The Lodge, Sandy RSPB. February 2009.

A group of crossbills had been frequenting the Lodge RSPB for a time and they were regularly seen near the 'fort' on the new plantation area. I decided to take a trip and spend a couple of hours there, but the light was awful so i didn't expect to get any images of a bird that frequents the tops of the trees.

I got lucky when Graham and Peter located them whilst working and directed me over, i was then to watch them, along with others, for some time. And i was able to grab some record shots when they had the canopy as background rather than sky. One or two males were very colourful and they were very vocal whilst feeding.

Its great to listen to them taking the cones apart and then discard them. They would take the whole cone on occasions and hold it steady whilst their bill got to work. I followed them as they moved through the tree tops and then they departed as a flock towards the Lodge shop, where i counted 14 maybe 15 birds, i phoned Sarah, working in the shop, and said they'd headed her way but they were not to be seen until later further down the reserve. A great couple of hours despite the weather, it certainly cheered me up.

Bedfordshire. February 2009.

Sarah and i watched this barn owl hunting as the light was fading, a short drive from where we live. I was able to grab some record shots but hope to get some better images another time. It was seen to take a vole close to where it was perched up, its always a joy to watch barn owls wherever they may be.

Cockayne Hatley. February 2009.

I visited my seeded area again, but just for a short period as there were a lot of estate workers passing through. The numbers were not as high as previous but good enough and a male pheasant preferring my patch rather than one of the hoppers.

Pale Brindled Beauty
My first two, photographically, moths of the year. These were found whilst working a night shift, i had seen a few winter moths previously along with a single pale brindled beauty but what with the extreme weather conditions there weren't many showing. I used a small aperture and remote to take these shots, luckily they were calm and kept still, but it wont always be like that for sure.

Dotted Border

Beeston, Bedfordshire. February 2009.

I joined the Beeston bird ringing team for the first time this year along with my dad. The weather was dull and cold, but by the end of the session a fair amount of birds had been caught.

Five long tailed tits were netted and they all turned out to be from a previous ringed event, just 1 was missing from the original 6 and still staying as a unit too.

Five blackbirds were caught and it was good to see the difference in the feathering stage when it was being aged.

Only a couple of finches were netted despite plenty of food being put down and goldfinch on show around the nets. There were a couple of jays around which would of been great to see one in the hand and a first for the list there.
At first i thought i saw a starling caught up in something on the ground with its wings out and flapping around the leaf litter, but on going closer to inspect it turned out it was fighting another starling which was hidden beneath it and well and truly attacked. My approach scared them off, but it was only a matter of time before they were fighting again and this time the second bird was only able to scurry away, and when the third attack started the starling pictured here was at deaths door and so i stepped in collected the bird and gave it to derek who placed it in a ringing bag to rest and the thought was it would not survive such a beating. But lo and behold after an hour the bag was moving a lot and on inspection seemed okay and so was ringed and let off away from the area it was attacked, hopefully it will fair better. The starling was a female and the census was that it was 2 females fighting over a nesting hole and/or a male bird.

Bedfordshire, February 2009.

Nearby my home there was a decent sized flock of buntings feeding on spilt grain and using a particular hedgerow. I decided to try and bait an area close to where they had been feeding and get some images. It didn't take long before the birds had found the seed, and timely too as a lot of the seed/grain had been eaten already. And using my car as a hide i was able to get reasonably close.

There were good numbers of yellowhammer, and some had real bright heads, i think they re lovely birds and so colourful, even the drabbest ones stood out in the hedge line, unlike the reed buntings which were still acquiring the black hoods they just blended into the hedge. They were in good numbers too and were not afraid to approach the seed or car.

The snow had lingered here and they were obviously taken advantage of the easy food on show, this also brought in other birds with a group of greenfinches, a couple of robins and dunnock, a few chaffinch's and blue tits. A pair of goldfinches made a couple of appearance's and on one occasion posed lovely for me to grab a few shots whilst feeding on seed heads.

Manure, Mipits and Snow.

I took a drive with Sarah around the local manure heaps that were being used. The heat coming off the piles was enough to keep the heavy snow off that wed had. There were at least 3 meadow pipits actively feeding along with a couple of pied wags'.

In total contrast to the heaps the fields were all still white and covered in snow. The corvids were feeding on scattered sugar beet along with skylarks. And because of the white out conditions the hares stood out a mile off, they were in good numbers too with at least 8 in view from the car window.

Bittern Watchpoint. Lea Valley Park. Essex.Jan 2009.

I spent a few hours here in the hope of connecting with one of the 2 bitterns that had been frequenting the reedbed in front of the hide. I was to photograph just the one but although typically skulking and hidden for most of the time i was given some lovely views. It certainly is an experience in the watchpoint with over enthusiastic photographers moving vantage points every time it moved rather than just waiting for the right position and shot. If there was an inch of space next to my shoulder then it was soon filled with some lump and a 300 lens, and if he did fit in then surely i must be thinner than i thought!!!...

But still it was a lovely time watching these camouflaged birds and right in front of you too. The area had definitely changed over the years but the water level was quite high and the bird was not seen to catch anything, and reportedly the day previous too. What i did notice on one occasion was the birds tongue, a long pink slither not too unlike a woodpeckers, something i had not seen before.

A pair of great crested grebes came and fished in front of the hide and unlike the bittern caught a fish in the form of a young pike. They then moved away and started to display to each other, showing spring is not too far away. And along with a couple of supporting water rails it was an enjoyable morning.