Thursday, 29 September 2011

Afternoon Twitch

It has been a busy week for getting out and about with the camera. The weather this week has been very warm and summery with temperatures way above the average for this time of the year.I began the week with an afternoon twitch to Arnside to see a buff breasted sandpiper that had turned up out on the salt marsh. This was a bird I had always admired and the opportunity to see one had to be taken. I checked the Internet Monday lunchtime to find the bird was still there so I set off for Arnside just over the border into Cumbria. There were serious delays on the M6 motorway going north but I managed to find a way around the jams and joined the motorway at Galgate. Eventually I arrived at the spot just outside Arnside and a quick look out across the saltmarsh confirmed the bird was being watched by a small group of birdwatchers.
The bird was well out on the marsh and was favouring a sandy area with small tufts of grass on which to feed. Jim Clift a Preston birdwatcher was there and he had been stuck on the M6 for two hours. The bird was soon found and although it never came near I did manage some images of this very rare visitor to these shores. This Autumn a good number of these birds have turned up with a couple of dozen together at one spot in Southern Ireland. These birds have more than likely been swept across the Atlantic in Hurricane Katia which brushed our shores with very strong winds and brought numbers of North American birds to our shores.
The images shown above are not brilliant but do serve as record shots of a bird I had long wanted to see. As I am writing this blog on Thursday the bird is still there in the company of another trans Atlantic vagrant , a pectoral sandpiper. I may have another visit if these birds stay which seems unlikely given the excellent flying conditions at the moment. Other trips this week have been to the high tide wader roosts on the coast and I hope to upload some nice images of the numerous waders I saw. Meantime thanks for looking.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Shanks and Egrets

This week Mike and I visited Leighton Moss RSPB at Silverdale. It had been a long time since my last visit and I was looking forward to a good day out. The forecast was for more rain and the signs were not good as we drove up the M6 and could see the weather deteriorating as it made it's way in from out at sea. The rain did arrive as we approached Leighton Moss but it was light and patchy so we made our way to some of the nearby hides. It was very windy and the coots and pochard were riding out the oncoming weather on a very choppy lake. From the public hide it was also very exposed and there was not a lot of action. We made our way back to the cafe for a pot of tea and cake and on the way we were lucky to see a brief visit to the grit trays by two bearded tits. On arrival at the shop and cafe the heavens opened and a deluge of rain fell over Leighton Moss. The signs were not good and we were prepared to return home. However on setting off the skies began to clear and better conditions were on the way from the coast.
We therefore decided to stay and visit the Allen and Morecambe hides down at the marsh. It was to be a good decision and we were to enjoy some excellent views of the waders present. On arrival at the Eric Morecambe hide we saw a nice group of redshanks,greenshanks and spotted redshanks all busily feeding close to the hide. The greenshanks and spotted redshanks were wading belly deep and up ending like mallards to obtain food from the bottom of the lake. It was fascinating to watch and I obtained some nice images of this group feeding. Soon the light improved and we enjoyed some super views particularly of the greenshanks showing off thier nicely marked plumage. Egrets too were present and again presented some nice photographic opportunuities as did a lone black tailed godwit resplendent in almost full breeding plumage. It had been a nice ending to what had not been the best of days weatherwise and what was a welcome return to Leighton Moss. Images from the day are shown above of the greenshanks,spotted redshanks and egrets and one of the godwit lit up by the evening sun. Thanks for looking at the blog and I look forward to next week's big tides when I will once again be wader watching on the Lancashire coast.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

One Of The Best

The Juvenile Grey Phalarope that turned up earlier this week at Lytham St Annes has to be one of the best birds that it has been my privilege to photograph. So I make no excuse for showing a few more of the hundreds of images that I took of this delightful wader. It has now sadly moved on to winter further south. I understand that the grey phalarope winters in the Atlantic Ocean off the African Coast.
It is difficult to believe that this tiny bird can survive life on the ocean waves throughout the winter months returning to it's breeding grounds in the High Arctic during the Spring and Summer. During it's brief stay in Lancashire it gave much pleasure to the many bird watchers and photographers who came to see it.I hope it survives the elements in the Atlantic Ocean and makes it back to it's Arctic breeding grounds next Spring. I hope you enjoy the images above as much as I did in taking them and thanks for looking.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Pretty as a Picture

Following last week's red throated diver another uncommon bird came to visit the Lancashire coastline. A juvenile grey phalarope was found on Fairhaven Lake at Lytham St Annes. This again was a casualty from last week's very strong winds and had dropped in at Lytham to refuel before continuing it's migratory journey. As is often the case with birds from Arctic regions it was very tame and was a photographer's dream and was often too close to focus.
I joined many others at Fairhaven Lake and we had a bonanza and many thousands of images must have been taken of this very photogenic bird. It was nice to meet up with local birdwatchers and photograhers and we enjoyed some better weather and at times the light was perfect for photography. It was still quite breezy and this put a nice swell on the water and with reflections from surrounding buildings made for some great opportunities for the many lenses present.
As I write this blog the bird has departed the lake and has not been seen today. It did however once again give much pleasure to those lucky enough to see it during it's brief stay and gave the photographers many lovely images to add to their collections. I have shown some of my images above and I hope my readers enjoy looking at this special little wader.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Good News / Sad News

The good news was that last week a summer plumaged Red Throated Diver had turned up on the Marine Lake at Fleetwood and was giving excellent views. Mike and I were having a day's birding on the Friday and couldn't decide whether to go for the RTD at Fleetwood or travel up to Heysham where a Sabine's Gull was also showing well.Just before we set off I had a phone call from Paul Foster who was at Fleetwood watching the diver at very close range. So it was, an hour later, we arrived at the Marine Lake and could immediately see the diver showing close to the side of the lake. The light was not good following some persistent drizzle but it slowly improved throughout our stay and we had some excellent views of the bird.
The news had spread via the internet and a good number of local birdwatchers and photographers came to see the bird. At one point the diver disappeared and we all thought it had flown out to sea. As Mike and I were thinking of moving on it reappeared and once again gave wonderful close up views as it patrolled around the lake. It seemed unconcerned by all the attention and due to the way it was behaving gave some cause for concern. It drifted about lazily with it's eyes closed for much of the time and was inactive and didn't once dive to search for any fish that may have been about unlike the cormorants that were also present which would occasionaly catch flounders . I managed a nice shot of a cormorant with a flounder which is shown above.
Mike and I decided to move on and our next port of call was the estuary of the River Wyre at Skippool Creek. Here the tide was going out and waders were coming to feed on the exposed mud . There was a nice little group of waders present in one of the creeks containing a couple of greenshanks which I managed to photograph as they fed in the now pleasant afternoon sunshine. With this improvement in the light we decided to return to Fleetwood to see the diver again. More photographers were present and the diver was posing very close to the side and at times was almost too near for the camera to focus. Again some wonderful images were obtained in the much better conditions which showed off it's wonderful plumage to full advantage. The unusual behaviour of the bird continued as it scrambled out of the lake and onto the concrete surround and sat down to enjoy the pleasant late sunshine. With this we decided to call it a day and head for home after a super day out.
Now for the sad news...As suspected the diver was not well and I learned yesterday evening that it had been found dead on the Sunday following our visit on the Friday . This was indeed very sad news as although not feeding the bird appeared to be mobile and from time to time it would flap its wings which also seemed undamaged. It had however in it's last days provided some wonderful memories and images for those lucky enough to be in it's presence at Fleetwood's Marine Lake. As usual I have shown above some images of this fabulous bird and some of the action from around the lake on a day that will long remain in the memory.

Monday, 5 September 2011

More Waders

Following on from my last posting I am showing some more wader images obtained during last week's high tides at Southport and Rossall. Most of the ones shown above are from Rossall Point at Fleetwood. At Rossall the waders roost very close to the promenade and at times the sanderling particularly came extremely close to the camera and were not put off by the human activity on the prom. Virtually all of these sanderling were juveniles recently returned from their birthplace in the high Arctic and probably from Greenland. This may have been their first encounter with humans and like many birds from the far North they can be very confiding.
Fellow wildlife photographer Martin and myself had a wonderful time photographing the birds and explaining to some interested passers by what they were and where they had come from. Most people had not seen the groups of birds roosting on the beach and went on their way ignorant of the long distance travellers that had made it to the Lancashire coastline on their very long journey from Arctic breeding grounds. Martin and I were reluctant to leave on what had been a very pleasant day's session with the cameras and enjoyed in some very nice late summer weather.
Most of the images shown above are of the very obliging sanderling which at times came too close for focusing !! A couple of images are shown above of turnstones one resting and showing the lovely colours of the plumage, and the other of a turnstone actually in the act of turning over a stone. Also posing nicely for the cameras were lots of ringed plovers ,the ones above are juvenile birds which were present in large numbers. A roosting dunlin also shows off the lovely rich colours of it's plumage.
Hoping my readers enjoy my latest selection of images and thanks for looking in. There are more very high tides at the end of this month and I look forward to returning to capture the beauty of the mass flocks of waders which grace the Lancashire coastline at this time of the year.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Wader Watching...Red Knot

It has been a while since I have posted any images. This last week however has seen me back in business. There has been a series of high tides coinciding with some warm late summer weather, ideal conditions to revisit some of my favourite locations on the Lancashire coastline. I made two visits to the coast at Southport and one with good friend and photographer Martin to Rossall Point at Fleetwood.
There were good numbers of waders present particularly at Southport where a large wader roost provided me with many opportunities to capture some excellent images. For this first post I have concentrated on the Red Knot. Knot were present in very large numbers and packed together at high tide to form a large carpet of birds. Many of the birds were still showing signs of their red breeding plumage and one particularly handsome bird is shown above in it's breeding finery after which it is of course named. Most however were showing typical grey winter plumage but amongst them were some juvenile birds with lovely feather detail again shown in close up above.
The knot were disturbed from time to time by dog walkers and others who seemed determined despite my protests to walk right through the roosting flocks and send them all up into the air. This did however present opportunities for some impressive flight shots also shown above. As the high tide retreated so did the birds going further out onto the feeding grounds on the beach. I followed a group of birds and managed to get close to a mixed group of knot, dunlin and sanderling. Again close ups of these birds were obtained in very nice afternoon sunshine and I was very well pleased with the results.
I have shown above various images of the knot on the roost and in flight and hope they convey some of the excitement of witnessing one of Nature's great spectacles. Further posts will concentrate on the other waders seen during this week's high tides when I was able to get up close and personal with sanderling,dunlin,ringed plover and turnstone.... Watch this space !!!