Sorry, this is going to be a long one!!!

Been a busy month, from both work and personally, so haven't been able to update here, in fact I've not even managed to get out as much as I'd have liked, and with the weather being as bad as it has been, I'm not sure the opportunities are set to increase.

Nevertheless, I have made a few trips out.

Most notably, I've decided to revive my visits to our 'local' reserve - Lavell's Lake. I've not been there for a long time despite being a paid up supporter. It consists of a few hides located around a lake with a small island on. But it has always seemed to have a good mixture of wildlife around there, but after a spate of seeing 'nothing new' over a year ago I just stopped going.

I guess since then, I've changed my attitude towards wildlife, in that no two days are ever the same (unless you see absolutely nothing!!), but rather I go to observe different behaviours and concentrate on bettering myself and my technique.

It does feel a bit like shooting fish in a barrel sometimes though, there is a 'feeding tree', which attracts a huge array of birds... within a couple of minutes there were the usual selection of garden birds, together with 3 Greater Spotted Woodpeckers, sadly they wouldn't all sit together (typical), but here was one waiting to dart out to the feeders and back.

I did also manage to spot this little chap (or chapess?) Reed Warbler hiding amongst the reeds on the edge of the lake - no idea how I managed to see him (there were actually 2 of them), but their chirping drew my attention and then after a bit of staring at the general area I finally saw some of the fleeting movement.

Of course, in between heading to the reserves and out and about, we do have our own selection in the garden that seem to be eating us out of house and home (and that's not just the mice ;) ).

One of our regular "bushy-tailed rats" has decided to practice his balancing act whilst raiding the peanut feeder...

In a slight change of subject now... it's not always about the wildlife (although that is the main subject!), I do also like to take pictures of aircraft - but not in a plane-spotter sort of way, although Sam may disagree!

We took a trip over to RAF Fairford for the Air Tattoo (RIAT), as is always the way for these things, the day started with bright sunshine - fantastic! But by the time we reached the viewing field it had (of course) completely clouded over, which did of course mean I could then blame the weather for my poor photos!.

We were lucky in that the clouds lifted and the (hot) sun came out - so I made the best of the afternoon with the highlights being the Eurofighter/Spitfire combo and the Vulcan flypast with the Red-Arrows.

All this week has pretty much been a wash-out in terms of weather, and therefore my inclination to go out and stand in the rain is somewhat lacking.

I've resisted going out all week but finally gave in today... ironically it probably was one of the wettest days we've had for a long time! Nevertheless I felt I ought to make the commitment.

The easiest choice therefore was back to Lavell's Lake and set up in one of the hides... which I did.

Of course I was on my own, because, seriously, what idiot would go out to a nature reserve on the wettest day of the year?!

I was taking the logic that Wetland Birds wouldn't care so much about getting wet, so there might still be something out and about. First thing to spot was a lone Cormorant, sat on a pole in the middle of the lake, I stayed in the hide for maybe an hour and a half and the Cormorant didn't move at all - obviously it was easier to just stand there - you can see in the picture just how much rain there was.

Other wildlife around included a Swan family with a number of growing Cygnets, a Common Tern hoping to catch some fish, and of course... ducks! One of which appeared to be lighter than usual? some form of Hybrid Mallard I assume.

The first Swan picture is one of the parents from last week when it wasn't raining!

And then.... one from my list of 'to photograph' this year... and no more than maybe 10ft in front of me was this stunning Male Kingfisher! who obviously also doesn't care about the rain!

I'll definitely be returning here to get some better (and daylight) shots of this stunning bird.

I'll try not to leave it quite so long next time, as it both takes time to write, and also read! so hopefully it hasn't been too painful ;)

I headed out for my near-daily Owl hunt at my usual time today, just before 8pm.

Ordinarily this means I'm waiting for probably 20 mins to half an hour, which gives me time to have a quick wander round and see what's happening, see if there are any Kestrels, Deer or Buzzards around.

Today was different though, I got out of the car and was greeted by one of (the many) dog walkers I see at this location - they start talking to me, how'd I get on the other day, any luck etc... At which point I'm looking across the field, and damn, the Owl is already out and about, I've never seen it out this early so was itching to make a dash for it.

Sadly this foreign lady wouldn't stop talking - I'm inching ahead of them as if to give a hint, which the husband then takes, as he said "look, you're holding the poor man up, he wants to get to see the owl, good luck" lol
I said thanks, and set off on my gentle jog/sprint to the other side of the car park field.

Absolutely stunning light this time, sun hadn't gone down, and the Owl wasn't moving off - was hovering around the same 20 square meters of grassland.

I didn't want to disturb him, so hung back and tried to zoom in... he was even obliging enough to land on the post in front of me, but took off as I walked around a bush which was in my way.

After he took off, I did my usual running 'laps' of the park looking for him, with only one more sighting as he landed back on his house (didn't get that shot either!).

Nevertheless, I'm pretty happy with todays haul - I know I'm getting rather obsessed with this bird, but I just love it!

Apparently there were storms last night - but I think we must have been in a thin channel of the country that managed to avoid it! So we woke up to nice weather and dry conditions.

Whilst deciding if I was going to do anything productive with my day, I thought I'd take a trip to see my Little Owls. I hadn't been for a good number of weeks, so thought that if they were breeding, then the young must be fledging any day now.

I had, however, heard a rumour that the Owls were not there anymore, so thought I'd check it out for myself.

I was down there and set up by 8:15am, early by anyone's standards!

Sure enough... no sign of them and they're usually most active in the mornings. I thought I'd give it an hour or so just in case they were out hunting.

Well, that time came and went, and there was no sign of them whatsoever.

Furthermore, I used that most valuable resource - dog-walkers.... I always say "Hi" to dog walkers, usually because they're staring at me wondering what I'm up to, so it's a bit of a conversation starter. Anyway, one chap walked up and asked if I was here for the owls... he said he hasn't seen them for the past 2 weeks, and he passes the spot 3 times a day (not good), what's worse (for me), is that they DID breed, and the blasted Owlets fledged 2 weeks ago!

That will absolutely teach me for not being more disciplined with regular visits to this site - I got complacent because they're 'always' there.... evidently that was misplaced :(

It's not all bad though, during my wait I was taking a cursory look around the woodland area, I saw a big shape flying through the trees - and in a completely unprecedented act, this bloody great Buzzard landed about 15 feet behind me!

I turned around slowly and he took off and landed another 10ft away, but he stayed put for a few seconds for me, completely unfazed before flying off.

Buzzard

After the relative success of last nights Barn Owl hunt, I decided to go out again tonight, and I was not disappointed.

Ok, ok, I'm not getting the portrait shots I'm after, but he was out and about much earlier tonight, and I had good sightings for about an hour across 4 of his hunting fields.

The downside about this location is that it's bisected by a brook & fences, so to traverse from one side to the other requires some more of my embarrassing running... which I duely did. In fact, according to my phones 'step-tracker' I managed to walk/run 4 miles around this blasted site!

Anyway, a couple of getting better shots:

I decided to give up after that last shot - he had landed (and caught a mouse) right in front of me, I was making my way through the thick grass when he flew up and off.

I started to walk back to the car (always keeping an eye out), and I heard an unusual screeching. It wasn't the Owls call, but as the sun dipped down on the horizon, I saw the silhouette of a pair of buzzards traversing the sky, followed quickly by a pair of jackdaws - giving them hassle as they disappeared over the treeline.

 

It's been a tough few weeks at work recently hence no updates - but made the effort today to get back out there and see what I could do.

It was a beautiful day today, so made the most of it in the garden, letting the tortoises have a run around whilst I scour the skies for anything that fancies a crispy tortoise sandwich!

They were of course fine, but whilst looking around I heard the characteristic high pitched squeaking of Swift, and lots of them too. I ran to grab my camera (which isn't usually too far away) and tried to grab some shots.

Of course Swift are far from obliging and are terribly fast, so below is the best of my selection!
Here's hoping they make a return journey around here soon!

The clouds stayed away (just!), so I decided to head back out to see the kestrels and look for the barn owl again... well the Kestrels were certainly out and about, lots of squawking and flapping, and the occasional scrap in the doorway to their house.

I think they have overstayed their welcome, as certainly the adult male came in claws out on a number of occasions!

And then in true style... I turned around and the Owl was out - luckily it was still early and I had my trainers on!

This is relevant as I took off in a sprint to chase the owl into the next field, clearly I'm no Usain Bolt, and nor can I jump a hedge like Red-Rum... still no harm in trying!

Well, after about 50 yards I was resembling the athletic ability of Homer Simpson, so gave up and tried to grab my shots from across the fence!

I'm quite pleased considering, but think I could have increased the shutter speed a bit to get a little more clarity, and I'll keep trying too!

I was happy to see him land, twice, but of course their hearing is spectacular, so as I started to get closer each time he took off.

Overall, probably my best shots of him yet - I appreciate thats not saying much, but it's getting closer!

Well, the great British Summer is out in full force. The combination of both the rain and cloud somewhat reduces the enthusiasm to get out and about!

I'm always keeping one eye out for any photo opportunities, so whilst mowing the lawn I noticed our resident Red Kites circling above - only they've somewhat multiplied since I last photographed them. Only last year we'd regularly get one, two or three flying above us. Only one year on, and there must easily have been over a dozen flying today, and that's not unusual!

Nevertheless, it does provide a great opportunity to grab some shots, now I must have thousands of photos of these birds, but I won't pass up the opportunity, it's a fantastic chance to practice settings & composition.

So here are a couple for starters:

I seem to have gained myself something of a reputation amongst the neighbours - no, not a bad reputation (not all bad anyway ;) ), but last year one of our neighbours came to see me because they wanted a family of hedgehogs removed from their garden. The same neighbours came round only a month or so ago with a Blue-tit chick which had fallen out of the nest...they'd put it in a cupboard until I got home, so was very distressed & weak (understandable!). So I try to educate where I can too.

Anyway, today, one of our other neighbours came to see me because he'd found a bug which needed 'relocating', I suggested just put it in his shed, but he wasn't convinced his wife would be impressed.

So I said we'd take him and put him in our front hedge... why bother over a simple bug? Well, look at this beasty!

It's a Male Stag Beetle, which are also in decline in the UK, so if you see one, don't stamp on it! - those pincers aren't strong enough to pinch your skin (even though they look awfully big!), they're used to fight with other males in the same vain as deer use their antlers.

 

I'm undecided as to whether to try to find the Owl again tonight, if I do, I'll update this entry accordingly!

...has not yet paid off! lol

I decided to have a 'day off' yesterday, but received an email this morning from a fellow photographer with a fantastic image of my elusive Barn Owl, seemingly taken at 8:10pm.

Now I've mentioned before that I'm sure the wildlife all avoids me, and this only adds fuel to the fire!! the previous evening I had to wait until almost 10pm before he decided to show, at which point the light was just too poor for anything other than record shots.

Anyway, my time will come!!

For the most part today, I have been upgrading this blog! to now include email subscriptions and a comments feature... the comments are a bit clunky, so some more tweaking to do there, but the email subscription seems to be working well, with the exception of the unsubscribe button - that doesn't work! LOL it's not intentional and I hope to have it sorted soon. If you wish to unsubscribe, you can do it from the 'subscribe' button, and change the drop down :) 

 

Anyway, onwards to my (quiet) evening. Following the news about the early attendance of Mr. Owl last night I set off at about 7:15pm, I added in a little extra time to pop round and see my Kestrel chicks, who were all proudly on display in their door way, and even their dad was sat amongst them too.

I watched them shuffle around for about half an hour, I swear they must be fledging any day now - well most of them will, the runt of the chicks still has quite a bit of fluff! but nevertheless, they all look healthy and suitably well fed.

 

I moved on from these guys to head around to the Owls 'hunting' field, one of them anyway. On my previous visits I've stood in different locations and hadn't actually been back to this field for maybe a couple of weeks - but in that time there seems to have been an explosion of growth! waist high heather/grass/thistles everywhere! But even so I fought my way through it and set up underneath a tree.

Whilst the sun was going down the light across the field was fantastic, so I took the opportunity to grab this shot with my phone...

 

 

Overall I waited for about an hour before the first sign of the owl - and even then it wasn't great, he flew along the treeline in the distance of the photo above. I did however see him perch up in a tree in the corner, so I'll remember to check there in the future.

I hung around and after maybe another 15 mins he came back, complete with food!! I was hoping he'd zig-zag up the field, but no such luck, and as such the below picture is quite a heavy crop from quite a long way!

I'll stick at it, sooner or later he'll come and land on my camera so we can have a selfie together :D

I'm spending a lot of time recently trying to get a decent image of a local Barn Owl... I've spent many an hour sat waiting, seemingly for nothing. But I stick at it as you can never be 100% sure of the time they'll be around.

Well, to manage expectations, tonight was one of those no-shows! I did see it leave it's nest, but it (of course) flew in the opposite direction and by the time I'd walked the 200 yards back round to the other field, he had moved on.

But it's not always bad, as I take the opportunity to have a look around and see what else is about.

Upon arriving at my site at about 8pm one of the regular Kestrels was out and about hunting - he wasn't very obliging today though so I only managed to get a quick shot as he flew past to another of the fields.

 

I continued to try to track the Kestrel to little avail, but whilst continuing along the path, it seemed I was being watched!

The area I go to is home to a large number of increasingly confident Roe Deer, and today was no exception. This young male was quite happy to watch me whilst chewing on some grass. The light was still OK, so actually this picture didn't come out too bad!

I continued on through one of the woodland areas into another clearing - this is actually where I usually sit to wait for the Barn Owl, but in the mean time have a wonder around to see what I can find...

Today, I was very well rewarded with this sight... the Kestrels (which I knew were nesting), appear to have done very well indeed this year, and have rear 4 young! - they were all looking very healthy and clearly look set to leave their nest any day now - so looks like I'll be spending more of my evenings down there over the next couple of weeks!

As I mentioned, I continued to wait for the Owl, which made a brief appearance at about 9:15pm, but with the light already starting to fail it was always going to be tough!.

Once of these days I'll muster the energy to make an early morning trip instead - I was given the heads up that they're out and about at around 5:00am, so the light would be good - but I'm not sure I'd be fully awake at that time!

 

I've always concentrated on focussing my site on a select few of my photo's, but I think what gets lost is the sheer amount of time I have to invest to attain some of those images.

I can spend hours "sitting in a field" without seeing a single thing, returning home and complaining to my poor wife about how all the wildlife is avoiding me!.

However, that's what it's about - patience... and just waiting for the moment where 'one day' it'll come together!

On days such as today where the weather isn't great and my time is more limited I'm more than happy to see what's going on in our own suburban garden.

...And one of our new garden visitors (well, for the second day in a row), is a Greater Spotted Woodpecker!, it was actually my wife (Sam) who spotted this yesterday and called me to see what it was. It's a new visitor, but appears to have taken a liking to our fruit-flavoured fat balls!

Hopefully that'll continue and I'll get more chances to grab some shots!.

 

 

 

Shortly after, I sat out in the garden just observing what's coming to our feeder, at the moment, we're overrun with fledglings!, loads of bluetits (including our own fledglings), we had 2 dozen starlings at one point, as well as our resident robins, woodpigeons, collared doves, blackbirds etc.

Below is one of 'ours' - of course I can't be 100% sure, but there are 6 of them and when they fledged from their nest box, they all migrated round into the bushes next to our feeders, and we've seen them ever since.

 

 

Then, whilst watching, there was a sudden commotion and a Sparrowhawk flew over, it seemed that he was chasing the housemartins as it spiralled up into the sky alongside them, obviously they were much faster than the sparrowhawk so after a couple of minutes the element of surprise was lost and it flew off.

 

 

Once the clouds came over (as you can see from the sparrowhawk shot), it became a bit of a fruitless task trying to get bird shots with decent light, so tried something different (for me!). I came across this hoverfly sitting on our Clematis - again, I was only practising with settings on the camera, but always good for me to diversify!

 



So, I don't know if I've done this blogging thing correctly!, but that's my effort, and fingers crossed I can show some progress over the next few weeks & months!

That's it, I've finally given in, and decided to write a blog...

My intention is not only to inform you what's going on, but also for me to keep track of what happens where!

I've made a conscious effort to 'get out more' this year, and as a result I've already seen a great deal more than I expected.

So I thought it would be good to share this!