Tag Archives: Bearded Tit

Minsmere wildlife photography – part 2

After an encouraging first “day” at Minsmere ( I tend to be there at the crack of dawn and leaving when most are just arriving) I was looking forward to getting back to try my luck again and the next day the weather was a little more favourable in the evening. Once again the amount of rabbits on every available piece of grassy area really struck me and with a few of the wildlfowers in bloom, made quite an attractive image –

Rabbit Portrait, Minsmere

Rabbit Portrait, Minsmere

I headed back round to the East hide and was rewarded for my patience when a Spotted Redshank, a bird I’ve not photographed before, eventually made it’s way closer after feeding tantalisingly out of reach of a good shot. Even better it decided to sit not too far in front and preen for a few minutes and gave plenty of opportunity for reflection shots whilst doing so. It also had a quick bath.

Spotted Redshank preening, Minsmere

Spotted Redshank preening, Minsmere

Spotted Redshank bathing, Minsmere

Spotted Redshank bathing, Minsmere

Spotted Redshank reflection, Minsmere

Spotted Redshank reflection, Minsmere

As before there was certainly not a shortage of subjects as the scrape especially was a hive of activity. The Little Egrets were again fishing right in front of the hide but just down behind the reeds. Every so often one would come a little further out and allow for some great views. This seems to be my summer for them! I took an image here that was successful in the Bird Watching “Bird Photo of the year” and was runner up for the cover star part of the competition. So far there has only been a small image in the latest (October 2015) Bird Watching magazine. I’m really hoping they will make a bit more of the images that were shortlisted or commended and maybe have more images next month or in an extra pullout. I’d love to see some of the other entries. Anyway – here’s the one from me – I just loved the pose and the display.

Posing Little Egret, Minsmere

Posing Little Egret, Minsmere

Staying with the scrape, and as anyone with an interest in wildlife will know, nature can be harsh. It’s inevitable with so many young birds around that a predator will attempt to grab one, they have young to feed also, it’s just part of the circle of life. Whilst I can’t describe it as “pleasant”, you need to be rather matter of fact about it. As a photographer it of course offers an opportunity to grab some great (if slightly morbid) action shots. I witnessed a few smash and grabs during my week but the one closest that I managed to get the camera on was of a Lesser Black Backed Gull grabbing a Common Tern chick. The Gull was persued in vain by one of the parents and then by the other Gulls in an attempt to steal the prize –

The chase is on - a chick has been taken

The chase is on – a chick has been taken

In pursuit of the prize

In pursuit of the prize

Mid air tussle for a Tern chick

Mid air tussle for a Tern chick

 

There are so many different areas and habitats at Minsmere it’s hard to decided where to go next! I recommend the viewpoint for the Sand Martin nesting bank though. I struggled to get any worthwhile flight shots of these birds, not too easy with a 500mm so I always appreciate the effort when I see a decent shot, however just standing and watching the bustle of the birds as they came to nests to feed the chicks was wonderful.

Sand Martins at nest bank, Minsmere

Sand Martins at nest bank, Minsmere

Recently fledged Sand Martins, Minsmere

Recently fledged Sand Martins, Minsmere

The following day once again saw us up before the sun and quietly stalking across Whin Hill as the sun rose. I really wanted a chance at the Stoats – if you watched Springwatch this year, this area is where they were filming the parents with food, moving kits etc. I don’t know the normal layout for this area but for our week there was still a temporary path across the hill. With shortish grassland and plenty of wildflowers along with lots of rabbits and burrows it looked like a perfect day to catch some action. Things don’t always go as planned though and the first subject that I took some images of was a Muntjac Deer. This isn’t something I see down in Sussex at all so was quite pleased to get not only great views but some decent photos too. As the sun was rising behind us and the tiny amount of breeze was in my face, a small amount of stealth meant I could get frame filling shots.

Muntjac in morning sun, Minsmere

Muntjac in morning sun, Minsmere

Muntjac grooming, Minsmere

Muntjac grooming, Minsmere

Finally the Muntjac must have got an idea I was there and decided to head for the trees –

Muntjac running in morning sun, Minsmere

Muntjac running in morning sun, Minsmere

Finally for this post – just a quick example of how things don’t always go as planned. We walked down to the Island Mere Hide and found 2 people were already ahead of us in the hide. We stopped on the walkway, mainly because Maria wanted to see if she could see “Spineless Si” – those who watched Springwatch will understand as this was where he was filmed. There were a few noises from the reeds closeby, not suprising as there are coots and moorhens aplenty so we didn’t take much notice other than a cursory glance that way. Unless the noisemaker is at the egde it’s impossible to see anyway the reeds are so dense. All of a sudden there was a loud crash and a Bittern flew up just yards away, we were treated to the closest views of a bittern exploding from the reeds you can get, it made us both jump, and although instincts kicked in and I got the camera on it, these birds have a great habit of just showing you their rear end – which is all i got as a photo! So close yet so far….

The lady that was in the hide came out shortly after and said “you must have got some great photos!” to which I had to explain a bird’s backside doesn’t really count. They had known the bird was there but didn’t think to signal to us to move inside.Oops.

Bittern missed shot, Minsmere

Bittern missed shot, Minsmere

Bleh – next time! This place is great for Bittern opportunities and I did have several sightings through the week, just wished I’d know it was there!

More info about my week and where I stayed coming in the next update, hopefully not such a gap between posts this time. Thanks for looking.

 

 

 

Posted in Birds, Mammals, Minsmere, Nikon D7200, Photography, Wildlife Photography Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Minsmere wildlife photography…

After a week spent watching the amazing seabird spectacle of Bempton Cliffs, we then headed down the coast to Minsmere – another popular reserve that I had not been to previously. Time to rectify that.

Our accomodation was to be a lovely cottage that backed on to the reserve and had a populated Barn Owl box in the back garden. I had my hide with me and was hoping for those elusive close ups of a Barn Owl, preferably with a feed for the chick(s). After a pretty straight forward drive I couldn’t help but quickly unload the car and walk to the reserve (without my gear) just to get a feel for the layout. It was soon clear that although the reserve is technically within walking distance, it’s actually quite a way and when carrying 2 stone of kit it’s going to be too far to walk each day. No problem, one of the other things I like about RSPB reserves is that you can get in at any time even if the visitor centre was closed, and Minsmere is no exception.

The reserve is some size and has lots of different environments from reedbeds, woodland, scrapes, heathland and beach. I just knew this was going to be a successful week.

Heading back to the cottage and the light was already starting to drop, a quick look out of the bedroom window revealed the Barn Owl coming in with the first feed of the evening. Lovely views!

A quick scan of the weather showed that despite it being June, and alledgedly summer, the very next morning looked like the only good sunrise to be had for the forseeable future. Argh! Plans were made for a very early start.

At this time of the year the alarm has to be really early to catch that sunrise and so I was up and on my way for 4.30am and after the short drive was unsurprisingly the first person to arrive. I had decided that I would head for the East Hide so that the rising sun would be behind me and would bathe the scrape in lovely golden light. Once you start walking through the reserve the thing that really struck me is just how tame the rabbits are. Great place for kids as you are guaranteed to see wildlife of some kind.

My first encounter was to be after heading across the North Wall and going through the gate to the beach / dunes. As I had the sun rising behind me and there was barely a breath of wind, when I spotted a Red Deer hind feeding in the long grass on the bank, she had no idea I was there. I slowly levelled the camera and let her approach…

 

 

 

Red Deer hind feeding

Red Deer hind feeding

 

I’ve been told that the deer here can be quite accommodating but not having any experience in this area I was being careful – no sudden movements or noises. The shutter noise barely received a glance.

Red Deer hind chewing

Red Deer hind chewing

This hind really had no idea I was even there and was getting closer and closer. It’s a perfect start to have a willing subject like this so I made the most of it and took plenty of images. Eventually she was so close I could only fit her head into the frame and she finally realised that “something” was there ahead of her but still couldn’t work me out. Alot of sniffing and staring ensued –

Red Deer hind alert to possible danger

Red Deer hind alert to possible danger

Finally, after a fantastic experience, her waryness got the better of her and she skipped over the top of the sea wall, stopping for once glance back as she went.

Carrying on towards the East hide, there were swallows and Sand Martins flitting over the sand and the air was alive with birdsong. Mornings like this are a tonic for the hassles of everyday life, I could happily lose myself in this moment for hours an hours (and frequently do!). I spotted a recently fledged family of Cetti’s Warblers in the scrub just outside the hide but was not able to get a single image. Shame but lovely to see.

The East hide (like many on this site) are in two storeys. I chose to sit low down to get the best angle and was greeted by a scrape full of life. I would class my home patch as Rye Harbour in Sussex and, although there are now a healthy population of Avocets at breeding time, they do seem well spread out. Not so here at Minsmere, they had gathered into a large feeding flock and were in a sifting frenzy –

Flock of feeding avocets

Flock of feeding avocets

Avocets are a bird you just can’t help point a camera at. They are elegant yet feisty and full of character and always give something of interest to photograph.

Feeding Avocet

Feeding Avocet

Avocet in flight

Avocet in flight

Even just a side shot with that fantastic beak is worth photographing!

Avocet side portrait

Avocet side portrait

But where they really excel is protecting their young. They won’t tolerate ANYTHING near them and will vigorously defend against all comers regardless of size.

Avocet parent attacking a Little Egret

Avocet parent attacking a Little Egret

Trespassers will NOT be tolerated

Trespassers will NOT be tolerated

It’s an interesting situation that two birds that have struggled greatly in the past are now cramping each other’s style. Great to see them both thriving.

It’s always worth keeping an eye out for other activity too as birds are always coming and going and often it’s easy to miss opoortunities by not being prepared. This fly past from a Barnacle Goose was a good example. I watched it coming from some distance and grabbed some shots as it dropped down over the edge of the reedbed and descended onto the scrape at a distance. This isn’t a bird I often see on my home patches.

Barnacle Goose flying in

Barnacle Goose flying in

Redshank aren’t scare by any means but getting a flight shot is normally quite hard – this time of year (juneish) when they have young they will fly and alarm call so listen out for the advance warning.

Redshank in flight

Redshank in flight

Redshank alarm call

Redshank alarm call

For now I’ll leave you with a closeup of a Little Egret, a bird I’ll be returning to in the next update, along with Spotted Redshank, Bearded Tits, House and Sand Martins and a close but no cigar shot of a Bittern encounter. I’ll also let you know how the Barn Owl opportunities were.

Little Egret portrait

Little Egret portrait

Hope you liked. Thanks for looking.

 

Posted in Birds, Mammals, Minsmere, Nikon D7200, Photography, Wildlife Photography Also tagged , , , , , , , , |

Spring is in the air…

Spring has most definitely arrived. I’ve been waiting for signs that spring migrant birds are arriving and have been keeping an eye on the websites (RXWildlife and Sussex Ornithological Society) to see what’s been landing on our shores. I admit to not being a birdwatcher, rather a photographer, and still have alot to learn about the best times and conditions to hope to see large falls of birds as they arrive. On bank holiday Monday over easter my wife and I nipped over to Rye (my favourite local haunt) to see what had turned up.

I am often asked for tips on bird photography and the first one that springs to mind (no pun intended) is …get up early! I can’t stress how much difference being on site at sunrise makes to a trip as opposed to arriving at 10am and wondering where everything is. I know not everyone has the freedom to arrive when they like but I often find I’m going home just as everyone arrives.

At this time of year the first thing that greets you is the countless birdsong coming from every direction. Another tip here – try and learn as many as you can. Often I hear the bird first then look for it.  A good example is coming later in this article. Although the Bittern was booming around the view point, I knew that would be a bird I’d be very lucky to find even when hearing it.

First bird to put in an appearance and sat up really well was this male Reed Bunting –

male Reed Bunting at sunrise

male Reed Bunting at sunrise

Moving on, and as always, keeping half an eye on the field for the Barn Owl, there were calls from a bird often heard but not so often seen, and even when it is it can be a fleeting glimpse as a family group flit across the top of the reedbed. I am of course talking about the pinging calls of the Bearded Tits. If it wasn’t for the calls you often wouldn’t have a chance at locating them. As the calls came closer the Barn owl also appeared at the far end of the field! It sat tight on a post some distance away so sitting tight seemed the best move, and I was well rewarded when a couple of stunning male Bearded Tits travelled in front of me quite high on the reeds, pinging away (link to the RSPB website with audio clip HERE). I shoot in Manual mode pretty much at all times and when the birds are between me and the rising sun, the camera can easily get confused about exposure. Another tip – get your exposure readings from a point prior to when the shot arrives (shoot a similar test shot) so that you know you have it right before the moment is passed.

Bearded Tit (male) at sunrise

Bearded Tit (male) at sunrise

Male Bearded Tit in reedbed

Male Bearded Tit in reedbed

Male Bearded Tit in sun

Male Bearded Tit in sun

And finally…the closest I’ve come to a shot I’ve been after for some time – it didn’t quite meet exactly what I was looking for – these little birds just love to skulk in the reedbed and trying to get a “clean” shot of them is always a challenge. It was close though!

Male Bearded Tit in flight

Male Bearded Tit in flight

 

I know these birds are with us year round and aren’t migrants, but I can only think their excited pings were their search for a female given that they were all males.

One bird that most definitely is a migrant and a welcome first sighting for me this year is the Wheatear –

Wheatear perched on dead branch

Wheatear perched on dead branch

Migrant wise, that was about it for anything different although this week I’ve seen my first House Martins, loads of Chiff Chaffs and one of my favourite Warblers in song, the Blackcap.

The hide didn’t turn up much of note although the scrub on the way back did have a bird that I seldom get a chance to photograph – the Linnet, in amongst the brambles. Quite a lovely looking bird when you get a good view.

Linnet in brambles

Linnet in brambles

Hope you enjoyed the images. Next update more garden Foxes and a trip to find Adders

Posted in Birds, Nikon D7200, Photography, Rye Harbour, Wildlife Photography Also tagged , , , , , , , |

Local competition result

I was very pleased to be contacted recently about the RX Wildlife competition into which I had submitted a few entries. My “Bearded Tit on reed” image won the wildlife category. More info can be found here along with the other winning images. All winning images were framed and displayed during the recent RX Wildlife festival at the Avocet Gallery and Team Room and as part of the prize I was able to collect my framed image this weekend. Many thanks to the organisers!

Bearded Tit perched on reed stem

Bearded Tit perched on reed stem

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