What a pretty Gull an Iceland Gull is. As an absolute bonus yesterday and after our afternoon on the water, we went of to the opposite side of the harbour where we had been told that an Iceland Gull was showing well...... and it was. It was a nice "lifer" for me and brings my tally for photographed species in Devon up to 199.
The Iceland Gull is in the same family as Herring Gull "larus" but was noticeably smaller than the Herring Gulls that it was associating with. It is a peaceful, graceful looking bird, in adult plumage, snowy white but this one was a second year bird and had some vestiges of brown markings as you can see. I took these images just at dusk and the better beamer flash extender really worked well in this instance, picking out the detail magnificently. I have many more pictures of this bird and I will add some later.
This entry follows on from the earlier post (read below). We were out in a boat photographing the interesting birds that are feeding in Brixham Harbour at the moment. The Black Guillemot is a rare bird in Devon, not an annual visitor to our coasts here in Devon. I had been fortunate on Sunday to photograph and record my first ever but today in the smaller boat I was hopeful of being able to get some better photos and so it proved. Firstly we went out to look on the seaward side of the breakwater, but there was no sign unfortunately. We returned back in to the harbour and suddenly..... there it was...... quite a result. The boat drifted clsoer and closer to it and in the end with the bird just a few feet from us, we had not only brilliant views of it but the best photo opportunities imaginable.
++++Update and note of interest, this is not the same bird that I photographed on Sunday++++
Here are a few of the best.
To continue the story of yesterday's encounter with the "Beast of Brixham". We drifted around in the boat, spotting Divers every few minutes or so and it was only a few minutes before we were close to the celebrity. The weather was windy but in the harbour where it was sheltered, it wasn't too bad at all. Andy, the skipper did a brilliant job trying to put us in the right place with the sun behind us but the "beast" wasn't interested in co-operation, constantly diving to feed and then coming up in the wrong place. At one point it splashed around, bathing and preening with a big wing flap. This was a great photo opportunity. (See below). We followed it in to the inner harbour where the shore-based Birders were excitedly running along the harbour-sde to get as near as they could. We held our position and I swapped seats in the boat with Dave who hadn't managed a special shot yet. I was now in the stern of the boat…. suddenly there was the beast, just off the stern, it had popped up with a massive amount of commotion. Great photo opportunities of course. I felt sorry for Dave, now the bird was at the stern whereas before the brow had been the best place to be but I needn't have worried because Dave finished up with brilliant photos as well. It dived down again and we followed it (at a respectable distance of course), out of the harbour and in to the main fairway where it seemed to have a favourite spot. Other Divers were in this spot and we saw the beast surface with a large flatfish which it swallowed quickly before I managed a good shot. Other divers were successfuly surfacing with crabs, obviously a good source of food. The afternoon continued successfuly and we went further out towards the Breakwater to look for the Black Guillemot that I had seen from the Dart Princess on Sunday's cruise. We easily found, it after a bit of searching, if it hadn't have been for the brilliant encounters with the "beast" then this would have been a special encounter.... more about that in my next post with photographs.
This really isn't much of a crop at all. We were in the inner harbour watching the diver from a friend's boat…. the bird was opposite and we had already taken dozens and dozens of photos of it, all, or most were keepers. We watched it dive and then tried to predict where it was going to re-surface again when suddenly with a whoosh….. it surfaced just a foot from the boat. It was not concerned or cared little about as as we made eye contact with it. At this point you knew just how big it really was. Like a big Christmas turkey. Dave and his mate mate Dave panicked but I kept it together and managed to snap off a dozen or so shots before it dived again…… wow! The shot was hand held with a Pentax K3 splash proof camera and 300mm splash proof lens, you need this waterproofing when you are on the water, something that the Pentax K3 gives me.
During the afternoon and from the boat, we photographed other exciting beauties including close ups of a Black Guillemot. I have yet to look at the pics but I am getting to it as the evening wears on, keep checking back on the blog to see more close up diver shots......... because it surfaced feet from us on 3 seperate times in all.
I have given quite a bit of consideration to today's Blog post.... I have ben wondering how I am going to put in to words, surely the best days bird watching I have ever had in the county. Not only did I see and photograph 2 lifers (that's bird species that I haven't seen before), but I also added two more new species to my Devon bird gallery. Here's a list of the birds seen today in order of their speciality.
1. White-billed Diver (Photos) the 3rd County record... above.
2. Black Guillemot (Photos) a very rare Devon bird.....Number 1. below.
3. Red-necked Grebe (Photos) annual but rare Devon bird.
4. Black throated Diver (Photos)
5. Great Northern Diver (Photos)
6. Long-tailed Duck (poor photos)
Six of the best you might say.
Once all the participants had arrived, we headed out of Paignton as normal and started to look out for Divers and Grebe. The first bird of interest was a Great Northern Diver which was feeding, close in to the beach at Goodrington Sands. The skipper manoeuvred the bows in the birds direction and we drifted in as close as we could get without running aground of course. Close enough for photos which would have been good had I not taken such good close ups the other day. Never the less, this was an interesting bird.
The next interesting birds was a pair of Red-necked Grebe. This is a rare but regular winter visitor to Devon. I haven't seen them before but I knew what I was looking for. They are not a tiny grebe like a Little Grebe or Slavonian, but larger and more long necked like a Great Crested. They have a yellow beak in all plumages so when a pair of grebe took to the air very close to the boat we could see what they were quite easily. They were very flighty and hard to get close to but I tried very hard to get at least a record shot.
In flight, perhaps the photographs were more interesting. Each time the boat got within 100 yards of them they took to the air. This was very frustrating.
These distractions kept us away from the main course, the White-billed Diver that is and we steamed slowly in to Brixham Harbour, quite certain that we would find this celebrity without too much trouble. We could see the birders on the Breakwater and by noting the direction of their scopes we could see in which direction we should look. We homed in on the giant diver without too much trouble. It was in the company of two Black-throated Divers which was really interesting in itself because it was educational to see the difference in size between the two species.
You can see in the photograph above, the celebrity White-beaked Diver, the rarest Diver in UK waters. This is the 3rd Devon record in history and one of around 60 in the last 100 years in English and Welsh waters. They are more likely in Scotland though, particularly in the Orkneys and Shetlands. This is a a species that breeds in the Northern Pacific but is known to over-winter rugularly in Northern Norway. I guess that the recent gales have driven these Arctic birds in to our region.
We proceeded out of the harbour to the seaward side of the Breakwater to search for the Black Guillemot reported this last two days. It seems that there are at least two,possibly 3. It was a simple task to find the bird in the bright light and I was thrilled to get photographs of yet another new species. This is a scarce bird in Devon Black Guillemots are in fact almost white in the winter time, this will help them to blend in much better in the icy arctic environment where they should be at this time of year.
It was a good session that included not only a distant Long-tail Duck but also Gannet, Guillemot, Fulmar, Kittiwake and all the usual common gulls as well as Grey Heron and Little Egrets
Today, and not feeling on top of the world because of my on-going bout of "man flu"… a cold by any other name of course, I did start to feel a bit better during the afternoon and decided to get some fresh air. I took my camera out on to the marsh where the flooded fields this last week has made it very interesting. There has been a lot of Water Rail activity there recently. Each time that I have been this last few days I have heard several, sometimes just a few feet away but in typical Water Rail style I have not seen them apart from just fleeting glimpses. Today though, I saw 3 that kept appearing on the edge of a hedge through the gate just near to the Lions Rest Estate, in fact right behind the RSPB offices. It was also nice to have the chance to photograph this Oystercatcher. It was feeding on the edge of a rainwater pool quite close to the gate, not a normal occurrence I would suggest. I have been experimenting with a Better Beamer which is a flash extender that magnifies and focuses the flash from a standard flash gun. Flash is definitely something that should be used more often but photographers in the UK are reticent because the finished photographs can look very harsh and hard and are not very pleasing on the eye. However, the skill is to use the flash as a shadow filler and the general rule should be that If you can tell that flash has been used then you aren't using it correctly. Today, I got the chance to really use it and I have to say that the results are very pleasing to my eyes. Without flash, I would not have even been able to get a shot let alone capture the detail that you can see in these images.
Late yesterday afternoon I had an email from friends in Brixham telling me that there was a White-billed Diver in the harbour and very visible from the breakwater. This is a very rare bird in the UK and possibly one of the first photo opportunities in Devon. I am not certain how many sightings that there have been in the county, but I believe that this bird is only the second on record. So just after dawn even though I have a nasty cold and do not feel well at all, I climbed in to the car and made my way there. The weather was the brightest that we have had for days and I was quite excited as I parked the car and other birders told me that they had had good close up sightings already. I walked up the breakwater to join the few well equipped birders who told me that the bird in question was now in the distance, still in the harbour but at least 200 hundred yards away. We waited in the hope that it would work it's way back to our side of the harbour. Then a guy in a small 15 foot boat chugged past and I shouted to him to ask if he would take me in to the harbour, for a small bribe! He didn't immediately agree but then he beckoned me to the steps at the end of the breakwater. I thanked him profusely, climbed onboard and off we went! What a result! We cruised towards the other end of the harbour and within 20 seconds we were just a few feet from a spanking Black-throated Diver which wasn't in the least bit spooked or stressed by the boat ……brilliant!!!!
We lingered and I took loads of pictures which I haven't had chance to look at yet…..(watch this space). The small wooden boat moved on in to the inner harbour, the sea was like a mill pond and there it was, one of Devon's rarest birds, it was feeding (as the name suggests), by diving in to the aqua blue water. Every time it surfaced I snapped more pictures and finished up with very special images of one of the rarest birds I have ever seen. It dived again and then we saw what I thought was it again and I continued to photograph it and it wasnt until much later that I realised that this bird was in actual fact a Great Northern Diver.
It was a short, exciting trip and as we climbed out of the boat and back on to the breakwater, the other birders clustered around me to look at the pictures. It actually cost me £20 for these pictures and I have to say that it was well, well worth i. I have 1000's of pounds worth of camera stuff. I had made a big effort to drive down there so this was a small price to pay for this fantastic opportunity to get close to this very rare bird. Brilliant.
It's been a hard task to get good photos this last few days, the weather has been appalling, very wet and even more windy. We have a lot of surface water on the local marsh, it's as flooded as I have ever seen it. I went for a visit earlier in the afternoon to see if I could find anything interesting. The entire access road through the marsh was flooded but the birds were quite close to the roads and were easily disturbed by walkers out to enjoy the bright late afternoon sun. You can almost tell what the weather was like in the Blue Tit photo above.
Not really quite sure waht this guy was all about?
The Blackcap female was back at the apple this lunchtime. I had seen it yesterday feeding in the middle of a really intense rainstorm. It made me realise how important the apple is to this bird, I assume it's the same one that I have been seeing for all of December. I hope to see a male but as yet we haven't had one this year and for that matter last winter either.
Our little Goldcrest is a delightful little bird, very territorial, feisty and resilient. Tiny as they are, they need to feed almost constantly during the short Northern winter days. I went looking for them this morning in a couple of spots where I have seen them before and I was quite confident that I would be successful. I found a pair that were feeding around the entrance to the Exminster RSPB car park. There is a nice sheltered spot with scrubby brambles and a few trees, obviously a good little spot for Goldcrest in the winter as I have seen them here on numerous occasions before. Once you have spotted your Goldcrest it isn't easy to photograph them because they are very difficult to pin down, constantly on the move and looking for insect prey relentlessly. With lots of patience and perseverance I did manage to get some photographs which turned out much better than I dared hope for.
As I have already described in yesterday's post, the weather was quite appalling on the boat trip out of Paignton and in to Broadsands and Churston Bay. As well as the lovely spectacle of 3 Black-throated Divers we also had nice views of a smart little Black-necked Grebe as well as a couple of Great-crested Grebe. Both species in their winter plumage.
We also saw a few Kittiwake, a nice gull species that does breed here in Devon but is a sea bird and rarely if ever seen on land except of course in the breeding season. One of the features of this pretty seagull is the wing tips that look like they have been dipped in ink.
Last Sunday I had enjoyed a great morning on the Dart Princess out of Paignton hunting down wintering Divers in the family "gaviidae" We had seen and photographed Great Northern and although we saw Black-throated, the photos I took of this species then were not so good because the one specimen we had seen remained quite distant. I was hoping to get better this week and so it proved. However, the weather was nothing short of appalling today. There a very low layer of cloud with constant drizzle and haze making photography very difficult to say the least. We had made our way in to the bay and it was a while before we actually caught sight of any divers but then in the distance and close to the Mussel farm off Churston , 3 birds were seen. We made our way towards them and then cut the engines and drifted nearer. It was a very unusual sight to see and to then have the chance to photograph three birds together like this was a great privilege. They were quite relaxed before they eventually moved off and this was the best opportunity for a good photo, well it would have been if it had been brighter. The skipper commented something about us being lucky and I said its funny, the more effort I put in, the luckier I get, (that old cliche), remembering how wet and miserable it was and the early start etc! Sometimes you feel like you deserve to have some luck. As you can see, it certainly was a magnificent sight. In actual fact I had the chance to get much better shots than these but due to the appalling light, the swell and sway of the boat and vibration from the engines many of the pictures were blurred. Other birds seen were Gannets, a few nice Kittiwake, Fulmar and Black-necked Grebe as well as Purple Sandpiper (on Brixham Breakwater) and numerous Grey Heron.
Here's a link to my Bird of the Day if you haven't been there before, its well worth a look, I try to include some of my best photographs selected from my gallery of 6000 bird images.
If you are looking at the Blog today, directed here from the Pentax Forum, then you will be interested to know that the photograph (below) was taken with my Pentax K3 to a Sigma 500mm f4.5 EX DG HSM. The Blackcap Warbler was taken this morning through the slightly hazy glass of my kitchen window so consequently it is not as dynamic or as sharp as it would have been had it not been taken through Pilkington K glass.
In the next photograph, I took my camera to the local marsh, this time connected to my Pentax SMC DA* 300mm f/4 ED [IF] SDM. I find this lens to be a wonderful piece of equipment. Even with poor weather and bad light I was able to get a nice photograph of this flying Northern Shoveler Duck, albeit with huge crop. Two massively different photographs and both good successful examples of the art of bird photography.
I notice that this evening I have had numerous visitors to the blog from the Pentax users forum. I have had a K10d, K20,K7. K5 and a K511s. I damaged my K511s..... it fell over on the tripod and was a right off. This coincided with the release of the K3, I need to to tell you that the K3 is a much much, much better piece of equipment than any other cameras I have owned. I am not in the slightest bit interested in my camera because of "bells and whistles" but just because it does give me good photos. I am lucky, I could afford to upgrade and it has been really well worth it. It does focus significantly quicker than my previous camera and the photos are better. There is no panacea for all ills though, conditions do need to be right, it will not perform miracles but I do find this camera much easier to use than all my others. The only down side is that I do notice a little more noise at higher ISo's. I see other people have commented on this and I would agree, however, It's not a problem, I get rid of it with "Neat Image" if I need to.
Definite improvements are:
1. Higher mega-pixels enables me to crop a little more without degrading the image.
2. Seems to lock on to flying subjects and make it easy to get a sharp shot, hence more keepers.
3. The led and live view display is far improved, very clear and good.
4. The way you switch between stills and movie mode with a lever on the body next to the display is a vast improvement.
5. The aa filter switch is a real plus.
6. Two memory cards is a massive bonus.
7. The Flu card that will enable fully remote use from my iPad is worth upgrading from a K5 in itself. Can you imagine, you can use the camera remotely and adjust the focus and settings, to me that is an amazing thing to be able to do.
Would I recommend this camera? Absolutely 100% and without any doubt whatsoever.
Thank you. Please email if you would like any help or have any questions. My email is on the blog, or leave me a comment.
It was very, very dim when I took this picture but it was literally only 3 feet from me and again the new lens and camera combo worked really well. I think that one of the features of a Long-tail Tit is the very long, almost fluffy feathers on the breast and flanks. This is no doubt why this tiny little bird can tolerate very cold climates. Feathers have very good insulation properties (think of a feather duvet for example). In layers, feathers trap and retain warm body heat. In addition Long-tail Tits roost together where body heat is retained and multiplied. Long-tail Tits remain in family groups in the winter, there is no doubt that this is an evolutionary strategy that has contributed to the success of this species.
I can't get enough of flying ducks, it's a real challenge to photograph them and very rewarding when you achieve success. It's good to be able to see what you can't with the naked eye and there is something very aesthetically satisfying to see birds in flight. Look at the panels of colour in the wings of the Shoveler above, you can't see this in the resting bird nor with the naked eye when the bird is in flight. Ducks fly very quickly but usually in a straight line so once the camera has "locked on" its a relatively easy job to get a shot. I suppose you need to lock on in much the same way that a wildfowl shooter would with his rifle but it takes a much higher level of skill to get a photograph than it does to blast a bird out of the sky with gunshot that is designed to spread. Don't start me off on the shooting debate which I am totally 100% against and can not see any justification for allowing it to take place. To my eyes the shooting of wildfowl is abhorrent and barbaric. But back to photography. The light needs to be good enough to achieve a fast shutter speed, so ideally bright sunlight is best. However, this sunlight needs to be flooding on to the bird from behind you.
Northern Shoveler over-winter on the Exe Estuary, here in Devon in large numbers.
As a bird photographer, I am very fond of this species which has a lovely combination of colours even when in their more drab winter plumage.
It's quite difficult to get photographs of these ducks in flight unless the weather is sunny and very bright but equipment is very important. Recently I have purchased a new Pentax 300mm prime lens which is absolutely fabulous and has far exceeded my expectations. Had I known how good it was I would have bought one months ago.
This is a drake Wigeon, another species that must number thousands on the marsh at the moment.
Of course these are not ducks but Canada Geese, a species that is not very popular here in the UK. They are a noisy, aggressive species.
I had an absolutely amazing and lucky encounter today. I had gone back on to Exminster Marsh to carry on photographing the flying ducks. (I was very successfull by the way). I decided to walk across the 5 bridges over the marsh and towards the canal. I was alert and poised with my camera ready because I knew that the ditches and dykes have teal and shoveler in them and I was armed and ready for when they took to the air. As I approached bridge number three I was stopped dead in my tracks because there in front of me, just crossing the tiny bridge was a small water bird. It took me a few seconds before the penny dropped, I saw the white tail and noted red on the beak and I thought, just for a split second that it was a Morrhen but then I realised, just as quickly that it was an elusive Water Rail. What a stroke of luck, a Water Rail no more than 6 feet from me with my camera in my hand.
Now, of course I have seen them before but they are skulking birds and quite hard to get a shot off. The little bird was as surprised as I was and it stopped in it's tracks as well before deciding what it's best course of action was. It thought about moving back to the right but changed it's mind and in the end went the other way. All this indecision meant that I had time to take 42 shots of it. The overall encounter lasted just 15 seconds or less but it seemed like an eternity. Water Rail spend most of their time moving through the vegetation at the edges of ditches and other water, it's path would have been blocked by the little bridge and it was just a coincidence that just as I had arrived to cross itso had the Water Rail. In the 7 years or so that I have been wandering around with my camera I have only on two other ocassions had the chance to "snap" a Water Rail, once in Wales and once before by the Exeter Canal, again on the edge of a ditch. The outcome of this chance encounter was brilliant for me, I finished up with some absolutely stunning photographs that I am so very chuffed with. My new camera and lens is a brilliant combination and like I said to my wife Jenny just a few minutes ago, if only I had bought this lens before I would have saved myself a shed load of money! Check back later for the "ducks in flight"...... back out to the marsh again for more now. PS To this post.... this is the second chance encounter at this spot, previously I stumbled upon a Bittern
This afternoon with just a small window of sunshine I nipped out to Exminster Marsh. I had just had a gadget delivered from China as it happens, via eBay. It is an SLR camera adapter for my spotting scope eye piece. I was hoping that it would be useful to take photos through the scope. When the subject was way in the distance I thought it might come in useful for record shots of very distant birds. As it happens the quality of the images through the scope were so bad…. well I don't see the point and I doubt I will use it. While I was there, I used my new 3 Pentax f4 300prime lens coupled to my new Pentax K3. It certainly is a good combination. I was able to focus very quickly and lock on to the subject instantly which is a great bonus. I didn't have too many opportunities to photograph flying birds close up, but when the opportunity did present itself I was pleased with the results which are very promising.
This is a Drake Teal, I have had to crop the image to get a nice photograph. but I have to confess a degree of excitement at the photographs I am going to be able get with my new improved set up. Just when it was getting dark I took a few photos of this Mallard Drake who is sporting a leg ring.
Exminster Marsh is set up to manage the breeding of Lapwing, I don't know how successful they were as a breeding bird this year. Of course, the management of he marsh for Lapwings also provides a great habitat for lots of other species, particularly wintering wildfowl.
I spent a fabulous 2 hours this morning, accompanying other birders on the Dart Princess out of Paignton to look for and photograph the "divers" that over-winter in the bay. It was a very successful trip and I enjoyed it immensely, I wish it had been longer. I am sorting through the pictures as I speak but wanted to whet your appetite for more to come as the evening progresses. All I can say about the bird above, which is my very first Great Northern Diver, is wow!!!! ........And now, below, my very first Black-Throated Diver. This one was quite a distance away, we couldn't get close to it in the boat and consequently this photo is a massive crop. However it's a geat record shot and shows a good diagnostic feature, the white patch which you can see on the flank at the waterline.
This is a Guillemot, one of several on the sea off Berry Head close to a colony of several hundred already on the rocks nearby. As we drifted in the current with the engine off, for me this was some of the best moments of the trip. I caught a glimpse of Harbour Porpoise nearby, only momentarily but others on the boat saw them better than me. As it happened, this is not a rare occurance here and the others had seen them often but I hadn't of course and I wished we could have gone to try to get photographs of them. Northern Gannets were flying over the boat and I took some photos of one interesting bird that looks to be moulting in to it's adult plumage.
If you are a regular to my blog then you will know that I am currently trying to get photographs of the buzzards around my caravan hide. I am sure you will be as interested as I am but it's getting frustrating for me. This morning, I was quite certain that the Buzzards would come in for the Rabbit carcass but after 2 hours waiting, I drew a blank. I came home for lunch and then watched both football and then Rugby on the TV with both of my favourite teams playing (Derby County and Exeter Chiefs). After the games, I thought it would be a good idea to go back and see if the there had been any action at the hide yet. Well, my luck is well and truly out at the moment! When I came away this lunchtime I literally nailed the carcass on to the tall stump, high off the ground because I thought if the crows came to pick it over they may pull it off and on to the ground. A fox would surely then come and take it and I wouldn't know if the Buzzards had come As soon as I arrived and as I climbed out of my car, almost immediately I saw a Buzzard (just like last Wednesday). I walked up to the hide and then I could hardly believe it. The Rabbit had been almost completely eaten. There were no innards left, no meat on the ribs and backbone and mysteriously, the head had been taken off somewhere. I can only image that more than one bird had been in to feed on it and this in the short period while I had been away. Well, I need to be patient because it will just be a matter of time before I am there, ready and waiting with the camera when the bird (or birds) come in to feed. The only thing is, now I need more rabbits! I need to keep my eyes open for any road kill.
This morning, as I waited for the hoped-for Buzzard, I heard one but I knew immediately that it wasn't in actual fact a Buzzard at all, it was the resident male Jay who imitates a Buzzard call beautifully. This was good to hear because it proved a couple of things to me. Firstly, this is the same male Jay that was at my site last year and obviously it proves that this bird is a resident all year round.
He's a clever bird, he knows that there are peanuts on the log where he has found them before. He came to check and then found them hidden in the cracks of the log. As an individual, he is a good friend and I was pleased to see him.
Today's post is all about variety. I still haven't managed to get the opportunity to photograph small birds in ideal conditions so I am not certain of the performance of the new camera and lens combination but you would assume that it is doing a good job. I spent the morning waiting for the Buzzards to come in to the rabbit carcass but oddly they didn't come today….or yesterday for that matter. However, putting the time in at the caravan means that I am not elsewhere hence my lack of opportunity. While I waited I was glad to see that the small woodland birds are coming in to the feeders again and I couldn't resist trying o photograph them as they flew in even though I knew that at this time of the year it is rarely bright enough to get a good photo. so in itself, this was a real test for the camera.
This is a female Blackbird (Turdus merula), I am aware that I have lots of visitors from other parts of the world. The Blackbird will be an interesting bird to you if you are from the USA or Canada but Europeans will know this bird as one of our most common of birds.
I took delivery of a new Pentax smc DA* 300mm f/4 ED (IF) SDM lens today. I have heard such good reports about it that I have been promising myself to get one for ages and ages so this week, I took the plunge. I went out and about to give it a work out but the weather was very dreary and dull so it wasn't really a good day to test it. My first impressions are positive. It's small and very light in comparison to my Prime 500. It is a very solid and easy to use and focused very quickly and silently. Its light enough to use hand held which will be a real bonus for some situations. The only picture that I took today (literally) ws this robin in a very dim place but even with a high ISO of 1000 I am very pleased with the result.
Before I start can I just direct you to my Bird of The Day which today is a Cassowary. Click on this link to see it.
I had placed a dead rabbit out in front of the hide yesterday. Last year this had attracted Buzzards who had come in to feed on the carcass, this is what I hoped for this year. It had taken several weeks for this to be successful last year so I wasn't expecting immediate success. However, I went back to check it out this morning and well..... I couldn't believe it. As I got out of my car a Buzzard flew off from the area of the hide, this bird would not have been disturbed by me, it was just coincidence. I was thrilled to see this but didn't realise what would happen next. I walked up the edge of the field towards the hide which is just tucked away behind the gate and immediately as soon as I got close enough to see the hide, a Buzzard flew up off the rabbit, then as I kept walking, yet another Buzzard, in the trees just above..... 3 Buzzards around and on the kill. I investigated the rabbit which had been well and truly consumed leaving just the rear legs and head. The front legs, innards and all the meat from the rib-cage and backbone had gone! I got myself in position in the caravan but...... I had forgotten to put the memory cards in the camera. ...... what an idiot. Back to the car and then home for the cards. When I got back 15 minutes later, there was a Buzzard on it again. I went in to the caravan and waited but there had been too much disturbance now and the Buzzards were a bit too warry and probably well fed as well. I will be back in the morning for another chance to get some movie and photographs and I will be very surprised if I am not successful, very surprised.
The Long-tail Tit is a very popular bird in the UK but In actual fact it isn't a tit at all and is not related, to the other familar European Tit species. It is in fact related to the more exotic "bush-tits" and some ornithologists in other countries accurately use the name Long-tail Bushtit. There are 19 sub-species, all spread over the Northern Hemisphere and the one that we have here in the UK is unique to us and is of the sub-species rosaceus. ( There is another sub-species found in western France and the Channel Islands so stricty speaking, this isn't true). There are several behavioural facts about this bird that indicate it's difference to the true tit species, that is, the Blue Tits, Great Tits and Marsh Tits etc. Firstly Long-tail tits are not hole nesters and consequently will not use a nest box under any circumstance. When you see them in the winter, they will always be in small flocks which is a family group…. a breeding pair and their youngsters from the previous breeding season. This group can include adults that may have co-operated in the rearing of the brood. They remain together in this group until the following spring when they splt up in to breeding pairs. This seems odd to my mind as surely a large degree of inbreeding is likely with this strategy? This is a tiny bird with a tail longer than the body, it is thought that they remain together in a group because communal roosting is a way of maintaining body temperature during the long and cold winter nights. This behaviour of communal roosting allows them to exist in northerly lattitudes in cold northern winters. Other birds such as Wrens and Wagtails are also known to communally roost. Having said that they are not hole nesters it is likely that they will use a hole to roost. Today, even though the weather was a typically dull and dreary day I did manage to get some photographs, due in no small part to my really superb Pentax K3 which is capable of good photographs in poor light.
Cirl Buntings have had a good breeding season it seems. Dave Land and I went to look for them today, we live very close to known sites here in Devon where you can almost guarantee to find them in the winter. The obvious place is Broadsands in Torbay where a winter flock is fed daily to ensure that they have a safe winter. If you are visiting from out of the area you will get your best views of them here and that is almost for certain. There are other areas such as Prawle and Powderham Marsh near Exminster. Dave and I were very lucky today and we saw and photographed a flock numbering 50, or perhaps even more. A thoroughly nice bird, they are very attractive and photogenic and always good to photograph because of their relative rarity, (only around 850 pairs in the entire UK and all confined to a small area here in the South West). You can't mistake a male but the females are rather like a female Reed Bunting. I am told that birds will move as much as 2 kilometres to join a flock but one of the problems that this species faces is a reluctance to move large distances. This means that the species does not colonise, or re-colonise a suitable new habitat and area very quickly.
I came down to breakfast this morning and it was dull, very dull. I have put apple in front of the kitchen window to attract Blackcap Warblers, regular winter visitors to my garden. My bleary eyes could just about make out the apple but when I squinted for a better look, one of the apple pieces had a Blackcap feeding on it! Very rewarding and satisfying.In the almost darkness, I took pictures through the glass just for a good record and here she is.