Tuesday 30 June 2009

For Sale: Nikon Coolpix 4500 & digiscoping kit

Until a couple of years ago, I spent quite a while taking digiscoped photos, and bought a fair bit of kit to support this. None of it is used any more, so it's time to sell up.

I don't want to think how much I spent on this lot (clue: it starts with at least a 5), but the technology has moved on a fair way. So...

Asking price : open to offers!

The bundle contains
  • A bag in which to put...
  • A boxed Nikon Coolpix 4500 in full working order, including all original paperwork and manual, original battery, battery charger, all cables - see below for photos.
  • An small rechargeable external powerpack which screws onto the base of the Coolpix (or other camera) - this will power the Coolpix all day, removing the need to carry several spare batteries. Cable to connect powerpack to camera.
  • Charger for powerpack
  • Three CompactFlash memory cards (256, 64 & 16MB)
  • An Eagle Eye Xtend-a-View LCS Sunshade and Viewer - attaches with velcro over the screen and magnifies the image so you can check focus, even in strong sunshine
  • An Eagle Eye Digimount Adapter, with 28mm thread for Coolpix. This basically screws onto the camera lens thread, and then slides over the scope eyepiece, and thumbscrews allow you to tighten it on. See >this webpage<>
Note that the Coolpix screen is marked, with the top surface worn away centrally, as shown above. It's still perfectly usable, though, especially with the Xtend-a-view.

Xtend-a-View attached to camera

External powerpack attached to camera

Sunday 28 June 2009

Ruddy Rainham Darters

A few photos from an unpleasantly humid wander round Rainham - due to being in the much-maligned month of June, birdlife was generally lacking (ad Med Gull, lazy female Peregrine on a pylon throughout, and a couple of Greenshank were the highlights), but some of the dragonflies were pretty good.

I spent quite a while with a group of Ruddy Darters, using the macro lens on a tripod for the first time - it makes a massive difference, since you can use Live View and zoom in to check the focus point. Click to enlarge any images to get the real deal...

I also played around for a while trying to capture a cracking male Emperor in flight - worse than hard work, but this is partial reward, at least:

And finally, here's some Chicory... just to prove I can identify one or two flowers now and again. (Cue many eminent botanists yelling "That's not Chicory, you idiot!")

Monday 22 June 2009

Midsummer Snow Bunting, Cley

A rather long but very enjoyable Sunday in East Anglia took in a number of quality birds, all showing really well. Returned for a second look at (and listen to) the Amwell Marsh Warbler first thing, noting at least 15 other birds' songs in the mix, before heading northwards on a distinctly indirect route. 3+ Roseate Terns on Minsmere East Scrape and 15 minutes of non-stop Honey Buzzard display at the Fulmodeston watchpoint were pretty superb, but a Snow Bunting at Cley was surely rarer in context... and certainly more photogenic. Why was there only one other birder looking for it? Still, that's their loss, since it sounds like it's gone!

Final stop on the way home (well, roughly) was the Woodchat Shrike at Orford in Suffolk. Never been here before, but in the late evening sunshine it was lovely. Less good was the news that the shrike had been flushed by a Barn Owl two minutes before we arrived, and then the subsequent departure of most the birders... However, we stuck it out and ultimately relocated our target, showing well in atmospheric light until after 9pm. This is how midsummer birding should be!

Tuesday 16 June 2009

Return from Cornwall

Just a brief summary of my trip back from the SW on Sunday - bit light on photos, but never mind.

First stop was back at Colliford Res, where the duck showed considerably better, though still poorly in the grand scheme of things. Had a long chat to a birder from York about European birding destinations we'd either been to or wanted to visit, exchanged a few tips and ideas.

As the heat haze gradually worsened, I made a move down to the coast again, this time looking for Cirl Buntings. Although I'm a big fan of Prawle Point, it felt like a long trek and would've probably been rammed with people on a sunny Sunday. Instead, I went to Wembury, near Plymouth.... which was a shorter trek, but still rammed with people. Park in the village to avoid the £4 extortion racket that is run in the NT carpark, and then walk down to the beach and west along the coastpath near some horse paddocks. Within half a mile I'd found a handsome singing male Cirl and his other half - enjoyed watching these for a while in the sunshine.

Heading east again, my final stop was near Colyford in Devon. Lower Bruckland Ponds (click for map) had been recommended to me by a fellow Large Blue watcher the previous day, and I'd recommend it to anyone into dragon- and damselflies. Apparently the owner is happy for people to wander round for a look, though a donation to the site's upkeep is suggested.

Although all the photos are Common Blue Damselflies, there was a decent range of species including 1 Red-veined Darter, 1 Emperor, several Black-tailed Skimmer, and many Blue-tailed Damsels. The site has also got 'form' for Lesser Emperor and Small Red-eyed Damsels, amongst other things, and I was told about Scarce Chasers on the River Axe just west of here.

The rest of the trip home was a tedious combination of avoiding traffic jams on the A303 and M3, and failing to avoid the traffic jam on the west side of the M25... not so good!

Monday 15 June 2009

Do you do this EVERY weekend?

This was the question asked by a rather baffled colleague when I happened to mention on Friday that I couldn't decide whether to get up at 2am and drive to Somerset, or go the evening before and sleep in the car.... and then that I was planning to continue to Cornwall.

The twitchery types among you will have read the first couple of lines, and knowingly thought: "Aha... he's trying to see the Little Bittern at Walton Heath. An elusive species best seen at dawn and dusk - good plan". The rest will have knowingly thought: "Dave's barking mad!" or probably something even less printable.

Probably both right. Never mind - I had a great time, though!

So, I eventually selected option B: left at about 9, encountered various tedious stretches of overnight roadworks, dug out a rather old CD featuring this sort of thing to help keep me awake (yes, terrible, I know), and finally was nodding off to sleep in the Ashcott Corner carpark by just after midnight.

By 4.30 I was on the move, wandering through the dawn chorus along the old railway line towards Walton Heath, and then onto the Loxton Marsh Loop trail. Just after 5 I started hearing the hoped-for 'wuff' calls from the south end of the marsh, and almost immediately located the Little Bittern calling in the top of the reeds. No-one else there at this stage, a great experience justifying the rather antisocial hour! Obviously, the following photos are of a low standard due to the low light conditions at 5am, and not in any way related to the incompetence of the photographer....

Over the course of the next hour the bird was calling almost constantly, and a few more people turned up, some of whom had been wandering around unaware of what LB sounded like... Now, I'm not expecting every birder in the world to know every single call inside out, but if you were travelling to see a skulking bird which had been calling for a few days, it seems pretty sensible (to me, at least) to learn that call before you go. You might actually be able to find and (heaven forbid) identify it, all by yourself! Also you don't get to look such a kingsize prat when you ask "Any sign of the Little Bittern?" and someone says "Err, yeah - it's calling just over there, right now, and has been for the last 15 minutes". [Sorry, rant over...]

By 6.30, the LB had gone quiet and essentially stopped showing (note to other would-be Bittern twitchers... don't bother going during the day, unless you like sitting around staring at a very large reedbed for 9 hours), so I wandered back to the car for breakfast and to plot my next move. Bumped into Mike, the ever friendly Gloster Birder, on the way - hope you had a good day.

Just down the road at Collard Hill, near Street, my targets were Large Blues. These are one of the rarest butterflies in the UK, having been reintroduced after going extinct nationally in the late 70's. Orchids were also very much in evidence - I think these two are Pyramidal and Common Spotted respectively, but please add a comment or let me know if I'm horribly wrong! A few Bee Orchids were even more spectacular, but I somehow neglected to get a decent photo, so you'll have to wait til another day for those.

I ended up seeing about 10-12 Large Blue, mostly low down on the south facing slope, and all very reluctant to pose with open wings. The underwing is still rather smart though, and this isn't a bad record shot. I also saw a couple of Marbled Whites, which always feel like they should be rarer than they really are... fantastic looking creatures.

Next stop was a rather optimistic trip to Sand Point near Weston-super-mare, where I hoped one or two late Glanville Fritillaries would still be on the wing. Unsurprisingly, it wasn't to be, but the scenery out over the Bristol Channel towards Flat Holm and Steep Holm wasn't too shabby, and some rather obliging Speckled Woods and Large Skippers were Canon fodder.

After a hearty and delicious meal - OK, I lied, a McDonalds - I headed on down the M5 to Exeter and on towards Bodmin Moor. A brief detour to avoid a closure of the A30 was no problem, and I reached Colliford Lake to find a rather depressed group of birders near Dozmary Pool. Again, this wasn't a massive surprise, since a) the reservoir is pretty distant, b) we were looking into the sun, and c) the Black Duck was showing really, really badly. Mostly c) was caused by a) and b), but also because it was constantly either out of view, or asleep, or both. Excellent. There's a Black Duck in this photo, directly underneath the farm on the hillside - honest.

Still, this was the reason I'd planned to make a decent weekend out of the trip... Black Duck was a lifer for me, so I wanted to see it, but since it's widely held to be one of the least inspiring rarities in the UK, I also wanted to make sure I saw a load of other bits and bobs in the process.

I finished the day booking in to the YHA hostel in Golant, just outside Fowey on the south Cornish coast - somewhere I'd never been before, but would like to visit again with more time. Fowey's tiny streets and picturesque setting by the estuary are picture postcard stuff, and the hostel (complete with Skinner's on tap) was ideal - £15 a night can't be bad.

Running out of time now, so more to come tomorrow.... just time for an ID question - what are these flowers, photographed at Sand Point?

Wednesday 10 June 2009

The Apprentice as you've never seen it before...

Rebecca put a link to this on facebook and we just loved it so much that we had to blog a link too...

The Apprentice

Race for Life

On Wednesday 15th July I'm running (ok, jogging - I'll certainly do my best not to walk it!) in the Epping Forest Race for Life to raise money for Cancer Research UK.

I'd really appreciate any support you can offer and sponsorship you can give. Please use the widget on the right hand side to direct you to my sponsorship page where you can donate online - don't forget to GiftAid it please!!!

Thank you!!! Suzanne xxx

Monday 8 June 2009

Lesvos Spotted Crake

Just been post-processing a few more Lesvos holiday snaps, and tackling the rather large Porzana folder. The similarly large dent in my hard drive is almost entirely the fault of one particularly showy bird at Faneromeni ford... but some of the photos make it worthwhile. At one point I was actually sat on a dry bit of concrete right in the middle of the ford with the bird bathing and preening no more than 15 feet away - who said crakes are timid and skulking?!

Saturday 6 June 2009

Common Rosefinch, Bradwell-on-sea

While certain other East London birders had gone back to bed to nurse their hangover, I reacted to the news that the 1st-summer male Common Rosefinch was singing again on the Dengie at Bradwell. Arriving at about 12.30, a couple of us quickly identified the bird's wolf-whistle like song from some dense bushes along a ditch... but couldn't see it at all! A few minutes later, a finch flew out of the same general area and headed off very high into the distance, and the singing stopped. Oh dear.

Fortunately, about 45 minutes later, it started up again from exactly the same place - presumably never having moved far. Initially it remained invisible (though singing pretty constantly), but eventually appeared low down in the bushes, and showed pretty well from 1.45 until 2.30, when I headed back for home.

I'd transcribe the song as 'tee suweee teehuuu'.... with the second note slurred sharply upward, and the third sharply downward. Here's some pictures - just a bit of a shame it wasn't a red one!

Tuesday 2 June 2009

Blue-tailed Damselfly

Went out to Cornmill Meadows with the camera this evening after getting thoroughly hacked off with work. Came back with just one decent photo, but the opportunity to concentrate on something different put me in a better mood...

Click to enlarge - this lens really has got some potential!