Ospreys Fishing

Aviemore in the heart of Scotland is a great place to see ospreys in the wild. These fish eating raptors return here from Africa each summer to breed and raise their young. Extinct in the UK until being reintroduced in Scotland in the 50’s they are now thriving and with a strong base in Scotland have spread around the country and down into Northern England.

Aviemore Ospreys allow you to get up close to these stunning birds in a couple of hides set up to allow you to watch and photograph them as they come in to fish on a small pond stocked with trout. On their website is a gallery of images and so at 3.45am I set off to try and snap something similar. The hides are located behind the main hotel in the town and during the day would be busy with guests and children on the nearby play area, but at 4am the only people about were 5 hardy photographers and Gordon the guide. Gordon settled us into the hides and explained what he hoped would happen before disappearing to the carpark with his walkie talkie to provide the running commentary. As the hides are built low down at water level it’s difficult to see the birds coming in so Gordons commentary keeps you aware of what’s in the sky and if any bird looks like diving in he lets you know.

The birds soon arrived but in the dark dawn light my pictures were quite frankly rubbish as I struggled to get the settings anywhere near what’s needed. However just seeing these birds plunge into the water and on most occasions emerge with a sizeable fish is something really special.

Eventually the light slowly improved and so did my pictures but nowhere near the quality of what the professionals get.

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It’s a tough morning photography wise and the window of opportunity is small to correct and readjust what you think the settings need to be as by 8am it was all over and the ospreys had moved on to other fishing grounds.

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The above osprey is a 7 year old male ringed locally in 2010.

I take my hat off to the photographers who take such stunning pictures of these birds and it shows me I still have lots to learn to improve my pictures. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience but was disappointed with my photo’s.

While chatting in the hide I learnt of a nearby nest which was fairly accessible so guess where I went the following day?

Tawny Owl

As the local little owls are a lot happier to be photographed than the tawny owl I do tend to let them appear more often on my blog. Hopefully I can correct that oversight with these photo’s taken recently.

Now I know what to listen for in the woods finding the tawny owl is a lot easier. Whenever one of them is around the other birds kick up a real commotion trying to scare them off. I just tend to follow the noise and sooner or later spot where the owl is being hassled. Magpies and jays will swoop down to try and move them along while the blackbirds just set off their alarm call from nearby branches.

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They generally tend to ignore the uproar but will fly off if it gets too much. Most of the time they are just trying to sleep during the day before spending the evening hunting. There are a pair in the woods and there has been at least one owlet spotted, but unfortunately not by me.

If it wasn’t for the other birds alerting me to their presence it would be very hard to spot them as they are very well camouflaged and quite often if you look away they can be hard to re-find as they blend in so well.

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Great to know they are in my area and one I will always look out for when the blackbirds start sending up the alarm.

Barn Owl

Until recently I’d never seen a barn owl in the flesh but watched one in very poor light hunting whilst at Bempton cliffs. They are beautiful birds to observe quartering over their chosen hunting ground. On Sunday I saw my second one and this time managed to get some, admittedly poor pictures.3d

It’s bad news when the best picture you have of a bird is its back end as it flies away. These are definitely ones to file under “Record shot” and the barn owl has been added to the target list.3f

 

Little Egret v Black headed Gulls

This little egret was out for a quiet Sunday morning spot of fishing when the local hoodlums in the shape of three black headed gulls decided to spoil his day.

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At first he was ignoring them carrying on trying to feed and ducking out of the way when they got too close.

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But eventually he’d decided enough was enough and started to stick up for himself.

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As with all bully’s they eventually back down and he let them know who was in charge before wandering off and carried on looking for a spot of lunch.

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More Little Owls

Yesterday lunchtime I got up close and personal with the local Little Owl and then realised I hadn’t got my camera!!!! So I returned in the evening and was rewarded with a real treat. I’d driven up close using my car as a hide and the owl didn’t seem at all perturbed as it basked in some glorious late evening sunshine.

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After about ten minutes posing the owl began calling and at first I thought that maybe I was stressing it out and was about to beat a hasty retreat when the mate arrived.

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Within seconds the first owl had flown but the new arrival continued soaking up the sun and after having a good scratch almost nodded off.

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I’ve never got close enough for pictures like these so hopefully they’ll get used to the car and allow me to get this close soon.

The Not So Common House Sparrow

When I was young there were literally millions of house sparrows. Every time we raced round a corner we’d disturb a flock of thirty or forty birds off the street and on to the rooftops. Nowadays they’re nowhere near common, with a 70% reduction in numbers since the Seventies and not just in the urban areas.

I’m lucky to live in an area where I see sparrows quite regularly and the local council is currently monitoring the bird to see how the population is doing. In my garden in the last week or two it’s blossomed with a pair bringing their fledglings to the feeders.

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Sparrows lay between 2 and 5 eggs and this pair seem to have hatched the maximum and Dad has been on feeding duties most of the time. He pecks away at the fat balls before passing it on to one open mouth after another. This suggests Mum is back on the nest as they can have up to four clutches in a good breeding season.

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The young are beginning to get the hang of the feeders and can be seen precariously balancing on a small twig trying to reach the seeds rather than alight on the feeders built in perch. As their confidence grows they are becoming more adept.

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These five will be added to the local survey and if the parents are as good at raising the next brood hopefully I can add their siblings. Maybe one day we’ll get used to seeing flocks again on our streets rather than the rare individual of recent years.