Sunday, 28 April 2019

Osprey's at Rutland Water

Last Wednesday (24th) along with Tim Gutsell, I returned to the Horn Mill Trout farm in Rutland to see if I could get a few more images of the Osprey's that fished there. I have been previously on three occasions before, two years back, but I have never managed to be there in ideal photography conditions and after this trip, I still have never been there in ideal photography conditions. (At £75 a session, I do not know if I will ever be there in ideal photography conditions lol). Our session in the hide was due to start at 4.00 pm and arriving in Rutland just after 10 am we stopped off at the Manton Bay reserve on Rutland Water. Paying our entrance fee, we then slowly made our way down to the Osprey viewing hide to sit out the few hours we had to spare, stopping at the four hides we passed on the way . We spent a fair bit of time watching a pair of Osprey's, their nesting platform out on the far side of the lake opposite our vantage point. Maya (the female) is currently sitting on 4 eggs which we could see from the web cam set up in the Manton Bay visitors centre. The pair periodically got up and flew around for a spell but were too far away for anything but record shots.

There was not a great deal to see out on the lake, a few Common Terns, Sand Martins but a pair of Egyptian Geese were foraging in the vegetation in the shallow water in front of the hide.

The star of the show for me at Manton Bay was a smart looking Drake Goldeneye that kept his distance but close enough to point the camera at.

It was soon time to return to the car, grab a bite to eat and then on to the Trout farm which was about 4 miles away. Unfortunately the light was deteriorating and a few spits of rain were felt but we had paid our money and even if we could not get any images, it is still good to watch an Osprey diving into a pool just a few metres from your vantage point, the birds completely unaware of our presence due to scrimmage netting over the hide windows. A good sign was the sight of an Osprey sitting in a field behind the trout farm as we entered the hide. When inside the hide, all you can see is the pool in front of you, so we have a spotter back up by the farmhouse who lets us know of approaching Osprey's (or anything else interesting) by way of a two way radio. We had only been seated for 15 minutes when he let us know the bird had got up and was approaching from behind us. It turned out to be ring number 28, a returning regular to the pool, his mate on a nest a few miles from the farm. He flew in over the hide and into the tall Willow that overlooks the pool.

I have photographed this bird before, two years ago, in the same Willow tree and in the same dull light. It would be nice to get it perched in the sunshine. Still a smart looking individual, even with a white sky. The bird perched for about ten minutes before diving down into the trout pool, successfully catching a Trout and then flying off presumably back to its nest site. The hide faces South and with a north wind the birds after diving  then take off from the pool into the wind and directly towards us and over the hide. Unfortunately, the wind direction was from the south so on this occasion the bird took off with its catch but all we got was a rear end view and not great if you want photograph the event. This is what I got and bearing in mind this was taken with a 200mm lens and a full frame camera, it gives an idea as to just how close the Osprey's are when in the pool.

The bird did bank around to our right and flew out giving us a brief chance to grab a few images, the Osprey clutching its prize but by then it was a bit too far away for a 200mm lens. With the bird coming out towards you, there would be some pretty spectacular images to be had.

It was a promising start to the session, an Osprey visiting in the first half hour but that was it, no more visits throughout the rest of the session. Our spotter did tell us the same 28 had returned to the field at about 7 o'clock but it had not moved before the session ended at 8.00. Whilst waiting for another Osprey to turn up, we did have a few bits to watch, several Red Kites were seen, all flying away from us and after being told that the Trout stocked in the pool cost around £4 each to get to the size they were, we watched a Grey Heron eat 16 quids worth in 10 minutes.

There was a Little Egret fishing on the pool and a nice surprise was a Common Buzzard that first landed in the Willow tree before flying down onto a post at the end of the pool and then down on to the grassy bank of the pool to look for worms.

We left the hide just after 8.00pm, seeing Osprey 28 sitting in the field as we did on arrival. One dive from one Osprey throughout the session which is always a great spectacle but a little disappointing on the photography front, especially as we had a bird almost waiting it seemed, for us to take our seats in the hide. Still that's wildlife photography, you cannot tell the birds what to do and you definitely cannot arrange the weather. I have visited this place in April, May and July before and still have not had the ideal photography conditions and after a nightmare journey home, I said to Tim I will not return. Well, I may try it one more time lol. Thanks to Tim for putting up with me, especially when trying to cope with the various diversions due to several road junction closures (and no diversion signs) a four and a half hour journey home really cheesed both of us off.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

An Easter round up locally.

With the daily arrival now of Spring migrants, a few excursions locally over the Easter period on the local patches at Grove Ferry and Stodmarsh and all with the added bonus of warm bright sunshine  and light winds that were now coming from a more favourable South Easterly direction. The imaginary year list has continued to improve with Nightingale, Hobby, Cuckoo, Common Tern, Garden and Reed Warbler now all in the bag and also after missing Little Ringed Plover last year, a message on social media from Martyn Wilson (thanks Martyn) alerted me to one present from the Feast hide at Grove and was duly seen. A lot of the time was spent stood at various points along the Lampern Wall at Stodmarsh waiting for fly by Cuckoo's, two or three birds being very vocal around the Alder wood. A smart looking male Marsh Harrier flew past giving a great photo opportunity in the early morning sunshine.

After a patient wait, a pair of Cuckoo's were eventually seen chasing each other down the wall towards the new Tower hide (????) returning a few minutes later, close in over the lake and past my vantage point.

Walking up the Lampern Wall and generally back towards the car park on Easter Monday, a raptor fest was being watched, a pair of Marsh Harriers and 4 or 5 Common Buzzards drifting over the lake when Mike Gould noticed one of the Buzzards was in fact an Osprey which was being hassled by the rest of the Buzzards. Into the sun and high up is not an ideal scenario to try and grab Osprey images but a rather poor record shot was obtained, Osprey's being few and infrequent for me on the local patch.

Sedge Warblers have now arrived in numbers on the reserve, a rather vocal and showy individual posing for images by the Harrison's drove hide.

Whilst waiting for the Cuckoo's down the Lampern wall, Cetti's Warblers were heard and seem to be encountered every 50 or so metres apart down the wall from the halfway bench down to the river. Also they are quite showy at this time of the year, a couple being seen out in the open and posing for images.

Patch bird photography at it's best, Spring has truly Sprung.

Thursday, 18 April 2019

A Close in Eider

Looking around the rocks close to the towers at Reculver for Wheatears and Black Redstart's drew a blank for me this morning but I did notice a 2nd year Drake Eider swimming off shore. Sitting on the apron below the towers on the incoming tide, the duck swam by very close to me and hauled itself out of the sea to preen on a wooden groyne. I have never got close to an Eider before, they are usually well out to sea when I have seen them. I also had four Med Gulls fly east as I was walking back to the car.