Tuesday, 27 April 2010


Over the last week I have been lucky enough to hear, see & photograph a wonderfull little brown bird called a Grasshopper Warbler. A summer visitor to the UK which winters in tropical Africa.Named after its song, this skulker has eluded me for several years, until the other day. Whilst getting the car out of the garage, the unmistakeable reeling came from one of my garden hedges. I had to have a look. At this point I should probably mention that I have heard them on many occasions before & been within a couple of feet of a singing bird, though never clapped eyes on one, such is there skulking nature. Peering into the thick tangled vegetation, I soon spotted a movement. After moving to try & get a better view, there it was.....My first ever Gropper! It soon disappeared when it seen me, but was heard reeling later in the day. I did not see it again.
Today however, I travelled to the center of Dartmoor with fellow photographer Tim Taylor. After a slog around the high tops  & valleys, seeing not much more than Meadow pipits, Skylarks, a single female Wheatear & several Willow warblers, I again heard a Gropper. Determined for a better look, we set off through the sedge & moss of a boggy area towards the sound, stopping frequently to regain a bearing. We eventually tracked the noise to a stunted willow on the edge of the boggy area & sat & waited. There it was! Typically shrouded in bramble & thin branches. After moving around to get a clearer shot, I managed a few images that were in focus & not obscured to badly. The final shot below is for me the holy grail of bird photography, a gropper in the open! (pity i clipped the toe though.....doh!)
More information & a recording of the song of the Grasshopper warbler can be found at the following link:

Monday, 19 April 2010

Yellow wags are back

A recent posting on the SOS message board (Somerset ornithological society) roused me this afternoon into trip down onto a local moor where Yellow wagtails have returned from there wintering grounds in Africa. The damp grassland, ideal for feeding on invertebrates. Once in the rough area, i sat in the car, in a gateway, with the windows rolled down & listened. It wasn't long before i heard the call i was waiting for & looking up, saw a wagtail flying above me. I followed with my bins & saw it land about 250m away, too far for a shot. Minutes later it flew back towards me, accompanied by another! Now within range of the 600 with a 1.7x teleconverter attached, i set about recording the scene. A third bird flew back across the road in front of me.
You may notice that one of them looks a bit odd! Halfway between the usual subspecies we get in this country & the Blue-headed varient seen more comonly on the continent. Some have speculated, he may be a hybrid. What do you think?

Migrant hunt (not!)

An afternoon on the Quantock hills, in a favoured coombe for the western trio of Pied flycatcher, Redstart & Wood warbler resulted in all three not being found! Probably to do with the time of day, the woods were almost silent, apart from Coal tits & the odd Chaffinch. Pied flys have already been sighted up there, so its not too early in the year.
It wasn't a complete waste of time though, as a hoot from a Tawny owl resulted in the image below, not a corker, but always great to see & photograph. There were in fact a pair present & the female called back.
While on the subject of Owls, I just could not resist another crack at the Short-eared Owls at a site near Moorland. Two have been frequenting the area for about a week & have been showing regularly during the evenings. On my last visit, they did not show untill late & i missed them. This time however, i was again in luck. A single Owl, the darker of the pair, was quatering the rough grassland about 300m away. It never came really close, so i had to make do with some habitat type shots & this lovely backlit one.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Short-eared owl at Greylake

I make no apologies for having hundreds, maybe thousands of shots of the various british owls on my hard drives at home. For me they are simply majestic, gorgeous to observe & a little bit mysterious. I could watch them (& have done) for hours. A recent posting on the Somerset ornithological society message board, prompted me to travel the 10 mins down the road to Greylake RSPB reserve. The latest posting said that the shortie had been seen at approx 6pm the previous day, so i got into position early at around 4. I was joined by fellow photographer Tim Taylor a little later & we waited until approx 6:10 before Tim spotted it hunting along the bank of the ditch we were adjacent to. After moving to a better position, i fired off around 3 1/2 gig of shots over the next 3/4 hour. Below you will see some of my favourites.