Cows, Canberras and Arrows


This was definitely a game of two halves. I met James nice and early. But on the way in a field next to the Enchanted Wood I could hear quit a few Buzzards calling. There was obviously a nest site with a few fledged young.


Cycling on I was just rising up to the old Railway bridge at Aqueduct Crossing when I saw what would have been an iconic picture for the EFRS. A Heron was sitting on the edge right in the middle of the bridge. Drats, it flew off just as I stopped and was not seen again. Oh well.

While lamenting my loss I spied a Greater Spotted Woodpecker with its distinctive flight pattern wizz past. I had my camera in hand from the Heron so was aiming at the beast in the Conifers opposite. Unfortunately it was facing away and slightly hidden. It stayed for a second then was gone. Was this my Nemesis from the Enchanted Wood? Probably. I have never taken a decent pic of a Woodpecker.

GS Woodpecker (My Nemesis)

So on to VP2 with James. We actually met at the scrap of land at Ham Wall end that passes for a car park at exactly the same time. Excellent timing. The light was low and strong as we looked out over the water counting 7 Great White Egrets and quit a few Little Egrets.

4 of the GWE at VP2

We were feeling relaxed today. Not in a rush to go anywhere since James had to scoot off early. The most exciting thing was a Bittern that decided to pop itself out for a full view on the opposite side of the water. Talking to an RSPB volunteer later he reckoned it would be a young one that hadn't learn the art of stealth yet. Apparently if they don't learn this crucial Bittern skill they don't last very long!

A Bittern doing what Bitterns shouldn't do (Aren't Bitterns BRILLIANT!!!!!!!!)

We did wander up a bit to VP1 and the Tor Hide but they where very dead and a bit chilly in the breeze so we just popped back to VP2 to relax and admire the views. We did hear tell of a cow in the river but that's not too unusual round here since they sometimes pop down into the water for a nose or drink then cant get out. Panic sets in and off they can go for miles before they either find their own way out, get rescued or drown from exhaustion.
James had to beetle off so I was left to my own devises. I was feeling peckish and decided to cycle to the excellent and highly recommended Eco Bites at the Visitors Centre on the Shapwick end of things. On the way I was greeted with the sight of two Firemen wandering up and down the track near the Ashcott Road. The cow had wandered into the Ham Wall bit of the Brue.

Wheres a Cattle Egret when you need one

Two Firemen chasing a cow in a river. Not a regular sight at Ham Wall

Cow getting a little agitated

View from a Bridge.
"Hey Mister can you put a big net under him with a helicopter?"

The Scrape on Shapwick was still nice and low on my return from lunch. Im not one for this area usually and it was a bit sparse today. Not many Egrets really.
Passing over the old Railway Bridge at Ham Wall again I saw that I had missed all the exciting bits of the cow in a river while having lunch but it was worth it.

Move along please nothing to see here.

The rest of the day was spent at VP2 with a few nice chats. One guy had a Benbo tripod. My brother has one just like it. Its pretty cool if a little heavy! A bittern flew past, more chatting. Finally saw a Marsh Harrier, more chatting. A Canberra flew past, more chats. I spotted a Kingfisher in a tree right over the other side, more chats. A Sparrow hawk flew low and lazy over the water (My other Nemesis), we chatted.

Bittern in flight (We love Bitterns)

So what else could happen! I should have had a clue with the Canberra. The Red Arrows flew right past me and on to the Tor as I rode home. Just managed to get a quick pic as the passed.

One half of the Red Arrows

James, as often happens, had missed all the best stuff!


If your reading this......(Little Bitterns)

............... then its been confirmed that there are or were Little Bitterns at Ham Wall this year. I managed to get down on Saturday the 21st of June 2014. Nothing was happening other than the usual ordinary, everyday, common or garden boring old regular Bitterns that we've all seen (Yawn) but it was a beautiful day nonetheless. Then a call went out and the few people who were there span round to see a male flying low across the reeds. He flew for just a few seconds. I quickly grabbed my camera and managed to fire off a few pics. These are the best ones..................

Unfortunately this little devil was heading in the same direction!

If you recognise these pics then I was the guy who showed a select few. Mostly those who were obviously standing there in hushed excited tones looking longingly over the reeds where these were taken.
We were both down there for the remainder of the day, James staying on later and reporting hearing a pair calling but with no further sightings.

Good luck Little Bitterns. The EFRS are with you all the way ;¬D


Osprey and Author

Not to be outdone by James pics of the Osprey I trotted down to Shapwick to get a peek. Now all the time I was cycling I had it in my head that this Osprey was doing or was about to do something. If I got there too early he would be sitting there for hours and so would I, if I got there too late he would be just finishing off a 10lb trout and settling down for a three day nap. Should I cycle faster or slower?? This was a big decision to make. So I took the route I most often take and that is the one labelled 'Serendipity this way'. A few seconds at VP2 and VP2 at Ham Wall, straight across the road through to the Scrape where a pleasant surprise was found. It had been drained. I haven't been down here for a good few weeks so it was all a little bit different. The sight took me back a bit. 34 Little Egrets, 9 Great White Egrets and just 2 Grey herons.

Quit the turnout of Egrets!

Then on to the track that runs along side Noahs Lake. A quick look and there he/she was sitting on one of the dead trees. Quickly turning I headed down the track and into the hide. One fellow birder was just setting up. Nice chap who I met again later in the day back at ham Wall.

Settling down I waited for the show to begin. I wasn't disappointed, yet, Only a few minutes passed when he took flight and circled giving this excellent display.

Osprey Hovering

Osprey Hovering

Osprey Hovering

After giving this brief but interesting show he promptly turned and flew directly over the exact spot I was standing at as I scanned for him on the track!! Humph. he disappeared for about 10 minutes. Both my fellow birder and I were dejected and annoyed.

He then returned with a catch. Probably from either the Scrape where I was standing but 15 minutes ago or the Mear Hide where nothing happens. Either way he would have been within spitting distance of me for a super shot of a catch. Never mind.

Here he is tucking in to his catch.

Osprey with Catch

Osprey looking out for a potential attacker

osprey looking at a potential attacker

Osprey looking up at a potential attacker

To the untrained eye (By that I mean mine) this potential attacker looks like a Female Marsh Harrier but no, its a juvenile Marsh Harrier. You can tell because it has uniform and pristine feather tips along its wing edges. Older Harriers and Raptors in general tend to have a more ragged edge since they have different aged feathers at different stages of growth.
How do I know this? You ask. Well while I was in there a small party entered including a pleasant guy who also commented that he had seen the Osprey fly over accompanied by a Hobby. I was tempted to ask "Are you sure it was a Hobby" when he mentioned this but thought I would let it pass. As the time went by and chatter commenced I realised that this guy actually knew what he was talking about. In fact he knew A LOT what he was talking about. I did my best to keep up but failed dismally. Lots of erms and arrs when asked about what was going on and where in the area. I finally had to ask him who he was. He turned out to be none other than Richard Crossley of The Crossley ID Guides fame. Over here on a short visit from the States. Very  nice guy indeed. We did have a very good chat later as we went back to the Shapwick Carpark. Mostly about the potential for reintroducing native species in the area that I had never heard of. Mr Riley would have been in his element here. I must admit I had never heard of him however having listened and read his philosophy on Bird Guides I totally agree with him. The idea of showing the birds as they are when you actually see them rather than a neat and tidy up close idealised specimen is both revolutionary and blatantly obvious. But then all the best ideas are like that. I will definitely be looking into the purchase of his guides for the UK. I will not repeat his comment when I handed him the EFRS business card except to say it was the best yet!!

Anyway, on with the bird life.

Osprey in silhouette

Osprey on a branch after feeding

Osprey, Osprey, Osprey! Is that all you saw? I hear you sigh. Not at all. Heres what you all want to see. Yes its a Buzzard with a rat again. I never tire of a buzzard with a rat.

Buzzard with a Rat (probably)

Buzzard with a Rat (Probably)

Young Great Crested Grebe 

So that was it. I cycled back up the track and road towards the Aqueduct crossing. As I got the the Tee junction it was like a trance. From my left I saw the distinctive beatings of a Peregrines wings. It slowly passed across me and then turned towards me. I was stock still. Just watching this bird fly casually and slowly right up to me. I could see everything. Every detail. It hadn't seen me at all. Then the spell was broken. He jolted and turned, flipped and flew off. Back to the real world and on I went. As I cycled through the Enchanted Wood the exact same thing happened with a Sparrow Hawk. He was sitting on a post as I rowed towards him. I couldn't stop, I was transfixed. He spotted me and few. Unfortunately I didn't manage to look at the edges of their winds to see if they were juveniles or not.

And finally..............

Last of the season?


Off the rails

After a partially successful visit to Noahs lake to see the Osprey I thought I would try again in the hope that:

a) It would actually do something
b)It would be a bit closer

I had some luck here on both counts.  It was quite a bit closer and after a while to did do some stuff.  Firstly it went for a poo and then (finally!) it flew.  A great sight. Topped off by a successful dive which resulted in one dead Rudd.  I filmed the whole thing except my camera went completely off the rails and decided to focus on the wrong stuff, resulting in a blurry mess.  Annoyingly I forgot that the camera does let you focus manually, which would have sorted it.  You live and learn...

So I had to make do with these.

Definitely better than last time

Speaking of going off the rails...

This fella showed himself briefly.  I have a lot of luck with rails.  I have seen loads recently.  Maybe I have a unique Rail friendly odour?

It was a bad day to be a fish, with an Osprey above and a flotilla of Cormorants swimming about.

Noah's hide has its own unique climate i.e. very cold.  Wearing a T-Shirt was a bad idea.  In the end I gave up.  Stepping outside I immedaitely warmed up (bizarre!).

The scrape now has a huge number of herons on it.  Little Egret, GWE, Grey and a Bittern which flew up just after I took this picture (he might be in there somewhere!)

Overall, a good few hours spent.  Lets hope the Osprey sticks around and I keep my camera on the rails.


What a Grey Day!

Norfolk was the destination last week so I took a little trip to a beach I know near Horsey Windpump. This beach is amazing. Full of Grey Seals. Hundreds of them all laying there at the waters edge. People come and go but you can really just sit there watching them edge a little further as the tide goes out. If you ever go there take a picnic, you'll need it!

So on with the pics. Now everyone seems to stand there and take a pic of the seals on the beach but really this is nothing compared to what they are like in their true domain the sea. They are just lumps sitting around on a beach. Interesting to watch the hierarchy as they come and go and shift about though. I did take a few pics of them on the beach. Heres one:

Obligitory Seal on a beach porn pic!

Lots of Grey Seals

I was more interested in what I could get as they played and came and went into the sea. There where quit a number of juvenile females coming and going. One or two big Alpha Males and what seemed like courting couples embracing and play fighting on the waters edge.

Heres a few more as they messed about. They, of course probably weren't messing about. Its never really fun in the animal kingdom. Every thing has a purpose and meaning.

Courting Couples

Some more pics which I'm quit proud of:

I went for the split line contrasts hence the long and narrow

Alpha Male

A fun Shot

I like this one. Lots going on

So Seals can fly..............

My favourite pic by a long way

My other favourite pic by a long way

This is the shot I was looking for. They were surfing a lot

And a surf shot. I do like textures in an abstract way. Im quit into taking pics of clouds to!


Oh and since this is a birding blog heres a couple I managed to get:

Juvenile Herring Gull


Another Juvenile Herring Gull