What a disastrous.....

11th May 2013
start to the year "photography wise" I have had. Lots of things have contributed to this, being busy at work, not having any projects to concentrate on but the main factor was the awful weather we had. I don't think I took a picture for about a month at one point and this had a knock on effect... I lost my enthusiasm.
So I apologise for the lack of updates and hopefully this will change with the onset of summer - fingers crossed we get one this year! Anyway, although I haven't taken many images this winter, the feeder station in my previous update was still producing the goods, all be it mostly Tits. With no other targets set, I went down to the feeders as often as the weather would let me in the hope of some new species of birds turning up.
The first new visitor to the feeding station was a Nuthatch which was like a cat on a hot tin roof, it just wouldn't sit still on a perch long enough to get a decent shot and the only shot I got was when it was on the feeder.



Unfortunately the Nuthatch didn't stay around for long and any other images I got of it were in crappy light. Still, by now I had a few Siskins using the feeders as well but it was very random. One day they would be there other days you wouldn't see them which always seemed to be on the days with good light.. :-( However on a few rare occasions when the sun and Siskins showed on the same day I managed to get a few shots.







That was about it for the exotic stuff but the amount of Blackbirds and Tits that were now using the feeders had started to attract the attentions of a few Sparrowhawks, which I was very keen to get an image of. I placed several stumps around the feeding station hoping that one of the Sparrowhawks would land on one but they would always land in a bush or on top of the actual feeders which was very frustrating.

I had given up hope on getting a Sparrowhawk image as there was so many birds using the feeders that they didn't really stand a chance of a surprise attack, too many eyes watching out for them like this Blackbird on sentry duty.



They still kept trying though and finally lady luck was on my side, as usual the alarm calls went out signalling the arrival of the Sparrowhawk and with a whoosh it flew straight over the hide. I swung the lens towards the stump before it had even landed which was another stroke of luck because trying to move the lens after the Sparrowhawk had landed usually resulted in it taking flight.
He didn't stay for long but it was enough time to get a few shots which I was very pleased with..





Bored of the feeding station I had a trip looking for Owl's but didn't really get much joy, again the weather spoiled what I thought was going to be a good day.The forecast was breezy with sunny spells and on arriving at the site the wind was slight and the sun was just coming up. No sooner had I pulled up I got two close passes by a Barn Owl in the first light of the day..





What a start I thought, thinking things are looking up, only for the sun and the Owl to disappear as quick as they appeared..sigh.. I'd just driven all that way, and only got ten minutes! Feeling a bit p!"$d off, I decided to have a look about for some more potential Barn Owl spots.The light was still poor but the wind was now blowing a gale... so much for the breeze. I was thinking of heading home when the sun started to show again so I decided to carry on looking for Owl sites and as luck would have it I came across two pairs of Little Owl's sheltering from the wind and taking in the sun on some haystacks..





Pleased with the find, I gabbed some images and called it a day as there was no chance of any Barn Owl's hunting in this wind and that in a nutshell was the end of my winter Owling..

With such an awful start to the year weather wise, I didn't get any opportunities to visit my local lake to try for the Grebes courtship display again. If you remember from last years attempts, I missed all the displays and ended up dropping my camera and lens into the lake..http://tony.photium.com/park-life-part-2

With half decent weather for the first part of the morning forecast, I decided to take a look knowing I would have probably missed the boat by now and most if not all Grebes would be sitting on eggs.
On arriving I made my way round the lake to the island where the Herons normally nest, sure enough most birds had young or were sitting on eggs. The Heron chicks had fully fledged and were trying out their flying skills.



The adult Herons were quite active as well, collecting nesting material to either repair the nests or preparing for a second brood.





Loads of Geese had young too..







With all the young about fights were breaking out all the time which was good to photograph.. :-)



I still hadn't seen any Grebes at this stage and the light was slowly going with the onset of clouds. I was just about to call it a day when I spotted a pair on the other side of the lake so I walked round and sat down a few feet away from them. They weren't doing much other than snoozing with a few bouts of preening in between naps.





The light had completely gone now but the Grebes had started to show signs that they were about to start courting..



Then it happened, right in front of me and almost too close to fit them in frame at times..







I was pleased but I was also cursing the light, Grebes look amazing in sunlight and this was by far the best photography session I had ever had with them. I kept shooting the display when all of a sudden both Grebes went under the water and came up with weed in their beaks and started the weed dance.This was what I had wanted to photograph for ages and even though I was disappointed about the light, I was pleased I had stayed to witness it, such beautiful birds and such a complex mating ritual.



I went back several times in the hope of getting another chance with some better light but sadly this never happened, I did however get a few more images of the courtship display although not as close as the first session..





I also witnessed a new part of the courtship display one of which I've never seen before. Both Grebes took off and circled the lake several times climbing higher and higher in close formation before landing and starting the courting dance again.



Well that's it for now, hopefully my next update won't be four months away!
Thanks for looking..