Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Long weekend action

Ferry Meadows, 28.8.04
It was a busy old long weekend over the late August Bank Holiday. I got up early to trawl through Ferry Meadows for passerine migrants. The Redstarts as outlined below were the highlight of the trip. I was lucky to bump into a female as I arrived at the patch of Coney Meadows where it had been seen before over a period of about a week. Lucky because it vanished after a few seconds and wasn't back for another 45 minutes. Soon after it reappeared in the same bush, a first-winter male started calling behind me, its 'hooeet-tic' call seemingly disturbing a Willow Warbler in the same bush. The pics below were the only two I could muster before it disappeared.
Also in the Coney Meadows area were plenty of warblers (Whitethroats, Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcaps and Willow Warblers) as well as a good few Reed Buntings. A lot of the birds seemed to gather on the sunny side facing Lynch Lake to get a kick start at the early hour.
Heading back to the car (parked at Milton Ferry Bridge) I couldn't resist snapping a Grey Heron on Heron Meadows and bumped into a few groups of Willow Warbler and Chiffchaffs (mainly juvs/first-winters) patrolling around in mixed 'flocks'.

Young Swallows and one or two Sand Martins perched in the top of the willows lining Overton Lake.
On the edge of Heron Meadows some young Goldfinches were gathering, still wanting feeding by their parents.

Baston and Langtoft
Later that evening I got a prompt message about a Pied Flycatcher up in the north of the area. I drove by Joash Jones the finder who put me onto the right trees. Howver, even though Brian The Natural Stone and his son helped scour the area, there was no further sign. Gripped, I picked up Josh's leftover Spotted Flycatcher on the way back.

Hampton and Orton Brick Pit, 29.8.04
On Sunday mornign I went for a change of location and hit the Hampton area (sounds painful). The area at the back of Tescos has a new road through the muddy industrial waste, and had a bucketload of Wheatears in the spring. It looked ripe for one again, and true to form a young bird (between juvenile and first-winter plumage) was enjoying the pipes, bricks and concrete lumps of the area.

At Orton Brick pit it started to rain. Out of the 'mound' which overlooks the main lake, a female Pheasant skulked quickly away through the long grass. I soon realised why as some squeaking at my feet revealed some tiny, stripey Pheasant chicks which had surely just hatched. As they squeaked their mother started making a horrible squealing noise and running round in circles. It was time for a hasty retreat...
Further down the track the highlights were a distant calling Curlew, a distant calling Buzzard and a distant cream-crown Marsh Harrier being mobbed by Woodpigeons. One or two hares dashed away from me. Later that mornign I returned with my children and there were even fewer birds but plenty of Migrant Hawker and Common Darters. My daughter described the place as magical.

CEGB Reservoir
In the afternoon, I had a quick chase around the 'secret' site of CEGB reservoir. Water levels are very high here as was the wind level. I lifted up a few bits of the numbered corrugated metal that are scattered around. Under the first three I found a mouse under each. Later, the last I lifted had two Common Lizards underneath (but they scarpered pretty smartish).

King's Dyke (30.8.04)
Boy is there some mighty fine habitat at the back of King's Dyke (ie. Whittlesey) near the Green Wheel. On a windy day, though there was virtually nowt on offer except three Greenshanks flying about, five Snipe which tried to land at the edge of the reedbed. Also, some young Swallows were hangin about, waiting for food action.

Baston and Langtoft again
Despite ridiculous winds I went up to Grummit's scrape in the extreme north of the PBC area. A cream-crown Marsh Harrier did the rounds, but other than that the best wildlife was a Brown Hare who thought I couldn't see it...

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Redstarts at Ferry Meadows

This morning (28.8.04) there were two Redstarts at Ferry Meadows, Peterborough. They were a female and what I believe is a first-winter male. Here are a couple of shots of the latter. More on this later...

Thursday, August 26, 2004

The other side of a Peacock

Peacock butterflies are richly beautiful even on the under-rated underside of the wings.

Peacock butterfly, Norfolk, 30.7.04.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Gray Jay and Tilley

Tilley hats are great, and where better to get one than Canada, home of the Tilley. So I replaced my old one when travelling in Ontario with a group of birdwatchers on a Bird Watching mag reader holiday with Avian Adventures. More on that later...
Two of my travelling companions, Tony and Ann Davies, kindly gave me this photo at the Birdfair last weekend (though sadly, I missed seeing them).
The photo clearly shows the power of the Tilley, drawing a Gray Jay down to feed on it. They really are great hats...

Gray Jay and Tilley, Algonquin, Ontario, Canada, 18.5.04 (photo by Tony and Ann Davies)

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

From the Archives... No.2

The 'large' black-and-red froghopper Cercopis vulnerata, Prior's Fen, Cambs, 6.6.04.

Long-tailed Tit

I popped out this morning to check out Dogsthorpe Star Pit to see if there were any waders about. No sign of a single one, but plenty of eclipse Anas ducks including Shoveler, Mallard and Teal. I also wanted to check out my new Kowa 32x eyepiece (which has been designed to reduce vignetting for digiscopers). It seems to significantly lift the performance of my Kowa 821 scope (the 'budget' non-ED version) but has the wonderful ability to allow use with a camera with no vignetting even at lowest optical zoom levels.
Hence there will be lower magnification of my shake, more light getting in and faster speeds – which all in should produce better images.
Here is one of my first efforts (though taken in a hurry at non-optimal settings at 1/30s). It was one of a feeding party of roving Long-tailed Tits, mixed with Blue Tits, Great Tits and one or two Blackcaps.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Kestrel hovering

Once more in north Norfolk (at the end of July), I took a couple of shots of a very raggedy Kestrel hovering over Cley. Here they are:

More fun with Common Sandpipers

If you have a few photos hanging around being looked at by nobody, why not get them out there in the public domain? Such is the philosophy (take it or leave it) behind this series of Common Sandpiper photographs from Deeping Lakes on 15.8.04.

More fun with Common Darters

Down at Ferry Meadows, Peterborough with the Bogbumper, we went on a Willow Tit search last week (18.8.04). These are very scarce birds in Cambridgeshire and any records around the Peterborough area are treated with a certain amount of chin-scratching and eye-itching, but despite this, usually tempt one or more of us locals out for a hunt... And after the inevitable fruitless search, there are always insects to fall back on (not literally, that would be cruel). As it's Common Darter season, why not photograph some of the little devils as they kindly pose on fences? In true WWN style, here are the best of the bunch (and in case you are wondering, it is one of these darter heads that now graces the top of the page).

Marsh Harrier

When we were up in north Norfolk at the end of July, there seemed to be juvenile Marsh Harriers dripping from every bush and flopping lazily around wherever we looked. This one was hanging out at Cley, just within range to do some rather sloppy digiscoping. Incidentally, digiscoping fans, I bought a new fancy eyepiece at the weekend which should help my digiscoping performance. Watch this space...

Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Cley, Norfolk, 27.7.04.

Thursday, August 19, 2004


I have done a bit of dibbling with what is technically known as digibinning. This is the combination of ye olde digitale camerae with a pair of binoculars (or rather one of the barrels) to take snaps. It is basically an alternative, freehand version of digiscoping. Having got a new fancy-Dan pair of Zeiss FL 7x42 bins, I thought it was worth having a try. Here are some of my few efforts with the combination fo the Zeiss and my Nikon Coopix 4500, plus one (the Bullfinch) using RSPB FG 8x32 bins. So without further ado, here are:

Black-tailed Godwit, Titchwell, Norfolk, 24.7.04.

Greylag Goose, Cley, Norfolk, 27.8.04.

Banded Demoiselle, wildflower centre, north Norfolk, 30.7.04.

Juvenile Bullfinch, Ferry Meadows, 18.8.04.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

More Southey Wood insects

I am irresistible to insects at the mo' (though I hasten to add there are no flies on me). This Pyrausta aurata moth landed on my skin and thought it would help itself to a tasty snack

The moth was at Southey Wood (16.8.04) in a patch of flowers which attracted Holly Blue and Peacock butterflies as well as a good population of what I believe are Dark Bush Crickets.

Female Dark Bush Cricket.

Male Dark Bush Cricket.

Check out the foot on the above. It appears to have a little 'stabiliser' to help spring in the air?.
Further up the track, I managed to get some photos of a few butterflies, including...
...Painted Lady

We also found a patch with literally hundreds of migrant hawkers as you can see from this photograph

As the sun went behind a cloud, the numbers of settled Common Darter increased allowing a few snaps.

Common Darters, Southey Wood, Cambs, 16.8.04

Blakeney wildlife

One of the places we took a trip to while up in Norfolk a few weeks back was Blakeney Point. We got on one of the several seal-watching boats that sail out of Morston Quay and head up for the point. On the way we were smothered in a huge wave of migrating hoverflies that hit the east coast. One of the local guys running the trip was very pleased with his pile of hoverfly corpses at his feet. Needless to say Weedon's World of Nature strongly disapproves of this behaviour.
Blakeney is an excellent place for close-up views of...

...Common (Harbour) Seals and a few of the larger...

...Grey (Atlantic) Seals.
There is also a Sandwich Tern colony on the Point.

Some of the constant stream of boats got a wee bit too close to the seals and terns for my taste, but the creatures mostly ignore the tourist visitors. We got an hour or so on-shore and bustled about (though not near the seal and tern areas). My children went and looked at a dead seal (not photographed), while I tried to photograph Grayling butterflies. Here was my best shot.

I strongly recommend anyone who is up in North Norfolk to go on one of these trips to have a good old gander at the seal colony.

Monday, August 16, 2004

The sandpiper and the fox

On Sunday (15.8.08) I was slogging around the lakes at Deeping Lakes LWT reserve (aka Welland Bank Pits), near Deeping St James, Lincs, from about 7am to 8.30am. The lake/small pits known by some of the locals as Phase 1 (I think it was the first pit scraped out in the new complex) has had a reasonable share of waders recently so I was trudging round there, scanning constantly. I was just looking at a group of three Common Sandpipers when a fox appeared and walked round, ignoring me.
It was some way off and I was downwind so I watched it exploring aound the edge of the pit looking for grub and eventually hop through a hole in the fence out of sight.
So I got on with digiscoping the sandpipers for several minutes – and this is the best I could muster.

Suddenly, the fox appeared just by the sandpipers (they were surprisingly unbothered), and stayed just long enough for me to digiscope it, instead. Here is Reynard noticing I am there. He reappeared a few more times during my walk, but this was my only photo.