Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Juvenile Reed Warbler

There are still juvenile birds about being fed by their ever willing parents. None more so than these two juvenile Reed Warblers. Notice the short tail on the top photo, almost 'Wren' like.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Black-winged Pratincole at The Ouse Washes, RSPB

A very dodgy 'record' shot of this 3* mega rarity that has been hanging around the RSPB site of the Ouse Washes in Cambridgeshire for a while now. The Black-winged Pratincole should be on the Steppe, grassland or arable area of the northern Black Sea or Kazakhstan where this species breeds, but instead this particular bird has found itself in the U.K. moving down the east coast and ending up in Cambridgeshire, where myself and Lisa saw it yesterday evening.

I really should have gone for it a long time ago, but the walk mentioned on the report of at least 4km (one way) and the fact that it kept disappearing put me off a bit. What a lightweight, I hear you cry! With it being continuously reported on Monday and the weather set fair, I made up my mind to go and managed to rope poor old Lisa into coming with me.

After a seemingly never ending walk we arrived at the birds favoured location where a friendly birder was encountered and after enquiries told us that the bird was flying around several hundred metres in the sky, but putting on a good show. At that moment he saw something moving, so we both raised our bins and there was my first Black-winged Pratincole flying gracefully through the sky, its movements reminiscent of a Black Tern. Both Lisa and myself got great views through my scope and I managed to get a couple of truly awful record shots until the bird appeared to land in long grass, where it could no longer be seen. As night fell we started the long walk back, but somehow, it didn't seem as long!

Showing its black underwings

Showing the top of the bird which shows its lack of white trailing edge of the inner wing (a feature of the similar Collared Pratincole)

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Red-backed Shrike at Baston Fen, Lincolnshire

I am ashamed to say that I had never seen a Red-backed Shrike in this country. It's a very regular bird, so much so that I have just thought that one day I will see one and haven't 'chased' the species. However, with a very nice male turning up on my doorstep, so to speak, I had to go and see this lifer.

The bird was reported early Saturday morning on Birdguides and a phone call from Mike Weedon confirmed it. I had to wait until after work, hoping that the bird would linger until then. A huge rain storm curtailed my working day by an hour, but unfortunately this storm also stopped the reports of sightings. I left for Baston fen in a positive frame of mind, but after a quick conversation with Mike, my mood darkened somewhat with him telling me that the bird hadn't been seen since 3pm and the last time that it was seen a Sparrowhawk was paying attention to the bird.

I needn't have worried. I arrived at the site and walked the supposed 1/2 mile (felt more like 1 mile) to the birds last refuge and there on top of a hawthorn bush was a rather splendid male Red-backed Shrike being harassed by Reed Buntings. This was obviously annoying the Shrike and so he preceded to hide deep in the hawthorn and refused to come out again. I left as darkness fell, never seeing him in the open again, but very satisfied in having finally 'scratched' the 'itch' of a Red-backed Shrike.

Can you spot him? A super-cropped version is below

Same as above!

Same view!

At least you can see him!

Sort of!

No better, I am afraid!

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Juvenile Cuckoo

I still find it amazing that this bird, that has been raised by Reed Warblers will soon depart, if it hasn't done so already, for sub-Saharan Africa on a migration that it has never been on before. It knows, somehow that it's a Cuckoo and will go to where the best food and habitat is for Cuckoo's in tropical Africa and then hopefully return in Spring next year in order to start the cycle all over again.

Nature is marvellous, if only we realised it!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Glossy Ibis at Frampton Marsh RSPB

This Glossy Ibis has been present at Frampton for what seems an absolute age now, but I hadn't got around to visiting for one reason and another. The other weekend there was a report of a Lesser Yellowlegs at the site which gave me some impetus to go. The Yellowlegs gave us the run around for a bit, but was duly seen and then I decided to try and photograph the obliging Glossy Ibis. I am afraid that I went a bit mad, taking far too many photos, but digital photography is a marvellous thing enabling me to delete two-thirds of the rubbish, leaving not quite as bad rubbish!

And last, but not least, an obliging juvenile Swallow,

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Hedgehogs in the garden

Just a small selection of the hundreds of photos that I have taken over the past couple of weeks of our visiting Hedgehogs. We regularly have at least 6 individuals coming to our little back garden in Peterborough, I know that there at least 6 because I have seen this number at one time, a great achievement considering the crash in numbers that this little mammal has had over the past ten years, over 300,000 have been lost. Reasons for this are not fully understood, but our fondness for slug pellets have caused a devastating effect as the Hedgehog will eat a poisoned slug or snail and consequently be poisoned itself, leading to an agonising and slow death for the poor creature. Also, as the name suggests, they like hedges, these have been grubbed up all over the place and replaced with fences or walls, leading to impenetrable barriers and stopping the Hedgehog on its nightly forays around the neighbourhood. If you have a fence, make a gap under it for the hog to get under.

Just a small reminder, despite what our parents and grandparents did, don't put out bread and milk for a Hedgehog, they are lactose intolerant, just put out some cat food or make up your own Hedgehog mix like I do with mealworms, sultanas and chopped-up peanuts and put out a tray or shallow container of fresh water for them to drink. They will thank you for it and repay you by keeping your slugs and snails at bay.