Category Archives: 2011

2011 – A year in the life……..

I’ll start by posing a few questions:
  1. What starts in January and ends in December?
  2. What starts cold and usually [but not always] finishes cold?
  3. At the end of what do you feel older and wiser, than at the start?
  4. Roughly, what has 31,536,000 seconds?

That’s right, a year, and my word, where did this one go to?

As usual, I have put together a year in the life of me and my camera.  Most of these images are found in my previous months posts, but there are also some new shots not posted before.

Most shots are also from my local patch – Willington DWT.

January started off very, very cold, but amongst the usual suspects at Willington DWT, I saw Barn Owl, Bittern, Buzzard, Fieldfare, Kestrel, Redwing, Short-eared Owl and a Stonechat.  Not bad for a morning out local patch birding. I didn’t take any pictures that day, just a quick visit. I did go out on the 3rd though.

This Short-eared Owl, continued the Owl-fest on from 2010.

These were the “money” shots – looking straight down the lens!

 

I never tire of these Owls.

The Barn Owl showed reasonably well for the early part of the month, allowing me to experiment with some backlit efforts.

And this was the reason they were all here – food.

 

There were of course some other birds knocking around.

 

To get away from the cold weather and the hassle of working life, we decided to go to Florida for a week – brilliant!

What a contrast to cold Blighty.

Arriving in Miami, we stay the night, then onto Alligator Alley (I-75) across to Naples. There are many places to stop off along this highway, with lots to see. Here are a few of my favourites:

 

The trip included a stay at Sanibel Island and then down into the Everglades National Park.

Back to Willington in late February and a flock of 24 Curlew dropped in one evening.

 

And before you know it, March is here.  all the birds are starting to think about mating and the silly walks start.

A few Black-tailed Godwits show up.

Don’t forget the Mute Swans.

 

Sometimes if the birds are not flying you have to take them on the ground.

 

Of course breeding season brings the inevitable fighting for territory.

 

Sometimes birds show an intelligent part of their make up. This Herring Gull was dropping this clam shell on the rocks to break it open.

 

If you hang around long enough you can sometimes get some beautiful shots.

 

Ducks like to argue, especially Gadwall. They argue almost entirely, in flight.

And talking of ducks – just occasionally a flight shot comes off.

This high-speed Coot was difficult to track across the sky.

Willington would not be the same without an early morning Grey Heron.

Here are a few more “successful” fly-bys.

 

The Warblers were back and busy in the hedgerows.

 

Of course the Common Terns were back, but again they would not breed at Willington.

 

May proved a little more exciting, as the migration action hotted up a bit.

This Oystercatcher valiantly defends its nest from marauding Crows, but it was to no avail, as the eggs/chicks were predated a few days later.

 

A surprise visitor to Derbyshire on 1st May – a Nightingale. Unfortunately due to the weather I was not able to get an image, but I did get this recording from my mobile phone:

Nightingale song from Ambaston, Derbyshire – 1st May 2011

The next day we went to Norfolk for a week.

Here are a sample of images from the Titchwell-to-Cley stretch of North Norfolk.

 

Back home and normality, although things were to turn upside down soon.

A very distant Marsh Harrier at Willington.

A lone Black-headed Gull.

A break mid-month, following my father’s death – he is very much missed.

Ken Pittam - 1924-2011

 

An interesting time towards the end of the month, an unidentifiable wader, which turned out to be a 2nd for Derbyshire – a Lesser Yellowlegs, no less. The weather was absolutely atrocious, so I was lucky to get any shots, and it only stayed for a few minutes.

This North American wader was later seen at Uttoxeter, some 15 miles west. For the full review click here.

Early June nearly always means a trip to East Yorkshire and the sea cliffs at RSPB Bempton. This year, we had a cottage in Flamborough and the early morning light was spectacular.

 

Back home and the gulls were in prime condition.

 

Another surprise mid-June – a beautiful female Red-footed Falcon at Breaston.

Whilst I was waiting for the RFF to appear again, this Little Owl plonked itself on a post just behind me.

 

Come july, the Common Terns appeared feeding young, which were raised at nearby Hilton Gravels, I think.

 

Mid-July – a camping trip to Northumberland. The weather was OK for a couple of days, then it was crap for the remainder of the week.  We still managed a very busy trip across to the Farne Islands.

Puffin photography is always fun.

The remainder of July proved a difficult month – the weather at the weekends was not kind and the inland reserves were quieter than usual.

 

Things brightened up a bit when at least two [and possibly three] juvenile Cuckoos were fed by Reed and Garden Warblers, almost in front of our eyes.

 

August brought a flurry of waders, as levels on the gravel pit remained low, with a large scrape visible.

Greenshank.

Wood Sandpiper.

Green Sandpiper.

Black-tailed Godwits.

Spotted Redshank.

 

August and September also brought the usual residents out in what bit of sunshine there was.

A further surprise of a Curlew Sandpiper, along with a Ringed Plover.

…and later, 5 Curlew Sandpipers.

Also a Ringed Plover and a Little Stint.

Two juvenile Black Terns.

A solitary Ruff.

 

Mid September, the Hobbies returned.

This was followed by a lovely shot of two Swans “in love”.

September ended with a short trip to Norfolk.

 

October brought some sunshine and some decent mornings of sunshine.

 

The end of the month brought a surprise visitor to Attenborough Gravels, Nottinghamshire – a juvenile Squacco Heron. The bird was on the river in Notts, but I’m delighted to say, hopped over into Derbyshire once or twice.

This otherwise enjoyable twitch was marred by the stupidity of some birdwatchers, against an angler.

Back at Willington later that morning,  I caught up with a Great White Egret at Barrow on Trent.

Life at Willington was quiet, until another surprise, on the 12th October, when a Glossy Ibis dropped in for only 40mins.

This was my 2nd in Derbyshire – both at Willington.

November was quiet, aside from the visit of 7 Tundra Bean Geese (Anser fabialis rossicus).

 

The remainder of November was pretty quiet, with only a few flight shot chances.

 

December started with promise, as a beautiful drake Pintail swooped past platform 4.

This Grey Heron was not so much dancing, as it was livid with the Black-headed Gulls, harassing it.

A couple of Whooper Swans cruise by.

Mid-December was interesting, if only because of a mystery “hybrid” gull, initially thought to be a Northern Herring Gull – “argentatus”.

A darker shade of grey than a Herring Gull, but not as dark as a Lesser Black-backed Gull, a single white mirror on P10 and pinkish legs and feet, which seemed to turn yellowish in bright light – very confusing.

Turns out it’s a Hybrid Herring Gull – x – Lesser Black-backed Gull and a 3rd/4th winter.

Well that’s it for 2011.  Not a brilliant year personally, and turns out it was not a brilliant year for photography generally, but it was a really good and interesting birding year, with a wide variety of new and exotic birds to see.

I’ve learnt a lot about photography and birds, which is always good, and I hope you’ve enjoyed the pics.

See you in 2012 – Happy New Year all.

Richard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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