Saturday, 9 December 2017

Far Ings - My New Favourite Place

Following a recommendation by Paul Coombes, who I met on Facebook earlier in the year and then who kindly took me to see the Nightjars in Sherwood Forest in July this year, I've been planning to visit the Far Ings  and Alkborough Flats Nature Reserves in Lincolnshire for some time now.

I was originally hoping to call in at Far Ings on may way back from Donna Nook last month, but the short days got the better of me and I decided not to go as the light would have dropped by the time I arrived. So with the prospect of good sunny weather today , I left at 7am this morning to see what I could find.  The target birds were Marsh Harrier, Bittern, Kingfisher and Bearded Tit.

On arriving at Ness Hide at Far Ings, my attention was immediately drawn to a distant Bittern on the edge of the far reed bed, and there were two present according to the locals in the hide.  However it was some time before one reappeared flying quite high over the water and then eventually settling in reeds in front of the hide, which is where I got the above shots.

I was soon joined by Kevin Robinson, another photographer who I'd chatted to on Facebook regarding the best places to see Marsh Harriers here - I didn't know who it was until I asked him directly and then we both realised that we'd been in contact and exchanged information.  And it wasn't long before this female Marsh Harrier appeared in front of us.  This was the closest I've ever come to Marsh Harriers and I was quivering with excitement as I pressed the shutter.

This bird caught and killed a Moorhen and then managed to drop it into the reeds.  It then spent quite long time trying to refund it.

It's not often that a Bittern gets upstaged, but for me the best bird of the day was this male Marsh Harrier which made just one pass across the far reed beds before disappearing.  

The Harrier shots are generally not as sharp as I would like because as soon as the birds came out, the sun went in, obscured by clouds.  But they are the best shots I've got of this species so far, so that's why Far Ings is my new favourite place.  And you can rest assured that I'll be back.

And the one bird that you'd think you could bank on seeing and getting a decent photograph stayed distant all the time I was there.  This Kingfisher has to be one of the most photographed birds here, but today all I got was this shot. And neither sight nor sound of any Bearded Tits anywhere.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

A Precious Moment on the Dee Marshes

I had one of those birding moments today whilst out on the Dee Marshes today.  I went to the Wirral for the last of the recent 9 metre high tides, starting off at the Parkgate and ending up at Denhall Quay in Little Neston.  

There was nothing much showing  at Parkgate apart from this distant solitary Marsh Harrier and so I didn't stay there too long, deciding to head off to Denhall Quay via a Tesco Express in Neston for a £3 Meal Deal - the cold weather made me starving by lunchtime!

There was a bitingly cold wind on the coast and I thought this might have enhanced the high tide as it was blowing inland.  However, the tides didn't seem any higher than normal and it didn't really bring any more birds out than usual.  It was too windy for the Short-eared Owls here today, they don't seem to fly in the wind if they don't need to.  So Harriers were my best hope - and boy did one come.

This grey male Hen Harrier breezed past whilst I was stood about 100m out on the marsh looking back inland.  I was so excited that I fumbled with my camera in the freezing wind and the shots haven't come out as sharp as I would like. It was very difficult just standing still, nevermind keeping the tripod still and all this vibration hasn't helped the photographs.  But at least I got my best shots to date of this fabulous rare bird.

Whilst awaiting the arrival of some Harriers I spotted this distant squabble between a Buzzard and a Raven - it's usually the other way round with the Raven mobbing the Buzzard, but today the tables were turned.  It's nice to see the size difference between th two birds in this shot.  Buzzard are big so Ravens must be huge!

So what I've learnt from birding over the last few years is that the more I go out, the luckier I get, if you understand what I mean.  In other words, you've got to be in it to win it.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Yes, OK - I was Choughed today

After seeing a post by Facebook friend Geoffrey Pain, I decided to head for Heysham in North Lancashire today to get some photos of a lone Chough that had been showing very well recently.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

A Trip to Walton-le-Dale Sewage Works

A Firecrest has been reported regularly outside the water treatment works gates in Walton-le-Dale and so because it had stayed around I thought there would be a good chance of seeing it.  Unfortunately I couldn't find it although someone else did see it whilst I was there, and it has been reported since.

However, there were several Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs around as well as other common woodland birds. So, because I managed to get my best ever photos of a Goldcrest today, the trip wasn't totally wasted after all.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

The Amazing Donna Nook

No, it's not that girl I went to school with - it's a place on the east coast of Lincolnshire and I can't believe that I've only just discovered it!

Atlantic Grey Seal Colony at Donna Nook in Lincolnshire

Friday, 24 November 2017

Another Day on the Wirral

Winter is the time that Short-Eared Owls return to the Dee Estuary from their breeding grounds in the mountains and moorlands.  Lunt Meadows in Sefton was the Mecca for photographers wishing to get good Owl shots a couple of years ago, but since then they have not been so regular or obliging.

This year, Denhall Quay in Little Neston on the Wirral has been the best place for photos so far and so this is where I headed today.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

A Trip to North Wales

After seeing some shots of Brambling, Siskin and Lesser Redpoll by Paul Lee on Facebook, I decided that it was time to spend some more time in the Welsh hills around Llyn Brenig. And it just so happened that Graeme Robertson was thinking along the same lines, so we arranged to meet on the Visitors' Centre car park at around 9am today.

Lesser Redpoll

Unfortunately, the promise of sunshine never materialised in the morning and we spent most of the time here in dull drizzle, which made photography difficult. There were plenty of birds around including these Lesser Redpolls, Siskins, Coal Tits, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Chaffinches and one Robin.

Lesser Redpoll

The aim was to try to get decent shots of the birds in the tree, rather than on the feeders, but they were so fast and active that this was also proved to be very difficult.


We only saw one male Brambling high up in a tree, with perhaps a female underneath it, but they never came down to the alder tree with the feeders in it. So what do you do when there's nothing else to see? Take a photo of a Robin of course, and here's one dong its best Wren impression.


From Llyn Brenig we went on to Dyserth near Rhuddlin to track down the famous Dippers which frequent the area around the waterfall here.  There was plenty of evidence of their presence in the form of white droppings on the rocks at the foot of the waterfall and it didn't take long before I'd spotted one in the channel a little downstream from the waterfall. However, after a couple of shots it was off flying further downstream for a while and then back upstream under a little road bridge to the waterfall area.

A Dyserth Dipper about to take a dip

I am told that there are at least one pair regularly here and so this is definitely a place I'll come back to when I have more time to sit and wait for the birds to come to me. 

Dipper with lunch

Our final destination for the day was Denhall Quay on the Wirral in the hope of seeing some Short-eared Owls hunting on the high tide.  There were plenty of other birders around when we arrived and unfortunately, plenty of dog walkers traversing the marsh.  We had decent scope views of a couple of Marsh Harriers quartering and a Peregrine Falcon sat on a pole, and the ever present Kestrels were also seen a few times.  There were plenty of Little Egrets and Crows about, with lots of waders and various Gulls along the river channels. But everything was pretty distant, so there were no real photo opportunities.  Perhaps the best sight was the hundred of Goldfinches that were flitting around in large flocks before setting down to feed on the grasses.