Garth Peacock
Blog

Archive

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

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

View Blog Archive >>
Sunday 16th September 2018

It's all still very hard work

Last week was one of mixed fortunes but still very hard work and lots of luck needed to achieve anything to post on this website.

On Monday 10th September, I visited Lackford Lakes Suffolk hoping for some decent shots of Green Sandpiper and Kingfisher. There was no water at all where the Green Sandpipers usually feed and the Kingfisher refused to play ball so no photos at all for the day.

On Wednesday 12th, I decided to make a quick visit to Fen Drayton Lakes. A week ago, I spent a very enjoyable hour or so photographing House Sparrows busily feeding on a blackberry bush. They were still there so I could not resist another session.

Nearby, I noticed a Yellowhammer sitting on a branch minding it's own business. It allowed me a close approach in the car. and that was it.

The next day, I travelled south east to Landguard Suffolk as a rarish bird, a Wryneck was on show. Wryneck is a member of the woodpecker family and only visits the UK on migration. It is a ground feeder with ants in particular on the menu.

Now I do not go on twitches - too many people and an inability to get close to the subject to get decent images. The bird - in fact there were two - had been there for nearly a week so I thought it would be quiet with the initial rush over. No such luck. A semi-circle of birders and photographers with the bird showing occasionally and too distant for anything to shout about.

The same story with another couple of species - a Whinchat and a Lesser Whitethroat

However, there was another migrant, a Wheatear, that proved to be particularly co-operative allowing a very close approach.

So not a particularly good week. As I said at the top of this blog - hard work!!!

 

Sunday 9th September 2018

Bits and bobs over the last 10 days

My last trip for August was to nearby Grafham Water for the fourth time recently to try to photograph one of the adult Yellow-legged Gulls.

I started on the dam early morning where the only bird worth noting was a juvenile Linnet.

Nothing in the harbour or from the first or second hides but on returning through the nature reserve woods, someone pointed out to me a small copse where trees have been cut down. Spending some time there, several Chiffchaffs were fltting about, one particularly scruffy.

A juvenile Willow Warbler made a brief appearance.. A very pleasant and fun hour or so. Another failed attempt to photograph a Yellow-legged Gull.

With nothing about of interest, I made my way home, on the way calling in at Fen Drayton Lakes RSPB. On the access road, I noticed some activity on a blackberry bush - a family of House Sparrows feeding up and being very co-operative.

My next trip was to north Norfolk on Monday 3rd September. Should have known better - bright and sunny, last few days of the school holidays - and packed out with people so my usual haunts were a waste of time. So I went to Titchwell RSPB where I spent the whole afternoon and into the early evening.

On the beach, very little except for the usual Black-headed Gull for a head on shot.

Water levels outside the hide perfect, weather perfect, not too many people, the only downside being a north-east wind coming straight into the hide. I was hoping for flight shots but birds take off and land into the wind so they were always going away from me. However, some nice reflection shots of common birds were available in the calm conditions.

The highlight was a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper with a Ringed Plover showing well

On the way to the car, I could not resist a roosting Wood Pigeon in the half light - ISO5000 for those in the know.

On Friday 7th, I returned to north Norfolk. Fewer people but still very disappointing. Travelling east along the coast road, and calling in to the usual harbours, there was nothing on show. I ended up at Cley Marshes WWT and went to the first hide - nothing close enough for a photo except for some recently arrived Wigeon.

It then started to rain so I made my way back to the car for lunch and with the rain getting heavy, decided to re-trace my steps on the way home. I called in at Morston Quay where the weather eased up a little and a Greenshank appeared in the channel.

Another call into Brancaster Staithe harbour - another Greenshank.

By this time, the weather was improving so I called in at Titchwell RSPB again - almost a total waste of time. Only a few Teal close enough to photograph.

After leaving home at 8.00, I was back home by 5.00. Not the best trip I have ever had!!!!

 

Monday 27th August 2018

Another update

Once again, a longish time since my last update, mainly due to an intervening holiday at Lake Garda in Italy. It was to celebrate an important birthday for my wife and the holiday was a present from our two sons and families, all of whom were there, together with a long standing friend from Zurich who joined us for a couple of days.

A great time was had by all.

Now, apologies over, down to the real business of this blog.

Before the holiday, I tried to relieve some boredom at home with a couple of hours at nearby Fowlmere RSPB, only to get more boredom as there was very little happening. There was a largish flock of Greylag Geese, most of which were asleep except for one that did amuse me by measuring itelf against a depth marker in the mere.

I decided to try something new and see if the combination of the Canon 5D MK4, the 100-400 lens and the 1.4 converter was quick enough for flight shots. It became overcast and nothing was flying but just as I was thinking of leaving, the flock started to wake up and took to flight giving me some opportunities to try it out.

Not bad considering the weather but, overall, not a very exciting visit.

Last Friday, with a friend, I went to the RSPB reserve at Frampton Marsh in south Lincolnshire where a Stilt Sandpiper had been resident for a few days. This species is from North America and a visit to the UK is a rarity. As a result, I had never seen one.

We arrived early at just past 8:00am and quickly found it, amongst other waders but about 200 metres away. This bird is the size of a starling so impossible to photograph at that range so we went to the main hide and was surprised to find very little water due to the recent dry spell and the water had nothing on it at all. This was disappointing.

So we decided to make the long trek to the East hide but most of that was dry too. There were a couple of juvenile Little Ringed Plovers so I took some shots to get at least something for the day.

We then moved back to the main hide, checking out the Stilt Sandpiper on the way - it was still there and still distant. From the main hide, there was a Snipe feeding in what water there was.

After a while, as we were leaving we picked up on the bird news that the main reason for our visit had moved and was being seen from the path to the East hide so back we went. It was much closer, probably half the distance than before but still too distant for decent shots. To make matters more difficult we were facing into the sun, and the wind was rising as the clouds came in. Taking distance shots with a telephoto lens in blustery winds is never easy but we took loads of record shots, hoping that the odd one was worth keeping.

I apologise for the poor quality but at least it is a new species for me. By lunchtime, the weather was closing in so we left to get home early to avoid the holiday traffic.

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.