New King On The Block

On Saturday I found a new kingfisher location. I’d been there the week before photographing a heron grabbing some lunch and I thought it had the potential to be a good place for kingfishers.

_JM19383 The heron wasn’t about and as I stood watching a couple of male teal a kingfisher flew up from a small tree on the side of the pond. It whizzed off and after some mild swearing I was happy to see it return to another tree on the other side.

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He hung around for a few minutes and then disappeared toward the river. I decided to have a wander round the pond and it soon became apparent that there weren’t any perches low down. So I gathered up a few branches and started spacing them out around the pond to give him some fishing perches.

Today I went back and after a few minutes I spotted him at the far end of the pond sat on one of the perches I’d put out. And not only that he had a fish in his beak!

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It’s always rewarding to see them using these branches, I just need to get the right side for the best pictures.

 

Lesser Redpoll

A first proper trip out with the new lens this weekend and I thought I’d go to the local nature reserve just to get a feel for it and see what it could do. All the usual suspects were on show but there was one star, a lesser redpoll.

The reserve has been well known in the past as a good place to see these birds in the winter months but recently they have been a rarer sight so it was great to have one close up. There was only one but they generally are seen in small flocks at this time of year.

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Lesser Redpolls have tiny beaks that are adept at handling fine seeds so if you want them to visit your garden a niger seed feeder is a good place to start, although this one was enjoying the sunflower hearts.

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Lesser Redpolls have a red forehead (from which the name ‘red-poll’ is derived). The first time I ever saw one I thought it was a sparrow with a bloody head!! During the breeding season, a peachy-red colour extends down the throat and neck of males, and to a lesser extent in females. Both sexes have black streaking on their backs and have a small black ‘goatee beard’. The pink flush on this one suggests its a male heading toward the breeding season.

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There are three types of redpoll, Common or Mealy, Lesser and Arctic with the Common and Arctic being quite rare in the UK.

Lesser Redpolls are a sociable bird and a few pairs will often nest close together in a small colony. They nest in trees generally a young conifer which provides plenty of cover and the nest is an untidy cup of twigs, grass, and plant stems. It will then add a soft lining plant material, feathers and hair. They usually have two broods a year of between four and five eggs. The female incubates the eggs alone, but both parents feed the young.

Outside of the breeding season they form larger flocks which often include other birds such as Siskins. They are however currently a red list bird so if you live close to a wood don’t forget to put out some niger seeds or sunflower seeds and you may start to have some new visitors dropping in.

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Even Closer Up

My new lens arrived today just in time for me to be able to pop out with it at lunch time.

I thought I’d nip to the river as the kingfishers are showing well as they prepare to nest again. I’d only just sat down when I heard the distinctive mewl of a buzzard so I popped up to see where it was. Not just one but three were circling over the rugby pitch so I started snapping.

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Bearing in mind I’d had the lens less than an hour and I’d pretty much set it up for hopefully snapping kingfishers I don’t think the shots are too bad.

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Especially as the lens weighs loads more than my last one. I think I’m going to have to use the tripod a lot more or get to the gym!!

 

What a Difference a Week Makes!!

The most famous birds in Yorkshire at the moment are the bearded tits or bearded reedlings which are putting on amazing shows at both St Aidans and Old Moor nature reserves. Having never seen one before I decided last weekend to go and see what all the fuss was about. I chose St Aidans as they had been reported as showing well and some fabulous photo’s were popping up on social media.

They weren’t hard to find as there were a few photographers already in place when I arrived, but unfortunately the birds were some distance away and the weather was playing havoc! As soon as you got one in the viewfinder and pressed the shutter they had been blown either down to the bottom corner or totally out of shot. And boy was it cold!

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So yesterday I decided to try again. The sun was shining and luckily the wind was just a gentle breeze. Word had definitely got out and when I arrived around 6 or 7 other photographers were already in place, and as the morning wore on our numbers rapidly expanded. And we were royally entertained by a very obliging male who rarely moved 6 or 7 feet away from the assembled snaparrazi. With shutters firing away the assembled throng turned the lakeside path into a red carpet event as our  little celebrity performed stunningly for us.

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The bearded tit is a beautiful cinnamon-coloured bird which frequents reed beds across the country.  The males actually sport a black ‘moustache’, rather than a beard and performs some amazing gymnastics whilst eating the reed heads.

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They build their nests low down among the reeds, often on piles of dead reed stems. Bearded tits can be heard calling or ‘pinging’ as they fly about the reeds and are generally difficult to see.

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However this guy wasn’t the shy and retiring type and happily moved from reed stem to reed stem quite often coming too close with lenses needing to be shortened to keep him in focus.

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Having used up one battery and burning through another I couldn’t help myself taking just over 1600 shots!! But I did get the shot I’d pictured before I set off that morning. A classic bearded tit splits shot!

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What a star.