28 March, 2012

Mistle Thrush

Maybe I'm alone on this one, but until last week, I've never got within 50 paces of a Mistle Thrush before. I don't know whether they have a personal thing with me, or whether my fieldcraft is just crap, but it seems that even before my brain is able to process the image of a large speckled thrush in front of me, the bird has usually ascended 30 foot high into some highly branched Oak tree, where the chance of a photograph is smaller than the chance of it coming down to eat worms out of my hand (not that I make a habitat of keeping worms in my hand).

It came as a surprise then- whilst munching on a very expensive ham and cheese panini in the Woodland Gardens area of Bushy Park- when a Mistle Thrush decided to burst through the undergrowth and land on a tree banch metres from my face. I was afraid to pick up my camera at first, thinking it was going to bug off as soon as it realised I was looking at it. Instead, it sat there for a further 30 seconds, and I finally got my first ever shots of a Mistle Thrush...

Unfortunatly, it didn't seem too keen on the worms in my hand.

16 March, 2012

Consolation Prizes

After being humiliated by 6 non-showing Hawfinches at Bookham Common last weekend, the appearance of a Black-necked Grebe in the unusual location of Richmond Park was surely going to be a routine tick and run operation. My alarm is very under-used at the moment, and despite setting it for un-timely hours to check the moth trap before the Robins do, it always seems to have mysteriously turned itself off by the morning. Luckily, it didn't let me down this morning, and I was up and scanning Pen Ponds by 9am.

In the half-asleep state that I was in, it could easily have been perching on the end of my lens and I still wouldn't have noticed it, but with no sign by half 10, I turned my attention to the more 'showy' locals.

All thoughs of Grebelessness were lost when a stunning male Wheatear popped up in the bracken near Lower Pen Ponds, fresh from its winter vacation in Africa, and one of only a dozen or so in London at present. It was extremely skittish, opting for high vantage points in the dead ferns, but crouching under a fallen branch allowed for my closest approach yet with the new lens, and a 1.4x teleconverter slapped on the end...

Reed Bunting and Meadow Pipits were much more confiding than they ever have been in Bushy Park, and weren't scared to hop down and take seed from the main paths once the coast was clear.

Just checking the 'best by' date of a nearby slice of bread...

Meadow Pipit...

15 March, 2012

Springs a Springin'

The first butterfly of the year is always a refreshing sight, and nothing yells out spring more than a Comma butterfly... or ten... as it so happened, down on Bookham Common at the weekend during the first LNHS survey of the year. The males are already busy holding territories, seeing off others in the show of hormones I'd expect from Ryan Giggs after a night on the town... without his wife.

Plenty of other signs of spring about the Common, with singing Bullfinches on every footpath, and the odd burst of chiffin' from a Chiffchaff. Hawfinches are currently the main attraction to Bookham, with birds being seen daily in trees bordering the station, but despite a 2 hour search for them, and up to 8 being sighted the same morning, I came away completely empty handed. I can't end the post without a photo of a bird; especially after 4 consecutive (moth free) posts just on birds, so here's the next best thing to a Hawfinch, a Dunnock...

For those who don't know, the Bookham Common Survey is run by the London Natural History Society on the second Saturday of every month, meeting at the LNHS hut around 11am. All aspects of wildlife are recorded and monitored on the Common, with a particular emphasis on invertebrates during the summer. It's a great opportunity for beginners and experts alike to broaden their knowledge, or delve into a specialist area and help produce further records for this SSSI. I'll certainly be back in the next few weeks for those Hawfinches...

10 March, 2012

New Glass

After many joy filled years spent shooting my trusty little Nikon D60, its finally started to show signs of wear, and isn't really allowing much expansion of my photography skills (not that I ever had any...). Last week, I finally took the plunge and ordered myself a few new pieces of glass in the form of a Nikon D300s, and a Sigma 120-300mm f2.8 OS HSM lens.. for those who want the technical nit-grit.

Neither are like anything I've ever held before. The D300s has a new mode for every day of the year, whilst the Sigma is just 3kg of pure beast waiting to be unleashed on an unsuspecting avian. I finally found a short window of opportunity to take my new toys out for their first play date in Richmond Park last weekend.

The attached were taken with the use of a Sigma 1.4x teleconverter, effectively increasing the focal length from 300mm to 420mm...


All these shots were taken in very bad lighting, so the images count for nothing of the lens' capabilities, but first impressions couldn't be better. Focusing was very quick and near silent, with a firm, but silky smooth zoom barrel that won't accidentally 'wobble' into another focal length, as previous Sigma lenses have been known to do in the past. If you are (in some massive coincidence) looking into buying this lens, don't let the size of it put you off. The tripod mount is adequate enough to make carrying hassle free, and the lens doesn't feel too over-powering when hand-held, as I was made to believe. For a zoom lens at f2.8, it's a class construction, and I'll be taking it out properly sometime in the near future.

Lastly, I'd like to apologise, as I'm sure that none of the above had any relevance or meaning to you whatsoever. I'd also like to make an apology to my bank account...

04 March, 2012

Pocket-sized Pecker

With numerous reports of Lesser-spotted Woodpecker in Bushy Park in recent weeks, I've been desperately trying to catch up with this compact little bird, but so far to no avail. Locating a LSW is a complete game of luck (of which I've had very little), but in the last few days a pair have been showing on and off in a confined alder plantation in the north of the park. On Friday, it seemed like luck was finally on my side, and my visit co-incided with the appearance of a female, albeit deep in cover.

With any luck, the pair will stay for the breeding season, and I'll try and fit in another visit in the near future as the males begin to display.