Sitting ducks

A proper winter's day.  Frost on the ground, sun in the sky and me trying to find my gloves.  Thats what its all about.

I had a couple of hours spare so decided to head over to Greylake.  A lot of other people had the same idea...

Had I been a duck looking at the hide I would have been a bit worried.  It must have resembled the front end of a battle ship with a multitude of heavy barrels sticking out the front firing away at anything that moved.

Nevertheless the scene was something of a winter wonderland.  Ducks everywhere with the odd Peregrine loitering on a far off fence post.  Not to mention a Snipe or two probing about for whatever critters live in the mud.

There was a problem though.  Everything was asleep or nearly asleep.  Sitting about like everyone does on Christmas day.  It took ages but eventually something did fly by which scared everybody.

Unfortunately it flew off in the wrong direction, and wasn't  interested in lunch 
(not that they seem to catch anything anyway)

Still it did activate the sitting ducks a bit.  They flew about and then started feeding and being a bit more interesting.

Widgeon slightly panicked (pleased with that one)

Mallard flapping about

Shoveler looking smart in the sunshine 
My personal favourite duck the Teal

and another one... just because.

In amongst the ducks there were a few Snipe skittering about.  They are really nice up close and Greylake is the place if you want to see then in detail.  I got a couple of half alright pics but nothing to special.  Still you get the idea.

By this point I was absolutely frozen.  the wind really does blow through the hide (and I hadn't found my gloves).  So I fled back to the car and took some photos in the car park from the comfort of the car :-)

Reed Bunting looking nice in the sun.

Possibly the best looking bird about.  Looking very regal.
Overall a pretty good morning.  Just need some more raptors to pounce on those sitting ducks.



Cloud Bursting

Boxing day, you have to get out don't you. Brisk walks at christmas are a tradition. Its got to be done. So fortified with Riverford minced pies I wrapped some provisions in a polka dot handkerchief, stuck it on the end of a stick over my shoulder, slipped on my thigh high boots and with a slap of my thighs me and the cat set off for London. Oh hold on thats another story isnt it! Ok so I was fortified with minced pies but I was on the EFRS prefered mode of transport my bicycle. The clouds didn't look very friendly and by the time I got to VP2 at Ham Wall the drizzle set in and the light was as black as Dick Whittingtons hat.
An hour there resulted in nothing other than a friendly (If they can be) Buzzard who flew around for a bit, landed in a tree then flew to the opposite river bank. Seemed quit unconcerned for a change. Probably like the rest of the wildlife around it wasn't particularly in the mood to do anything. It felt like a lazy day all round. The rain and cloud subduing everything. And like us they probably filled their bellies yesterday on a ridiculously warm and sunny christmas day. This was definitely not raptor weather.

Common Buzzard

Common Buzzard

An hour or so standing in the drizzle looking at a glorified puddle with some weeds around it wasn't my idea of fun anymore. You can tell the mood I was in cant you! My nearest bolt hole was going to be the Tor Hide. Unsurprisingly the first human encounter of the day was here. A few casual walkers and a hard core cammo'd up birder looking a little conspicuous against the nice high vis walking wear of the others. Always brings me an ironic smile when I see this especially when I'm the culprit.
So the main point of interest was a pair of Water Rails which were feeding right in front of the hide. Water rails, funny little buggers. Now all birds have their quirks but there is one thing about them that strikes me. They are as common as muck in reed beds, you hear them constantly making their hysterical cackling cries but never ever see the bloody things. Then on an odd occasion such as this they will saunter right in front of you without a care in the world. I did have a quick look over my shoulder for James who has an uncanny knack of attracting these birds.
Now before we get to the pictures I'll just say hello again to David Thomas who I met there. Due to the lack of anything other than the Water Rails which had started to become a bit 'done that' we moved onto photography. We had a very interesting chat about camera clubs, its politics and what they should be about. But even more interestingly the philosophy of it all. What you look for in a picture, what you want to capture. The texture? the colours? the composition? the emotions and all that sort of thing. I've started to take pics of stuff other than wildlife so this interested me greatly. Im still at the stage of discovering what I want to capture in that world outside birds. There are a few examples of this other side in AOB (Any Other Business).

With this conversation in mind and bearing in mind I wasn't particularly composing these pics, I was just 'snapping' them to be honest, here they are with a little self indulgent pompous drivel for accompaniment. I won't blame you for saying 'It's a few pictures of a Water Rail get over it'.

This is the best one I think. Lots of detail and the bird is in context. Eye in view and focused. Colours balanced with the browns and bluey greys matched by the same in the bird.

You know when you can't decide between two pictures? Well neither can I. The portrait aspect is intended to emphasize the tall reeds.

A bit of interaction with a Female Shoveller

And here she is on her own. Again I like the busy scene with her blending in.

As well as the added interest of the pile of dead reeds there is the mystery of the bird being slightly hidden.

Unintended out of focus (We've all been there) but it does draw your eye to the bird. The Bokeh or out of focus gives a different feel to the bird emphasizing the colours more.

These last three are again adding a little mystery and again its hard to pick a favourite. I think it has to be the last one since there is a bit more action. Its doing something which adds to the context.

So there you have it. A little insight into the way I think about pictures. It was possibly the worst day I've had down at Ham Wall, nothing happening, wet, cold and dark but as always its given me something. Never fails. One more note; its a year to the day that I popped over to Cribbs Causeway and got my Canon SX50 bridge camera. My first use of a camera in over 20 years. Its been fun learning over the last year. Heres to the next year!


A (Great) White Christmas

Well... its not going to snow at Christmas but at least its a bit cold now.

With the sun out I made a quick visit to Catcott.

The season of good will has obviously had an effect on the herons with a Great White Egret and a grey heron happily fishing next to each other.  Normally there is a scrap between the old British stalwart and the European invader but not today.

Must be the season...

There were plenty of ducks dabbling about along with lapwing and some Golden plovers.  Near to the platform there were 2 Stonechats.  I really like these birds.  The amle is especially striking.  Heres a female which let me get quite close.

The male was a different story entirely and was aware of my presents presence.  he toyed with me for quite some time.  Flitting about and causing havoc with my auto focus.  Eventually he flew right in front of me for just a second.  It was a hurried shot but at least I got it!

Then this little bird dropped in.  i thinks its a Linnet but I'm not sure...

What a cute little bird

With Santa too see and carols to sing it was time to get off.  At least it was a white christmas after all.
Merry Christmas!

I just liked his haircut.


Ruddy vermin...

It was a dull and damp day.  I woke up with an urge.  I get it every year, normally just before Christmas.  I wanted to go to Slimbridge.  Its a controversial place for the EFRS.  Andrew "doesn't like" (thats a mild version as there may be younger readers) the captive bit of the centre.  I have to agree in part with his sentiments.  Denying a bird its flight is like removing our legs.

However I do also understand that in order to conserve them there does have to be some compromise.  Still its nearly Christmas and I dont want to get too heavy so early on.

Anyway after a lot of grumbling I persuaded Andrew to come along.  I was particularly keen to see a Ruddy Shelduck which I had seen reported in the week

Once we arrived I did get a smile from him as we watched the Eiders with their funny warbles, which sounds a bit like a little old lady receiving some good news.

Male Eider Duck

Talking of funny noises, the cranes were doing a bit of a bugle.  This is a Common crane I believe.  Unfortunately I don't think it had the ability of flight which did dampen my enthusiasm a bit (but i might be wrong!)

May I just interrupt here and let our readers know that these Cranes were in fact literally on the other side of a low fence. I tried to take a few pics but unfortunately they were a bit too close for my 300mm Photosniper. (Which I had taken along and swaggered about with it amongst the defenceless and innocent  small children and mothers for pure effect and thus having no effect at all)

A bugling Crane

James found this pic amusing

A random unfortunate inmate

After that we went to the "wild" bit.  There was plenty of wildfowl activity going on with swans, ducks and geese out in the fields.  The light was terrible but still enjoyed myself.  Andrew grumbled a bit but was keen on wielding his Photosniper.

One of my better pictures.

There are 2 geese!

It wouldn't be a trip to Slimbridge without these!

Plenty of Shelducks


Tufted Duck

Leucistic Greylag Goose



We walked to the tower hide, on the way a Water rail was screaming away.  I casually mentioned we would see it later.  I have an uncanny knack of attracting these shy birds!
At the tower hide there was a massive herd of people, unable to move I stared out at the grey landscape.  The Widgeon panicked a bit, as a Sparrowhawk swooped across.  The first (and only!) bird of prey for the day.

After some scanning we found a Ruddy Shelduck.  A new one for me!

Ruddy Shelduck

Ruddy Shelduck

Well what you can see of it! It was stuck behind a fence just outside the reserve. Still we can tick that one off the list

Wandering over to the Kingfisher hide we found a Water rail (told ya!)

Water Rail

And at the same spot this cheeky chappy

Other birds of note along the way...............

Red Shank

Pintails (That were hiding in plain view in front of us all the time!)

Little Grebe

Lapwings and Snipe

The Kingfisher hide should be renamed "Rodent" hide with a number of rats scurrying about the place, feasting underneath the feeders.  After spending a long time photographing these critters I focused on the small birds fluttering about (Blue tit, great tit, greenfinch).  Nothing too
exceptional but still nice to see.  I also failed to get any good pictures...

Rat having a drink




Another Chaffinch

We were also offered a bit of advice from a know it all kindly sole who told James that it was his camera that was scaring the birds off. Firstly the birds weren't being scared off in the first place and he then had a loud conversation with other know it alls birders all the time he was there as if he was in a pub!!

With the light fading we made our way back to the car. Andrew was still rather nonchalant.  I however rather enjoyed watching the ruddy vermin!