Sunday, 31 January 2010

Red Kites

Yesterday my wife and I took a 260 mile round trip to Gigrin Farm, Powys in Wales to photograph Red Kites.
We left home just after 9am and had a pleasant drive through North Wales down to Powys taking in some beautiful Welsh scenery.
The weather was sunny although very cold and the remnants of a light overnight snowfall were still visible through much of the journey.

We arrived early so parked the car a couple of miles down the road from the farm, where we scanned the hills hoping for our first glimpse of these incredible birds and it wasn't long before we spotted a pair high above the rocks.

After a bite to eat we arrived at the farm to witness about a dozen or so Kites circling in the distance while the Buzzards, Ravens and Rooks were already at the feeding station eagerly waiting.
Feeding time at Gigrin is at 2pm prompt and by the time the farmer had arrived on his meat filled tractor the sky was filled with Raptors...Who says birds can't tell the time!
The birds seemed to wait patiently while the farmer shoveled the meat all around the ground and as soon as he'd finished the show began!

200 Red Kite competed with a couple of dozen Buzzards as well as Corvid's and even a Grey Heron for the spoils!
The aerial displays were magical with the Kites performing all wonder of mid-air maneuvers...Swooping down to scoop food from the ground and never once landing.
The Buzzards on the other hand were more than happy to stay grounded and gorge as much meat as possible!

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Best Laid Plans...

It's been a pretty miserable week weather wise and because of that I've not been out with the camera, instead I spent the week planning my itinerary for today.
The plan was to explore Bleaklow and Higher Shelf Moor high in the Peak District and hopefully capture some of the wildlife there which includes Mountain Hare, Red Grouse, Golden Plover and Curlew.
Unfortunately this part of the Dark Peak is as bleak as it comes and the weather can change at the drop of a hat and today proved no exception!

It was still dark as I left home and the plan was to arrive at the bottom of Bleaklow just before first light.
Although it was raining lightly I was determined to get some shots after a week of inactivity and was optimistic of doing so.
However as the steep drive along the Snake Pass progressed, I had all but given up hope of setting foot on the moors because like so often in this part of the world a thick fog had descended.
On arrival I spent a few minutes weighing up the options and although disappointed, I thought it would be foolhardy to attempt the trek...Not just because of the fog but because of the ice and snow also.
Luckily I know this area of the Peaks very well and I knew that all was not lost for the day...
I decided to drive further down the Snake and on to Derwent Valley which always offers some decent wildlife opportunities.

It was still very cold in the valley, with light rain and a very dark sky.
Knowing I'd be pretty limited to where I could venture because of the light, I decided to visit a favourite spot on the edge of some woodland beside the Ladybower Reservoir and was treated to some close views of some common but none the less beautiful little birds...

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Pennington Flash

Somebody must of forgot to tell Pennington Flash about 'the big thaw'!
On my first visit of 2010 it wasn't exactly a winter wonderland but the paths were treacherous...Thick with ice and I feared for myself and my equipment.

On my arrival, a great deal of the Flash was frozen and the Wildfowl were close to the embankment eager for feed.

It was still quite early and a strong cold wind was blowing...If he could talk this Coot might of been able to tell you more about it!

After a short bread chucking session I headed off towards Horrocks Hide where I was treated to the glorious sight of a Kingfisher in perfect light on a branch only a few yards away from me.
I slowly and quietly aimed my camera and in the split second it took to focus, a loud cry of "Kingfisher" went up and the bird was flushed by two buffoons bounding towards it!
Words failed me, but I think the look I gave them probably said it all!

Anyway, there were quite a few Bullfinch about as usual...
To be honest, I don't know of a better spot in the whole country for close up views of these beautifully coloured little creatures although the light wasn't brilliant and I had to shoot at ISO 1000 and still only managed 1/50 s!

After a couple of hours mooching, I headed back towards the car park and the main Flash, where thankfully the ice had started to melt a little, but perhaps not quite quick enough for all...

Saturday, 16 January 2010

It seems like years since it's been here...

Thankfully after the big freeze the big thaw is now with us and hopefully despite the obvious concerns about the affect of the adverse weather on wildlife, things won't be as bad as first predicted.

One thing I've noticed during these last few bleak weeks is an increase in people putting out food for the birds in their gardens and it's heartwarming to see.

Locally, I've noticed there seem to be plenty of small birds about and more pleasing still, in the last couple of days I've sighted one of our more vulnerable birds, the Kingfisher at it's known local territory.

I suppose it's kind of apt that the last of the snow (for now at least!) and the promise of sunshine tomorrow (Sunday 17th) brings this blog up to date.

All that is left now is to thank you for looking and to hope that you will visit again soon...


2010: The Year So Far (6)

Reddish Vale on the morning of January 10th seemed like the loneliest place on earth.
The weather was nothing short of Artic, there was hardly a soul about and far worst...The birds were suffering bad.
The large bag of food I had taken was nowhere near enough and it was heartbreaking to watch as the birds fought it out in a desperate struggle for the scraps.
Most of the Geese had left the frozen lake and taken a little respite in the river.
By the riverbank, I could smell the unmistakable scent of a Fox which must have been stalking the wildfowl, so I decided to bait the area with a generous helping of Turkey (which I had brought just in case) and lie low on the embankment.

Well the Fox didn't show yet again, but I was more than delighted to see that the bait didn't go to waste...

In fact given the conditions, I don't think I could have wished for a more worthy recipient than this young Grey Heron...

2010: The Year So Far (5)

The conditions of the roads were still pretty awful on January 9th and I didn't want to venture too far, so I decided to visit another of my local patches...
Within a few minutes of arrival I was treated to some lovely views of a pair of Dippers in the stream.

I was particularly pleased to see that these birds were still active and doing well despite the harsh winter because I had been present during their ringing in March 2009.

2010: The Year So Far (4)

Heavy overnight snow which continued into the morning left Britain in chaos on January 5th.
I tried in vain to get my car off my road and after several attempts was forced to give up.

By now, I wasn't in the best of moods but after a couple of calming cups of tea, I decided I would take a short walk through the woodland close to my home...

There was a small flock of Redwing in the woods, but because of the bad light I wasn't able to get a decent shot of them.
I always carry a little food for the birds with me when I'm out and about and although I couldn't tempt the Redwing on this occasion, another member of the Thrush family didn't object...

2010: The Year so far (3)

I returned to Reddish Vale the following day (3rd) and was blessed with some wonderful winter sunshine.
The birds were starving, so I took with me a big bag of seed and some crushed fat balls which made me very popular indeed!
I also had some Turkey, left over from Christmas which I planted in the woods hoping to entice the foxes...No luck following a 2 hour stakeout I'm afraid!

Outfoxed again, I threw the remaining food I'd brought for the birds onto the frozen lake and took a few shots of some of the grateful recipients...

2010: The Year So Far (2)

On January 2nd the bright sunshine of the first day of the new year had given way to a rather heavy looking sky as I left the house.

Things were looking ominous so I decided to postpone a planned trip to the Dee Estuary and instead drove much closer to home and to one of my favourite local patches Reddish Vale.

No sooner had I arrived, the heavy looking sky gave way and the first snow of the year fell.

95% of the lake at the Vale was frozen and hundreds of wildfowl were contesting the remaining unfrozen water.

Reddish Vale is probably one of the less visited nature reserves in Greater Manchester and contains all the very common species of wildfowl, however there are some gems to be found here from time to time and this day proved no exception when amongst the usual suspects I was treated to some very close views of this lovely little Shoveler...

Far from the madding crowd and perhaps contemplating how he was ever going to get any fishing done stood this very fine looking Grey Heron...One of three of it's type present, I would become very familiar with this individual over the next week or so....

Frustratingly the day also provided my first photographic disappointment of the year after I spotted a glorious looking Fox trekking through the snow in the woods only yards away.

Try as I might, I couldn't move myself into a position where I would have been able to get a clean shot and it was only a matter of time before I was spotted...

Oh well, there will be other days...

2010: The Year So Far...

Ideally, I really should have started all this blogging business on New Years Day, so just to keep everything neat and tidy here is a quick review of what I've been up to this month so far...

January 1st saw me leave the house at first light (not at all hungover) for the short drive to Lyme Park in Cheshire where I set about photographing Red Deer.

The light was beautiful this morning, but there was a very harsh frost and the temperature was -6c which meant I had trouble even pressing the shutter on my camera because my hands were so cold!
Over the Christmas break, I had tried on 3 other occasions to capture these elusive creatures and failed each time, so I was quite pleased to have manged to get some half decent shots.

My biggest dilemma of the morning was knowing how close I could get to the deer...

Although I was shooting at 500mm and keeping a very close eye on all around me, there is something quite unnerving when a huge Red Deer Stag moves curiously towards you and I certainly wouldn't like to get into an argument with one.

It's times like this when common sense and of course respect for the animal in it's natural surroundings take hold...

A New Decade and a new blog!

Well, we're just over 2 weeks into the new year and I've finally got around to doing something that I've been meaning to do for some time now...Create a blog!
Actually, I first thought about doing this a couple of years ago, but for one reason or another it never happened.
I now feel I have the time to commit to sharing my thoughts with you and I'm quite looking forward to it.
Oh, I should of really started by telling you a little bit about myself...
My name is Anthony Dixon and I spend much of my spare time photographing wildlife in the north west of England.
The purpose of this blog is to share with anybody that might be remotely interested some of my experiences with the wildlife I encounter on my travels.

I expect that there are going to be a lot of images of birds, because they are my greatest passion, but hopefully there will be other stuff too!