Wednesday, 22 December 2010

More Activity In And Around The Garden

With the delightful news of school being shut on Monday, I headed out into the garden at around 10:00am that morning to see if I could get any more shots of birds in the garden and any more of the Fieldfares and Redwings. Prior to getting the camera out, I put some bird seed in the feeders and laid a tray of bread on the wall so as to try and attract more birds in the garden. It managed to, and this helped on the photographic front. There were still plenty of the commoner finches and tits about, but surprisingly the expected lot (Chaffinches, Blue Tits etc.) were not the most regular visitor to the feeders. There were a few Coal Tits in the garden, and they seemed to be spending the most time on the feeders. This allowed for a couple of nice shots, although I didn't manage any of them on the feeder.

Coal Tit, Aberdeen (20/12/10)

This beauty was still around as well, perched up on the wall so perfectly that a photo was just irresistible.

Song Thrush, Aberdeen (20/12/10)

It was nice to re-discover the stunning male Bulllfinch again, who was more obliging this time and seemed to not be the only one in the area. Later on that morning, a flock of 4 Bullfinches were seen in flight over the back lane, calling as they went and presumably containing the individual I had seen earlier on. 2 of them, both fantastic males, landed on a tree not too far away from me whilst the other two flew onwards. I was astounded by this total - I was very happy with 1 the day before, but 4!! Fabulous stuff and definitely the highlight of the morning! However, it shows how desperate birds have become in this freezing weather. You'd never get 4 Bullfinches here if it weren't due to the current weather conditions! Below is a photo of the bird I presumed was the only individual taken in the garden, and also a photo of one of the two that landed on a tree in the back lane.

Bullfinch, Aberdeen (20/12/10)

I didn't have a great deal of time as I had made other arrangements for the day, so I spent the last hour or so available round the back lane to try and get some more shots of Fieldfares. Sure enough, there were the Fieldfares again, 6 of them this time on the exact same bush as they were on the day before. I would have got more photos than I did if it hadn't been for a couple of snow showers forcing me to shelter under the roof of a shed! However, I am much happier with these photos than my previous ones, as they didn't require that much brightening at all and the quality of the photos has improved considerably. I can safely say that I don't need any more photos of Fieldfare or Redwing now. Below are the Fieldfare photos I managed.

Fieldfare, Aberdeen (20/12/10)

That was all I had time for, but overall it was a very satisfying couple of hours. This is very likely going to be my last post of the year, so I'd like to wish my readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! It's been a sensational year of birding for me, and shortly after New Year I will be releasing my Yearly Review and Round Up, which will appear as a tab below the title picture of my blog.

Best wishes and all the best for 2011,

Joseph Nichols (Aberdeenshire Young Birder)

Sunday, 19 December 2010

In Pursuit of Redwings and Fieldfares

The weather has been ferociously cold in the last few days here in Aberdeen. To excerbate matters, there is also 6-7 inches of lying snow around. As horrible as this may sound, it didn't stop me from braving the conditions and going outside today to try and photograph birds in my back garden and local area. Unfortunately, the light wasn't great, but this didn't stop me either. Well wrapped up, I headed out into the garden at about 1:00pm to see what I could photograph. I was primarily hoping to photograph Redwings and Fieldfares but after about half an hour or so out there it became apparent that this wasn't the best place to be. There were Redwings and Fieldfares in the area, as I could hear them and see them flying over, but they weren't actually landing in the garden. There were however, plenty of other garden birds around, such as Chaffinches, Dunnocks, Robins, Blackbirds and a Song Thrush. All of these birds proved frustratingly hard to photograph, as they were mostly stopping off and then moving on to other gardens. The Blue Tits, however, seemed to be staying in the garden more than the other birds, partly because there was more of them around than any other species. Having said this though, most of them were moving about too much and were too high up to get any decent photos. I was fortunate enough to get a photo of this individual, which was in one of the smaller trees and that stayed quite still for a short amount of time. They are such beautiful things; we should consider ourselves privileged that they are so ubiquitous here in the UK...
Blue Tit, Aberdeen (19/12/10)

At about 1:30, a snow shower suddenly hit. Just as I was making my way indoors to get some shelter, I caught sight of a bird with an intensely bright orange breast dip into one of the trees beside me. I looked round and was delighted to see a stunningly beautiful male Bullfinch, a species of bird that I don't see all too often and only my second ever sighting of this species in the garden. I managed a record shot of it, although the picture isn't great due to the snow that was falling at the time and the fact that it was nestled amongst the branches of the tree that it was in. A lovely thing to have come across in the garden, and, thanks to this photo, a moment that I will remember for some time to come!

Bullfinch, Aberdeen (19/12/10)

The snow shower died down after an annoyingly long half an hour, meaning it was about 2:05 before I was able to get out of the house again and wonder round the local area to see if I could find some Redwings and Fieldfares. I started by having a check of the local parks (Victoria and Westburn Park), but was disappointed to find very few of either species, and those few that I did find were far too high up to photograph. I was a bit unsure of where to go next, but it then occured to me that there was a lane round the back of my street that had a good supply of berry bushes, so I headed there. This is where I should have gone in the first place, as there more Redwings and Fieldfares here than anywhere else. I spent over an hour here, trying my hardest to get some decent photos of both species. Unfortunately the light was fading and generally pretty low, so many of the shots that I took were of poor quality. Early on, I managed a couple of half decent shots of this Redwing....

Redwing, Aberdeen (19/12/10)

There were less Redwings than there were Fieldfares, and it seemed that the latter species was far more obliging as well. After chasing them about for a short while, I was able to track a group of 10 Fieldfares onto a small bush. Luckily for me, they didn't move from that bush for about 20 minutes, so I spent ages standing there and photographing them. The light was fading all the time, meaning most of the shots were pretty bad. Having said that I did manage a few better shots, a selection of which can be seen below. Due to the poor light they had to be brightened up somewhat and thus aren't exactly great quality, but they will suffice.

Fieldfare, Aberdeen (19/12/10)

I was in for one last treat before the day ended. Having returned home from photographing the Fieldfares, I was out in the garden having one last check (partly inspired by seeing the Bullfinch) to see if anything was around. A mixture of Chaffinches, House Sparrows and Blue Tits were flitting hither and thither between the trees, and as I was watching them I noticed a tiny little bird scuttling up the branch of one of the closest trees to me - a Treecreeper. Like Bullfinch, Treecreeper is a species that I don't see regularly, and this was only my third record for the garden ever, so it came as an absolute delight to me. Even though the light was now very poor, I still managed to get a photo, meaning that I had photographed two rare birds for the garden in one day. Below is the photo I managed, made much brighter than it originally was. As a shot of an elusive species, it could be worse!

Treecreeper, Aberdeen (19/12/10)

Overall I am very glad with what today produced, especially considering that I was no more than a few minutes from my house at any point! The quality of my Redwing and Fieldfare photos were reasonably good, but can be improved on. This was mostly due to the light conditions and the time that I went out. I plan to do this again, so next time (at some point in the next four or five days) I am going to get out during the morning and hope that the light conditions are more in my favour. In my next post, I will hopefully have some better photos of both species.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, 12 December 2010

Gull Action

As promised, I got out to do my first bit of birding in absolutely ages today. My aim was to attempt to try and see the Glaucous Gull down by the Harbour at Torry near my local patch, Girdleness, and then head up to Peterhead to see if I could photograph the Iceland Gulls that have been there. The day proved to be partly successful, but not entirely. Luckily, it was successful on the Glaucous Gull front, as, unlike Iceland Gull, Glaucous Gull would be a year tick for me. The Glaucous Gull was first seen a week ago, and as it continued to be reported I enquired into the best places to look for it. By today, I was fully 'genned up', and knew exactly the best places to check, which proved to be a big advantage. At around 9:30am I arrived down at Torry, and proceeded to check the area that I was aware it had been seen in. I started checking on the bridge across from Aberdeen to Torry (the Victoria Bridge), where a whole row and mix of Herring and Lesser-Black-Backed Gulls indolently hugged the rocky shoreline and 2 Goosanders + a Goldeneye were fishing. However, there was no sign of the Glaucous Gull. Next port of call was the other place it had been seen regularly, on top of a big white warehouse marked 'ASCO' at the junction between two roads called Crombie Road and Sinclair Road.

On approach, I noticed a group of gulls sitting on it. I scanned them, and hey presto, there was the Glaucous Gull, right at the front of the group, alertly looking from left to right. As I got closer, I couldn't see it's whole body due to the height of the warehouse, but I could see the pale, pink bill with the dark tip and the general cafe-au-lait colour of the bird. Eventually I got too close, and it flew out of view, showing the very pale wing tips as it did so. I continued to walk around the area, hoping to come across it again, and I did on the nearby Sinclair Road about 10 minutes later when I flushed it, with very good views as it flew by in a lumbering fashion. Having had very good views, I was now hoping for photos. I did another circuit of the area, returning back to Sinclair Road, where I sighted it sitting stone still on top of stone, medium height pillar. I slowly approached it, and managed to get within 20ft of it, photographing it and getting my best views of it. It sat there for a couple of minutes, before it was spooked by an articulated lorry. I didn't see it again unfortunately, but I was very satisified with my views and glad with my photos. A very valuable year-tick and a lovely bird to see - only my second Glaucous Gull ever. Below are a few of my photos of it, including it in flight. The light wasn't all too good, so sorry if they appear a bit dark.

Glaucous Gull, Torry, Aberdeen (12/12/10)

After a satisfying start to the day, I was hoping the trend of success would continue at Peterhead. We were there by about 11:30am, and I arrived in the area where they are usually seen, right at the heart of the harbour, to find that there were very few gulls around at all. The time I had seen the Iceland Gulls before, there had been hundreds of gulls in the Harbour. I checked the area for about 20 minutes, then decided that I'd slowly meander along the seaside road through Peterhead and check the gulls on the rocks there. I found several groups of gulls and scoped each of them, but none of them contained Iceland Gulls. After some lunch, we headed back to where we had started off, but yet again there weren't any Iceland Gulls. I was disappointed, but I reassured myself that I could return in January, as it is likely they will winter, and if I saw them then I could try photographing them, and also year-tick them. One thing that always entertains me when at Peterhead Harbour is how tame these little fellas are - this one was only a few feet away from where I was standing...

Turnstone, Peterhead Harbour (12/12/10)

There wasn't much else to do, so I headed down to the Ythan to have a casual check of the Estuary and have a walk in nearby the coastal moor of Forvie NNR. On arrival I met Ken Hall, and we chatted for about 20 minutes, enjoying the tranquility of the Estuary and discussing several photographic and bird-related things. There wasn't too much on the Estuary, with the most notable things being about 35 Dunlins and 70 Golden Plovers. Whilst speaking, it was lovely to witness these three majestic Mute Swans flying very close past us...

Mute Swans, Ythan Estuary (12/12/10)

Once I had spoken to Ken, I had a small walk on Forvie Moor, which produced more or less nothing. However, I went home satisified with the views and shots of Glaucous Gulls I had obtained - a day-maker in its own right.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, 8 December 2010

A School Tick and More Waxwings

I thought I'd quickly drop in a post to say that my 'urban birding' is still coming on strong. There have been a reasonable number of Waxwings about in the city within the last week and a half or so, with the biggest flock being c.50 over Rose Street on the 30th November, and since December has started the largest flock I have had was 30 on Osborne Place on the 3rd, the first flock in a while that I had seen perched up on top of a tree rather in flight. Despite enjoying the very close views I was getting, the flock got spooked by a Sparrowhawk after about 5 minutes, bombing it southwards, so I didn't have too long to enjoy them.

The highlight, though, has to go to an unexpected school tick on the 3rd. I was sitting in Biology (on the top floor) at 1:00pm. I sat there, staring out the window as I waited for the lunch bell to go, when I noticed a medium-sized, plump looking bird zoom past. I rose to my feet to see what it was, knowing that was something interesting, and discovered that it was a Woodcock. I watched it as it went westwards, erratically zigzagging back and forth at high speed, propelling it further and further away until it became a mere dot and then disappeared. I sat back down, delighted and pleasantly surprised to have come across a bird that I rarely see in the city, let alone in school. I am pretty certain that this individual had been brought into the towns due to the bitterly cold and harsh conditions that we are experiencing right now. A very nice school tick indeed!

This weekend I'm hoping to get out and do some birding. There has been a Glaucous Gull near Girdleness in Torry, which I am hoping will stick around so I can have a try for it. I am also hoping to go up to Peterhead Harbour, where a couple of Iceland Gulls have been recently. It's not so much a trip for year-tick purposes (seen Iceland already this year), but photography purposes. My aim would be to get up close and get some close range shots of them. I have heard the best way to do this is to have a substantial supply of bread at hand to lure them in... I think I will have a search in the bread bin to see if there's any old bread worth using... if not, I'll have to go up to the shop and get some!

Thanks for reading, hopefully I'll have some Iceland Gull shots to show you when I next post, and maybe even Glaucous Gull shots if I'm lucky.