Friday, 25 February 2011

Unwelcome Visitors

The wildlife that I have seen and photographed this week has been very close to home. In fact too a family of brown rats have taken up residence in my back garden. This was a very disturbing experience as nobody likes to have rats around. I am sure that they were first attracted to the area by a mountain of rubbish dumped in a neighbour's garden, which has been there for many months.
It was obviously a job for the experts and I called Preston Borough Council's Environmental Health Department. They sent round a chap to have a look at the situation and he returned later with a couple of poison bait containers which he placed in strategic locations. He promised to return in a week to see if the poison had been taken. Meantime I had to watch as a large family of rats made their home beneath a log in my garden.
After the initial " novelty " and having taken numerous images of my unwelcome neighbours I decided on a more proactive solution. A good friend whom I had told of my predicament said he had a point 22 calibre air rifle. I thought carefully about this possible solution and decided this was the way to go. My good friend duly arrived the following day with the rifle and ammunition and after a quick lesson we set up the rifle in my back lounge and opened one of the windows. I couldn't believe my good fortune when my very first shot killed a rat. We both had a few more attempts but we missed the target.
My friend left that afternoon and I set up the rifle outside a little closer to the rats. Again I was very lucky as my very first shot killed another. That however was it and more opportunities were missed but I may have injured one or two. Since then I have seen less rats and the attention of neighbourhood cats may have something to do with it. Also some may have now been poisoned and died. So hopefully the situation may now improve as today I have still not seen any more rats but only time will tell. A few images are shown above of the rat pack enjoying the hospitality of my garden and hopefully this will be the last time that I see them. I don't think anybody enjoys looking at rats so let's hope this is good riddance.

Saturday, 19 February 2011


Here I go again with these abbreviations !! This time they refer not to waxwings but to Mere Sands Wood and Hesketh Out Marsh,two reserves I visited on Wednesday. I hadn't been to Mere Sands Wood for a long time and was anxious to see if the kingfishers had survived the severe winter weather. I had arranged to meet up with Martin at the Rufford Hide which is the area favoured by the kingfishers.
It was going to be a pleasant day for a change and was looking favourable for photography. We were not the only photographers on site and we later bumped into Dave Cookson and Ian Whittle. We spent maybe a couple of hours in the Rufford and Redwing hides and from time to time enjoyed some interesting photography trying to capture decent flight shots of the flocks of teal that were constantly on the move. The light was better at the Redwing Hide and we enjoyed views of displaying goldeneye and great crested grebe.There had not been any sight or sound of kingfishers and nobody had seen any for a long time so they may have fallen victim to the harsh winter we have experienced, only time will tell. We then returned to the visitor centre and enjoyed time photographing the birds coming to the feeders. Finally we visited the Cyril Gibbon's Hide and joined Dave Cookson for an interesting chat.The birds here were distant and the light was not right and after a brief visit from a great crested grebe we headed back to the car park meeting Ian Whittle on the way.
Martin returned home to Preston and I decided on a quick look at Hesketh Out Marsh RSPB on my way home to see if I could get some shots of the barn owl which is seen here on a regular basis. I had a good look out across the reserve which at times can be quite bleak and devoid of birds.So it proved with only sheld ducks in evidence and a very noisy Eurofighter taking to the skies from Warton across the Ribble Estuary. Returning to the car park I noticed a distant barn owl hunting along a ditch and hurried to get nearer as the light was now fading. I did get nearer and manage a few record shots.It was a nice way to end what had been a super day in excellent company in this wildlife rich part of Lancashire. As usual a few shots are shown above of this very pleasant day out with teal, nuthatch, goldeneye and barn owl all performing for the camera.

Friday, 18 February 2011


An odd title you must agree for my latest post !! This in fact is the identification of a colour ringed waxwing which I was fortunate to photograph in Ribbleton and Fulwood, Preston last weekend.I contacted Pete Marsh at Heysham Nature Reserve and Pete kindly passed on my photograph and information to The Grampian Ringing Group in Scotland.
I have been contacted by Raymond from the Ringing Group to thank me for the image and information. Apparently waxwing GGYr is one of 480 waxwings colour ringed in and around Aberdeen between late October and late November 2010 on their arrival from Scandanavia.The bird is a very handsome 4 year old male and was ringed in Claremont Gardens, Nellfield, Aberdeen.
This Winter has seen a big invasion from Scandanavia of these beautiful birds and I am pleased that I have been able to contribute information to the Grampian Ringing Group to help them in their work of tracking the movement of waxwings through the British Isles this winter. Their blog at is well worth a visit and is full of lots of interesting information.
Finally above you will see some images of this particular waxwing and hopefully I may see one or two more before they all return to The Far North to breed in the wilds of Scandanavia.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Worth Another Look....Waxwings

It had been the end of November last year when I had last seen waxwings. Since then waxwings have spread far and wide through the country and there will be few birdwatchers and photographers who have not had the opportunity to see these fabulous visitors from Scandanavia.An excellent supply of berries this winter has kept them going through the severe wintry weather and they will now be thinking of returning to their breeding grounds in the far north of Europe.
I got news late last week that there was another decent flock of waxwings in the vicinity and I had decided to visit the area with Mike to see if we could find the birds. So it was on Saturday morning we met up on what was to be a better day weatherwise than other days last week. Mike had received news that morning of another group of birds which had been seen that morning and they were only a mile from home. We soon found the birds, around seventy in number,perched up in a lookout tree close to a decent supply of cotoneaster berries. For the next hour or so we had super views of the birds as they descended in typical waxwing smash and grab fashion to consume as many berries as they could in as short a time as possible. Suddenly they all flew off and we failed to relocate them. We then visited another site where they had been the previous day but again they could not be found.
Mike and I returned home for lunch and I decided on a return trip in the afternoon. I again visited the first site but there was no sign of any waxwings so I went to have another look at the second site and there they were !! This time there were around thirty birds and they may have been a separate group of birds from those previously seen. By now it was a very pleasant afternoon with some very welcome sunshine. I once again had excellent views and this time I was able to photograph the birds coming down to drink from a roadside puddle. It had been a splendid session with this enigmatic and very photogenic bird. As usual I have posted some of my better images from the day and hope my readers enjoy looking at this beautiful bird. This may be my final opportunity to see them before they return soon to their northern breeding grounds.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Mostly Pintails

On what promised to be the nicest day of the week I decided to revisit Marshside RSPB at Southport.On my previous visit the foggy weather had restricted viewing and photographic opportunities but yesterday promised clear skies and sunshine. So it proved to be, very pleasant and Sandgrounders hide was busy with birdwatchers. The birds here were distant and a move to Nel's Hide was called for where the light would prove to be excellent for the hoped for flight shots of the waterfowl.
There was much more activity at this part of the reserve and good numbers of birds were present.The birds were mainly the commoner duck species such as wigeon, teal, tufted duck and pintail. There were also good numbers of shoveler, a very photogenic duck with colourful plumage and an incredible bill.I concentrated on the pintails which were also present in good numbers and provided a challenge to capture in flight as from time to time they passed in front of Nel's Hide.I spent a good hour or more trying to capture this action and some of the results can be seen above.
Whilst at Nel's Hide another birder told me that there was a good chance to see a barn owl at Hesketh Out Marsh which wasn't very far away. So it was that I finished of my afternoon session at HOM. A barn owl did appear but it was flying away and went to hunt on a distant part of the reserve and was well out of range of the camera. The local expert Colin Bushell appeared from his walk around the reserve and soon spotted a Marsh Harrier and Short Eared Owl flying near to the airfield at Warton. Again the birds were distant but still nice to see as they hunted in the last hour of daylight. The sun soon began to set and provided a colourful end to the day with a splendid sunset over the Ribble Marshes.
As the title suggests the images above are mostly of male and female pintails in flight and at rest. The colourful male shoveler shows of his plumage and amazing bill and finally a shot of the also very colourful sunset over the Ribble Marshes at Hesketh Out Marsh. A splendid end to a very enjoyable afternoon on the Lancashire Coast.

Friday, 4 February 2011

More Starlings

I have become obsessed recently with the starling roost at Leighton Moss. I have visited on a number of occasions but have not yet got it quite right. I have either been too far away from the roosting birds, the weather has been very gloomy or the birds have gone straight into the reedbeds . I had another go yesterday and once more things didn't turn out as I had hoped for.
It was a very pleasant journey up to Silverdale with bright blue skies and sunshine and it was very pleasant driving slowly along the back lanes of Pilling and Cockerham observing the wildlife. On arrival at Carnforth where a stop was made to visit the excellent bookshop ,the weather had turned very cool and very windy heralding the approach of the next weather system from the Atlantic. After a warming cuppa at Leighton Moss I was in position close to the current roosting area near to Crag Foot at the southern end of Leighton Moss.
The starlings duly arrived slightly earlier than on previous visits owing to the approach of the stormy weather. The weather was not good with very strong and cold winds and the light was consequently very poor. Along with a few other gathered birdwatchers I stayed whilst the show was over and the starlings did indeed give quite a good display as they gathered and displayed close to the farm and cottages at Crag Foot. All in all not a bad afternoon and I was pleased with the results on the camera some of which are shown above. I am hoping to return again with possibly more favourable conditions before the winter roost finally ends.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

February Flocks

A new month had arrived and with it some slightly better weather. The gloomy foggy weather of previous days had been replaced with milder weather following overnight rain. I decided on another trip up to Leighton Moss to witness the starling spectacular. I took my time and went via Pilling and Cockerham which can be good at this time of the year as more and more geese begin to assemble prior to their departure for Iceland in the early Spring
There were lots of pink footed geese in evidence feeding in the fields around Eagland Hill and I understand that rarer geese have also been present with the pinks. I didn't look in detail at the goose flocks but I was more interested in some flight shots as they came in to feed on the wet and still frozen fields. A good number of whooper swans were also present in the area. As I drove into Pilling a large flock of pink footed geese came into land at Taylor's Lane in the centre of the village and provided more opportunities for some action shots.
I then made my way up to Leighton Moss to see if the starlings were still using the reedbeds there for roosting. After a warming hot chocolate in the RSPB cafe I was in position at the south western end which currently seems to be their favourite roosting area. A few small parties of birds trickled through and seemed to be heading to the far end of Leighton Moss. I decided to follow them but the appearance of a large flock near to the level crossing saw me staying put. I was joined by a few more observers and for the next twenty minutes or so we were treated to some nice displays as the birds settled for the night in the reedbeds close to Crag Foot. Again the starlings had performed well and hopefully I will return again this month for more encounters with the flocks of starlings. As usual I have shown a few images from the day of the geese and starlings but these cannot do it justice and it is something to be experienced first hand to really appreciate the great spectacle of these vast flocks of birds.