Tag Archives: garden

Signs of spring…

Finally, after what seems to have been a winter devoid of decent light the weather is picking up and the glimpses of sun have spurred the wildlife into action for the breeding season.

After a recent trip to Rye where I saw (for the first time despite my hours spent on site) Short Eared Owls, but only close enough for record shots, I thought I’d head down to the harbour really early to catch the rising sun. There’s always the chance of something unusual too but I always feel I need to be the first round the paths to have a decent chance before anything has the chance to spook it.

What I love is that sound as you get closer to the pools and nesting islands at this time of year. The cacophany of the Black Headed Gulls and the shrill calls of the terns overhead is quite evocative and always means plenty of opportunity. I wanted to try and get some backlit shots as the sun rose so made sure I was there and in place around 30 minutes before sun up. I’m still trying to get to grips with the best way to expose for these shots but managed a couple which gave me further ideas for the future. The best thing about being there in place before sunrise is actually watching the sun come up and witnessing the change in the light, quite spectactular when the morning is right.

Black Headed Gull at sunrise, Rye Harbour

Black Headed Gull at sunrise, Rye Harbour

As expected there were plenty of birds wheeling around but I still found it really difficult to get more than a few shots I was happy with, it’s actually a bit harder than it seems! One shot that I did like the lighting on was this interaction between a pair of gulls –

Dawn Gulls, Rye Harbour

Dawn Gulls, Rye Harbour

A good practice but within 20 minutes or so the light has completely changed and time to switch to more conventional shots.

The Black Headed Gulls were in busy mode and many were gathering nesting material for their nests so always a great chance for a photo or two.

Black Headed Gull with nesting material - Rye Harbour

Black Headed Gull with nesting material – Rye Harbour

Black Headed Gull with nesting material - Rye Harbour

Black Headed Gull with nesting material – Rye Harbour

There were also one or two other waterbirds around but it was really noticeable that the bulk of the wildfowl had moved on with only the resident duck species easily visible. One which I see often at distance but it appears to be rather shy at this site is the Shelduck, the first time one has been close enough to get reasonable images – this one was feeding on a shallow bank just out from the hide –

Shelduck - Rye Harbour

Shelduck – Rye Harbour

The ever present tufted ducks were also giving the occasional swim past – this ones a male –

Tufted Duck male - Rye Harbour

Tufted Duck male – Rye Harbour

If you keep your eyes and ears open there is also another gull of interest, a scarce visitor in the shape of Mediterranean Gulls. These are really attractive birds and I was lucky enough to have a couple of pairs spend a short time on the shingle island in front of me –

Med Gull with leg ring - Rye harbour

Med Gull with leg ring – Rye harbour

I have reported the sighting above so that the data can be gathered about the leg ring. I had a quick look online and the ring seems to indicate the bird has come from France. Just a quick hop over the channel then. I would encourage anyone to report sightings as the information really helps build a good picture of the movement of any ringed bird.

Mediterranean Gull - Rye Harbour

Mediterranean Gull – Rye Harbour

No Short Eared Owls on this visit but still some great action and loads to see.

Additionally the garden is also showing signs of spring. As you’ll probably know I try to help nature along wherever I can and so have put out animal wool for the birds to gather for nesting. It’s a shame that the first interest coincided with awful grey skies but still interesting behaviour –

Blue Tit gathering wool from my garden

Blue Tit gathering wool from my garden

Blue Tit gathering wool from my garden

Blue Tit gathering wool from my garden

I highly recommend collecting wool if you see it while out walking or try to source some woolpack insulation, which is what I’ve used in the above photos. This came with a meat delivery for Xmas!

Another tip is to leave apples out for the birds to eat. You may think this is mainly a winter thing for birds such as Fieldfare, Redwing and Blackbirds but they actually still get plenty of attention in springtime. Mostly it will be the Bluetits that will be having a quick snack but if you are lucky enough to get passing (or even long staying) Blackcaps they will love it!

Blackcap portrait of a garden visitor

Blackcap portrait of a garden visitor

Blackcap eating from apple in my garden

Blackcap eating from apple in my garden

 

 

 

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

A Tale of two Foxes

Regular readers of my blog will know that my suburban garden is as much a wildlife refuge as I can make it. Deep hedges, areas of long grass and weeds for cover and insects (well that’s what I tell the wife anyway), 2 ponds and birdfeeds spread around. I also put out food for my crepuscular and noctural visitors in the form of peanuts and odd scraps. I make no apology for this, it gives the animals a small boost to start the night and allows me to watch and share in their adventures and, if lucky, a few photographs to remember those moments.

Despite the ridiculous press that urban / suburban foxes sometimes receive (I’m not saying incidents don’t happen but put it in perspective against dog attacks and the mess some of the owners leave) I have always found the local foxes to be very wary indeed. In fact my visiting badgers were much happier to ignore me and carry on than the foxes were.

Last year that somewhat changed when, on rising for an early photo session start, I saw a trio of bouncy fox cubs rolling around the garden at 4.30 am. My original blog is HERE. At the end of the article you can see the proud mum and maybe notice that white spot just visible on her front left leg. From those 3 cubs I know that one certainly didn’t survive. This year I’ve found that one of the females definitely survived.

The mum is still a regular visitor and I grabbed a snap back on the 21st March. Again see the white spot on her leg.

Female fox that visits me most nights

Female fox that visits me most nights

This vixen visits every night and it was clear to see she had young somewhere as her teats were clearly visible –

Fox side portrait showing teats

Fox side portrait showing teats

I guess I’m a sucker for a chance at more photos of cubs and made sure she had something to take them every evening. Soon she was joined by one of last year’s females and again, it was VERY obvious that there are young to feed very close by –

Young red Fox vixen showing teats

Young Red Fox vixen showing teats

It’s been a pleasure watching these two in the evenings. They don’t often show up at the same time and I’m wondering if they were raising the same family. I’m trying to find out if the daughter could possibly come into milk to support a litter that her mother gave birth to. They both visit, collect food (sometimes stopping to eat themselves) and head off in the same direction each time. I have an inkling where they may be denned but as these are all mature gardens it’s difficult to know for sure. One thing that is clear, my immediate neighbour who has no time or care at all for wildlife has completely stripped his garden of all cover and the majority of the mature trees. Where I’m guessing the cubs played last year is now a no go area with no cover at all. I guess some people just want a tidy but lifeless garden. Shame.

The two girls have been busy back and forth each eveing and I’ve been fortunate to be able to try and get photos that normally would be out of the question. They are not bothered by the cameras at all and are happy for me to be rolling around on my conservatory floor while I attempt to get portraits or shots of them eating, drinking, scratching and..well…anything of interest….

Red Fox yawning

Red Fox yawning

 

Red Fox portrait closeup

Red Fox portrait closeup

The young vixen (one year old) even comes and has a look to see where her food is. I often find her sitting on the back doorstep or curled up around 10 feet away. I should point out that i do NOT and WILL NOT hand feed even though she probably could be encouraged. I want to give her an extra chance but I don’t want her to get into trouble by approaching other humans, especially those that believe foxes are somehow a threat to them. When I touch the door handle she will back off to a sensible distance….

Red Fox vixen watching me through the door

Red Fox vixen watching me through the door

So despite seeing last year’s cubs on April 28th, as I write this I have yet to see hide nor hair of this years young. I have a sneaky suspicion they are still around as food is still being taken in the right direction but both vixens are not showing much in the way of milk so I’m guessing they are weaned (at around 6 weeks old). However, not all has been happy in the fox camp. Both vixens suddenly developed limps as did a dog fox that I occasionally see. Very weird. My suspicious mind was wondering if some of my less wildlife friendly neighbours has caused this but I honestly can’t tell. I’m now thinking that maybe they have had a falling out with the badgers as the older vixen disappeared for a week to 10 days and when she re-appeared she had clearly been in a serious fight. She has lost her good looks with a serious injury above her left eye which is affecting her jaw also. She is lucky to have not lost the eye. I’m not going to post any images of this as it looks quite distressing. The good news is that she is otherwise fit and healthy, still has vision in both eyes and is capable of feeding herself and her offspring.

At the same time, the younger vixen (who we refer to as “daughter”) is not recovering. She has a really sore front paw which, when I took some photographs of it, I can see is infected. I’ll be off to the vets this week to see If I can get anything for her as it’s now been weeks with this issue.

For now I’ll leave you with a couple of images of them at their best. Fingers crossed that the cubs will be coming to our little refuge sometime soon.

Red Fox vixen sniffing the spring evening air

Red Fox vixen sniffing the spring evening air

Something tasty this way comes

Something tasty this way comes

Portrait of the older vixen showing her good looks

Portrait of the older vixen showing her good looks

 

Hope you enjoyed the images.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Fox, Mammals, Nikon D7200, Photography, Wildlife Photography Also tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Garden Sparrowhawk visits

I spend alot of time checking out what’s going on in my garden. I feed the birds (of course!) and so it’s not unusual to have a visit from one of the resident sparrowhawks. More often than not it’s the male zipping past as I’m working but just occasionally I get lucky .

The male bird has twice landed in the garden after an unsuccessful hunt attempt while I have been standing there. If I don’t move fast to bring attention to myself I’ll just be ignored and can get some stunning views. Back in November this visitor allowed me to stand around 10 feet away and I watched while he scanned the ground for small birds and fended off the annoyances of the local magpies.

Male sparrowhawk perched on garden fence

Male sparrowhawk perched on garden fence

 

After being in the garden with him for around 10 minutes I made a move to try and get the camera. Obviously I was successful but only managed about 10 shots before he decided he’d waste no more time in this spot.

Over the winter I have spotted the female a couple of times but she never stayed long enough to be able to get a photo or two. Finally this weekend that changed. When I’m home I have a habit of checking garden activity very often and when the sparrowhawk is around it’s normally quite obvious because nothing else will be! I looked out of the window on yet another gloomy, windy and rainy day and saw a large patch of white underneath the hedge on the left. I couldn’t quite work out what bird had managed to have created such a mess (I assumed I was looking at droppings) until i realised they were wet feathers stuck on the ground. Then a slight movement caught my eye and there at the edge of the feathered patch was the huntress herself sat atop the remains of a feral pigeon. She had clearly been feeding for some time as the pigeon carcass looked like some macabre kite. The first image is taken through dirty glass with a 1.4 converter on. The image needed a bit of work but shows the beautiful bird well.

Female sparrowhawk on kill

Female sparrowhawk on kill

I then managed to slowly open the window and get a few better shots. Given the poor light I was pretty pleased with how they turned out

Female Sparrowhawk feeding on pigeon

Female Sparrowhawk feeding on pigeon

Many people are upset about Sparrowhawks hunting their garden. I understand why but this is nature in the raw and if you are going to create a hotspot for bird activity then my advice is to accept the inevitable, sit back, enjoy the beauty of these stunning birds and marvel at their hunting skills.

 

Posted in Birds, Photography, Wildlife Photography Also tagged , , , , |