Dont Be Cruel...


Ahhh! the late eighties.  What an amazing place to be.  Nintendo Gameboy.  Michael Jackson.  Bobby Brown.  Ghostbusters.  It was pretty much in that order for me. Today I was in my element, Bobby was singing his heart out on the radio.  His classic "Don't be Cruel" blared out of my Peugeot 107s little speakers.

Meanwhile I was photographing a Buzzard near Glastonbury....

I bet nobody has ever photographed a Buzzard whilst hanging out of a Peugeot 107 with 
Bobby Brown playing at full volume

The Kestrel was less impressed and kept his distance.

I thought it was a Merlin...

As the track faded away to be replaced by ad breaks I headed over to Tealham, hoping for a Peregrine or Merlin...  Instead I ended up playing a fun game of cat and mouse with a Buzzard. The 'drive whilst trying to take a photo' technique didn't really work with this wily fellow.  He simply took a quick look and swooped off to the next tree.  Eventually, after I nearly crashed into a cyclist I admitted defeat and drove off,.  The song Don't Be Cruel seemed rather apt...

 Repeat this a few times and add in a frightened cyclist and you are pretty much there.

See above sentence

 Here is a Merlin Kestrel having some trouble with a Crow.

One of many Kestrels out and about.  
The sun was starting to come out a bit so I decided ditch the car and take a walk along London Drove to the hide at the end (the Island one). There was plenty going on.  A Kingfisher zipped by the hide and a Marsh harrier floated by, sadly the sun went in whilst this was happening.

They are 2 different pictures.  Sadly both of them are dark and distant.
The light went at just the wrong moment (a bit cruel really...)

Meanwhile a great White egret had flown a bit closer.  I kept my camera on him as he stalked the edge of the lake.  Then, a smaller brown heron flew straight at me.  BITTERN!!! I fumbled and cocked the whole thing up.  The bird landed right in front of the hide.  When I say landed it kind of crashed into the reeds.  I cursed out loud.  When do you get a Bittern fly right at you? NEVER!!
Booby's track thumped through my head even louder.

 Great White flying about (quite pleased with these - it came out quite sharp)

 GWE cruelly laughing at my Bittern problem

Bet they could see the Bittern

I decided to calm myself down by taking some nice scenic shots

This one is a homage to the first ever blog post
Something I now regret...

About 5 seconds after taking the above photo, just as I was reviewing the picture.  A Bittern flew up, less than 15 feet away.  It scared the living daylights out of me (I scare easily and wear pink T-Shirts).  Had I kept my camera up I would have had a great shot, even the light was perfect.
Once more Bobby sang to me.
The only consolation was the fact that I had never seen a Bittern so close.  In the few seconds it was up (before landing rather noisily again in front of the hide) I could appreciate its incredible plumage.  It seemed to almost have a greenish tinge about it (although that could be a result of the Lidl's cider had drunk the night before, only £1.49 for 4 tins!).
I looked desperately in the reeds.  The blighter was in there, a few feet away.  But I just couldn't find him.  The day ended with a phone call from The Boss.  It was time to leave.

Bobby had warned me at the start of the day...   Wildlife photography is a cruel business.


A ring side seat


 It was a battle royale... Clash of the titans if you will.  Arne VS Steart.

I had the whole day and was keen to try something a bit different.  I was tempted by Arne.  Ive only been once but really liked it.  Then there was Steart...

Lee and Robin went for Arne and Andrew voted for Steart because of the owls.  Those blinkin owls... They get me every time.  Steart it was.

After a lengthy session loading my bike into the car (it just fits if you get the angles right) I headed off.  After a lengthy session unloading the bike from the car (it just comes out if you get the angles right).  I was out peddaling the paths of Steart.  Well, I was trying to pedal.  It was blowing a gale!

Firstly I did a bit of Kestrel bothering.  There were at least 3 hovering about the place.  Sadly, even with my classic EFRS transport under me I failed to get near enough.

Looking out from Polden hide, things were a bit grim and dark... Perhaps I should have gone to Arne with its friendly Sika deer and bird feeders...

A text from Andrew put me right.  He had spoken to Joe Cockram, who said that
 "You have to work for your birds here".  Wise words indeed.

I decided to pedal about a bit more.  On my way to Mendip hide I noticed a quick photo opportunity.

I quite like this one (so does my wife so it must be nice)
Not that she is a cow
The heron and the cow raised my spirits slightly.  Often when you see one thing you see another and sure enough these Roe deer wandered out into the field.

Had this been at Arne these photos would be of Sika deer from about 1 foot away.
Somehow these "wild" deer are just more interesting
I pressed on and for some unknown reason I had the bright idea of cycling to the break water thing at the end of the River Parrett.  Bloody hell! It was windy and I got knackered pretty quickly.  Upon arrival I broke out my sandwiches and looked out across the marsh.
High above a Peregrine was soaring, spiraling higher and higher until it was lost from view.  I was also heartened by seeing 5 Skylarks all together.  

I could just about see the old and slightly battered Tower Hide... Time to have a look.  The pedal over there was a journey and a half, thanks to the gale force winds.

I nearly fell off my bike when I saw this.  
My exhaustion had caused me to hallucinate. 
 I thought it was a Marsh harrier.
The track up to the tower hide is sparse and empty.  It feels like you are at the end of the earth.  Plus the creamy, blue house at the end, with the shutters gives me the creeps (sorry to the owner).  SAdly I had made a novice error and not considered the tide, which was out by bout 2 miles... Still Burnham-On-Sea looked nice from here (just don't go any closer)
I had a quick explore about the place
 The sun was coming out (sort of)

 This Shelduck strayed a bit closer 
I was very fidgety today and didnt really know what to do with myself.  So I pedalled back to the reserve and spent soem time back at the Polden hide.  Here I was blown away by the wind and chatted to a nice fellow with a dog (sorry I dint get your name!)
Then something small and fast swept by...
It appears to be a flying potato
There was plenty out there.  It was just a long way off

I did a bit of  patrol round the place, keeping an eye out for any Short Eared owls who might be floating about.  None of these are Short Eared owls...

 A Linnet in the sun
 The best picture of a Goldfinch I have managed
 Smart Stonechats

 As the sun started to come out the birds seems to wake up a bit.  I was lucky to see two Kingfishers.  One of which was preched on a small wooden bridge.  Sadly I saw it to late...

But then I saw these to fellows spoiling for a fight.
It was like a WWE Wrestling match

The fight ended in a draw with both parties shouting abuse at each other and walking off
I pulled up by the River Parrett and waited and waited... It was so windy.  Not ideal for Owls I wouldnt imagine.  Still the landscape was pretty stunning in a bleak, wild sort of way.  As I packed up I noticed a small dark raptor shooting straight at me.  In front of him was a small bird, Linnet maybe. 
The predator was gaining quickly on its prey.  But the Linnet wasn't done, it flew higher to avoid capture.  The Merlin carried on at a lower angle before sweeping upwards.  It missed.  The two flew in a wide arch across the Parrett before being lost to view.  Absolutely brilliant and even more dramatic in the fading light.  I was honoured to have a ring side seat to one of natures great spectacles.

I peddaled back with excitemnt in my veins.  No photos of it and no SEOS but I was happy although the same. 

Just before getting in the car. (not the Kestrel)
So Steart or Arne?  Who knows?  Like all great fights there is sure to be a rematch to decide who is the champion.


I'll get you next time gadget...


The rain sloshed down this morning.  But it didn't stop me.  Like Dr Claw I was determined to get my target no matter what.

I took my mum along as well.  Her bright red coat would be an excellent distraction whilst I got that killer shot.

Before heading out I bought an extra GADGET (sorry).  Namely a blower.  In an attempt to get rid of the awful blotches which have developed on my pictures.  Sadly I have discovered that the cameras cleaning mode is no longer working.  This is a problem.  It needs to work in order to expose the sensor, which has got the dirt on it... Still I gave the mirror a good blow (oh er!) and hoped for the best.

First stop was Ham Wall.  My mother was keen to see a Marsh harrier so I kept my eyes peeled.  The only thing I saw however was Mr Lee Dutton (he can often be seen loitering in empty car parks).  After a quick catch up a Marsh harrier flew across the car park.  Sadly my mum was off looking at the demented otter sign over the road, so she missed it...

I noted the new buildings going up all over the place.   This swan was waiting to try out the visitor centre.

Ignoring health and safety, this swan should be wearing a hard hat and a high vis jacket

As the rain started to fall we took shelter in Noahs hide.  Then something odd happened.  The chap in the hide whipped out a scope which looked exactly like the one I sold a few months ago.  Same case, same dings in it.  The works.  I didn't ask, but I'm sure it was it.  Ebay, bringing people together in unexpected ways...

Anyway, Noahs was looking, a bit, grey.  But luckily this Marsh harrier livened it up a bit.

Mobbed by un adoring fans...

Under the hide there was a high pitched noise I knew so well.  The arch enemy had arrived...
It wouldn't sit still and flitted off down the channel.  Returning moments later to taunt me a bit before vanishing again.

Then, it appeared on a bull rush...

This photo looks even more blurred after 2 Cobra beers...

The little bugger flew right under the hide.  But was gone as soon as I even dared to raise my camera.  I was angry and frustrated.  I'll get you next time...

The rain started to blow into the hide and to avoid a drenching we headed off back to the car park.  
On the way a crow was attacking a much smaller bird.  Which turned out to be a very smart Sparrowhawk.

Sadly the dust monsters were still there.  Luckily a bit of software magic has removed some of it.  Along with a bit of hard blowing (ahem)
We had a bot of time to spare, so headed to Catcott.  However its an empty field at the moment so we went to Westhay, where we managed another Marsh harrier along with 2 Jays and a Green woodpecker.  
 Then right at the end the Kingfisher caught up with me again, zipping up and down a few times.  His piercing calling making my bones quiver with anger.  Like all good cartoon villains I was beaten but I will be back for more.  I'll get you next time...


That Jacques Cousteau moment


This weekend saw my bezzy mate Steve come down from North Wales for a bit of a catch up. The idea was an EFRS trip with James. Unfortunately he was otherwise engaged so it was just the two of us. After recovering from the night before we set off on Saturday for a classic run the same run we always do. Hamwall saw the usual suspects of Marsh harriers and attendant crows being a nuisance.

If we stay still do you think they wont see me AGAIN!

We passed through Shapwick like a dose of salts and refreshed at Eco-friendly bits we carried on to London Drove in a vain attempt to see the Fire Crest that had apparently reappeared. We didn't see it but we did see

A Great White Egret

Who then did a bit of sky writing!

I thought I would give Steve the full tour so we ended up at what I call the 'Hobby Platform' The one that overlooks the reed beds. My favourite spot in Westhay. Absolutely nothing happened until Steve spotted a Kingfisher in a branch. The light was so poor you'll have to forgive the rather grainy ISO settings!

Like this one

Another thing he spotted was this Mink. It went into the reeds and flushed a Moorhen who was not best pleased.

So it was a rather quiet day but still rather pleasant. Steve enjoyed the peace and change of pace. It was well worth it. We sauntered back towards the Viridor Hide. We had been seeing a Kestrel hover hunt all the time around Westhay. This may have been the chap. It was rather small for a Kestrel and rather worryingly tame. I got to within a few dozen feet of it and it had no qualms about flying straight at me to sit on the hide roof! 

It didn't seem too steady when it landed. To a while to find it's feet.

The day ended with a meal at The Sheppy in Godney. As you do.

Sunday was a great opportunity to venture back to Steart since I had to drop Steve at the Station in Bridgwater. We had a man hug and I left. Steart was a place I wanted to go for two reasons. There had been reports of a Leucistic Sparrow Hawk and more interestingly an NPW had recently migrated there to feed on the local sightings and take vigorous notes. A perfect opportunity I thought.

Unfortunately I must tell you that I failed to spot the NPW. Yes I was looking forward to bagging that Mega since it wont be around for long. It usually flies of to Norway or Africa. Still I'm sure it will come around again.

I did manage to meet up with yours and mine friendly local warden at Steart, Joe Cockram. He was raking up the grass right at the end of the estuary side. Not a bad job if you can do it on such a day. It was a bit like a scene from a period play. There I was striding up on my trusty stallion bicycle with some local yokel working in the fields. "I say you, yes you there, have you seen a fella by the name of NPW?" "Aye Sir 'e be yonder by the screens". Ok so maybe it wasn't quit like that. Joe was doing something constructive and worthwhile and being payed to be where I have to work to afford to be but I did have a few hours to toy with the idea. Forgive me!
I settled down there to await the inevitable appearance of the white ghost. I waited.............. and waited..............and waited. In the meantime I amused myself with some other stuff

I thought the GWE might have been a Spoonbill. Joe was very patient with me.

Liking the colours on this one

BOOM!! Out of the blue I thought I had seen a Swift! It can't be! Then a thought occurred, just like it did the first time I actively spotted a Peregrine, it's a Merlin. I have never knowingly seen a Merlin before but something just told me it was. It was doing a hell of a lick. Going somewhere important by the looks of it and didn't hang about.

My first Merlin - Woo hoo

And some more nice colours

The Kestrels around here are quit tame, not as tame as Westhay though!

All the hours I was stood in that corral I was watching the Goldfinches. They were getting more and more. Occasionally dropping down in the waterside grasses.

As much as I enjoyed all the sights, not least the Merlin and Goldfinches, I was a little disappointed not to see that pale enigma. All the time as I cycled back in the falling light I was looking at every Little Egret and Gull wishing it where that angel in the sky. Every close of the gate seemed to be another turn of the key closing the door on what was now my angelic vision. The final gate closed and back by the pylons along the gravel pathway. End of the day. Oh well! I'd better go and write it all up.

If you'r over forty you may remember sitting of an evening watching the amazing adventures in the deepest darkest depths of the seas with that amazing trail blazer Jacques Cousteau. There was a running joke in our house. The program always ended with him eventually catching sight of the beast he had set out for. This was accompanied with the eternal line "And just as we were giving up hope there it was"

I glanced up and saw a crow harrying a Little Egret. What on earth is a Crow bothering with an Egret for, Oh! I managed to whip out my bins and catch sight of a beautiful and yes, angelic sight of a pale hawk. Rummaging in my bag to get the camera out caused me to loose sight. All that remained when I did focus was the crow settling down on a branch. Bugger!
I scanned and scanned. Nothing. All the white dots were either gulls and egrets. Was this it?


Time went and the light lessened. Then a white dot on a post. I locked on..............


The EFRS was in its element. I swung round and mounted my bike. 400mm in one hand and steering with the other I cycled low and steady back along the grassy path bumping and swerving avoiding the ruts. It stayed put. It was mine. Walking would have taken too long. This was what the EFRS was designed for. Stopping at a good distance to get another few shots just in case it flew.

A little bit closer

 I continued as far as I dare. The last few crouched steps on foot had me hidden by a row of tall grass just before the double gates. It remained and I took aim.

What a beautiful bird. It really made my day. Thank you Steart.

All the time I was stalking that beauty I was looking over on the far side. Silhouetted against the grey sky and just to the side of screens was a figure, a birder figure. Those screens were the ones the yokel said the NPW was seen at.................