Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Bright and Breezy

This was how it was to be at Leighton Moss on Monday PM following a wet morning. I made my third trip in as many weeks to this wonderful RSPB Reserve at Silverdale Lancs. It was not quite as exciting as previous visits when I had been very fortunate to see hobby and bittern but was still very enjoyable with a nice surprise early evening at the Griezdale Hide. I did my usual round of Public,Lower and Griezdale hides and enjoyed a warm and pleasant afternoon despite the very strong westerly.
It was much quieter than of late with not many marsh harriers about. I understand that possibly many of the juveniles have dispersed to pastures new, but one or two showed distantly, and I had a better view of one from the Public Hide as it quartered the reed beds in front of the hide.Early evening found me on my way to the Griesdale Hide hoping for sightings of red deer.This is one of the favoured locations together with the Tim Jackson hide at Leighton Moss to see this magnificent animal. At this time of the year the hinds very often have fawns with them and it is a delight to see them as they come out of hiding to browse.
As I entered the hide I was made aware of a juvenile Marsh Harrier which was on the ground and sunning itself right in front of the hide and affording wonderful views . There was another photographer present and  we watched and photographed this magnificent raptor as it enjoyed the evening sun. The bird stayed there for an hour or so and seemed reluctant to move but eventually it did take to the air and flew off to roost elsewhere in the Leighton reedbeds. The sun had now gone and I also decided to depart for home having enjoyed yet another wonderful afternoon's birdwatching and photoghraphy at Leighton Moss. Images show the Marsh Harrier and a Little Egret that flew in for a quick snack before going to roost.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Harrier Fly Past.... Leighton Moss

As promised this post is a continuation of Monday's  visit to Leighton Moss where I had enjoyed great views of the bittern. As well as seeing the bittern those birdwatchers present at the Lower Hide also had superb views of the resident Marsh Harriers, young birds and adults, as they enjoyed great flying conditions on a breezy but warm and sunny afternoon. At times the birds came too close as they flew past the hide and Paul and I had to work hard to maintain focus with the big 500mm lenses.
It is difficult  sometimes to photograph birds in flight but practice makes perfect and we both had many opportunities to try and get that " perfect shot ". My best efforts are shown above but I am always striving for something better and I will return to Leighton Moss again to practice my skills . It is certainly a great time to visit as the Harriers have had a good breeding season and with many birds present Leighton Moss can provide a wonderful day's birdwatching.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Boom...Boom.... Doing Well....A Bittern's Tale

Visited Leighton Moss again this week hoping the hobby was still about. I met Paul on the roadside ovelooking Island Mere area where we had distant views of the marsh harriers but no sign of a hobby. We decided to visit Lower Hide where I had seen it a week ago and briefly called at Public Hide where a harrier did a fly by. Onto Lower Hide where we had a good look for a hobby but it wasn't about. We were however treated to some wonderful views of Marsh Harriers including the male bird which at times came too close for the big lenses. The  harriers will be the subject of my next posting...so watch this space.
As we were watching harriers do their stuff a couple had spotted a bittern showing well close to some cut reeds in front of the Lower Hide and probably only about twenty five yards away. For the next ten to fifteen minutes we were treated to some wonderful views of this most elusive of birds and one of Leighton Moss's star attractions. Both Paul and I made the most of this great photographic opportunity and we were very well pleased with the results. It was only after the bittern had flown off and the excitement died down that we all realised that this was the bittern that had made national news when it had been found wandering the streets in Bamber Bridge in the cold weather of last winter. It was easily identifiable by the red ring on it's left leg.It had been rescued by the RSPCA on Jan 24th when it was found in an emaciated state and probably close to death. It was nursed back to health at Stapeley Grange Water Centre in Cheshire and was released at Leighton Moss a month or so later. I understand it is a male bittern and it is obviously very happy in it's new home at Leighton Moss and I look forward to further sightings and it's booming early next Spring. The images show the release of the bittern by David Mower of RSPB ( a copy of a press photo) and my best efforts including a flight shot showing the red ring on the bittern's left leg. Another memorable afternoon at Leighton Moss.Just need a sighting of the resident otters now !!!!

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Harriers and Red Deer

Yesterday afternoon I visited Leighton Moss again with Kath and her grandson Timothy. Timothy is a budding photograher and I had promised him a trip to Leighton Moss, where we hoped to see Marsh Harriers and Red Deer. We parked at the roadside at Island Mere which I have found to be a good spot for excellent views of harriers as they fly over the reed beds. We hadn't been there long when one of this years newly fledged youngsters came and performed nicely for us at times flying over our heads. This was a great start to our afternoon so we then popped into the recently refurbished shop and cafe for tea and cake. The rest of the afternoon we visited Lillian's, Griezdale and Tim Jackson hides hoping for sightings of the red deer. Lillian's was busy with coots and gulls so we moved on to Griezdale Hide. This hide often provides good views of red deer but none were seen whilst there. Up to then the weather had been kind to us but the skies were going very dark and it looked like we were in for more heavy downpours. This has been the pattern during this week with thundery activity and very heavy rain. We just made it to the Tim Jackson Hide as the first drops arrived.
For the next hour or so we were confined to the hide as the heavens opened and it poured with rain. We saw a red deer feeding distantly and then noticed another one much nearer to the hide with just it's ears and top of head visible through the reeds. Eventually our patience was rewarded as the red deer, a hind, came into view and treated us to some wonderful views and excellent photographic opportunities. The heavy rain and thunder eventually moved away and we returned to the car park for the journey home. On the way home we treated ourselves to some very nice fish and chips from T'Other Chippy in Carnforth, a great way to round off an exciting afternoon at Leighton Moss. Images show the Marsh Harrier, Red Deer and a very wet Heron enjoying the downpour as he looked for his evening meal.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Hobby in Flight

Just for the record I wanted to post one or two more shots from the encounter earlier this week with the hobby at Leighton Moss. I attempted to get some shots of the bird in flight as it passed by the Lower Hide. It was very difficult and I had very little time to lock onto the bird as it sped by at great speed. I did manage to get some shots and  they hopefully give some idea of the jizz of this superb little falcon as it goes about it's business of catching dragonflies. The hobby has been present for a few days now and if it stays I may have further opportunities to capture the hobby in flight. As well as the attempts at flight shots I have also posted one of the hobby eating a dragonfly but again not good as it was not really near enough for clear sharp shots. Finally is a general view of the area near to the Lower Hide at Leighton Moss where the hobby performed for myself and a few others who were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Surprise Hobby

I hadn't visited Leighton Moss. RSPB. Reserve for a long time so I  decided to spend Monday afternoon there in the hope of some decent images of Marsh Harrier. I began my quest at the Public Hide where it was fairly quiet apart from noisy groups of black headed gulls which gave me some good practice with flight shots. Whilst there I heard that a hobby was present in the vicinity of the Lower Hide so I hot footed it on the twenty minute walk to the hide. The hobby was still around but very distant perched up in a dead tree at the back of the reserve.
However it did make a number of sorties towards the hide in its pursuit of the abundant dragonflies  which were present on the reserve. It was very difficult to photograph in flight as it zipped around the reedbeds but on three or four occasions it perched up in bushes about sixty or seventy yards away. It was never near enough for quality portrait shots but I was well pleased with my efforts, the best of which are shown above. A change in the weather to windy and cloudy conditions meant the hobby didn't appear again and I called it a day and made my way back to the car. The images show my best efforts with the hobby.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Still Waiting

I am still waiting for a close encounter with the long eared owl that I have been visiting recently with friend Paul. After another very hot day yesterday, I again met up with Paul at the spot high up on the moors where we had previous sightings of the owl.  It was still very warm and close even over one thousand feet above sea level,but recent rain had passed over and the prospects were encouraging. Lack of a breeze meant that for a time we were yet again plagued by the midges despite liberal applications of repellant. Before owl time[ which seems to be around 9-9.30pm] we could hear the constant reeling song of a grasshopper warbler. It was a different matter however to see the bird and once again we didn't connect with this very elusive warbler.
It was to be yet another frustrating evening with only one brief sighting of the long eared owl as it flew across a distant bit of moorland and it didn't come our way. As always though it was an enjoyable evenings get together and I am sure that sooner or later we will enjoy some wonderful close up views  of this magnificent bird. The images show yesterday's sunset and moonrise and an earlier flight shot of mine and another of Paul's stunning close up shots when he happened to be in the right place at the right time.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Farewell to the flycatchers

It was the end of June and it had been a very hot month. It was best to avoid the midday sun if at all possible and that is what I had been doing. However I had decided on an afternoon visit to have a last look at the spotted flycatchers,which had given me so much pleasure on previous visits. It was indeed still very hot and the tar was popping on the country lanes as I drove along. I duly arrived at the beautiful location where the flycatchers had made their summer home near to the village of Abbeystead in the Forest of Bowland.
I didn't have long to wait for the flycatchers to appear and they duly posed and performed for me, almost within touching distance at times. As it was so hot there was a superabundance of insects for the flycatchers to feed their hungry youngsters, well hidden nearby. After an hour or so I was very well pleased with my efforts and decided to bid farewell to these lovely birds. I had found them to be confiding and cooperative and they hadn't been unduly bothered by my prescence. I had decided this would be my last visit and to leave them in peace in their beautiful surroundings. The images show the spotted flycatchers with beaks full of insects and some of the wonderful Bowland scenery nearby.