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.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Tales from Wales (in the rain)

And so another jaunt came and went, the 2017 jolly shared with Tim Gutsell, Alan Ashdown and Mike Gould, revisiting Powy's in Mid Wales, which on reflection was a mistake, especially as we have only just in recent years discovered the delights of the La Brenne region of Mid France. ( A lesson learnt I think) We planned for 3 nights, leaving home on the Monday morning (29th May) but realising this was a bank holiday I found a hotel in Llandrindod Wells with 4 vacant rooms on the Sunday night (28th) meaning we could leave on the Sunday morning which we did. What more, the rooms were charged at £20 per night, (single rooms) were clean and tidy and we rated it 5 star for value for money. The hotel is called the Glen Usk and if looking for a room in the area, it gets a thumbs up from the four of us. Arriving just after lunch meant we had time to get to Gigrin which we did and spent the afternoon with the Kites. We chose to hire the top photography hide as it was unbooked and after paying a hefty £25 each for the privilege, it was easy to see why it was unbooked. Still, I suppose there are always a few idiots that rock up and are more than willing to part with their hard earned cash (lol). Saying that, it is advantageous photographing from a height as you are then on an eye level with the birds. One thought to the staff at Gigrin, is a full hide at £15 per person not better than an empty hide at £25 per person ?

(Above 2 photos courtesy of Alan Ashdown)

When at Gigrin I like to try and get a few Buzzard images but they were very few and far between. I think the huge number of Kites have frightened them off, the few that did visit were constantly harassed by swooping Red Kites.

The feeding station at Gigrin may be commercialised and a bit touristy but it is a great place to see and get Red Kite images. We had a couple of Ravens that I did not bother with and for some reason known only to him, Tim was snapping away at the Rooks, for too long i thought ha ha. Below is a selection of Red Kite images from our Gigrin visit on our first afternoon in Wales.

There was a White leucistic Kite present, and from it's wing tags I could see that it was the same bird I photographed here in 2010. (No 51) I took a few images, getting rid of the tags as they are not very pleasing on the eye.

A good start to our trip and after breakfast and an early morning walk around Llandrindrod Wells on the Monday morning, we moved on, calling into the Gilfach reserve a few miles North of Rhayader before checking into our hotel for the rest of the trip, the Elan Valley Hotel which unsurprisingly enough is situated in the Elan Valley. It's a hotel which we have stayed in on several occasions before but for this trip the hotel had new owners and although they were very nice people, we quickly became aware that they were not hoteliers and to be quite honest, it was not a patch on our previous stays. Still, one good thing, it's not moved so the hotel still scored 10 out of 10 for location and the reason why we choose this hotel when visiting Powy's. Most of the day was spent on the River Elan or at Gilfach.
Tuesday morning and Tim, Alan and I was up and out at 5.00 AM counting Pied Fly and Redstart's, whilst Mike was left in bed counting sheep ( something he liked doing a lot lol) but it soon became evident that the weather was not going to be kind to us. In fact we did struggle with the weather with all four of us counting our blessings when it was just grey and not dark dull and grey. Still you have to make the most of it and apart from the odd moan and groan (mostly from me) we soldiered on until the Wednesday when it started to (putting it bluntly) piss down and my suggestions for calling it a day, settling up our hotel bill and leaving for home was unanimously endorsed by the other three and that is what we did.

Alan and Tim (early morning) in front of the Elan Valley Hotel (you can almost hear Mike snoring from the open bedroom windows lol)

Dull, grey with low cloud rolling down from the mountains, the Welsh weather sucks.

Me trying to look happy but it was bloody freezing as well as damp and dismal.

Most of our time was spent on the reserve at Gilfach as there is a hide there if the weather turned wet, which it often did, and a cafe which cheered mike up no end. We visited the place every day and it was a surprise to bump into Steve Reynaert who was there for the week. I hope he managed to dodge the rain as by all accounts it got steadily worse as the week went on. There were numerous Pied Fly-Catchers using the many nesting boxes placed around the reserve and the fact that you could get quite close to them made up for the poor conditions.

We came across quite a few Redstart's but they were busy feeding young so we left them alone. There was a pair in box number 1 in front of the Otter hide and with a bit of patience they could be seen as they returned to the box, unaware of us watching from the hide. I had opportunities to grab a few record shots but that was all.

Dippers can usually be seen nesting under the road bridge from the Otter hide at Gilfach but we only saw one from there. In fact I only saw 2 Dippers whilst in Wales, the one just mentioned and one on the River Elan by our hotel. As is usual, they always seem to be in the dark shady areas of the river making photography tricky. Again, I only managed a few record shots.

And that was about it. We saw plenty of Wood Warblers but I never bothered with them as the light was truly awful, being that they inhabit wooded areas, and from the car in the light drizzle we saw a few Whinchat's on the fence posts that lined the road up to the Elan Valley Dam (record shot below) where also a couple of Wheatear families were seen up on the rocky outcrops

 Summing up, apart from Gigrin, photography was very difficult. Next years jolly is back to La Brenne in July where at least if it rains there are plenty of hides to take refuge in. Great company as always, just a shame the weather was poor.