Sunday, 2 April 2017

Cracking the Cetti's

This is my first Blog post for a while, as I've been bogged down with the 2014 and 2015 Annual reports among other things.  I thought it was about time I had a full day out.

Knowing that this is the time to get to grips with Cetti's Warblers, I headed down to Attenborough Nature Reserve with the trust Panasonic FZ1000.  The Met Office had talked of sunshine and showers, which sounded bearable.  Why do we listen to them?  The Met Office must employ Derren Brown, because no matter how often they get it wrong (which is kind of always) we still get seduced by their meretricious predictions!  

Anyway, for sunshine and showers read 'steady drizzle' but being all hardcore and that, I was undeterred and got down to Attenborough for 9AM.  First good bird was a nice drake Pintail on Tween Pond.  The light was awful and it wasn't too close, so I almost considered not posting this photo.  At least you can see what it is...


As Cetti's Warblers were singing all over, along with the odd Blackcap and Chiffchaff, I set about trying to find a Cetti's that was actually visible.  I headed for the tower hide, which has had its staircase mended and is a bit safer underfoot now.  It had stopped drizzling and the clouds were lighter producing quite a nice flat light.  I plonked myself down and was presently joined by David Parkin and Fred (don't know his last name.)

As I was birding/chatting to my companions, a Cetti's Warbler began to sing directly under the hide.  I opened the side flap carefully and managed a fairly close shot of the bird.  It was just the front half, as it was partially obscured by foliage, but I think it's quite good.  As the bird moved a little way along the hedge I got another shot of the whole bird, looking down on it.  A little further away, but both photos are way better than anything I've had before.

Cetti's Warbler

Cetti's Warbler

Making my way back to the centre, I paused at the Kingfisher hide.  I miss the bird table here.  They took it down because of the rats, allegedly.  I don't have a problem with rats, and you could get better views of the Tree Sparrows there but hey ho!  Anyway, a pair of Goldeneye were swimming and diving a little way out, but being Goldeneye never came too close, so I just got a record shot.


Having been in the field three hours and getting over tonsillitis, I decided it was time for coffee and cake.  The peanut stack is my favourite, and couldn't resist some squirty cream on the side.  

Peanut Stack + Cappucino

I spent the next half hour searching fruitlessly for the Waxwings that Simon Roberts had had in the Village car park earlier.  Fruitless is actually quite a good choice of words, as the birds had stripped the berries from all the trees.

I headed back to the reserve with the intention of having another go at Cetti's.  I was interrupted by a particularly obliging Wren, which sung its heart out on Barton Lane.



My quest for more Cetti's almost paid off, but I had to make do with a naked eye view at the end of Barton Lane, which was so close, I would have struggled to focus, but it flew off anyway.

Back at the tower hide, I finished with a nice close-up of a Great Tit collecting nesting material.

Great Tit

Still feeling slightly groggy from my virus, I packed it in at 3.30 and got the train home.  With spring properly here, I'll be back down to Attenborough soon.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

26th August, 2016 Lapwing - up close and personal

I rarely go to Attenborough NR without a trip to the Sand Martin hide.  Just recently Lapwings have taken to sitting on the shingle in front of the hide and on Friday just gone a few were close - really close.

This one bird was posing nicely and the marks around the eye makes it look like it's wearing false eyelashes, so I assume it's a girl.


Anisoptera and Zygoptera - otherwise known as Dragonflies and Damselflies

It's not been all about Hoverflies in the summer break and I've had one or two nice opportunities to photograph these beautiful insects

Female Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum)

Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum)

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagama cyathigerum)

Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans)

Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis)

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta)

August 12th, 2016 Little Egret - a decent shot at last

So it's egret season down at Attenborough Nature Reserve and I keep getting tantalizingly close views of Little Egret but never quite pulling off what I would call a decent photo.

After not seeing much on the reserve, I decide to take a walk along the wet marsh path.  I get to the first viewing screen and boom!  There's a Little Egret right in front of the screen - just about as close as I've seen a bird on the reserve.  

It's at this point that I realise just how un-photogenic Little Egrets can be, if you don't catch them just right.  After taking a multitude of wading in the water shots, I get one just as the bird takes flight. Yes, the light could have been a bit better, but I'm happy with it.

Little Egret

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Hoverfly Frenzy

You know how it is... it's mid summer and the bird have gone quiet.  I normally pursue the local lepidoptera and odonata and decided this year that I need a new challenge.  I'm still not quite sure why, but I opted to have a go at hoverflies (Syrphidae) and I've not looked back.

The in built zoom of my Panasonic FZ100 seems completely suitable to snapping these remarkable insects.  Here's my efforts to date.

Myathropa florea

Possibly the most wasp-like hoverfly, this is the first species that I identified.  The one in the photo was just in my garden on 8th August.  I can now do these with the naked eye and seems to be one of the most abundant species in the area.

Episyrphus balteatus

Another common species, this was at the same spot as the M florea.  Quite variable I've found but again, easily identified with the naked eye.

Eristalis intracarius

Not a brilliant photo, but it's the only one I've got.  This fuzzy little guy was the third species that I identified.

Chrysotoxum festivum

Chrysotoxum festivum

This colourful insect was quite a decent find, apparently.  I'm quite pleased with the head on shot, above.

Below are three rather similar species but all readily identifiable given the right views of their diagnostic features.

Eristalis arbustorum

Eristalis nemorum

Eristalis pertinax

Another similar but different pair, below.

Herophilus hybridus

This insect was one of two noted at Attenborough NR, where they are common in the summer.  I'm hoping to get a closer shot of one of these, at some point.

Herophilus pendulus

This was at Rutland Water during the Bird Fair.  I was going to concentrate on birds, but my valve blew and I had to go look for some hovers!

Not all hoverflies can be certainly identified.  A couple of examples, below

Spaerophoria sp.

This one was seen on a lunch time walk at Lenton.

Syrphus sp.

Another one from my first few days of studying hoverflies, on my local patch in Beechdale, Nottingham.

Xanthogramma pedisequum

The latest addition to my list, noted at Attenborough NR on 26th August.

Monday, 30 May 2016

An afternoon with the camera at Attenborough

It's a Bank Holiday, so I decide to take the Panasonic FZ100 down to Attenborough.  A lot of species are singing again before the big late summer lull, so I hope to get some goodies.  I think it was a success.

I make my way to the tower hide and set up the scope.  A Polish couple and their little daughter seem enthusiastic, but have a dodgy pair of bins between them, so I show them a beautiful Reed Bunting through my scope.  They're thrilled!  

Reed Bunting

As I sit in the hide, a male Goldfinch perches up.  It's just a terrific afternoon with lovely light and I get some very pleasing images.


Thinking I had been lucky with the Goldfinch, a male Greenfinch does one better and perches even closer to the hide.  He sings to the nearby female and adopts some very interesting postures, which I haven't seen before!  It's a spanking bird and I leave the hide feeling pleased with myself and hopefully encouraged some people to pursue the hobby.


I rendevous with my Mum who has been shopping, and we have a tea and scones in the Nature Centre.  I go out back, as there's normally something of interest in the garden, and sure enough a Blue Tit is feeding chicks in a nest box.  The adult comes to the nest with a bill full of squishy caterpillars.

Blue Tit

As we leave the centre, I show her a pair of Coot, which are nesting right next to the causeway. The female is keeping her fluffy chick snuggled as the male brings titbits to the nest.   It's a lovely sight.


Saturday, 28 May 2016

Another Day in the Dukeries

I've not been on the Sherwood Arrow for a few weeks now, and I headed into town for the first bus, which leaves Vic Cenrtre at the rather civilized hour of 08.20.

I make a brief check of the Newton building where a male Peregrine Falcon in showing nicely on one of the ledges. The birds are never very close here, but the light is fairly good so I get a record shot anyway.


After passing a brawl outside the Vic Centre, where two of the boys in Blue are attending I board the bus and I'm soon hurtling up the A614, listening to my Dutch lessons to pass the time and hoping some of it will go in.

First stop is sunny Bilsthorpe, where I've been asked to do a survey on private land.   I see my first Red-legged Partridge of the year, along with Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Garden Warbler, Blackcap a pair of Tree Sparrows and a pair of Brown Hare.

Brown Hare

There's tons of Rooks in the area, which seem to like to keep the pigs company and as I'm watching a few reeling around, I hear the distinctive 'pruk' of a Raven!  I look up and a pair are reeling round.  I get a record shot of one of the birds before they gain height, until they are not more than specks with the naked eye and they drift towards Farnesfield.


As I head down the hill towards the village, a Common Buzzard gets up right in front of me. I have to be quick, but I manage a nice photo that shows all the beautiful plumage.  We're really blessed to have these birds in such good numbers, nowadays. 

Common Buzzard

I get the next bus, and take the short hop to the Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre.  The idea is to get Tree Pipit and Common Redstart but sometimes plans don't come to fruition.  I walk all the way to Budby South Forest for Tree Pipit and I have one singing on the heath immediately.  However, try as I might Common Redstart eludes me in the Major Oak area.

Ian Cowgill had offered to help me out if I got stuck, and also had a site for a Spotted Flycatcher.  I call him up - he's at Lound but can be with me in 45 minutes.  My intervention turns out to be instrumental in gaining him a great year tick, as he texts me to say he's just had a White Stork over Ranby, en route to pick me up!  

We set off for Clumber, but the Spotted Flycatcher isn't playing ball but we have a male Redstart singing, so it's all a bit swings and roundabouts.

Although there has been no sign of any Honey-buzzards at the watch point yet, we decide to give it a go, but it's rather quiet, although we do get a female Mandarin and a rather unseasonal 2nd summer female Great Black-backed Gull.

Almost as interesting is an unexpected fly past of a Spitfire and a Hurricane!

Spitfire MkVb AB910 (left) and Hurricane MkIIc PZ865

Ian drops me off at the cross roads and I continue my afternoon with a well-earned tea and cake at the Olde School Tea Rooms at Carburton.

Refreshed, I continue my walk and take the minor road that leads into Clumber.  I check out the field just above the horse racing stables and right in front of me are a pair of Lapwings.   I get some nice shots of the male.  These birds are just pure class and their bubbling calls are so evocative of the English countryside.


With one eye on the time, I check out the tiny lane that leads up to Carburton church. There's plenty of hirrundines around and I get some nice images of the House Martins.

House Martin

I capture a nice image of a cob Mute Swan on the walk back and get the 4pm bus back to Nottingham after a rewarding day.  There's definitely unfinished business though with some species still to see, so I'll definitely be back in a week or two!

Mute Swan