22 December, 2010

Local Patch - 22/12/10 - Bittern !

The second patch 'tick' in ten days was discovered this afternoon on the only unfrozen patch of water for miles around - a Bittern ! As far as I can tell this is a site first, and just emphasizes how difficult it is for birds in the current deep freeze the UK is experiencing this winter. Bitterns have been discovered wintering in Bedfordshire for a number of years - mainly in the old Marston Vale brick pits, but to see one on the local patch is truly remarkable.

The image was taken under extreme conditions; distance - all birds are under pressure in the cold spell, so stalking this bird was not an option; light - fifteen minutes before sunset. The laying snow helps here, as what light remains is reflected.


13 December, 2010

Local Patch - 13/12/10 - Finally, a Smew.

After 18 years at the local patch, a redhead Smew put in an appearance on the lagoons. On the drive over, and despite an hour of daylight remaining, the light deteriorated as the mist descended. The bird was associating with the local mallards and was occasionally frisky, splashing about not unlike teal. The camera was on the tripod, ISO was high, image stabilizer was off (as recommended by Canon when using a tripod), the exposure compensation was down a few thirds to allow for the dark water and give faster shutter. The resultant images were still awful - not unsurprising with 1/80th shutter speed !

12 December, 2010

Waxwing - 'Seen-from-the-Garden' List

Doggedly keeping an eye open for a Waxwing in the vicinity of the house has finally paid off ! After watching the 45 commuting between Waitrose and Tesco in town this morning, I headed for home and on turning in to my road I nearly fell off the metaphorical perch ! A Waxwing was perched a-top a tree - followed by 29 more in the general area of Vandyke Schools !

The images taken in town were a little better, but still not the shots I was after. There's bound to be more opportunity as the winter progresses !

11 December, 2010

Waxwing - the Discerning Shopper.

The Waxwing flock in Leighton/Linslade have split in to three camps (based on quality of fruit & Veg ?).  

  • Firstly, the Tesco group (56) looking for value for money,
  • Secondly, the Waitrose clan (30) after a bit more class !
  • Thirdly, the remainder (24) may have gone back to Woburn  !

10 December, 2010

Waxwings, Leighton Buzzard

There were 110+ Bohemian Waxwing at the Homebase/Tesco site today on Vimy Road between the Grand Union Canal and the River Ouzel. Their favoured feeding trees were at  SP91682525  and  SP91702528.
The flock of 120 present in Woburn this week seems to have left - all bar 10 - so the Leighton flock are probably from Woburn.
It's a busy area and the birds were often disturbed as they fed on four berry-laden trees, but thankfully they still kept coming back allowing fantastic views. The light was awful and the images taken were not ideal. My hope is that the sun will appear this weekend and the birds will stay awhile.

Bohemian Waxwing,
Leighton Buzzard

25 September, 2010

Local Patch - 25/09/08: Kestrel

The strong Northerlies didn't bring any seabird visitors to the county despite being surrounded by Gannet records in Bucks, Cambs and London - there's always tomorrow...
The local patch was quiet, with a few Barn Swallow, Chiffchaff (some singing a few days ago), thirteen Shoveler and Common Snipe now up to three.
A Common Kestrel has been present for a couple of weeks, but still not managed a decent image.

08 September, 2010

Marbled Duck @ Broom

The duck season continued today with a Marbled Duck found by SRB at Broom. There's a hint of green at the bill base when viewed at the right angle, and the general concensus is that it's female.

02 September, 2010

Red-crested Pochard - New Site Record !

The local patch warden discovered an eclipse male Red-crested Pochard this afternoon - a new site record. This duck seems to be on the increase recently, so it was always on the cards that one would turn up.
The strong afternoon sun was directly behind the bird, but after carefully moving to a better position, these images were obtained.

Red-crested Pochard
Red-crested Pochard
eclipse male

30 August, 2010

More RBS

Marginally improved the Red-backed Shrike portfolio this evening with another visit to Biggleswade Common.

28 August, 2010

Red-backed Shrike, Biggleswade Common

Steve Heath discovered this Red-backed Shrike on Biggleswade Common, north of the sewage works, by the railway line. Digiscopers were out in force, but the fear of flushing the bird prevented me form getting close shots with the DSLR setup. The bird seemed settled, mainly feeding on grasshoppers.

14 May, 2010

King's Wood Heath & Reach

There is a healthy population of Great-spotted Woodpecker in King's Wood. Other birds seen included a Cuckoo and a pair of Bullfinch.

21 April, 2010

Little Owl

16 April, 2010

Ring Ouzel @ Blows Downs

This male Ring Ouzel has spent a couple of days in the paddocks. Low evening light meant a high ISO and there was no way to get closer without disturbing the bird.

05 April, 2010

Water Pipit

Having missed the Water Pipit at Octagon Farm pools the last few winters, it was good to see one there today. A fine specimen too - a peachy-pink suffusion on the breast, blue-grey head and mantle, a small amount of streaking on flanks, with a strong white supercillium and blackish leg colour. The bird was not approachable so definitely one for digiscopers.

28 March, 2010

'Mega' Twitching

Well, what a day ! A planned day out to Portland with mates was hastily rearranged after yesterdays news of a Two-barred Crossbill on our own doorstep. After failing to see it the previous evening, we had a short wait when it appeared with a flock of c.25 common Crossbill near the Lake Hide just after dawn at the Lodge, Sandy. The only other Bedfordshire record was a small flock of this irruptive 'Mega' species at Ampthill on 3rd January, 1890 .

We opted to go to Norfolk, and stopped by Hunstanton for a look at the sea. Fulmar patrol the cliffs here making best use of the updraughts.

The draw of two Alpine Swift together at Lowestoft proved too much so once more we changed tack for an all-out day of twitching - not something we do too often these days.
With rapidly changing backgrounds of bright white clouds, dark clouds, blue sky and dark/pale buildings it proved difficult to get the correct exposure as these magnificent aerialists swooped around our heads. Using RAW would have helped but I knew my 2 x 2mb cards would fill up too quickly and not last the day.

Spending more time would also help sort out exposure compensation adjustments, but our next twitch beckoned a few miles down the coast at Kessingland for yet another Alpine Swift and a Pallid Swift together !
After a worrying twenty minutes they both obliged. However, they were always a bit distant to obtain plumage detail. Too often they were in the wrong quarter of the sky nearing the sun, whilst a longitudinal cloud bank seemed to track over the site throughout our visit - excuses, excuses . . .

Both Swifts together.

We then called it a day. Fifteen minutes later the pager warbled. It's set up to warble for a Bedfordshire rarity or a national 'mega' rarity. Expecting an update for the Two-barred Crossbill I checked the message - MALE LESSER KESTREL AT MINSMERE !!! - only about twenty-five minutes away !
On arrival we heard that the bird had been harried off by a Common Kestrel - Lee Evans and many others were searching for it and we duly joined the hunt. I did speculate that it might head for Westleton Heath - where it was eventually re-found. Good but distant views were obtained in late afternoon sun, but I didn't attempt any photography. So below is one I took in May 2008, Trujillo, Spain :~)

Two Suffolk Barn Owls later, and after 377 miles of driving, we approached home and reflected on how our luck held up for an absolutely stunning day of twitching.

26 March, 2010


Blow's Downs had a male Ring Ouzel, but it wasn't showing during my search. There were six Wheatear on the paddocks slope. Nearby a Chiffchaff was feeding between bouts of singing. On the local patch, a few Swallow and Sand Martin were still present.

25 March, 2010

Local Patch - 25/03/10

Today a singing Willow Warbler was my earliest in Bedfordshire. Other migrants included two Barn Swallow, a single Sand Martin and two Chiffchaff. Wetter weather moved in mid-afternoon during which a pair of calling Redshank circled the site but quickly moved north. One (perhaps two) Water Rail were on the scrape and five Common Snipe came out to feed in the rain. A male Reed Bunting sat out the worst of the heavy downpour.

04 March, 2010

Feeding Forest Finches

Spring is stirring, but today was tempered by a cold wind. Near Woburn, at Lowe's Wood, a sizeable flock of Siskin fed in the Larches.

Above the pleasent twittering of the Siskin were the distinctive metallic 'chupp' calls of Common Crossbill, and after a few minutes of searching, three were found feeding at the tops of the tallest Larches.

28 February, 2010


Spent a few hours looking for a Common Crane, unsuccessfully, which was tracked around the Great Ouse/Ivel river systems.
Stonechat seem to be scarce after the hard winter, so I was pleased to see this male feeding around a farm on Biggleswade common. The common itself was full of birds - Linnet, Skylark, Corn Bunting, Reed Bunting. Disturbance from dog walkers was a problem so photography was limited.

18 February, 2010

East Hyde Revisited

I couldn't resist a second visit to East Hyde. The sun came out and even provided a little warmth and with it some insect life. The Firecrest was on view all afternoon.

This Grey Heron didn't mind us watching as he consumed a three course meal. First, on the menu was amphibian a-la-creek.

Then, using only the most fresh ingredients - Vole Supreme !

Always wash your food before consumption...

Don't be put off if the food is still wiggling...

After one more amphibian it was time for R & R.