News

Crossbills
17th October 2011
What a horrible, windy, wet day up high on the Beacons, still hoping for some Ring Ouzels but no luck so far. Redwings and Fieldfares are flying around in ever increasing numbers, and once they settle on a feeding area I hope to get some shots of these lovely birds. I was eating a sandwich in my car, and as usual birds appear as soon as you take a bite, and sure enough it would have to be one of my most infrequently seen birds and also one of the most difficult to photograph, Crossbills! I jumped out of the car in a hurry because they don't show very often and I took a few handheld shots of this male bird feeding in a larch tree, the wind was really strong and it was drizzling heavily so the quality is not the best, but I thought i'd show them.
Please see UK Birds.
The shy and wary Raven
16th October 2011
I always see them, flying high overhead, shouting their almost mocking laugh. I have always been fascinated by these shy birds, occupiers of windswept, remote and lonely places.
They just love to fly, they seem to take enjoyment in playing on the wind, tumbling down then swooping back up. I have great respect for any bird that flies upside down on purpose and I have watched them do this lately, from a distance as usual. Their plumage when seen up close is stunning, they are then no longer the big black bird that flies overhead, they are a beautiful mixture of colour, depending on the way the light hits their plumage. I waited for hours for a chance for them to come reasonably close for a shot, I was about to give up for the day, when this bird, who couldn't see me hidden away, landed on an old wooden finger post quite close by. Finally, the opportunity I have been awaiting for many years.
What a bird!!
Please see UK Birds.
Chance encounter with Reynard
07th October 2011
I was out early this morning looking for any winter thrushes that might have arrived overnight, no luck unfortunately. However, I saw a group of magpies scatter from where they were feeding among some molehills and it's lucky I was hidden away because I was able to observe this beautiful fox appear from the hedgerow. It began chasing something which must have ran down a mole-run. The fox quickly dug out the molehill and I could see it had a rat in its jaws. It killed it instantly, chewed it up and swallowed it. It then ran off looking for its next meal. It was all over very quickly but a great spectacle to see.
Please see UK Mammals.
Autumn Migrants
24th September 2011
The Autumn migration appears to be under way with a few flocks of Mistle Thrushes and Blackbirds appearing around the area. I saw this Ring Ouzel mixed in with a flock of Mistle Thrushes, probably a first winter male. These birds are by nature very flighty and quite difficult to photograph so I am always pleased to get any shots.
Following on behind these will be Redwings and Fieldfares there is, however, a shortage of Rowan berries around the area which Ouzels favour, but plenty of Hawthorn to keep the other winter thrushes happy.
Other parts of the country, ie north and south, have some exotic birds at the moment, some from the big Atlantic storms of two weeks ago and some from the east. Unfortunately our geographic location makes it very unlikely we will experience these rarities.
Can we expect another Waxwing irruption like last year? I live in hope............
Please see UK Birds.
Sparrowhawk strikes again.
19th September 2011
Another Sparrowhawk encounter in my garden on Sunday afternoon; I was in my hide and just as an unfortunate Goldfinch flew across the space between feeders the Sparrowhawk came in and with unbelievable reactions and dexterity snatched it in mid air. Talk about being in the the wrong place at the wrong time. It's difficult to imagine how quick this birds reactions are and then to be able to change direction so quickly is quite amazing. The Goldfinch didn't know what hit it, I believe death was instant because it didn't move once after it was hit. It was taken down into the small wood below the garden where the Sparrowhawk has it's plucking post.
Nature in the raw, It's tough out there!
Please see latest images.
Wrecked Wryneck
12th September 2011
A quite unusual find by a local man near the dam of Blaen Y Cwm reservoir on Llangynidr moor on the Gwent/Powys border. This bird was probably heading down the west coast of the UK from its Scandinavian breeding grounds when the current weather system swept it inland. It looks to be surviving OK, hiding from the inclement weather in and around some old coils of fencing wire. Once the weather breaks I hope it will be safely on its way again down to tropical Africa.
I managed to get a shot of the bird inside a coil of wire, in between very strong gusts of wind and heavy rain showers.
Please see latest images.
Sparrowhawk is back
04th September 2011
During Saturday afternoon I spent a couple of hours in my permanent hide thinking how nice it was to be getting really close up to the birds, Chiffchaff in particular. I was packing up because the rain was getting heavier and the light was deteriorating, when suddenly, after an absence of about three months, in drops the male Sparrowhawk. I haven't seen any sign of him whatsoever and there he was, soaking wet, evidence of moulting, especially around his head, what a surprise. I was able to scramble for my 300mm lens and get one hand held shot off, now I'm glad I always keep it on the chair next to me! Then just as quickly he was gone again, he really is an elusive character.
My trusted old friend, ( Canon 40D ) is retired.
20th August 2011
There is always a sort of ornithological hiatus at this time of the year which makes me reflect on a few things, so I thought I would write a few words on my hobby, I'm not getting on a soapbox but it's nice to air a few thoughts now and again;

After many months of deliberation I have now bought a Canon 7D, I had to think long and hard because I have never been someone who chases technology in the vain hope that buying better equipment makes you a better photographer because it most definitely does not! You have to have a healthy dose of realism, which I'm glad to say I have developed over the years which keeps my feet on the ground and hopefully my bank balance healthy. However, there comes a time and I felt that the time had come. With the 7D I immediately noticed that the auto focusing is far superior to the 40D. This is a big advantage for moving subjects, which birds usually are. Also the much greater resolution of the 7D's sensor should reproduce more detail, we will see on that score. I will always have good memories of using the 40D, I used it in all conditions and it absolutely never let me down. I will also keep my Canon 1D Mk 2, it's built like a tank, very rapid auto focus, 8 frames/second and full auto focus up to f8.0. You can still pick them up and they are still a very good buy!
Getting good images is all about manipulation of the available light, having an eye for a composition and doing your homework on the subject. With a bird that just drops in, you have to think on your feet but if a bird eg a Kingfisher is your target, then find out where it's favourite perches are, they are very much creatures of habit. Go to it's habitat and spend an hour or two just watching. A kingfisher will go to it's favourite perches at first light to get its breakfast. it's just like us going to the fridge for the milk for our first cup of tea. A kingfisher I was watching on the River Usk just outside Brecon always pitched on an old supermarket trolley that had been thrown in the river, because the small pool just below it always had some little Minnows swimming around. Make sure you know the angle of the sun at the particular time you are going to be there and how its light falls on the area you want to photograph. If the situation with the light is not favourable, because of a shadow or another obstruction, then create another perch, take an nice branch with you and fix it on the river bank a few days before to get the bird used to it. One thing I must mention is, in the spring, while these, or indeed any other birds are breeding, just leave them alone. They will still be in their habitat in September and hopefully with some young birds. The moral of the story is just get the basics right and success will follow, but in my experience be prepared for disappointment at first and the success afterwards will more than make up for it.
Successful breeding season in my garden
18th August 2011
I'm very pleased to say it has been a really successful breeding season for the birds in my garden. All the usual birds, House Sparrow, Great and Blue Tit, Robin, Dunnock, Chaffinch have bred in numbers and there are now also young Bullfinches, Siskins, Greater Spotted Woodpeckers, Redstarts, Blackcaps, Blackbirds and Goldfinches. Greenfinches (whose numbers crashed last year) have bred in particularly good numbers, great news for this lovely finch. However, the most unusual spectacle was ten young Chiffchaffs in the garden one evening as I had only previously seen them in ones or twos.
Last year I constructed a permanent wooden photography hide with seating for two, which overlooks my garden pond, a feeding station and a small woodland; this is an oasis for birds in the local area and allows me to get close up photographs that otherwise would be impossible. The construction of both the pond and the hide are now really paying dividends. The pond itself is a big attraction for birds to drink and bathe and a Common Newt colony has become established there. I hope, during the winter, this garden pond, feeding station and woodland will be a refuge for the local bird population.
Please see Juvenile Birds in Latest Images.
Redstarts in my garden
18th August 2011
This spring, in my garden, a pair of Redstarts have successfully raised two young in a very thick, old hedge containing a large variety of wild trees and shrubs. This hedge, going by traditional calculations (one hundred years for every established species of tree) is around four hundred years old. It serves as a perfect habitat for both nesting birds in the spring, and roosting birds all year round. The Redstarts were always shy but did show from time to time allowing me to get some shots without disturbing them too much. However, the adults have now totally disappeared and the two juveniles are painfully shy and have retreated to the rear of the hedge. They will be leaving soon and I will be sorry to see them go, but I hope they will return next year because they certainly brightened up the garden.
Please see UK Birds.
Black Redstarts Return
05th July 2011
The Black Redstarts that successfully bred in the west of the county last year had returned sometime in May this year. I went to the location yesterday, half expecting to see evidence of more breeding success. However, there is massive disturbance at the location this year and right in the middle of the breeding season. I hope this won't affect them too much.
Please see UK birds.
Peregrine Falcon
01st July 2011
Incredibly powerful, yet stunningly beautiful, the Peregrine Falcon is the iconic predator of our skies, one cannot fail to be impressed by these aerial hunters. This time of the year the juveniles are flying around playing with each other and making clumsy attempts at hunting, still not yet adept, they are totally dependent on their parents for food.
However, day by day they are getting stronger and faster and very soon they will be catching their own prey. I have been watching this family of birds for some time in a remote location and I finally had an opportunity to photograph one of the juveniles. Taken from a discreet distance this handsome bird was quite relaxed as it stretched and flapped its wings while sitting on a cliff edge.
What an absolutely stunning bird they are!
Please see latest images.
Cuckoo at long last
20th June 2011
I thought I was going to be without a Cuckoo shot this year and It's not through want of trying. Time is going on and the further into this month you go the less they call and the harder they are to find. I was very pleased indeed to hear a female calling, something I don't hear very often and I located her sitting on a power line, then swooping down to catch insects from the field below. She pitched on some dead branches once or twice, so I waited quietly and she came in again and sat there for a short while allowing me to get some half decent shots. She is quite rufous around the neck and I think she's gorgeous!
Please see latest images.
Young Swallows
07th June 2011
While cooking dinner tonight we heard a commotion on the roof outside and we could see three young Swallows waiting to be fed. Every time the adults flew over them they opened their gapes wide and flapped their wings. I leaned over the roof and waited for the adults to pass. All the birds were oblivious to me and I was able to photograph these incredibly cute little birds. Please see latest images Juv birds.
Dangerous times for Fledgelings
05th June 2011
With the number of young birds increasing daily, their activity has attracted the attention of the local 'Bad Boys'. Every day they are watching and waiting for any opportunity.
Please see Carrion Crows in Owls, Corvids and Doves.
Juvenile Birds
02nd June 2011
This week our fledgling woodpeckers have become more confident, interacting with the adults and generally making a racket. Two birds have definitely fledged, there may be more. There are also young Robins, Dunnocks, Great Tits in the garden and a pair of Bullfinches and Blackcaps are collecting insects and appear to be feeding young. Fingers crossed. Please see latest images.
Highs and Lows
27th May 2011
I knew that Woodpeckers predated small birds but I'd never seen evidence of it until a Grt Spotted Woodpecker tried to hack his way into one of our garden's nest boxes containing a Blue Tit family. He made the hole bigger to get at the chicks but I managed to patch the hole up and the adults started feeding the young again. However, the Woodpecker must have returned because the nest box has now been abandoned. It was a great shame to lose them at such a late stage. The following day there were young Woodpeckers in the garden. You win some and you lose some!
On a lighter note, I went up to the Elan Valley today and it was lovely to see the area alive with Redstarts, one of my favourite summer migrants, the male is stunning. Please see latest images.
Middle Spotted Woodpecker Lesvos
13th May 2011
A pair of Middle Spotted Woodpeckers chose to build their nest on an extremely busy road junction in the middle of a village. These birds are normally quite shy but the traffic didn't seem to bother them. We parked up and watched them for several minutes, took a few shots and then left them to it, I hope they were successful in raising their young.
Please see Latest Images Lesvos.
Little Owl Lesvos
12th May 2011
Little Owls are reported as being numerous on the island but we only saw two. This obliging bird sat on a post at the side of the track near a remote farm.
Please see Latest Images Lesvos.
Egrets, Herons, Glossy Ibis & Little Bittern Lesvos
12th May 2011
Along many of the channels and rivers of Lesvos various Herons and Egrets can be found, some more easily than others. Squacco Herons are abundant and easily seen, as are Great White Egrets and Glossy Ibis. Purple Herons are very shy and unapproachable. Little Bitterns are shy, but can be found with patience and are more approachable. The most difficult to find and observe is the Night Heron. Photographing Squacco Herons and Glossy Ibis was relatively easy, the Purple Heron was shot from a distance, across a river. Getting the image of the Great White Egret took patience for the right reflection. We were lucky to come across 2 Little Bitterns quietly sitting in a tree, posing nicely, but the most satisfying was the Night Heron which we accidentally found roosting in a pine tree by the side of a river.
Please see Latest Images Lesvos.