Garth Peacock
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Local trips.

Tuesday 24th April 2018

Scotland - the last three days

Wednesday 18th April 2018

Scotland day 6

Tuesday 17th April 2018

Scotland - Day 5 - A mammal day

Friday 13th April 2018

Scotland - Days 3 & 4

Thursday 12th April 2018

Scotland - Day2

Tuesday 10th April 2018

Scotland - Day 1

Wednesday 4th April 2018

Catch-up time on nothing much.

Monday 12th March 2018

A trip to Northamptonshire

Tuesday 27th February 2018

What a delightful surprise

Monday 5th February 2018

What a week it wasn't

Sunday 4th February 2018

Week ending 19th January 2018

Monday 22nd January 2018

First outing of 2018

Monday 8th January 2018

A snowy start to the week.

Saturday 16th December 2017

Sucesses and failures in equal measure

Wednesday 13th December 2017

A morning of common birds

Sunday 26th November 2017

Wicken Fen Cambridgeshire

Tuesday 21st November 2017

The past ten days.

Thursday 16th November 2017

Birdguides Photo of the Week

Wednesday 8th November 2017

A week in pictures

Friday 3rd November 2017

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Tuesday 24th April 2018

Local trips.

Last week was the rarity - glorious sunshine thoughout the whole week. Great for photography you may say but that is not necessarily true. From mid-morning to mid-afternoon, the light is so harsh that decent photography is difficult, if not impossible.

However, getting bored at home, I ventured to the local Fen Drayton Lakes on Wednesday afternoon for a walk with the camera. Nothing too strenous in the heat so I just took my 100-400 lens and the Canon 7d mk2 camera, no tripod and just see what happens. Well, nothing much except for a Chiffchaff that made a reasonable image but a pleasant walk in the sun.

That evening, there were reports of Garganey near Bakers Hide at Wicken Fen. I was intending to go to Norfolk but with little being reported, I changed my mind and arrived at the hide at around 08.00 with full sun but side-lit from the right which was not ideal and a surprisingly high water level. Anyway, through the morning, the sun moved round so decent shots of common stuff was possible with clear blue water.

Moorhen

Coot with a novel way of transporting nesting material.

A group of Tufted Ducks made an appearance.

With all quiet for a spell, pandemonium suddenly erupted with some drake Gadwall deciding to scrap for the privilege of escorting the lone female.

The female was totally unimpressed and paddled off into the reeds.

Then a drake Garganey made a distant appearance. and after a little sortie, decided to preen and wing-flap before moving out of sight.

Garganey are a summer migrant to the UK, wintering in Africa so they are recent arrivals, looking to pair up and breed. I saw three drakes but no female although previous reports had included one female.

Just in front of the hide, a Little Grebe suddenly popped up with a Gudgeon in its bill.

Eventually, one drake Garganey moved closer allowing reasonable shots as it fed by the reed bed before joining the rest of them just out of sight.

Now approaching mid-day so, with the light harsh, I returned home. Mission achieved.

 

Wednesday 18th April 2018

Scotland - the last three days

The last three days produced very little of real interest. Saturday 24th March, we had booked a hide to photograph Crested Tits - except we did not see any - just common stuff we could have got at home although they looked quite attractive on the perch.

At lunchtime, we moved on to the site we had found on the first day at Loch Garton but this was a Saturday, nice weather, and there were too many people around to get anything of note.

Sunday 25th we started our journey home but taking the long way round, firstly through the Glenlivet Estate with loads of Pheasants.

Gorgeous scenery but not much birdlife to photograph.

We went to the Glenshee ski resort as there was information that Ptarmigan could be seen from the car park but, once again, being a weekend, it was packed. I did spot a Mountain Hare in the heather

but as we tried to get close, it was spooked. Then the long drive to our half-way stage at Moffat.

The next day, on the final leg of our journey, we turned off the A66 into the Yorkshire Dales to Tan Hill, a place where we had stayed for a night or two a couple of years back. Plenty of male Red Grouse about

and a female

but not much else. The previous cold weather seemed to have delayed the migrants. We were hoping for Black Grouse as a real bonus. Just as we had given up, and coming down off the moors, I noticed one perched on a stone wall. Rather distant as we shot from the car

but as we tried to get closer, it disappeared. Since this is only the second time that I have seen one, I was delighted although the bird was positioned behind a wire fence. Contrary to my golden rule regarding the use of Photoshop, because this was a rarity for me, I have taken out the wires that stretched across the bird.

End of trip to Scotland. As is usual with such trips, some good, some not so good, but, overall, the weather was kind to us and it was very enjoyable, with good company.

 

Tuesday 17th April 2018

Scotland day 6

The worst day of the week for weather. We started off at Nethie Bridge where a male Black Redstart had been reported. Quite rare in Scotland and I have never photographed a male in breeding plumage - one of the most stunning birds in my view.

Anyway, we arrived to a full blown Scottish twitch - one chap who was the local recorder. He had it in sight but distant and that was how it stayed. We managed a closer approach but it just moved away down the fence line so little to show for our efforts.

So we moved on to try to find an Amercan Wigeon that had been reported for some time to the east of Inverness. This is quite a rare vagrant from America, as the name suggests and a new species for both of us. Now black clouds, intermitent heavy gusts of wind and rain.

We parked up at the end of a track leading to a lock and there it was in front of us with three Wigeon in pouring rain but we even braved the elements. First efforts not brilliant but it got closer for a time.

It then flew off but later arrived back on the far bank with a flock of Wigeon but by now the area was getting busy with tourists and dog-walkers although the light was a little better. The whole flock took to the water so some more shots possible.

Would have been much better if the sun had come through.

They even came out on to the bank in front of us with this bird being out in the open. Just as we were taking aim, they all took off after being disturbed by a dog off the lead. Annoying.

After that, we drove around the area with no success and the weather not improving, we finally called it a day.

Friday 13th April 2018

Scotland - Day 5 - A mammal day

It is not everyone's cup of tea, but I like hide photography. If properly planned, you can experiment with different shots. So, to start off Day 5, we booked a specialist hide for Red Squirrels located in the Rothiemurchus forest. It was owned by Neil McIntyre, a well know Scottish Photographer.

It was obvious that he knew what it was all about - spacious hide, well located, plenty of photogenic perches, food to attract the Squirrels and camera mounting plates. There was a couple from Northumberland with us but there was ample room.

Perched Squirrels was easy.

and the usual one on a tree.

so, after a while, it was time to experiment - how about a moving Squirrel.

and a jumping one.

A back-lit jumping one

and the most difficult one of all with such a fast moving subject, jumping towards the camera.

After 4 hours, we had exhausted all the possibilities so moved on to Laggan to see if we could find Red Deer. This is a long country road leading up into the mountains and about half-way, we found a couple of Red Deer stags by the road but just too close to focus on before they wandered into the forest.

Disappointed, we carried on round the next corner and was greeted by a sight I will never forget - a field next to the road with 30 -40 Red Deer in it and with mountains as a backdrop. So we filled our boots, first with a group

and then concentrating on singles to try to capture  the impressiveness of the species in their natural surroundings.

Have I succeeded? - I will leave that to you to decide but well pleased, we made our way back to the hotel but not before finding a Brown Hare close to the road that stayed for a while.

even allowing close-ups

before bolting to the nearest rocks.

A very fruitful and enjoyable day.

More images of these species in the  Recent Additions section.

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Thursday 12th April 2018

Scotland - Days 3 & 4

For Day 3, with the weather still bright and sunny, we drove to the Findhorn Valley. Well, my friend drove as he did for the whole of the trip. The Findhorn Valley is well know for raptors, particularly the odd sightings of Golden Eagles but all we saw were Common Buzzards.

First on view near the road was a small herd of Roe Deer.

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However, the last time we were here, we managed distant shots of Dippers and I really wanted to improve on them. Dippers like fast flowing steams so they do not frequent East Anglia (except for one this winter that I never did find despite several trips). Anyway, we found a pair on the main Findhorn river. After a time, they accepted us hiding behind rocks on the shore although photography was very tricky due to the very harsh and contrasty light.

Really, that was it for this area - rather disappointing although still very enjoyable because the scenery was superb. Even managed a few landscapes!!!

Day 4, we headed for the coast, particularly Burghead harbour but all that was there was a pair of Shag.

It was very windy and, with high tide, we found a flock of Turnstone sheltering on the top of the sea wall - most unusual sight but since the sea wall was about 6 ft high, not easy to get decent shots of.

On the far sea wall, a Herring Gull was struggling to eat a Dab. Tried to swallow it several times unsuccessfully until a competitor tried to steal it - soon made short work of it then.

Burghead harbour also has a couple of Rock Pipits, once again scarce in East Anglia being winter visitors but eventually we found one being very co-operative to us clicking away from the car.

After that, we drove further round the coast but the wind was against us and all we found was a female Stonechat in the gorse at Findhorn Bay but it made for a colourful image.

Then the drive to back our hotel and decisions regarding our programme for tomorrow.