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Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Fighting Kingfishers and stalking Stonechats!

Sunday was a lovely bright day, so gave me the opportunity to play with my new lens out and about in Somerset! Starting with some beautiful Redwing in Bristol, that posed quite nicely in the rising sun. Redwing are often very skittish and not easy to get close to, but these birds were obviously more used to people, using a busy City for food and shelter.

 I popped into Apex Park in Burnham On Sea next. This is a very popular place for families to play and walk and feed the ducks, but as it's right next to coast, is a pretty good place for birds too!
   Beyond the lake, where Mallards, Gulls and Swans enjoy being fed by the visiters , is a path that takes you out of the park and onto the coastal path to Burnham On Sea town centre. Just before leaving the park is a little raised scrubby area, popular with Stonechats, Meadow Pipits and Wrens. Stonechats are one of my favourite little birds, and sure enough I soon spotted a female. They are easy to see as they have a habit of sitting exposed on top of bushes and weeds. This bird wasn't bothered by my presence and kept dropping to the ground for a tasty morsal, before flying up on to another weed or plant. The male then arrived on to the scene and behaved in the same way. I stalked them up and down this little area, grabbing as many pictures as I could. My arms soon started aching, the Sigma 50-500mm lens isn't nicknamed the 'Bigma' for nothing! It's about the size of a Nuclear Submarine, and almost as heavy!!
    I also saw and photographed the aforementioned Meadow Pipit and Wren. Neither bird easy to photograph, so I was particularly happy!
  Amongst the other birds encountered were a Goldcrest, various Finches, a part albino Blackbird, Pied Wagtail, Magpie, Robin and a Kestrel. All within a 100 yards of the car park! As I said, Apex Park is a good birding place! I also heard a Cetti's Warbler in the reedbeds next to the Park but didn't see! They couldn't be more unlike the bold Stonechats if they tried! Such secretive birds, but loud!!
   Below are some of the pics from Apex Park..... then I'll get onto the Kingfishers....

^Above^ - The part albino Female Blackbird!

^Above^ - A normal looking Female Blackbird!

^Above^ - Carrion Crow.

^Above^ - Goldcrest

^Above^ - Goldfinch

^Above^ - Jackdaw.

^Above^ - Kestrel

^Above^ - Magpie

^Above^ - Female Mallard

^Above^ - Woodpigeon.

^Above^ - Singing Robin.

^Above^ - Pied Wagtail

^Above^ - Moorhen in a tree!

^Above^ - Meadow Pipit.

^Above^ - The stars of the day....The Stonechats! (Sorry for so many pics... couldn't choose!)

^Above^ - The tiny Wren.

^Above^ - Boats on Apex Lake.

^Above^ - Looking across the estuary at the back of the park towards Hinkley Point nuclear power station and the Quantock Hills.

^Above^ - A Heron at RSPB Greylake, later in the day.

^Above^ - Sunset reed heads at RSPB Greylake.

Now. The Kingfishers.
 People who have read my blog may know that I've never had a decent Kingfisher photo, in fact, I've rarely even had a decent view of one through binoculars!
   So, acting on a tip off by a birding pal, Pete Woodgate, I popped into Wells and had a quick look along the moat at Bishops Palace for my elusive Kingfisher. There was a guy with a camera on a lens at one end and I took that as a good sign! His name was Barry Bradford, and sure enough he'd been taking pictures of the Kingfisher, which sat on a little branch over the moat by the wall, oblivious to the comings and goings of the passing pedestrians!
   Hand holding my huge heavy lens, I grabbed some pictures, but disappointingly most had focussed on the wall just behind instead of on the Kingfisher, despite my focus point being right on the bird! I wondered if the contrasts of the wall were tricking the cameras focusing system or whether the focus was just 'off' within the camera itself, even though I'd had no problems at Apex Park earlier!
    I was just about to play with the camera settings when another Kingfisher came from nowhere and attacked the resident one, pulling it off the branch and twisting and turning with it onto the ground!!
    It was a dramatic moment, and one I managed to catch, clicking away with my camera!! The whole thing was over in about 15 seconds, but was so frenetic!
  The pictures I got aren't the sharpest, but I was thrilled to capture the drama, and below I post some in order of the attack;

Those beaks look lethal!!!
 It wasn't all violence though..... I got a couple of portraits too;

I was only there for 15 minutes..... but I'll definitely be returning, maybe with a tripod next time!!

^Above^ - Just for good measure, I captured this Song Thrush as I left Bishops Palace.

What a day!