December 2005

Nikon has just released new firmware that 'improves autofocus' on their D2X. I've been unhappy with the autofocus on my camera since it returned from repair last month, but the new firmware seems to make a big difference.The black-headed gull, common gull and rook below were photographed at Chew Valley Lake on 3 December. A drake ring-necked duck was present on Herriot's Pool.

black-headed gull

common gull

rook

There was a juvenile great northern diver at Barrow Tank No. 1 on 4 December. I sat and waited to get some photos at lunchtime on 10th, and also photographed a great crested grebe and a little grebe catching sticklebacks.

great crested grebe

little grebe

Eventually the great northern diver swam quite close by, in strong sunlight.

great northern diver

great northern diver

great northern diver

great northern diver

great northern diver

It's the time of year when the late afternoon gull roost at Chew deserves close scrutiny. Conditions on 11th were perfect - sunny and calm. A careful search of thousands of common gulls paid off when I found an adult Kumlien's gull, almost certainly the adult that has appeared sporadically in the last four winters at Chew. Interestingly, the bird was seen on December 12th last year.

chew gull roost

chew gull roost

Highlights at Chew on 17th were a drake red-breasted merganser, drake ring-necked duck, 2 little egrets, 2 green sandpipers, and 8 Bewick's swans. I photographed the drake mallard and first winter black-headed gull below.

mallard

black-headed gull

A walk around Backwell Lake on 18th produced some interesting birds: 5 goosander (2 males), a shoveler, a little egret overhead, and reed bunting, chiffchaff and water rail were heard.

Chew Valley Lake on 23rd held a Slavonian and a black-necked grebe in Heron's Green Bay. I photographed a mute swan, moorhen, lesser black-backed gull and coot with a Nikon 80-400mm VR lens. A peregrine flew over Flax Bourton in the morning. A kingfisher flew along the road through Barrow Gurney in front of my car it had probably been fishing on the pond next to the road there.

mute swan

moorhen

lesser black-backed gull

coot

There were 6 goosanders at Backwell Lake on 24th,and I photographed them while walking the dog. Also present were several gadwall, at least 3 wigeon, shoveler, and a chiffchaff and a water rail were heard.

goosander

Above - adult female (left) and juvenile goosander.

goosander

goosander

I also photographed a family party of mute swans in flight, an adult black-headed gull, and a Canada goose.

mute swans

black-headed gull

Canada goose

On 27th I went to see the male BLACK-THROATED THRUSH at Curload, near Stoke st. Gregory in Somerset. When I arrived (about 10.40h) the bird was showing nicely about 50m away in a planted field with redwings. The black throat and partly yellow bill stood out. It then flew over a hedge, back into a more distant field before being put up by a sparrowhawk when it became lost to view. There were 5 redhead goosander at Backwell Lake on 28th. Differences in eye colour among individuals are quite striking.

goosander

goosander

The year ended with sightings of a female greater scaup at Cosmeston Lake near Penarth.

scaup

The bird seemed to have good characteristics for a pure bird, although it associated with a strange hybrid Aythya with pale loral spots and black that extended beyond the nail on the bill.

scaup and hybrid

It also gave the impression of having restricted white on the secondaries. Maybe this is a trick of the photograph?

scaup

A happy new year to everybody.