Monday, 27 February 2012

Bitterns!

After keeping you all waiting for so long, this post is going to be dedicated to Bitterns, possibly my favourite bird. At the London Wetland Centre we had 3 this year, but last year we had up to 7! They come over from the continent at about the end of October, and will have left by the middle of March. I have spent a huge amount of time trying to get decent images of them, and all the waiting is made worthwhile when you get one enounter that you would have never expected! First I will share a couple of my Bittern images from last year, taken during the Big Freeze in December.




This last image from last year was taken the day after these. Heavy snow was forecast, so I managed to persuade my Dad to drop me off and pick me up later. However, soon after he left the snow started to come down thick and fast, and so he told me that he wanted to take me back now. Just before I left the hide, I turned around and saw this bird walking out onto the ice. To me it shows its habitat and the extreme weather conditions it was experiencing.


This winter, as it has been much warmer than last winter, we have had 3 Bitterns present (there were 7 last winter), and they have remained fairly elusive and distant for most of the winter so far. That was until a couple of weeks ago. I was on half term, and was talking to someone who told me that the day before, a Bittern had flown to just in front of one of the hides in the afternoon. Given my previous experience of discovering that they are somewhat habitual creatures, I went to that hide in the afternoon, and sure enough, at pretty much the same time, a Bittern flew and landed about 25 feet away about a metre above the water.

After the bird had landed in the reeds, it clambered down them and then disappeared for 15 minutes. I assumed that it had gone back into the reeds, but after I saw some movement in front of me, I realised that is had come through some more reeds and was only about 15 feet away!
It then climbed a bit higher up the reeds, before flying off into the reedbed.

After this experience, I was back on Sunday, when I heard that it was showing from the same hide. Needless to say, I legged it to the hide where I found it packed with people. The Bittern was concealed behind a line of reeds, and did very little for about an hour and a half, during which time many people got bored and left the hide. The wait was worth it though, because it then started coming closer as the previous one had.

One of the things that is good about photographing Bitterns is that when they are going to fly, they usually give you quite a bit of warning as they cannot just launch themselves out of the middle of the reeds, but instead usually gather together several reeds in their feet, before clambering up them, and taking off from there. 

That's all the Bittern images, and I doubt that I will better them this year, but who knows! If I do want to better them though, I don't have much time as by the middle of March they will be back at their breeding sites in Europe.

Thanks for reading

Saturday, 25 February 2012

The last of the ice

This is another from the backlog of posts which I have, and there images were taken at the London Wetland Centre just before the ice disappeared again.

The first image I took was possibly my favourite from the day, a Robin singing in the scrub. It's always nice when you take an image and barely have to do anything to it in Photoshop!


From here I moved on the the hide, where there were quite a few ducks in front of it. There was a small patch of ice to one side, which was frequented by a Gadwall, Mallard, and Coot.




Walking down the Thames on the way home, there are always plenty of Gulls around, and this time I decided to try and photograph some of them.

The last image has the colourful houses of Hammersmith in the background.

I still have a couple more posts which I need to do, and the next one of those will be the Bitterns at last! 

Thanks for reading

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

More ice at the London Wetland Centre

Some from the the London Wetland Centre. By the way, if anyone reading this wants to see Bitterns within 30 feet and doesn't mind waiting a couple of hours, get to the Headley hide at the London Wetland Centre. Over the past week or so they have been in the reeds very close to the hide, giving fantastic views!

Anyway, on to the images from this visit. Before I got to the first hide, I heard the call of a Redpoll, and looked up to see a small group of them feeding in the trees above me.


When I got into the first hide, I saw that the ice was now covering most of the lagoon, and so there were few birds on it, except this Crow who was calling.


video

This Coot obviously wasn't about to make a good landing!


Outside this hide is a feeding station, which was packed with small birds due to the cold weather. This image of a Blue Tit was one of my favourites from the session.


From here I went to one of the hides from where I was hoping to get some images of the Bittern. Unfortunately they did not come as close as I would have hoped, but were still nice to watch sunning themselves in the reeds.



I stayed in this hide for a while, and as I left this Robin popped up for the last shot of the day.






That's it for this post, but I am still behind by quite a bit, and some of my best ever images of Bitterns will be making an appearance soon!

Thanks for reading.


Saturday, 18 February 2012

Snow and ice in London

I have a large backlog of posts to make now as I have been out quite a lot over the past week. It was while it was very cold in London, and so there were huge numbers of winter thrushes flying over the London Wetland Centre. Next to the road up to the centre are a number of holly trees which were filled with berries, and these were filled with Redwing which had been pushed over by the cold weather. As I was being dropped off, I managed to persuade my mum to let me take some pictures from the passenger seat window.






On my way to the first hide was a Robin singing, which was not bothered by my presence at all!


Outside the first hide, most of the lagoon was covered in ice, except for a small patch of open water near the hide, and a larger patch at the other end of the lagoon. There wasn't much to photograph from there, except a pair of Mute Swans on the ice.


The only other bird within photographic range was this Coot.


Despite this, I stayed in the hide, but went and sat at one of the windows facing the marsh. After about 15 minutes, I spotted some movement out of the corner of my eye, and realised that it was a Common Snipe feeding in front of the hide!


On my way back to the centre, I spotted this immature Grey Heron sitting on a snow-covered bridge,





and this Robin which was perched in one of the trees next to the path.


I was out at the London Wetland Centre a couple of days ago where I got my best images of a Bittern so far, so they will be appearing on here soon!

Thanks for reading.

Friday, 10 February 2012

London Wetland Centre

Some more from the London Wetland Centre at the end of January. I was, as usual on the lookout for Bitterns and, as usual, I didn't get any shots of them! Anyway, I did at least get some other shots, starting with these Reed Buntings which were in the reeds to the left of one of the hides when I walked in.





When these had left and there seemed to be little else about, I moved on to the next hide. On my way I passed the cafe, where I noticed that there were a number of Rose-ringed Parakeets flying around the courtyard and inspecting holes in the wall.







As well as the Parakeets, there was also a Jackdaw sitting on top of one of the rooves.


After this, I moved on to another hide. Just outside was a rather tame Robin, so I lay on the ground and waited for it to get close enough.

Not a particularly original image I know, but one I like nonetheless.

In the next hide there were many ducks, including these three Shoveler which flew past.


There were also a number of Mallards, including this one which swam past against some nice dark water.


And just before I had to go, this gull flew past.


That's all for this time, but I was out today and got some nice Redwing, Snipe, and Coot images, so they will be appearing soon!

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Grey Herons and Tufted Duck

Some more from the London Wetland Centre taken a couple of weeks ago. There wasn't much about, and almost all of the images came from a session with several Grey Herons.


My other image that I am going to post is one of my favourites for a while, a Tufted Duck flying against a nice smooth background of reeds, with some out of focus reed heads to give it some context in the foreground.


The snow is coming down at the moment so I am hoping to wake up to a thick layer of the stuff!

Thanks for reading.