Sunday, May 15, 2011

The new generation

Spring is my favourite time of year - first all the migrant birds come back and sing, and then the new generation appears.
In my own garden, I have had two juvenile dunnocks, at least six baby house sparrows being fed by their parents and, since yesterday, three lovely and cheeky young starlings. They beg for food the whole time - they even tried to get a blackbird (also busy collecting food for fledgelings) to part with its food. A joy to watch!!

When I heard about two little grebe chicks that had successfully hatched not too far from here, I just had to go and see them. They are SO cute (so are adult little grebes!). I had also been after a shot of a little grebe riding on the adult's back for a long time - but obviously not an easy photo to get. Little grebes can be rather secretive and are very fast swimmers.

When we arrived at the site, the grebes were nowhere to be seen. No shortage of baby birds though!
There were two pairs of greylag geese with several goslings

Greylag geese

Mallard duckling

Also plenty of mallard ducklings, young moorhens and coots.

Coot feeding chicks

After a couple of hours I finally spotted the two little grebe chicks. Interestingly, no adults in sight but a black-headed gull that showed too much interest in the little ones...luckily, they managed to hide in the reeds and the gull flew off. Phew!

Here's a shot of the two grebe chicks, one doing a penguin impression.

Oh and I've also got an adult grebe for you doing a balloon impression! :)

Anyhow, a few minutes later, an adult grebe appeared with a big fish. No idea how the tiny chicks managed to swallow it!

Little grebe with fish (record shot!!)

The adult then swam off and returned with another, much smaller fish a bit later. And this time the chicks followed the adult and tried to climb up on their back (you can't tell whether this adult is actually a male or female). I think they are getting a bit too large now to be doing this but I was lucky - one did manage and I got a couple of shots. The light wasn't brilliant, either too dark or - when the sun came out - it was a bit harsh. Well always something wrong with 'the light' isn't there. ;)

Isn't this cute?? :)

What you think is the adult grebe's rump is actually the second chick's bottom - it didn't manage to climb up onto Mummy or Daddy's back!

So I'm really happy I got to see this special behaviour and got a couple of shots to look at and share with you as well.

Saturday, May 07, 2011


We had a lovely afternoon yesterday watching kingfishers and chatting with like-minded bird and photography enthusiasts (hello Julie, very nice meeting you!). :)

I love kingfishers - they're such beautiful, colourful birds and a joy to watch.
I also got a few nice shots. When I looked at my photos this morning, I decided to edit the background- something I don't usually do. I like to show a bird in its typical habitat, so I feel the background should be left alone...I only clone out the odd twig or leaf that might distract from the bird. This time however, I wanted to bring out the kingfishers' beauty and specifically emphasize their amazing colours by contrasting them with the background. I used the colours that were already there in the original shots (almost black, green and brown) and basically softened them. I quite like the result - a bit like a photo session with kingfishers in a photo studio. I hope you like my shots too!

Kingfisher with fish

Male Kingfisher

Male Kingfisher preening
Female Kingfisher

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Nightingales, Osprey and Wryneck at Pulborough Brooks

Long time no speak! My temporary silence was not caused by a lack of birds though!
Pulborough Brooks has been our favourite birding spot of late - there's just so much going on with all the warblers back from Africa and singing their little hearts out, record numbers of nightingales performing well and the odd rarity...
Warblers such as the whitethroat, my favourite...

or the garden warbler:

Also blackcaps, lesser whitethroats, chiffchaff, willow lovely to watch and listen to.
I was also looking forward to hearing the nightingales at Pulborough and maybe catching a glimpse of one. I was in for a real treat - I didn't just catch a glimpse of one or two but got to watch several perch right out in the open and sing. Magic!!!!

Another highlight last week included a totally unexpected osprey flying over the reserve. I even got a shot of it! Not a bird you get to see every day....

This morning, a wryneck was reported at Pulborough Brooks - a very rare visitor, especially in spring. Again a bird I'd been wanting to see for ages. I kind of expected it to have disappeared by the time we got there and the first birder we met on our way to the field where it had been spotted told us he had not seen it. Oh well...
However, when we arrived at the field in question, there was a mini twitch going on with birders in the field and along the fence, pointing scopes and cameras at a hedge that the wryneck had apparently disappeared into. Too far away really for my 400mm I tried to get closer to the fence, despite nettles and bramble (ouch - you should see my legs!!)...the breeze didn't help either. But the bird was still around so I was quite happy to wait...when people behind me shouted out 'there it is!' I couldn't spot it at first (typical!) but then it came out into the open, feeding among cattle and rabbits. Phew! It was almost impossible to get a sharp shot of, it was just too far away. It then flew up onto a fence post posing nicely for the few birders that had been patient and a green woodpecker perched behind it. Quite a sight!

It was then spooked by a rabbit and flew into the hedge. Yay, I'd seen it!

We then walked around the reserve and had great views of a pair of whitethroats looking for a nesting site (at least I think that is what they were doing) and saw three lapwing chicks (awwwww!) and a greenshank from West Mead Hide. Unfortunately there are two wasp's nests in the hide and I didn't like the wasp that decided to buzz around my head. I wasn't able to spot the little ringed plovers, yet again.

 When we returned to the place where the wryneck had been, there was no-one else around. I had a good look around the field and finally managed to relocate it! It was also a little closer to the fence so I got a couple more record shots. What a beautiful bird!!