Friday, 23 November 2012

Waxwings invade Arran

A large number of Waxwings have invaded the Isle of Arran in search of food.  These large flocks sometimes arrive after a good breeding season followed by a poor crop of berries in their native Scandinavia. 

Amazingly they appear to swallow the berries whole!
Normally their diet consists mainly of mosquitoes caught on the wing.  Apparently the marking on the face have some relevance to this but I have no idea what.

Although very distinctive the large flocks on the move can easily be confused with starlings as they are about the same size.  However, once seen sat in the trees or feeding the differences are obvious.
The birds won't stay all winter but will move on, once our trees are emptied, most likely further south where they will spend the winter in the north of England. Amazing how my mind jumps, and thinking of the North of England and a place called Liverpool I was reminded of Cilla Black (and the red quiff she used to don), so I did have a laugh when I found out the Waxwing species is Bombycilla Garrulus!
These birds are not shy and it is easy to get fairly close with a bit of care and make great photographic subjects.
On my trip out to photo these birds I met up with the local bird ringer and was able to get some close ups of the feathers - this one being a mature male.
For some reason they seemed to like to hold on to their own toes when being handled, and were not always eager to fly away.  One literally lay in my hand until I pushed it off - I'm not sure if it was just playing dead - while sucking its toe - most peculiar. 

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Wet and windy on Arran

Well it was a bit wild out there this afternoon but there's nothing better than a craggy seashore on a stormy day for capturing the feel of the day.  The rocks were treacherously slippery and the sea spray viciously stung my eyes - maybe that was a clue I was a little too close to the breaking waves!

The challenge was to keep the camera dry (ish) and anyone who's done a course with me either on a wet day to capture water knows my secret for that one!

I very quickly gave up keeping myself dry when a wave crashed down my back and totally dunked the dog! Thank goodness for waterproofs.

The camera didn't stay out for long as the rain lashed down and the dog whimpered at my side - not to mention coffee and cake calling...

Sunday, 11 November 2012

The pros and cons of window feeders.

I have no idea why its frowned on to photograph birds on feeders - oh I know it can look nicer if a bird is on a tree / bush / rock etc., but that often requires time to set up a hide or feeding station, telephoto lenses and usually quite a bit of patience. The enjoyment I get from watching the birds in my garden has little to do with photography and more to do with the entertaining antics that go on around the feeders - of which there are many scattered around.

Earlier in the year I bought a window feeder - a bit expensive for a couple of pieces of plastic and 2 suction cups, but I hadn't fathomed a way of making a DIY one! I duly placed it on the window right next to my kitchen table not really expecting it to get much use.  I put a small amount of wild bird seed in the tray and went out.  Three hours later the tray was nearly empty!  Since that first day I have had a steady stream - actually I think it's been more of a stampede - visiting my window. I even get a wood pigeon, balancing on the windowsill and craning its neck round to peck at the seeds - frequently falling off the sill in a flurry of feathers.
The blue tits spend a little longer on the tray often cracking the seeds and trying to stuff as many as possible in their mouths.

It's amazing to be so close, without binoculars, to be able to watch them skilfully hold the seeds and manipulate them around.

 The blue tits seem to push off the coal tits, but are willing to share with the chaffinches.  The coal tits are very fast, flitting in and out of the tray, usually taking the largest peanut they can find. Apparently they hide them away for when food supplies are less abundant! There are frequent skirmishes between the coal tits with aggressive posturing to each other.

I was initially concerned that the birds may fly into my window and hurt themselves, but this doesn't seem to happen, although I do have a vase of flowers on the inside windowsill. However a number of birds spend time under the feeder trying to peck at the seeds above them!

So what's the down side of a window feeder?

  1. It can be very distracting to the point of making you late for work.  
  2. More feeders = more food to buy. 
  3. They are messy eaters so the path underneath the window now needs weeding.
  4. They are quite expensive.
And the up side?
  1. The birds are really close and easy to watch.
  2. The feeder is easy to fit.
  3. The tray is easy to clean.
  4. It's great fun to watch.


Sunday, 4 November 2012

Lamlash lights up the sky

Last year was the first time I experienced bonfire night in Lamlash and I have to say I was delighted to find an event way beyond my expectations.  This year the day started well, dry but cold and I set about tidying my outbuilding. 

This took a little longer than anticipated - how do these places get in such a mess, but I managed to extract a reasonably sized pile of wood to contribute to the bonfire.  This was delivered, and with lots of helpers on the beach, very quickly transported down to the already large bonfire pyre.  

The late afternoon saw a little drizzle but fortunately that cleared and clear bright skies brought temperatures falling, everything was set for a great evening. The crowds gathered and the bonfire was lit at 7pm followed by a fantastic display of fireworks. 

What I love about it all – apart from it’s free - is the fact our local fire fighters are the ones who manage the bonfire and light all the fireworks – everything is as safe as it can be.  I have no idea what would happen if they got a ‘shout’ during the event, but a least they’re already kitted up and ready to go. 

Soup and hotdogs were available on the green and for those wanting something stronger the Lamlash bay hotel bar seemed to be doing a roaring trade.