Sunday, 31 December 2017

A (quick) Look back at 2017. Part 2.

July, and the second half of the year. I started July where I left off in June, at Grove Ferry with the 1st year male Red Footed Falcon that had rather sportingly decided to give the visiting togs a few more photo opportunities before moving on early in the month.

Also I put some more time in with the Barn Owls and was able to get more images as they passed the car, quartering the field I had parked by.

It was in July that Mike Gould, Alan Ashdown, Tim Gutsell and myself (The Welsh Crew) decided on an overnight stay in Rutland and had two sessions with the River Gwash Ospreys. Basically a Trout farm that had designated a pool for the purpose of attracting Osprey's with a strategically placed hide, allowing photographers the chance to photograph Ospreys from a few metres away as they plunged into the water of the generously stocked Trout pool. Very expensive and wildlife being unpredictable, its not always assured that an Osprey will turn up. Our first session allowed for a few images as we witnessed just one dive, the second session we drew a blank. Rather sportingly, the Trout farm offered us a free session in August that three of us accepted, Mike declining, having enough of the ridiculously early morning start.

On the 1st of August I happened on a Bittern right in front of me on the path leading down to the Lampern Wall at Stodmarsh, my only photo opportunity with this species during 2017 which is rather unusual.

We returned to Rutland for our free Osprey experience during August but in truth, as with most of our excursions during 2017, the weather was poor and we struggled a bit with light and shutter speeds. Also during the month I was able to add a Common Sandpiper to my birds on a stick list at Grove/Stodmarsh.

During September, a trip down to Ramsgate was rewarded with images of a stunning Peregrine Falcon seen by the Western Undercliff. I also was able to get an extremely poor record shot of a distant Stone Curlew that was in the bay at Pegwell for well over a week.

During September I was able to have a session with a few returning waders in the lagoon at Coldharbour at Reculver. A Knot and an extremely confiding Little Stint were both a surprise and never minded me pointing the camera at them. Below are images of the Knot, Little Stint and a showy Dunlin from that day.

October was a busy month. Their were two American Waders on the East Flood at Oare Marshes, the returning Long-Billed Dowitcher and a rather smart 1st Winter Wilson's Phalarope. I was able to get a few images and one with both these visitors in the same frame

Wilson's Phalarope

Long-Billed Dowitcher

And both together, not something you can expect here in the U.K

Whilst at Oare Marshes I was able to catch a Female Goosander as she left the East Flood and a Black-Necked Grebe was in the creek.

Later on in October I caught a Little Grebe running across the water and lucky enough to bag a Bird Guides photo of the week with it. Also a really showy Lapland Bunting was on the promenade at Beltinge, just below the Mirrimar.

In November a Red Necked Phalarope was seen and photographed around the garage pools at Pegwell. This was a U.K tick for me, I missed the one at Oare 2 months earlier and the only one I have seen previously was from a ridiculous distance away on the reserve at Marquenterre in Northern France.

A surprise for me was seeing a female Smew on the pool in front of the Feast hide at Grove, not a species you normally see there and I also managed a record shot of a Dusky Warbler at Sandwich which is always difficult given the skulking behaviour of these birds.

Also in November I managed a shot of the Black-throated Diver that had taken up residence in Ramsgate Harbour.

And so on to December. The year ended for me as it started, with a life tick. Tim Gutsell and I travelled down to the Soveriegn Harbour in Eastbourne to see the 1st winter Black Guillemot. As soon as we arrived we saw it out in the middle of the marina but it soon became evident that getting photos of it was going to be tricky as when the bird was close the light was blocked out by the surrounding apartment buildings.

Other birds in December was a 1st winter Iceland Gull in the harbour at Ramsgate and a couple of sessions on the beach at Reculver resulted in a few flight shots of the wintering Sanderling.

Also during December I caught up with old favourites like Bearded Tit's at Stodmarsh and Nuthatch in the woods at Blean.

And that's about it for 2017. Not the best year I have had with the camera but a sprinkling of good birds seen and it all starts again soon, if i can shake off the dreaded man flu that always seems to hit me at this time of the year. I would like to wish anyone reading this a happy and prosperous New Year. Thank you.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

A (quick) Look back at 2017. Part 1.

Going by past years, 2017 now feels as if it was a quiet year on the wildlife photography front. The year started as it always does, with January, (it don't get any better lol) and the first half of the month was rather grey and damp. (What ever happened to those sunlit frosty mornings of yester year that we used to get in January) That said, I did manage my first lifer of the year in the shape of a Ring-necked Duck at Dungeness (a long overdue tick duly down to laziness on my part) and a Red-Necked Grebe at Camber, although obviously in Winter attire is always a nice bird to photograph.

We did get a light dusting of snow mid month, not a lot but enough to ensure the usual havoc that a centimetre of snow brings with it.

I was able to get a few images of a Short-Eared Owl as it dozed on the Royal Cinque Ports golf course and a large flock of Pipits feeding on the recently turned out mud from the dyke's around the Marsh hide at Stodmarsh caused a bit of a debate on various social media sites as to whether they were Rock (Scandinavian) or Water Pipits. I think maybe Rock but opinion was divided, such is the complexity of this species. After all, a few years ago they were both lumped as the same bird !!!

February was very quiet. I was able to get a few images of the local Kingfishers at Grove and a session with the waders along the North Kentish coastline never disappoints and a highly recommended fix for any wildlife photographer.

March arrived along with the hopes for the forthcoming Spring. Luckily for me the Stodmarsh reserve is close by and normally attracts some of the U.K'S first returning Garganey arrivals of the year. The past year was no different and on the 30th of the month a rather showy Drake was on the Reed Bed hide pool for a day, before moving on but not before allowing for some serious shutter action with the camera. A Firecrest was another welcomed distraction during the month of March.

April came and went, the weather still not great and the highlights of the month were not very high. A Cattle Egret was at Stodmarsh for a week or so and much of the month was spent on the reserve with very little to tempt me away.

Also I was able to get a Pintail image as a Drake along with 2 females were on the same pool as the previous months Garganey. Another fine looking Duck.

I did venture further afield on a few occasions during April, the returning Wheatears were starting to show up along the Kentish coastline and I caught up with a few at Seasalter. A Peregrine was also fodder for the camera during the month.

During May, four of us, Mike Gould, Alan Ashdown, Tim Gutsell and yours truly returned to Wales. Photography was very poor due to the fact that it rained every day apart from the afternoon of our arrival. It was that poor we ended up cutting our stay short and returned a day earlier than planned. We did get a few images at Gigrin farm, the usual Buzzard and Red Kite fare.

A favourite of mine is the returning Cuckoo's. We are lucky in that Kent is home to several during Spring and Stodmarsh and Reculver gives ideal opportunities to catch them on camera, as I was able to do during May.

And finally for the first half of this look back at 2017, June. Barn Owls, which for me had been in short supply, were all of a sudden plentiful. I had been watching a box from my car for a few weeks and was able to a few images as the parent birds hunted in the early evening to feed the 3 chicks that they successfully reared.

Getting close up images of Barn Owls is always a highlight and another highlight in June was a young male Red-footed Falcon seen on the Grove Ferry reserve. I was able to get a few record shots of the bird on the 29th and for me, this was the bird of the first half of 2017.

That's the first half of the year done, nothing too exciting but a few images along the way. I would like to wish any readers or visitors to this blog a safe and Merry Christmas.

Part 2 to follow.