Friday, 22 February 2013

Nuthatch, Nuthatch and even more Nuthatch

If you're not a fan of the Nuthatch look away now!

Quite the ridiculous opening sentence really - surely everyone is a fan, what is there not to love about the Nuthatch? That distinctive angular shape, slate blue cap, mantle, and wings contrasting with the lighter buff coloured chest and underparts, that jet black extended eyestripe, the sharp javelin shape bill and the extraordinary vice like claws for spiralling head-first down a tree in its own unique feeding pattern, add in an unmistakable call and you have the makings of a truly amazing bird.

I was fortunate enough to catch up with a couple of these birds at a feeding station in Thetford Forest, and enjoyed observing them at close quarters picking out their favoured black sunflower seeds amongst the wild bird food, whilst always aggressively keeping the other birds at bay - when a Nuthatch is at the table no one else is feeding!

Below are just a few of the images I captured whilst watching this remarkable woodland bird.

Birds, Birding, Photography, Conservation

Birds, Birding, Photography, Conservation

Birds, Birding, Photography, Conservation

Birds, Birding, Photography, Conservation

Birds, Birding, Photography, Conservation

Birds, Birding, Photography, Conservation

Birds, Birding, Photography, Conservation

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Dipper - my type, Scandinavian!

With social media and digital photography becoming as much a part of birding as a pair of bins, it's hard to avoid some of the great images which have been recently added to various mediums, in particular the male Penduline Tit at Stodmarsh and the Black-bellied Dipper at Thetford - both of which have had me salivating!

So with a bit of time on my hands and keen for a change of routine and scenery I plumped for Thetford and the Black-bellied Dipper. Upon arrival at the Three Nuns Bridges I could see a few birders milling around - never a good sign! After a couple conversations, one of which was with Mr Walker who had also been lured away from his usual residence of Dungeness B.O by the Dipper and a family of Otters which frequent the river Thet. Dave confirmed my suspicions and the bird had not been seen that morning - I should have gone to Stodmarsh!

I gave it an hour before moving on to the paddock at Lynford in hope of Hawfinch - no sign! My day was not exactly going to plan, but after speaking with another birder I heard news which had just filtered through that the Dipper was back, and within twenty minutes so was I, and for the next hour I enjoyed an almost private performance for the camera, teasingly close with no inhibitions - that'll be the Scandinavian DNA!!

After rolling my tongue back in my mouth and wiping the dribble from my bins, I reluctantly dragged myself away from this enchanting encounter with this continental race of Dipper...the only minor disappointment on the day was missing out on the Otter family, and despite searching I couldn't find those three nuns!

Birds, Birding, Photography, Norfolk

Birds, Birding, Photography, Norfolk

Birds, Birding, Photography, Norfolk

Birds, Birding, Photography, Norfolk

Birds, Birding, Photography, Norfolk

Monday, 11 February 2013

Yellow Snow

With a surprise fresh covering of snow on the ground the only yellow I was expecting on a walk around Wanstead Flats was the colour of snow left by our four-legged friends! So it was pleasing to pick up a Yellowhammer (patch year tick - 56), with a couple of Reed Buntings as company feeding along the taller grassy verges adjacent to the football pitches. When approached the Yellowhammer flew into the Esso copse and posed just long enough for a couple of record shots, before leaving the Reed Buntings behind and disappearing towards the Golden Fleece Pub - well it was about opening time! 

An infrequent winter visitor to the flats with typically only a couple of records each year (Nick, Jono or Tim can put me straight on that one) this bird was a first for me at Wanstead and a decent reward for walking the frozen snow capped waste lands of east London (that's dramatic) - you can usually rely on the wintry weather conditions to produce something of interest out of the hat!

Birds, Birding, Photography, Snow

Sunday, 10 February 2013

A charm of...

That's right you guessed it...Goldfinches, perhaps not the most exciting bird on the British list, especially as they're one of only a handful of birds which appear to be increasing in number, having adapted their feeding habits and moved away from traditional hedgerows and field locations. They can now be seen in most gardens enjoying the delights of a bird feeder, always favouring the Nyger seed or Sunflower hearts. So why are they the subject of this post, well...having completed my monthly BTO WeBS count with nothing to write about in terms of interesting birds or numbers, I came across a flock charm of Goldfinches which numbered around fifty birds feeding on the dried-out teasel heads and having not yet fired off a single shot from the camera, it would have been churlish of me to ignore these colourful finches just because they have become common place, so I stood and admired their bright yellow wing patterns whilst listening to their jingling tones as they jumped from one batch of teasel to the next and with a little bit of patience I clicked away and finally took the classic Goldfinch image I was after... not on a bird feeder but perched on an old school teasel - just like the good old days when we still had hedgerows!

Birds, Birding, Photography, Teasal
'The old school image'

...and good news, the calf is on the mend!

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Disaster...and a Slavonian Grebe

The disaster is I'm injured...bloody calf!

Celebrating Mrs B's big four 0 birthday at the weekend, I allowed myself a night off the wagon and indulged somewhat in a number of beers and even reluctantly accepted a Sambuca shot - I'd forgotten how delicious they can be!! Sunday was spent recovering from the late night and excess amounts of alcohol and any thoughts of running were firmly cast to one side - I might add I was relatively restrained. I decided to hold over my long weekend run until early Monday morning...but thirty five minutes after I had set off, my right calf started to feel tight. At first I thought it was just a little cramp and continued running at a gentler pace but as I headed up a hill the calf continued to tighten and eventually I had to stop...bollox - the last thing I wanted was to tear a muscle and not be able to train for three or four weeks! I walked the twenty five minutes home, head bowed and somewhat annoyed with myself for maybe not warming up thoroughly enough and cursing the weekends excess, which probably meant I was running when not fully hydrated. A combination of ice and a hot compress, along with twice daily 'Deep Heat' massages to the area and all I can do now is wait...give it a couple of days and then gently try out the calf again - I'm hoping and praying it's nothing serious and only a minor strain and I can hit the roads again soon, it's especially annoying as I felt I was just starting to get into a decent momentum and a good level of fitness...frustrating!

I finally made my way over to Littlebrook lake and caught up with the obliging Slavonian Grebe (Cowboy - you're not the fastest draw in the east) and as expected it showed amazing well, but as I gingerly walked around the lake I couldn't stop thinking about the calf and however pleasing it was to catch up with this super little bird at such close quarters, my mind was elsewhere...I know the calf will heal but I'm up against it time wise, with less than eleven weeks until the big day - at the moment every training run matters.

Even though I got to see and photograph the Grebe, which did lift my spirits I'm still feeling a little morose! But one interesting, if not coincidental note is that I'm told the Slavonion Grebe may be carrying its own injury as one of its feet is not looking in the best of shape - how ironic!