Archive for Feb, 2014


Aurora Last Night

The Northern Lights were the best I have seen them from the UK last night. Around 10pm they were at their best.

To the North West they were at their faintest.

2014 02 27 Northern Lights Northrepps Norfolk_Z5A2135

To the North they were very green

2014 02 27 Northern Lights Northrepps Norfolk_Z5A2121

… but th the North East they were at their best with the green being topped by plumes of red.

2014 02 27 Northern Lights Northrepps Norfolk_Z5A2128


Truly Barnacles

On our Solway Geese Tour last weekend we had some terrific views of winter wildfowl. Perhaps the highlight however was the vast flocks of Barnacle Geese; already girding their loins to travel back to Svalbard in a few weeks. The noise and sight were truly breath-taking.

Barnacle Goose 1

Barnacle Goose


Moving North

Great White Egrets have perhaps always occurred as accidentals within the UK.  Given the recent breeding records in the south of the country it was only a matter of time before records within Norfolk became somewhat common-place. There is a smattering of birds around us at the moment. We caught up with this one on the River Nar in the south of the county. A little distant but still nice to see and watch as it fished.

I suspect they are to follow in the footsteps of the Little Egrets as Mediterranean Species continue to move their breeding range north.

Great White Egret


A Ruddy Caped Crusader.

A large moulting population of Ruddy Shelduck appears in Holland each year. Where they come from is apparently unknown. The species stronghold however is within Eastern Europe and Asia wintering in the Indian Subcontinent. It is not unfeasible one or two may make their way into East Anglia eventually.

I remember travelling down to the Isles of Scilly around twenty years ago and meeting up with a flock of around a dozen on the Hayle estuary in Cornwall. Despite these and other likely records Ruddy Shelduck has not yet made it onto the main British list.

The year before last a report of a Ruddy Shelduck saw me off to see it in the Ludham/Repps area down the road in east Norfolk. It was a Cape Shelduck; a resident of South Africa not the possible vagrant from Europe. It was therefore an escape. They do look similar, particularly the females, but the Cape has a darker head plumage, less orange, with a very prominent white facial mask. The head and face pattern on a Ruddy Shelduck is more subtle; less prominent.

A report of a Ruddy Shelduck on a local NT lake at Blickling last month was followed up by a friend and photographed. It was once again A Cape Shelduck. Looking at the literature I can’t find any information on separating the two species. I was beginning to doubt myself on being able to reliably tell the species from Cape Shelduck but I’m assured the differences I’ve highlighted above are correct. I went to see the bird for myself and the face pattern is too strong and the head too dark for a Ruddy Shelduck. I took the photo below. I don’t see how Ruddy Shelduck will ever be truly accepted onto the British list (proper) given the difficulty with identification and the confusion with escaped birds.

Cape Shelduck

….and way back 20 years ago in 1994. A couple of the Ruddy Shelduck in the flock at the Hayle. Now I may owe someone an apology here. The photo below is a digital photo of a photograph (if you know what I mean) in one of my albums. I’m not sure if I took it or not – there’s nothing on the reverse. I remember taking some at the time but I think I was also given one/bought one. If it’s not one of mine I apologise to the original photographer and I’ll remove it immediately if he corrects me.



Horse of the Woods

A few days in Scotland during winter to do a little photography was always going to be weather dependent. A window of opportunity last week gave us the chance to pay a visit.

Well I say a window of opportunity. The forecast was good; in actuality we had snow that threatened some of the higher passes on the A9.  The snow, wind and heavy rain showers didn’t stop us however and a walk in the sheltered forests gave an opportunity to photograph Capercailles, a bird due to its disturbance susceptibility, has to be left well alone later in the year.





Counting Coots

Some birds, common in one area of the country can be quite scarce in another. When my good friend Simon checked a small loch a short ride from his home in Speyside, to year-tick Coot, he was taken by surprise.

Coots are scarce in this part of Scotland and Loch Flemington usually has a couple of pairs. As Simon scanned the water he found a Coot that looked a little unfamiliar. It had white undertail coverts like a moorhen, a reduced white shield and a black band around the bill; all features of American Coot, but there have only been eight records of American Coot in the UK. It was late in the day so he took a few photos and later sent them to a local friend. Simon knew others would be interested and he wanted to be sure of his identification, it was important to eliminate the possibility of a Moorhen/Coot hybrid. Identification was confirmed and the bird was still there the following day so the news was released.

Being in Scotland last week we thought a visit to the loch was worth the journey. In strong bright early morning sunshine we eventually found the American Coot as it swam into its usual small bay. Although for a short while it did have us thinking it had gone.

American Coot


American Coot 1


Booty is in the eye of the beholder

Yellow rumped Warblers hail from across the pond and are good looking birds. That is unless they are first winter jobbies; then even if they are males it has to be said, they are an acquired taste. They do have a redeeming feature though; their bright yellow booty. So when they turn up on the edge of a semi-rural housing estate a couple of miles from the A1 in Durham and you’re making your way up to Scotland they have to be worth a shout … don’t they? Well, we thought so.

A grim day and poor light coupled with the feeders to which it was attracted being set low inside bushes away from patrolling Sparrowhawks led to poor photographic prospects. In the time we allowed nothing more than record shots could be gained.

Yellow rumped Warbler

Yellow rumped Warbler 1


A Very Muddy Morning Out

Mud between your toes doesn’t feel all that good. One of us had already lost one pair of wellies and I was about to loose mine. Thankfully the marsh gave me both feet back intacto.

It wasn’t an easy search for the Jack Snipe. The problem was they sat so tight. I almost trod on one before it took flight. I’d been stood within inches of it for around 15 minutes. I couldn’t see it. These tiny waders are just the masters of camouflage. Photographing them was dependent on seeing them before they shot off like a feather bullet. After two hours stood in ankle deep water we gave up. My feelings were mixed. I was disappointed not to photograph one, elated to have seen them and full of marvel for a species that had well and truly beaten us … this time.

A walk back to the car was sprinkled with a few Siskin and a nice flock of Crossbill but somehow they didn’t make up for not seeing the Jack Snipe on the deck. I still felt cheated. The Bean Goose we saw later came close to recompense. It was only when watching this lone goose with its Pink footed mate I saw the Red Kite circling above me. Perhaps now the debt had been paid.

Tundra Bean Goose


Warm Winter Light

The sun was low; just glancing the water. As the day turned to late afternoon, a pair of Egyptian Geese left the water to dry for an impending cold night. As they sat beneath a tree in the warm winter light I just thought it made an attractive scene.

Egyptian Geese



We walked among a carpet of Snowdrops brought on by the mild weather; early flowers in a mild winter. As their heads danced in a gentle breeze I got to wondering if we are to have that long overdue cold snap or if we’ll get away with it!


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Feb 2014


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