In Among the Thistles

A beautiful Autumnal day in Yorkshire today so a chance to venture out at lunchtime. Lots of the wild flowers are now heading to seed and the thistles have exploded shaking their downy seeds out upon the breeze. These are very attractive to the smaller birds and goldfinches love them. The fields near work are covered with them and today a small charm descended for a midday feed. There were goldfinches of all ages flitting from seed head to seed head. Some older ones going through their moult while some of the new juveniles were slowly developing their distinctive plumage. Definitely a lunchtime treat.

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Next Stop Africa

There hasn’t seemed to be as many Swallows around this year near me so it was great to see plenty on a recent weekend visit to North Yorkshire.

The cottage where we were staying had a regular stream zipping overhead and hoovering up insects above the paddock opposite. After spending an hour failing to get any decent flight shots I decided to concentrate on the young being fed on the rooftop. The juveniles would fly with their parents for a period and then a number would decide to perch and wait to be fed.

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Every time a parent flew in the whole row of young would start to screech mouths wide open awaiting a tasty insect treat. There was an almost tangible feeling of disappointment when they realised it wasn’t their parent or that the parent was going to feed a sibling. Open mouths turned to grumpy pouts as the insects disappeared into another waiting mouth.

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In and out the parents would come until the juveniles were full or ready to try again chasing down their own food and off they would go performing acrobatics inches above the ground. It won’t be long now until they set off for the winter on the long haul to Africa. When they return we know summer isn’t far off, even if it is another British summer.

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Some Odd Behaviour – Any Thoughts?

I visited Old Moor the RSPB reserve near Barnsley this weekend. On what was a quiet day I came across a family of willow warblers hidden away in the bushes with the parents struggling to keep up with feeding their greedy brood. I struggled to get shots as they were deep in the undergrowth but after awhile they popped out in the open. One youngster sat with a parent who then flew off to get more snacks and the youngster suddenley stretched out and then lowered itself onto the bramble and seemed to play dead. It remained motionless for a couple of minutes before popping up and then fluttered off into the bush. I looked around for predators but saw none and whilst this one played dead its siblings were hopping around in the background. Has anyone noticed this before or have any explanation for this odd behaviour? I’d love to hear your thoughts? The photo’s below show what happened.

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Car Park Feeders Update

Since I put the feeders up in the car park at work we’ve had lots of wildlife popping in for a feed. Recently we had our first jay and then a wild Black rabbit, hopefully I’ll get pictures next time they come.

A regular visitor has been a male greater spotted woodpecker but it’s really nervous and doesn’t hang around for very long. Today however a female turned up and she was a lot more open to having her picture taken.

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Now That’s a Good Friday

As today was forecast to be the only decent day of the long weekend I decided to get up early and make the most of it. The RSPB reserve at Old Moor in South Yorkshire was my venue of choice and it didn’t disappoint.

Spring is in the air and I was hoping to see the great crested grebes perform their weed dance. They did start rising out of the water and nodding at each other, but I think she may have had a headache and it quickly fizzled out and they went for brunch instead.

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A little grebe got up close and personal and gave me an eyeballing.

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These two should really have got a room, I don’t know which one looks most suprised!

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The star of the day for me though was this Redshank who looked great in the spring sunshine and then invited a new bird for me, a Dunlin to join her for lunch.

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All in all a very Good Friday, enjoy your Easter break.

 

In Memory of….

We seem to be losing famous people by the day at the moment but there was one at the weekend which particularly struck me.

Barry Hines wrote A Kestrel for a Knave which was made into the film Kes. When it played at the local cinema back in 1969 my Dad took me along to watch and my love affair with birds of prey began. I loved the film, who can forget the bullying games teacher, the scene where our hero gets the cane for no reason and the tragic outcome. If you haven’t seen it please do, you won’t be disappointed but you might struggle with the Yorkshire accents.

Later at school we read the book in English, the whole class waiting the moment when our quite posh English teacher had to read the line “and put his hand in the dog shit”. Imagine a class of 13 year olds hanging on every word and the disappointment when she substituted poo for the offending word!

So in memory of Mr Hines here are a couple more of my recent kestrel shots.

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Rain Rain Go Away

If you live in England you’re probably as sick as I am of the constant wet, grey and miserable weather we’ve been having all Winter long. So when I looked out of the curtains yesterday and the street was almost dry and the sky had a strange blue tint I decided I was off out with the camera whatever happened.

I had decided that the next time I managed to get out I would visit the RSPB reserve at Blacktoft Sands in East Yorkshire as I had read it was a good place to spot Marsh Harriers a bird I’d never seen. Its only an hours drive from home and is different to other reserves I’ve visited in that it’s predominantly a large reed bed with expanses of open water, In front of these lagoons are spacious and dry hides with big windows and unbroken views.

I spent the first hour or so visiting each hide to get the lay of the land and then sat down to photograph a few new birds. The first were a couple of shelducks which are quite large and brightly marked ducks who were hunkered down from the wind on a small island. It took me a while to spot the 6 or 7 snipe sheltering as well and they were soon joined by wigeon and teal trying to get out of the draft.

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Moving down to the next hide I finally spotted the marsh harrier hunting low over the reeds looking for an early lunch. They were a long way away and I was willing them to head my way so i could get a decent shot. I had to settle for distant and cropped I’m afraid.

They were though a joy to watch and at one point three were hunting close together.

A fly by from one of my favourite subjects certainly made me smile and some formation flying from some black tailed godwits gave me another new bird I’d not seen before.

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An excellent day out and I will be returning again as soon as the rain stops!!

Car Park Feeders 2

I’m really enjoying having the feeders in the car park at work. It’s like my own private nature reserve and more and more birds seem to visit every day. Today I had 12 different types of bird pop in for a snack and as I drove into the car park I followed a great spotted woodpecker as it flew from tree to tree before grabbing a few peanuts. I haven’t got a picture of him yet but I’m sure I will sooner or later.

The smokers in the office seem to be enjoying having something to watch as they slowly kill themselves and I’m constantly being asked ” what are the little fluffy brown ones?” or “what’s the one with the red tummy that’s not a robin?”

I’m the car park Chris Packham!

 

On the Lagoon

Spent an evening sat by the lagoon on the local nature reserve and got a couple of shots and a few mosquito bites!! The young moorhen and little grebe were chasing flies and the woodpecker was one of two bashing away at the trees.

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