Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A lark

Monday, February 19, 2007

Put your tongue away!

Swan head

Woodwalton Fen action

Hen Harrier, digiscoped at about 500m using Kevin 'Pinky' Du Rose's patent elastic band and key-ring 'adapter'...
All with Canon PowerShot A95 with Kowa TSN-823M + 32xW
(click photo for bigger version)

Had a very pleasant (though annoyingly cold) morning at Woodwalton Fen with Ray and Will Bowell yesterday (18.2.07). Will tells the tale on his website, so I thought I'd just rip it off:

"Woodwalton wanders
Had a fairly early start, picking up the Doctor [that's Will's term for me] at just gone 8, we headed south to Woodwalton Fen. The plan was to sit it out in the hide overlooking Gordon's Mere on the reserve in the hope of being rewarded with views of Bittern, as demonstrated in Nigel Triggs' photos, which can be viewed here.
On the way to the hide, a couple of Lesser Redpolls flew over; a PBC year tick for me at least. We spent a couple of hours in the hide; a Cetti's Warbler burst into song by the side of the hide and showed well in the bushes, before disappearing. This is actually only the second I have ever had in the PBC area! An hour or so later, a Bittern came in, landing in the middle of reeds out of view as per usual. Two PBC elite species in the space of couple of hours, all from one hide!
After waiting for a while, to see if the Bittern would come to the edge of the reeds (it didn't), we decided to move to the north of the reserve to look for the Hen Harrier which has been coming into roost there.
Immediately on arrival at the North Hide, a female Marsh Harrier flew by and not long after that Mike picked up a ring-tailed Hen Harrier flying at the back. It landed in a tree, giving Mike and me a chance to have a go at some extreme digiscoping, at distance.
After the Harrier flew off to the north, we headed back towards the central track. On the way, near the bungalow in the middle of the reserve, we bumped into a couple and their grandchild. Clearly none birders, they greeted us with "Are you trained, expert bird spotter people?" They then went onto describe a "starling sized bird with a crest feeding on berries."
The description was perfect for Waxwing, all we need to know now was where. We glanced towards the general direction they were talking about and amazingly a pair of Waxwings we sat in the top of one of the tallest trees near the bungalow. Both birds dropped down eventually but despite a lot of searching we couldn't relocate them so didn't get the hoped for screan filling photos.
Eventually we gave up and headed home rather happy with an extremely successful morning's birding"

Gadwalls at speed


Friday, February 16, 2007

Ones that got away


Carrion Crow

Pied Wagtail



Grey Squirrel
All with Canon PowerShot A95 with Kowa TSN-823M + 32xW
(click photo for bigger version)
Here's a selection of some of the photos that didn't make it to the Digiscoping Made Easy DVD. All were taken at Ferry Meadows CP, Peterborough on 20.12.06, while filming for the DVD.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Weedon's World, February 2007

Here is an extract from my monthly column, Weedon's World, from Bird Watching Magazine, February 2007

Knot and Grey Plover (bathing on right), Maxey Pits, Cambs, 23.12.06.
I am obsessed with 12 10km squares arranged in a cross centred on the Cambridgeshire city of Peterborough. The recording area of the Peterborough Bird Club (the PBC area) is where I do nearly all my birding, keep my most important life list and have religiously carried out a year list since 2002. The area contains enough diversity of habitats and birds to get me out of bed in the morning and to stop me from wandering.

Every year there are a few great birds, and just occasionally there are really great days. One such day was December 23, 2006.

My PBC year list had virtually ground to a halt and I’d only just reached my lowest previous total of 174 species with White-fronted Geese on December 21 in the midst of a pre-Christmas fogathon. The next day I picked up my only Bittern of the year and was starting to be moderately pleased with myself.

Two mornings before Christmas, I had settled for 175, and was just checking up on a few species to see if they were still there with potential to linger for 2007. The local Scaup had gone, but I had just refound a couple of drake Smew, when I got a call from another local year list obsessive, Josh Jones. He had a Long-tailed Duck and it was less than ten minutes from where I was.

Less then ten minutes later I was watching bird number 176 for 2006, but it was time for home. The way back took me nearly past Maxey pits, so I thought I’d have a quick look in. In among the usual hundreds of Golden Plovers and Lapwings were three sleeping Bar-tailed Godwits, very scarce in winter in these parts. I called Josh to let him know, and as I spoke I casually scoped. Just right of the sleepy plovers were some birds busy feeding – Knot, and 12 of them. I’d only ever seen two locally before, so this was starting to look good.

I drove round to a different viewpoint, a bit closer. As I approached, the Knot flew about 15m, and I realised as they landed that there was a Grey Plover with them (177 for my PBC year!). I called the news to local birders, but soon the three godwits departed high. Minutes later, the Knot flew, but soon settled again, this time 26 of them! The Grey Plover started calling and I scanned with bins, only to see two Grey Plovers flying around. I scanned a bit more and saw an Oystercatcher had dropped in (also very scarce here between July and February). Two Curlew flew over calling, but decided the muddy pit was too crowded. This was a serious bit of midwinter wader activity.

Things seemed to be settling down, and I was thinking it was probably best to rejoin my family, when Josh called again to tell me that there was a Common Scoter a few miles south. So, (with permission of course) I took the long way home via Ferry Meadows and duly ticked species 178.

None of the waders and ducks I’d seen were really rare, just rare locally, excitingly displaced from the coast by the cloudy, foggy conditions. Thanks to my generous, kind, loving wife, I had had one of my best local birding days in years.

Two hours later, I was picking my family up from a Nativity play rehearsal when Josh called to say he had been to Maxey and found a Sanderling. They don’t usually come to muddy gravel pits with me, but I think my children and wife secretly enjoyed seeing that small, pale wader: 179 for 2006...

Digiscoping DVD plug

Bird Watching Magazine

Hey, I've just made my first DVD – Bird Watching Magazine's Digiscoping Made Easy – and if I say so myself, I'm pretty pleased with it. It is a step-by-step guide to taking photos using a compact digital camera through a birding scope. I present the DVD and co-wrote the script. The DVD looks at how to take great photos without all the fancy (and expensive) gadgets and fuss. No real adapters, not hassle, just basic hand-held digiscoping.
Here are a couple of photographs I took while filming it...


If you would like to order a copy of Digiscoping Made Easy, click on this link and follow the easy-to-follow steps.

An American Robin in Yorkshire

American Robin, Bingley, 4.2.07.
Canon PowerShot A95 with Kowa TSN-823M + 32xW
(click photos for bigger versions)
This bird and the fly-away Pacific Diver (curse its entrails) were the reason I risked and duly got a severe bout of flu. Oh well, at least it was a UK tick, even though I've seen billions of them in North America...
I reckon Will and I could have done some serious digiscoping work on this bird if it wasn't for the size of the crowd (and the slightly insensitive behaviour of a few).

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Tame Kes

Canon EOS 30D + 300 f4 + 1.4x

Thursday, February 01, 2007


Coot, Ferry Meadows CP, Cambs, 31.1.07
Canon EOS 30D + 300 f4 + 1.4x
(clickable for bigger versions)

More BHGs

Black-headed Gulls, Ferry Meadows CP, Cambs, 31.1.07
Canon EOS 30D + 300 f4 + 1.4x
(all clickable for bigger versions)