Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Sanderling in Harbour

After yesterdays blue sky today was wall to wall greyness. A walk around Burnham Norton was enlivened by the packs of Wigeon periodically panicking and taking flight in tight packed whistling flocks. I would normally expect to see a hunting Peregrine when the Wigeon behave like this but all I could find were a couple of distant Marsh Harriers and a single Kestrel.

Moved on to Brancaster Staithe Harbour, which with the tide out and another snapper already in place was quiet, however I did manage this shot of a Sanderling, not a species that I would normally associate with the Harbour.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Beardies & Goldeneye

Spent the last hour or so of daylight at Titchwell Marsh. Crowd gathered by the side of the West Bank path overlooking a patch of reeds alerted me to the presence of a feeding party of Bearded Tits and although the light was fading fast I was still able to get a few shots in the cold calm of late afternoon. This male bird is a cropped image.
A bit further along on the Brackish Marsh a pair of Goldeneye were courting the male throwing his head back so that it touched the middle of his back. All the time staying in close attendance on the female and keeping an eye on another male Goldeneye which looked keen to court the female as well.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Welney Whoopers

This afternoon we spent a cold hour sitting in a hide at Welney WWT reserve from about 2.45 - 3.45 pm. Hadn't been here for a couple of years at least and was surprised at just how busy it was. The Observation gallery was packed with family's and old dears and the hide to the side which we were in was also very nearly full. This hide sits under the ramp leading off the bridge and at times it felt like a Panzer division was on the march as yet another baby buggy rumbled over our heads. Still good that so many folk were choosing to come out and enjoy the swans. But a shame that most of the wild swans stayed out in the fields feeding rather than coming into be fed.

Poor light meant that I had to rack the ISO setting up on EOS 400D to 1600. This is probably the best of a bunch of poor flight shots that I managed to get.

We each enjoyed a welcome hot chocolate back at the visitor centre and a piece of cake which really needed to be a bit bigger to be good value for money. Still a impressive building the cafe is light and airy, the shop a little under stocked and the down stairs classroom is decked as if it is below the surface of a pond and looks great.

The icing on the cake were two remarkably tame Barn Owls by the side of the road just as we drove away from the Visitor Centre.

Friday, 26 December 2008

Christmas Day Rose

Christmas Day was grey and dull on the north Norfolk coast. Highlight of a walk at Titchwell was a hunting Peregrine that twice bombed through the Fresh Marsh putting up the gathering roost of thousands of Lapwings and Golden Plovers. In a garden this rose bloomed and formed the perfect glowing Christmas decoration.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Snatch shot of a Little Owl

Nice example of the little things counting. Today has been a grey day most of which I have spent indoors. I did though need to take a short drive between offices and spotted this Little Owl in the bare branches of a roadside Oak tree. Wee little owl, small and basic travel zoom lens [ 70- 300 mm]. Plus a short amount of time to spend with the owl to grab this record shot, enjoy its company and I must say a revel just a little bit in my own eagle eyes in finding it.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Herring Gulls and Turnstones competing for Mussels

Nice piece of behaviour this, one which I have seen Herring and Common Gulls exhibit on Hunstanton Beach, at Brancaster Staithe and at Burnham Overy Staithe. The gulls collect mussels which they are unable to open with their beaks and drop them from 10 to 50 feet onto a hard surface. They seem to 'know' where to drop the mussels and where not to bother. They may have to do this up to half a dozen times before opening the mussel, this looks pretty energy efficient as the birds natural buoyancy lifts them easily into the air. In Brancaster Staithe Harbour the gulls have the advantage that the Shell fishermen sort their crop in the harbour and there is a plentiful supply of mussels for them to feed on. A nice twist in the story is that the local Turnstones have learnt to anticipate this behaviour and will scurry to the dropped mussels in the hope of getting a mouthful of food before the gulls get to them.
I've still not got a sequence of pictures that I am happy with showing all of this behaviour but here are some I took today. Some years ago of course Roger Tidman won the BB Bird Photographer of the Year competition with a picture of a north Norfolk Herring Gull doing just this.
Whilst taking these shots I had a fly by Kingfisher and a ringtail Hen Harrier pass through the harbour.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Waxwings in the Gloom

I had to get out for some fresh air this afternoon and decided to head east along the coast road aiming for Burnham Norton. Just before I got to Holme I glimpsed three birds in roadside Hawthorns that I thought looked like Waxwings, finding a safe place to pull off the road I managed to approach the birds quite closely. Unfortunately I never managed a clear shot without branches in the way and the light was truly awful. As a consequence this cropped image is the best shot I managed to get. Despite the poor light and speeding traffic it was great to find these beautiful little birds and be able to spend some time with them as they fed and 'twittered' to each other.
I eventually made it to a gloomy Burnham Norton and did the usual circular walk around the marsh where I saw two or three Marsh Harriers, similar numbers of Barn Owls and a single a ringtail Hen Harrier.
Not surprisingly given the cloud cover and with tomorrow the shortest day of the year it got dark frustratingly early with the first coast bound wave of pinkfeet coming over at ten to three.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Brancaster Staithe photo session

Lovely sunny afternoon. Spent first hour sitting in the car at Brancaster Staithe. Much of the bird action here is generated by the Mussel fishery and you can see some of the machinery used by the fishermen in the background of the flight shot of the Black Headed Gull. Worth mentioning that some of the fishermen here are not at all keen on having their pictures taken and I got shouted at today when one thought I was taking his picture [I was after a flight shot of a Oystercatcher].