Friday, 23 November 2012

Donna Nook Seals

I've been meaning to a have drive over to see the breeding Grey Seals at Donna Nook for several years now, but have never got around to going.

A couple of weeks ago I finally managed it and was quite surprised at just how close the seals are. There's a just a small fence to separate you from the pups and their parents. They don't seem at all bothered by the presence of the nosy humans though.

Even though I got there on a working, mid-Monday morning, the place was rapidly becoming packed with people. It must be murder on a weekend!

I took my long lens (500mm) but soon regretted this as most of the seals were well within range of a 300mm. In fact you could get away with a 100mm if you stick to the seals that are very close to the fence.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

European Roller

If someone had mentioned this bird's name to me prior to last Saturday I would have thought they were on about a Common Market version of the venerable tarmac flattening machine! I'm no twitcher either, so when I was told that there was one up the road from where I was staying in Cowden, East Yorkshire I did a quick internet search for some pictures. Satisfied that it wasn't going to turn out to be a tiny, brown blob in the distance I set out on Sunday morning to have a look.

Thankfully it was still there. Sadly it wasn't near enough to get any decent shots and I didn't fancy my chances with the ever-present twitchers if I tried to get any closer than the hedge that bordered the farmers field. So I just had to stand there and make do.

The bird was sat pretty motionless for a good 10 minutes but luckily I was paying attention when it decided to take off and I managed to get some in-flight shots.

Here's the best of what I could manage...

Sunday, 15 April 2012

East Coast Weekend

Cold, rain and strong winds. Seems to be typical weather on the Yorkshire coast at the moment. Dodging the rain, I visited Bempton Cliffs on Saturday and went for a walk along a deserted Cowden Beach on Sunday morning.

I've visited Bempton quite a few times now and there's usually a bit of a breeze but today it was blowing  a gale. The sky/sea were a shade of slate grey which put me off staying around for very long to take photos, but having looked at the ones that I did get I actually quite like the monochrome background.

I didn't even bother trying to capture anything smaller than a Gannet as the wind meant they were flying far too quickly for my birds-in-flight technique!


I think this one shows the effect the strong wind was having on the Gannets.

I quite like the background on this shot...

Maybe this one trying to reduce the lift that it's wings are providing in an effort to slow down and land on the cliff face?


The weather was so poor on Sunday morning that I left the camera in the car and went for a walk along Cowden beach instead of looking for birdlife. It wasn't long before I came across this young(?)  Grey Seal. It was laid motionless with it's eyes closed as I approached so initially I thought it was dead. Only for it to spring back to life as I got within a few feet.

I'm not sure if it was well though. It made a few noises towards me but didn't attempt to move away. I thought about using my mobile to contact someone for advice but I didn't have a signal and the tide was moving in fast. So it would almost certainly be gone by the time they arrived.

I only had my mobile phone on me so the picture is of poor quality.

 I did take a video before moving away and watching from a distance for a while but it didn't move from this spot.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

River Calder Wagtails

At least one pair of Grey Wagtails can be regularly seen feeding at the bottom of the weir, near Island View in Dewsbury. Getting close enough to photograph them meant a struggle through the undergrowth before setting up my tripod on the water's edge. Now all I had to do was wait for them to turn up!

My luck was in though and no sooner had sat down than one of a pair appeared right in front of me. It was  further away than I would have liked but I can't really complain.

It was feeding on the small creatures which were hidden in the nooks and crannies of the rock and was soon joined by its partner. Not that I've any idea how to tell male from female.

The second one to arrive had to be content with the more precarious side of the rock.

On the way back I saw a couple of Reed Buntings - or are they Sparrows?

This shot of a nesting Dunnock demonstrates the value of a good, sturdy tripod. It was taken with a 500mm lens + 1.4x tele-converter at a mere 1/80th second - (I think the general rule-of-thumb for hand-held shots is that you should have a shutter speed of at least the focal length of the lens, which would mean around 1/700th sec in this case). The tripod is a pain to carry around but there's no way I could have captured anything other than a blur without it.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Whooper Swans

Hardly a rarity, but a first for me in this neck of the woods. Nine of these magnificent birds decided to stop off at Pebley Reservoir, which is near to where I work in Barlborough, North Derbyshire. The only other Whoopers I've ever come across were at Wigtown in South-West Scotland.

According to the RSPB website they should be on their way back to Iceland for the summer after wintering somewhere in East Anglia (probably). Or maybe they have been to the European mainland - dunno if they migrate that far though?

Sunday, 11 March 2012

A bit too early for the migrants...

I was hoping that I might get lucky this morning and be greeted with the familiar call of a recently arrived Chiffchaff when I made an early morning visit to Bridge Royd Wood at Bretton Lakes. Unfortunately they haven't arrived just yet but there was still plenty going on in the woods and on the lake. Only the Herons were missing from their spot above the island on the top lake, where their heronry is usually in full-swing by now. I suppose its too early to tell if they have become a victim of the recent vandalism (restoration if you listen to the people that run the place) that has seen substantial parts of the reserve ripped-up, bulldozed or removed.

I still haven't seen or heard a Kingfisher this year either. I hope they make a return soon.

Here is a selection of what I did see.

Top-to-bottom - Great Spotted Woodpecker, Treecreeper, Male/female Goosanders, Tufted Duck, Bit of aggro from the male Goosanders, Female Goosander close-up and one half of a pair of Buzzards that were circling high above Litherop Woods as I returned to my car.

Note the serrated bill. A friend of my wife's once said that these birds have teeth!!! Even I know that the only duck with a set of gnashers is called Donald!

PS - just checked - even Donald doesn't have teeth!