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Tuesday, 17 January 2017

A Very Short Trip Out - on Friday 13th January, 2017

From a photography point of view, the weather here has been somewhat dire over the past week or so. Most days have been very dull with little light, many of them wet, and it has often been very windy too. With a forecast for heavy snow, accompanied by high winds, on Thursday afternoon, John and I decided to abandon our usual afternoon out. In the event, we got the winds, but the snow didn't arrive until somewhat later in the day.
I woke up to a thin covering of snow on the Friday, but with the snow still falling quite heavily and settling well. However, mid-morning, there was a sudden change in the weather with the snow stopping and temperatures rising quite rapidly. By lunchtime there was little snow left.

Having had lunch, I decided it was time for a quick trip out as we were getting sunny intervals, with a forecast for bad weather coming in again later in the afternoon.

My chosen destination was Calke Park which is about 5 miles (8 km) from my home as the crow flies. This place is often good for Marsh Tit - a species which is becoming increasingly difficult to find in these parts. I was also hoping to find Brambling.

I arrived in sunshine and, as I left my car, encountered a couple with binoculars coming away from the area I was going to visit. A quick chat confirmed the presence of Marsh Tit, but more intriguing was his statement that there was at least one Willow Tit coming to the feeder, the difference between the Willow Tit and the Marsh Tit being clearly visible when the two were side-by-side at the feeder.  Sadly I was told that I had just missed a truly amazing sight which was four Kingfishers sitting together up in a tree. The Kingfishers had just disappeared over the trees, heading south, and they were off to try and re-locate them.

I got to the hide by the feeder, and was pleased to find I was alone and the birds were extremely active. The most numerous bird was, without doubt, Great Tit. However, I was surprised to find Reed Bunting not far behind in numbers, closely followed by Marsh/Willow Tits! The light was strange in that it was difficult so see glossy heads (indicating Marsh) on any of the Marsh/Willow Tits, making identification somewhat difficult, but I did detect the hint of a pale panel on the secondaries (indicating Willow) of at least one of the birds. I was, however, too busy trying to get photographs, rather than spending time comparing birds. Here are a few images, first of those I believe were Marsh Tits (please tell me if you disagree).

probable Marsh Tit (Parus palustris) - Calke Park
And these I think might be Willow Tit - again, please let me know if you disagree .

possible Willow Tit (Parus montanus) - Calke Park
As already mentioned, Reed Bunting were present in good numbers, with males being more visible than females. As these birds are, primarily, ground feeders in these situations, I was pleased to see that many of then were stopping off on the reeds as they made their approach - as had been the Tits.

The first image is there, only because it shows some small remnants of the earlier snow.

Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) (male) - Calke Park
Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) (female) - Calke Park
During the time I was there two of what are probably the largest Brown Rats that I have ever seen were snaffling up scraps from under the feeder. I have a bit of a phobia about rats!

Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus) - Calke Park
Returning to more pleasant subjects - whilst there, although I was concentrating on the Marsh/Willow Tits, I did fire off a few on other birds.

Blue Tit (Parus caeruleus) - Calke Park
It is a pity that the snow was not still there for this next bird - it might have made it onto next year's Christmas card!

Robin (Erithacus rubecula) - Calke Park
Heavy cloud started to roll in and I felt it was time to set back homeward. From my photos I can tell that I had been in the hide for exactly 30 minutes. During that time I'd fired off 280 frames - that equates to one every 6.4 seconds. It took me well over 30 minutes to process the results!

Since then the weather has returned to 'dire'. John commented on the phone yesterday that he's starting to wonder if he's ever going to get the opportunity to wield his new lens in anger!

I'm not sure as to what the subject of my next post might be or, for that matter, when it might be - I'll just pray for some good weather.

Thank you for dropping by.