Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Sandwich Tern

This Sandwich Tern was present today at Ferry Meadows CP, Peterborough. It was seen first thing this morning, but went 'missing' for a couple of hours and then was seen again favouring the pontoon jetty outside the watersports centre on Gunwade Lake. It would sit and pose for a while, seemingly oblivious to the comings and goings of the workmen on site and then would have a bit of a fly and a fish and then return to pose once more.

This bird represents only my second ever 'Sarnie' in the area, with my other one being a few years ago, so this represents a very nice year 'tick'.

This was the second 'good' bird in the area today, the other being an adult Little Gull on the River Nene at the Dog-in-a-Doublet sluice. For photos of this bird see MikeBrian or Peters' blogs.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Lesser Scaup

This small North American duck has been frequenting Freiston Shore RSPB in South Lincolnshire since Tuesday, disappearing for a couple of days and then reappearing in a drainage ditch on Friday. A discussion ensued with my friend Chris Orders and we initially pencilled in Sunday as a day to pay a visit, the forecast putting us off a bit. Sunday morning dawned and with it at least 6-7 inches of snow, a quick text confirmed a cancellation of our trip. An hour and a half later the bird was reported on Birdguides and so another discussion ensued, was the weather that bad, the roads could be clear, if it was that bad we could always turn round. We decided to go for it. Mad!

The journey was pretty non-eventful, the roads and the snow vanishing before our eyes, we only saw 3 cars in various ditches along the way! We arrived on site with a gale blowing straight from the continent, it was a bit chilly, to say the least, but we made our way to the hide where the bird had been spotted from. On scanning a flock of Tufted Ducks at the furthest point possible from the hide I picked out the bird with its' head tucked firmly under its' wing, we had 'bagged' it! We walked a bit closer to the bird in order to see if we could get any photos, the weather being rather bracing, which didn't help with that particular process, but we managed to get a few shots.

As can be seen, not the greatest pieces of photography that you will ever see, but you can see the bird! Chris managed to get far better digiscoped shots, one of which is below.

copyright Chris Orders
A bird that is still pretty rare this side of the pond, with about 100 accepted records. Told from the more common Greater Scaup by its' more diminutive size (it is smaller than a Tufted Duck), the crown is peaked at the rear, giving it the appearance of a crest (the Greater Scaup has a 'smooth' appearance to its' head), the wing-bar (not seen in these photos) above white on 'arm', but brownish-grey on the primaries (the Greater has all white), the grey vermiculation on the back is darker and the head has a more purple sheen, rather than green on a Greater.

A good bird, despite the 'challenging' weather conditions! Thanks to Chris for driving and Anne for the coffee!

Saturday, 23 March 2013

The Windhover

The Windhover is another name for the Common Kestrel. This bird, once the most common bird of prey in the U.K. is a familiar sight to most people, especially those who do a lot of driving as the bird is frequently seen hovering over roadside verges.

These birds are typically nervous when it comes to human beings and normally fly before I can get anywhere close enough to get a half-decent photo with my little camera, but the other day I saw and heard a pair mating, with the female seemingly nonchalant as to my presence, which enabled me to get the above shots whilst remaining ensconced in my van. The male wasn't as accommodating, staying fairly distant, but still within half-decent range.

The female posed for a bit and then decided to do a bit of hunting right by my window, result!

Okay, not the greatest shots that you will ever see, but I am fairly happy with them!

"I caught this morning morning's minion, king-dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing. 
Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear, 
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion."
The Windhover by Gerard Mauley Hopkins

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Barn Owl

The Barn Owl is thought of by many to be Britains' favourite bird, with the heart shaped face, it is certainly endearing to us. I love seeing this bird, not very easy to do any more with their population in freefall and after the disastrous 'summer' that we had last year leading to poor breeding, but at a site not far from my house in south Lincolnshire sightings are reliably had.

On the last occasion I noted at least five individuals, differing by colouration and also handy leg rings enabling me to tell that I had a different bird in my binoculars. The photos below show three individuals and also a short video of one of these hunting.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Harry and Olivia

Or should that be Olivia and Harry?

Those of you who are regular to this blog will doubtless be aware of my Niece and Nephew, Olivia and Harry, or my Nephew and Niece, Harry and Olivia, if you prefer. I am showing NO preference. Two fantastic kids of whom I am justifiably proud. As a family, the Saunders lot have always had a 'feel' for all things wild, some wilder than others, it comes from being brought up in 'proper' countryside, none of this modern day malarkey and this appreciation seems to be present in the younger members of the clan as well as those of us that are slightly older! Again, this was brought to the fore on a visit to my parents at the weekend.

On arrival at the house I was greeted by my Nephew with 'Hello Uncle John, where is your camera, I want to photograph some birds?' Below is Harry's Dunnock taken through double-glazing and with drizzle in the air, but yet again, a great photo.

copyright Harry J. Saunders
Olivia then wanted a go. Nothing loathe I gave her the camera and without me even showing her what to do she rattled off the two shots below.

copyright Olivia M. Saunders

copyright Olivia M. Saunders

The birds were a bit thin on the ground on Sunday which disappointed Harry somewhat, he wanted to take some more photos, but other than a damp Wood Pigeon and some very unhelpful House Sparrows the subjects were not forthcoming, there is always next time.