Garth Peacock
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March so Far

Wednesday 13th March 2019

The last couple of weeks of February

Sunday 3rd March 2019

The last seven days

Monday 18th February 2019

The last two weeks of January

Wednesday 6th February 2019

Wildfowl Week

Monday 21st January 2019

Slim pickings for a month.

Monday 14th January 2019

Last one for 2018

Tuesday 11th December 2018

A week to remember

Monday 3rd December 2018

A couple of trips to norfolk

Friday 16th November 2018

Deer and more Deer

Thursday 15th November 2018

Some activity at last.

Saturday 3rd November 2018

Welney Widlife Trust Norfolk

Monday 22nd October 2018

It's all still very hard work

Wednesday 17th October 2018

It's not getting any easier

Saturday 6th October 2018

A stormy week

Sunday 23rd September 2018

It's all still very hard work

Sunday 16th September 2018

Bits and bobs over the last 10 days

Sunday 9th September 2018

Another update

Monday 27th August 2018

About time for an update.

Friday 10th August 2018

View Blog Archive >>
Wednesday 13th March 2019

March so Far

The weather has been rather restricting over the past couple of weeks so I have only managed a couple of trips.

The first was to north Norfolk, primarily to Holkham to see if I could improve on the photos of Shorelarks that I took a few weeks ago. I did managed to find three after quite a search and this time much closer but never managed a clear uninterrupted shot.

Quite disappointing as was the rest of the day. At Brancaster Staithe, we did see a female Red-breasted Merganser moving up the channel towards us. We re-located the car to get good shots - and after 10 minutes or so of moving closer but still not within range, it promptly turned round and headed back up the channel.

We finished up at Titchwell RSPB - still very disappointing. Water levels too high so nothing of interest on the freshmarsh but a flock of Knot were feeding on the brackish marsh.

The weather then closed in so time to go home.

This week my only trip was to Fowlmere RSPB.  A juvenile Hen Harrier was roosting there, usually between 4.00pm and dusk. In the interim period, the local Greylag Geese were still there, making noise, flying around, landing

and then mating - well it is now officially spring!!!

In the late afternoon sun a Moorhen posed nicely for a picture.

and I was kept enterrtained by the Little Grebes, firstly by one out in the open

bathing

wing flapping

and displaying.

The Hen Harrier was not seen by the time the light had gone so time for home.

 

 

 

Sunday 3rd March 2019

The last couple of weeks of February

I have only mananged a couple of visits in the last two weeks, partly due to the weather and also due to a long weekend visit to family abroad.

At a loose end on Tuesday 19th, I paid a visit to Welney WT, as the weather was good and I needed a change of scenery.

From the observatory, the usual Swans were there and I was tempted to take the odd shot, despite have loads of photos anyway. First a juvenile Mute Swan landing.

and a family party of Whooper Swans

I then moved on the other hides where a drake Scaup eventually came close enough for a reasonable record shot.

and a drake Wigeon issuing it's distinctive whistling call and looking good in the sunlight.

Some Shoveler flew past and I managed a flight shot of a female.

On my way home, I took the country route. I was very surprised and disappointed that I saw no wildlife to speak of except a few corvids and woodpigeons. A sad reflection on the current state of the Cambridgeshire countryside. Driving a back road near Aldreth, I finally managed to find a covey of Red-legged Partiridges that managed to sit still long enough for a shot.

The next week, I and a friend arranged to pay a visit to the Suffolk Coast, particularly Dunwich Heath. He had been there the week before and took a good shot of Dartford Warbler and wanted more.

We arrived around 10.00am and searched the heath until lunchtime, only seeing a couple of Dartford Warblers in the distance. No photos!!!!

After lunch, we decided to go to nearby Minsmere RSPB. Signing in at the desk, we chatted about our lack of success for one of the staff to inform us that there were 5 pairs of Dartford Warblers beginning to nest on the reserve. He explained the area where we could find them but asked us to be very careful with photography as they are Schedule 1 birds.

I find it odd that when looking for Dartford Warblers, there always seems to be a pair of Stonechats around although it took us until 4.00pm to find them.

And then we found what we were looking for - a pair of Dartford Warblers. Trying to be as unobtrusive as possible, we finally had one sitting for several minutes on the tops of a gorse bushe and brambles well within range. A couple of hundred photos later!!!!

After a whole day spent looking, we were finally able to congratulate ourselves on a success.

On the way back to the car park, I noticed a Pheasant in the middle of a field looking impressive in the late afternoon sunlight.

A successful day after all. More photos in the Recent Additions section of this website.

 

 

Monday 18th February 2019

The last seven days

Some activity at last and plenty of photos to edit but I will begin with my adventures  towards the end of the week first - Thursday 14th February. A trip to The Hawk and Owl Trust reserve at Sculthorpe Moor near Fakenham Norfolk. I hadn't been there for a year or so so it would be interesting to see if it had changed.

The car park was nearly full when we arrived - a group of Otters  had been seen a few times and were attracting visitors. We went to the Canopy Hide first but were disappointed that there were no Redpolls or Siskins around. A few Bramblings - both males

and females.

The birds are very close coming into the feeders but there is always a messy background of branches and twigs so it was necessary to be selective.

Probably the best photo of this session was an inquisitive Long-tailed Tit.

We then moved to the other hide but the Otters only showed very distantly - not worth a photo - although there were Bullfinches coming into the feeders.

The feeders from this hide are almost always in shadow so far from ideal. We were about to leave when I spotted a Muntjac in the undergrowth - normally very shy - but this one came out into the open

and stayed there until the sun was nearly setting allowing very close shots.

That was the end of that day so back to earlier in the week - Tuesday 11th. I have never seen or photographed Willow Tits and a friend had seen some at a confidential site in the Brecks, Norfolk. I  have ofter heard the comment that Willow Tits were extinct in East Anglia but we had recced the site the previous week and confirmed that some were there by the calls so we turned up with my garden feeder tray and food to entice them in.

Immediately, we had the usual woodland birds - Blue Tit, Great Tit and Robin - coming to feed.

Coal Tits were also very regular. One shot was very unusual showing the tongue well.

and several Nuthatches made repeated visits.

But there was a major problem. When we visited the previous week, we only saw and heard Willow Tits. This time, we had Marsh and Willow Tits calling and visiting. These two species are almost identical except for the call so identifying which was which from a brief visit to a feeding table was almost impossible so it was a case of photographing everything and hoping to sort them out later.

Basically, Marsh Tits have a white spot at the base of the bill, shiny black cap to the head and a small well-defined bib under the chin.Willow Tits have no spot on the bill, a dull black cap, larger areas of white on the cheeks, a slightly larger and less-defined bib and a pale wing panel on the secondary feathers. Easy you say, but none of these are absolute so I hope that I have identified these correctly. First a Marsh Tit

and now a couple of Willow Tits.

Now you can see why it took me so long to sort out the photos from that day.

It is days like this that make bird photography so fascinating.

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday 6th February 2019

The last two weeks of January

The third week of January was a total washout for me. I was busy for the first couple of days when the weather was brilliant and when I was free, the weather had turned - Sods Law (or is it Murphy's Law) strikes again!!!

The final week of the month was an improvement. I went to Hertford as a flock of Waxwings were being quite co-operative. They are always so photogenic and interesting to watch. My friend and I arrived at the scene, finding the berry bush that they were feeding on - but no birds. Being mid-morning, we parked the car in full view of the bush and had our elevenses, both looking upwards as we took a drink - and there were the birds sitting on top of the tree that we had parked under. DOH!!!!!

We got ready and tested our camera settings on a Redwing.

Exposure was tricky as the best shots were with the white wall of the building behind as a backdrop and that was in sun for much of the time. There was one small dark grey area of the building that I was able to use as backdrop occasionally.

The Waxwings came down to the bush for all of a couple of seconds before returning to the previous tree. The reason was a pair of bully-boy Mistle Thrushes that sat on the roof of the adjacent building and scared them off.

The Waxwings came down several times throughout the day, only breifly each time so it was a case of blasting away and hoping. These are a couple of the more successful shots.

With cloud arriving, we made our way home.

Thursday of last week and I was totally bored at home so decided to visit Welney again. Very cold and icy - there may be some opportunities for some different shots of Whooper Swans on ice. Just as well as there was nothing new there at all and it became quite cloudy late morning.

First off was a pair of quabbling drake Mallards with one holding onto a large beakful of feathers for a good 10 minutes or so.

The Whooper Swans were very active as most of the washes were frozen with a smallish area in front of the observatory that was being kept clear by the bird activity. The ice, in places was thick enough to stand the weight of the swans.

It was fascinating to watch the Whoopers coming in to land, realising it was ice and doing a quick diversion to some water.

As the cloud set in,  I tried a different photography technique - slow shutter speed to blur the action but keep the birds head sharp - more difficult than it sounds as you have to pan exactly with the bird. This was shot at 1/50th second shutter speed.

Finally, a shot in the failing evening light.

Well, it is something different.

 

 

Monday 21st January 2019

Wildfowl Week

Last week resulted, predominently, with photos of wild fowl, although I have plenty of them already. Well, as I have said before, one has to make the best of what is available at the time.

First off was a trip down the A1 to Lemsford Springs, a Hertforshire Wildlife Trust reserve. It is well know for overwintering Green Sandpipers, a species that I had not photographed for several years. The weather forecast was for light cloud/sunny intervals and that proved to be rather optimistic. Heavy cloud for much of the three hours or so that I stayed there.

The birds were there, in fact several of them, but the site is not ideal as the hides are set quite high so if the birds were close, I was looking down onto them which I do not like. If they were further away, the light was poor so only high ISO shots were possible but I managed to take just a few keepers.

The main problem was the light. I managed one other keeper of a drake Teal but that was all.

Disappointing.

On Thursday, with a friend, I went to Frampton Marsh RSPB Lincolnshire. Bright sunny conditions although very windy and cold. We searched for the long staying Long-billed Dowitcher but could not find it. There were hundreds of colourful Wigeon so I could not resist taking a few shots.

We then moved from the sea wall area to the rotary hide. Surprisingly nothing within range. Eventually, a sole Lapwing started to feed in front of the hide.

Various flocks of Brent Geese were flying around with only one flypast in our direction.

I could not resist a flight shot of a Canada Goose.

There were a few distant Shelduck and eventually a drake decided to fly our way and land.

Finally, something of real interest - a pair of Pintail started to paddle in our direction. Unforunately, this coincided with a party of very noisy birders entering the hide so the wary pair did not paddle past the hide but at least the drake came close enough for something decent.

We stayed long enoiugh to eat lunch but the temperature was dropping and it became uncomfortable to sit doing very little for much longer so we left, returning to the car in the bottom car park. We checked again for the Dowitcher but no sign (surprising that it had been reported at all that day). A female Shoveler did her best to be noticed so I complied with a few shots.

Overall, the same story. Cloudy and dull=birds on show to photograph. Bright sunshine=very little of real interest.

Most photographers I have spoken to are reporting the same story. Lets hope things improve and a little luck comes our way.