Monday, 25 January 2010


No new photos to post 'cos my car 'died' late last week leaving me housebound for the weekend without any excuse not to do some diy!

 Kingfisher shots are usually quite popular so in the absence of anything new I thought I'd post some of my better attempts. All of these were taken from the hide at Bretton Lakes.

The birds are using a perch which I installed a couple of years ago. For some reason they only seem to use it from late July through to around late September. That's more than enough time to get plenty of shots though.

This one could hear the sound of my camera shutter

The thin streaks are blurred water droplets being shaken from the skin of the fish.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Bretton - Almost Thawed

Its nearly a month since the first snow hit us and the start of the big freeze. Thanks (I think) to NASA for this amazing photograph, which shows virtually all of the UK totally covered with a huge, white blanket.

I went to Bretton this morning with the thaw well under way. The lakes are still mostly covered with ice but it is retreating fast and the carpet of snow has all but gone.

As expected the birdlife was a bit thin on the ground so I headed for the rear of hide where the birders who visit during the week usually put out some food. The place was deserted when I got there but not for long. By the time I'd placed the seed, nuts and peanut butter I had plenty of company. All the usual common birds showed up apart from the Coal Tits.

The light at this site isn't very good at the best of times and this morning was overcast which made it even worse. So the following pictures are taken at low shutter speeds and ISO 1600. A bit of noise reduction and sharpening in Photoshop has produced some reasonable, if not very sharp results.

Blue Tit
Great Tit
The stuff on the bark of the tree is peanut butter. Most of the birds love it.


I'd been watching and photographing the feeding for quite some time when suddenly and completely out of the blue, the peace was shattered by a Sparrowhawk! Neither I nor these birds saw anything coming. It descended quickly and silently from the rear of where I was sitting and pounced before any of its potential prey had time to react.

I'm not sure whether the Sparrowhawk caught anything. It took off and then landed in a tree about 30 yards away but with its back to me. I tried to get a shot but there were too many branches in the way and the lens wouldn't autofocus. I switched to manual and got a couple of shots but they are poor and you can't tell whether or not it has anything in its beak. Although if you look closely along the bird's left 'shoulder' I think you might be able to see some ruffled feathers? Could this be a victim hanging from its beak?

Footnote: After asking around I learned that if the Sparrowhawk had caught anything then it would have had it grasped in it's talons. So it would appear that this strike was unsuccessful after all.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Wobbly Heron

This series of photos were taken late one spring after the young Grey Herons had just about mastered the art of flying around the top Heronry at Bretton Lakes.

The cocky youngster pictured here decided to impose his authority by chasing away the Mallards who were busy sunning themselves on the fallen tree. You can just about see one of them retreating at the bottom left corner of the first picture.

He was looking quite cool until he decided to 'patrol' up and down his new found territory. Then it all got a bit undiginified as he lost his balance and decided to give it up as a bad job...

"Sod it!"

Thursday, 7 January 2010


...the other day a friend asked if I took any photos of wildlife other than birds. I said I'd like to but there's usually nothing to see. Birds can be difficult to approach but come to think of it, compared to mammals they're quite easy.

I looked back through my collection of RAW images and found a few non-bird shots that are vaguely presentable so here they are...

I woke-up this Fox one spring morning at Adel Dam nature reserve, just north of Leeds. It wasn't at all impressed by my presence and promptly went back to sleep. I suppose it helped that I was in a hide and all he could see was my lens poking out of the window.

No animals here but I thought a reminder of spring was in order during this unusually long period of freezing cold weather we're suffering at the moment. This is a scene from the woods at Bretton Lakes during Bluebell 'season'.

Aren't Woodmouse's cute? My first encounter with one of these came when I was sat at the rear of the hide at Bretton. He was very keen on peanuts!

This young Red Squirrel was a visitor to the garden of a cottage I hired in South-West Scotland.

Below is an adult I came across during a walk on the grounds of Craig Farm during the same holiday. I was renting the cottage from the owners of the farm - West Holmhead Cottage

I had to get up very early in the morning to spot this Roe Deer. I stopped the car in the road and took the shot from the window.

This one was taken a year later whilst staying at the same cottage. The adult Roe Deers tend to leave their young hidden in the undergrowth. That was the case here but the mother chose a place very near to the road. She bolted and left the fawn to fend for itself when she saw me.

Notice the bored look on his face? This Common Toad sat impassively as I arranged the blades of grass so I could get a clear shot of it but I think he was beginning to lose patience at the end. The picture was taken in Strid Wood in the Yorkshire Dales.

I think this is a Four Spotted Chaser? Taken at Allerthorpe Common YWT reserve in North Yorkshire - Allerthorpe Common

I don't suppose this set would be complete without a Rabbit?

A Spotted Wood butterfly. Taken in a wood of all places.

This friendly Bank Vole was competing for peanuts with the Woodmouse pictured at the start of this blog. Here he is getting greedy and trying to figure out how to carry two at a time. I had to use flash with these shots (and the toad) because it was very dark in the undergrowth.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Potteric Carr

Potteric Carr is the largest of around 80 nature reserves that are either owned or managed by The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

Potteric Carr Homepage

It's also the largest inland wetland in the UK - outside of London. Unfortunately 95% of this habitat is currently covered in ice. The good thing about this is that more of the birds are relying on the feeding station situated in front of the Willow Pool Hide.

I was hoping that I might see my first Water Rail and maybe even a Bittern, one of which has been showing in front of the hide since the ice took a hold. Apparently doing its best to reduce the local rat population!

The Bittern didn't show up whilst I was there but the Water Rail did.

This was the most acrobatic of the Great Spotted Woodpecker's visits to the feeders.


A solitary Willow Tit stayed around just long enough to get a shot

There were several female Pheasants around but the males seemed to be keeping their distance

Last to turn up was a male and female Reed Bunting