Saturday, 30 May 2015

Local Breeding Avocets - A Few Pictures

I had managed to see the three (when I first visited) Avocet chicks the day after they hatched, but had not managed to get pictures. About 10 days later I returned with my Digiscoping gear hoping to get some pictures of Staffordshire's first recorded Avocet chicks. Since my initial visit another chick had hatched and I was pleased to see all four were still present and correct.

The fourth chick is noticeably smaller than the other three, but seems perfectly healthy. It was causing the parent birds to work hard by wandering off away from the other chicks and feeding on its own. This caused the parent birds to split their attention between the group and the inquisitive individual. They are doing a sterling job of protecting the young and while I was there drove off a Lesser Black Backed Gull and a Carrion Crow that didn't actually venture that close to the chicks, then they accosted a Shelduck that inadvertantley did.

Eventually, I managed to drag myself away from the "Lookout" hide and on the way back to the car stopped to digiscope this singing Whitethroat. Another enjoyable visit.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Local Surprises

The first surprise, well not really a surprise as I knew the proposed date of this event, but the surprise was in the fact that this time the promised date delivered the goods ......... The long awaited bridge over the river Tame joining the Dosthill and Middleton sides of the RSPB reserve opened for public use. I enjoyed my first walk across on Sunday morning. 

The next surprise was news on Tuesday 19th May, of the first successful breeding of Avocets in Staffordshire, right on our doorstep at Middleton RSPB. Great news and I went straight from work on Wednesday to see these history making Avocets and chicks for myself. I was very pleased to get reasonable views of them. I hope they survive and look forward to future photo opportunities and ultimately more breeding Avocets at Middleton. 

Surprise number three! A local walk in an area I had almost forgotten about produced some interesting results. Pete had been looking at Ordnance survey maps in an effort to find some local areas we may have overlooked. He had identified some areas of interest and Saturday morning we set off to have a look around. Now it is possible to Customise your own Ordnance survey map, it's never been easier to find interesting areas radiating out from the central starting point of your choice. 

The area in question was pretty much as I remembered it until we ventured off the main paths following a route Pete had picked out on the Ordnance map, and started walking through areas new to both of us. 

There was an abundance of Herring Gulls and Crows in the area, and then scanning the fields my first local Hare of the year was seen crossing through a crop in front of us. Then, in the same field a large Vixen appeared, her coat was very light, almost blonde in fact. One I will definitely recognise if our paths cross again. Unfortunally, I didn't manage pictures of either. 

A bit further along our route and Pete stopped, lifted his binoculars to check what he obviously suspected and then confirmed he had just seen a local Tree Sparrow. They can be a bit thin on the ground around these parts. 

We were soon both watching a few Tree Sparrows, and I quickly counted about thirteen. As we moved further along the route it became apparent that there was even more Tree Sparrows than I had first though. We spent a good while watching the antics of these Chestnut headed beauties. I will be keeping a regular eye on this breeding Tree Sparrow colony and monitoring their progress with interest. 

Friday, 15 May 2015

Derby Cathedral's Peregrine Falcons

I have mentioned this fascinating project before on my blog and cannot resist calling in on Derby Cathedral to visit these magnificent birds whenever I’m in the vicinity. I have like many been keeping tabs on the progress of this years nest activity via the webcam stream and read that on Friday the 8th May, the third of four eggs laid had hatched. I was visiting the area in the next few days, so arranged to call in.

If you don’t already check out the nest activity from time to time on the live webcams, go the excellent Derby peregrines Blog by clicking their logo image below. 


I did manage to pay a flying visit, but the birds were far too busy with three fledglings to entertain me. I hung around for a while and was eventually rewarded with a brief view of the pair as a nest change over took place. One of the Peregrines disappeared from view as it took up its position with the chicks on the platform, the other perched on the edge of one of the decoratively carved sandstones and enjoyed a short break from parenting duties. I took this opportunity to grab a few pictures.

I wanted to experiment with my old Canon SX40 bridge camera hand held and my Nikon P300 attached to my scope and compare the results. 

It’s a fair way up to the nest platform and perching Peregrine from my vantage point.


The wind was also strong and gusting, so vibration of the equipment was a constant issue. I started with the Canon SX40 Bridge camera handheld.



Hand held in a strong wind, these turned out better than I expected.

I then switched to the digiscoping set-up using the Nikon P300.



Comparing the pictures, there isn’t really much in it. I would say the Digiscoped results are a little sharper, but they were taken with the equipment mounted on a good sturdy tripod. 

My old Bridge camera has surprised me with what it has achieved hand held. Bridge cameras have come on a lot since this one ruled the roost. I think this has convinced me there is still a place in my birding for a bridge camera to record my sightings. It’s time for an upgrade. 

I will be visiting the Derby Cathedral Peregrines again soon probably when the young are nearing fledging around June time and I hope to have a new Bridge camera with me to capture the action. Until then, I will be keeping up with day to day developments at the nest via the BLOG and the webcams. 

If you are interested in seeing the Peregrines for yourself and getting some good views, Watchpoint events are held on Saturday mornings beginning sometime in May. Details can be found here - Watchpoint. There are usually spotting scopes you can look through to get good views of the birds and the nesting platform. Why not make a day of it and if you can, make a donation to this great project.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Camera Dilemma

I'm not sure what to do at the moment. I really enjoy digiscoping and I am slowly getting to grips with the Nikon P300 I am using. My idea was that once I had mastered the camera I would upgrade to the Nikon P330 or P340. I have also been experimenting with video capture through the scope with the P300 and it does a very acceptable job. I've even tried some close up macro photography with this little camera.

Persevering with some digiscoping, my first Garden Warbler of the year.

However, there are times when digiscoping can be difficult, such as trying to capture small fast moving birds. In these situations a hand held camera is definitely easier. Also, a good bridge camera is excellent for record shots. There are times when you don't want to cart the scope and tripod about, but just enjoy a wander with the binoculars. This is where a bridge camera comes into its own if you encounter something unexpected or a good photo opportunity presents itself. I have had a Canon SX40 since they were released and have really enjoyed using it. From Macro, landscape to telephoto it has been a pleasure to use and I am pleased with the results I have achieved and some of the record shots I have recorded using it.

Now Nikon have produced the new "King" of the compact zoom bridge cameras in the shape of the Nikon P900 with its incredible 83x optical zoom. A camera that on the face of it is a must have for birders. It seems to have proved very popular with UK birders since its release and seems to currently be sold out everywhere!!


I reminded myself how useful a bridge camera is this morning and took my old SX40 out on my walk. The light was poor and the morning very overcast, not good for any type of photography really, especially digiscoping. Even in the poor light at distances of around 40 yards I managed these shots. High ISO, a little noisy, but acceptable nevertheless?


The Bridge camera is also nice to just use as a camera to snap away at anything that takes your interest.

So what to do? I may just stick with my Phone and Nikon P300 for digiscoping and upgrade my bridge camera to the Nikon P900. But my mind changes by the hour. Back to reading reviews by photographers who have managed to purchase one and see what the consensus of opinion is.

Out Sunday morning and I again took the Canon SX40, managed these shots of a Grey Wagtail.

The SX40 may have been superseded as bridge camera technology goes by several models now, but it's still a great walk about camera.