Thursday, 29 October 2009

Starling Roost... Marton Mere...Blackpool

One of nature's spectacular events is currently taking place at Marton Mere Nature Reserve at Blackpool. An estimated 60,000 + starlings are arriving each evening to roost in the reserve's reed beds. I was fortunate to witness this spectacular event yesterday on a beautiful very mild and sunny evening.
Along with another dozen or so birdwatchers I thrilled to see the  flocks of starlings coming in from the Fylde in large groups of birds which then assembled in trees adjoining the Premium Bonds Office at Marton. Eventually as more and more birds arrived the now vast flock of starlings joined up and started to fly over the area of the Mere. It was a tremendous site as at times they filled the sky which was now turning orange as the sun was beginning to set. Also present was a peregrine falcon and a couple of sparrowhawks looking for an easy meal. The arrival of the raptors sent the starlings into some wonderful patterns in the sky as they tried to evade the attacks. All too soon the birds began to plunge down into the reedbeds where they would eventually settle down to spend the night safe from any further attacks.
It had been a wonderful experience to witness one of Nature's great spectacles and it is one that will be repeated for many more evenings during the next month or so. Hopefully my images above will convey some of the beauty of the event. However if any of my readers have the opportunity to visit the area within the next few weeks I can assure them that they will not be disappointed at the wonderful spectacle of the evening's starling roost.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Jays and Greys

Spent today at home but I was still able to capture some wildlife action in the back garden. Over the last week or so Grey Squirrels and Jays have been visiting on a fairly regular basis to feast on the peanuts I have been distributing around the garden for them to find. The grey squirrels are quite bold and are relatively easy to photograph but the jays are shy and only spend the minimum of time to grab some nuts and are then away again.
The jay is a very handsome member of the crow family and has pinkish body plumage with a bright blue patch on the wings and a black ' moustache '. For most of the year the jay is a secretive woodland bird that is more likely to be heard than seen. However in the autumn they look for supplies of food to see them through the winter months and the favourite is acorns. However they have recently moved into suburban gardens adjoining woodland areas and parks and cemeteries and will come to search out peanuts left for other garden birds. I have been fortunate in attracting a pair of jays to the garden and recently they have been visiting frequently and have given me lots of photo opportunities. Some of my efforts to capture these beautiful birds and the grey squirrels are shown above.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Wader Spectacular....Southport.

This week I was able to visit the Lancashire Coast at Southport where I hadn't been for a month or so. The early afternoon high tides were over nine metres which meant the waders would be pushed off the beaches onto some of their favoured roosting areas. The weather was good with a light offshore wind and excellent light conditions for camera action with the waders.
I eventually discovered where the waders were roosting and for an hour or so I witnessed what can only be described as a wader spectacular as the birds flew in to their favoured roosting site. I didn't attempt to count the huge flocks of birds which for the most part were made up of knot and bar tailed godwit , with some dunlin and sanderling.  There was also a separate large flock of oystercatchers in the same vicinity and all these birds gave me endless opportunities to obtain some decent images of the spectacle before me.  I have shown some images above but these can hardly convey the overwhelming sight of the thousands of birds present. More images may be uploaded in my next posting to try and do justice to this memorable event.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Golden Afternoon

After a damp morning the forecast promised a better afternoon. I therefore decided on a trip to the Pilling area to see what was about. I drove via Eagland Hill  but it was quiet with none of the expected geese. I reached Fluke Hall and the better weather was arriving with some nice interludes of Autumn sunshine, just the weather for a nice walk along the sea wall towards Knott End. There was a lot of noise from feeding  flocks of pink footed geese on some of the inland fields but they were not visible from the sea wall. As I approached Cocker's Dyke  I could see a flock of golden plover roosting on the sands along with some sanderling and dunlin. A careful approach allowed me to get within camera range and I settled down to enjoy the afternoon's entertainment.
The golden plovers really did show off their golden plumage in the afternoon sun as they dozed on the sand. A party of sanderling were busy as only sanderlings can be as they scurried around feeding on the wet sand. There were also one or two godwits and small parties of oystercatchers and shelduck flew by. Eventually the golden plovers took flight towards Knott End and I called it a day and headed for home. It had only been a brief but very enjoyable visit to the coast and I hope to visit again later in the week , weather permitting. The images show the golden plovers roosting on the sand and in flight and a flock of sanderling in one of their lovely formation flights. I have also shown shelducks as they flew across the sands at Pilling.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Great White And A Few Reds

I visited Leighton Moss yesterday with the hope of seeing Bearded Tit and Red Deer Stags. The bearded tits have been showing well recently as they visited the grit trays provided for them adjoining the causeway to the Public Hide. When I arrived late morning the tits hadn't been seen at all so I proceeded to the Lower Hide where a bittern had been showing but my luck was out again as it didn't reappear during my stay.
The rest of the afternoon was spent at the Griesdale Hide waiting for some action from the Red Deer,particularly the stags, which had been showing well recently. To see some excellent images of the stags visit the link to Paul Foster's Blog, A Walk On The Wildside. During my wait the Great White Egret ,which has been present for a while dropped in to feed right at the back of the reserve. Unfortunately it was too far away for decent images but I did manage a few passable shots of this splendid and very impressive bird. It departed after about half an hour and I awaited some action from the red deer.
It was a long wait before some deer appeared but again they were right at the back of the reserve. Unfortunately they were not the hoped for stags but a small family party of two hinds  with their youngsters feeding in a patch of late evening sunshine. A quick look at the Tim Jackson Hide drew a blank and I decided to make for home. It had still been very enjoyable as all visits to Leighton Moss are and I look forward to my next visit to this excellent Nature Reserve.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Salmo The Leaper

October had arrived and with it the salmon. This the king of fish was returning to it's birthplace in the headwaters of the rivers of Northern England driven on by the urge to spawn, thereby ensuring the future of the species. The Atlantic Salmon ( Salmo salar ) is so named after it's ability to leap over waterfalls, which would otherwise impede its journey to the upper reaches of the rivers in which they were born.
At one time I did fish for salmon on the rivers Ribble, Hodder and Lune and have had some memorable encounters with these powerful fish. This year however I have endeavoured to try and capture them using my camera and have found it to be just as exciting, as I photographed them on their long journeys upstream.
I had discovered a location on a Cumbrian River where it is possible to observe the fish as they congregate at the bottom of a powerful waterfall awaiting suitable river conditions to continue their journey. This week I spent time observing and photographing the salmon as they attempted to surmount the waterfall barring their way. Some fish were successful but many fell back to await more suitable conditions when the rivers are in spate enabling them to find ways around these obstacles.
It was a wonderful experience watching fish after fish attempt to make it's way up the river. From now until well into November and December, salmon will continually come into the river and I will return to try and capture more  images of this exciting annual spectacle. I hope the images above convey some of the power and beauty of this the king of fish.