Saturday, 28 February 2015

To the end of February 2015

Well, that was a busy period.  Trips local and far, and more planned for early March hopefully.

I'll keep the days summaries brief, mainly because I'm doing this at the end of the month and, with only my photos to remind me, I can't remember what happened when!

So here we go:-

15th February, Amwell in search of Barn Owl, Bullfinch and flight shots.

Some success, best Barn Owl pictures so far from the White hide,

and a couple of clearer Bullfinch shots at the footbridge on the way to the Dragonfly Trail. 

Some success with the flight shots, though not great subjects

and finally for today some local birds in reflective mood.

On 17th February, I'd had a pretty rotten morning at home so picked up my camera and went for a drive.  I ended up at Fowlmere - I haven't been here for a few years. Previous visits hadn't been very productive, this one wasn't much different.

In the Spring Hide I met a lady who was trying out her new Canon 100-400 L lens - the latest Mkii version.  "Afternoon, much about?" I asked "Nope" she replied. "I've got this new lens and wanted to try it out but there's nothing - other than those flies, I've been trying to see what shutter speed I need to get a shot of them" she added. "Ah" I said and decided not to continue the conversation other than to say "Think I'll move on then" and I was gone!  I arrived at the main hide overlooking the mere, Greylag Geese, a Heron and a few Teal (in the distance) - nothing to write home about.

Nonetheless a few nice shots in the sunlight

About 4.30, I headed home.

Saturday 21st February, with a new SatNav unit in the car, I tested it out with a trip to Burwell Fen - hopefully this time I'll be able to stay upright!

Anyway, it was windy, it's always windy here it seems!  Arrived about 11.18 according to the SatNav, had a cup of tea, togged up and headed out into the fen.  The wind was keeping birds on the ground or in the trees I guess because there wasn't a whole lot about.  I walked around the fen having spotted a Marsh Harrier in the distance flying slowly across the ponds.  By the time I'd reached the other side of the ponds, the Harrier was off in the distance heading towards the area I'd just come from!  Walked around, a few Fieldfares in the fields (no surprise there then!), and heading back to the car park for lunch I did come across this Stonechat who was obviously feeling sorry for me and posed for a couple of minutes before heading back to shelter somewhere.

The highland cattle weren't too impressed with this numpty walking about in the wind and I think showed his disdain with this pose!
and the Roe Deer didn't think much too it either!

I went back out in the afternoon to hopefully see a Short Eared Owl or Barn Owl.  In the end I saw 3 SEO's and 2 Barns, all hunting the same meadow at the same time, and all about as far away as they could get!  So some views, but no pictures.  Just before 5.00 I called it a day, I was red-faced from the constant wind, knackered from the continual walking but at least I stayed on my feet and the SatNav got me there and home without any problems!  An enjoyable day if not the most rewarding.

On the morning of Sunday 22nd February, I returned to Amwell.  I'd had a few issues yesterday with photos of Kestrels on fence posts.  Basically, all my photos were blurred, either handheld or with a tripod.  I put it down to the strength of the wind, but had a niggling feeling it was more than that - but didn't know what!  So the idea was to take a few shots with and without the tripod, and hopefully identify the problem.  Well I took the shots but didn't progress the fault finding.  Some shots were OK, some were blurry, some were just plain hopeless!  When I reviewed them and saw the results I sought expert help in the form of Seymourbirdies - who is fast becoming my support helpdesk! (Sorry & many thanks Alan!).  Here are a few miscellaneous pictures which I don't mind sharing, others WILL NOT see the light of day!

Monday 23rd February, and a trip to Wicken Fen with an ex-work colleague from a previous life.  We'd talked about this day for a couple of weeks, saw that the weather forecast looked OK and decided to go for it.  What a disappointment, and to my mind, something of a con.  I know the area has to be managed, and I know that doesn't come cheap, but, considering probably 90% of the area is "public access", to charge over £6 each for the other 10% - which has a 3/4 mile boardwalk and two dilapidated old hides - is a bit excessive - in my view.  We got a few "on the feeders" shots form one of the hides but nothing special.  The second hide and the remainder of the "Boardwalk" area produced nothing, absolutely nothing!  Here are a few of the "feeders" shots:

Just as an aside, there is also a £2.50 parking fee at Wicken Fen.

We had lunch in the café, which was welcome, and decided to have a walk around some of the public access areas, which we did but with nothing about we took the plunge to go down to Burwell Fen to try to see the owls there.

As I said earlier in the blog, it's always windy at Burwell Fen - today it was beyond windy, it was blowing a proper hooley!  Thankfully there were a few minutes when the wind dropped to just gale-force!  Despite the wind we stuck it out until about 4.30, but the Owls clearly had more sense than us and refused to come out to play.  We called it a day and headed back to the sanctuary of the car and went home, disappointed, very disappointed.

Tuesday 24th February and back at Amwell for the afternoon Barn Owl session. 

Today turned out to be a bit of a discovery session.  I discovered that, if they're close enough, Gulls are pretty obliging when it comes to "flight" shots, as you can see.

Don't ask me which Gulls these are, to me a Gull is a Gull is a Gull.  In the fullness of time I'm sure I'll learn a bit more about these obliging birds which I'm getting to like quite a bit but I don't think I'll be joining the daily "Gull Brigade" at Amwell - not on a regular basis anyway.  I think the first four are "Black-Backed Gulls" but Lesser or Greater who knows!  The other, smaller birds are Black-Headed Gulls I think.  That's for another day!

As well as these Gulls, I passed the time aiming my camera at Herons, Mallards & Swans, here's the proof!

I said today was about "discoveries" and while taking these shots, and several more which didn't make the cut, I discovered that most of the pictures were blurred, I also realised that my camera wasn't tracking moving objects (aka birds in flight!).  I was resting the camera/lens on my bean-bag (Cheers Darren! - will he let me forget it!) and when I lifted it up I noticed there was movement of the lens which I thought was happening where the lens fits into the camera.  So, remove the lens and refit it, works with computers right?, we've all had the "Switch it off and on again" routine right? I used to work in IT Support, I know it works and I know why it works but I'm afraid I'll have to "despatch" all my readers if I divulge the real reason why we go through that routine, so best to keep schtum" (should that be "all my readers" or "both my readers"?)  Anyway, it didn't clear the problem but nothing more I could do about it in the White Hide so decided I'd have a better look when I got home.

Then it was Barney time - I took loads of pictures during a very quick fly-past, these aren't too bad but the rest - pants!

Back home I removed the lens from the camera, fitted another lens, no movement, so not the camera end then, refit the original lens - movement, must be the lens then (see that's IT Support logic, try it with another one, if the problem goes away you can count out one element - I tell you I earned my money in them days!)

Here's a quick anecdote - I was working our Helpdesk one afternoon and took a call from a customer who reported "I've got a sticking "E" key on my keyboard",  we went through the routine of me trying to get him to admit he'd spilt his Pepsi or Tango in it but he wasn't having it.  So I asked him to lift his keyboard off the desk a couple of inches and the drop it, he did, "E" still sticking, OK lift it a bit higher and drop it, he did, no good, still sticking.  Right drastic action needed - lift it a foot off the table and drop it, "Are you sure" he asked, "Of course, trust me I'm a qualified practical joker" he did it, he actually did it!  Even down the phone I could hear the keys hitting the desk as they left their sockets in the keyboard, and the language, well really that wasn't necessary!  Anyway, the good news was his "E" key was longer stuck, the bad news was, as he reported, "the "F" keys are all over the desk & floor" - at least I think that's what he said!  So problem sorted, close the call - excellent!  Then he said, "How do know where they go" to which I helpfully replied "Not to worry, we use intelligent keyboards, you put the keys back in any order and the computer will still recognise them", "Really?" No of course not but "Yep, latest technology", "Wow, thanks for your help", "No problem". I went home.  Apparently he'd phoned back about 20 mins later and gave a colleague an earful! but I suspect he kept his fizzy drinks away from his PC after that!

Right back to the lens problem.  I lifted up a few inches of the desk and drop . . . not really! I removed my camouflage covering and tripod ring and that's when I noticed the lens was actually in two sections held together by four absolutely tiny screws and the two sections were loose.  So I grabbed my "Acme Spectacles Screwdriver Set" and selected the smallest tool - which was only just small enough, checking all four screws I discovered (more discoveries!) that three of them were loose so I tightened them, and Hey Presto! no movement, fit it back on the camera, no movement.  Result.  Now I need to try it out but it's dark so I'll have to wait for tomorrow. 

If only it was that simple to fix all our other loose screws eh! - I'm sure I've still got one or two that no screwdriver will ever be able to fully tighten!

Wednesday 25th and back to Amwell in the afternoon, had to have a hearing test in the morning, I said "I HAD TO HAVE A HEARING TEST . . . ". 

Back to the White Hide, I was more concerned to find out whether the lens & camera would work properly now my loose screws had been adjusted, good news - they did!  Tracking was fine and the quality was as good as I could expect given the light, and there was no movement in the lens.  I happily fired off loads of shots and while they weren't all sharp focus, the majority were more than acceptable relative to the previous days efforts.

Here are a few photos from my final outing of the month.  Happy March everyone (both!).


  1. Lol! Cracking stories....the IT support one made me laugh. Brought back a few memories of my own. Glad you sorted the lens out.
    Let me know when you head to further fields....otherwise I'll see you at Amwell.

  2. how come you can now add comments? I haven't changed anything this end!


Now is the winter of our discontent . . .

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