Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Owling 21st September

I headed out for an owl mid-afternoon today after becoming bored with sitting around in my underwear, eating Weetos straight out of the box and shooting infidels on Black ops. I also headed out because I reasoned that if I headed out earlier I would have better light and be able to obtain better images of the owls. Which worked. Sort of. It would have been a perfect scheme had it not been for the light being in the wrong place or for the inconvenient hedgerows that kept getting in the way. See:

this would have probably been my best LO image to date had it not been for the damned sun!

Im not one to normally complain about my camera - its part and parcel of using a camera phone for images, you just expect disappointment but today it was cocking about big time. Normally the autofocus thingy will pull a decent image out of the bag - perhaps 1 out of 3 attempts but today it was just not playing ball! Here's two examples of decent images ruined by the lack of focus!

In fact, the only decent photos that wernt scuppered by light or bush issues involved owls that weren't playing ball!

This (and the first image in the post) is the first image(s) from this site! 

yes, I can't get enough of this chap.

So in total 3 sites produced 6 Little Owl (4 at one, singles at two others) tonight but there was no sign of that damned Tawny that I've been playing cat and mouse with recently.....I'd devised a cunning photographic set-up aswell that would hopefully not flush the little bugger this time too!

And of course there was always time to take a photographic rival to Paul's "blob in the distance" image:

im a world leader at this.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Owling 19th Sept

Went out for an owl this evening, only visited two sites but they both scored like Sergeo Aguero.

First site produced three Little Owl (two juvs and an adult bird I think) tucked down out of the wind on posts or even lower down on the floor which did provide some photo opportunites when the hedgerow wasn't getting in the way.....

this looked better uncropped so uncropped it stays

and also provided a decent(ish) opportunity for a game of spot the owl.............

The way to the next site took me past the Tawny Owl tree cavity mentioned in a previous blog post and my luck was in as the bird was showing fantasically well as I drove past...............and continued to show well as I parked up as far away as I could whilst keeping the bird in view.........and continued to show well whilst I hung the scope out the car window and faffed around getting it aligned.....and then decided to drop back down into the cavity approximately 3 seconds before a photo of it was obtained. Arse. The light was still good at this point too and would have made for a decent photo. Unfortunately you get another photo in the series titled "owls inside trees":

stunning I know.
The Hooded detective then proceeded to stake out the suspects safehouse for about an hour until he got bored and went to look at this instead:

This is the same bird as featured in a couple of other posts where it normally likes to sit in a nice tree cavity out of the wind. Today it had eschewed its normal position for a much more exposed perch higher up the tree and as a result was very nearly missed.

Didn't stay here long in favour of heading back to see whether the Tawny was showing again as there was just enough light left to achieve a photo (when light drops to a certain level my camera becomes 100% useless, rather than the normal 80%) and when I rolled up there it was! The little git foiled me again though and promptly hopped out of view. I stayed watching the cavity for another 30 or so minutes during which time the bird peeked out of its hole twice more and another Tawny was calling in the surrounding area but it was far too dark for a photo by this stage.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Leave it out Australia

Thanks to my new best friend the stats page i've just discovered that this blog was viewed by someone who had typed "these shirts were tested on animals" into a well known search engine. This travesty has certainly occurred within the last 24 hours and coincides with my first ever page view from Australia. So putting two and two together like a paranoid mentalist I have concluded that It was some Castlemaine XXXX (cos they don't actually drink Fosters in Australia ya know) fueled activist nut who clearly viewed this page in the hope of a hooded reprobate testing his hooded wares on poor, defenceless avian creatures.

Evidence of me rubbing a Lesser Scaup furiously against the fabric of a hoodie to test durability is something you'd want to see isn't it Mathilda, ISN'T IT?

You'd like to see photo's of me stuffing a couple of Golden Oriole into a hoodie and then swinging it around and around shouting "wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" wouldn't you Shane, WOULDN'T YOU?

Your so upset about Australia being a load of duffers at cricket that you are trying to frame me by doctoring photos indicating that I'm trying to raise several illegal Eagle Owl fledglings in my pouch aren't you Brett, AREN'T YOU?

Well you won't find any of that here Skippy, so you can piss off!

On a completely unrelated note if the person who visited my site from the land of OZ isn't a raving lunatic feel free to visit again and I promise to take a dig at New Zealand for you if/when someone reads this from that country!

Edit: And am I the only one vaguely amused by the fact that there is a bloke called Lars Bender playing for Leverkusen against Chelsea tonight!?

12th Sept. No seabirds and an owl.

Yesterday afternoon I did a small tour of a few of the reservoirs in Leicestershire on the hunt for seabirds again. First stop was Thornton which looked like this:

No seabirds were present however and the best of it came from 3 Little Grebe that were quite rightly avoiding the swarms of bread-crazed fake ducks that inhabit Thornton. Didn't bother with circumventing the reservoir as frankly I couldn't be arsed so I moved onto the dam at Cropston reservoir which was.........fucking windy to say the least.

Cropston being windy
So windy infact that using a telescope became almost impossible and stable viewing could only be achieved using bins. Not there was anything particularly fancy to see anyway, a juv. Arctic Tern brightened things up nicely however as I had been considering dropping into Watermead on the way home to see the bird that has been lingering there recently.

The third and last reservoir I visited yesterday was Swithland which was also poor (also scuppered by the fact that I chose to view it from a spot looking directly into the sun) but did throw up single Greenshank and Common Sandpiper and also a couple of Nuthatch in the trees surrounding the res. I do suspect more waders were present than the two I saw but as I said, I picked about the worst place to view from. I was going to visit Groby pool as I was in the area on the hunt for the Redstart that has been knocking around there recently but I decided to bail as such a plan involved walking - far too much effort!

Yesterday evening I went out for an owl again with the intention of staking out the likely Tawny Owl roost site - no sightings were made during the last hour of light. Previous to this I had visited a Little Owl site where I was reasonably confident of a sighting - in periods of high wind the owls can be quite easy to locate aslong as you know the sheltered spots where they like to hide from the worst of it. So sticking my head over a hedge to see if the Owls were present I was rather surprised to find no owls but one Paul Riddle instead who was erecting some perching posts for future use by the owls. After a chinwag over the hedge with Paul who gripped me off immensely recounting how he'd just had 5 owls in that very spot (and got to within about 10 feet of them)  about ten minutes previous I headed on and soon after picked up one of his displaced juveniles perched above a knot in a roadside tree. No photo's unfortunately as I didnt bother taking the scope out last night (shows how confident I was about my Tawny stakeout!).

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Owling 10th September

Buoyed by my sucessful owl encounter yesterday I headed out for an Owl earlier this evening and predictably headed straight back to the site where I was yesterday! No owl present on arrival though which was disappointing but not altogether unexpected as the weather wasn't the best for owling today. About 5 minutes later when I was just considering my next move a small movement caught my eye and turned out to be the Little Owl popping out from the cavity and into view. Scooooooooooooooooore. So photo's were taken:

This individual remained in view for the best part of half an hour before I decided that the poor beggar had probably had enough of the idiot parked nearby trying to take shit phonescoped images so I left to check other Owl sites in the area.

As I approached my next owl site (well actually I visited another site inbetween but as it was shit and rainy at this point I didn't see anything) I peered as usual at a tree cavity that always looks very owlish and was rewarded with a Tawny Owl's face looking back at me. Unfortunately the bird didn't linger very long once it realised I had seen it and dropped down further into the cavity, thus no photographs were taken. Well, except this one.

Tawny Owl inside a tree. You'll have to take my word on this one.
 As it was getting rapidly dark at this point I was torn between parking up a safe distance away and hoping for the Tawny to show itself again in the hope of a photo or continuing up the road to look at the Little Owls. In the end I waited around 10 minutes, saw no sign of it reappearing and carried on. Which turned out to be a good notion as 2 minutes later I was looking at this beastie:

I think this is one of this years juveniles.

After a few minutes spent eye to eye with this fiersome chap I moved slightly up the road and picked up two more Little Owl perched on fenceposts, the dungheap and then a nearby tree. Hooded birders normal photographic skills came back with a bang at this moment and produced this award winning image:

The light was pretty much gone at this point so I headed home and was rewarded with my first Badger in ages.

badger just before it melted me with its flame vision

Friday, 9 September 2011

Damn it! I forgot.......

To post these signs that I photographed last summer and had been waiting until I mentioned Saddington reservoir in a blog post.....and then promptly forgot to post them when the time arose. Anyway, these signs have since been stolen by an individual that clearly found them even more amusing than I did.

No jogging with fish

"what do you mean i've got to leave my trident in the car?"

The last few days....

Will try not to waffle today and keep things nice and summary-ish

Wednesday 7th September.

Whilst driving from Northampton to Leicester I gave many of the reservoirs en-route a look over in the hope of picking up some weak at the wings seabird that had been inadvertantly blown off course and into the not very sea-ish midlands. No such luck however with Pitsford, Hollowell, Ravensthorpe, Naseby, Welford and Saddington reservoirs all seemingly devoid of the Gannets, Skuas, Puffins and Crested Auklets that i'd been dreaming of. Nevermind.

Thursday 8th September.

Took Amy to Egleton reserve at Rutland for the first time and just visited the hides on the right hand side. I say "just" - it still must be close to a dozen hides spread over about 3-4 miles of path. Much the same birds were seen as my visit to Rutland in the previous blog post so I won't blather on and on about that but 2 Curlew Sandpipers from Goldeneye hide were nice and Lagoon 6 went one better by having no birds on it at all. Another tale of woe is forthcoming here so if you're tired of my complaining about not seeing stuff scroll down to the write up for today. Quickly. Anyway upon leaving the reserve at about 6pm I drove towards Northampton instead of Leicester as thats where we were heading and thus missed the usual Eyebrook reservoir detour on the way home. If I had went and had a shufty at Eyebrook or had the twitter phone alerts thing I thought I had set up worked I would have seen a Manx Shearwater. Yes, albeit an exhausted individual that was clearly not the happiest of campers and would be found deceased the next morning (today) which wouldn't have been nice viewing but it would at least have been a county tick. So in the last few weeks its been:
Cattle Egret - ran a merry dance around hooded birder.
Red necked Phalarope - was cruising around Lag 4 whilst I sat 500yards away in Shoveler hide, unaware.
Manx Shearwater - sent telepathic signals telling me to drive to Northampton instead and then sabotaged the twitter network. And then died.
So all in all I believe i'm just wank at this county rare game!

here, have a blurry Sparrowhawk from Rutland instead of a blurry Shearwater.

Friday 9th September

Did a smaller repeat of Wednesdays game early this afternoon, visiting Naseby, Welford and Saddington reservoirs on the hunt for more near death seabirds to poke cameras at and predictably I didn't see any. Welford and Saddington were both disappointing but Naseby was the unexpected jewel in the crown with a nice haul of waders. This was unexpected due to the fact that my history with Naseby isn't good: despite many visits at different times of year I almost always see absolutely nothing of note. So it makes me wonder why I bother driving the mile or so down a gravel track just to get to a place that doesnt have any birds to look at. Today I broke my Naseby voodoo in spectacular style with a nice haul of small waders present in the small bay close to the car park and some other larger beasts on the far shores. After a couple of scans, i'd tallied 6 Dunlin, 1 juv. Curlew Sandpiper, 3 Ruff, 2 Greenshank and 12+ Ringed Plover - all of which bar the Greenshank were site ticks! Yes, I'd never even seen a Ringed Plover at Naseby before!

Curlew Sand and a couple of Plovers.
On the way home I struck lucky and spied a familiar looking blob in a tree that had me slamming on the brakes and turning around for a second look. I was rewarded with this little fellow.

"im a tree, honest"

Who after a few minutes decided I wasn't so much of a threat and came out for a better look:

after 15 or so minutes watching this chap (he/she didn't take their eyes off me the whole time I was there) I left him/her to it and went home delighted with my best to date owl images!

Monday, 5 September 2011

Spot the............

Todays spot the..... game isn't an Owl and its more of a "count the............" game today.

So..... how many yellow wagtails are in this truly fantastic image taken at Lyndon yesterday? Answers on the back of a postcard.....or if you're not mental, the comments box.

Walking Walking Walking

I have a feeling this will end up as a rather long post.... feel free to let your mind wander, look at the photos only and not to read my waffling.

**Disclaimer** I didn't see the Rn phalarope at Rutland yesterday and I do not wish to mention it any further than saying I looked at Lagoon 4, thought it looked dead and chose not to carry on round to Plover hide. Woe is me, would have been a life tick.

Anyway yesterday (4th sept) I found myself at Eyebrook at 6am again but different to last time I wasn't hunting for Cattle Egret, I was merely stopping off there en-route to Rutland for a day birding there. This turned out to be a shorter than usual stopover with very little present to divert my attention. Not one single wader was seen whilst I was there...actually tell a lie there was a single Lapwing on the far bank. But when you consider that there is usually a few hundred Lapwing at Eyebrook things become concerning.....all I can think of is perhaps a fox was worrying the roosting waders in the night. The lack of waders didn't put off the game of Partridge herding though, yesterday was particularly productive....lookie:

After this I made my way over to Egleton, stopping briefly at Manton Bridge where 3 Ospreys were immediately spotted, 1 with a large fish which was possibly a carp/bream and large amounts of waders infront of the Lyndon hides but too far away to identify properly. I resolved to visit the hides at Lyndon later for a better look and made my way to Egleton reserve to fulfil my intention of visiting the new hides that had been open a while and to visit the now re-open Heron and Wigeon hides.
I of course stopped in the hides on the way to the new lagoons and notable sightings included 5 Ruff and a Black-tailed Godwit on Lagoon 1, a Treecreeper in with the tit/warbler flock outside Mallard hide and 3 Green Sandpipers on the new wet meadow (Snipe Hide).

After a quick look in Harrier hide where nothing new was seen except Stock Dove for the day list and a Fox that scared the shit out of everything I moved onto the new path that leads towards the new hides.

So Tern hide on the newly created Lagoon 6 was graced by the Hooded birder for the first time and was unfortunately a bit shit with only a Heron seen (and then a Black Headed Gull on the way back past later) on the whole lagoon but this isn't surprising considering the age of the Lagoon and will undoubtedly improve with age. Here's the view from tern hide.

Poor today but in future this nearby island should provide superb views of nesting Terns and Plovers.
As always with Rutland there is so much to cover and not enough time to do it in so I didn't linger here and moved on round the new path towards the new Kingfisher hide adding Green Woodpecker and Red Kite to the day list at this juncture. This path currently offers a superb overview of the newly created Lagoon 8 - along with tantalising views across to lagoons 5 & 7 which aren't open to the public yet and I must say the team at Rutland have done a cracking job. It's like having a whole new reserve added onto an already enormous one! Less talking more pictures.

view of Lagoon 8

Lagoon 8 from Kingfisher hide
Kingfisher hide produced 4 Blackwits over, a couple more Greenshank, a few Lapwing and the first Common Terns of the day - 1 adult and 4 juveniles seen here and over nearby Heron bay. Kingfisher hide looks even more promising than Tern because this Lagoon is somewhat larger and will almost certainly attract good birds to it although I do have beef with the name of the hide. Kingfisher? When I think of the hides at Rutland this one doesnt immediately jump out at me as being likely to produce Kingfisher more than others, this one has no banks and not even any perching poles! Wigeon hide, a mere stones throw away produced a Kingfisher, perched on a pole, minutes after I left Kingfisher hide which further confirmed my view and made Kingfisher hide look a right tit. Heron bays biggest surprise however was the discovery of a photographer in Heron hide. I had not seen another soul for the couple of hours I'd been on the reserve and found all other hides unoccupied so imagine my surprise when entering one of the more remote hides on the reserve and finding a bloke spread out in there like it was his lounge! A couple more Green sands and Greenshank were on offer too in this area and another Treecreeper was spotted in the small copse where the hides are situated.

With it starting to rain as I walked towards back towards the rest of the reserve I made the decision to attempt to escape the worst of it in the woodland surrounding lax hill - this ploy didnt really work and left me sheltering in Robin hide for the best part of an hour. The feeding station here isn't maintained during the summer months but that didnt put off the birds with another large tit/warbler flock operating in this area that included my 3rd (and best ever haul) Treecreeper of the day, at least two Nuthatch, a juvenile  Greater spotted Woodpecker, a few Goldcrest, brief views of 2 Jay and what I think was a Lesser Whitethroat that gave short glimpses only.

After the rain eased I moved back towards the visitors center visting Goldeneye, Gadwall and Fieldfare hides on the way where large amounts of ducks were in evidence, the best of which being a handful of moulting Pintail - my first of the autumn. A presumed adult female Peregrine flew over at this point too.

Gulls and 2x Pintail
After making my way back to the center I carried on over to the other side of the reserve, being briefly entertained by a Hobby hunting dragonflies over Lagoon 2 before being attacked and viciously persued by the Blackwit from Lagoon 1.

As previously mentioned Lagoon 4 didn't look promising from Dunlin hide so I quickly moved onto Shoveler hide on Lagoon 3 which was also quiet bar a couple of Green Sands so I moved along towards Smew and Lapwing hides which thankfully delivered and produced another Kingfisher and several more waders which behaved nicely and offered decent photographic opportunities that even I couldn't bodge.

Ruffs from Lapwing hide

Green Sandpiper from Smew Hide
After this photography binge I left Egleton and began the trek from Lyndon car park down the Shallow Water Hide to look at the waders - honestly that place should employ sherpas to accompany weary birders on that fucking mission! The walk was worth it however with waders in abundance at my destination. My Ruff count peaked at 34 birds whilst I was there, more than I'd ever seen together! The stars of the show however were 4 Curlew Sandpipers mixed in with the flock of 10 Dunlin. Other waders about included Common Sandpiper, Redshank and two Curlew along with a good flock of juvenile Yellow Wagtail - about 10-12 birds present.


L to R: Dunlin, Curlew Sand, Curlew Sand, R.Plover (foreground), Dunlin

The Ospreys were also on view of course with the three birds that i'd seen earlier in the day now much closer from the hide. So in true Hooded birder shit photograph style I attempted to mimic the inspiring shots you see of the Ospreys on the nest platform with the big country house in the background.....

Mines clearly much better.

After the wader fest at Lyndon I headed home via Eyebrook to see if any waders had turned up and was rewarded with two more Ruff, a Greenshank and a Black tailed Godwit that allowed itself to be photographed by yours truly


And that was that. 79 species of bird on the day list but no Phalarope.....and I was horrifically close to it in Shoveler hide all along without knowing it was there. Testicles.

5th September
Woke up this morning with my twitching pants on - if the Phalarope was resighted I was there! I did consider a first light, hunt the fucker myself arrangement but after the fiasco of attempting that with Cattle Egret the other week I decided to pass this time. And it hasn't been seen today so I win. With the desire to twitch something burning deeply I ventured out to Frolesworth with the intention of year ticking the two Whinchat that have been sighted there over the past couple of days. And thankfully the little buggers didnt disappoint and were fairly easy to track down once I got to their favoured horse paddock and was joined by a keen observer.

Keen observer
Awesome photo of a Whinchat