Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Finding Interest Back Home

The infamous Mull-Lull is something that always affects me during Autumn, as the excitement and eternal anticipation of seeing something memorable on Mull is hard to match when back in the Midlands. At best, a scan of the skies might yield a buzzard or maybe a red kite.

This year has also been a bit flat with some of my favourite species, such as the peregrines whose nest failed, and the lack of hobbies across the country has disappointed, even at sites like Otmoor. So when all else fails, I return to one of my favourite hunting grounds, Worcestershire, and Upton Warren managed to provide some moments of magic.

The kingfishers have had a good year and are in decent numbers. Aside from fishing and streaking past the hides, they have been arguing over territory, and in doing so, making some unusual sounds - almost like a warbling call. Made a change to hear them making this sound from perches just out of sight, to the usual long peeping call as they flash by!

One species that seems to be flourishing in the UK is the little egret, and there have been as many as four around the Moors Pool of late. Super to watch them flying around the pool, but better still to observe at close quarters hunting the shallows.

Not only are they experts at plucking tiddlers from the water, but they have an eye for anything moving.


With the warm summer, they have been in good numbers but while hunting the flying insects amongst the reeds, the dragonflies themselves become the hunted, and the little egrets frequently attempted take them from the air.

This not only provided some entertainment whilst watching, but also a few decent images, when the egret was facing the right way for some shots.

I usually try to keep an eye on the bird news reports, via websites and Twitter, in particular watching out for any signs of short-eared owls. There seem to be a few around at the moment, so I have tried a couple of previous sites. Before you get excited, I've had no luck so far - apparently they are favouring hunting well after dusk, so no good for images. But the warm summer and the flies it has supported, has meant that stonechats have had a great season - I saw loads on Mull, and the same has been true back here.

Hardly a substitute for the glare from a shortie, but not to be sniffed at.

Especially when seen in the first light of the day, as the morning mists start to lift.

With the trees heavily laden with berries, I have also been on the look out for winter thrushes. And it was whilst looking for these that I spotted something perhaps even better to photo. A green woodpecker.

These flighty birds are one of the most difficult to get close to. They're just so alert to any sound and will fly off to safety if they're unsure of anything at all, even a sudden gust of wind. Thankfully, some seem to be accepting of cars, so by remaining inside mine, I was able to get pretty close.

And, by parking up in places where the woodpecker seemed to be heading towards, I managed to get some exceptionally close views.

Favouring any gaps in the grass, or edges of kerbstones, the woodpecker (a female) was apparently finding plenty to eat, and even a torrential downpour didn't put her off.

Put me off slightly when all the rain from the roof of the car dripped on to my leg through the window! Worth it I suppose for such views.

The male has been, despite the car as a hide, very difficult to approach, but I have managed at least one half decent image.

And with a new camera to play with, the Canon 7D Mk2, I have also been able to push the ISO up and still get usable results. This kestrel for example, like the male green woodie was at ISO 1000, and cropped in.

I will be doing a more comprehensive review of the camera soon, after I have been able to point it at a few more subjects. My Mk1 7D has been a brilliant camera, so I have high hopes for this one. Stay tuned...

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