Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Goosanders at Moses Gate Country Park

Male Goosander on the edge of the ice

I took advantage of some sunshine today and shot over to Moses Gate Country Park near Little Lever in Bolton.  I had a target bird in mind - Goosander.  I'd seen them in the middle of the largest pool on Sunday when the weather was a little overcast, and I'd even followed a male bird them as it flew over me and onto the nearby River Croal - but I couldn't get close enough for a decent photo.

Male Goosander close-up

Today however was very different.  At first I spotted three male and three female birds all sat in the middle of the pool, equidistant from all the banks and just about as far away as possible - this is their most usual behaviour.  So I took some long shots (as I've done several times before) and thought that would be it.  I then practised taking some birds in flight (BIF) shots on the various gulls and Mallards as they shot past me - I'm pretty hopeless at BIF, although I've recently examined my techniques and have got a little better.

Female Goosander

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I was pretty much done and heading for a home when I noticed a lady feeding the ducks from the boardwalk.  By accident she had managed to throw her plastic bag in with the last lot of food, and so I went to help her retrieve it. Luckily she had one of those alpine walking stick thingies, and just as I was using it to lift the bag out of the water, I noticed that there was a female Goosander in with the pack of ducks.  I was so excited I nearly dropped the stick and bag back in to the water (I didn't though).

Female Goosander in closeup

Quickly putting the stick on the boardwalk I grabbed my camera off the tripod and began shooting and the results are shown here.  They're the best Goosander photos I've ever taken, mainly because they rarely come so close.  A few minutes later, the male bird appeared a short distance away on the other side of a strip of ice.  I couldn't believe it when it dived and swam under the ice to appear on the edge of the pack of birds being fed - I've never seen a male Goosander come for food like this before.

Wot u looking at?

However, the male was quite skittish and didn't stick around for long before going back under the ice and out into the main pool.  With a dark head and eye, it was very difficult to get a good exposure on such a sunny day - I wanted to get some eye detail, but that has resulted in the white breasts being 'blown out' in most of the photos and they lack any real feather detail.  They could probably do with some work in PhotoShop but I haven't got round to doing this yet.

That said, I'm pretty pleased with results on the whole and it just goes to show that you can't beat good light and getting close to the birds if you want decent results.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Marshside RSPB

A good day out with Leigh Ornithological Society to Marshside RSPB produced a variety of birds, starting with a Buzzard in the trees on the approach road from Southport Town Centre.  The highlight of the day though was undoubtably the Spoonbill, of which at first we only had distant views.  However, later in the day I managed to get a little closer.

Spoonbill at Marshside RSPB

Spoonbill at Marshside RSPB

The Spoonbill was showing well from Marshside Road along with several Little Egrets, although it would disappear down the ditches and streams quite often which made distinguishing it from the Egrets difficult at times.  The light and weather wasn't good for photos, so I'm fairly pleased with what I managed to get.  It even started sleeting towards the end of these shots.

Spoonbill in a ditch

Spoonbill heading back to the ditch

There were lots of Wigeon, Teal and Lapwing also in the fields too as well as a single pair of Greylag Geese and a large flock of Canada Geese.

More photos to follow ....

From inside Sandgrounder's Hide, the Great White Egret could be seen on the left side of the reserve, along with a few Black-tailed Godwits and more Wigeon and Teal. Two Little Grebes popped up in front of the hide here.

From Nel's Hide Shoveler, Pintail, Golden Plover, Tufted Duck, Coot, Moorhen and Carrion Crows could be seen, with a Robin and a pair of Dunnocks along the path to the hide. A Peregrine Falcon was also seen perched on a dead trunk out on the salt marsh.

Out on the Sand Haul Road the high tide didn't come in as quickly as last time I was here (when it was quickly surrounded my wellies) due to the lack of wind, but eventually a lot of the Marsh was flooded. The only raptors were distant views of a Peregrine Falcon and a Merlin. Several flocks of Pink-footed Geese flew over as well as a few Redshank and Curlew, but hardly any Oystercatchers or Knot. There were also several Shelduck, Great Black-backed Gulls and Herring Gulls. A large flow of Meadow Pipits with some Skylarks was flying around the road and landing in quite large numbers at times. We didn't see any Twite.

On the Marine Lake on the way home I had good close views of three Cormorants and a single female Goldeneye as well as the usual Coots, Moorhens, Mute Swans and various Gulls.

I think that's everything - this area rarely disappoints me.

Some photos to follow soon ....

Saturday, 12 January 2013

North Wales

I had a great day out with Mike Baron to several locations along the North Wales coast today, the highlights of which were seeing my first Hawfinches as well as sitting amongst the Snow Buntings at Kinmel Bay.

A full report will come soon when I've selected the best photos out of the hundreds which I took - this may take me some time!

Here's a few to be going on with ....

Dunnock at Conwy RSPB

Lesser Redpoll at Conwy RSPB

Chaffinch at Conwy RSPB

Lesser Redpoll at Conwy RSPB

Robin at Conwy RSPB

Robin at Conwy RSPB

Meadow Pipit at Kinmel Bay

Meadow Pipit at Kinmel Bay

Meadow Pipit at Kinmel Bay

Meadow Pipit at Kinmel Bay

Meadow Pipit at Kinmel Bay
Snow Bunting at Kinmel Bay

Snow Bunting at Kinmel Bay
Snow Bunting at Kinmel Bay

Snow Bunting at Kinmel Bay

Snow Bunting at Kinmel Bay

Snow Bunting at Kinmel Bay

Snow Bunting at Kinmel Bay

Snow Bunting at Kinmel Bay

Snow Bunting at Kinmel Bay

Snow Buntings at Kinmel Bay

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Dunham Massey Park

Kestrel by the Smithy Pool at Dunham Massey Park

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Waxwings at Howe Bridge in Leigh

Happy New Year!  

After being laid low with a virus over the Christmas period and with the weather being so poor for ages, I was straining at the bit to get out today when there was a brief glimpse of the sun.  I knew the window of opportunity was going to be small, so Sarah and I decided to stay close to home and go to Howe Bridge Crematorium in Leigh where up to 12 Waxwings have been regularly reported over the last week.

At first I was a little unsure about whether it would be OK to take photographs in such a solemn place, but when we arrived there were as many photographers as Waxwings!  I soon met up with David Shallcross, Chairman of Leigh Ornithological Society, and Alan Flavell from my 'Birds and their Habitats' class in Whitefield, and I could also see Pauline Mellor Greenhalgh with her husband Ian there too.

True to form, the Waxwings perched in one of the higher trees and tinkled away before a few periodically flew down to the one berry-laden tree in the area - a small ornamental Rowan tree.  The birds were not at all bothered by the attendant people, and very close views could be had without them flying away.

During our short stay here a large group of about twenty or so leather-clad bikers arrived and, from a distance, I could hear them making jokes and comments about the birders - I briefly thought we might be in for a bit of trouble as they made their way towards us.

As it turned out they just asked what we were looking at and why they were special and so I duly told them and showed them some of the photos on my camera.  One or two of them were pretty impressed with the colour and form of the Waxwings and one girl even took a photo of the photo on the back of my camera!  They went off to lay some flowers on a nearby grave and even came for another look on the way back.

Well all this just goes to show that you can't judge a book by it's cover, and that works in both directions!