Graham (of Birding with the Old Grouse fame) had kindly volunteered to give those that wished, a guided tour of his local patch, Holmthorpe Sand Pits in Nutfield - and what a great tour it was. Graham (who is nothing like his blog title suggests, and had a great sense of humour in addition to his extensive birding knowledge) was a great tour guide.
I'd left home at crack of dawn to drive over to Frank and Anita's and, although I'd volunteered to drive us from there, Frank kindly did the driving which left me free to admire the scenery (thanks Frank). We arrived in the car park well ahead of time to be greeted by a robin singing perched up above us.
We then walked around the lake - the sun was shining, the sky blue and catkins were bursting forth!
Along our initial walk we came across some nesting birds in a tree hole!
Evidence here of quite a few nesting holes
and one at the top
was occupied and the resident looked down on us
(so there's no escaping the Ring-necked Parakeets!
At about 9.30 a.m. we teamed up with Graham and various other members of the group arrived. At this point, I must also thank Richard who's knowledge of flora and fauna was impressive and, amongst imparting a great deal of knowledge, pointed out some Pyramidal Orchids that were poking their noses through the earth.
Graham's first "goody" of the day was the Barn Owl who was perched up, fast asleep, in a cosy hole in a tree. This was a wonderful sighting and I managed to get some pics (more of that later).
I took this on our way out for the walk but the Owl's face was in deep shadow.
(There will be a better pic later!)
Now on and around the sand pits. Following a comment I made on Graham's blog, had rather rashly promised me a sighting of a Little Egret and, true to his word, one flew over. Nice one Graham :).
Further around the water, a pair of Shelduck
and large numbers of Cormorants - mostly favouring the centre island.
Later on completing that part of the circuit, we passed the Barn Owl again. On this occasion, a birder/photographer was also taking pictures of said bird. Hmmmm, thought I, he has a rather large lens - *thinks* - I shan't look as I'll only be green with envy. Well - I succumbed. This very kind fellow birder/photographer was not only happy to talk about his camera (Canon 50D like mine) but his lens as well; which was a Canon 500mm. Ooooh. And, extremely kindly, he offered to let me attach my camera to his lens - well who could possibly say 'no' to such an offer! So, (and hopefully I've found the correct blog) my thanks to Phil (Birdmad Bird Photography) for the "loan" of his lens and helpful photographic advice as well. (If I've picked up the incorrect blog, then please do let me know!)
Now - here are some comparison shots.
This is my 400mm lens with an entirely uncropped picture
This shot is taken from the same spot, with Phil's lens and a focal length of 700mm.
and the final picture - cropped from the one above and the best of the bunch!
(and I'm reasonably pleased with it)
OK - so now I'm looking for a job so I can purchase a 500mm lens :D
And the birds seen today?
(Peregrine Falcon - which I dipped on)
Great Crested Grebe
Black-headed (and other) Gulls
Heard - Reed Bunting
Heard - Blackcap
Lesser Redpoll (whey hey - a lifer)
(Further sightings can be found on Graham's blog : HERE )
A great day with Graham, Richard, Frank & Anita, and all other birders there - thanks Guys and Girls :D
12 hours ago