February 21st. I had to go back to the Levels tonight to get closer to the starling roost. The aerial displays were spectacular. It's great to imagine shapes in the flocks. I also saw a marsh harrier, and the roost was hassled by a merlin, a peregrine, a buzzard and a sparrowhawk. Listening to a booming bittern in the near-darkness on the return was magical, and I also heard a bearded reedling and a tawny owl.
February 20th. All photos today with the 100-400mm zoom lens, which can be useful for landscapes. I went to see the red-necked grebe at Cheddar Reservoir, the first I've seen since the summer plumage bird there in 2008.
There were also 4 black-necked grebes present.
Then I went to Ham Wall to photograph the starling roost, which is still spectacular. I saw 2 bitterns and a great white egret as I waited, and there are now several bitterns booming.
The starlings flew in across Ham Wall, before seemingly roosting at the back of Meare Heath.
February 19th. Slimbridge WWT. No surprises amongst the birds, but wonderful scenery with about 2cm of snow. There are still >500 white-fronted geese and >200 Bewick's swans present. Not so many juvenile swans though. Photos taken with 400mm f5.6 lens.
At least 2 birds are fitted with neckband markers, seemingly in the Netherlands. These seem to contain minature GPS's - see here.
Some more Bewick's swans.
There are good opportunities for photographing blue and great tits around the feeders at the Kingfisher Hide.
The North American river otters are very photogenic, and huddle together in a tree.
February 13th. A little owl calling near Long Ashton Park and Ride, probably from Ashton Court.
February 12th. The Backwell bittern shows nicely, but typically when it's almost dark, so you need a good tripod to photograph it. The images below were taken at shutter speeds around half a second. Also present this afternoon - a little grebe, 2 drake goosander (again flying off towards Barrow Tanks just before dusk), a little egret (again flying in at dusk), water rail, 2 grey wagtails and a peregrine carrying a bird kill overhead.
Thinking about reeds in photos, and whether they distract from or add to the image, here's a shot from February last year that I didn't put online then, but which has grown on me subsequently. Although the bird is small, I like the atmosphere created by the reeds and snow (which lit up the bird from underneath). It also shows how barn owls can appear so white and ghost-like at times.
February 7th: fifth time lucky - the Backwell Lake bittern came out onto the flattened reeds on the main reed bed at dusk. Seen at 17.15h onwards at about 15-20m range, though it was virtually dark. Great bird to see so close to home. I also saw 4 male goosander (all flew in the direction of Barrow Tanks at dusk), water rail, a kingfisher, and a little egret that flew in at about 17.00h.
February 6th: my fourth attempt to see the Backwell Lake bittern, and again no success. I did see a kingfisher, a little egret and three drake goosander.