Whos keeping an eye on me....

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

2011: A year of birds in the Garden

A total of 58 species either visited my garden or flew directly overhead. Depending on the season around 25 of these species either breed in and around my garden or are at least regular if not daily visitors. A good mixed habitat helps, along with mixed food sources.

The playground.......
The feeders are to the left under the wind swept trees. A large border surrounds the garden that is utilised by the ground feeder birds looking for worms or seed spills. The House sparrows spend most of the time in the bushes nearest to the patio on the right hand side, while the corvids keep lookout from the Oak tree at the back.

The following birds are the regular daily visitors:

The First species of 2011 was a Blackbird.... almost always the early bird in my garden.




The star...... a leucistic bird

The regulars that always show up in good numbers




Blue Tit

Coal Tit

Chaffinch male


and these fellas live in the eaves of our house....


Collared Dove
and yes they NEVER leave each others side

and of course my Robin

With the first of the youngsters

an image such as the last one ceratinly makes the expense of the food more than worth the effort
I will provide a new post for the seasonal or more scarce visitors

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Birds in flight - a WBW inspiration (The stage is set: Red Kites)

After the easy introduction with the slow and lazy wing flaps of the gull species there can be a few opportunities to get Raptors in flight .... with just a little planning and effort.
We have a few Red Kite feeding stations around the UK. I try to visit Gigrin Farm once a year. Situated in mid Wales it is a 3 hour drive for me but always worth the effort.

Around 300 birds may visit depending on the weather and they put on a spectacular show.

Mirror image


full tail spread


a cloudy backdrop can make for a moody image

low approach

near and far

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Birds in flight - a WBW inspiration (an easy start: Sea birds)

Thanks to Springmans post to the birth and development of in-flight photography, I have trawled through my archives to present a montage of my attempts of the last 2 years. Sometimes I even astound myself although the cost of a good camera and lense always makes life a little easier....... sometimes!

to take a look at Springmans idea that the slow lazy flight of Gulls are a good starting point and makes for easy practice certainly seems to hold true

although getting a mundane (cant think of a better phrase...) Gull against a moody sky can make an image look far better and more dramatic

or just get close and make life behind a camera even easier

a visit to the coast gives more opportunites to capture different species, and cliff top and beach settings give differing challanges

cliff tops mean you can often get eye to eye with your subject and if its windy you can capture great movement


or a sense of speed

Little Tern

Tuesday, 6 December 2011


This male Goldeneye was one of many at Pitsford Water

Stunning Plumage.....

display ......

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Word`ly Sunday....no images

.... just a morning drive over to the Wirral with Jeff for some fresh air and a few waders. Its is fair to say that we both had a little hope of catching some White Fronted Geese which would have been a life tick for both of us.

A visit to the recently opened Burton Mere Wetlands indeed gave us that life tick chance. Lingering fog on the way down gave way to some fleeting morning sunshine. The new reserve with a lovely reception, hide and trails are well presented. Plenty of scrapes and freshwater pools are dotted around the site. A handful of woodland birds are easy pickings in the reception area and carpark including Great Spotted Woodpecker. The walk towards the covert hide brought us a lovely close view of a dozen strong flock of Siskins, in with them were Goldfinch and at least one Lesser Redpoll. Further down the trail we saw the unmistakable sillouette of a Marsh Harrier  cruising directly in front of the hide and then away over the trees that line the marshes, certainly a bonus early morning sighting. Plenty of waterfowl and a few wading species fed in front of the hide.... Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Gadwall and a pair of Pintail. From the hide we could see the distant geese..... Greylags and Canadas for sure, were there White Fronted mixed in?... I guess today wasnt going to be our day as they stayed very distant. A lone Perigrin Falcon perched atop of a fence post 200 mtrs from the hide and quietly disapeared the moment we took our eyes off it..... it didnt even manage to put up the geese!
Back at the visitor centre a few more wader species were on show, Lapwing, Curlew, Redshank, Snipe, Ruff, Black Tailed Godwit and Dunlin.

A quick trip to Parkgate marsh brought a stunning male Hen Harrier, while Jeff caught a glimpse of the female... a good day for raptors as Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Buzzard all showed well.

We didnt manage to see the White fronted Geese but it was more than made up with superb views of Marsh and Hen Harriers.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The LBJ.....(little brown job)

The Dunnock..... as the title suggests is also known as the little brown job. However as the images below show us its far from a little undescript brown bird.

Plenty of contrast with the boldly streaked pattern and silver grey head

A colourful character:
It has a remarkably varied and flexible mating system. Sometimes a territory supports just two birds, male and female which co-operate in rearing the young. However, a male with a good quality territory will sometimes attract and mate with two or even three females. More typically though, it is the female who tries to mate with more than one male since any male she has mated with then helps in the feeding of the young. If two males have mated with the same female they may merge their territories and co-operate in defending a 'super-territory'. If lots of 'extra-marital' copulations take place you can have territories in which each female has more than one male but the males have mated with more than one female and are therefore attending two broods simultaneously. In a system with so much 'infidelity' the males have to be careful that they don't end up feeding a brood which is entirely someone else's offspring. This explains why, before mating, the male will peck at the cloaca of the female stimulating a pumping action. If the female has recently mated with another male this pumping will push out the bag of sperms which have just been deposited.

I have a very healthy population of dunnocks in my garden, with a record count of a dozen a few summers ago. Although often a skulking species they are very charasmatic and fun to watch.... often on the receiving end of terrirorial rants from the resident Robins. Its a shame that this species can be so underrated as this bird has the most wonderful song when it is in full voice during the spring and is as melodic as any garden species we have in the UK......

and when you capture them in scenes such as this they really do shine!!

almost fit for a Christmas card

hang on in there fella.....

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Even closer

I have cropped in a little closer on the male Chaffinch. The variation in the pastel shading is quite incredible. We are so lucky in this age of fine optics and digital publication that allows us to really get up close to see all the subtle differences from feather to feather.

just click once on the image to really see it.....

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Male Chaffinch

Just had a quick walk down by the river at Wildboarclough when this fella flew in while I took a breather by the river.

Sunday, 30 October 2011


Blue Tit

Caught this fella in a shaded part of the garden. The sunlight coming in perfectly over my shoulder really blackened the foilage behind the bird... (amazingly the foilage is only about 6 inches behind) and as he peeked around the side of the feeder. you get the perfect spotlight effect

Monday, 17 October 2011

rspb Leighton Moss

A visit once a year if I can to rspb Leighton Moss normally gets me a few year ticks but nonetheless is a lovely scenic reserve to visit on the coast at Morcambe bay in Lancashire.
Leighton Moss has Seven bird and wildlife watching hides a well equiped visitor\ Educational centre aswell as a cafe it also has three nature trails within the reserve with plenty more trails out and about the vicinity of the reserve.

A misty morning
(The Causeway to the public and Lower Hides through reed-bed habitat)

This is the largest remaining reedbed in North West England, with shallow meres and fringing sedge and woodland, attracts a wonderful range of wildlife to Leighton Moss. The reserve also has two large pools and scrapes further towards the coast of Morecambe bay.

.....  into the Bay
(Looking from the Eric Morecambe hide out across the pool and wader Scrape)

Among its special birds are breeding Bitterns, Bearded Tits and Marsh Harriers, its mammals include Otter and Roe and Red Deer.

Yesterdays visit was a bit of a whistle stop tour as I could only really afford the morning there. I was hoping for 1 life tick (Bittern..... I have been countless times and never seen one) and a year tick (Marsh Tit).

From the public hide a female Marsh Harrier hovered in the distance over what was probably her old nestsite, she dipped down for a few minutes before reappearing and taking roost in a dead tree, meanwhile in front of the reeds were 3 Otters although very very distant on the far shide of the pool.
I happily Counted 4 or 5 Marsh Tits - not sure how many to expect on a given day but certainly the most I have seen.
Year tick in the bag....
Marsh Tit

I Didnt go onto the reserve proper, so went over to the scrape hides.
I missed the Green Sanpiper that had been seen in front of the Allen hide but other highlights on show were: Perigrine perched for 2hrs preening at the back of the main pool and 400+ Knot (it only seems like chaos)
I love this image... not an ounce of focus but who really cares when you can capture the spectacle of huge numbers of waders taking off in unison.
If you click on the image and look closely you will see some Redshanks right at the bottom

Other waders of note were 1000+ Black Tailed Godwits

in flight

having a scratch

and a ruffling of the feathers

lone Godwit in a Knot

3 Spotted Redshank, 25+ Greenshank, huge Skien of Pink feet over, and the first winter female Goosander dropped into the marsh at the back of the main pool.

I missed the Bearded tits on this occassion but waited and waited between 09.30 and 10.30am however these images are from last years visit.

Female Bearded Tit

Male Bearded Tit

A total of 61 species seen from 08.45 - 13.00hrs (not bad as I spent 60 mins waiting in one place for Beardies and didnt venture on the main part of the reserve due to lack of time)

Yet again I didnt get to see the Bittern but this time of year plenty of Red Deer are about.

Both these images are from a visit in 2009