Sunday, 23 February 2014

Back for a Brambling

I decided that I needed to return to Cannock Chase and attempt to get myself a better Brambling picture. I took some feed to lure them in closer in the hope of better photographic results.

Sunrise hadn't happened yet, so it was still dull and overcast. It showed little sign of improving. I briefly noticed a Brambling on the feed I had put down and readied myself. With large aperture, slow shutter speed and high ISO, I did my best. The camera was even struggling to focus at times in the poor light.

I took loads of pictures, none were great. Here are my best Brambling shots, and an opportunistic Nuthatch that put in an appearance.

Better than I managed last time, so not a total waste of time.

By 8.40, Cannock Chase was crawling with Lycra clad mountain bikers. More were arriving every minute. I decided, enough was enough and headed back to car.


Friday, 21 February 2014

The Elusive Brambling

It seems strange that with some of the birding rarities I have seen, I had still not seen a Brambling. They, along with Lesser Spotted Woodpecker have been my "bogey" birds. The Lesser Spotted has now been sorted, but Brambling just keep on evading me. Today, I intended putting that right.

I set off for Cannock Chase this morning with the intention of locating a Brambling. I parked the car, got my kit together, and Taz and I set off. About 100 yards later, there were four Brambling sat bold as brass in a hawthorn tree feeding on the berries. What a result!

The pressure was now off and I enjoyed a casual walk on the Chase with Taz. There were plenty of Bullfinch around this morning, and the males looked particularly good in the morning sunshine.

I also spotted a Brambling again, not sure if it was one of the original four I saw. It was distant, but I managed a few record shots.

Cracking Male Bullfinch


Cannock Chase


A cracking way to end my holiday. Now I need to clean the inside of the car, Taz and I have made a right mess of it between us this week.


Thursday, 20 February 2014

Staying Local - Warks Moors

I didn't write much for a week or two, now this is my third entry in as many days? Guess it's having extra time on my hands as I'm on holiday for a week.

Took Taz over Warkwickshire Moors (which are now in Staffordshire!) for a wander about. It was nice to be able to get back in the fields that have been under water for a couple of weeks now. The river Anker is completely back in its banks and hopefully will stay there for a while.

Some cracking looking Yellowhammers around this morning, but still no sign of any Linnets. There were loads of Black Headed Gulls in the fields that until a few days ago were still too waterlogged to walk over. One of the winter crop fields had twenty one Mute Swans grazing in it. Over by the cattle drink on the river was the Whooper/Mute Hybrid. I always enjoy crossing paths with this bird. It's been around the Anker Valley for a few years now.

I spent a lot of time this morning studying old gnarly oak trees. I was kind of hoping to find a Little Owl on the patch. I intend actively looking in likely looking trees rather than just hoping to stumble across one. I think I may concentrate a bit more on Owls this year.

Wandering around the fields

On the way back to the car, I took a different route. I decided to check out the Badger Sett and see how it had fared with the all the flooding. The sett looked fine and showed signs of activity. Taz was very interested in the obviously fresh and strong scent around the sett. There was also plenty of bedding out being aired.

Bedding being aired

Once the weather improves a little I am going to spend a night or two Badger watching here. Maybe I can combine it with a bit of Owl location?


Staffordshire Moorlands. Another Lifer.

Builders in the house, so left Mrs Moocher to the chaos, took my birding equipment and my dog, and disappeared in the direction of the Staffordshire Moorlands. A Lesser Scaup that had been reported on Tittesworth Reservoir in Leek for the last 5 weeks was the object of my desire.I arrived and headed straight to the visitors centre to see if the bird had been reported today and to get an idea of what direction to head in. One of the staff in the visitor centre said they knew who could help me and they put a call out for "John" on the radio. John arrived and informed me that not only was it about, he knew where it was. He went out of his way to put me on the bird, and I was very grateful.

The Lesser Scaup started moving down towards the causeway, so I drove down to the first car park to get some better views. It didn't come close enough for good pictures, but I managed some poor record shots through the scope using my phone.

Poor record shot. Lesser Scaup.













We spent an enjoyable few hours at Tittesworth, and I managed to photograph a Lesser Redpoll near the feeding station. I was told the feeding station had been seeing regular visits from Brambling, but not while I was there unfortunately.

Twtch on!

Lesser Redpoll
Lesser Redpoll

While at Tittesworth I met a gentleman called Graham. During our chat, he mentioned that he enjoys wildlife photography and is lucky enough to also have Badgers visiting his garden. He has a website that he displays his pictures on, and it's well worth a look. Click here to visit.


From here, Taz and I headed across the Staffordshire Moorlands into the Derbyshire Dales. Ending up at Carsington Water. A good wander around for a couple of you're ended an enjoyable days birding. Saw a flock of about 25 Barnacle Geese, and near the visitor centre, the largest flock of Tree Sparrows I have ever seen. About 70 birds in total, in the trees near a bird table, taking turns to visit it.

Barnacle Geese

The day was not only enjoyable, I got a life tick. It's not a bad way to spend a day.


Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Local and A little bit further.

A Yellow Rumped Warbler had me travelling to Durham. I drove there in the early hours, slept a couple of hours in the car, and had myself strategically placed to view this Mega rarity before sunrise. The bird had been reported at some makeshift feeders set up by the RSPB everyday for the last three weeks. I felt this was a "sure thing" and anticipated sunrise and getting the tick.

It was bitterly cold, I had watched the temperature gauge of the car steadily dropping as I headed further North. Stood here in the biting breeze, I was feeling it. 9am and still no sign! I headed back to the car for more clothes and a hot drink. With that sorted, I headed back to the feeding station. It wasn't to be, eight hours later I started the 170 mile drive home. No sightings today. Checking on Tuesday, and still no sightings. As I write this it is Wednesday. Three clear days with no reported sightings. I would think the most likely reason for its absence is predation! Hope I'm wrong.

170 Miles to home.

Tuesday found me and Jon slipping and sliding our way through the mud at Middleton RSPB. Both of us did very well to stay on our feet, with us both suffering a couple of "near misses!" We found the two pairs of Stonechat that have been there for a few weeks now, and attempted to photograph them. I did some digiscoping using my iPhone and also had a go with my Canon SX40.

Digiscoped using iPhone 4S
Canon SX40
Canon SX40

Really beautiful birds, and a good local tick.

Mud! mud! glorious mud.

Unless a real rarity is reported, I will wait until Middleton dries up a little before my next visit.


Saturday, 8 February 2014

Red-Flanked Bluetail

I set off for South Gloucestershire at about midnight, I was well down the M5 and a hour from where I needed to be, and pulled into a motorway services and had a couple of hours sleep in the car. Then, on my way again. At first light I was heading across muddy and flooded fields on my way to find this National Rarity. It was a very worthwhile trip. I spent two very enjoyable hours watching this bird. As a side event, about a dozen Ravens continued to display overhead. A great bird to see, and a life tick for me.

Plenty of Sheep, Mud and birders.


Sunday, 2 February 2014

Birds amongst the puddles

So, it's still raining. Almost all my local areas are flooded. Pete and I decided to head out to Brownhills on Saturday morning hoping to see the Glossy Ibis that has been frequenting some horse paddocks there. We were in luck. I a bitterly cold wind we attempted to take some decent shots of this magnificent bird.

At first the bird remained distant. About 80 yards I would estimate. In case this was the closest it was going to come or something or someone spooking it, I decided to take some record shots. This is with the iPhone 4S hand held to the SDL zoom eyepiece attached to my HR 66 GA ED.


Glossy Ibis. iScoped.

Then, as luck would have it, the Ibis came closer. This allowed me to use my Canan SX40 to capture some decent pictures.

Three pictures I'm very pleased with of a local Glossy Ibis.

As I am jotting this down on Saturday evening, I'm thinking about where I can go tomorrow morning. The rain is still thrashing against my back door, so maybe I will go and check the floods out on some of my patch areas?

Sunday morning and as expected, a lot of the Moors and my other local birding spots are underwater.

Moors flooded fields

Had a wander about with Jon, and we also year ticked a a Goldcrest.

Looking for Goldcrests
Car Park closed
Pit almost level with car park

I did bump into an old friend again on The Pit. One of the Canada-Greylag hybrids that frequent the pools along the Tame.

More rain forecast! Let's see what next weekend brings.