Kind Kestrel

Just a quick one.  I was on my way to Glastonbury to track down some Little Owls.  To be honest it was getting too dark when I set out.  I quickly got distracted by this handsome male Kestrel.

They normally fly away pretty sharpish but this one dint mind too much.  The light was, well hardly there but I thought I would put a pic up anyway.

Didn't get round to seeing the owls...


Three Kings

Phew where to begin! I'm not going to remember all of this but James will hopefully fill in a few blanks. Finally a good day with bright sun and no rain. The EFRS where in their element. There was initial debate about going down to Portland Bill or Huntspill but it was decided to not waste the opportunity and do what the EFRS do best and cycle our territory.
So the day began nice and early, provisions were gathered and off we went. First stop was VP2 at Ham Wall. A Kingfisher flew past as often it does and the first Bitterns of the year were spotted flying purposefully across the reads. There was a bit of a disturbance with two reed cutters driving about. James had spotted two bitters go down at the same spot. The reed cutters drove past and we waited with scopes and cameras at the ready to see them flushed out........... Nothing. Even when the cutters came back there was no sign. Where they trampled under the tracks, to stubborn to move or did perspective play tricks? You decide.
After a pleasant hour at VP2 we carried on with a brief stop at VP1 which hasn't been the best for quit some time. The water is still way too deep to attract much of note.
So on we went cycling towards Shapwick. Now I'm sure a few of you would have heard tales of a Penduline Tit in these parts recently. Well a fellow cycling birder who had cycled on ahead of us came puffing back when finally he caught his breath explained that he had heard on over Shapwick way. Well we headed straight off, well cycled there anyway but it was a nice day so didn't rush too much. When we did get to the crossing point of Noah's and Mear Hides we scanned the trees with gusto giving it our full attention, not a branch was left un-surveyed and not a leaf was.................... Ooooohh look a Stone Chat.............

Stone Chat

James; and another for good measure!

Yes I'm afraid it didn't take long for us to be distracted. These little chaps were flitting about close to the path and where very obliging. Almost Robin like in their bravado. But the day was still ahead of us and on we went. Today was a full patrol so Canada Farm had to be done. We don't regularly go there. Its a nice hide but not a lot is regularly seen there. Except for one particular bird that always catches your eye. We heard the calls and one darted past. Then finally we were rewarded with one of the most flamboyant if a little comical birds we have. The Kingfisher. Up it popped and sat at first amongst twigs. Then flew around calling. Sure enough it was not alone. Its mate was here and they flew together across the waters, low and direct as only they can. This one stopped for a breather and a look for lunch on a branch across the way.

Male Kingfisher

Off they flew again as a pair but the final volley was accompanied with a surprise. Three Kingfishers zooming across and away. Excellent sighting.

James: What a great Shot by Andrew!  

I have some good ones of the Kingfisher but I have to say that Andrew's pic is better.  I zoomed right in where as with the bridge cameras it is better to zoom out a touch as more detail seems to be retained then.

James: We did also see a GC Grebe close to the hide

Well after all that excitement we had to chill and recover. A hot chocolate at Eco Bites did the trick. While there James took this Reed Bunting pic with my camera. A lot of stuff happens here while you have refreshments. Woodpeckers being one of them. We were quite expecting the Penduline Tit to appear.

Reed Bunting

James: That turned out nicely!

Only half way through the day! What more could possibly happen.................

Well not a lot. We dropped off at Tealham to check out the Heronry but little was happening. A few Herons going back and forth. Then it was to West Hay. Now I have an issue with West Hay. There is very little to see there. The water is too deep for waders and the reeds are too tall to see anything that is there. I'm aware that there are a few Bitterns and Marsh Harriers there but nothing else. Its only really good for Merlins during the summer. The most exciting thing was nearly running over a fish on my bike as we went through the flooded paths. We never got to the raised hide it was flooded.
This Kestrel kept moving along the wires as we cycled but I did manage to grab a few decent shots.

James: Managed a quick heron shot...

The return trip was a retracing our steps through to Ham Wall. The feeding frenzy for the Penduline Tit had subsided and we stopped off for a chat and hello with Mike 'The birdman' at the Shapwick car park.

James: 1 Great White at Meare heath hide

Spotted one bird I haven't mentioned yet? The ever present Marsh Harrier. No one had seen one all day but they never fail us. A very splendid male hunted at the back of VP2. Possibly the best Ive ever seen. He was in his prime with vivid white, black and tan markings. It was a bugger to take a picture of though!

James: It was but I did get this... serviceable I suppose.

James: To finish off we were treated to a Kestrel sat on the peat, dong a good impression of a Merlin and a single Roe deer.


I'm all ears

Short Eared Owls... I really like them.  In fact they may even be my second favourite bird of all time (Peregrine takes the top spot).  I say maybe because I haven't actually seen one in the wild.  All I have to go on are some fantastic images of these pale spectres swooping low over the golden marshes.

Reports of these silent hunters have been made recently.  Their favoured haunt seems to be at Steart.  My mission was to find one!

Pulling up at Combwich I was surprised at how beautiful the area looked (no disrespect to the Bridgwater area but I wouldn't describe it as picturesque).  The whole area is seriously impressive as a Nature reserve and I have no doubt it will be a great alternative to Slimbridge in the future.

Wandering along the river I noted numerous Redshank and Lapwing.  I wasnt entirely sure where to look for my quarry so just kept scanning whenver I could.  After half an hour I spied a Merlin sat on a post.  A most pleasing start!

I continued on.  About a minute later a slate grey shape flew across the path, low and fast then out onto the mudflat.  The Peregrine made a swift pass at a Redshank but missed before disappearing into a nearby field.  Things were getting better!

I looked out into the rough ground.  Having never seen these Owls before I wasn't entirely sure what to expect.  A few weeks ago Andrew mentioned that the good stuff often happens when your binoculars are fixed in exactly the wrong direction.  With this in mind a swung round and faced the river... There you are!!

A Short Eared owl flew low across the water and out into the field... Brilliant!!!

I was really pleased, a completely new bird!

But more was to come.  A few minutes later he returned a provided some excellent views flying over the river

Cropped , but you can see him!

I kept on going and this Stonechat pair flitted along the fence in front of me.  At one point they landed in a small tree really close but my camera refused to focus on them! So this one had to do.

Looking out into the nearby marshes, I spied 2 Shorties (I know them well enough now, so I can abbreviate).  Flying low and making just short flights before dropping into the long grass and reeds.  One was mobbed by a crow before vanishing.  These brief views were contunued for a good half an hour.

I managed to track one which landed on rocks near the river and took another shot...
I only realised that there was more than one when I got home...

One more... Very distant but still looks nice.

The walk home gave me a good view of a female Sparrowhawk zipping over my head. As well as a hover hunting Kestrel. What a good day for Raptors!

So, are SEOS (abbreviations coming thick and fast now) my second favourite bird?

You betcha.  Watch out Peregrines!!!


Carry on Cormorant...

There was a hint of brightness in the sky so I thought it best to try and get out and take some pictures that wont turn out grey.  I headed over to Catcott in the hope that a Merlin might be sat on a post in front of the hide.  Sadly this didn't happen.  In fact the interesting stuff was skulking at the other end of the reserve.

A flock of 10 Whooper swans were ambling around but could only be seen properly through the scope.  The Cormorants caused me some real problems today, half a dozen times I got all excited as a large dark shape would fly along in the distance only for it to turn out to be one of these pesky fish gobblers.

Eventually the "real deal" did appear.  A Marsh Harrier, but again it was very distant and no where near close enough for a photo.

Plenty of Widgeon, Shoveler and a few Pintails and that was about it.

This one posed in the brief moments of sunlight.

The weather started to revert to its default state (rain and wind).

I thought I would take a quick trip to Tadham moor as it looks really impressive as its underwater!

On the moor I drove along, passing a very handsome looking Buzzard.  These birds are highly frustrating, often letting you get close but always flying away as you press the shutter... Not this time!!!

I did get another of it flying but I chopped the top of its wings off - which was a real shame as it would of looked really nice..grrrr!

On the way home the "Egret field" now has well over 60 Egrets wandering around in it plus about 100 Mute swans.

This trip was a solo effort as Andrew was away on a break...


Endless Egrets

A quick, off the cuff trip to Tealham Moor through Westhay.  Loads of Greylag Geese, loads of swans (just the boring ones unfortunately) and LOADS of Egrets.  Well over 50 outside Westhay.  One had some coloured rings on it. If it has flown over on holiday I think it ought to fly back again.  Africa is quite warm this time of year...

On Tealham it was super windy.   Lots of Lapwings and Starlings made for an impressive sight.

A couple of Buzzards and herons.  I was really hoping for a Short Eared owl but there was no chance of that.

So I thought I would try some panoramic shots.  This one is alright.


Cold and colonial cousins

I (Andrew) had the rare honour of an outing with our esteemed colleague Mr Riley today. We met up at Hamwall VP2 where he had just missed 3 male Marsh Harriers who briefly (Too briefly to take a pic) soared together before parting. Heres one of them

Male Marsh Harrier

A female also flew around briefly and opposite another, too far to sex, glided around making the grand total of 5 in the space of 1/2hr. Actually not that unusual for Hamwall.

Now why 'Colonial' you may ask! Well it was all very exciting and a flurry of birders were popping up frequently to see non other than a Green winged Teal all the way from the US (Unless it was an escapee). It was amongst some common Teal right across the other side of the pond. (No pun intended!) Now its not the easiest bird to spot especially amongst its common cousins. The common Teal having a horizontal white flash on its side this little bugger has a vertical white flash at its shoulder. I did spot it for a second or two so decided to take some pics. It was too far away to ID in the Cannon SX50 screen so just blasted the area with shots and scanned the images at home to see if I got it. And you know what? I was in luck...........

Green Winged Teal (3rd from the right)

The light was particularly good today for a change so this pic of a Widgeon looks quit nice with the red hue in the water..................


Mr Riley and I settled in Noahs Hide for a while but other than a fly-by of a Kingfisher carrying a small fish we had little else to see other than a few Pintails, a Great White Egret and 6 Herons.

On the way back through Hamwall at VP2 I did see an unexpected sight of a Great Crested Grebe looking rather pale but not something Ive seen at this time of year before.

Great Crested Grebe

Once again it was great to be out with Mr Riley. He can be insufferably modest and knows far more than he lets on. A one of a kind old school Gent with a good dash of rebellious anti establishment about him! He reported via Text that he saw a Reed Bunting on the Shapwick Path.


Fowl weather and gale force winds

Another wet and windy day.  The EFRS was once again forced to use mechanised transport... Not ideal.  As we drove rather aimlessly in the direction of Bridgwater there was plenty of indecision as to where to go.
In the end I advised Andrew to use utilise the way of the Jedi and allow the force to guide him to our birding destination... Suddenly we swung left by the Albion inn.  Greylake was the destination.  It lived up to its name.  The hides were underwater, which left the car park for us to view.  6 Chaffinches and a Cormarant flyby.  Not very impressive.  Obviously Andrew is not adept at using the force.  At this point both of us were quite depressed.

Where could we go that would guarentee birds? Slimbridge of course!  The mood lightened, especially as Andrew was keen to show the new bit of kit in his life.  The Nokia Smart phone.  Guided by its melancholy voice we soon reached the reserve.

It was a National bird festival which meant that there were loads of people and a fair few birds as well.

Its not proper birding here... You can buy hot chocolate and sit in heated hides.  Which is what we did.

Bewicks swans were falling over our feet, Tufted ducks weaved in and out between grumpy Shelducks.  Plenty going on.  But its just a bit... contrived?

Still I did get a nice pic of a Pintail.

The Holden tower hide is much better and more wild.  Andrew picked out a female Peregrine sat on the grass.  She flew around a bit before landing again, the wind getting the better of her.

Loads of Lapwings, Plover and White Fronted Geese (don't see these in our region!)

Lets not talk about the captive birds as Andrew gets very upset by this section of Slimbridge...

Hmmmmm yes Im not too keen on Slimbridge's policy of clipping the wings of the more exotic birds or the keeping of the Flamingos in dark sheds during the winter or the nets over the small pens but lets not go into that shall we!!

Well it was an odd day out but we did, as James says, manage a cool sighting of a female Peregrine. Now she wasnt too keen on flying around on such a windy day and spent more time sitting on the ground than anything else. Heres a cropped image so you can see it.

Female Peregrine

She did get harried by Lapwings when they spotted her!

Now while all this was happening and everyone was trying to see as far as they could I spotted at the base of the tower 3 little chaps who often get over looked but I quit like with their little splash of red

Red Wing

Now with all the rain there had to be pics of ducks so heres a very miserable looking Mrs Shell Duck

Female Shell Duck

While Hubby seems to be enjoying the rain......

Male Shell Duck

I particularly like the rain effect around and on him

Finally a couple more pics. One of a Pintail. Not up to James standard (He was waiting ages for it to flap while I was huffing and puffing and getting a bit bored)


I like the grey tones in that one.

And a 3sum of Redshank who were looking quit cute just standing there amongst the rest of the crowd. I took dozens of pics trying to get them all either looking the same way, opposite directions or some other pose. This is one of the better ones. The one in the middle was a bugger. It was asleep most of the time!


Not a bad day after all.......................