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Brambling

Forest Farm

So the time has come, my time at Aden Productions working on a Iolo Williams Tv Series for BBC has come to an end. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the experience and hope I get more work with them in the future. At-least until I get another Job, my time is my own again, and I what better way to spend it than at Forest Farm Nature Reserve. It really is a wonderful sub-urban nature reserve and as a result, the wildlife there is so used to people. Snipe are regularly feeding out in the open, Goldcrest flitting about the hedgerows and to my surprise, a Male Brambling briefly flew in to join a drinking party alongside the stream. Kingfishers were busy, though I didn’t spend much time with those today. The Snipe really did put on a show, I hope to get them at a better hour and perhaps with some more direct light but still my best shots of Snipe thus far. A Sabre Wasp and Common Carder were the only insects spotted on the wing at Goytre Wharf yesterday. I must admit it was a bit of a shock to see most of the conifer plantation cut down, though the Sabre Wasp was making most of the dead wood to lay her eggs in. I was hoping to see a Wood Wasp, as this is the only site I’ve ever seen them, but I’ll take whatever I can get.

Crossbill Forest

For the last couple of days I've been enjoying a flock of Crossbill at Wentwood Forest. Seeing them flock up like this in the open is quite a thing considering they spend most of the year at the tops of conifer trees, deep in the forest for nobody to see. They are specialists at extracting seeds from pine cones, using that unique cross-bill to pry the casings open wide enough to get the seed out with their tongue. I watched them doing this sort of thing also on regular beech seed heads with much the same technique. Every now and again they'd drop down to drink all at the same time, as to keep an eye out for predators at a time where they are particularly vulnerable. I did my best to get as close as possible without disturbing them. Like the recent influx of Hawfinch, these have probably travelled a fair way and now we're in forestry felling season, we can expect to see a few more unexpected visitors further south. 

Crossbill Drinking

I tried my best to get recordings of the Crossbill flock despite getting interference from a nearby telephone mast. Between that and the typical plane noise, cars and drones! yes drones, I really did well to get this recording. It has been filtered to death so apologies about the quality as it's below my usual standard. 

Just as I mentioned about Hawfinch on the move, a sizable flock of 15 + Hawfinch just as the light faded, Couldn't even fit them all in the same frame so was sure there must have been at-least 20 birds. They were about to touch down but changed mind and carried on North. Other notables came in the form of Brambling, Siskin, Redpoll, Kestrel and all the typical species for Wentwood this time of year. 

Hawfinch 9th November.jpg

Autumn Gone?

What is your favourite part of Autumn? For most people, it's the change of colours in the leaves before they fall. Red being the most popular and vibrant.. It's a shame I can't see it though uh? lol Red is one of those colours I know is there, so long as it isn't amongst other colours and isn't too dark (Needs to have light shining on it or emitting its own light). So how did I know which of my photos had red in it? Two reasons, 1. While looking at the photographs digitally, I can tweak the colours individually and physically see the changes. Usually I need to boost the reds up to extreme levels for me to see them, and then I can dial them back to a level that is acceptable to everyone else. I probably still get it wrong but nobody has complained so far lol.. would you tell me if I did? Probably not lol. 

For me, Autumn is more about the winter visitors and the summer departing birds. Much like the Brambling that seemed to have come back this year in decent numbers, unlike last year where we got very few reports in Gwent. Every year is different, dependant on weather conditions and available food. This is what makes autumn / winter special in my eyes, as you really have no idea what may turn up in what has to be the most energetic season of all. Everything is on the move, even your Garden birds tend to move down to warmer climates. I hate to burst any bubbles, but your resident Robin probably isn't the same Robin you've been seeing all summer. We get thousands of Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and Robins moving down from Scandinavia in the winter time and most never truly settle till they've found a stable food source in manageable temperatures. If it's too cold here, they'll even skip the Uk into France.. Joys of being a bird! I can't even begin to imagine the things they must encounter on their travels..

Migration

Today was a pretty incredible day for Birding in Gwent. This morning started pretty early, arriving at Blaenserchan before sunrise to get an early look at the reported Great Grey Shrike. I bumped into local ecologist Steve Williams and as we searched together for the Shrike, we were greeted instead with a pretty large flock of 150+ Brambling! This year has been terrible for Brambling with winter numbers quite below average so it was nice to see such a large flock of them, especially this late in winter. So late in-fact that our first Spring/Summer migrants are arriving on the same day! With Chiffchaff, Wheatear, White Wagtail and Sand Martin being my first spring visitors of the year. Other birds for the day, Reed Bunting, Stonechat, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Yellowhammer, Greenfinch, Green Woodpecker, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard and many more. 

Second evening visit, finally caught up with the Great Grey Shrike, observed for a good hour mimicking the sounds of Siskin and Redpoll, I suspect to lure them in closer for the kill. Pretty incredible birds. My favourite pic was the sun going down, just about lined it up at the top of a beach tree between the mountain in the distance. 

Calendar 2016?

It's coming to that time of year where I'm thinking about what pictures to put in next years Calendar. I only sent them out to family last year but considering the fantastic year I've had with my photography, I'm thinking of opening up the idea to everyone. If you yourself would like a Calendar featuring my best of 2015, please contact me and we'll sort it out ready for Christmas. 

Below are some from todays short session late evening in the Blaenserchan Valley 

Winter Birds

Winter is pretty much here! It felt really cold on the moorland today and the birds new it! This time of year, they only have one thing on their mind and that is, food! Thankfully, that is where we can help out and providing birds with food throughout winter is sometimes the only lifeline certain species have. 

Brambling Extended

Another great session with the Brambling today! Finally got the male where I wanted him and even managed to get both male and female on same perch. Most importantly, I managed to learn quite a lot from observing them up close, not just behaviour but also sound. Also learned that nobody messes with a Goldfinch! Absolute bullies they are haha. I though the snapping sound of the bill of a Brambling was enough to scare anything off but the pure persistence and anger of a Goldfinch always seemed to come on top. 

Car Advantage

I didn't realise just how effective having a car actually is for wildlife photography. Not just to get you to locations but you practically carry around a moving 'hide'. For whatever reason, birds don't seem to be too bothered by cars and so long as you stay inside, they don't fly away. The minute you step out the door.. they are gone! haha. Well, as you can see by all my Brambling photographs, I've been making the most of this technique and it already has brought me some really nice photographs. 

Brambling

Fair to say, I wasn't expecting this good of a result for Brambling this year! So very happy to get the opportunity. 

First Redwing, now Fieldfare and Brambling!

Autumn/Winter Migrants are flooding in at a rapid rate! So rapid that I've already photographed all 3 Birds that I intended on getting this Winter haha. Saw my first flock of Brambling today and they are such great Birds and something I will continue to look forward to seeing each winter. 

To top it off, I had such an awesome flyby from a Redkite that gave me a good look in before flying off into the Valley.