insectsandflight.com

 all pictures © robin williams

January 2023: wildlife, from the Somerset Levels

January 30th 2023. The duck were in an excited state  at Catcott Lows this afternoon. The main contenders were a gathering of around twenty five Wigeon drakes fascinated with a single female. I have no doubt she was thoroughly enjoying it all; but the drakes just would not leave her alone, bursting into violent action again as soon as they settled. There was no flight display as such, all being on the surface of the water or beneath. This continued until and the light died of at the end of the afternoon, when a couple of flights took off.

Wigeon, Anas penelope m

Wigeon, Anas penelope m

Wigeon, Anas penelope

Wigeon, Anas penelope

Wigeon, Anas penelope

Wigeon, Anas penelope m - the final flight

However, these were not the only moments. Someone thought there was a Merlin perched on one of the gates in the extreme background. but it was certainly too small for me to see through the camera. However, eventually he flew up and perched on top of the big pole near the other hide. My picture, although a failure as such, shows sufficient resolution to identify a male Merlin, a definite plus for the day.

January 20th 2023. Another lucky break in the weather allowed a fruitful visit to Catcott Lows, duck were back in increasing numbers following the long period of ice. 

Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos

The frozen pond must have made life difficult for the resident predators. Today, the harriers were back, both male and female, searching over the more likely areas. It is always exciting to watch the distant bird turn towards you, and gradually resolve its features as it comes closer. It always astonishes to see how accurate the autufocus is, concentrating on the head and bill.

Marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus f

 

Marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus f

Marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus f

Marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus m

Marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus m

Marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus m

Marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus m

On the way home, driving up Jack's Drove I came across one of the resident Great white egrets allowing me a good, close shot. Two appear to have taken up this area of Tealham Moor, but it seems that they are not particularly tolerant of each other. This contrasts with their common attitudes to the local Grey herons who appear to get on well.

Great white egret, Egretta alba

January 19th 2023. Recently, I opened up a trail camera that had been running a while during the month. It had an amazing number of successful pictures of Foxes, Badgers and, above all, Roe deer, all captured during the night, none by day. I thought it would be interesting to show a large percentage of these, they are fascinating in their variety of poses. All are taken with built-in flash on the dual lens Browning Patriot camera left outside for days on end. The pictures have been corrected and filtered on Neat Image software, all from and into jpg. 

Badger, Meles meles

Badger, Meles meles

Badger, Meles meles

It is interesting to note that Badgers are still showing strongly - indeed there were more than are shown here, as several were too distant to print out. Badgers have been subjected to culls locally, but clearly this has not had as great an effect as had been feared. But the amazing point is the commonplace photographing of the Roe deer over this period. They are bouncing in and out of the garden for much of the time. 

 

Fox,  Vulpes vulpes

Fox,  Vulpes vulpes

Fox,  Vulpes vulpes

 I should point out that I feel I am a newcomer, with much to learn when using my present mix of software. In many ways the system was easier to follow when it was Nikon NX2, but this has been completely removed by Nikon and replaced with Nikon NX Studio. I am still learning this latter; perfectly good software, but different (I used variations of NX2 over many years and knew it really well). I recently came across Neat Image software, used to improve sharpness and noise. This can be as simple or complex as you wish, as it has many tools to provide the ultimate in both these states. I have not found NX Studio to provide the optimum in either noise and sharpness but that could well be because I do not understand all its facets fully. In the case of these black and white trail camera images, the originals have problems and need manipulation to obtain the optimum results. At first, I found it impossible to enlarge the picture at all, the noise killed the image completely. The present system has overcome this quite effectively but the whole needs more time, further concentration and technical input. Pictures of the same deer in colour are altogether simpler to improve. So this is an interim stage of re-learning the processes for presenting my pictures. I think some future improvements will come in brightness and contrast settings but it is astonishing to capture these moments in the dead of night..

Roe, Capreolus capreolus

Roe, Capreolus capreolus

Roe, Capreolus capreolus

Roe, Capreolus capreolus

Roe, Capreolus capreolus

Roe, Capreolus capreolus 


Roe, Capreolus capreolus

Roe, Capreolus capreolus

Roe, Capreolus capreolus

Roe, Capreolus capreolus

Roe, Capreolus capreolus 

January 18th 2023. Driving back along Jack's Drove, I had a glimpse of a small harrier flying fast over the moor and rapidly out of sight. I pulled  the car up and thought for a moment, though the bird was long gone by then. It was not a Marsh harrier,  for the bird was glistening silver-grey, with black wing tips; it could only have been a male Hen harrier. They are seen over the moors during the winter, on migration, but are still rarities. The full-colour male bird is even more unusual than the 'ring-tailed' versions. Sadly, it was all too quick a sighting. There was no way to photograph him, just enjoy the memory of the sun catching his plumage.

January 13th 1023. Not the most auspicious of days - yet surprisingly interesting. Once more Catcott Lows during the day, but first there are a couple of pictures that show deer are still visiting us during the depths of night.  Thse pictures show the problem of nightwork. The foreground receives the majority of light, though the animal usually gets the correct level.

Roe deer f, Capreolus capreolus

Roe deer f, Capreolus capreolus

It was a lovely sunny day but the wind was fierce in the gusts. There were plenty of duck at Catcott, but not really the hordes expected at this time. The water level on the pond may contribute to this, spreading the duck much more widely, but I doubt it. When some predator sends up the flocks, they are not the spectacle that used to dazzle us. 

Shoveler, Anas clypeata

Wigeon, Anas penelope m

Wigeon, Anas penelope 

Wigeon, Anas penelope m 

Next came a surprise, a large black bird was hovering in front -  a cormorant. It was in fine condition, glossy, but why the surprise. Cormorants tend to like deeper water and are rarely seen on Catcott Lows. Sightings of diving ducks at other time seem to confirm that the water is too high for its usual inhabitants. Immediately opposite is an inlet on the far bank. Thsi shallower than the rest of the pond and attracted waders, now too deep for comfortable feeding.

Cormorant, Phalacrocorax carbo

Cormorant, Phalacrocorax carbo

Cormorant, Phalacrocorax carbo

Cormorant, Phalacrocorax carbo

January 9th 2023. Once again, Catcott Lows hosted me on a variable day of high winds and some dazzling moments of sunshine and complete calm.

Wigeon, Anas penelope

 Shoveler, Anas clypeata

Shoveler, Anas clypeata

Shoveler, Anas clypeata

At one point there was an explosion of duck towards the back. I could not see why, until a Peregrine shot into sight, high above. Then it stooped at considerable speed, but appeared to miss and flew across in front  of us a couple of times, always distant. Not good pictures, but capturing the moment briefly.

Peregrine falcon, Falco peregrinus

Peregrine falcon, Falco peregrinus

January 2nd 2023. Although little is expected at this time of year, with its near-continuous rain and heavy overcast, when it does let up, it can be fascinating - as it was today. Driving over to Catcott brought marvellous views of a Kestrel on Tealham Moor, hovering alongside the car with no-one near to disturb it. 

Kestrel, Falco tinnunculus

Kestrel, Falco tinnunculus

Kestrel, Falco tinnunculus

Kestrel, Falco tinnunculus

Kestrel, Falco tinnunculus

Shoveler had become particularly active during the last few days and I collected some nice flight shots as they chased each other round the pond, a ritual ff the breeding season arriving at last.

Shoveler, Anas clypeata

 

Shoveler, Anas clypeata m

Shoveler, Anas clypeata

Shoveler, Anas clypeata m

Another species that was prominent was the Lapwing. Some numbers were present, though not outstandingly so, but they were constantly on the move. Unfortunately the light was not at its best when I turned the lens on them, often rendering them as silhouettes, but fun to try and achieve something out of all that movement.

Lapwing, Vanellus vanellus

Lapwing, Vanellus vanellus

Lapwing, Vanellus vanellus

Lapwing, Vanellus vanellus

Lapwing, Vanellus vanellus

Lapwing, Vanellus vanellus

Lapwing, Vanellus vanellus

January 3rd 2023.  A trail camera lives alongside an ancient trail running through the garden, from where it records throughout the year. Every so often I bring in the card and see what has been caught, as in this bunch of pictures taken over the past week. I hasten to say there were more than this. These represent the more interesting images only. 

Roe deer, Capreolus capreolus - in early morning

Roe deer, Capreolus capreolus

Roe deer, Capreolus capreolus

Roe deer, Capreolus capreolus

Roe deer, Capreolus capreolus

Roe deer, Capreolus capreolus

Fox, Vulpes vulpes

January 1st 2023, New Year's Day. Time accelerates as the years go by. It is almost unbelievable that we have reached another of these landmarks. Sadly, the weather is not doing much to celebrate the occasion, being heavily overcast, damp and chilly, even if the thermometer does not match this, and there are signs of more wind to come. There are so many places to visit, quite apart from my favourite Catcott Lows, but my style of photography and equipment demands the most light, missing for the time being. As a family, we have had a strange Christmas; Covid-19 striking Fiona and Paul, the family hosts, followed by grandson Will later. Romey and I kept away, avoiding them all; a strange way to spend that time when we should be together. I don't think any of us will forget this unreal period.