Sunday, 24 May 2015

24th May

After a few weeks cruising around the UK (which you can read about here), I was back guiding on the Somerset Levels this weekend. Since my last visit (a quick look at the Hudsonian Godwit before joining the ship), summer has really arrived, with the reedbeds greening up, and birds and dragonflies whizzing about al over the shop.
Broad-bodied Chaser



Four-spotted Chaser

Grass Snake

Great White Egret


Red Kite

Friday, 3 April 2015

3rd April

After a nice month away in Indonesia (which you can read about here) i'm back in Somerset and looking forward to the coming of Spring. It's a bit quiet on the Levels right now ,with most of the winter duck gone and the summer arrivals still not around. All the resident species are starting to think about nesting through so its a good time of year to see them, and with far fewer people on the reserves than in the busier seasons its still nice to be out and about, even though day species lists are a little on the low side.
Great Crested Grebe

Great White Egret

Little Egret

Marsh Harrier, one of last years young

Scruffy looking Roe Deer
These will be my last pictures for a while, as my trusty old lens is in for repair having suffered 8 years of abuse. A severe whack against a rock has limited the close focus to 10m and slowed the autofocus considerably, and one of the lens elements is covered in mould, which i'm hoping is the reason behind my recent shoddy picture quality

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Sneaky shots

I tend not to take many photographs while guiding (for obvious reasons), but here are a few shots from this weekend. It's no coincidence that these are all big, slow-flying birds, I usually manage to sneak the camera out for a few photos while my guests are watching through their binoculars!

 One of the highlights recently for me was tracking down a few of the reintroduced Cranes. They are often very distant out on the moors, but while watching them this time they were spooked by a tractor and actually flew in towards us and started feeding in a much closer field, a real spectacle!


Great White Egret

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Siberian Chiffchaff, Shapwick

It's been an excellent few days birding/guiding on the Somerset Levels, and i've plenty of photos to post up here, but first here's a few shots of a rather lovely little Siberian Chiffchaff from this morning. It showed well at Shapwick Heath NNR, next to the benches that overlook the Meare Heath scrape, feeding down low at the base of the line of trees. I was first alerted to its presence by its call, a plaintive heet, much flatter than the inflected hooeet or hweet of Common Chiffchaff. On seeing the bird, the cold plumage tones were immediately noticeable, with it frequently looking very grey, and the underparts a dirty white with no yellow, and closer inspection showed slight buffy tones to the cheeks and supercillium, and nice bright green fringes to the primaries and tail feathers.

The video below is hopeless for seeing the bird, but crank up the volume for a recording of the call

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Greylake Peregrines

With a few hours free this afternoon and the light much nicer than last week, I popped back over to Greylake RSPB for another look at the wintering ducks and their 'following' of predators. There was no sign of any Peregrines in their favourite tree on my arrival but presumably they had been sat down low out of the bitter wind, as after an hour or so of waiting a sudden approach by two Peregrines and a Marsh Harrier sent the ducks to the skies in a mad, whistling frenzy.

After a few fast low flights across the marsh, including one stunning pass over the hide, the falcons seemed to give up and disappeared from view. The Marsh Harrier hung around a while longer, looking for Water Rails in the reedy channels at the back of the reserve but also left unsuccessfully. 
Loitering Marsh Harrier

Peregrines causing havoc!

Shoveler showing off its bottle green head

Shoveler just as smart in flight with that lovely powder-blue wing


Reed Buntings showing nicely at the feeders in the car park

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Greylake Ducks

The RSPB reserve at Greylake is absolutely heaving with ducks at the moment with water levels looking perfect, unlike the metres of water the site was under during the horrendous floods this time last year. Wigeon and Teal make up most of the numbers with a scattering of Shoveler and Gadwall and surprisingly good numbers of Pintail.

Just a small part of the flock

1 of 3 Peregrines looking for a meal




Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Reverse Murmuration

Reverse Murmuration, Morning Flight, Dawn Explosion, Rolling Thunder.......Call it what you like, the Starlings leaving their roost is every bit as impressive as the famous evening murmurations. I had a bit of a go at taking some video of it at Ham Wall RSPB this morning, with the new Tor View providing a brilliant viewpoint pretty much right in the middle of one of the major roost sites. I completely failed to capture the magic of the moment, but hopefully its enough to encourage a few folk down to see it for themselves.

Later in the morning, a brief burst of sunshine provided some lovely light and the usual birdy suspects all put in an appearance. The mild winter so far is a bit of a bore, we really need a proper cold snap to push over some more interesting wildfowl, a Smew or two isn't too much to ask for christmas it it?


Little Grebe


Grey Heron
Water Rail
And finally, this duck was at the 2nd viewing platform. I think it's a Mallard X Pintail hybrid, but would welcome any views confirming/challenging that.