Saturday, 24 April 2021

Cetti's Warbler

Having only ever managed record shots in the past, I was pleased to get some clear shots of a Cetti's Warbler at Attenborough NR.

Saturday, 3 April 2021

Ring Ouzel in the Peak District

Ring Ouzel are one of the first species to arrive in their breeding habitat from Africa and birds tend to appear from the end of March. 

We set off when it was still dark and arrived on site near Hathersage, a few minutes after sunrise, so there was time for a cup of tea. My friend had brought some Lemon Drizzle Kitkats and I contemplated this with a degree of trepidation, expecting a sickly zing, clashing with chocolate and wafer.  However, Nestles seem to have got the balance right and they're actually okay.

Suitably replenished, I set off up the hill and realised I had got out of shape, stopping for a couple of puffs and pants before I reached the top. It took just 10 minutes before I had located a male Ring Ouzel doing the familiar 'chack chack' from a rock below the ridge.  I had deliberately set my ISO quite low, as I knew the light was going to be dodgy, and cranked down the shutter speed to a positively sluggish 1/250, but managed a nice shot of the bird in its surroundings.

Male Ring Ouzel

A wander along the ridge produced at least three more birds, but none perched up for long enough for a picture. The position wasn't helped by climbers that were scattered along the 'Edge.'

Turning my attention to the adjacent moorland, I heard the 'clucking' of Red Grouse and located a male not too far off, partly obscured by heather.  I edged closer, without flushing the bird and got some nice shots before the hen appeared. As they flew off, I got a nice snap of the male in mid glide.

A quick stop at Grindleford produced a singing male Siskin but it was too high in the tree for a photo.

Male Red Grouse

Female Red Grouse


Tuesday, 16 March 2021

Wollaton Redpolls


Redpoll is a bird I see all too infrequently in recent years, and has become rather scarce locally, but 2021 saw a bit of an influx in Nottingham, with a small flock around the Wollaton area. Following my normal route I heard the flight call along with the odd Siskin and noticed a few birds perching high in the trees on the edge of Harrison's Plantation, close to Old Coach Road. This was on the 7th March and the birds remained high in the trees and I only managed some record shots.

I returned on 8th and there seemed to be more birds, maybe 15 in all along with a few Siskins, although the latter remained very elusive, with a few males singing from high up. After about an hour a couple of Redpolls came lower down and I managed a couple of decent shots.

Returning the following day, I spent about an hour and a half with the birds, the flock having grown to about 30 and the birds were now going into a garden, out of sight but were using an elder as a perch before dropping into the garden. Positioning myself next to a fence, I was able to remain inconspicuous enough to get some really pleasing photos of two nice adults.

Despite all my efforts, I never saw any bird that was a good candidate for a Mealy.

That was until 20th March, when I located a very interesting looking bird, which I think fits with a spring Mealy Redpoll, although I'm not sure a pale Lesser can be absolutely ruled out.


Friday, 29 January 2021

Female Kingfisher - 31st January

Hearing about a Kingfisher that was showing at close quarters, I made the short journey to see the bird and it performed well, catching two gudgeon while I was there. A Little Grebe close up was a bonus, as were 80 Redpolls that dropped in, although evaded the camera one way or another.



Little Grebe


Tuesday, 12 January 2021

First weekend of Lockdown #2 - The patch strikes back!


Moorhen - Martin's Pond

The government restrictions meant that travelling to go birding was not allowed, so I was back on the patch. 

It was a cold weekend and Saturday was particularly icy, as I negotiated the paths around Nottingham Business Park, which were decidedly tricky under foot. I past a row of alders, and I thought they looked good for Siskin, although with the sun barely up, any self-respecting Siskin was probably still tucked up in bed.

Turning up the path that runs along the fields between there and Nuthall, I spied movement and almost stumbled into a Jay, which was foraging among the leaf litter of a large oak. I froze and tentatively raised my camera, turning the shutter down as far as I dare, although the Sony A9, seems to be noise free up to 3200 ISO. Under the circumstances, I think it turned out quite well. 


I spent a while with watching the Jay, which was very vocal, doing the buzzard-like mewing call and lots of whistles and tweets. A splendid bird.

The twinkling of goldfinch over head made me turn back, wondering if they were headed for the alders. I was greeted with a mixed flock dangling from the cones.  My approach initially caused the Siskins and Goldfinches to take flight, but I found a lamp post to hide behind. Emerging from my post, I gradually won the confidence of the birds. Bit by bit, I got closer and closer, until I was too close to focus at 600mm.  


I called my friend, Mike Hill to share the info, who I knew was also patch-watching and whose patch over-lapped with my own. He reciprocated with news of a pair of Stonechats not too far away, which he had seen on New Years Day and might still be around. After logging a female Sparrowhawk zoom overhead, I made my way towards the spot that mike had mentioned, I located the Stonechats without too much difficulty. However, given the sparse habitat, I didn't linger, obtaining a couple of record shots and moved on.


Sunday was another bright day. I breakfasted, put some bird food out and set off for Martin's Pond. En route, I mused about the possibility of Water Rail, a species which is annual at the reserve and would be a nice addition to the lockdown list.

I arrived at the site and within seconds saw a Water Rail walking around on the ice. I mobilized my camera, but it ran into the shallow reeds/tangled green-brown stuff. I walked to the first gap in the vegetation, only to see the bird dart across into the next batch of reeds. I realised that I had to act quickly and hurried to the end of the path. I figured that with a fair wind, the bird was going to appear in the open.  The one problem was that my only vantage point was entirely exposed.   

I was ready with my camera, and remained still as the bird walked out, saw me and ran back into cover; but I managed to capture the moment.

The pond was 80% frozen and 40 Black-headed Gulls and three Common were bathing and drinking from the water, which made for some nice photos. Around the reserve were the usual suspects, plus a single Little Egret, which is still scarce there. A gathering of 11 Eurasian Teal is my best count from the site.

Common Gull

Black-headed Gull

Little Egret

Grey Heron



Eurasian Teal

Leaving Martin's Pond, on what was one of my best days there for a while, I moved on to Wollaton Park. 

A gathering of around 200 Redwings, were feeding among the leaf litter, but getting a shot was severely hampered by the ever bird oblivious public, who scared the birds despite my attempts to stalk them. I did manage to divert a lady with a polite 'excuse me' but this was to nought as 'my birds' were flushed by deer-spotters.

With perseverance and by dodging from tree to tree, I managed to sneak up on a Redwing, as it grubbed around and made a nice picture among the autumn colours.


I continued with my walk around the park. Still no Tawny Owl, but bagged Rose-ringed Parakeet for the list and the mainly frozen lake was holding good numbers of gulls, including Lesser Black-backed Gull and unusually for there - Herring Gull.  Egyptian Geese were on good form.

Herring Gull

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Egyptian Goose


Working my way back through the park, I was attracted by four Nuthatches, chasing each other around the trees under which the Redwing had been feeding. But they were of before I could get a photo. However, as I was about to move on, a Treecreeper alighted right in front of me - a smart little bird and I got some nice photos, before returning home for a coffee and a Danish.