Monday, March 23, 2009

Trandansen at Hornborgasjön

I'm looking forward to returning to Hornborgasjön in Sweden later this week. Lake Hornborga is the staging site in Sweden for almost the entire population of Eurasian Cranes in Scandinavia. In 2008 the peak day count during the spring passage was 15300! I've hired a photography hide for two days/nights so I'm hoping the light is good and nocturnal temperatures get above freezing! Last year I was a bit late for the dancing displays so hopefully I've time it right.

This year web cameras have been installed at the main visitor centre and give a good impression of the area. In web cam 4 you can just make out one of the photography hides in the distance to the left. The hides are accessed after dark after the cranes have flown to a roost site on the main lake. You have to sleep overnight in the hide as the birds start returning in the hour before dawn. There are currently at least 3400 present - spring passage has started early again this year - and more cranes can be viewed arriving (live) from the south.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Blackbird song

Blackbirds are my favourite songbirds when it comes to listening to birds. Yes, Nightingales are impressive but they lack the composure and serene delivery of the Blackbird. Of course this is a purely human way of sensing this aural signal and it is interpreted in a very different way by the birds themselves, particularly neighbouring males in competition for territory and potential mates. I made some recordings this evening of a Blackbird singing at dusk in Sunny Hill Park, London, c10 metre up in a tree top. This has been its favoured song post for some weeks now. This individual averaged around 9 phrases/minute each lasting 1.5-2.5 seconds with a 5 second pause between each as illustrated in the figure below. The second figure illustrates some of the unique phrases in a varied repertoire from the same individual. Each phrase consists of slow frequency modulated pure tones between 1.5 and 3.0 kHz, often followed by a more complex and higher-pitched flourish.

Larger versions can be viewed here:

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Finally managed to get some pleasing images of heron nestlings this year. There was a lot of waiting around with often a 1-2 hour period between feeds. When the adults did return the scramble around the regurgitating parent was over in a few seconds.

This pair is well advanced but others are just finishing off the nest and getting ready for egg-laying.

Larger versions here:

Friday, March 20, 2009

Feather Care

I was in the park at first light this morning and captured various images of a preening Grey Heron. The first image is somewhere between a backlit and a sidelit shot and I like how the neck plumes, beak and crest are partially illuminated. The second image shows the bird accessing oil from the uropygial gland, followed by the use of the toe nail as a comb for reaching those areas out of range of the bill. Finally, one of the bird working on the feathers of the upper neck - obviously at the extreme range of its reach.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Red Kite over North London

Heading into the city this morning, I was just about to board the tube at Hendon Central when I heard a commotion of crows in the air above. There against a deep blue spring sky was a cracking Red Kite lazily flapping its way northeast while trying to ignore the attacks of four Carrion Crows. Instantly it felt like I had been suddenly transported miles away to some distant wooded glen or valley...a minute later and the kite was out of sight and I realised those hills in my peripheral vision were the same ugly buildings I see everyday. Still its not a bad station… Jay and Great Spotted Woodpecker can often enliven any morning delays but I think in future I’ll be watching the skies!

Pochard - wide angle

Trying more wide angle photography today. Its surprising how close these wild Pochards will approach - in fact too close and they were often in the shadow created by my head and the lens! The Tufted Ducks are that bit more cautious so no success with them today.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Sitting on the bench

Many people hold Feral Pigeons in low regard but the comments of a few passing people as I was trying some unusual photographs today was a bit much. You've got to admire them in some respects; hardcore survivors eking out a living in the urban grime - that's grime caused by humans - not the pigeons :-)

Sunday, March 01, 2009

A wider view

A cloudy weekend in London – save for a nice sunset on Sunday evening – so I decided to experiment and try something a bit different. Taking in the wider view, a change of perspective led to distortion!

The three Tawny Owlets in Kensington Gardens had moved even higher up the tree to a position with a less obstructed line of view… must return to photograph them against a blue sky. Both Little and Great Crested Grebes were displaying on the Long Water and the Round Pond had a distinctive leucistic Black-headed Gull - extremely pale with just some slight tan colouring on the outer primaries but with normal bare part colouration.

... and the sunset this evening once the cloud had cleared...