Neutral Density filters.
05th August 2015
Things are very quiet at the moment, a sort of ornithological hiatus is presiding. In addition to this the weather has been appalling throughout July and into early August, long periods of gloom compounded with drizzle and gusty winds have been the norm. To prevent going into a state of torpor I have been doing a lot of work in my garden during this period and now that I have completed all this work, I thought I'd get out for a walk.
I don't use many filters when shooting landscapes, usually just a circular polarizer, but I thought I'd have some fun with an ND filter today, just for the hell of it.
These filters basically allow the user to shoot long exposures without 'Blowing' the image and without these filters images tend to burn into a white-out when exposed for long periods. Basically these filters act like a strong pair of sunglasses over your lens.
They come in various strengths from lightly tinted right up to what are nicknamed the 'Big Stoppers'. These high density filters stop about 10 f stops of light and you cannot see through them at all. However if you want to just give your images some nice effects without going right over the top, a filter of about ND256 is fine. This stops around 7 stops of light and will smooth out water and accentuate cloud movement. These effects can give some drama and movement to a static image. Most importantly these filters do not affect the colour or balance of your images.
I have always used Hoya filters because I find they are well made and reasonably priced.
A note of warning;
As I have mentioned previously, cheap filters are not cheap really, they are just nasty and in this instance they will give a horrible colour cast to your images and possibly cause vignetting.

I set my gear up today on a shallow limestone pavement with water rushing over it to a depth of about a foot. I walked across onto a slightly raised dry area above the water. From here I could put my rucksack down safely and readily access my kit, this is very important to avoid accidents.
In this area I could hide quite effectively behind some bushes once I was set-up and this has previously allowed me to observe Kingfishers, Dippers, Grey Wagtails and Grey Herons.
To set up the shot below;
Use the lowest ISO setting available on your camera and also use a small aperture, typically ISO 100 and f11.
i. Compose and focus as normal, use a remote shutter release.
ii. Note your settings, 'shutter speed'.
iii. Switch off the auto focus.
iv. Attach the ND filter.
v. Cover the camera eyepiece with a piece of black tape.
vi. Switch to manual exposure control.

There are some very useful apps around today and you can download from 'Google Play' an app which will accurately calculate your new shutter speed that you must use with the ND filter attached.

To use this 'FREE' app on your smartphone just key in your original shutter speed, prior to the ND filter, key in your ND filter strength eg ND256 and press calculate and your new shutter speed is provided. No pieces of paper with charts on and more importantly no trying to guess from memory.

vii. Dial in your new shutter speed.
vii. Take your shot remotely and ensure you dont move the camera.
Depending on what you want to achieve, check your image and try increasing or decreasing your shutter speed.
NB. If your revised shutter speed is above 30secs you must use the 'Bulb' mode on your camera, this means that when you press the remote shutter release and lock it, the shutter will remain open until it is released!!
You have to manually time this exposure.

It helps if you have a static Grey Heron in the shot!!

Kingfishers on the River Usk, Episode Three.
03rd July 2015
What a difference this morning;
I was out again at 05.00am but this time I had to wear wellingtons to get to my Kingfisher site. The other morning the grass was bone dry, this morning it was absolutely soaking and in addition the ferns seemed to be a foot higher today and were also sodden, the result of a heavy overnight mist. I got quite wet getting down to the river but I was under cover quickly and soon dried out. I had to wait for the light to improve, however, I was sure the gloom would lift as soon as the sun got up. Around 08.00am the Kingfishers started flying onto my perches, I shot both the male and female birds quite quickly, although disappointingly the light was still not the best. After some time, things began to slowly improve and I now had a juvenile bird on the perch, three different birds, quite nice. Unfortunately when the sun came up over the canopy things started to get more challenging on the lighting front. A harsh sunlight was now hitting my perch making correct exposure very difficult indeed. My only solution was to drop the ISO setting down and also underexpose by a stop and two thirds, using the camera exposure compensation, thereby taking some of the harshness away from the birds when they landed on the perch. As I always mention I try to get an uncluttered background if possible and I could achieve this because I set up the perches. I previously went into the river and removed all the stones that were just breaking the surface and in-line with my shooting area. I also cut down some straggly hanging branches that were over twenty yards away. These may seem insignificant but they will come back to haunt you because the stones show up like snowballs in the background of your images and the branches are like spaghetti, horrible!
The result of this underexposure was the brown background of the woods now becoming black and the Kingfishers shining like beacons against it, very pleasing indeed!

For Info;
Camera settings;
ISO 200
AV Mode
Aperture f5.6
Focal Length 840mm
Under exposed by one and two third stops.
Shutter speed 1/640 sec.

If you have the opportunity to achieve this it is well worth the effort. I took many shots at various lights and it turned out to be a very productive morning.
Please see Favourites, Kingfishers.
Kingfishers on the River Usk, Episode Two.
01st July 2015
After watching Venus and Jupiter appear in relative close proximity and marvelling at the wonderful bright full moon I could tell that it was hardly going to get dark last night. The night was hot and humid so sleep wasn't a viable option and the birds were singing at 03.30 this morning so I decided to get up and make my way down to the River Usk. As I carried my kit through the fields I could see there wasn't any dew whatsoever on the grass, everything had dried out after yesterday's heat, quite unusual!
When I arrived at the Kingfisher's territory I could see my perch was still in place, so I quickly got under cover and waited for the birds to start flying around, I saw some movement across the river and slowly a Fox emerged out of the vegetation, I took a few shots but it quickly disappeared back into the undergrowth. After a while an adult female Kingfisher landed on the perch, this was a surprise but it suggested to me that their second brood are either out of the nest or very close to being so. She preened for a while and removed a feather from her wing. These birds wont tolerate badly laying feathers and always quickly remove them.

After a while the sun came up over the trees and bathed the whole area in a golden light and almost immediately an adult male Kingfisher landed on the perch. I shot him in wondrous light, these are the rewards a photographer gets for getting out very early.

Sometime later the female returned and she started to hover over the river.

There is never going to be enough light to allow a high enough shutter speed to freeze a Kingfishers wings at this location, but I was pleased my new lens 'locked onto' her in mid-air, in what was worsening light because of the cloud cover that had now appeared. The light continued to deterioate and it then began to rain, I knew it was all over by then and I decided to pack up and leave, however, because I was there early I had beaten the weather.
Kingfishers Spring 2015.
25th June 2015
Although this spring has not been warm in the Brecon Beacons, there has been very little rainfall. As a result of this dry spell the local rivers have fallen to quite low levels. I have been watching a stretch of the river Usk near to where I live and I decided last week that if the weather remained dry then I would erect some perches in the hope of attracting some Kingfishers. Yesterday morning I went to a favoured location very early morning and cut some perches with my machete I then erected them right out on the river. I always choose a piece of wood that is roughly 'L' shaped, with a long trunk, about six foot with an upswept branch about two feet sticking out of the water. The trunk is laid under the water and is weighed down with heavy flat river stones. I then use a sharpened straight stake which is hammered down into the river bed with a flat stone and then I tie this to the upswept branch. Finally I attach the finishing perch to this stake, usually a more attractive piece of wood with some lichen or moss growth on it.
I had to wade in up to mid thigh to achieve this so wearing shorts and just old shoes or trainers is necessary. The submerged log was under a depth of about a foot and the final branch was about three feet above the river where it is about three foot deep. I always use driftwood for these perches because when they are finished they are just reclaimed back by the river.
I made my way back on to the river bank got dressed and waited for an hour hidden away to see what would unfold. I immediately saw a Kingfisher approach the perch but it veered away at the last second, unsure of something new. This is perfectly normal because it usually takes them a few hours to accept a different perch. I didn't see any birds land on my perch while I was there but I left fairly sure that they would accept it.
This morning at first light, 05.00, I was back at the location and as I approached slowly through the undergrowth I had the satisfaction of seeing a Kingfisher just sat on my perch. Always nice to see this happen, although if you locate your perches sensibly then these birds will accept them. However, you must calculate correctly where you are going to situate your hide because if the birds don't like where your hide is they wont come near the perches. I had to wait for ten minutes until he, (I ccould see it was a male bird), flew off down river. I quickly erected my hide and got under cover and waited for the light to improve. After an hour or so a bird perched and I could now see that ir was a young bird. This was a surprise to me and I realised that the adults had already reared their first brood, of which this bird was obviously one, and they were in the process or rearing their second. I know this because I saw the adult male flying with a fish facing forward in its beak last week. This is always a good indicator that they have young, because they always eat their catch immediately on or near the perch they have fished from.
I was able to take a few shots and I am confident that if my perches hold firm I will have more opportunities over the next month to possibly photograph more members of this Kingfisher family.
Please see Favourites, Kingfishers.
Tawny Owls.
22nd June 2015
At this time of year young Tawny Owls have more or less left their nests and with some effort can sometimes be seen perched on nearby tree branches. Early this morning I was out walking in a local deciduous woodland in the hope of locating some Owls. I could hear the adults hooting as soon as I arrived. It is such a lovely iconic sound, I never tire of hearing it. Then in response I could hear the tell-tale squeaks of young birds, exactly what I was hoping for. However, that is the easy bit, locating these Owlets is quite difficult, I was standing partially hidden under a large tree for around an hour just listening for sounds and movement. Suddenly I saw an Owl fly silently across the canopy and land in a nearby tree, a young bird started to squeak immediately and I then knew where they were. I continued to wait, just scanning the foliage until at last I could see an Owlet.
I had switched off the autofocus on my lens because in the dense cover it just 'hunts' to focus if a leaf or branch blows across it. I manages a few shots of the Owlet with the foliage just blurred out around it.

Sometimes that's all you can get and I was just happy to locate one of these difficult birds.
However, I decided to give it some more time and I was rewarded with an Owlet perched out on a branch for a minute or two.

Sometime afterwards I had decided to pack-up because it had become very quiet and I thought that was it for the day, but suddenly I could hear some song birds making a commotion. This is always a sign that an Owl is out in the open, I quickly followed the disturbance and I could see an Owlet perched quite low down, probably mobbed by these songbirds. I quickly set up nearby and I was rewarded when it surprisingly flew very close and just stared at me inquisitively.

I managed to take a few frame filling shots, it was that close!! Then the adult called and the owlet flew up into the canopy. Quite a nice morning watching these lovely young birds in very nice surroundings.
Red Kites, ever the opportunists!
08th June 2015
It's that time of year when my neighbours leave a few fields of grass grow long, then in a dry spell of weather, mow them, thresh them and then bale them up for silage for animal fodder later on in the year. Whenever this happens, as if by magic the Red Kites appear, from seemingly nowhere. They know that there will be mice and other rodents displaced by the farm machinery and they wait above hoping to get a easy meal. When I saw the tractor in the field I immediately set my gear up and tucked in close to my apple trees which border the farmland. I watched the two Kites take at least six rodents during the time I was there, they really are opportunists.
Please see latest Images, Red Kites.
All shots handheld with the Canon ef600 f4 mk2 lens.
Cuckoos flooding in to the Beacons.
29th May 2015
In a previous blog I was lamenting the lack of Cuckoos this spring. My historical sites for these birds were all barren, no sight or sound of any calling birds. The Cuckoos are always in by the first week of May and for me to find so little evidence of them was very disappointing indeed. However, yesterday I found another three at a site that doesn't usually support them, that made six in total, so things were looking up. More importantly I had heard two females uttering their characteristic 'Bubbling' calls, this is good news for breeding purposes. On the back of these sightings, today I went to one of my best sites for Cuckoos and to my delight I found another three birds including another female. That's a total of nine birds and three females, there must be a later migration of Cuckoos this year, or certainly a delay in birds coming north after they reach the UK.
Again I employed my tried and trusted 'Modus Operandi', wait and see if they have a pattern to where they are perching. I could see them perching in a dead Hawthorn tree about a hundred yards away and there was conveniently a thicket of Gorse nearby. I waited for them to fly out of sight and then I ran into the Gorse. I strung some 'Camo' netting across the gorse and just kept quiet and still. One thing I was not expecting was a bitterly cold wind to rise up and I wished I had brought more clothing, especially as a vicious rain shower descended. Luckily I had my Camo rain cover over my kit and I could also shelter inside the Gorse. After about an hours wait a male bird came flying towards me and then passed very close by and landed about five yards away in a Willow. I daren't move or he would have flown away and not returned, experience has taught me to never be impulsive and to 'sit tight' in these circumstances! Then what I was hoping for happened, he fluttered down from the Willow right onto the dead branches of the Hawthorn, he obviously couldn't see me. However, his back was turned to me, this was no good, so I stayed calm and still sat tight, then he began to call and he turned around and struck a perfect pose. This is what I was working for, I shot him immediately to capture the moment before he turned away again, but he stayed there for about half a minute and to top it all, the light was excellent.
It's a great feeling when things come together.

Cuckoos Spring 2015
25th May 2015
This spring has been very poor for Cuckoos in the Brecon Beacons and all my usual historic sites have drawn a blank. I have only heard one bird calling distantly and I couldn't see where that was calling from. I had almost given up seeing any this spring, (which would be very disappointing for me), until I was out walking yesterday morning. As I got to the top of a local hill I could hear a bird calling quite closely, so I tucked myself away in a copse of Rowan trees and waited. After about twenty minutes a male bird perched in a nearby tree very briefly, I shot him immediately before he flew off again. Then remarkably I could hear a female Cuckoo with her 'Bubbling' call and the male bird shot off in pursuit after her, then suddenly another male joined in the pursuit and all three were in the air together. All this spring without seeing a bird and then three come along together, what a lovely spectacle!!
I don't know how the situation with these birds will unfold but I hope the female pairs with one of the males, we need more Cuckoos.

Male Cuckoo.
Long Eared Owl, Lesvos
18th May 2015
The Long Eared Owl is a very difficult bird to see in most countries and particularly in the UK. This is mainly because of its nocturnal habits and cryptic plummage. However, if there is one thing that gives them away its their characteristic, deep, muted hooting which can be heard for up to a mile away. It is completely different to the hoot of the Tawny Owl and with experience is easily separated.
One evening after returning from one of the local tavernas Sue and I were sitting on our hotel balcony enjoying a glass of chilled wine. In the distance we heard this muted call of the Long Eared Owl and we decided there and then to try and locate it. Luckily the Owl was still calling at intervals when we left the hotel and after walking for about 500 yards in the direction of the hoot, through a small village, just on the edge there was a stand of Eucalyptus trees adjacent to an Olive Grove. We walked a little further until we thought we were directly under the sound, unfortunately we couldn't see the Owl in the limited light.
Having located this potential territory we decided to return the next day;
The next morning we were at the location at first light and scanned the Eucalyptus trees and Olive Grove for over an hour without success. Undaunted, we stopped for a sandwich break in the car, when we recommenced our search I noticed a large bird perched on an Olive branch. Much to my elation I could see a semi-fledged Long Eared Owl Chick staring back at me - what a fabulous bird!!

As the sun came up warming the morning air, the chick became more alert, opening its eyes and starting to preen. Almost immediately we heard the characteristic hoot of an adult male Long Eared Owl, obviously watching his chick.
We started to search the surrounding trees and after about an hour Sue exclaimed "there he is" - high up in a Corsican Pine was the male Long Eared Owl.

I manged to take a few shots of both birds during this time, but as the morning progressed and village noise and traffic increased, the adult bird swooped silently down and disappeared into the depths of the Olive Grove and during this period the chick had also moved into denser cover.
To find an adult Long Eared Owl and a chick in one morning really was special.
Scops Owl, Lesvos
18th May 2015
One of the most common owls on Lesvos is the Scops Owl, this diminutive owl is widespread throughout towns and villages and can be heard uttering its recognizable call every night. These owls tend to roost in Eucalyptus groves and with some effort can be located, usually asleep on a branch, tight up against a tree trunk.
Early one morning at a well-known site, we were looking without much success and were thinking of moving on and trying later, especially as a mechanical digger had just started up nearby. What happened next was most amusing because as the man operating the digger put the machine into reverse gear the warning ‘ Beeper’ started to sound. It is well documented that Scops Owls are renowned for having a call like the ‘Speaking Clock’ on the telephone and they often respond to similar sounds.
Almost immediately an owl started calling in reply to this ‘Beeper’ and what I initially thought would be a hindrance now became a help. Much to my surprise the Scops Owl was in the tree right above us and after a few seconds we could now see it staring at us.

As we drove away I silently thanked the man driving the digger.
What s special little bird they are.
Lesvos, Spring 2015
18th May 2015
I recently spent 2 weeks on the Greek island of Lesvos with my wife Sue. The island lies 5 miles west of the Turkish mainland and as a consequence, in spring attacts migrating birds, sometimes in large numbers. Birders from the UK, Holland and Germany in particular also migrate to Lesvos in the spring to see these birds.
A full trip report will soon be available but in the meantime I have added a few of my own particular highlights of the trip.
Please see subsequent blogs and also an image portfolio will appear in Latest Images shortly.
Lens review.
02nd April 2015
A comparison between the MkI and Mk2 Canon ef600 f4 is usm lenses has been added to the equipment reviews section.
Northern Grey Shrike.
26th March 2015
A northern Grey Shrike suddenly appeared on a local upland common this week, it is an area that is not particularly well watched in winter so it may have been there some time. However, it may have just arrived from another area, one thing is for sure is that it wont be there too much longer. These Shrikes will soon be returning to their breeding grounds in Scandinavia.
I got up early yesterday and was at the location at first light, always best to be there first thing, it gives you a chance to get a shot before any disturbance or perhaps even the bird moving on.
Shrikes are notoriously difficult to approach and even if you can get close they are almost always in an elevated position, silhouetted against the sky. I parked up and just waited for the light to improve and after a few minutes I could see the bird perched, typically high up in a distant tree.
I waited some time for it to start hunting, flying from perch to perch and scanning the ground below, by doing this you can form a pattern of which trees and bushes they prefer. I could see a particular area it was returning to time after time, these observations took at least an hour of just waiting in my car doing nothing. Some people are so impatient, they just head off straight away usually achieving nothing except spooking the bird. Shrikes are masters at disappearing and for a light coloured bird whose time is spent mostly perched up in an open position, they are totally adept at just vanishing. If they are disturbed they have a habit of not flying directly from bush to bush in full view. They always drop down from their perch and fly low along the ground so that they can't be seen and sometimes they don't reappear at all.
After seeing this hunting pattern I got tucked in behind a dense hawthorn tree near to where the bird was coming to perch. I waited for at least an hour, it seemed longer, but at last it started to make its way towards where I was (hopefully!) hidden.
You can gain these birds confidence if you are very quiet and dont make much movement, they will tolerate you up to a point. When it landed about fifty feet away I took a few shots, then moved a few feet closer, took a few more etc. I always work this way because if the bird flies off then at least you have some shots.
The Shrike dropped to the groud and came back up with what looked like a Bumble Bee, which it then pulled apart and ate. It then flew further away and just perched up again, typical behaviour, in all this however, it didn't look bothered by me at all.
I always try to get some sort of solid object behind these perched Shrikes, a tree or even a distant mountain or hill can cut down the silhouetting effect dramatically. After about ten minutes it then perched on a small holly bush which was not against the sky-line, this was perfect and I took some decent shots before it flew off again to hunt.
Some dog walkers then pulled up and I realised that was as close as I was going to get to the bird so I packed up and left.
Please see Latest Images, Northern Grey Shrike.
17th March 2015
At last spring is on its way and the first trickle of migrants are arriving in the UK.
Northern Wheatears are very early this year with birds already on upland sites. Some Chiffchaffs have arrived, although its hard to tell if they have overwintered or not and a few Willow Warblers are here, again very early this year. Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers are singing, march is their most vocal month, but very hard to pin down, they must be grossly under reported. Later this month hopefrully Ring Ouzels will arrive at their breeding sites in the beacons.
There is one of my favourite birds that spends all year round in the UK and that is the Hawfinch, in winter their numbers are also swelled by migrants coming from the north. There have been a few seen in the Forest of Dean this passing winter and they have been feeding under some yew trees for a few weeks now, nevertheless still very hard to see. I know most of the sites there and I am familiar with their present location, so I went over yesterday to try and locate them. I was on site at first light but the morning was very grey and unsettled with frequent drizzly showers, not the best conditions for photography. However, I set up and stayed in my car with a lens on a beanbag just waiting to see if they would come down to feed in the ground litter. I could hear their distinctive calls and after some time one or two dropped down briefly to feed, as usual they were very wary and shot back up into the yews at the slightest sound.
Their behaviour and the horrible weather was very challenging, but I was able to get a few record shots of these beautiful birds just coming into their breeding plumage. This was also my first shoot with my new kit, so a baptism of fire in some respects.
Please see Latest Images, Hawfinches.
Out with the old, in with the new.
13th March 2015
After much deliberation I have sold my beloved Canon ef600 F4 is lens. It was a superb lens giving top class image quality and performing faultlessly over the four years I used it. The only downside to this lens was its weight, even in a purpose made carrying bag, after a mile or so I really began to struggle. In the end I started to leave it behind because of this. In addition to this it was too heavy to fit into my carry-on luggage on an aeroplane, it had to go into the hold, something I really don’t like doing. Finally I made the decision to sell it on ebay, this is the only realistic option for a lens like this. It was still a hard decision to finally ’ list it ’, and the realization that there was no turning back was a bit unsettling. However, what happened next was even more unsettling - I listed it on ebay at 15.30 and at 19.00 I was being paid cash on my kitchen table. Suddenly for the first time in years I was without a large prime lens…..PANIC!!
I knew what I wanted to replace it with, the Canon ef600 Mkii and even though I had been through this process four years ago I couldn’t prevent myself from entering the 500/600 conundrum once again. Finally I stuck to my guns and bought the 600, I made the right choice then and so I repeated my decision.
In addition to this I bought the new Canon 1.4 Mkiii tele-converter and I then went the ‘whole hog’ and bought a Canon 7D Mkii DSLR.
I must say the new rig looks and feels very impressive and I can’t wait to try them out next week.
I will be writing another comparison between the two 600’s in my equipment review section in the coming weeks.
Brecon Beacons Ring Ouzels.
08th March 2015
I was contacted recently by an author who is writing a book on Ring Ouzels and he has asked if he may use several of my Ring Ouzel images in his publication. It's great to have more images published but more importantly to see these lovely birds, that are in serious decline in their range, getting some exposure.
This year several birds appear to have over-wintered in the UK which is very unusual indeed. Thankfully they have probably made it because of the very mild winter we have experienced. I think back to those stupid tabloid newspapers who were predicting the coldest winter in a hundred years before last Xmas. They really are prepared to print any sensationalistic garbage as long as they sell their odius rags.
However, spring is on its way and the Ouzels will soon be arriving in the Brecon Beacons fresh from their wintering grounds in the Atlas mountains of Morocco. I sincerely hope they can recover their numbers, they are such lovely birds.
Little Bunting.
08th February 2015
News broke on thursday this week of a Little Bunting found at Forest Farm nature reserve on the outskirts of Cardiff. These birds breed in northern Europe and Asia but are an annual visitor to the Uk in the autumn. They have been nicknamed 'The Secret Winterer' because they can go undetected, although quite a bit smaller, they could easily be dismissed as a reed bunting. I have seen many of these birds in China where they were literally hopping around my feet as I stood on the edge of a paddy field. I have also seen a couple in the Uk but not for some years.
I decided to go down to this reserve in Cardiff on saturday morning to meet up with a friend of mine, so we could attempt to photograph this bird. We met at first light before anyone was around and were immediately rewarded with the bird feeding right in front of us. The light was a bit poor first thing but it gradually improved and we were able to take a number of shots before anyone arrived. Gradually the amount of birders built up until the hide was full, but the bird still performed very well for the people who had travelled to see it.
Please see Rare Birds, Little Bunting.
Snowy Brecon Beacons.
05th February 2015
We haven't had much snow locally but the tops of the Beacons have had a dusting. This makes for a good photograph, it's best to have the lower fields green and the tops white, it's a better contrast. There are a few locations to take advantage of this snowy panorama and this is one below.

Wintering Ring Ouzels.
03rd February 2015
Over the past few weeks a number of sightings of Ring Ouzel have been reported. Four in north Wales, one in Gloucester and now one in the Brecon Beacons. I have never seen a Ring Ouzel in the winter in the UK. They are now usually in the Atlas mountains in Morocco, their normal wintering grounds. There is speculation that some spend the winter in the UK but considering the altitude at which they breed, it would be very inhospitable indeed to winter there; Craig Cerrig Gleisiad in the Brecon Beacons for example. I think that the birds that breed there surely all go south before the weather gets really bad. These recently reported birds must have been staying up north and sticking it out until the present bitter north winds have started to blow.
We have a Ring Ouzel which looks to be wintering near Talybont Reservoir and is associating with a group of wintering thrushes. At a distance the bird appeared to be an adult male but after taking some photographs today, albeit poor quality, I now think it is possibly a female. Males are generally sooty black with little or no brown fringing on their crescent, although some may exhibit this feature. Females are more chocolate brown and although appear black at a distance on closer examination are found to be females. They always have brown fringing on their crescents and the chocolate brown always bleeds through on their head and neck.
These images are being looked at currently by experienced ringers who have handled Ring Ouzels in Morocco in winter, it will be interesting to know the ID criteria for future reference.
Well it was quite surprising to me but this bird appears to be a 3rd Cal Male Ring Ouzel.
This is based on photographs I received from the Ring Ouzel study group via our county recorder. I never realised that the males plumage went so brown, especially the crescent. However, you live and learn and it's a good reference for the future.
Please see Latest Images, Wintering Ring Ouzels.
Confiding Crossbills.
28th January 2015
It's been exceptionally quiet locally on the bird front this autumn and early winter. However, the weather is very benign for the time of year and that is a bonus for our wildlife. It was a reasonable day yesterday so we headed over to the Forest of Dean for a few hours just for a change of scenery. There were about fifteen Hawfinches flying around the tree tops for most of the time we were there but they remained, as usual, very shy.
If I lived over there I would find a quiet location away from people walking, where I could lay some seed down for a period of time and get the Hawfinches coming in to feed. Then once the area is established as a feeding zone, just get under cover before dawn one morning and reap your rewards. However, this is not really practical when you have to drive fifty miles each way to do this. I have achieved it once, but I fear it would be more hit than miss, I mean if you are living locally and you get disturbed it's not too bad, but after travelling all that way disturbance is a real pain. I'm afraid that's the way it will have to be, my only hope is if I find somewhere which they frequent on a regular basis for wild food, then I would take a chance for a couple of mornings.

Moving on; outside Parkend church, in the forest, there were a flock of Crossbills collecting grit up on the church roof presumably to aid their digestion, then they were subsequently coming down to drink in some roadside puddles. They were very confiding and allowed observation at quite close quarters, unfortunately the situation was not very photogenic. Nevertheless, it was very nice to see them up so close and I was able to sit on a small stool in between two cars and take a few shots. There was quite a lot of disturbance from cars and people so there was not much opportunity for any decent images.
Please see UK Birds, Crossbills.