insectsandflight.com
all pictures © robin williams

January 2022: wildlife, from the Somerset Levels.

January 29th 2022. I reached Catcott Lows late in the afternoon, not expecting much other than some fresh air. But, within minutes of arriving someone pointed out the Glossy ibis emerging from the edge of the pond to the right. Within minutes the bird was feeding its way along on the front edge, so close that the zoom was needed to get the whole image into the frame. 

Glossy ibis, Plegadis falcinellus

Glossy ibis, Plegadis falcinellus

Glossy ibis, Plegadis falcinellus

Glossy ibis, Plegadis falcinellus

Glossy ibis, Plegadis falcinellus

Glossy ibis, Plegadis falcinellus

Glossy ibis, Plegadis falcinellus

 January 27th 2022. A sometimes overcast day at Catcott Lows, nevertheless brought some interesting views both on the water and in the sky. A Marsh harrier seemed to be in the top category for 'aerobatics of the year', spending its time twisting, turning, dropping and slewing up again. The colours are very patchy still, but glorious where the sun catches him.

Marsh harrier, Circus aeruginosus m

Marsh harrier, Circus aeruginosus m

Marsh harrier, Circus aeruginosus m

 Marsh harrier, Circus aeruginosus m

Marsh harrier, Circus aeruginosus m

Marsh harrier, Circus aeruginosus - a most unusual plumage

One or two Starlings arrived and made some interesting patterns. (If rare, what would we do to see this plumage!)

Starling, Sturnus vulgaris

Starling, Sturnus vulgaris

And, of course, at this time of year, the duck were there looking more and more elegant each day.

Shoveler, Anas clypeata f

Common teal, Anas crecca m

Wigeon, Anas penelope

January 21st 2022. The results from Westhay Moor were unexpectedly good on a rather miserable, cold day. Some sun appeared periodically but for much of the time I was gazing out over a vast sheet of rather grubby-looking reeds, with absolutely nothing moving. The waters in front were equally uninspiring, ice persisting during the whole visit. Perhaps I was affected by standing the whole while on a really cold day, with a nasty little breeze curling round my ankles. Eventually, as had been hoped, a Marsh harrier appeared but distant, almost invisible against the background. There seemed little hope of worthwhile pictures but, on searching through the computer, I pulled out some spectacular shots, diving, swooping, hovering.

Marsh harrier, Circus aeruginosus m

Marsh harrier, Circus aeruginosus m

Marsh harrier, Circus aeruginosus m

Marsh harrier, Circus aeruginosus m

Marsh harrier, Circus aeruginosus m

Marsh harrier, Circus aeruginosus  

Marsh harrier, Circus aeruginosus m

The final excitement came when a Bearded reedling appeared for a brief minute, only a few feet away in the midst of the reeds. Its funny little repeated call drew my attention, but I only had time for the one picture - exactly what I wanted, the eye clearly focussed.

 Bearded reedling, Panurus biarmicus m

January 18th 2022. Catcott Lows remains a most favoured spot, with devoted watchers found there most days. I was particularly lucky today when I felt, rather than spotted, a dark shape coming in on the edge of vision. It was a Glossy ibis, and several shots were captured thanks to the astonishing autofocus capacity of my Sigma lens. At this stage the light was rather dull and the bird looked black all over, with some white flecking on the head and neck. As the light changed to clear sunshine, the gloss on the back feathers became apparent, a fine view of what is a rather gawky bird, redeemed by the iridescence shown here. They are seen more frequently each year but are still rarities.

Glossy ibis, Plegadis falcinellus

Glossy ibis, Plegadis falcinellus

Glossy ibis, Plegadis falcinellus

Glossy ibis, Plegadis falcinellus

Glossy ibis, Plegadis falcinellus

Glossy ibis, Plegadis falcinellus

Glossy ibis, Plegadis falcinellus

Glossy ibis, Plegadis falcinellus

Glossy ibis, Plegadis falcinellus

Glossy ibis, Plegadis falcinellus 

January 17th 2022. The day started well. As we opened the bathroom curtains, we spotted a couple of deer tearing across in front, full-gallop. At first we thought it must have been the act of opening the curtains but they were much too busy for that. There were three young, slender Roe having the time of their life, rushing from one point to another, absolutely flat out. There was no doubt this was play. It ended with them slowing down, then methodically exploring the area. It was about quarter of an hour before they trooped off to the top and vanished as suddenly as they started. We hope this is a preliminary to seeing them in daylight once again. No pictures this time.

Westhay Moor started with the most brilliant blue sky, but clouded over in the end. My chosen spot was the tower platform in the middle of the reeds, a favourite place. I fool myself that standing for long periods, as is necessary for this hide, is really good for body-strength. I hope it is, but stiffness does take over eventually. Some Cattle egrets crossed over, high above, snowy against the sky-blue. It is not a place I would associate with these egrets but I have noticed previously that often there are egrets transiting in this upper land.

Cattle egret, Bubulcus ibis

At the end, the Marsh harrier appeared, hunting high above the reeds and I enjoyed watching her for a while. As usual at this time of the year, the sex of the bird remains partly undisclosed. The variations in the semi-juvenile plumages are endless.

Marsh harrier, Circus aeruginosus juv.

Marsh harrier, Circus aeruginosus juv.

Marsh harrier, Circus aeruginosus juv.

January 13th 2022. I walked over to the tower hide in the middle of the reeds at Westhay, but there was nothing to be seen during a long wait in rather a overcast sky until a distant Marsh harrier had a moment of glory, floating across the sky in front.

Marsh harrier, Circus aeruginosus f

Marsh harrier, Circus aeruginosus f

At that point, I decided there was time for driving on to Catcott Lows before the light gave out - already afternoons are lengthening out quite noticeably, though mornings remain dark. Wigeon were everywhere, calling loudly every so often though without any apparent reason. At the very end, just as I was about to leave, a distant harrier drove up great masses of duck - Pintail, Wigeon, Shoveler and Teal. It is a long time since I have photographed so many duck in the air at Catcott.

Wigeon, Anas penelope m

Wigeon, Anas penelope f

Wigeon, Anas penelope f

Wigeon, Anas penelope f

The next picture was of a Starling feeding on the wet peat in front, no doubt about to go and join its friends in the great communal roosts nearby. Unexpecterd.

Starling, Sturnus vulgaris

My final picture was of an egret, all twisted wings and loose feathers as it passes across in front.

 

Great white egret, Egretta alba

January 12th 2022. Back at Catcott once more, in perfect light late in the afternoon. A variety of duck and geese caught the eye and got the shutter working. A great day's enjoyment.

Wigeon, Anas penelope

Wigeon, Anas penelope m

Wigeon, Anas penelope 

Wigeon, Anas penelope m

Mixed duck, Catcott Lows

 

mixed duck, Catcott Lows

Greylag geese, Anser anser

January 7th 2022. It was another cold, blustery mid-winter day, really dark when we opened the curtains. Romey spotted the deer first, almost a shadow to begin with, strengthening with the light. The doe was in a restless mode, wandering round, stopping for a few moments, then glancing round and wandering off in another direction. She was with us for at least half an hour and could be more, lost in the upper part of the orchard. While the light did improve, the camera was set on ISO 3,200 at either f6.3 or 7.1. The resulting images, all hand-held, are a tribute to the sheer efficiency of the modern DSLR as well as the sheer joy of sharing moments with this beautiful creature.

Roe deer, Capreolus capreolus f

Roe deer, Capreolus capreolus f

Roe deer, Capreolus capreolus f

Roe deer, Capreolus capreolus f

Roe deer, Capreolus capreolus f

Roe deer, Capreolus capreolus f

Roe deer, Capreolus capreolus f

Finally, a picture of one of the Roe taken at 9.30 in the morning by a trail camera in far from ideal conditions. She was on her way out, down the garden, leaving the others to their activities. Still in ghostlike winter coat.

Roe deer, Capreolus capreolus f

January 6th 2022. Catcott Lows on a grey and windy day; when only those turn up seeking peace and fresh air.

Wigeon, Anas penelope

Wigeon, Anas penelope

Wigeon, Anas penelope

Common snipe, Gallinago gallinago

Common snipe, Gallinago gallinago

Common snipe, Gallinago gallinago

Common snipe, Gallinago gallinago

Common snipe, Gallinago gallinago

Cormorant, Phalacrocorax carbo

CormoanantJanuary 4th 2022. I arrived at Catcott Lows at both the right and the wrong moment. Wrong, because there had been several notable sightings of a male Hen harrier right in front of the hide. Right,  I was able to witness one such event later on. Indeed, I missed one fly-by as I was getting out of the car. I heard the pandemonium when all the duck took off, and I was told all about it as I walked in, as several of my friends were present. Hen harriers are always of note. There are few breeding pairs in the country and their migration appears rather hit and miss in our area. But, a male harrier in full adult plumage is even rarer, as well as being particularly handsome. Two things struck me as I watched it take off and tear across the area in front; how relatively small he is and how fast he flies. Whatever, a particular privilege to watch such a fine predator at work in our own surrounds, even if rather distant.

Hen harrier, Circus cyaneus m

Hen harrier, Circus cyaneus m

Hen harrier, Circus cyaneus m

Hen harrier, Circus cyaneus m

 

Hen harrier, Circus cyaneus m

But, the afternoon was not finished; a large flock of Canada and Greylag geese flew across, tried to land but, perhaps, felt there were too many other birds on the open water and finished off making for nearby Canada Lake. When I got home and put the pictures up on the computer, I was amazed to see that one couple consisted of a Greylag and a White-fronted goose who were obviously paired up together. It is many, many years since I have seen White-fronts on our local moors.

Greylag and White-fronted geese, Catcott Lows, 1-22

Greylag and White-fronted geese, Catcott Lows, 1-22

On the way back home, I came across a Little egret with partial breeding plumage showing, surely remarkably early?  Finally, a remarkable back-lit picture was obtained of a Grey heron near the egret. What an afternoon!

Little egret, Egretta garzetta, in partial breeding plumage

Grey heron, Ardea cinerea

January 1st 2022. As we have become used to, another overcast day with a great deal of rain. At the same time, most celebrations in the area have been much reduced, with many people staying at home. While the Prime Minister is greatly concerned about the latest Omicron variant of Corona virus, he has placed few extra restrictions. While the virus is spreading rapidly, it is much less damaging. The problem, as always, is can the NHS cope with beds? Lincolnshire is already facing a particularly serious situation. It appears that hospitalisation and deaths are still low generally compared with earlier outbreaks. Surely we must be near the time where it is another nasty disease with which we must learn to live, like 'flu? The country cannot stand a prospect of years more serious restrictions.