Thursday 26 November 2020

It's all a blur

 Whilst watching the Short-eared Owls a couple of days ago I had an idea to try to catch the Parakeets as they went to roost but I had the idea that a slow shutter speed creating a blur might produce a nice image so I set about trying and produced this one below.

    I'm not sure what I think of it

I returned tonight after a day off from watching the Owls and found myself some safe space and waited. I got one fly over from the Owls and managed just the one shot.

Short-eared Owl

It's great to be able to watch these birds most nights and study their behaviour. They now roost apart and when they do come together they are very vocal and seem to be territorial. They are feeding differently spending much more time on the fringes of the main fields.

It has to be said that there is now a level of disturbance to be seen and please if you go stay on the footpaths and stay away from the roost even if somebody does share the location. Today saw one group surround the bird on a post and another large group of around thirty birders surround the bird on the ground in a full circle around it, both groups far too close to the bird and like the Xmas Covid rules, just because you can doesn't mean you should!

Monday 23 November 2020

Owls Owls Owls

I saw the Owls again tonight and last night. The weekend saw many birders/toggers on site so I had a hard job finding my own little bit of space away from everybody else sacrificing the best spots for social distancing. The birds showed really well and I managed to see them on several occasions but only grabbed a handful of images as the light had all but gone when I saw them. Tonight with only a few birders out it was easier to select a spot but the Owls hardly came out at all with just one bird making a couple of circuits of the wide outer perimeter. At times the light was perfect but the combination of Owl and light has evaded me so far since these guys have been on site. 

Year list still 269

Friday 20 November 2020

Caspian Gull again at Eagle Pond at Snaresbrook

Local birders have reported that the Eagle Pond Caspian Gull has again returned to winter in Snaresbrook and whilst I haven't rushed over to see it I found myself close by today after making a family delivery and as I passed the pond I noticed the bird and parked up to see it better and take a few pics. It was very gloomy with a little drizzle in the air but the very smart Caspo brightened my morning for sure. I think I first photographed this guy in December 2017 and I think the bird is now five or six years old. 

And a small bonus with Egyptian Goose now on the very pointless LD2 list

Egyptian Goose

Year list still 269

More Lockdown Owls

I didn't visit the Owls on Wednesday opting to walk the river Roding instead. The flood gates have been opened at Ongar and the river has come over the banks and flooded the fields providing great habitat for the gulls to feed and rest. Deep in places I walked about five miles but failed to see anything too exciting adding just Great Crested Grebe to my pointless LD2 list which I've now stopped counting it's that pointless. The gulls were mostly Black-headed with large numbers of Common, a few Lesser-black Backed and a single Herring. No Kingfishers were seen but that'll be because I took the camera which remained in the bag throughout.

Yesterday the rain moved through and around 1.30pm the sky turned blue so I rushed over the park to take advantage of this rare bit of light. In the next couple of hours I enjoyed good views of two Short-eared Owls although I always seemed to be in the wrong place to take full advantage of the light. I also had a fly over Peregrine and a small flock of Redwings of note. (another pointless LD2 tick)

I love spending time with any birds but these guys are so special and so close to home it's really helping me be a bit more compliant with the local guidelines.

Year list stuck on 269

Tuesday 17 November 2020

Short-eared Owls

 I make no apology for posting a few more Owl images.

The weather isn't helping me with these shots, every day seems to get more dull and the wind again today was blowing well from the south west but the Owls did come out for a while preferring to sit rather than getting up in the high wind which did on occasion help with a couple of images as they grounded quite close to me. One day they'll come out to play and the weather will play it's part too until then I'll try to force the light with a high ISO. These shots at 4000 ISO and a shutter speed of just 1/160th. (The flight shot a little noisier at 10,000 ISO) 

I also had a flock of twenty Lesser Redpoll, two Siskins and a very late Swallow whilst waiting for the Owls to appear and picked up three LD2 pointless ticks with Gadwall, Tufted Duck and Pochard on the way to the park bringing the pointless list to 68. 

Year list still 269

Sunday 15 November 2020

Male Sparrowhawk visits the garden

Whilst doing the dishes this morning I noticed a very smart little male Sparrowhawk sat on the fence at the bottom of the garden so poked the camera out of the window and took a couple of shots. He seemed quite settled resting on one foot chilling after the earlier heavy rain. I see young birds quite often and the female visits now and again but the male isn't seen nearly as much but it's always nice when I do catch a glimpse of him.

Sparrowhawk: A closed compound word formed when two words are said so often together that they become one.

Year list still 269

Friday 13 November 2020

Another walk with the Owls

 Couldn't help myself, just had to go for another walk with the local Owls and they didn't disappoint.

The birds left the roost site around 3.30pm again and again I chose to stay low on the main path away from the other guys up on the hill. This strategy has the downside that the valley is darker as it's shaded by the hill but I personally prefer the background lower down. In the hour of day light left the birds gave me three short views with the first really the only one with much warmth to the light but I still enjoyed watching them again.

I also added two LD2 ticks with Siskin and Redpoll in the two hours walking the park before the Owls became the centre of attention.

LD2 list now 67

How could you get tired of watching these cracking birds and it helps with the lockdown to be able to get out locally and see them most days. 

Thursday 12 November 2020

More Owl time

I had an hour walking the Roding today whilst my car went through it's MOT and added a couple of LD2 ticks with Kingfisher, and Common Gull. Water levels are high on the river but it was a very pleasant stroll and I'm pleased to report that the car made it through without too much drama.

In the afternoon I headed down the road to Gunpowder Park again arriving around 2pm. There was around twenty five birder/toggers on the hill awaiting the arrival of the star birds. The crowd was well distanced but I thought that may change if the bird arrived so I left and decided to sit it out alone at the bottom of the hill on the main path. At around 3.30pm I saw a single Owl flying high on the ridge towards the crowd but decided to stay where I was and it paid off as the bird eventually gave me two good views. The light was poor with a very dark cloud overhead and the hill shading the meadow too but I grabbed a few shots by squeezing the ISO all the way up to 16000 which still only allowed a shutter speed of 1/800th.

As I've said before any sighting of any Owl is worth the effort. I put three hours in today for two minutes with the Owl and I'd do it again tomorrow without hesitation with the hardest part being how to keep that social distance with others and some of the others have smaller boundaries than what I'm comfortable with so I take my dancing shoes and keep shuffling to maintain my space.

Before I left I had another LD2 tick with fly over Shoveler and had decent views of Sprawk on two occasions too. Again the Jackdaws and Parakeets entertained vocally as they came in to roost.


Tuesday 10 November 2020

Happy to have local Short-eared Owls

Yesterday I had a female Blackcap visit the garden to add to LD2's pointless list and today I popped back over the local park and due to last night being a little damp the Owls came out a bit earlier to feed. It doesn't matter how often I see these birds it's always special and today was really special.

Monday 9 November 2020

Dunwich Beach

I had a nice surprise yesterday morning whilst standing at the sink (as I do quite a lot now) when a smart male Brambling dropped out of the tree onto my feeders making only the second garden sighting in over thirty years. I grabbed a poor image through the kitchen window to share later with Suzanne before the other resident birds spooked it but it did make bird 42 on day 3 the LD2 list.

I then looked at the weather forecast which predicted a cracking day on the east coast and then saw news that the Greater Yellowlegs was still present at Dunwich so I wrestled with my conscience for a while and eventually decided I'd go take a look at it provided it wasn't too crowded.  I arrived mid morning and walked the mile north from the car park finding just a handful of like minded people already watching the bird. I stood well back respecting my space and theirs but still enjoyed great views of the bird. I had a small group of Snow Bunting drop in close to where I stood and a Great Egret flew over the reeds and out of view. 

The massive gathering at the Greater Yellowlegs in Dunwich

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

The Alaskan Eastern Yellow Wagtail had also been reported so I walked on and was lucky to find that feeding along the shoreline a few hundred metres away. The Juvenile bird that is thought to be an Eastern Yellow was also present but a bit more flighty.

Presumed adult male Alaskan Eastern Yellow Wagtail 

Alaskan Wagtail

Alaskan Wagtail

The Wagtail twitch being a longer walk had a smaller crowd

Wagtail poo gathering, got to love the commitment

A very nice morning just watching these birds as due to the length of the walk involved other people were thin on the ground and the dog walkers that did make the effort pretty much strolled along the shore line well away from the pools which helped. 

Marsh Harrier over the Dunwich pools

Coming back through Epping Forest on the way home I was shocked at the amount of cars lining the streets on top of the full car parks and was quite pleased I'd opted for the far less busy beach of Dunwich to exercise my mind and soul (the legs and lungs got a decent workout too on that shingle).

I think the extra cars could relate to the LD2 rules where you can only meet one other person so two people taking a car each to meet and walk round the forest at least doubled the cars present only to find hundreds of people all doing the same. Think of it this way....for me to see my grandson I have to drive to a park meeting my grandson (who's not included in the one as he's too young) and my son I can't see his wife and can't take my wife so my wife might go meet her dad and my sons wife might go meet her dad so that's six people having three meetings in six cars and whilst this didn't happen for us I'm sure it did for other families across England all weekend which would explain all the traffic on the roads.

LD2 additions

Brambling, Greater Yellowlegs, Snow Bunting, Knot, Dunlin, Redshank, Great Egret, Marsh Harrier, Eastern Yellow Wagtails, Teal, Shoveler, Wigeon, Coot, Mute Swan, Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit, Brent Goose, Greylag Goose, Red-legged Partridge, Gt Black-backed Gull and Common Gull.

LD2 list now 62

Year list now 269