Thursday, 29 December 2011

Little Gulls

Yet again, another attempt at the Outfalls at Gileston.
I know that if I hit it right and they come close, a great shot is possible.
The next 4 days or so, are predicted as not suitable weather wise, and the tide must be right.
The Kittiwakes have moved on but there are still 3 x 1st winter Little Gulls still feeding at the Outfalls.

The wind was too strong blowing spray on the lens and with another soaking I eventually gave up. Until the next time!

Whooper Swan at Cosmeston.

This rather tame Whooper was a surprise find for Alex, especially when it came so close and took
bread! Wearing an orange leg ring no.Y59 it was able to be checked out and was ringed in Worcestershire last year. When it arrived it had orange staining to the head suggesting that it is a wild bird originating from Iceland. Orange staining perhaps from the iron rich lakes.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Pomarine Skua at Gileston.

Photographing the Little Gulls and Kittiwakes was frustrating on Friday afternoon!
When the opportunity came the light would go, and later in the afternoon the light was in the wrong direction, I would be looking into the sun.
With a 1st winter plumage Kittiwake feeding as close as 2 feet I could never get it with the light behind or even to the side of me.
Why I was even there trying to get a shot at all was hopeless. The sea was too rough and the wind blowing hard. I was thinking about giving up when I saw, about 150 yards away a bird sat on the rocks; looking through my bins (now covered in rain and salt) revealed what I thought was a Skua. Got a little closer and confirmed when it turned, I glimpsed a pale collar. Bloody hell! plus a few other words describing my delight!! It was a Pom Skua ( a tick for my patch list.) Slowly moved closer and closer.
Dilemma, should I call it a day and appreciate what shots I have or go the dangerous route. I couldn`t give up that easy! moved around with the waves now breaking behind me, already been a little bit foolish earlier and was a little wet. I was able to get into the position I wanted. Took a few shots while I rocked with the wind then it took flight. And I never had a soaking! The day turned from a disaster one minute to a sucesess in minutes!
Next day, probably the same bird was seen in Somerset.

Iceland gull at Ogmore

Saturday morning was bitterly cold with a strong wind blowing!
Alex, myself, Jeff, and a few other birders waited as the Iceland Gull showed briefly and at distance. After a freezng hour and a half it eventualyy flew above us and headed off to the rivermouth.

 A fly by Shelduck in close with good light was a bonus!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Little Gulls

Gileston Warm water outfalls from the Aberthaw power station usually gets a few Little Gulls most winters.
At present there are three 1st winter plumage birds.
Photographing them is a real challenge, light being the problem. You are always looking into the sun. Occasionally they came close enough for a good shot, but the light wasn`t good enough!
The best time is about 1 hour either side of low water and early morning is best. I struggled for decent light yesterday; only when I walked away did the sun come out, but had family duties to attend to.

Hopefully they will stay long enough till I can get there again!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Odd behaviour.

Decided to give the Owls another go recently.
Managed to get close without any disturbance and out again . They never batted an eylid!
It would have been so easy to flush them and get great flight shots, being so close, but that would be unfair being as they at roost.
Thankfully the birds are not getting as much attention as last week and are left to roost in peace.

What was very odd was the Owl on the right picked a single blade of grass and offered it to the bird on the left, to which moved forward to accept this offering.
I Think due to the darker colouration these are probably two females. Mother and daughter perhaps!
 This bird picked up for a few seconds and dropped what appears to be dry seaweed.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

The slow approach.

Arriving at dawn there were 11 Short-eared Owls sitting in their usual places. Mitch and I decided on where we were going to wait and set up our camo capes about 200 yds apart. We waited and waited with one of the poorest days yet,! Considering good light it was very frustrating.
 A few birders arrived and the regular dog walker, pushing a few out on the marsh and a few our way.
Later, a bird flew around and in my direction, would it come to land on the log about 25 yds in front of me? I watched it and never moved, not raising the camera. It dropped on to the log, I took a few shots and waited for it to settle, realizing I was in a position for some fantastic shots but still a bit too far!
Wind direction must have changed because suddenly a cloud of smoke covered the Wharf, though it eventually cleared.
I knew the closer I got the better the shots would be. The light was now deteriorating, I lifted the cape with the tripod legs and crawled about a yard closer. By now my feet were frozen and hurting (forgotten how cold wellies can be) set up and focus on the bird and it was still there, every time I moved I checked the Owl, by now it was settled, inched forward again and cramp got the better of me, also my knees were freezing from the puddled grass. Took more shots, moved closer, sometimes just a few inches, I could here a Buzzard above me which startled the Owl, it again settled and I moved closer, my back was now breaking and I tried to stretch to help. This was the opportunity I had been waiting for and I didn`t want to blow it! The only thing outside the cape I could see was through the lens, I looked and still it was there, though moved back a few inches hiding it`s feet, Feeling wet and frozen stiff and in a little pain with my back I gave it one more go, looked up, still there. The light which was not at all good suddenly changed for just 2 minutes the light broke through and it lit up, fired off a series of shots! It never seemed to do much just preened a little and dozed.
It must have taken me about an hour to move about 15 yards or so. The light then went completely and I moved back. What a brilliant experience!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

The morning shift.

With good light promised this morning I thought I would give the Wharf another crack before work.
Yet again it was so frustrating. The auto focus failed to find it`s target when they flew close enough. Just to make it worse 4 of them just sat on the bank too far for a decent shot. I finally gave up, feeling stiff and aching after trying to sit still for a few hours, I new there was one sat in amongst the grass and rocks and did manage a head shot.
Still waiting for my new monopod to arrive, my other is taped up after sunday`s roll of bad luck! Lost reading glasses, lost spare battery and broke both fixings on monopod while Owls fly around my head!
With sunshine  forecast for friday morning I can`t resist another few hours, then tearing back to work...fingers crossed.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Desert Wheatear

Desert Wheatears have a reputation of being very approachable so we decided on a trip to Devon.
It was a little dissapointing, although the bird was showing really well it was always on the apex of the cottage roof. The light wasn`t good either and we struggled. But, just once it came down on the lower slates for just a second.I took about 150 shots and deleted all but 2.
Ah well perhaps the next one will be on a nice sunny beach!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Short-eared Owls.

As winter approaches there appears to be an influx of Short-eared Owls into Britain. They are being recorded in good numbers in most Counties.
Glamorgan usually gets a few in most years. Llanilid, being most reliable with 2 this winter. These are not playing the game and are hunting late in the afternoons when the light is gone!
But these at Rumney Great Wharf are at the moment  hunting at 2 o`clock and are at least 6 birds present!

When you see these Owls up close they are more like mammals than birds, they are watching your every move and photographing them is not easy, well, getting close enough.... Guess I got lucky!
If they continue to stay and hunt early afternoons then i`m sure there will be some stunning shots. Untill then.

Sunday, 13 November 2011


10 days ago I tried to push a stick in the edge of a pond, the pond which I have seen a female Kingfisher recently. The bed of the pond is bedrock, so I found an appropiate stick and set it in a bowl of concrete, returned 2 days later and carefully chose a perfect position and placed the stick.
Yesterday I returned with a hide. After about 90 mins. it appeared out of the blue. What should I do, fire off the shutter or wait for that better pose? Nerves and excitement got the better of me knowing I can return soon! A few seconds and it was all over. Another 2 hours passed and it came in again but this time I was caught  out looking for Goldfinches. I missed a golden opportunity with the light being that magical glow that we always want!
 A male and female Stonechat came in to see what the fuss was about, that, at least broke up the boredom of staring at a stick.
So back for another 3.5 hour session this morning. The Kingfisher showed for a while in a Hawthorn tree but never came in to the perch!  WATCH THIS SPACE!