Monday, 26 November 2012

24th November, more mud and kingfishers!!

I did briefly harbour hopes of a day on the moors today, a look from the back garden disclosed a murky clinging layer of cloud that was hanging across the moor like a heavy curtain. Realism is a necessary tool for the outdoor lover so I decided to try and further my knowledge of the kingfishers I have worked so hard to locate recently.

Luck plays a part in virtually all wildlife sightings, being in the right place at the right time helps enormously but I would add that the more you can learn about the behaviour and habits of your subject the likely your success will become.

Starting from Kildwick I realised quite swiftly that the grey and dull light would offer a challenge for wildlife shots, a nice atmospheric photograph though........

The state of the towpath is pretty dreadful for walking, reaching the first of my likely kingfisher viewpoints though my luck was in...almost...just as I focused off it went!!!
I resisted the momentary urge to sprint after it:-)) A few patrols up and down the bank yielded little and I took a coffee break by my usual bridge, this lovely cygnet joined me for a while.

I wandered back and forth looking for birds, I did manage to find some siskins flitting from tree to tree and a lovely little wren.

A glance across the valley told me the day wasn't really going to improve...

The glaring sun is a result of my exposure and ISO levels being incorrect, photography can be such hard work!!

A couple of elegant swans paddled past...

Fieldfares are becoming more numerous in the valley, if they also become more approachable it would be much appreciated!

Goosanders are another great challenge for me, they seem to flee very swiftly but by approaching very carefully I managed to get a bit closer then usual. The mistrust which shows in the eye probably says it all......

The migrant geese come ever onwards....

And mostly pass by................

Almost back into Silsden the view up to the moor where I might have been discloses I made a wise decision.......
I did have some kingfisher sightings and photographs by this time, unfortunately the light had meant the pix were pretty grotty:-(( Miraculously a little bright spell appeared as I was on the outskirts of the village, I have had occasional sights around here and I scanned around through my binoculars, sure enough there was a lovely kingfisher...maybe not my best shots but in drab light they were very welcome:-))

Another muddy and mucky walk over I know where the beck is so I can clean my boots before my visit to the pub, aah beer and the mud is quickly forgotten!!

Monday, 19 November 2012

17th November, A sunny mudfest!!

We awoke to a damp and dismal start to the day and my plans for a moorland walk were swiftly scrapped in favour of one at a lower level and with a later start time as the weather forecast indicated some improvement could be expected.

Sure enough by late morning the skies were brightening and with my gear at the ready I was ready to go, a timely lift to Kildwick was most welcome and I set off by the canal.

An early sighting of two female goosander...

I wandered back and forth along my favoured kingfisher site area, the best I could do was to puzzle why male and female mallards stand on the opposite leg!!

A diversion down to the river followed, I thought the canalbank was muddy down by the river Aire it was even worse! My soggy wander brought me no wildlife sightings but the sun came out and nicely illuminated this wild apple tree.

On my way back to the canal I had to traverse a couple of really wet fields, I normally cope quite well but I think I had forgotten my patience pills as time after time I sunk in perilously close to the tops of my boots.

The slithery wet mud of the canal towpath was almost welcome now, a lovely little dunnock posed obligingly too:-)

I had a route in mind that meant my time on this stretch was coming to an end, daylight is short at this time of year. Just as I was about to leave a little blur of blue arrived in a nearby tree, on this occasion it chose to remain in cover though and staying a short while it flew off in the direction of the river.

I wandered eastwards now towards Silsden, ever alert for wildlife I was just on the edge of town when a harsh shriek from the nearby bushes almost made me fall in the water!! I saw a strange bird fly a short distance and settle, I had to poke the camera through some thorny bushes to get this...
A ring necked parakeet as it was identified later, there is a wild population in some parts of the country but well south of here so I suspect it may be an escapee.

The leaves are almost all on the ground now but this one was just clinging on..

A sight of a kestrel is always welcome, spotting one on a pylon I took a diversion through another sodden field to get as close as I could.

If it is possible the mud back on the canalbank got worse, it was like having two layers, the top wet and thin, underneath a layer of thick clinging mud. The effect it had on my ability to stay upright was startling as several times I came very close to a very mucky fall!

Slithering on towards Low Holden I got a lovely surprise as I rounded a corner, another kingfisher:-) I wasn't able to get very close but at least this one was out in the open!

A lovely young cygnet was the cause of the kingfishers departure, at least it posed for a photograph!

I kept getting fleeting glimpses of a jay, after some patient and careful approach work I found the tree it was in, it just would not hop out into the open!

One of the reasons I wanted to check this part of the valley was to look for seasonal visitors, fieldfares, redwings and even waxwings may be seen down here. I did get a few distant looks at fieldfares but I could not find any within range of the camera despite several long waits by berry bearing bushes.

It was time to start heading homewards now, I passed house with a large garden and one tree still hanging on to its golden leaves.

Checking the area where I had seen the kestrel paid dividends, this time I got two!

Time now to get my boots cleaned up, I intended going for a couple of pints and I don't really think the landlord would appreciate the muck I was plastered with, a couple of sticks and a handy stream were soon located and the job was done, another grand wildlife spotting day and the sun was beginning to set.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

8-11th November, a Northumberland long weekend

A little planning and a confirmation that our friends John and Karen could join us, a successful property search and fingers crossed for some good weather, Northumberland sees some fantastic wildlife particularly at this time of year with Siberian and Scandinavian birds arriving here for the winter and so we headed north.

Successful journeys for us all saw us spend a pleasant evening chatting over a drink or two and planning our first day. From our base at Warkworth there are several wildlife reserves within easy distance plus miles of beautiful coast with dunes and sandy beaches.

An early start on Friday, and why not with a sky like this to greet you!

The weather soon deteriorated to a flat greyness, not ideal for photography but at least it was dry.

A short walk by the river Coquet yielded a goldeneye duck and a robin.

Warkworth Castle is a notable landmark, had the day been a wet one we may have been lured inside to see what it it had to offer, for now we were happy to wander past it!

Walking back to the car we saw a bashful looking cormorant and then a black headed gull obliged for an in flight shot! The time spent on the flight shots was to pay dividends in a big way the following day.

We drove just down the coast to Hauxley Nature Reserve, stopping on the way to identify a bird which turned out to be a thrush, always a pleasure to see..

I cannot recall my first photograph at a reserve ever being of a rat!

Soon afterwards a stoat appeared, the first sight of one for John and Karen, I thought it may attack the couple of rats that were feeding under the bird tables but I think it sensed human presence and disappeared.

A tree sparrow was a more conventional sighting!

Down at the lake we soon had a lovely sighting of a redshank..
We had lunch and then spent a while on the adjacent beach, ringed plover are a real delight to watch, the now squally wind and dreadful light meant getting a decent photograph was difficult:-(

Back up at the lake the we saw a few things, certainly enough to keep our interest though most were out of range of the camera.

This little grebe came briefly close enough though, my first shot of this shy little bird.

Almost as a signal for the rest of the break late in the day the sun appeared, hightlighting the colours on these lovely wigeon and the surrounding scenery.

Light turned to dark and this part of our day was done, plenty of hours left for us to enjoy a few cups of tea, a look through the pix of the day and a lovely meal together in our cottage.

Another check on our local sightings list led us to Druridge Country Park the next morning, I soon focused on a treetop robin but in the brief time between that and me pressing the shutter release it appears to have fallen off!

A couple of miles or so to walk around the lake in the morning sun was wonderful, wildlife sightings were not great but there were plenty of swans to be seen:-))

A cuppa from our flasks back at the car were welcome, sunny it may have been but there was a cool, cool breeze! When the cold wind is blowing and the sun is out there is only one place to go up here...the beach!

The high tide meant sightings were unlikely so we returned to the car park and had lunch, a check of our maps showed some nearby reedbeds which are always a likely site for birds of various kinds.

The reeds were interspersed with bushes and shrubs, pretty soon we saw a stonechat.

A racket overhead as a large group of geese, probably greylags, arrived.

Flocks of goldfinches twittered around us, stopping briefly in the reeds and shrubs..
Another stonechat in beautiful afternoon light...

Josie spotted a large bird hovering over a nearby field, the sun glinted on the lovely honey, orange and gold of the feathers of a short eared owl!!! I moved swiftly up an adjacent lane to get a closer position, moved the camera dial onto the manual settings I had used for the gulls the previous day, crossed my fingers sort of, held my breath sort of, and said a silent prayer as the owl flew directly towards me......

Now how the heck do you follow that!! We were all enthusing about our luck as we wandered on the coastal trail, a small hawk flew by at great speed twisting and turning in flight as it pursued a little unidentified the hawk made contact they disappeared into a bush, I hastened my way there hoping the victor may stop for a while for a preen after its meal which I know they sometimes do. I was in luck, a short while later this beautiful female merlin posed on a post!

This was turning into an epic day but it was late now, we almost got a great sunset to cap it off...

We took the beach route back to the car...wait for me!!!!!!!!!!!!

 The weather had been so kind and over our meal on Saturday night we discussed perhaps having another walk on Sunday morning as it looked like being a stunning day, discussions were successful, an early morning start was planned..

Early morning on any beach is a special time, with a chill breeze and a blazing sun it was spectacular!

The waves crashed in...........

We witnessed a rather strange incident as John claimed to see a rabbit in the sea! Well the wine consumption had been good...but a check through the binoc's proved him right...I moved nearer, at first I thought it may be dead but there was life in its eyes, as I got really near I clapped my hands to see if it would respond, it did and it hopped a little slowly back to the dunes obviously unwell, a far from swift moving labrador appeared and swiftly despatched it! Oh dear, at least it was quicker and probably better than freezing or drowning in the sea...nature has many facets not all of them pleasant.

Our collective mood was quickly raised by the sights of the sanderling marching their merry little dance on the sands....

Gulls were hunting over the incoming tide swells.......

A wander inland on the coastal trail found some starlings vying with cattle for a feed!

Out at sea we identified velvet scoter, shelduck and black throated diver, nearer to us this red throated diver came in close to shore.

The sanderlings continued to make us chuckle!

Nearly time to think about lunch and the journey home, up on the dunes a kestrel hovered...

As we passed the reed beds on the way back the short eared owl appeared as if to say goodbye, what a brilliant weekend!!!