Thursday, 7 October 2010

Bretton Update

It was the height of summer the last time I was at Bretton but today had a very welcome Autumn feel to it. The weather was perfect - sunshine, not a breath of wind and a seasonally cool 12 degrees centigrade when I arrived this morning. Not that it would have mattered if it had have been raining and blowing a gale as I'd taken the day off work so it was playtime!

I headed straight for the hide where I was pleased to see that the Little Grebes are still around. There was little else to photograph though...

...apart from this rather strange looking Mallard/Teal? I'm still not 100% sure but surely the beak it too short for a Mallard?

After leaving the hide I had a look at the spot on the lakeside where, during the spring/summer I'd had some good opportunities to photograph Kingfishers and Grey Wagtails. It was far too dark today though. The angle of the sun has changed and it has 'sunk' below the canopy of the trees. I'll have to wait a few months for the trees to shed their leaves before using that site again.

Its been ages since I'd seen the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker at the far end of the lake so before heading for home I decided to have a wonder down there. I was only stood for about 10 minutes before this little fella arrived. Unlike their larger relatives these birds don't seem to keep still for longer than a second but I managed a few shots before she scarpered.

Thursday, 30 September 2010


I spent the first two weeks of September in Andalucia, Southern Spain. The weather was still hot but it didn't prevent me from venturing out with the long lens.
The first week we stayed on the coast in Torrox. About 10 miles west of here is the mouth of the Rio Velez which, according to my brief research, is a decent place for bird watching. I saw plenty of Egrets, Purple Heron, Hoopees and a load of species that I couldn't identify. The only snag with this place was that I couldn't get as close as I would liked.

I don't know what some of these birds are and despite trying to ID them in books and on the net I failed so you will have to make your own mind up.

I think this one is a Hairy-Legged Wheatear but I suspect I might be wrong...!

Red-Legged Partridge 

Purple Heron

The second week was spent close to a village called San Pablo de Buceite, which was about 30 miles North of Gibraltar, right on the migration route. I saw plenty of birds of prey making the journey south. Again, I can't identify them all but I think I've got a couple right.

Buzzardy-type thingy?


This Grasshopper was in the garden of our hired villa and it must have been 4 inches long! I was impressed with the striped eye.

Griffon Vulture


Back to the garden and there were a few friendly Redstarts around. Female and male I reckon?

Last but not least was this Short-Toed Eagle which was kind enough to glide (and land a couple of times) near to a road which I was driving along!

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Hummingbird Moth

My second trip to France this year enabled me to get some pictures of the Hummingbird Moth. There were plenty of these strange-looking things feeding on the flowers in the garden of our friends, who own the Holiday Cottage in Perassay that we stay at. If you're thinking of a birding holiday in France or just want some peace and quiet you would struggle to find a better place than this.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Bretton Update

A pleasant Sunday morning motivated me just enough to get out of bed early and head down to Bretton Lakes. The hide is usually empty at this hour but I could see at least two people in there as I approached, so I turned around and made for my spot in the open by the lakeside.

August is usually a very quiet time and this morning was no different. I sat there for almost an hour with only an inquisitive Great Tit for company. It landed in a bush at the side of me to check out what I was doing. Perhaps he/she had seen me leave the area at the back of the hide without leaving some seed as I would normally and had come to give me a nagging?

It chattered away for a few minutes before returning to the area by the hide.

Eventually a solitary Kingfisher arrived.

It stayed around for over half an hour. Hopping from perch to perch, it went fishing many times and caught at least seven fish.

Before swallowing the fish it first shakes it and smacks it against the branch to kill it. 

Friday, 23 July 2010

Young Mink

I've caught several fleeting glimpses of the American Mink which live around Bretton Lakes but up to now none of them have lingered long enough to get a photograph.

They were the last thing on my mind this afternoon when I sat down on the bank of the top lake with high expectations of a visit from the Kingfishers and Wagtails. I'd been sat for barely five minutes when I caught sight of a couple of long, dark furry things, scrambling along a fallen tree at the edge of the lake.

The one at the rear quickly lost confidence and headed back from where it had come but the second one came out into the open to pose for some shots.

I think they're youngsters as they were only around a foot long, not including the tail.

At this point it swam across to the far side of the inlet and then out into the bushes on the shore. A few minutes later I heard a screech. I guess he/she had just caught a meal, probably one of the Bank Voles that we encourage to feed at the back of the hide!

Several more minutes went by and the Mink re-emerged, dived into the water and caught some kind of snail? Whatever it was it provided a snack.

If I'm correct and the adult Mink have now successfully bred, it can only have a negative impact on the reserve, particularly on the birds who nest on the ground and lake surface. The resident Great Crested Grebes have, for example, built at least 3 nests throughout this breeding season but they haven't produced any young. It is very likely that the Mink ate their eggs before they could hatch.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

It's all Gone Quiet... the nature reserve at Bretton Lakes. The birds have given up singing (barring the odd Robin and Wren) signalling the end of another breeding season.

This was my first visit for over a month. I didn't expect to see much so I decided to pay a brief visit to the hide before moving on to the inlet where I saw the four young Kingfishers on my last visit.

As expected there was nothing much showing on the lake but there was one expeption, the Little Grebes have returned at last. They didn't come close though so I had to make do with this long distance shot.

Young Coot.

One of the resident Great Crested Grebes swam quite close to the hide.

And then it was off to watch the young Kingfishers. I took up position in what's becoming my usual spot and waited. I once heard a saying that, 'It takes the woods half an hour to forget you are there' - this turned out to be true last time as the Kingfishers arrived right on cue.

No such luck this time though. How dare they stand me up?

I was on the verge of moving on when something flew in low and landed not twenty feet away on one of the fallen trees.

It wasn't a Kingfisher but the even more elusive (for me at least) Grey Wagtail.

It stayed around for a few minutes and I thought that was that. But then a few minutes later it returned with what I at first thought must be it's partner. They both looked a bit scruffy and I put this down to the toils of rearing the young. But after I returned home and uploaded the pictures I changed my mind. I reckon they are juveniles. They did look a bit on the small side and the scruffy feathers could be 'cos they aren't fully grown yet? Their breast feathers should have more yellow? Either way I was well pleased by their appearance. They stayed for quite a while too!

I'm not sure what it has caught but it did swallow it after thinking about it for a few moments.

When I headed home, well chuffed with the Wagtails I was meandering over a field when a Hare sprung up right in front of me and legged it, heading over a hill on the horizon. I threw the tripod onto it's feet and managed to fire off a few shots just before it dissapeared over the brow.

Even though he's moving away at around 40 mph his eye seems to be looking back at me!