"Some Snow at Last".Feeding Station. December 2010.

After missing out on the previous snow falls, I now got the chance for some wintry images.
Everywhere was either covered in snow or had a real hard Hoar frost on it. And there was not a shortage of birds coming to feed either.

I tried to keep everything plain and show the birds colouring. The delicate pink flush came out more so on the long tailed tits against a white backdrop, and the blues and yellows on the great and blue tits looked so vivid.

And for once the skulking tree sparrow could not blend in so well, showing off those lovely browns.

Even the song thrushes ventured off the ground to feast on the berries, mind you these were truly frozen and some were dropped, either to try and soften on the ground or because they were too damn solid!.

The stunning greens and yellow of this male greenfinch really stood proud against the snow.

And the typical 'Xmas shot' of the robin, mind you it was still behaving more shy and elusively than most robins, so posing images were few and far between.

And the marsh tit was still around and feeding actively, even whilst topping up the feeders it was normally the closest waiting, that's if it wasn't at the feeders with the long tailed tit gang next to me whilst filling. Even the reed buntings had finally decided to take advantage of the food laid out and were showing.

After a few hours and painfully cold feet with the car reading -9.5 outside I had bagged a few hundred shots to peruse through and so time to battle it home to the warmth.

Feeders. December 2010.

A few more images from the farm feeders, the cold snap was still drawing in the birds with a pair of Bullfinches foraging among the bushes behind, but always too obscured for a photo unfortunately. The Long tailed tits were still as one huge gang but there was no sign of the Marsh tit on the last couple of visits, hope its still around. The Tree sparrows all appeared as a group of 5 but only 2 at a time would feed on the seed, but becoming more showy. One of the landowners informed me of a Little owl one morning, so I will have to keep an eye out for that.

Feeding Station. Nov', Dec' 2010.

Over the last week or so I have just gone down to the farm to spend some time on the feeders. What with the cold snap hitting everywhere at least I didn't have to battle the elements trying to drive too far. There were very good numbers of birds there too. All eagerly tucking in and I'm now having to check them around 3 days apart as the seed is disappearing fast.

The Marsh Tit was still there which was great to see, and most species were hitting double numbers. Greenfinches were mostly younger birds but there were a couple of bright males putting on a show. I had just one Yellowhammer put in a brief appearance before departing, hopefully if the cold snap continues I may get some in along with Reed Buntings. These two buntings are normally hanging around but not so this year, as of yet!

The Long tailed tits are a joy to watch. A lone bird arriving calling signals the onslaught of 'the gang'. I have 16+ visiting at the moment, the air is full of their calls and then after a matter of minutes, if that, they move on and silence reigns once again.

There are double figures of Blue tits and Great tits which do not venture far whilst I am refilling or moving perches. Normally the Marsh tit still comes to feed whilst I'm present followed by a couple of brave Blue tits. The Marsh tit is still tricky to photograph, normally taking a direct route into the food and definitely not bothered by the more bolshy bigger birds.

But the best new species of the moment has to be the Tree Sparrow, ( well 5 to be correct ). I had seen one bird lingering around in the background but not venturing to the front or the feeders, but on this occasion I had at least two at one time feeding alongside everything else and normally one not too far away watching. What a great sight seeing these birds around the feeding station for the first time, hopefully they will stay knowing there is a food supply here for them. They blend in so well amongst the bushes and branches despite their richly coloured heads, giving themselves up only when they move in closer. So another fantastic addition alongside all the usual suspects, maybe another one will be along soon.

Norfolk. 24th November 2010.

My Dad and I headed off to Norfolk for first light. We started at Wells Wood first and hoped for a glimpse of a Northern Bullfinch. But despite seeing 2 male of the British race there were no female Northerners to be seen. There were plenty of Coal tits and Goldcrests around though but after two and a half hours we decided to move on along the coast. Next stop was Burnham Overy Marshes, on arrival a Merlin flew over the road and then a Barn Owl was still hunting the fields adjacent to where we parked. The light was not perfect by any means, surprise surprise, and the day was emerging into a non photographic day and more akin to a good old day out in Norfolk birdwatching. The next sight to grace us was a flock of around 12 Waxwings, that I picked up flying across the marshes. They landed in bushes along the track leading to the dunes giving us some brief but welcoming views. There were skeins of geese flying inland continuously, we had no sightings of any Harriers or Buzzards and so moved onto Burnham Norton and further along, always hoping to glimpse the 'possible Northern Harrier'. News came through of a Rough legged Buzzard where we hadn't long departed from and so we about turned and headed back in time for my dad to connect before it sat up out of sight. News of the 'Northern Harrier' came through on the pager, seen at Titchwell then flew inland. Frustratingly the sighting was an hour and a half ago, which would of given a chance to search around the fields nearby if it had come out when seen. We headed off towards Titchwell as the light was already beginning to fade and it was definitely getting colder. We drove around the surrounding farmland sighting a couple of Common Buzzards, I then parked up overlooking the marshland west of the main footpath at Titchwell. Three Marsh Harriers were getting up every now and again and then in from the east a 'Harrier' appeared and proceeded further out over the marsh. With its orange breast and dark upperparts it hunted over the marsh for a few minutes before going to ground, with a line of watchers viewing from the main footpath and a few joining us by the roadside it wasn't long before the pager was showing ' probable Northern Harrier' at Titchwell, the bird then flew around the marsh before moving east over the pathway ( if only I had been standing there I thought ) and further along the coast. But we were both happy to of connected with this Harrier, it was my second attempt, and if it hangs around, which it should do for a while longer, then I may try to connect again and hopefully get a photo. Time to go home....

Pied-Billed Grebe. Hollingworth Lake. Gtr. Manchester. Nov 2010

After working my last night shift I decided I had to go for the Pied-billed grebe in Gtr Manchester. From leaving work I picked my Dad up on the way and headed home to change and collect my gear. The journey was not too bad and I was feeling awake with glorious sunshine warming the car all the way.... that is till we reached Hollingworth Lake only to see fog!
I drove along the approach road only to miss the car park entrance, and so I had to turn around. But as I came back towards the car park I paused next to a small congregation of birders and there it was ... the Pied billed grebe close in to the edge. Well we had both connected at least, and so now went and parked up.
Once we had returned to the gathering we found the grebe had moved away into the fog, presumably around to the bay where the hide was located. The sun looked as though it was starting to win the battle of breaking through and so decided to stay where I was and not join everyone in moving to the hide, the viewing would surely be as hampered as it was here. As the minutes passed by the opposite vegetation started to become visible and then out of the fog came the shape of the grebe, steaming towards us as if it was a duck coming to bread, fantastic, and as luck would have it the sun suddenly conquered the fog and broke through.

The grebe then stayed around our position busily diving for fish, and catching a few, as if it enjoyed our company. It certainly didnt take long to dispatch the small perch it surfaced with either. By now a few of the birders had returned to join us along with some new arrivals, and we watched for some time before it moved out to the opposite reeds and around to the bay. We eventually moved around to the bay, but it stayed on the far side, and although harassed by the black headed gulls there did not venture closer. Preferring to feed and rest under the low hanging branches, watched by the perched Kingfisher above it.

On one occasion when it was feeding I saw a group small fish leap from the water before it, hurrying out of its way before it submerged once again. And after nearly three hours there we decided to head back to the car and start the long trek home, but very bloody happy indeed.