Saturday 28 April 2012

Video Experimentation

It's been a very wet couple of days, so I've been going through my photos and videos. I've only just started video editing and it's going reasonable well, so I've added a video into the blog just because I've learnt how to. Be sure to have your speakers switched on to enjoy the sounds of Craignure, Isle of Mull. The music at the beginning wasn't added in, there was actually a chap playing a penny whistle type thing close by.

Best viewed at this size, as the file is too compressed  (if that is the correct technical term) for full screen.

Otter, Isle of Mull

Thursday 26 April 2012

Blogging Contest

A younger member of the Bag Clan has joined the blogging fraternity. Rabz the Rabbit  has gone global with his exploits and tells tales of his expeditions into the wild and the realm of fantasy.

From the Sugar Bowl Car Park and Back Again: A Rabbits Tale 
It may well put a smile on your face it did mine. 
A Quiz at the Wentworth

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Patch Work

Croft Hill
Fosse Meadows
There are only a few wildlife sites in my corner of Leicestershire that are particularly noteworthy, but with a bit of effort there are rewards if your prepared to put in the leg work. The most well known sites are Brascote Pits, Burbage Common, Croft Hill, Fosse Meadows and Frolesworth Manor Lake. I keep threatening to compile a list for the area, but it's difficult to define the actual extent of it. I will attempt to do it this year as the list is pretty impressive for an area with only a few small bodies of water.

I'll also add some more pictures so you can get an idea about the sites, but for now enjoy a few bird photos.

Oystercatcher, Brascote Pits
Common Buzzard, Brascote Pits
Avocet, Brascote Pits, May 2011

Saturday 14 April 2012

Hiding - but not very well

Morning, I've just settled into my photogaphic hide in front of a tree where a pair of Little Owls sit on a regular basis. Hopefully they will emerge sometime this morning from the hole they should be roosting in. I will update this post if they appear. 

First showing at 08:45 when a single owl appeared from out of the hole, but it flew straight off. Hopefully it will be back soon.

Little Owl in tree opposite but partially obscured - it will probably sit there now untill I leave.

Dog walker appears and the dog starts barking at my hide. The dog keeps barking for about five minutes until owner gets it to follow him. I think I've been sussed.

A couple of cows and their calves arrived to inspect the hide.

It's that Fool with the Hide Again
 Its time to give up and get some dinner and dream up a new plan!

I did see my first Swallow of the year from the hide, so it wasn't a complete failure.

Wednesday 11 April 2012

Ring Reading

Glaucous Gull, JX012, Longyearbyen
Gulls are not everyone's favourite group, but every now and again I like to delve into the complexities of gull identification. After enjoying the white winged spectacular in Scotland in February (still searching) I have become a regular visitor to Shawell A5 Lagoons near the village of Shawell. Leicestershire. The lagoons are close to a landfill site and are a good place to view gulls bathing and preening. The site attracts a great many gulls during the winter and so far this year it has scored with five Iceland Gulls and I've been lucky enough to see them all. Caspian and Yellow-legged Gulls are regularly seen amongst the commoner species. The site has also attracted Mediterranean and Glaucous Gulls plus a much rarer Ring-billed Gull. 

Researchers have been colour-ringing gulls for a number of years now, and amongst the daily gatherings at Shawell there are usually some birds sporting colour rings. A small group of birders have been attempting to read these rings, which is not easy at a distance of over 100 meters. This has been going on for a few years and is quite interesting as I've found out. Once the ring code has been read, the colour identified and the leg (left or right) noted it is time to try and find the project. This is done by visiting various websites such as

Many of the gulls have been ringed in the UK, but some are real globe trotters. My highlights so far include a Herring Gull ringed in Norway (2186 km away) and a Lesser Black-backed Gull ringed at Badajoz, Spain.

CR-Code Black ring with white code: J3924 LBNW(J3924);RBM
Ringing Centre Stavanger Museum (Norway) Ring number FA32867
Species Herring Gull  Larus argentatus
Sex Unknown Age Pullus
07.07 2011
Ørndalen, Tromsø, Troms, Norway
69°42'12"N 019°00'31"E
Lorentzen, Nils Helge
17.03 2012
Shawell A5 Lagoons, Leicester & Rutland, Great Britain
52°24'50"N 001°12'52"W
 Baggot, Carl & Lister, Steve

Some of the birds ringed in the UK have been seen in other countries including France, Germany, Norway and Spain.

So far this year, between us, we have read colour rings on 102 different birds involving seven species.

The Glaucous Gull pictured above was ringed at Longyearbyen, Svalbard. It was still more or less in the same place that it was ringed when I photographed it just over 60 days later. I am hoping it will be spotted somewhere else so I can get an update.

Saturday 7 April 2012

A Little Challenge

I've always had a soft spot for Little Owls and I am keen to get some great shots of this species. Up until last year I'd managed a few passable digiscoped shots, but they had alluded my DSLR. After a few tips from the county Little Owl expert, Paul Riddle, I started work at a couple of local sites. There are a number of challenges photographing hole nesting birds. The two sites I worked were both in the shade for much of the day and when the sun did get on the trees the light was nearly always too intense - never happy!

Juvenile Little Owl
I have started checking the breeding sites close to my home and I've seen adult birds at four out of five sites so far. This bodes well for this year, but for the time being here are some of my results from last year:

Little Owl Chick
Dinner is Served
Who Me?
Fresh Air at Last

It's a Small World

I was in the Apple Store in Leicester yesterday looking at the MacBook Pro and the sales assistant clicked on a photograph of a bear that I recognised. I couldn't help but blurt out, not once but twice,  'I know that bear'! The salesman smiled while I struggled to remember the bears name. It was Bodari a bear from Finland. I visited Finland In 2006 and spent some time at  Martinselkonen watching wild brown bears - Bodari was the star of the show. A film crew  named him Bodari, which means strong man or body builder after they saw him carry off a dead cow.  Bodari has a set of distinctive scars on his nose.

Bodari, Finland June 2006

Thursday 5 April 2012

Keep Searching

Before setting off to Scotland, I asked a friend to email me if there were any reports of 'white winged gulls' within a sensible driving distance of Aviemore. I did receive an email and he told me to head to Peterhead. It is approximately 130 miles to Peterhead from Aviemore, but I decided to go for it. I stopped off at Fraserburgh Harbour on the way and after a bit of searching I located three Iceland Gulls (an adult and two 2nd-winters) plus a 2nd-winter Glaucous Gull. Two of the Iceland Gulls came down to feed on bread, but the other one had obviously already eaten and didn't bother.
Adult Iceland Gull, Fraserburgh, February 9th 2012
2nd-winter Iceland Gull, Fraserburgh, February 9th 2012
Adult Iceland Gull, Fraserburgh, February 2012
I Must Stop Scratching My Nose
It wasn't just the gulls that enjoyed my bread.

2nd-winter Iceland Gull, Fraserburgh
After an hour or so, I left Fraserburgh and made my way to Peterhead. It was raining heavily, so I was lucky to find an assorted group of 'white wingers' right by the harbour wall and viewable from my car. I did, however, manage to flatten my car battery using the electric windows with the engine off. Fortunately the road ran slightly down hill, so I was able to bump start the car on my own. 
2nd-winter Iceland Gull, Peterhead, February 9th 2012
Sub-adult Iceland Gull, Peterhead, February 9th 2012
3rd-winter Iceland Gull, Peterhead, February 9th 2012
As well as the Iceland Gulls, three Glaucous Gulls were loafing about on the rocks in front of me.
2nd-winter Glaucous Gull, Peterhead, February 9th 2012
2nd-winter Glaucous Gull, Peterhead, February 9th 2012

Wednesday 4 April 2012

Searching for the White Stuff

As I have already mentioned, I enjoy mountain walking (and a bit of climbing) in winter. The Cairngorms are my favourite location as there is always some snow, but the conditions vary greatly. The best year so far for me was 2010 when there was a complete covering of snow from the streets of Aviemore all the way to the top of the mountains. In 2012 there was only a light covering on the mountains when we arrived. On Sunday February 5th I set out with the intention of climbing Cairngorm and then following the top edge of the Northern Corries via Cairn Lochan eventually dropping down into Corie an Lochan (not literally). The conditions were not too good as the tops were covered in cloud.

Cloud Building in the Larig Ghru and Drifting over Corie an Sneachda 
On arrival at the summit of Cairngorm the sun tried to break through, but it wasn't long before icy rain began to fall. My outer clothes had frozen and I was struggling to see through the ice on my ski goggles, so I was glad to start descending.
We're Definitely Having Some Weather at the Cairngorm Weather Station
Heavy snow overnight created better conditions for Monday, but instead of rushing off into the early morning mist I waited until the afternoon. I climbed out of Corie an Sneachda reaching the Cairngorm plateau close to Cairn Lochan. It was about 16:30  when I reached the top and there was a clear view to Ben Macdui and also Lochnagar. As I made my way down from the highest point of the day, I noticed the moon just peeping out between Cairngorm and Cairn Lochan. The walk down with the moonlight reflecting off the snow was awesome.
Full Moon in the Afternoon
The following day I climbed out of Corrie an Lochan by picking my way up the head wall, which was exciting at times to say the least. Down in the corie I managed to get a few images of winter plumaged Ptarmigan.
I have visited the Cairngorm National Park every February since 2009 and so I've added a few of my favourite images from previous years below:
Loch Avon, February 2010
The Northern Corries From Loch Morlich, February 2010
Snowed In After One Night - It Carried on Snowing for Nearly Three Days, February 2010
Bag Junior on the Cairngorm Plateau, February 2011
Beinn Mheadhoin
If you enjoy mountain adventures checkout this epic adventure

Tuesday 3 April 2012

Swanning About

My annual trip to Scotland in February is always one of the main highlights of the year for me. This year I planned something a little different, instead of rushing through the night to arrive at the Cairngorm ski car park for first light I decided to break up the journey half-way. After searching the web I settled on having a couple of days at Caerlaverock, a Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust reserve, on the Scottish side of the Solway. The weather forecasters got it wrong and instead of grey skies we got blue instead. We stayed on site in a wonderful house. After dark, guests can enjoy seeing Badgers and Foxes coming to food put out to attract them. We saw two badgers and possibly two different foxes. During daytime in winter Whooper Swans and  massive flocks of Barnacle Geese provide the entertainment.
Whooper Swan  Caerlavarock Feb 2012
Keeping Warm
It's Rude to Stare
The Crazy Gang
Let's Dance
The following morning we were in for a real treat as the sunrise was magnificent.

Sunrise Over Swan Lake