Friday, February 29, 2008

Reed Bunting Snipe Finch

This Reed Bunting was enjoying the seeds fallen on the flood of the Nene Washes, last year.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Quake not Quake

I've reached the final stages of Black on the PS2. Yes, I'm a pacifist who likes to blow virtual things up and shoot wicked terrorists in a glorious first-person fashion, on me telly. Inevitably, I'm blowing up RPG guys and chucking grenades all over the place and the vibration of the controller is in full overload. It's after midnight, and I really should be in bed; but I can't save the game until the end of the level, and I'm blowed if I'm going through all this again.

Then the low rumble of a truck pulling up outside is followed by the sound of at least 50 cats bouncing up and down on the conservatory roof. And boy are they having a rare old dance. I'm briefly concerned that a shotgun man is trying to get me through the roof, then resolve that the local police helicopter is flying extremely low on its way to raiding the new people nextdoor.

But when I poked my head out of the door, the 'chopper' was gone.

Strangely, though, for one o'clock in the morning, there were Blackbirds and Robins singing all over the place...

I've dibbled around the Pacific rim, spent a short time in New Zealand and lived in Japan for a bit. But, I have previously always been blissfully ignorant of any earthquakes shaking my world, until last night.

Now, when's the next one?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Cattle Egrets

The nation is swamped in them at the moment, and having ticked one off locally for PBC species number 222, I thought I'd indulge in a demi-reminiscithon and post some so-far unposted digiscoped shots of Cattle Egrets from last summer in Mallorca (all at S'Albufera).

Barbet action

This is a digiscoped shot I took a couple of Julys ago in South Africa (when I was invited by Swarovski Optik for a digiscoping trip). And here is the video of the same Black-collared Barbet munching this cactus.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Sheep Egret

I was out and about early on Saturday morning (23.2.08), searching for a Firecrest which had been seen a little north of Peterborough, when I got a call. Brian Stone had seen an egret fly past his house (just west of Peterborough) and was "as certain as I can be" that it was a Cattle Egret. Now, there have been loads in the country recently (perhaps 85 in total), but this was still something special for around here.

Brian declared that he was committed to going off to relocate the bird, but, though I made as encouraging noises as I could muster, this was surely wild-goose-in-a-haystack stuff. I had little hope for the poor fellow.

An hour later, though, and Brian was calling again. The bird was in a sheep field near Fotheringhay, Northants (but still in the Peterborough recording area).

So, when I got home, I rudely bundled the entire Weedon family into the car, delivered my daughter to her singing lesson and took Jo and Eddie on a Cattle Egret hunt.

Half an hour later I was hobbling as fast as I could in the direction of a distant Brian Stone. The egret was wandering around the fields getting bullied by butting lambs, and I never really saw it feed (so, it seemed likely to move on, soon). But it was there and very pleasurable on the eye.

A mere handful of hardcore Peterborian birders saw the bird, and another fistful of the Northants brigade. By midday, though, the bird was apparently seen by no-one else and there are one or two local birders left in a deeply-frustrated state of dipping anguish.

At the current invasion rate, though, surely the next Cattle Egret won't be long coming...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Norfolk DSLR-ing


Snow Buntings


Common Gull

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Digiscoping technique (A640)

Bird Watching magazine editor Kevin Wilmot adopts the handheld digiscoping pose for the Canon PowerShot A640.

I've recently had quite a few calls asking how I go about digiscoping with my Canon PowerShot A640 (which I use with a Kowa TSN-823 scope and 32xW eyepiece)

In the Digiscoping Made Easy DVD I used a PowerShot A95 with a sort of metal tube (a Lensmate) clipped onto a bayonet fitting on the camera. The tube slides neatly into the scope eyepiece, centring the camera and holding it just the right distance from the eyepiece – there was no vignetting at any magnification and it worked beautifully.
I upgraded to the A640 because it has twice the megapixels (10 rather than 5) and the macro is amazing (with an incredible close-focus distance of about 1cm).

The downside is that there isn't a convenient Lensmate-equivalent to connect for digiscoping.

Fear not, though, there is an easy solution – plastic tubing.

Below is the step-by-step guide to how I do my digiscoping. To align the camera with the scope eyepiece, I simply use a plastic ring cut from some plastic piping from a DIY store.

I use one of two rings. The deeper one lifts the camera slightly further away from the eypiece, to stop vignetting at the lowest camera magnifcation. The thinner one is for when the camera is slightly zoomed in. (I worked out the distance by measuring how far back I needed the camera until the vignetting disappeared).

If I am going to be digiscoping all I do is whip out the relevant ring, comme ça...

...then I pop the ring in the scope's eyepiece.

So, it looks like this.

Then all I need to do is insert my camera's lens in the tube.

So, you end up with a set-up looking like this...

...or, if you like, this...

Then you snap away. Here, once more, is Kevin Wilmot impersonating my digiscoping technique beautifully...

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Norfolk digiscoping


Snow Bunting


White-crowned Sparrow

Aaaah, a day in Norfolk in sunshine with two cameras: sheer bliss. Life without plaster is so good. Shame I could hardly keep my eyes open (neighbour noise). Still, I had the best views I've ever had of a Bittern, a visit to the White-crowned Sparrow and a chance to digiscope some close Snow Buntings and Turnstones.

Of course, all pix are clickable, so go back up and click them!

I took quite a few DSLR shots as well, but these will appear later.

Thanks very much for taking me, Kevin du Rose!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Black-necked Grebe

It was a beautiful frozen morning today, and I took the opportunity to go out on my own for the first time this year (which sounds like I am what is technically termed a nutter), driving down to Orton Brick Pit to search for the Black-necked Grebe (further evidence?).

The bird was easily found near 'the mound', but straightaway swam far out.

I met the bird's finder, Dave Bradley (and his black lab) and he assured me that the bird spends more time close in than not and is not perturbed by humans.

While I waited, though, I tried a few sketches...

However, it wasn't until the farmer of the adjacent land set off an extremely loud explosive rocket, panicking all the birds, that the grebe swam back to its favourite corner, where I was waiting. Oh, for more time...

Also seen this morning were two Green Woodpeckers, Kingfisher, Great Spotted Woodpecker, two Red-crested Pochards and a few pairs of displaying Goldeneye, including a female with her head down inviting a drake to climb aboard. He didn't quite seem to know what to do, so showed her his orange feet one at a time, instead!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Barn Owl

Barny and Kes

This Kestrel was pestering the Barn Owl for what appears to be vole it is carrying.

Gullage at Dogsthorpe Tip

Glaucous Gull and friends

1st-winter Iceland Gull

Adult Caspian Gull

1st-winter Caspian Gull (with deformed bill)
Went gulling today with John Wright and Kevin Du Rose, with a cameo appearance by Brian Stone. We spent the morning at Dogsthorpe Tip, Peterborough and amassed the following highlights:
Glaucous Gull, 1, 1st-winter,
Iceland Gull, 1, 1st-winter,
Caspian Gull, 2, adult and 1st-winter,
Yellow-legged Gull, 2, 2nd-winters
Here are the digiscoped shots.

Iceland Gull