Tuesday, 29 September 2009

More from the Coast

As the weather is so abysmal at the moment, very gloomy with persistent drizzle, I thought I would just brighten up the blog with a few more images from last week's visit to the Lancashire Coast. The images were taken at a high tide roost of bar tailed godwits and knot on a lovely sunny afternoon in perfect light for photography.
Over the weekend the sunny weather deserted us and the Southport Airshow came to town so most of the birds would probably have moved elsewhere for a bit of peace and quiet. I have to admit that I did visit the Airshow and an excellent affair it was,with the highlights being The Red Arrows and the Avro Vulcan Bomber. The Vulcan is the only one of it's type still able to fly and millions of pounds have been spent on it's restoration. The images show bar tailed godwits and knot at the roost and one of three golden plover that briefly paid a visit to the sands. I also had to show a couple of images from the Southport Airshow, the Vulcan Bomber with bomb doors open and The Red Arrows in tight formation. Hopefully my next visit on next week's high tides will once more find the beaches and coast returned to the waders.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Flying Display

This week I visited the sands and mudflats of the Southport coastline as high tides would be good for wader watching as the birds roosted around high water. I have discovered a part of the coastline that is little disturbed by dog walkers etc as the approach is very wet and muddy and is definitely a wellie job to reach the areas favoured by the waders.
I arrived just as the morning's cloudy dull conditions were giving way to the sunny p.m. promised by the weatherman. I located a large flock of  waders and managed to get into position without disturbing the roosting birds. I settled down with camera set up and awaited the action. The large flock was comprised of mainly knot and bar tailed godwit with a few dunlin and sanderling. Some birds were still feeding but most were dozing in the pleasant afternoon sunshine.
Eventually as if on a given signal most of the birds were up and away to join others feeding on the sands as the receding tide was now uncovering these very rich feeding grounds. I was joined by another photographer, Phil Tomkinson from Blackpool whose excellent bird photographs are well known in this part of the world. Together we enjoyed some great action as flocks of knot and godwits performed their flying displays all around us. We also enjoyed a colourful fly past from a flock of oystercatchers heading for the feeding grounds .
This weekend there is another flying display along this coastline as the Southport Air Show takes place  with the Red Arrows amongst many others showing off their flying skills to the crowds. Spectacular as that will be I don't think it can match the flying displays performed by the thousands of waders currently here on the Lancashire coastline. They will certainly not be around this weekend as the noise from the airshow will scare them all away but hopefully they will return to delight me throughout the autumn and winter months.
I have tried to capture the fantastic flying displays with the camera and some of the many images I took are shown above. I may post more later of this memorable event.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Lots of Knots

Yesterday I visited the West Lancs Coast at Southport as more high tides this week would mean there may be  more opportunities for photographing waders on what is one of the most important ares of coast in the country for numbers of waders passing through or spending the winter months on these rich feeding areas. It was a breezy and cloudy day and not as good for photography as previous visits had been.
I arrived an hour or so before high water and could see large numbers of waders assembled out on the beach. I approached carefully but the waders , mostly knot, kept on the move. Matters were not helped by two very noisy quad bike type vehicles doing some sort of survey work and scaring the waders away. I did manage some shots before they all dispersed up the beach towards Formby. By now the tide was full and I had to retreat from the advancing water. After lunch I followed the tide out as some of the waders returned to feed on the now exposed sand. I did manage to get within range of the feeding birds and managed some reasonable shots but not as good as I would have liked. This means of course that I will have to return possibly this week when the weather improves . This wader watching is becoming obsessive and it thrills me to think these tiny birds have journeyed thousands of miles from their summer nesting grounds way up in Greenland and Arctic Canada to spend time on the Lancashire coastline. The images are mostly of knot and show just a few of the many thousands of waders currently present on the Southport coastline.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Herons and Egrets

This week's trip was a return to Leighton Moss to see what was about. The weather although pleasantly warm has a distinct autumnal feel and I am sure it won't be long before the gales and rain return. The birds were taking advantage of the conditions and either preparing for departure to warmer winter quarters or arriving from northern latitudes to spend the winter months in our part of the world. There were good numbers of redshanks,godwits and lapwings on the pools at the Allen and Morecambe hides . There were also around three dozen little egrets present and about four herons. Greenshank and snipe were also present and this variety of birds kept me busy throughout the afternoon trying to capture some of the action on camera.
I concentrated on the egrets and herons as they were present in good numbers and the egrets were busily feeding throughout my stay. These shallow brackish pools at Leighton Moss provide ideal feeding conditions for waders and wildfowl and are well populated through the winter months. The egrets are lovely birds  to watch as they elegantly wade around the pools constantly taking very small fish with dagger like plunges of their long bills. I hope the above images have captured this fishing action. The grey herons didn't catch any prey during my stay but did provide some nice opportunities for close up portrait and flight shots. All in all an excellent afternoon at Leighton Moss

Friday, 11 September 2009

Southport.... Sanderlings

Continuing on from my last posting,this one concentrates on the sanderling. This has to be my favourite of the shorebirds, an energetic little wader,which is extremely active and restless as it searches the shore for food. It often runs like a clockwork toy following the retreating waves in it's search for food. It takes food from the surface or probes in mud. Sanderlings eat small crabs,shellfish,sandhoppers and marine worms that live in mud and sand or are washed in by the tide.
The majority of sanderling that pass through the Lancashire coastline have probably bred on the high Arctic Tundra, on the closest land to the North Pole, in Siberia and Greenland. Peak numbers occur at this time of the year, some of which will winter in South Africa but some will also spend the winter months on our shores. The sanderling is a delightful bird to observe as it scurries around the beach and it can also be quite confiding at times enabling a close approach with the camera.
A few of my latest images are shown above, mainly of juvenile birds, fresh in from Actic breeding grounds. To obtain these images I had to approach the feeding birds carefully and get down on my knees on the wet sand. The birds were very confiding and gave me much pleasure as I watched them refuelling for their long journey to other sunny shores much further to the South.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Wader Watching..... Southport

This week I have returned to the Lancashire Coast at Southport to do some more wader watching and photography. The tides were quite high and peaked early afternoon allowing plenty of time to make my way out onto the beach and await the arrival of the waders. On my first visit I found good numbers and variety of waders roosting but was not able to approach closely. There were groups of Knot,Bar Tailed Godwits,Grey Plover and small parties of dunlin and sanderling. The sanderling did allow a close approach and on my second visit of the week I was to enjoy a wonderful session with them which will be the subject of my next posting. The weather this week has at last settled down thanks to a large high pressure system firmly anchored over the British Isles. This provided ideal conditions for photography and some of my efforts are shown above. The images show juvenile and adult ringed plover,a fly past of oystercatchers, roosting knot, and finally a feeding party of sanderling.