Wednesday, 26 July 2017

The River Gwash Osprey Experience (Rutland)

Whilst away in Wales, we decided to visit the Osprey's at Rutland water and on the 19th and 20th July we drove the 3 hour journey up to a village called Uppingham and stayed overnight in a pub called the Old Pheasant. Very reasonably priced and an ideal stopping point when visiting Rutland water as it is only a few miles from the site. I was joined by Mike Gould, Alan Ashdown and Tim Gutsell, and we had booked 2 afternoon sessions at the Horn Mill Trout farm Osprey experience which is basically 4 photographers sitting in a hide next to a small pool stocked with Trout and ideally Osprey's diving and catching fish just a few metres in front of you. I say ideally as wildlife being wildlife, it's not on tap and you have to take what comes and dipping is all too easy to experience. That said, our experience was not a dip, (it could of been better) we saw one Osprey dive and miss a fish on our first afternoon session and 3 aborted dives from the same bird. (colour ringed blue 28) We also endured pretty gloomy weather for the first visit and high iso's were needed to get any images at all. Two images of blue 28 sitting in a tree to the side of the pool, his head never stopped bobbing as he continually watched for the trout in the pool below. A pity about the white sky.

The 1st image was when he first arrived and the 2nd image was after his unsuccessful dive.
Once the bird launches from its perch, you don't have a lot of time to focus on him diving and the light was nowhere good enough to catch it on the way down but after the splash, you have a few seconds to find the bird in the pool and catch him as he flies out, usually towards the hide and then out to the right, literally just a few feet from the scrimmage netting covering the front of the hide. A fantastic sight and worth the admission fee alone.

These images were shot with a 70-200mm lens on a full framed camera, giving you an idea as to just how close these birds are when they leave the pool. The afternoon sessions start at 4.30 pm and go on until 9.00 pm, although we left a little early on the first session as the light was so poor it was very difficult to see. (I cannot wait for the summer to arrive) 

We had a Red Kite come into the pool just after we arrived in the hide and it plucked out a dead trout but it came in from behind us, allowing rear end views only. We did see about 5 or 6 Kites in the area. Also a Green Woodpecker landed on a post but too far away for photos and a pair of Kingfishers continually visited the trout pool throughout our second visit.

After the first session and while we waited for the second session, we spent the day at Rutland water where we visited two visitor centres and learnt a fair bit about the Rutland Osprey project. Also it is an excellent reserve with at least 15 hides placed around the huge body of water. We watched a family of Osprey's, 2 adults and 2 newly fledged chicks (they are the nesting pair that can be seen on the web cam from the visitors centre) and it was fascinating to see the parent birds continually plunge into the water as if they were showing their offspring what to do. Whilst watching these I walked onto the next hide and found a Wood Sandpiper feeding on the mud. I phoned the others and after a while the Sandpiper hopped through a wire fence and was out in front of us, an unexpected bonus.

A Little Egret came close whilst busying ourselves with the Wood Sand and was another target for the camera.

So, all in all it was not as good as it could of been with the Osprey's but we never dipped and we did manage a few images. I certainly will not forget as the Osprey hit the water and then fly off just a few feet from us, wetting the appetite for more. On that note, as we did dip on the second session, the Horn Mill staff have offered us a free return visit which Tim, Alan and myself have gratefully accepted. We are going back on Monday 7th for the morning session. Again, no guarantees but i think it is very sporting of the Horn Mill Trout farm to offer us this free visit. (1 hide place available when we visit if anyone is interested, £75.00 per session). I have the phone number of the Trout farm if you want to book a place.

Hopefully my next post from Rutland will have more Osprey images and also in better light.

Monday, 17 July 2017

A Barn Owl Success Story.

It's been a bit of a struggle getting out for a while what with work, computer problems (don't ask, bloody useless Microsoft and their new Windows 10) and a general lack of enthusiasm due to a general lack of anything to go and photograph. (Come back the Red Foot) I have had a few sessions with the pair of Barn Owl's I have been watching for the past 2 months and am pleased to tell that they have successfully fledged 3 chicks and all three seem to be doing well although still relying on their parents to bring home the bacon (or Shrews and Mice in this case) . One of the parent birds even came and perched in front of my vantage point for a while, albeit a little distant but still okay with a large crop.

A few more flight shots of the adult bird hunting.

Barn Owls..................Great birds.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Trying again with the Red Foot.

With the 2nd cy male Red-footed Falcon staying at Grove over the weekend, I in fact visited on the Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, trying for some better images. I watched the Falcon get spooked from a bush by a passing Marsh Harrier on Sunday (2nd) just after 1.00 pm, the Falcon taking off and flying high out over the river and it has not been seen since. A shame as being so close to home, it was easy to get down and watch the bird for long periods. The light was still not great over the four days and when the sun did come out, the Dragonflies would go up high with the Falcon following, enabling the bird to carry on feasting. It certainly had its fill of Norfolk Hawkers over the few days it spent on the reserve. Whilst waiting for the bird to put in an appearance on the Thursday (30th) a Cuckoo passed by, not long before they set off on their return journey to Africa.

I found myself with a lot of time standing on the middle path between the Harrison's and the Marsh hide with just ditches to look into. Resisting temptation to start snapping away at Dragonflies i eventually succumbed and tried to get a few Norfolk Hawkers (Green--eyed) as they hovered up and down the ditch in front of me. (Have I moved over to the dark side) Up until 2 years ago I had never laid eyes on one of these and remember seeing my first one at Westbere. They were easily the most common Dragonfly at Grove over the past few days, a sign as to how well they are doing.

But star billing for the past week has been the Red-footed Falcon. Although seeing quite a lot of it, the photos were not as good as one would of liked, dull weather, too far away, looking into the sun blah blah blah, all the usual photographer excuses, but a few images did manage to elude the delete button.

Although not an adult bird, still one very smart looking Falcon. Also nice to catch up and chat with the locals and with a few faces I generally only see when a good bird hits Kent.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

A Young Male Red Footed Falcon at Grove.

I was out for the day last Sunday but eventually heard that a young Red Footed Falcon (2cy male) had been seen on the Grove/Stodmarsh reserve. The sketchy twitter reports said it was seen mostly around the Marsh hide area so parking at the Grove end of the reserve i made my way down to the hide as quickly as possible, arriving to find........nothing, no Red Foot and more worryingly no birders looking for the Falcon. I sat there for about 30 minutes looking at a few juvenile Lapwing, 4 Konic Ponies and a herd of Geese. I decided to leave and walking back towards the cattle crush I met Frank Cackett who told me the Falcon was half way up the Middle Drove sitting in a bush. Off I sped and found two birders looking at the bird exactly where Frank said it was. (Cheers Frank) To be honest, the view was a little distant and the bird was slightly buried in the foliage of the bush. I took a few record shots but it was a hopeless task really. My first look at the bird and too far away to get any decent photos.

And after a heavy crop in photoshop (At least you can see it's a Red Footed Falcon)

After a while the bird flew out of the bush and low across the grass and I lost it somewhere in the vicinity of the Harrison's Drove hide. I was joined by Martyn Wilson and Tim Gutsell and we waited on the Middle Drove in case it decided to put in another appearance. The light was fading fast and from nowhere the Falcon appeared, flying towards us, again very low across the field, gaining height as it crossed the path we were standing on. It caught us a little unaware and I grabbed a few more record shots of the bird as it flew over the Middle Drove. Not very good shots I'm afraid but it is a Red Foot and well worth grabbing something, even if only record shots.

I am almost sure this is the first Male Red Foot I have seen at Grove, (the memory is fading a little with age) all the others (I say all but just 2) have been female birds. A cracking little Falcon and fine compensation for the lack of Hobbies on the reserve this year.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

A Hunting Barn Owl

I came across a Barn Owl and using the hedgerow as cover i had pretty close up views as it passed my vantage point whilst quartering a field hunting for prey in the afternoon sunshine. 

A wonderful summer evening sight. This Owl seems to be doing alright for Voles, he catches 5 or 6 during the hour and a half long sessions that I have watched him over several nights during the past week or so.