest again. Last time it looked deserted, but today, the proud mother to be, was back; and curled on the nest.

I smiled, and left her to her day.

A pair of Great Crested Grebes were dancing in front of each other in the middle of the lake, so I made my way down to the edge for a better look through the reeds. Not the brightest idea I had. The only thing I observed with clarity, and feeling, was my boots, slowly sinking in the mud, while the water began to make its way over them.

I squelched on.

The female Great Crested Grebe who was sat on her nest last time, was still there.

Well hidden, so hopefully she will be successful again this year, and raise her family.

A couple of Common Tern were swooping over the lake, and the lilac bushes along one edge, were flowering now, attracting all kinds of flying insects to their pollen.



I made my way back, with one more thing to check.

Last year, near the car park, a Common Whitethroat had a nest deep in the bushes. I wondered if they’d turned up yet.

A familiar song greeted me; the Whitethroat. Not very visible, but in good voice. A fleeting glimpse was all I was offered today, as she flew into some bushes, but I’m sure better opportunities for pictures will be available soon enough.



One from last year, to round off.
But for now, work is calling, and I hear it loud and clear.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Half way

The weather certainly has changed again. Looks to be a beautiful day today.

Jim had his morning run at 6 a.m., before I get ready for a full day working; roll on 10 p.m.
The sun was climbing its way up the yellow sky, as Jim was chasing stones, (he wont chase a ball for some reason), and kicking the frost off the tips of the grass. Frost? Yup, a light sprinkle here this morning.

The birds didn’t care though. A group of 15 to 20 Starlings were probing the sparkling grass looking for their breakfast worms. Along the edge of the sports field, in the trees, Greenfinches were making their distinctive sounds, and Goldfinches were ‘tinkling’, like animated wind chimes as they flew from branch to branch. Chaffinches were ‘pinking’, and a Blackbird was finishing off the last of his song.

A few Crows were lazily flying overhead, making their way to wherever they were spending the rest of the day.

I soaked it all up, and then steadily made my way back; to spend the rest of my day.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Tuesday

Yesterday the car had its annual health check, and I’m pleased to say it passed, almost with flying colours. A couple of minor things to attend to, but nothing major, so I can breath a sigh of relief once more for another year.

That and the change in weather has somewhat restricted my going out for a bit, and with work tying up the rest of the week, that leaves the weekend to look forward to. I’ve spent a chunk of the morning writing a piece about me, the kit and birds for a possible future post. Gawd, I ramble sometimes, it’s a bit long. I’ll have to think about that one.

Anyway, the garden seems to be coming to life a bit now. The Clematis is full of flower along the fence,


And the pond is bursting with little tadpoles.



so many, I think I could stock half of Milton Keynes.
Work is beckoning soon, so I must start getting ready, and stop sitting around.
Have a good day.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Sunday sunrise

I wanted to get up early Sunday, for two reasons. One, to get some sunrise shots as a backdrop to the Peace Pagoda at Willen Lake, and secondly to check on my Black Swan. I wondered if he was still nesting with the Mute Swan.

It was still dark when I climbed out of bed, and got myself ready. Jim needed his walk before I left, so we headed off into the darkness, with just the sounds of the birds for company. Four thirty a.m.; ‘I must be mad’ I thought to myself. Jim didn’t think so; he was busily sniffing everything in sight, to check out who’d been there the day before. I heard a Cuckoo in the distance, my first this year. The sky looked clear, so hopefully not going to be a wasted early morning.


I parked at the car park, and made my way up the steps. Five o’clock, and not surprisingly, no one about. I got my position, and waited. It was slowly getting lighter, but no sign of the sun yet. I waited. I waited some more, and then a reddish glow began creeping along the horizon. The sun!


It slowly made its way to start a new day, the sky gradually changing with its progress. I fired off some shots, waited, and then fired off some more. Good job I had spare batteries on me. Too many to post all of them, so just a couple.


First one just before the sun broke the horizon, the second as it made its journey.


Next one is looking across the lake, from alongside the ‘Pagoda’.

Mission accomplished, I set off for stage two. The south lake, and the Black Swan. I kept to the path alongside the lake, listening to the Sedge Warblers singing from the reeds; a Chiffchaff announcing the morning, and a Robin singing heartily. The sky looked amazing, so I took a couple more as the sun continued its steady climb. In a short while this display will be gone forever, and a new one takes its place tomorrow.

I looked back towards my starting point, the sun lighting up the Peace Pagoda once more.

I followed the erratic curves of the lake; Goldfinches were flying from tree to tree, like a game of chase, making their ‘tinkling’ sound as they went. Blackbirds were searching for breakfast worms on the grassy banks, and about twenty Swans were congregating on the far shore. No sign of the black one yet though. A pair of Canada Geese flew overhead, honking at any one who cared to listen. There was only me around, so I did.

I reached the lakeside bar and restaurant, and made my way to the old House Martins nests left from last year. They’re probably only eight to ten feet up in places; they’re so used to people here. I saw some of the early arrivals last week, skimming across the lake. Would any be about today? My question was answered almost immediately; a tiny head peeped out from one of the old nests and gave me an inquisitive look.

A second face appeared, and began to scrutinise me.

‘That’s good’, I thought to myself, as I slowly turned away, in search of the Black Swan. I made my way to where he was nesting last week, and there he was. Still there, snuggled up to the Mute Swan.

Making my way back, I stopped to listen to a Chaffinch, belting out his morning song.

I took a couple of pictures, then he stopped, and gave me one of those looks that said, ‘clear off!’

So I did. Walking alongside the lake, I could hear the Sedge Warblers singing their song, but being very evasive. Not as evasive as the Cetti's though, (still haven’t got a picture yet), because I quickly spotted one singing from a branch, and managed to get a picture.

The sun was behind him, so it didn’t show too much detail, but never mind. Always-another time.
A pair of Swans flew overhead, and shortly followed by a Heron, barking as he went.


I stopped off at the hide for a quick look, before heading home. Not much about this morning, except for a few Greylag Geese, and Coots swimming and fighting. Then just to left I heard a Sedge Warbler, and spotted him near the base of some small shrubs.

The sun was in a better position this time, even if he wasn’t.
I climbed the grassy slope back to the car, and stopped to watch some Swifts circling above for a while.



Are they fast!

Saturday, 25 April 2009

A Saturday stroll

After not being able to get out with the camera all week because of other commitments, I was determined to break free Saturday, when I finished work, even if it was just for a couple of hours.


I made my way to the local; the clouds above, every shade of black, through to white, with splashes of blue sky thrown in between like a demented artists pallet. The sun was playing hide and seek through the cloud, and every so often shone long enough to try and fool me into thinking it was summer.


I walked towards the lake edge, through nettles and cow parsley that was knee deep,


and was desperately trying to smother the Cowslip;


but it was still hanging on in places, shining in the sporadic sunlight defiantly.

This would soon become the land of Dragons and Damsels; but for now the Butterflies were the star attractions.


Speckled Wood

Green-veined White


and Orange Tip.

A white female landed close by, and with a flick of her wings, magically changed to show off her mottled green underside

Small wonder the male finds her so desirable.

I stopped to listen to two Robins in deep conversation in the bushes, about twenty feet apart. One would call, the other would answer, their trickling song, backwards and forwards, as the sound of the traffic disappeared into the air. I wasn’t going to walk all the lake today; my plan was to check on the Swans nest I’d discovered a couple of weeks ago. I made my way through the bushes, and there it was.


Abandoned. Maybe they’d decided on somewhere else, or maybe something more sinister had happened. The last time I’d seen it; she was gently turning an egg, so who knows.

I carried on a little further round the lake, and twisting and turning in the air were a dozen or more House Martins. The blue on the pallet was slowly taking over, and the sun was winning its battle with the cloud.

I stood watching the Martins display for ages, and tried to capture them with the camera.




A Swift had joined them; my first sighting this year, but too fast for a photo call. Another time hopefully.

A Great Crested Grebe lazily swam by in the sunlight, as I made my way back to the car.


and hidden amongst the reeds…..

another, was quietly settling down on her nest. A Reed Warbler was serenading her further along, being very inconspicuous amongst the reeds, and a Heron lazily flew across the lake. Almost back at the car now, and one last look along the lake edge. And there, almost hidden amongst the reeds, was the next generation of Coots.



I counted nine in total, and wondered how many would survive to be parents themselves.


An enjoyable end to the day.

Friday, 24 April 2009

A few birds from the garden

Another life milestone today, and they seem to come round quicker every year. And for today’s special day? Work. Hopefully the weather tomorrow will still be good enough so I can get out, and blow the cobwebs of the working week away. It’s been a particularly long week this week, the main job, and the gardening job after that for a few hours at the beginning of the week. It seems to get harder every year, but still as enjoyable. The only downside, it gives me less time to go out with the camera.



Enough whinging, I’m sure there’s worse off than me.

I was looking through some pictures I’ve taken this month around the garden, and was thinking maybe that shutter finger gets carried away sometimes. I’ve a mountain to get through still, but I thought I’d pop a few of the highlights on here.



Hope you enjoy them, as much as I enjoyed taking them.



Wood Pigeon. They always remind me of a football, rolling round the garden. Still, they pick up all the dropped seed, so that's one good thing.




Mrs Blackbird had found herself a nice juicy worm for breakfast.


This Goldfinch was busily pruning my Honeysuckle for me, for its nest building.



House Sparrow enjoying the fat balls before the Starlings arrived.



The Robin surveying his garden.



Starling patiently waiting his turn on the feeders.




Collared Dove, posing for me.



and the Siskin. A brief, but very welcome visitor this month. I wonder where he's gone now?



Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Another day, another sunrise

An early shift all this week, which does have its benefits, sometimes.

As I drove to work at 5.30 a.m., the sky behind me was a deep fiery red, as the sun was climbing its way upwards. ‘Typical!’ I thought. ‘Another glorious day, and I’m stuck inside.’

I drove past my local lake, mist hanging over the water like a wispy blanket. Greylag Geese were plucking at the grass around the shoreline, and the first of the Carrion Crows were heading off to wherever they spend the rest of the day.

I pulled into the car park, and found a place for the car. A steady stream of people were making their way to the main gate, to do their bit for the Company. I sat for a while listening to the early morning birdsong. Fingers of cloud were a scarlet red, along with the vapour trails of long departed airlines. I would have to join the throng of people soon, or I will be late.

I sat a bit longer, watching some Magpies chattering, as they flew from one side of the car park to the other. The redness in the sky was slowly giving way to a golden yellow.

‘This is so unfair’. I thought, as I climbed out the car, and made my way into work.



Sunday, 19 April 2009

House Martins and more....

Sunday morning I was up before the proverbial lark, but not the local Robin. He was singing his little song while I was still rubbing my bleary eyes; I’m sure he sits up all night.

I had a plan, House Martins. At one of the local lakes, Willen, a host of them set up home every year under the eaves of the lakeside pub and the fitness centre.

I began to make my way there, grateful it was early, and deserted. It was cloudy, and quite chilly; no sign of the promised sunshine yet, but this part of the lake gets really busy at weekends whatever the weather.

I stopped to take a picture of the lone Black Swan, standing on one of the water sports jump platforms.

Not one of my better shots of him though. He’s been a solitary resident for as long as I can remember, spending his days swimming with the rest of the Mute Swans, and begging what scraps of bread people throw him. I thought to myself, ‘wouldn’t it be nice, if one day his prince or princess came along, to keep him company. He must feel so left out, being the only one.’ Hmmmm, I carried on towards the fitness centre.

The noisy comings and goings of the House Martins are a joy to watch, as they first build their nests, and then rear the next generation. Some of last year’s nests are still there; left by the buildings owners, and some are knocked down after the Martins leave for their winter holidays. They are on the ‘Amber’ list, so it’s good to see their return every year.

Some of last years nests, left untouched.



I looked around the lake, and sure enough there they were. About a dozen at the moment, skimming across the water, but concentrated on just one for a picture.


I watched them for ages, flying low, then high, feasting on the smaller creatures on the wing. I slowly made my way back to the north lake, as a few joggers began their jaunt around the lake. Just ahead of me, tiptoeing through the daisies……



A Common Sandpiper! Not common to me, the first time I’ve seen one. He reminded me of an overgrown Wagtail, the way he rushed about on the grassy bank. I managed a few shots, before he decided to leave.




I was feeling good. First the Martins, then a Sandpiper. And now, standing on a raft with a friend, the resident Barnacle Goose.


Turn round’, I mumbled. And he did; he jumped into the water, and swam closer, giving me a quick pose, before leaving.



I carried on to the north, stopping to chat to an elderly woman walking her poodle. She told me that when her husband was alive, they both used to enjoy bird watching together, frequently going out to different places. These days however, she confines her observations to round here, with her dog.
“Have you seen the black and white Swan?” she asked.
“Black and white?” I queried. “I saw the Black Swan earlier.” I ventured.
“He’s on a nest, with a white one,” she answered, “just over there.” pointing to some reeds just ahead.
I thanked her, and made my way to where she had pointed. This I had to see. And sure enough, there they were, huddled together on a nest.


Unbelievable! Maybe the prince or princess, has turned up in some form.
Now if they mate, I can’t wait to see what the Goslings look like.