Category Archives: Birding

Birding 9/4/12

Been a relatively quiet Easter  week for Birding down in SW Cornwall, there have been various reports of Ringed Ouzel around, but I've yet to see one. I did head up towards St Ives on Sunday, but as the fog got thicker I just turned around. So here's a round up of what we've seen for the last couple of weeks.. still managing to get in new sightings 😉

Down at Hayle I captured a solitary Knot for the first time, down on Ryans field.

Picture of Knot on Ryans Field, Hayle Cornwall

Marazion provided lots activity over the last couple of week.  I caught my first closeup glimse of a Wheatear, saw another on up at Portgwarra on Sunday.

Wheatear down at Marazion, Cornwall April 2012

Also at Marazion a week earlier, there was a little ringed plover ( apparently ID'd by the eye ring amonst other things and small build).

Picture or little ringed plover at Marazion, Cornwal March 2012

Over the last couple of weeks there have been lots of Sand Martins down at Marazion, feasting on the midges. I've yet to get a really sharp picture of one yet .. so watch this space for when I do. Also, I'm convinced I saw a little heron down at Marazion, which apparently would have been the first recorded sighting, it flew off before I could get the camera sorted out.  There had been reports down at Polgigga, and since then up at St Ives.

We had walk up to Gwithian, late March, and managed to get this close up shot of a Skylark just as it landed, on the reserve at St Gothian Sands.

Skylark at St Gorhian Sands, Cornwall, March 2012

Spent a windswept day down at Porthwarra, didn't manage to see anything unusual, but had a challenging 30 minutes on a windy cliff ledge photgraphing Gannets.

Picture of Gannets at Porthgwarra Cornwall March 2012

Had a couple of brief trips up to Stithians reservoir, a from a distance saw a pair of great crested grebes, and near the bird feeders a reed bunting.

Picture of Great crested Grebe at Stithians Reservoir, Cornwall March 2012

Picture of Reed bunting at Stithians Reservoir, Cornwall March 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

moorhen

I stopped by the normally peaceful Marazion marsh RSPB site this weekend, seeing what was on the water when a couple of moorhens decided the time for talking was over !,   It was late in the afternoon, and not brilliant light,. but I still think some of the pictures look quite surreal, especially the claws, it's like something out of Aliens. Click on the pictures to zoom in.

Moorhens at Marazion Cornwall

Moorhens fighting, Marazion Cornwall

Pictures of Moorhens fighting, Marazion Cornwall

Pictures of moorhen fighting, Marazion Cornwall

Pictures of moorhens fighting

 

 

Birding 11/3/12

Highlight of the week has to be getting a new Sigma 150-500mm lens late on, but not really had the chance to get out and take many pictures yet.

Early on in the week I stopped briefly by Newlyn, and caught the Iceland Gull off the rocks behind the fishermans mission. This was with the old lens, so need to re-visit and get a sharper picture.

Iceland Gull on rocks at Newlyn

Mid week, stopped by Hells mouth, and got some interesting pictures of the Cormorants gathering nesting material.

Cormorant with nesting material

On the weekend stopped by Marazion, and saw the Shoveler duck, and a new one for me Greylag geese.

Pair of Greylag geese, Marazion 2012

Shoveler duck, Marazion March 2012

Finally on the Sunday we had a loooong walk completely round Loe Pool, which is really a long way. Unfortunately we didn't really get close enough to get any decent pictures, but did see Eider, Goosander, Great crested Grebe, Little Grebe, and another first a Goldeneye, albeit from a long way away.

Golden eye duck, Loe Pool cornwall, March 2012

On the way back from Loe Pool., stopped off at Marazion to see if I could capture the Water Pipit, and from a distance there he was.

Water Pipit, Marazion Cornwall March 2012

So on reflection not a bad week for birding, 3 new species for me. I can't wait for this grey weather to lift so I can get some decent captures. Here's looking forward to the next weekend 😉

 

Birding 18/02/12

Not had much time this week for Birding, but yet again 2 new species in a week for me ! – A Dipper, and Greenshank.

The Dipper was seen during a brief visit to Cotehele, near the Cornwall / Devon border at Plymouth. Cotehele is a great national trust property, with walks through a wooded valley leading to a mill.  I saw the dipper on the stream between the mill and and the entrance to the wood.  More information on the dipper can be found on the RSPB site here

Dipper in wood at Cotehele, Cornwall Feb 2012

Then  I paid a 30 minute to Hayle, walking round to Carnsew pool.  From a distance it looked quiet, but as I rounded the corner, I couldn't believe the numbers of birds near the waters edge, and all in photographing distance.   There were  6+ Grey Plovers, and at least 10 bar tailed godwits. There are both bar tailed and black tailed godwits at Hayle, out of flight, the easiest way to distinguish is that on the bar tailed there is a slight upcuve on the beak.

Grey Plovers at Carnsew Pool, Hayle, Cornwall Feb 2012

Bar tailed godwits, Carnsew Pool, Hayle, Cornwall Feb 2012

Shortly after I got some more shots, including this great in flight shot ( click on the picture to see it full size)  the birds got spooked by something, which turned out to be a Buzzard overhead.

Bar Tailed Godwits, Carnser Pool, Hayle, Cornwall feb 2012

Common Buzzard

Once things settled down, and walking back to the car, there was even more to see on the relatively small pool.  3 drake Goosander were having a rest in the wind :-

Drake Goosander, Carnsew Pool, Hayle Cornwall feb 2012

The final bonus, was another wader, which I've never seen before, a Greenshank :-

Greenshank, Carnsew Pool, Hayle, Cornwall feb 2012

 

So all in all, this short outing turned out to be a great day, showing what a treasure Hayle is for birding,  with some reasonable pictures for a change 😉

 

 

Birding 12/02/12

Thought today was going to be dissapointing, after a walk round Drift resorvoir, Sennen and Long Rock was uneventful. However I stopped off at Jubilee Pool on the way back, to a veritable army of twitchers. Upon enquiring I was told there was a Black Redstart around, unfortunately my miniscule lens wasn't near enough to produce a decent picture, neverthless I got a good view of the bird – another personal first.

On Saturday I thought I'd better get myself down to Newlyn Harbour, where there have been regular reports and pictures of a Glaucous Gull, and Iceland Gull.  I managed to get some decent pictures of the Glaucous Gull – note the white wingtips – that is apparently one of the keys to the ID.

Glaucous Gull, Newlyn Harbour Feb 2012

Earlier on in the week I stopped by Gwithian, and got a view of the resident Ring Necked Duck, and also just up the road at Hells mouth saw a colony of Fulmars – yet another first for me.

Ring Necked Duck, St Gothian Sands, Gwithian Hayle Feb 2012

Fulmar flying at Hells Mouth, near Hayle Feb 2012

Back down in Mousehole, I went for a walk Sunday PM along the front, it was low tide which isn't usually the best time ( I find 1/2 tide the best), however I spotted something in the distance, and clambered across the rocks to get closer.  As I got nearer it was the Grey Plover, which I'd seen the week before from a distance.  This time I was determined to get closer, however everytime I got nearer, the bug&*r skipped to the next rock, so this is the best picture I could manage.

Grey Plover, Mousehole Feb 2012

So all in all, another good week. 3 new birds for me, here's looking forward to the next week !

 

 

 

 

 

Birding 5/2/12

Another couple of birding firsts for us on our home turf of Mousehole the weekend. Nothing rare but always good to see something for the first time. After a very cold, but clear week the weekend was overcast with light rain. So I set out onto the sea front at Mousehole not expecting much, but saw this Grey Plover in the distance.

Picture of Grey Plover, Mousehole, Cornwall Feb 2012

As soon as I tried to get nearer, he flew onto rocks further out.  Interestingly enough I had a quick look round the Hide at Hayle on Sunday, took a picture of a Redshank, and when I came to look at the photo there was a Grey Plover very well disguised in the same shot ! .. so 2 in 2 days.

As well as the usual Turnstones, there was Curlew, and down in the harbour 4-5 Dunlins.

Picture of Turnstone, Mousehole Harbour Feb 2012

Rain stopped play on the Saturday. On Sunday had a drive out to Loe Pool, Helston, there had been reports of a Smew in Carminowe creek, but I couldn't see that. Did come across this Great Crested Grebe though :-

Great Crested Grebe, Carminowe Creek Helston, Feb 2012

I need to try and get sharper pictures of all the above now.  One thing I have found is that using Nikon D3100 with my "starter lens", (Sigma 70-300mm F4-5.6 DG Macro, NO vibration reduction) is that I get better results at distance by wacking up the ISO to 3200, and going for say F8, and just easing back on the zoom.  The pictures above were taken so far away, and in poor light that they're not really good examples.  I think I'm going to go for the Sigma 500mm zoom next, I'll start saving now 😉

 

 

 

Birding 28/01/12

A quick walk round Hayle RSBP site revealed nothing of great interest on Ryans Field ( at least that my small lens could pick up), just caught this distant shot of a Bullfinch on a nearby budlia, thats another first for me 😉

Picture of bullfinch at Hayle, January 2012

 

Crossing the road revealed some shelducks, and a couple of black tailed Godwits, at least I think they're Godwits based on the long straight beak.

Black tailed Godwit Hayle Estuary Jan 2012

Picture of Shelduck Hayle Estuary Jan 2012

 

Later on in the day, went down to Longrock beach, near Penzance. It was low tide, and other than gulls not a lot around, then in the distance we saw a pair of Goosanders heading out to sea. Ive seen just one Goosander before, and that was at Hayle Estuary last year.

Goosander off Longrock, near Penzance. Jan 2012

Last Sunday we had a walk out to Levant Tin mine on the north west coast. The national trust have a car park, and it's a nice ( if blustery in January) walk along the coast. Other than a few gulls and some gannets in the distance there wasn't must out in the way of birds. On the way back to the car a Kestrel took great delight in taunting us to come closer for a picture, then swooping down the coast. Nevertheless we managed some great photos :-

Kestrel Levant North Cornwall Jan 12

Kestrel in flight Levant North Cornwall Jan 12

 


 

Birding 21/01/12

Another week of dodgy weather, but still managed another couple of firsts !.  The first was a Water Pipit down on Marazion Beach, near where the river comes out. Earlier on in the week I'd seen a meadow pipit on the same spot, but the light coloured breast on the water pipit really distinguishes it.

Picture of Water Pipit on Marazion beach Cornwall Jan 2012

 

The second one taken on later in the week, was just down the coast towards Penzance, off Long Rock.  When I got there, in the distance I could just make out quite a large number of Ringed plovers and Sanderlings mixed in with the gulls.  As I got nearer they of course did a runner..  However I managed to get close enough to get this picture of one of the Sanderlings.

Picture of Sanderling on the beach near Penzance, Jan 2012

 

Birding 15/1/12

Not great Birdwatching weather down in West Cornwall this weekend, but I've managed to spot a couple of new species.  The first was an Egyptian Goose, which had been reported on the Helston Boating Lake.

Egyptian Goose on Helston boating lake Jan 2012

The second, was a Little Gull, seen at Longrock, near Marazion in Cornwall on a very blustery sunday.  What brought my attention to it in the first place was it was noticeably smaller than all the other gulls, and being a beginner distinguishing between gulls is really hard ( well at least think it is).  Upon zooming into the photos back home, the first thing that set it apart from the black headed gulls was the fact that it head a black beak.

Little Gull at Longrock, near Marazion Jan 2012

Little gull and black headed gull

Little Gull ( bottom) black headed gull top – winter

 


 

 

 

The Frustrated Bird Photographer – part 1

November was my first full month birding down in Cornwall, armed with my new Nikkon D311 and a Sigma 300mm zoom lens I was ready to roll .. or was I ?

Why do It ?

I think my overriding reason was that I find that being outside either gardening or looking at wildlife, and walking is a great escape from the stresses of life ( especially IT work), All of my life I've been engaged in technology, so I think a swing to the natural and artistic side should do me some good.

Equipment

Before I brought the camera I did plenty of research and it was fairly clear that the choice of lens is going to play a big part in the quality of the photos you produce, and the very best cost BIG money. It soon became clear that a 300mm lens really doesn't cut the mustard unless you pretty close to the bird, and it's nice and bright weather. So, a month into the process these are my thoughts :-

As my first DSLR camera I'm happy with the Nikkon – but I've never had anything to compare it with.

When I first got the camera with it's standard lens 18-55mm I new I'd need a better zoom to get pictures of birds,  So in the shop I got the camera from they had a 70-300mm lens which they said was a very good quality, but it was manual focus.  After 1 week of trying to get pictures with it I failed miserably, virtually every picture was out of focus. So I took it back to the shop, and they took it back and I got a Sigma 70-300mm F4-5.6 DG lens.  There was no stabilisation in this lens.

So after a month of using the system, I'm getting some reasonable pictures, but not quite as sharp as I was hoping for, especially at a distance – even with a tripod. Basically if the bird you're trying to photo fills the viewfinder then the picture will be excellent, unless it's moving fast.  This means you need to be less that about 30m away.  Anything further away you'll end up needing to digitally zoom in using Photoshop. That means the picture is often good enough for an ID, but invariably not sharp.

To keep the pictures as sharp as possible, I find myself setting the camera to 800 iso, and sometimes 1600 if it's a dull day, this ensures a fast shutter speed.  I'd be really interested to compare the results of the lens I have to one with image stabilisation.

So, for the time being I'm going to stick with what I've got, and I think my next upgrade will to be to a 500m lens with IS.

 

Bird Identification

Armed with my Bill Oddie bird book ( £3 from the local book discount store) I was ready to ID the pictures of the birds I'd taken .. but guess what ? – I really struggled. So I hit the web and google searches which usually brought up the RSPB site, which is pretty comprehensive, but nevertheless a bit hit and miss for a beginner.  Then I found www.birdforum.net  and WOW,  there's a bird ID forum, where you post your picture and an army of twitchers respond, often in minutes. I really can't recommend this site enough, the people on the forum must have amazing patience when the likes of me posts a picture, where my initial guess is a mile off.

I then upgraded to one of the Collins Bird Guides off Amazon ( new for  £11 ish) which is a lot more comprehensive, although it still uses drawings.  I think a combination of this book with google, and maybe a book with actual photographs will finally sort me.

The subtle differences between a common bird and rarer variety is often so minute that I can see the whole learning process is going to be very gradual.

The other website that I've found useful is www.cornwall-birding.co.uk . This site has daily reports of what bird sightings have been made in the county. From here I've learned some of the better locations to go to, and also found some amazing locations that I've never been to before – such as Loe Pool near Helston. The only downside is, that it is easy to become a bit of a "twitcher" and when something is reported want to go and see the bird. Almost invariably this has to wait until weekend.

At the beginning my poor ID skills were very evident. There were reports of a Black Kite over Drif reservoir,  when I eventually had a look I got all excited thinking I'd got the bird,  when what I'd clocked was a Common Buzzard – nevertheless a fine bird.

Here are some of the rare Birds I've been lucky enough to Photograph over the last month, may there be many more 😉   I'll start with the better pictures, and then down to the fuzzy results from a loooong way away

.Picture of Snow Bunting at Marazion Cornwall, November 2011
Snow Bunting taken at Marazion Beach, Cornwall, November 2011

Picture of Black Tailed Godwit Ryans Field, Hayle Nov 11
Black Tailed Godwith, Ryans Field, Hayle RSPB November 2011

Picture of short eared owl Porthgwarra Cornwall Nov 11
Short Eared Owl ( one of 2) Porthwarra Cornwall November 2011

Picture of bufflehead before digital zoom
Rare Bufflehead taken on Loe Pool Helston, before digital zoom

Fuzzy picture of Bufflehead on loe Pool Cornwall
Same Bufflehead picture, but zoomed in with Photoshop .. fuzzy but thats the boy !