Monthly Archives: June 2014

Nuthatch – a bird worth cheating for!

I’d set myself a target bird for today. I was determined to get a nice photo of a Nuthatch.

This should have been made easy by my other plan which was to visit Loggerheads CP just outside Mold, a leafy limestone valley – ideal for woodland birds.

Unfortunately I had not factored two things into the equation. Number one being that it was just too goddamn leafy. The place has become seriously overgrown (with trees) since I was there last. They need a big tree-thinning exercise there IMHO. Number two was that I had either a dog-walker or a jogger passing me every couple of minutes. I could have happily throttled one lady who had three barking dogs who were chasing after their toy, a pop bottle with pebbles in it. That bottle was noisy. I heard her coming from about 200m and when I saw here I realised that not only was she throwing the bottle for the dogs to fetch, she was throwing it in the river. If I ever want to clear an area of wildlife I’ll hire her – so effective!

Anyway, enough ranting. You may gather that my Nuthatch objective was not working out at this point. The only birds brave enough to hang around were Grey Wagtails which seem to thrive there. This was the only half-decent photo from Loggerheads.


Back in the car I was feeling defeated. then I remembered Burton Mere RSPB. The last time I was there Nuthatches were numerous, nesting near the visitor centre and constantly on show.

Although I could hear them calling I couldn’t see any. Again, the leafy canopy was my nemesis. It’s only to be expected at this time of year, I suppose. I had a wander around and was told that  a Little Owl was showing along the track. A short walk and this grumpy little bird was in my sights. A long way off so no frame-filling competition-winning shot but my first ever Little Owl photo – that has to be worth something.


Wandering around the reserve some more just brought out the usual suspects. A single Avocet was my first of the year and a handful of Spotted Redshanks in their smart black summer plumage made a very  welcome sight.

No Nuthatch though. Desperation called. I answered. I staked out the feeders. It’s a bit like cheating but why not?  Goldfinches were the most numerous visitors but a goodly variety of birds turned up – including a slightly tatty but extremely welcome Nuthatch which paid several visits over a half-hour period. Mission accomplished!

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(Back) Down to the woods today, for a surprise…

There is a stretch of natural Welsh Oakwood near Llanfairtalhaiarn where I can regularly see all the traditional Welsh woodland bird species. This morning I was heading somewhere else but the clouds were gathering so LlanfairTH seemed like a good compromise. It turned out to be a very good compromise indeed. in an hour spent just walking along the road I saw Pied Flycatcher, Redstarts (territories every 100m along the road), Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Greater-Spotted Woodpecker and Jay, plus Robins, Great and Blue Tits, Song Thrush and Buzzard. I got a surprise at one point when a Pied Flycatcher landed on the road only 2 metres from my feet, closer than the camera would focus. Many of the birds seem to land on the road. Driving along slowly I’ve seen many Redstarts on the road and even a Yellowhammer a few weeks ago. I’m guessing that the caterpillars that fall from the trees onto the road make easier pickings.


This gorgeous male Redstart told me off as a passed his patch of road, posing for his “bird of the day” photo in the process.

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Livin’ the dream! (My Dipper obsession)

On the river Elwy near Llanfairtalhaiarn there is a bridge. There have been many times when I have stood there gazing wistfully at the small waterfall, dreaming that one day I would be there with my camera taking photos of  a Dipper. Today my dream came true!


As I arrived I noticed a Dipper feeding a little downstream of the waterfall. As I settled in it flew off further downstream, taking my hopes with it but it did a u-turn over the river and returned, settling right in front of the camera. It was a young bird without the chestnut markings of an adult but I didn’t care!

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Llangollen – Land of Monks and Dippers?

I’ve been wanting to visit Valle Crucis Abbey at Llangollen for a while now. This afternoon seemed like the ideal opportunity so with Teleri and my mum on board we set off.

Valle Crucis is in the most beautiful setting although quite why the 13th century monks chose to set up base next to a caravan site is beyond me. The building is the worse for wear but it’s character still shines through.

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At Llangollen I started out as your average tourist visitor, stood on the bridge with an ice-cream, admiring the view and taking a few snaps.


But I could hear baby birds calling. At first I guessed that there was a nest in one of the bushes below but then I spotted a parent Dipper, frantically trying to satisfy the appetites of two offspring. At this point my “average snapper” lens was swapped for my 500mm. Boy did I get a few funny looks, but I knew what I was doing. Just a pity that the birds were so far away and badly backlit.

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and I even spotted a bonus Common Sandpiper down there too!


Free as a bird!

I’m on holiday at home this week so I’m free to do pretty much as I wish.

This morning I decided that my day should start with a trip to RSPB Conwy, a lazy couple of miles from my house.

This time of year can be a mixed bag at Conwy. If you’re lucky you can “click” for something really good but the other more likely option is that you have to rely on the local resident birds to put on a show. Today started badly as I missed a Med Gull by minutes but thereafter, today was a good show!

A Little Egret by the coffee shop posed well from every angle, even adding some jumps and turns for good measure.

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The local Coots and Moorhens can be good for a showIMG_7432 IMG_7586

…. and I love House Martins. These were on a mud-gathering mission.


A resident Oystercatcher provided a rare change from monochrome.

but the day’s “Splash of Colour” award had to go to this Bullfinch




A Jewel in the Woods

In the summer months we are lucky to have summer visitors to our woods which come from warmer climes to take advantage of our woodland harvests of caterpillars and flies.

Quite possibly the most colourful of these visitors is the Redstart. The comparatively plain female has her flashing orange tail but she is positively drab compared to her mate. He is a jewel in orange, blue and black.

I had done a recce at Llanfairtalhaiarn a couple of weeks ago (in the rain!) so this afternoon it seemed like a good opportunity to take advantage of a bit of sunlight. I followed the road along where I had encountered three pairs previously and I was not disappointed. Only two pairs this time but the light makes all the difference for the camera.

Ladies first…..

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… and then the real photographic prize. Bring on the boys!





I’ve just got in after a couple of hours listening to Nightjars at Bodgynydd. I will never get tired of that unique sound. Cuckoo calling too and bats flying all around. Add an overpass by the space station and cracking views of Mars, Saturn and the Supermoon and I’m one very happy bunny – and only slightly midge-bitten!

Three good Terns deserve….

…. yet another?

Having spent the afternoon at Cemlyn yesterday, watching Sandwich, Arctic and Common Terns I had to go for another species today.

As we were heading over in the direction of Prestatyn it would have been a shame to miss out on a trip to see the Little Tern colony at Gronant – so I didn’t. The snag was that I was rushed. Only 10 minutes to spend on the beach so it was wave the camera around like a lunatic time again. The light was very poor (about to rain), the heat haze was horrific and Little Terns are faster and more agile than their larger relatives so there was no chance for award-winning photography but I managed to rattle off a few record shots before I had to leave.

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Talacre Lighthouse – melting!IMG_7082

Mellow Yellowhammers

After not seeing Yellowhammers in the hills above Llanbedr-y-Cennin for a couple of years it was great to hear them singing all around the area by the pylons this morning. It was also pretty cool to have great views of a soaring Red Kite and a fly-by Cuckoo too!

Unprepared for the photographic moment I managed this shot hand-held with the 300mm + 1.4X.