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. 


Tuesday, 29 December 2020

A morning in Lincolnshire


For whatever reason - poor research and homework or bad luck meant that today didn't go to plan. My hoped for Short-eared Owls and Barn Owl, didn't appear and the Long-eared Owls at Deeping Lakes were brown blobs obscured by the twiggy mess of the trees in which they were roosting.

However, it still turned out to be a pleasant morning. The drive along Deeping High Bank proved fruitless, and we parked up at the nature reserve. There were a few thrushes around the car park, and on the lakes a few Goldeneye and other ducks and Great Crested Grebe.

I saw a single tree creeper but failed to see any Long-eared Owl. Asking a local birder where the best place was to watch from, I realised I had over-looked them somehow and went back and only then saw the birds when they were pointed out to me by a guy with a scope. They were so well-hidden and I think I can be forgiven for missing them first time round (just). I might go back in the hope of seeing them perched out in the open.

Returning to the car park, the camera was kept busy by a Fieldfare playing peek-a-boo and a very photogenic Blackbird with his red berries.

Goldeneye (drake)



We had a drive around the lanes in search of a Short-eared Owl, to no avail, but the day was rescued by stunning views of a Common Buzzard along Deeping High Bank and a Kestrel near Deeping St. Nicholas. I might try again for the owls in the New Year and get on site for dawn.

Common Buzzard

Female Kestrel

Monday, 28 December 2020

Highfields Park thrushes - 27-12-20

Having stumbled on a group of Redwings feeding on berries the previous day, I returned this morning with the light bright and crisp. There tree favoured by the birds was somewhat in the open, and it was impossible to avoid flushing the birds. However, I managed to use the cover of another tree and the birds soon returned and gorged on the berries. They were joined by a Fieldfare and a Mistle Thrush while I was there. I'm not sure I will ever get a better opportunity to photograph Redwings.



Mistle Thrush

A little later, needing to go to the shops, I popped into the city centre and was pleased to see a Peregrine perched on the higher ledge of the University on South Sherwood Street.  I hope to get a bird in flight or on one of the lower ledges in the spring.

Peregrine Falcon

Boxing Day Walk - 26-12-20

Boxing Day was cloudy, but it was high white cloud and was therefore quite bright.

I had a Kestrel and a Lesser Black-backed Gull within 200 metres of my house, a nice start, I thought. The Kestrel was perched on a lamp post, but in silhouette. The bird took flight and I managed a record shot in the first proper light of the morning.


Lesser Black-backed Gull

Wollaton Park continued to be fairly useless with very little on the lake, and a sole drake Goosander was too far out to consider photographing. I've not seen the Tawny Owl since early March. A single Little Egret on the marsh saved the site from being a complete waste of time.

Highfields Park proved better, with an approachable adult Common Gull giving me a full mew, and around the park a selection of approachable common species. I particularly like the Iridescence on the Magpie.

Common Gull


Black-headed Gull

Common Pochard

As I reached University Boulevard, I spooked a small flock of Redwing. I got a few record shots, but see my next post for some better efforts.