Friday, 31 August 2018

My Brain is Addled

This afternoon I went to Leeds to look at a car I was thinking of buying and as I was close by I thought I'd take a look at the Adel Dam nature reserve which I'd heard about on Facebook. After taking the car for a test drive, an experience in itself as I'd never driven an automatic before, I finished my business at the garage and continued on to the reserve.  When I drove through the little town of Adel, I knew I was was getting close - I parked at Goldenacre Country Park free car park as recommended but couldn't find Adel Dam marked on any of the maps here. So I started to ask people where it was but strangely nobody seemed to know.

I eventually found an older couple who did and then I realised my mistake was pronouncing it 'Adele' instead of 'Addle' - no wonder nobody knew where it wind as when I asked :)

Anyway, I eventually got to the right place and found it to be quite lovely. All except for the fact that the resident Kingfishers that so many people have photographed there didn't show once for me. But I did meet some great people and I managed to grab a few shots which were worth having including this rather scruffy Chiffchaff, some Mandarin Ducks with males in eclipse plumage and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Kingfisher Upstaged by a Duck

Back to Penny for another attempt at the Kingfishers, this time with a longer lens.  However the bird of the day proved to be this female Garganey which was present at Tom Edmnoson's Hide.

Eventually I did manage to get some Kingfisher shots, but it never really came that close for me today.

There's a new weather vane at Penny too!

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Another Local Barn Owl

I've recently discovered another local Barn Owl, just fifteen minutes drive from where I live. Tonight was was my second attempt at taking some photos of it as it hunted in one of the fields close to its nest box.

Whilst I was there I met up with Neil McMurran and we had a good chat about the Owl and other birds in the area.

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Faster than a speeding bullet - it's SuperKingy!

Well I didn't think this shot was particularly special, but people seem to like it on Facebook, with over 200 'likes' over four hours in just one group alone.

I didn't even process it for posting with the other photos I took as I thought the image was too small and not very sharp.

Just goes to show that there's no accounting for taste!

All this attention has spurred me on to trying to get a better shot similar to this one but with a longer lens so that I don't need to crop it as much - this one was taken at 420mm but I can use up to 700mm next time.


This photograph got a 'notable' award on this week's BirdGuides 'Photo of the Week' and I've just been asked if it can be used in a 'Birds and Poems of the Water Meadows' presentation at

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Life's a Beach ...

'Life's a beach', or so they say in that well-known phrase which has been corrupted from a similar phrase which people use when things aren't going so well.  Well the beach in question today was Ainsdale Beach near Southport and I was going to approach it from a different direction to my normal route.

I parked up in the small piece of rough ground at the bottom of Weld Road which they laughingly refer to as a car park , having cut though to Birkdale from my journey via Ormskirk to get there. I normally park near the Pontin's Holiday Camp at Ainsdale, but I always seem to end up walking miles before I reach any roosting birds.  So today I was hopefully going to take a shorter route.

The high tide was at 10:20am and, after a late start, I only just arrived around that time, when I normally aim to get there for at least an hour before.  Not that it mattered today though because, at only 7.3 metres, the tide wasn't ever going to get anywhere near coming in close.

I decided to walk out half a mile or so to the distant tideline, as that's where most of the activity happens and thankfully fro once there was nobody else about to disturb the birds.  The forecast was for cloud with the odd sunny spell in the morning followed by rain later in the afternoon - unfortunately it was mostly cloudy so the photos aren't that great.

There were decent numbers of Sanderling and Ringed Plovers about, but not many Dunlin. I saw one Grey Plover in breeding plumage, only five Oystercatchers and the ubiquitous Gulls, mainly Herring and Lesser Black-backed, with the odd Great Black-backedCommon and Black-headed Gull thrown in.

The Cormorants were roosting in their usual spot on the sandbank, and indeed I did reach them much faster than if I[d gone the other way.  I  think I'll be using this route in the future.

After a couple of hours I noticed that a large area of black cloud had developed over the sea and it seemed to be coming inland. The wind picked up and it started to blow the sand over the beach in a (very) mini sandstorm - time to go I thought.

But just as I was turning to leave a small flock of Sanderling and Dunlin suddenly took off in front of me - I quickly scanned the sky and there was a Peregrine Falcon flying overhead which had obviously spooked them.  Now it was time to head back to the car before I got wet.

I'd already decided that I was going to visit Marshside RSPB a little further up the coast as I'd not been for a while and so, after a quick bite to eat, off I drove along the Southport coast road.

To say I was gobsmacked when I saw the state of Marshside today is an understatement. No water at all at Junction Pool, Nel's Hide and Fairclough's Pool and a farmer mowing the grass where the water used to be!  I've seen it very low but never like that before.

No birds there then and very few about anywhere else too. Luckily for me half a dozen or so of these gorgeous Black-tailed Godwits saved the day. Most looked they've just recently returned from Iceland.  The one below is an adult bird.

With so little about it was nice to spot this Common Sandpiper at Sandgrounder's Hide. It was Ken Morrison who I met outside the hide before I went in who had alerted me to the fact that one of these was here.  Thanks Ken!

There were also quite a few Pied Wagtails about, although I did think this one might have been a White Wagtail for a while - apparently not, as the flanks are too grey.

On leaving Sandgrounder's Hide and with Nel's Hide being closed for refurbishment, I had a quick walk around the old sand works. before leaving.  This area has been decimated over the last couple of years with most of the area being flattened to return it to being salt marsh again.  I really don't know why they want to do this because it used to be a fantastic stopping off pace for migrants such as Wheatear, Whinchats and warblers as well as freshwater drinking spot for Swallows and Martins and the resident Skylarks and Meadow Pipits.

They have put up a rather feeble fence with notices around saying keep dogs on a lead to protect the ground nesting birds are here, particularly Ringed Plovers which use the gravel patches, but I'm afraid these are not going stop anybody wandering around the area and indeed, whilst I was there a dog walker did. It was not really a problem on this occasion as the breeding season is mostly over, but there's not point in fencing off just half the area.  Anyway, just as I left for the car this Redshank flew up into the air and over my head.

On the way home I stopped off briefly at Southport Marine Lake where I saw this continental or 'sinensis' race Cormorant.  Telling the difference between the various races of these birds is all to do with the angle of the gular pouch you know.

So 'Life is a Beach', well as far as I'm concerned - I just love them.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Pennington Flash - Day 2

So for my second trip out to Pennington Flash I decided to take my 300mm prime lens, 1.4x teleconverter and crop sensor body camera to give me a bit more reach.  What - you don't understand all this technobabble?  Well it just means that I can get a bit nearer to my subjects than with my previous camera and lens setup, and that's what you generally need for birds.  This near:

Well maybe that's a bit over the top, because Grey Herons are big birds and they often come quite close. But that is unusually close so here's a more usual set of shots:

I met up with another local photographer, Paul Samuels, in Ramsdale's Hide.  We had a good chinwag about many things including photography, birds, scuba diving, the Forest of Dean, Murcia and the Kingfishers for which we were patiently waiting.  Fortunately for him, Paul had got some cracking shots from Horrocks' Hide two days previously, because today they weren't coming close.

This Kestrel was calling in the treetops above the water before eventually flying off:

The Kingfisher only appeared briefly and in the distance here today, so we moved on to Tom Edmonson's hide where, although you are farther away from the birds, the light is much better.  When it first flew over me I wasn't sure if this was a Gadwall or a Mallard - it's a Gadwall.

This Buzzard flew across the far side of the water but was difficult to photograph because the windows in this hide are only narrow slits with not much room to manoeuvre.

A pair of Mute Swans  with four beautiful cygnets appeared from the pool in front of Pengy's Hide. Here's one of the adults:

Now this one is a Mallard:

And then the Kingfisher started to appear, staying quite distant at first.

We had visits every 30 to 40 minutes or so, often dropping of the posts to catch very small fish.

This was the closest he came, but as it was in the shade there's no real detail.  I really could have done with my 500mm lens at this point, but there will always be another day.

During the afternoon we had a brief visit by this little chap who bounced his way across the from of the hide. I've seen less red in a Red Squirrel than in this Grey Squirrel - cheeky little bounder!

And to finish off two Teenage Mutant Ninja Heroes - they'll be eating all the pond life, the  little terras!