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Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Peregrine, Water Rail and Stonechat...... and a Greylake sunset!

Yet again, the Sun shone down on me on my day off, so after lunch I grabbed my camera and made my way to RSPB Greylake, one of my favourite places and so close to home! Bonus!
  On the short walk to the main hide I checked the cleared area for Water Rail, not expecting to see any as the reserve was quite busy and Water Rails are notoriously shy, but surprisingly there was a Water Rail, only 50 metres in front of me, out in the open! I grabbed a couple of shots before it dashed back into the undergrowth!
   Once I got to the hide I noticed much of the close water was frozen, so all the ducks were much further out than normal. Damn!
  Still, it was a lovely day so I soaked up the atmosphere, listening to the Wigeon and Teal calling and whistling to each other. A Snipe was probing quite close to the hide and at one stage walked across the ice towards me! In the distance a Kestrel sat in an old dead tree, and a few Lapwing and a Raven flew overhead.
   My birding friend Brian Sweeting entered the hide after a while, his amazing camera and lens putting my modest equipment to shame!!
   A pair of Stonechats were flitting about the Bullrush heads in the middle of the lake, and at one stage the male landed on the ice to grab some insect and skidded as it did so! It's not only us humans who slip on the ice!!
  The Male Stonechat then flew towards the hide and landed on Bullrush heads right in front of me, giving me the opportunity to get some nice close photos!! It's fantastic when something like that happens!!
  Across the lake a Water Rail ran out of one clump of reeds towards another across the ice and I managed a couple of shots!
  A small group of Dunlin flew low through the reserve at one stage.
  Shortly after a Kingfisher flew past, far too quick for anyone to photograph or even get their binoculars on!!
  Then it happened. Flying in fast and low from the right, a Peregrine caused panic and the ducks took to the air wheeling left and right in panic. The Peregrine singled out a Teal and chased it for a hundred yards but the Teal twisted to safety. The Peregrine made another couple of low passes without success before flying off to land on a fence post right at the back of the reserve! I grabbed a couple of photos, though the light wasn't as strong as earlier, but Brian grabbed some beauties of the Peregrine.....I wasn't at all jealous! I lie. I was jealous as hell! I told him that I'm giving up bird photography! It's not fair....
  The Peregrine came in again about 20 minutes later, once again it was unsuccessful and once again the ducks flew about in blind panic! Eventually it flew off and landed on a nearby electricity pylon. Everyone in the hide were in awe at the show they had just witnessed!
    Greylake.....what a fantastic nature reserve in the heart of the Somerset Levels!
I walked with Brian back to the car park, taking some sunset pictures on my way. What a fabulous way to spend an afternoon, beautiful nature and great company!

Below are some of the pictures I took;

  ^ Above ^ - The normally elusive Water Rail!

  ^ Above ^ - Male Stonechat.... at the bottom, slipping on the ice whilst grabbing a bug!

  ^ Above ^ - Snipe

  ^ Above ^ - Panicing ducks and the Peregrine, top left!

  ^ Above ^ - Peregrine Falcon

  ^ Above ^ - Panicing ducks during the Peregrines flying visit...

  ^ Above ^ - Greylake scenes

  ^ Above ^ - Dunlins flying through.

  ^ Above ^ - Wigeon

  ^ Above ^ - Greylake sunset to finish the day..... beautiful!

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Something to Snipe about...

With Christmas food causing my stomach to swell to a size that would make Santa proud, I decided to drag myself off my sofa and into my other halves newly fixed Mondeo. ( Someone had reversed into her shortly before Christmas, seemingly unaware what her wing mirrors were for!)
   Despite driving for a living, my love, Nick, didn't trust me to drive her automatic motor, so I was chaperoned to RSPB Greylake, via trips to Argos, Lidl, the garage, etc etc.
   My patience starting to wear thin, I insisted that she drive us to Greylake before clouds caused the light to diminish to such an extent that photography proved pointless. Luckily there wasn't a cloud in the sky, but from past experience, as soon as I usually arrive at a nature reserve, a cloud manifests itself from nowhere and precedes to hang around for the duration of my stay, often deciding to drop rain on my equipment for good measure!
   After getting stuck behind every Sunday driver, learner driver, tractor and milk float in Somerset, we finally arrived at Greylake!! Incredibly the sun was still shining!
 We didn't have much time, so immediately walked to the hide, where the usual hundreds of Wigeon and Teal fed or rested on the wet grassland in front of us. We scanned the birds looking for anything different or unusual. There were a few Mallard and Shoveler, and even a lone Pintail, which was roosting right in front of the hide but would have been easily missed in the crowds! Pintails are gorgeous ducks, and rarely seen in large numbers, ones or twos being most likely.
   Then my love spotted a Snipe. There are usually Snipe at Greylake, but they blend in well with the vegetation and grasses and are quite small so are easily overlooked! In all there must've been 4 or 5 dotted about, but in recent years there have been flocks of 50-100 birds! Maybe more will appear as the Winter rolls on.
   On the walk back to the car park we saw a Heron, another overhead Snipe and a couple of Moorhens running across the track. Surprisingly we didn't see a single bird of prey, although I saw Brian Sweeting when I arrived and he reported that there had been a Marsh Harrier and Peregrine earlier in the day! As always, it's all about timing, but just experiencing the atmosphere of the reserve and getting out in the fresh air is priceless, no matter what birds you do or don't see!
    My love drove me home where my sofa was calling, it had missed me..... as had the Christmas chocolates....

Below are some of the pictures I took during my brief visit;

^ Above ^ - Snipe

^ Above ^ - Shoveler (Top 2 female, bottom 2 male)

^ Above ^ - Pintail

^ Above ^ - Mallard

^ Above ^ - Teal

^ Above ^ - Wigeon

^ Above ^ - Wigeon and Teal in front of the hide.

^ Above ^ - Grey Heron

^ Above ^ - Greylake reeds

^ Above ^ - My love, Nick, at Greylake

^ Above ^ - Male Chaffinch.

^ Above ^ - Female Reed Bunting.

^ Above ^ - Starlings in the car park!