Monday, 25 September 2017

Bath time for the kingfisher

One photo I haven't yet taken is a good shot of a kingfisher diving in to catch a fish.  This youngster was bathing rather than fishing but she did give me some practice.  The main problem (apart from my slow reactions and poor reflexes) was that she was on a low stick and was jumping into the water on the far side away from me, so most of the time she was obscured.  These were the best I could manage.

As you can see she was doing a belly flop with her wings outstretched to wet her feathers, not a streamlined fishing dive.  When she got out each time she spent some time preening but taking photos of a kingfisher on a stick is fairly easy.

Next time I have the chance I shall concentrate on the diving shots but don't hold your breath.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

A prince in disguise

These days I see fewer frogs in the garden than I used to but I don't know if that is because I am less observant, or they keep a lower profile, or because there are fewer.  I am always pleased to see one and had a chance to take a few photos this morning.

The photos above used flash.  These two are in natural light with a slight adjustment to the white balance as the frog was in shade.  I think I prefer the flash.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Black-winged kingfisher

It is amazing how much colour variation there is in kingfishers, all depending on the light.  This young female was already waiting when I got to the hide just after sunrise.  The sun was very low and the rays were very oblique.  I was very struck by the colour of her wings - through the viewfinder they were almost black.

Although we see it as a turquoise and orange bird a kingfisher's head, back and wing feathers are really brown and the colours we see are a product of semi-iridescence.  Its orange feathers do contain orange pigment granules but vertebrates are generally unable to produce blue pigment.  The variations on blue that we see are produced entirely by interaction between the wavelength of the light and the microstructure of the feathers.

Here is the same bird a little while later - the sun was higher and had moved round a bit.

Here she is a bit later still.

Compare these photos with one from a year ago when the low early morning sun was directly behind me.  This chap looks green.

Incidentally I haven't discovered a new species and there isn't really a black-winged kingfisher but in other parts of the world you can find a black-billed kingfisher and a brown-winged kingfisher.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

A mud-coloured bird in the mud

This young water rail is one of two that have been very visible in front of the hide recently.  It is much bolder than the adults, probably through lack of experience, so it is just as well that it has such good camouflage.  It also doesn't mind getting its feet muddy.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

A nice quiet life

Common, yes, but not much darting.  Although they do dart about from time to time, common darters seem to spend most of their time just sitting around.  As soon as they spot a camera they strike a pose,

turning from side to side to make sure you have captured the best side.

Like all dragonflies most of their existence is as larvae and they spend most of their adult lives being not very active at all.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Cough it up

Like birds of prey and corvids, kingfishers regularly regurgitate pellets to get rid of indigestible parts of their food.  As they swallow fish whole I reckon the pellets are probably composed mainly of fish bones and scales.  It is usually pretty obvious when a pellet is about to be produced.

This guy had his back to me so it was difficult to catch the moment.  And the pellet is farther away from the camera and so is out of focus.

Another on on the same day, again with his back to me.

Here it comes.

This time the pellet went to his left.

I hope this hasn't put you off your dinner.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Stocktake in the owl box

I regularly hear tawny owls calling in the garden each autumn.  Thinking that it would be good to encourage them, I made an owl box and put it up at the end of 2014, probably a bit late for that season.

I monitored the box with a trail camera in an adjacent tree but there was no activity in spring 2015.  I set up the camera again in autumn that year and on one night did see a tawny owl checking out the box.

It isn't easy to be sure it's an owl from the still photo but towards the end of this video clip it takes its head out of the box and turns towards the camera so you can see what it is.

Despite visiting that one time the owls didn't return.  I presume they already had a nest site somewhere and only visit the garden as it is in their territory.  In spring 2016 there was interest from an American grey squirrel (an invasive alien species) so I had to close up the box for a while.

I put the camera up again last autumn and winter and again this spring but, apart from the occasional great tit standing on the platform, there was no activity.  So after three years I decided to give up and recycle the box into sparrow boxes. I climbed up the ladder this afternoon, planning to remove the box, but as I did so a stock dove flew out.  When I peeped inside I could see a chick.  I took one quick photo with the phone and beat a hasty retreat.  Looking at the photo there is a half size chick and an unhatched egg.

The BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) website says that stock doves nest from March to October and have up to five broods in a year so this is not particularly late.  I expect the unhatched egg is a dud as the chick appears at least half grown.  I'll have to decide now whether to leave the box or take it down this winter.  I doubt that owls will take any further interest in it.  I am happy for stock doves to use it but I don't want to encourage the grey squirrels.