News

Hawfinch
21st March 2011
Its been a long standing ambition of mine to get close to Hawfinches. These birds have an almost mythical status because they are so difficult to see being extremely shy and unobtrusive, spending a lot of their time either high up in the canopy or alternatively feeding discreetly amongst the leaf litter. The article in this month's Bird Watching magazine describes the difficulty birders have in locating these birds. I was lucky to locate four Hawfinches last Thursday in the Forest of Dean and noted where they were feeding, one male was swaying from side to side in a courtship display, something I have never seen before. I decided to try to photograph these birds, so I got up at 4.00 a.m. today and got to the site by 5.30 a.m. I had to erect my hide by torchlight and get undercover before dawn broke. It was 8.00 a.m. before I heard their tell tale "pix" and one bird perched right above me, singing. I could hear scratching of claws and realised the bird was actually sitting on top of my hide, this was extremely frustrating as I could not move or make a sound for fear of disturbing it. Finally it landed on the ground in front of the hide and I was able to get some great close ups of this beautiful and elusive finch. It was a very small window of opportunity as by 9.00 a.m. they had disappeared again.
Please see Gallery.
The Sparrowhawk returns.
07th March 2011
At last, after much waiting and frustratingly near misses I have finally managed to photograph him facing the lens. I erected a perch for him to land on and I deliberately put it in front of a smooth background. I waited until yesterday for the right conditions the light was perfect. He's been terrorising the garden birds lately but almost always flying straight through, except for today.......... please see Gallery.
Short Eared Owls
03rd March 2011
I've been itching to get some decent Owl shots for quite a while so I went off to North Lincolnshire where up to twenty Short Eared Owls had been reported over wintering since around November last year. Numbers have significantly dropped to date as they have dispersed and will soon be heading off to their breeding grounds.
I had to go now or risk missing a good opportunity to photograph these beautiful birds.
When I arrived four birds were still being seen although sometimes quite distant. I set
my gear up and waited all day without seeing anything and I was about to pack up for the day when two birds started to show. They were interacting with each other and were flying and perching reasonably close to me. I managed to get some decent shots and the same timing and behaviour was repeated the following day. It was a long drive and very cold being out all day long but it was an opportunity that I probably wont have again so it was worth the effort.
Please see Gallery.
Handsome light plumaged Buzzard.
17th February 2011
What a variation in plumage our Common Buzzard has, I saw this bird perched in some Hawthorn today, he's really handsome! Please see Gallery.
The shy and no longer elusive Jay and Magpie.
01st February 2011
I have been trying to photograph Jays and Magpies for some time, but they can be very elusive and are extremely shy and very intelligent. However, I'm delighted that yesterday I managed to photograph both these birds in one session. The results were far better than I ever expected. Please see photographs in Gallery.
Tempting a Buzzard
01st February 2011
During this harsh and cold winter, -8C yesterday morning, birds, and Raptors in particular, who are primarily carrion feeders have a very spartan existence, so I was delighted to find a Common Buzzard feeding on some food that had been provided by some of the locals.
I had forgotten what magnificent birds they are.
Please see photographs in Gallery.
A log, some seed and a little patience.
30th January 2011
Parked up by a big felled tree which I noticed some birds were visiting and spread a little seed around. After an hour or so when they got used to me being there I managed to get some half decent shots, see Gallery Images.
Another Sparrowhawk kill
22nd January 2011
On Thursday this week I found more evidence of a Sparrowhawk kill in my garden, in amongst the plucked feathers were some small yellow feathers, possibly from a Goldfinch. While I waited in the hide on Friday three G S Woodpeckers were around the garden, while one was eating peanuts from a feeder the Sparrowhawk zoomed in and made an attempt to snatch him off the feeder. I have never seen any bird more terrorised in my life, it flew away screaming and I could still see it flying, flat out, about 500 yards away.
I've studied the Sparrowhawk's Modus Operandi, it alters very little; he never flies high up, he uses the lane where my house is as a conduit, he glides down the lane and at a specific point he sweeps up over the Hazel hedge opposite the feeders and then relies on surprise and lightning reactions to snatch any bird caught out in the open.
I have managed to get another shot of him on his "plucking post" but he is facing away again, so I have decided to erect some other perches, not interfering with his flight path, that hopefully will encourage him to turn around and show what a beautiful bird he is. Two of my favourite birds were in the garden today, Long Tailed Tit and Treecreeper, please see photos in Gallery.
Another encounter with the Sparrowhawk.
13th January 2011
What a superb bird! Sometimes when he passes through it's so fast all you see is a blur past the hide. I had about 5 seconds of shooting time as he made a pass at a Goldfinch, missed, and then landed on a tree branch before flying off straight away. See Gallery.
My Garden in January
12th January 2011
Hemmed in by bad weather I decided to see what birds had survived the horrendous cold spell in Nov/Dec 2010. I'm happy to say most species have survived with the noteable exception of Greenfinch, which as well as the cold spell, are being badly effected by trichomonosis. Goldfinch numbers are down by about 50%, however, Great Spotted Woodpeckers appear to be flourishing with 3 in my garden today and they are already displaying. The usually shy Jay is making tentative approaches towards the peanut feeder and a Treecreeper and Long Tailed Tits are starting to visit. The local male Sparrowhawk is still passing through and I intend to make a greater effort to photograph him this year. See Gallery.
On the Waxwing trail.
13th December 2010
Because of the lack of Waxwings locally I decided to look outside the area for these glorious birds. Saturday found me in Llanishen in Cardiff on a busy road where about 150 Waxwings were flying around and from time to time feeding in a tree above a bus stop. However, the light was poor and the traffic situation even worse, so I abandoned any hope of taking photographs. I wasn't put off, so on Sunday I went up to Bobblestock on the outskirts of Hereford and here there were about 80 birds perched in a tall tree and at regular intervals they were coming down to feed in a small, berry laden tree on the roadside. I was able to approach them quite closely and enjoy watching them feed and listen to their delicate and beautiful calling to each other. They were flying low just above the road and coming right up to me before rising up and just skimming over my head.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable few hours and I was able to get some reasonable shots.
Please see Gallery.
Starlings in the Big Freeze
30th November 2010
During the current cold spell temperatures in my garden have dropped to -15C forcing Starlings, who normally feed in the surrounding fields and don't visit my garden, to look for alternative food and they are now happily feeding on Apples, Pears and Bananas we have been providing. Their plummage is really beautiful and intricate, please see Gallery.
Winter Visitors and Predator
25th November 2010
Flocks of wintering Fieldfares and Redwings are now starting to appear around the Brecon area. Waxwing numbers are also increasing, forty were sighted in the Brecon Co-op Car Park today.
A male and female Sparrowhawk have been attacking the songbirds in my garden, I have already seen evidence that a Goldfinch and a Blue Tit have been taken. Please see my photograph of the culprit in Gallery.
Waxwings have arrived
19th November 2010
The Waxwing invasion has finally started for us with up to 8 birds, just outside the county in Ebbw Vale. They showed very well in the ornamental Rowans opposite the Leisure Centre complex. There are some nice adult birds amongst them and were well worth the short journey over the moor. Highly recommended viewing. Please see Gallery.
A cautionary tale.
18th November 2010
A Breconshire Ghost story for Xmas.

Some years ago the Rev. H. Elwyn Thomas was acting as second minister on a Wesleyan circuit in the South Wales district. The circuit consisted of eight churches, and Mr Thomas had to preach in each of them once a month, beginning his ministrations in Llanelli; from there he went to Crickhowell, arriving at Llangynidr about six o'clock in the evening. A good “ Hiker “, Mr Thomas usually did the distance between these places on foot.
One sunny afternoon in late December, with Christmas rapidly approaching, Mr Thomas’s thoughts were becoming preoccupied with the content of his Christmas message. The minister had told the friend with whom he usually stayed in Llangynidr that he would not be back at his house until nine o’clock, as he intended walking part of the way home with some acquaintances to discuss the forthcoming Christmas services.
At twenty minutes to nine Mr Thomas said goodnight to his friends and was making his way back to Llangynidr when he saw what he thought to be a beggar, standing on the banks of the canal which runs parallel for six miles with that particular road.
The canal and road were empty which was to be expected on a cold winters evening such as this, however, Mr Thomas felt unusually cold, colder than he should have been, being well wrapped up as he was, against the winter air. The nearest house was a quarter of a mile away and the intense stillness of a winters evening brooded over everything, and Mr Thomas wondering what had brought anyone to this spot at such an hour, stopped to have a good look. No sooner had he done so, than he wished himself a thousand miles away. Within half a yard of him, he saw a startling and dreadful sight, that of an old man over whose face the leaden-coloured skin was tightly stretched: the lips were thin and bloodless, and the half open mouth toothless. Two piercing and semi luminous eyes, set far back, stared at Mr Thomas, who could not avoid noticing that the “beggar” was dressed in a very peculiar way- perhaps the word “wrapped”, not “dressed”, better describes various lengths of stained bandages, one of which passed under the old Man’s chin, and was tied at the top of his head; the other was drawn round the forehead and fastened behind.
So horrible was this extraordinary object, that Mr Thomas actually ran away from it. He was an absolute disbeliever in Ghosts, and he had no patience with any kind of superstition, it never occurred to him that the beggar was not of this world, and he only realised this when after, as he thought, outdistancing the figure, he turned around, to find it close behind him. Mr Thomas looked up and down the road, and the deserted canal banks. Not a soul was in sight; the night seemed to hold only him and his pursuer. By this time the wrappings had merged into a column of intense blackness, and there was nothing visible between the face and the ground. Raising his umbrella, in the unreasoning panic which seizes even the bravest, the minister hit out blindly, only to encounter air, through which his umbrella easily passed. Thoroughly frightened, Mr Thomas once again took to his heels, and ran as quickly as possible down a road which branches off the main road, going directly through the centre of the village of Llangynidr. And feeling that he had arrived at a spiritual crisis in his life, Mr Thomas conquered his fear and confusion, and spoke to the pursuer, whose footsteps made no sound on the silent highway.The “thing” had stopped in the centre of the main road, and when, secure in his newly found moral strength, the minister walked towards it, he saw it moving swiftly until it reached the lower end of the road which runs parallel with the boundary wall of the churchyard. It then appeared to float over the wall, and vanished in the dense foliage of an ancient yew tree near the lych-gate.
After this Mr Thomas fainted.
He came to himself two hours later, lying in the same place where he had fallen; he was very cold, and he felt bodily ill. Fortunately motor traffic on a Sunday night was practically non existent, otherwise he might have easily been run over by a passing vehicle. Picking himself up, Mr Thomas took to the road which led to the sanity and safety of human companionship. The reaction from the mental ordeal proved too much for the Minister; it was over an hour before he reached his friends home, barely a quarter of a mile away. When he did, his changed appearance alarmed his host and his daughter so much that the young girl screamed when she saw him, especially as Mr Thomas was incapable of saying a word of explanation of his condition. He tried to speak, but his words ran into each other and formed an unintelligible babble of sound, and it was not before five in the morning that some kind of speech returned to the stricken minister, and then, only in broken and meaningless sentences. After this Mr Thomas spent the whole of the following week in bed, laid up with a bad attack of nerves.
The strangest part of this strange story remains to be told. When Mr Thomas was himself again, his host questioned him closely about the events of that unforgettable Sunday.
“Did you notice anything particular about the place where you first saw the figure?” asked his friend. Mr Thomas thought-and thought again. “Well” said he, “I seem to recollect a ruined cottage a little lower down.” “Hmm…someone answering the description of your pursuer once lived there. He was by way of being a recluse, lost to all sense of personnel respect and decency. His garments were a collection of odd lengths of indescribably filthy bandages and I believe he was buried in them, as, owing, to his reputation as a ‘wizard’ no one would go near him in his last illness. He was buried in the exact same spot in the churchyard where you saw the figure disappear, and the cottage, already ruinous, became more and more so , until the greater part fell to the ground. It has never been rebuilt.”
During the time Mr Thomas remained on the circuit he never saw his pursuer again…Perhaps the spirit appeared in order to rebuke his obstinate disbelief in “GHOSTS”, and from that time the minister never dismissed so readily the possibility of dwellers in the unseen world.

A HAPPY XMAS TO ALL…………………………….
Waxwings
28th October 2010
It looks like another Waxwing year, there is already a major irruption of these beautiful birds throughout Scotland, down the east coast of the UK and into the Midlands.
We in Wales are always last on the list for these birds but when the food runs out in their initial landing areas hopefully they will move west and south to us.
They can easily be dismissed as a flock of Starlings, having a roughly similar flight pattern, so any flock of medium sized birds will be worth a second look in the coming weeks. Waxwings have a likeing for ornamental berries so they are just as likely to be seen in a supermarket carpark as anywhere. Perhaps even in your garden if you have Rowan, Cotoneaster or Pyrocanthea berries left on your shrubs. These birds are very confiding and will allow people to approach quite closely. They really are worth seeking out, please see images on this website under Common and Rarer birds.
Autumn in Norfolk
17th October 2010
Just spent a week on the north Norfolk coast and I managed to see some really nice birds as well as witnessing one of the best Autumn migrations for many years. Amazing numbers of the more common birds were coming into the county, including thousands of Goldcrests, Song Thrushes, Robins and Bramblings. Goldcrests and wintering Snow Buntings were literally feeding at my feet. Much rarer birds were also widespread and I managed to see Two Red Flanked Bluetails, Pallas's Warbler and Yellow Browed Warbler. Great Grey Shrikes and Lapland Buntings were spread all over the county. Small numbers of Red Breasted Flycatchers, Firecrests and Ring Ouzels were present and there were still a few Wrynecks present from the big fall of a few weeks ago. A few Redwings and Fieldfares were around but there will be many more of these to come. A number of Short Eared Owls were coming in off the sea which is always nice and a few Common Cranes were flying around near the Norfolk Broads area. The usual Barn Owls were present but not as many as in the Springtime. The weather remained dry and the winds were blowing in the right direction for good falls of birds. When these conditions prevail there is no better place than Norfolk to watch birds in the UK.
Ring Ouzels on the move.
01st October 2010
Migrating Ring Ouzels are on the move with birds being reported around the county,its well worth trying to find them, particularly the adult males which are a really attractive bird. Please see Gallery.
Autumn
22nd September 2010
A flock of 100+ Goldfinches flying over Cathedine today, finches will now begin to gather in sometimes quite large flocks, nice to see when it happens. Large numbers of Fieldfares and Redwings will soon be arriving, perhaps as soon as next week as cold winds from the North are forecast for the weekend. There will be smaller numbers of Ring Ouzels coming in also. The Elan Valley in mid wales is a great location to view this spectacle but look around any area which has a good crop of Hawthorn berries.
Wryneck Migration
09th September 2010
Currently there are large numbers of Wrynecks coming into the UK. The biggest number of birds for many years, they are in almost every county. Unfortunately Powys is the exception. As these birds are difficult to see, let alone photograph, I drove, more in hope than expectation, to Llanrhystud on the west coast of Wales where a Wryneck had been reported over the last few days. I arrived at 07.30, it was very misty at first, but as the sun broke through, the bird appeared. It was initially elusive but then began to show fairly well. This is a difficult bird, it has a very cryptic plummage which allows it to remain unseen, just by keeping still. It is also quite small and a rare visitor to Wales, so I was very happy to get some good shots. Please see Gallery.