A walk around a local lake recently showed signs of an impending Spring. The Coots were very feisty and chasing rivals away and even sometimes off the lake. The Grey Herons were setting up nest sites and some actually on the nests. Great Crested Grebes were seen to do their courtship displays. All very exciting for me, as it reminds me that these short dark days won't be forever and that Spring will come again and so will the sunshine.
The beach at Holkham on the north Norfolk coast holds very good numbers of Shorelark (also known as the Horned Lark) at this time of year. I made a special visit to see some, some weeks back and was very pleased with what I found. This was the first time I've seen these birds, and as with every hunt for a life tick, it was a bit stressful and tense trying to find them in a vast area.
They didn't help me by being in amongst some vegetation and generally staying out of sight, but then I clocked them and all was well again.
I spent a good 30 minutes just watching them from a safe distance and taking pictures as and when they popped their heads up. They didn't do anything fancy, like give me a nice flight shot or even emerge from the vegetation, but I still enjoyed them all the same. A great little bird and one I hope to catch up with again soon, now that I know where to find them.
The promenade in Sheringham is a great place to get up close to Turnstones. While I was looking forlornly for a King Eider Duck a few weeks back, I turned my attention to this much easier target. You don't even have to be looking for them and they will wander towards you, all very brave and brash. It doesn't bother me in the slightest and took my mind off the fact I was failing in my initial efforts.
Yes, sometimes getting too close for the lens attached.
The Smew is not a very common bird in the North West. Only turning up in the winter months and never in great numbers or great regularity. That being said, I saw that one was up in the Oldham hills on Castleshaw Reservoir and it was too good an opportunity to miss.
It had been a few years since I saw my last, in Cheshire.
The bird was quite a distance out, but at it's closest when I arrived. I was able to pop my head and camera over the wall of the upper reservoir and take a few pictures.
The water was choppy on a very windy day, and like all Smews, this one was very wary.
A few weeks back I posted some pictures of a Cattle Egret that were a bit distant and not great. I'm able to post some better ones now, after a chance encounter while sat in hide. This one flew in and took up residence on an island. Typically it's on the wrong side, so you can't see it's legs and feet, but it posed nicely and stayed a long time. I'm much happier with these pictures.
A Velvet Scoter had been reported on High Rid reservoir in Bolton over a week ago. I was in Norfolk at the time, more than 200 miles away. I wondered if it would hang around for me to catch up with. My first opportunity was on Saturday afternoon, and it was still there.
The weather was really poor and the light even worse, but this visit wasn't really about the quality of pictures. It was a lifetime tick for me, having never seen one before.
On arrival it was on the far side of the reservoir. Typical! I trudged round in the drizzle, and it kindly played ball. It stayed close to the bank and dived for a minute or so at a time. A bird that should really be out at sea, it was nice to be able to see one just a short drive from home.
Could really have done with better light on a very dark day.
It's that time once again, when the Purple Sandpipers have returned to their wintering grounds in Norfolk. I look forward to putting my head over the wall at Sheringham early in the morning and looking down onto the rocks to find these lovely little birds. I was lucky enough to do this at the weekend whilst visiting my parents.
The sun had barely come up, and the light was poor, but there were 3 of the little beauties all snuggled up on the rocks.
I wandered off to look at some Turnstones and when I came back they were on the move.
There were quite a few other ducks, geese and gulls at Redesmere last week. Here are just a few of them. Hopefully there may be a few rarer birds as we go into the winter months. It would be even better if there is sunshine like this all the time. Light makes photography so much easier. All that's needed then are the birds.
Luck was on my side last weekend. I'd seen that a Great Egret had been reported just a few miles down the road at Redesmere. I actually forgot about it on Saturday, until it was dark. So I made a concerted effort to get along there on Sunday morning. I wasn't disappointed. As I parked the car it flew right in front of me and landed just metres away on the edge of the mere.
I got the camera out of the boot and was able to get to a decent position to watch and photograph.
I spotted a second further away, and it wasn't long before this too flew towards me and gave good views as it flew almost overhead.
With a Black-headed Gull in the foreground for size comparison.
This was the second bird that kindly gave a nice fly pass.
The first bird gave good prolonged views while preening.
I was delighted to get my first decent shots of this rare visitor to my part of the world.
A nice bright day on the north west coast always lends itself to a good opportunity to take the camera out. It was busy on the Wirral coast as the tide came in, with plenty of waders, gulls and seabirds. The weather had certainly turned more Autumn like and there was cold bite in the air. Here's what I saw.
A Curlew just above the sand at New Brighton
A lone Pink-footed Goose proving that Autumn had really arrived.
Good numbers of Shelduck were at Hoylake and Meols.
A Common Gull resting on the sand before high tide.
The very elusive Water Rail made an unexpected appearance. Never easy to sea these birds, as they usually stick to the reeds. This was a real bonus.