Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Birds in the Park

This lunchtime, I went down into my local park with my camera, and a bag of peanuts to feed the birds. Here are some of the results.
Blue Tit:


Male Chaffinch:

Another Robin:

Female Blackbird:


I then tried taking a few backlit, 'contre-jour', pictures.
Great Tit:


Eventually, I managed a shot of the fast-moving Coal Tit:

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cwmbran Waxwings

Yesterday, I went up to Cwmbran in Gwent, as I had heard there was a flock of Waxwings showing well there. I found the location easily enough, and spent a couple of hours in the afternoon sunshine attempting to photograph these lovely birds as they periodically descended into two white-berried Rowan trees - when the aggressively-territorial local Mistle Thrushes would allow them. Cliff Woodhead - who had been there since 10.30 a.m., and was there most of the time photographing alongside me - had counted 38 birds in the flock. The problem was that the Waxwings tended to land on the far side of one of the two trees, and so were often in shade, although the berries on which they feasted were lit by the sun. Also, as anyone who has watching Waxwings feed will know, these birds don't stay still for long, and feed in frenzied bursts, before retiring to nearby taller trees to digest their meal.
Anyone, I managed a handful of reasonable shots:

The coveted 'berry-in-mouth' shot:

Just after Cliff left about 3.45 p.m., the Waxwings flew off westwards over the nearby houses, although they have apparantly returned again today. If they hang around a few more days, I may just head up there again, and bore any remaining viewers I might have with even more Waxwing shots!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Birds in Flight

Not satisfied with the autofocus on my 7D and 40D, I splashed out recently on a secondhand Canon 1D Mark III. On Saturday, I went out for a stroll down to the beach to try it our for the first time. This Common Gull flew closer when I threw some bread down on the sand:

On the nearby golf course, Carrion Crows also couldn't resist the lure of breadcrumbs:

Further along the beach, this Curlew flew past, and the camera locked on quite nicely, even with a 1.4x converter attached:

Sunday was nice and bright, so I decided to head round to Bracelet Bay, which is known for its population of Mediterranean Gulls:

After a few shots, I climbed up onto the headland overlooking Mumbles lighthouse. A Buzzard soon drifted very close overhead, allowing me to take a few framefilling shots. The light was in the wrong direction, but I did my best:

The sun was now very low in the sky, and I clambered down for a few more gull shots. Mingling with the Med. Gulls were the similar-looking Black-headed Gulls, and they made for lovely subjects themselves in the buttery late afternoon sunshine:

I have to say I am pretty impressed with this camera, and you may well see my 7D and / or 40D up for sale on ebay very shortly!

Saturday, January 08, 2011


On Thursday afternoon, I had a couple of hours in Rhossili, a remote village on the south-west tip of the Gower Peninsula. As I neared Rhossili, and was going through a place called Pilton Green, a Red Kite flew low over the road. This was only the second Red Kite I'd seen on Gower, the first being one at Oxwich last summer. Five minutes later, we arrived at Rhossili. And what was the first thing I saw as I looked to the skies? Another Red Kite! It was soaring very low back and forth over the Worm's Head Hotel, and I quickly got my camera out for a couple of pictures:

A local lad, who rushed out of the nearby cafe to watch the kite, told me it was the first he had seen in Rhossili. He also told me Hen Harriers had been reported flying over the fields around Rhossili Down in the last couple of weeks, although I didn't have time to look now. Instead, as the tide was out, I headed down to the beach to see if there were any Purple Sandpipers on the rocks at the base of the cliffs. There was just one in the place where I normally see them in winter, and it allowed me a couple of pictures, before flying off towards Worm's Head:

This pair of Fulmars were calling noisily at their nest-site:

I spotted this unfortunate Fulmar dead at the cliff bottom:

This was one of several Rock Pipits I saw:

As the day began to wane, I climbed part-way up Rhossili Down, from where I had this view looking back towards Rhossili village and the Worm's Head:

Before long, some lovely colours began developing in the sky:

I hurried (as fast as my aging legs would carry me) down to the beach, hoping to catch a shot of the wreck of 'The Helvetia' with the sun setting behind. Typically, the sunset faded surprisingly quickly, and this was best I could do:

I must have been the last person left on the sand, so began trudging up the steps to Rhossili (it seems to get steeper every I come here!), pausing to capture the blue dusk as I looked back towards 'The Worm':

One last shot of Rhossili Down and the beach:

and I was off for home.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

More Dipper Shots

I went down to Singleton Park two days ago with my big lens, to see if the Dipper was still on the stream. It was; and, although the weather was very dull, I was able to get a few reasonable shots:

I went down again at lunchtime today, and there was the Dipper again in its usual spot. It then proceeded to disappear into thin air, and no amount of searching the length of the stream could relocate it. Guess it must have returned to wherever it  came from.

Sunday, January 02, 2011


I walked down through Singleton Park just after first light this morning. There were Redwings all around the neighbourhood, although nowhere near the numbers we've had around here during the last two harsh winters, as well as healthy numbers of Song Thrushes. It was also good to see plenty of Wrens had made it through the recent cold spell. I spotted a Grey Heron standing serenely by the pond near the (sadly now fire-charred) Swiss Cottage. Stopping briefly to feed the birds, I soon had Great Tits and Robins landing on my hands for peanuts. A quick trip across the road to Brynmill Park, and a walk around the lake, yielded a couple of Mute Swans, about twenty-five Tufted Ducks, and a single male Pochard, amongst the usual Mallards and Moorhens. Another Grey Heron was resting on the manmade island in the pond. I returned to Singleton, and strolled along the stream that runs along the edge of the park, thinking I might see a Grey Wagtail there. In fact, I was amazed to see a Dipper on this tiny stream, the first I have seen in ten years of living in the area. I'd left my big lens behind, but tried for a few shots with a 70-200mm attached to a 1.7x converter. Conditions were not ideal, as I was reduced to handholding at around 1/100th of a second at ISO 1600, so the few pictures I got (which have been cropped quite a bit) are rather grainy (but I like to think it gives them a 'painterly' quality!):

Continuing my walk, I bumped into a bloke who told me he had just seen several Waxwings feeding in hawthorn berries on the nearby golf course. He seemed to know me, although I had no idea who he was! (Thinking about it, he must have been the same fellow who told me he'd seen Waxwings in the same place several weeks ago.) Well, they weren't there then, and they weren't there now! I think he may have mistaken Waxwings for Redwings, as there were largish flocks of these thrushes feeding nearby on the course and perched in trees. Still, I live in hope of getting another chance for some decent Waxwing photos this winter. But the berries are running out fast!