Sunday, 4 March 2012

Dippers, Rats and Photographers!

I like this one

Best Brambling of the bunch

Cooperating model

Down the burn

Bank Vole (one of a pair)

Nice light

Rat after a modeling contract.

Bird of the day.

Ladies first!


3rd Mar. For sometime now I have hesitated at becoming seriously involved with digital photography on the grounds of too much to carry and weight, not to mention lack of skill. I’ve been having a bit of a rethink recently spurred on by some great images I see turning up on Linkblogs and elsewhere, and also by my recent outings with Under the Hood, Sam. I’m planning on making a macro lens an early priority. With photography in mind, as well as birding, Sam and I had promised ourselves a trip to Holywell today, so off we went as planned. In the future we’ll see how things progress and whether my blogs focus widens somewhat to other aspects of the natural world.

Sam had set some targets as to what he would like to see today. Thankfully these targets were partly in fun, although I was hoping we could meet at least some of them. Dippers were high on the list, but before we tried for these we headed off towards Holywell Pond. I was hoping to catch sight of the White-fronted Goose, not having seen one this year. The feeding station off the public footpath held amongst other species both the female Brambling and Tree Sparrows. The Song Thrush continues to sing from high in the trees. The former proved difficult to photograph, for me anyway! Fields to the west held a flock of Curlew, Canada Geese and gulls. I saw no sign of the White-fronted Goose at this point in time. The pond was again fairly quiet but birds seen included Teal and at least five/six Little Grebe

After a short time we headed down The Avenue, pausing at the public hide where later in the day we watched a small flock of Lapwings. Long Tailed Tits were in the hedges of the Avenue. I think Sam may have some good shots of them. I have some decent shots of the hedge. Not sure where the birds went! I decided eventually to give my time to capturing a rather more cooperative Robin and as a beginner was rather pleased with the result.

Once in the dene we settled down in an area which I know is frequented by the Dipper/s. It wasn’t too long before we had one in our camera sights. I was confident that in no-way were we disturbing the birds. This site is frequented at intervals by dog walkers encouraging their dogs to bathe, cyclists (today an illegal motor cyclist), and youths and children at play. I don’t know how the Dippers cope to be honest, but they do and successfully bred last year. Anyway, two quiet birders at a safe distance weren’t going to add to the stress. In the event, it was we two who were at times disturbed by dogs. I have to say on each occasion the owners were very considerate. That hasn’t always been the case down in this area. It wasn’t long before we had two Dippers displaying. From what I have read in Poyser’s edition of The Dippers they appeared to be in an early stage of courtship. The male bowing and vibrating his wings. I read that the female may often sing during such advertising displays, but I didn’t hear any singing at this point. We were joined by Cain (Holywell Birding) and Stephen (British Birder). It was Cain who first picked up one of the birds singing. This is the second time this year I have heard Dipper song. Very soon afterwards one Dipper appeared to quite aggressively chase another off, as though it was defending a territory. We wondered if there were at least three birds. However having checked it out I read that in the early days of courtship the male bird can be quite aggressive towards the female, making threat displays and pursuing her, and I believe this is what we witnessed. I managed a few reasonable shots of a single Dipper during what was a very pleasant session beside the burn and the type of bird watching I most enjoy. It will be interesting to find out if there is more than one breeding pair of Dippers on the stretch of burn. Would the young from last year set up a territory near by the parent birds or would they have dispersed further afield?

Eventually Sam and I moved along and found the likes of Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Song Thrush, tits and other woodland birds. My attempted shot of the Treecreeper produced a tree in perfect focus, but no creeper! To be fair at this point someone had stopped to speak thus breaking the concentration. :-) A pair of Grey Wagtails showed well as they moved up the burn. The feeding stations offered good opportunities for photography and we didn’t neglect taking some landscape shots too. We found the Brown Rat at one feeding station which although a little nervous, wasn’t too shy to come out and take its share of seed on regular occasion. Rumour has it, that such are the number of shots taken of this Brown Rat it is demanding a modelling fee! We also found a pair of Bank Voles which scurried around the undergrowth. I perhaps had better luck photographing these mammals than I had with the smaller birds. Practise makes perfect, or at least leads to improvement I guess. By now the sun was fully out from behind the cloud of the morning, bird song was in the air and the dene looked at its most attractive. I didn’t hear any woodpecker drumming today.

On our return we watched the Dippers again before moving of towards the pond. I’d been alerted earlier by Cain, to the fact that the White-fronted Goose was in the fields nearby. I soon got my eye on my first White-fronted Goose of 2012 and Sam had another lifer. It was amongst numbers of Greylag and possibly some Pink-footed Geese.

We ended the day in the members hide where I found the Mallards easy to photograph, and that drake Mallard’s head was looking splendid in the sunlight. There is always a nice atmosphere down here of an evening and now that the days are lengthening there was time to enjoy it as we listened to the whinnying calls of Little Grebe. A Reed Bunting was seen on the feeders. I had noticed a few more birds on the feeders near the hide than of late.

I’d really enjoyed a very relaxing day and later found that we actually had forty-six species of bird on the day list, with some new ones for Sam who had I’m pleased to say met some of his targets. We left with ideas for future visits and me still planning a trip to the photographic dealers and thinking I need to read that instruction manual!

1 comment:

  1. It's nice to have seen the 'Brown Rat' and Bank Voles, as well as the birds. I'm pleased that you were able to photograph them. (Or at least 2 out of 3).

    Good luck with deciding on possible new photograpy equipment. It's probably quite an addictive hobby, when you get into it!