Great Spotted Woodpecker

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Buzzard v Crow

I’ve noticed buzzards more and more in my local area recently soaring above the valley. I’d seen one yesterday just before bumbling into the fox, so I returned to the same area hoping to see both again.

It wasn’t long before I heard then saw the first buzzard as it swooped low over the trees being harassed by some crows. It seems every bird of prey attracts a mobbing wherever they are, with the feisty crow being the main antagonist.

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There’s usually a small group who will fly up and noisily chase away the buzzard but in this case one lone aggressor chased him away.

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Interestingly there were three buzzards soaring on the thermals today and it may be that this one was this years young. They feed mainly on small mammals with voles being their prefered prey but will take carrion if available._JM10232

As these birds now seem to be residents I will hopefully be able to get better shots.

Gotta Love A Ginger

Beautiful moment this afternoon when I almost bumped into this stunning fox. I had wandered off  down a new path and had just got to the top when this fox casually wandered through the grass toward me.

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As I started taking pictures the shutter noise caught her attention and her ears pricked up ( I say “her” because she was just so beautiful) .

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She didn’t seem scared by my presence and she slowly walked off about her business before stopping to just check me out one last time. She looked healthy and well fed and she certainly made my day. The fox has always been a favourite of mine and top of my list to photograph.

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Diving Gannets

I didn’t quite get the picture I wanted of a gannet with its beak just breaking the water as it dived for a fish, but I got close.

In this one three gannets all dived close together entering the sea like a poorly synchronised diving team.

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Here this gannet prepares to dive

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And in this picture one gannet emerges with its prize as another heads down for a fish.

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Gannet Chaos

Another day and another trip out, this time on a boat out of Bridlington to photograph diving gannets below Bempton Cliffs. I was due to go on this trip earlier in the year but the sea was too rough so it was cancelled however this time the day dawned bright and clear and the sea was like a pond.

The trip to the base of the cliffs takes about an hour so plenty of time to relax set up the camera and watch the world go slowly by. The boat is stocked with 6 or 7 cases of mackerel which are the chum to lure in the gannets. As soon as the boat is in position the first gulls arrive and greedily grab the first few fish.

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However within seconds the boat is surrounded by a cloud of wheeling gannets who rotate around the boat looking for their chance to dive and grab a fish. They can hit the water at up to 60mph to snap up the fish and it soons becomes an absolute frenzy of gannets arriving at all angles.

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As soon as one emerges fish in beak, it is assailed by others looking to steal the prize.

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It really is a scene of complete mayhem and great fun to try and photograph. No big long lens needed here as the birds are often close enough to touch and getting wet is part of the thrill. Watching the circling throng lining up their dive, then following them as they plunge into the sea is a joy to watch.

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The madness continues till all the fish have been cast over the side and a sense of calm finally returns as the gannets move off looking for another meal or just to float on the waves. If you’re ever in Yorkshire I would highly recommend the trip, 3 hours on the North Sea with an hour in the middle of just pure gannet bedlam.

The trip is run by Yorkshire Coast Nature and you can visit their website here

 

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?

Sea Bird City Bempton Cliffs – Gannets

Last month I was due to go on a diving gannet photography day from Bridlington on the East Coast. Unfortunately the weather put paid to that trip so my plans got rearranged and I set off instead for a day at Bempton Cliffs.

Known locally as the Seabird City Bempton Cliffs are home to a staggering number of gannets, razorbills, fulmars, puffins, shag, herring gull, kittiwake and guillemots. In fact this year has proved to be a record year with almost 450,000 birds counted.

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The gannets are the most numerous with over 200,000 visiting the cliffs from March to October to breed or in the case of youngsters get used to being a gannet as it’ll be 5 years before they breed. These Northern Gannets return to Bempton every year from their wintering sites in West Africa and they return to the same nest site with the same partner every year.

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Although very affectionate to each other when they are crammed up close and personal on their very small nest spaces tempers can easily get frayed and some violence can ensue. They are our largest seabird with a wingspan up to 2 metres which allows them to effortlessly soar above the cliffs or travel great distances to feed. They eat larger fish such as mackerel and cod and the availability of these has been key in the recent rises in population as they successfully raise their chicks.

An onshore wind holding the birds above the cliffs offers some spectacular photo opportunities especially when they are gathering grass and plants to adorn their nests or offer as gifts to their partners. I’m not sure about nettles though as a suitable nesting material!

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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.

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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