Garth Peacock
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About time for an update.

Friday 10th August 2018

Bitterns and a Hobby

Tuesday 17th July 2018

The Danube Delta - a busy final day

Saturday 14th July 2018

The Danube Delta - Day 5

Wednesday 11th July 2018

The Danube Delta - Day 4

Thursday 5th July 2018

The Danube Delta - Day 3

Wednesday 27th June 2018

The Danube Delta - Day 2

Friday 15th June 2018

The first afternoon

Tuesday 5th June 2018

A long journey to......

Sunday 3rd June 2018

Week ending 11th May 2018

Thursday 17th May 2018

The last few days - local trips.

Monday 7th May 2018

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

View Blog Archive >>
Friday 10th August 2018

About time for an update.

Well, it has been nearly three weeks since I last put pen to paper, so to speak. However, I have only been out twice as I have been away on holiday for the past week and did not have time to report on two visits to Grafham Water, the main objective to photograph Yellow-legged Gulls that had been reported there.

My first trip was 26th July, another hot day forecast so an early start, beginning at the dam. A few gulls on the walkway to the water tower and one was a Yellow-legged Gull, a 3CY (third calendar year) so not an adult and not the best location for a photo.

With no others on show, I made my way to the harbour but too much human activity so I carried on to the hide overlooking Valley Creek. With dead calm conditions I amused myself with reflection shots of common species - Mallard

Canada Goose

A juvenile Black-headed Gull flew in

and a Cormorant decided to have a long bathe

And that was it as the temperature rose so off back home for lunch.

The second visit was on 1st August, just before my holiday - another warm day but some fair weather cloud around.

Approaching the dam, all I could see was a line of fishermen into the distance - nothing doing there and nothing of interest in the harbour either, once again due to human activity. Well, it is school holiday time so not surprising so back to the hide for the rest of the morning.

First to show was a large gull settling on the wooden groyne. A sub-adult Great Black-backed Gull

and then a Lesser Black-backed gull flew in to feed on a dead fish

A Little Egret passed the hide while fishing and a juvenile Whitethroat made an appearance.

And then my target, a Yellow-legged Gull flew in to land on the groyne and then land in the water

But wait a minute, this has pinkish legs, not yellow. Now I am rubbish at identifying gulls but I have a friend, James Hanlon who is very knowledgeable and my port of call if I am unsure. So I duly sent him a copy that evening and was surprised that he identified it as an adult Caspian Gull - quite a rarity and totally unexpected. The first rule of birding - expect the unexpected - I failed!!!!

That created quite a stir with local birders but, unfortunately, not with me as I have loads of good photos of Caspian Gull from my trips to Hungary and Romania. I really wanted a Yellow-legged Gull so will now return to see if it will be third time lucky.

Monday 23rd July 2018

Just about caught up on recent events.

I have ventured forth on a couple of occasions over the past few weeks. On 12th July, being my first trip out since my operation, I decided to go to Welney WT as a pair of Spoonbills had been reported.

Only once have I been lucky with this species - in 2008 at Grafham Water and any other encounters have been very distant. I was hoping for some nice close action shots but had to be satisfied with distant action shots. In any event, they usually spend most of the day asleep.

Arriving at the hide, no Spoonbills were apparent until a juvenile started to feed. After a while, an adult appeared from behind an island and from then on was pestered by the juvenile for food, despite it being able to feed on it's own.

Not much of significance after that.

Last Wednesday, 18th July, a friend and I were attracted to north Norfolk as a rarity, Lesser Yellowlegs, had been reported at Titchwell RSPB. This is an american wader that sometimes looses it's way on migration and instead of travelling south in the USA, migrates southwards in Europe. I have only ever seen one other of this species, at nearby Thornham in 2007. As soon as we arrived in the hide, it was feeding in front of us with the sun shining too.

We stayed for most of the morning with it performing on and off although it was getting more and more cloudy. I dislike photos of birds on grey water - most uninteresting - so it was a case of pick and choose.

The usual Ruff were feeding.

We moved on at  lunch but with nothing around the usual haunts, returned to Titchwell. I was now very overcast and not much else around of interest. We will see what the really hot weather brings this week but not expecting too much.

Tuesday 17th July 2018

Bitterns and a Hobby

I am just about catching up on the backlog of photos, just one more to go after this and I will be up-to-date. That is the problem with photo trips away - there are so many photos to edit that it takes ages to clear them all.

A month ago, 18th June to be precise, a friend and I decided to visit Lakenheath RSPB in Suffolk. This was to be my final trip before my operation would put me out of action for a time.

We decided to stay in the one hide for the morning and see what happened - weather good - and a couple of others already there when we arrived. First we saw a Bittern flying past and then realised that it had a nest just the far side of the pool that the hide overlooked. We were soon able to get some decent images.

A Common Tern dropped in to fish, and the usual  family of Coot put on a display.

Then, a Hobby decided to hunt for Dragonflies in front of the hide. They fly extremely fast when hunting so getting any sort of picture was a real challenge as it was so close but persistance finally paid off.

Overall, a successful morning. More images in the Recent Additions section.

Saturday 14th July 2018

The Danube Delta - a busy final day

Friday 25th May 2018 - our final day at Ultima Frontiera before we leave early the next day for the long journey home.

Neil and I decided to ask if we could be taken back to the steppe area between the reserve and the nearby village of Letea. We had the four-wheel drive to ourselves with the driver so we could get closer to the birds by being inside and out of view.

First we found the Red-footed Falcons, giving much closer views than before.

Surprisingly, there was little else of note until we were driving back when a family of Wild Carpathian Boar crossed in front of us. This is a subspecies of Wild Boar.

Arriving back at the hotel, we took a buggy to explore the reserve for a final time. A Hoopoe has caught a large beetle and dispatched it after a few minutes.

We revisited the Penduline Tit nest with partial success as the nest access was on the far side but eventually one came into the open.

And on the final drive back to the hotel for lunch, there were some Turtle Doves feeding on the path although only passable photos as the sun was directly behind them.

After lunch, the whole party boarded the boat for a long trip to the Black Sea, via narrow waterways, one of which had a police outpost on it where our passport were checked. Our destination was the Gulf of Musura which we crossed to a large sandbank that was covered in birds with a large colony of White Pelicans.

The water was shallow so we could not get in really close but with some chum thrown out, we quickly attracted many Caspian Gulls and one of out target species, Pallas's Gull also known as Great Black-headed Gull.

Another target species was Caspian Tern that sat on the sandbank but never came close.

There were opportunities for sone scenic shots that not everone appreciated but I like anyway.

One gull flew past the boat so I took a quick couple of shots but it was not until I started to edit that I realised that it was an unusual one. Sending a photo to James Hanlon, a local larophile, he identified it as as Slender-billed Gull - that was a real turn up for the book.

Finally, a pair of Sandwich Terns were mating - for ages!!!

Returning to the hotel, after dinner, we decided to have another try for the Windcat that had eluded us before - night shots under floodlight. This time is appeared for the food immediately and posed to 10 minurs or so.

Then off to packing and bed.

A summary of the week. Ultima Frontiera is a fabulous reserve although there were certainly opportunites to improve the experience with some portable hides. Many of the 40 hides were not usable due to high water levels and wrong season.The accomodation and food was quite acceptable so overall a very worthwhile week. I had photographed 11 new species for me and managed much better photos of another 6 species.

Wednesday 11th July 2018

The Danube Delta - Day 5

I am still ploughing through all the photos from my trip to the Danube Delta. The better ones from Day 5 now posted to this website - see Recent Additions - and my first edit of the final day now completed. Having to rest after my operation, combined with the very hot weather has been quite a blessing to keep me at the computer as doing something more strenuous is not currently an option.

Anyway, enough of my situation, what about the trip!!! Today was good and bad. We were being taken to one of the nearby lakes to photograph water birds. The advertising blurb showed a small camouflaged boat for three photographers, a spotter and a driver. Ideal for getting those close shots. However, that had been discontinued and we were taken on a much larger open sided boat for all six of us in the party plus our guide, a spotter from the reserve and the driver. Too many for close approaches, no space for tripods and lots of movement from everyone trying to get into position for the shot.

First bird to show on the appraoch to the lake was a Dalmatian Pelican that eventually allowed a close approach before taking flight.

We then arrived at our destination - Lake Merhie - very large and shallow although the lake bottom was pure silt - just like quicksand. Another pelican species, White Pelican was on show but kept its distance. There were largish islands of floating vegetation that moved with the wind and any tides. On one we found a group of very flighty Pygmy Cormorants with one staying long enough for a colourful shot.

We then came to a colony of nesting Black Terns but, because of the boat size, were unable to get really close. The wind direction was in our faces so flight shots were difficult.

An adult White Pelican was more approachablewith more flying around

We then headed for another lake - Lake Matita - and found a nice perched Hobby in the approach channel.

before hitting a very large colony of Whiskered Ternsand plenty of activity

A White-tailed Eagle flew over, causing great consternation in the colonyand a Squacco Heron showed well

There were many other species that we could not get close to so only record shots possible - rather disappointing.

In the afternoon, Neil and I decided to have another session in the 'Drinking Pool Hide'. Not that much activity - Great Tit feeding youngTree Sparrow coming to drinka very showy Great Spotted Woodpeckerand a real surprise, a male Pheasant

Overall, a decent day but could have been better.