Friday, 20 January 2012

Cormorant and the unexpected.

The Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) is a regular inhabitant on my local patch but is very wary and more often than not flies off when I get within range of the 70-300 lens. Fortunately on this occasion it had its back to me and was intent on watching elsewhere!

While I was trying to focus directly on the Cormorant I was totally unaware that it had his eyes firmly focused on a male Sparrowhawk (top left) that dashed across both our views!! The Cormorant was totally unfazed and just followed the fly past by twisting its head. I had to put the camera down and use the bins to search out the hawks location ..... only just focusing in on it as it decided to continue its journey further away. I have previously mentioned that birding (just using your eyes or with bins) verses bird photography quite often creates conflicting issues for me and this particular incident clearly illustrates that scenario. If I hadn't been squinting through the lens I would have seen the action unfold much more clearly.

I know that this species is not everyones favourite, certainly not fishermen or owners of fish farms, as they have a habit of killing more fish than they can actually consume but for me it provided a challenge on a drab day to try to capture the oily sheen when it spread its wings to soak up what little warmth the winter sun had to provide.
Have an enjoyable wildlife watching weekend, wherever you are ..... FAB.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Winter Ducks.

On Monday I drove over the county boundary to Wraysbury Gravel Pits in the hope of seeking out a few of the migrant species that often frequent the various large lakes formed after the extraction of gravel to build the M25 motorway.

As I climbed over the style to access the footpath that would take me alongside the New Hythe Pit I was initially greeted with a flurry of activity as various species including Blue Tit, Great Tit, Chaffinch,  Blackbird and Redwing dived for cover while overhead I could hear the distinctive chattering 'shack-shack-shack' calls from a number of Fieldfare. Both the Redwing and Fieldfare are winter visiting Thrushes and typically vary wary of any intruders so I had to wait patiently for them to settle high above me in order to snap a cropped record shot of both in the frame together.

Moving on I scanned the open water only to find that most of the ducks were typically too far away for the lens on the farthest side of he pit but I was delighted to spot that my quarry including 3 drake Smew and 8 Goosanders plus a number of Goldeneye were in fact on site together with the usual Mallard, Coot, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Grey Heron, Cormorants, Mute Swans, and Great Crested Grebes.  

I eventually managed to capture a male Goosander (Mergus merganser) which had been drifting close to the bank but out of my sight and promptly decided to swim away to join its distant companions. The next two species, Goldeneye and Pochard were fortunately a little more obliging.

Male Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)

Male Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)

A few other species kept me company during my stroll including a small flock of Long-tailed Tits, Great Tits (constantly uttering their scolding call as I walked by) and the very noisy Rose-ringed Parakeets whose piercing screams nearly drowned out the constant background sounds from the nearby motorway!

My final quarry was the extremely shy and one of the smallest sawbills, the Smew. The males are often referred to as the 'White Nun' due to their distinctive white and black streaked plumage.
Male Smew (Mergellus albellus).
Every winter this dainty species migrates southwards from its northern boreal breeding grounds in Finland, Sweden and Russia. Small numbers can usually be found at regular overwintering sites from December until March throughout the southern counties of the UK. Unfortunately I couldn't get any decent views so had to dig out an image taken during a visit to this site from just a year ago.  FAB.

Click here to link to WORLD BIRD WEDNESDAY for more images from around the globe.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Stroll Alongside the River Mole.

Last week having picked up reports that both Goosander and Little Egret had been seen on the River Mole at Leatherhead I decided to take a stroll and see what was still around. Soon after leaving the car a Kestrel zipped past me and disappeared into the woodland and it took a while before I heard the sounds of any other avian species.

Very occasionally the sun broke through the cloudy sky and the riverside vegetation took on a warmer looking hue but I was glad to be well wrapped up against the cold north-westerly breeze. At Thorneycroft Bridge I finally logged Canada Geese in a nearby field, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits plus Robin, Wren and Chaffinch but no sign of any Kingfishers.

A little further downstream couple of Mute Swan cygnets drifted over to check out the interloper. While high overhead there was the constant twittering from a small flock of Goldfinches hunting for the odd seed or newly emerged bud amongst the bare branches.

A Grey Wagtail perched briefly before continuing its journey upstream. After passing over Town Bridge and then under the railway bridges my route took me onto Common Meadow where my boots slowly got heavier and heavier from the accumulation of mud. Black-head Gulls twisted and turned overhead while the piercing screams from the local Rose-ringed Parakeets interrupted the silence but no sightings of any Goosanders anywhere on the river. I did however eventually get views of a distant Little Egret feeding but it decided to move on across private land before I could get close enough for any photos.

These two fellows provided an excuse to rest a while before I commenced my return journey and added Mallard, Coot, Moorhen, Jay, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Magpie, Starling and Grey Heron to my day list.

When I arrived back at Thorneycroft Bridge the unmistakable short, sharp whistled 'zii' call of a Kingfisher got me searching every likely perching location .....
.... and I finally managed to focus on this very colourful fisherman as it patiently sat, partially hidden, amongst the Alders on the far side of the water. One day it will provide with an uninterrupted closer view .... until then this (heavily cropped) shot will have to do.

Have a good wildlife watching week .....  FAB.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

New Beginnings.

During the last few months of 2011 much of my time was taken up assisting my parents so blogging had to take a back seat.  My father's deteriorating  health and mobility problems eventually necessitated the amputation of his right leg (above the knee) but for an 87 year old everyone has been amazed by his recovery to date although daily life in a wheelchair is no fun for someone who was so active. He is so determined to walk again and following an assessment today at Roehampton he has just told me there is GOOD news .... they have agreed to make him an artificial leg and will teach him to walk again. A you might guess, he is delighted and ready for this new lease of life.

To celebrate here are are a few images of new life that I have seen over the past few days.

The garden is currently awash with the nodding white lanterns of Leucojums ...... in fact two clumps have been in flower since mid December .... the earliest I have ever known them to flower here.

Other garden delights include the Muscari, one Narcissus already in full bloom, the clusters of dark red buds on the Skimmia 'Rubella' plus a very early bud on a potted Exochorda 'The Bride' (Pearl Bush).

Many of the Helleborus orientalis hybrids are nearly ready to show their colourful faces and I found one already lifting itself towards the sunlight. I have no doubt that the forecated easterly winds and drop in temperature will slow down much of the early growth.

Finally a very young Fallow Deer gave me a very inquiring stare during a walk in the park last week.

It will take me some time to catch up with everyone but in the meantime enjoy your wildlife watching.  FAB.


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