Friday, 18 December 2009

Buzzards, Heron, Lapwing etc

(above, a Heron with 2 accompanying Buzzards)

The fine but cold weather today brought out a whole host of different birds onto the field to the rear of our house. Part of the particular attraction today was no doubt due to the farmer having very recently put slurry onto the field! We saw Buzzards (total of 11 at one time), a Heron, Redwings, at least 1 Fieldfare, Mistle and Song Thushes and (for the first time) several Lapwings, as well as the more usual Blackbirds and Starlings. Unfortunately none got too close, but here are a collection of photo's to "set the scene".

(above, some Lapwings; below a Redwing, and right, the Heron)

Wednesday, 16 December 2009


Now that Winter is well and truly here, so are some of our regular Winter visitors, including the Redwing. They arrive with us from Scandinavia and/or Russia from mid November and the numbers gradually increase to the point where sizeable flocks can be seen scouring the fields, normally looking for worms or occasionally picking off berries from the trees.

They are our smallest Thrush, and despite their colouration, can be surprisingly difficult to see when on the ground. Unfortunately they are very wary and the slightest movement will make them take to the air, so getting close for a photo is very difficuly, and despite repeated attempts I have yet to get a good clear shot.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Wood Mouse

With the weather turning cold, thoughts turn to our loft, or more precisely the arrival of a temporary resident or two! Like many houses in rural areas on cold nights, we tend to get the patter of tiny feet (although from below it sounds more like hob-nail boots) in the loft. These particular feet belong to the Wood Mouse (aka Field Mouse) seeking somewhere warm to spend the Winter nights.

Not being one to kill our guests we had set humane traps in the loft some weeks back, and it wasn't too long until we caught one. Because the Wood Mouse has such a huge territory (typically 3 square miles) there is no point in just putting it outside otherwise it will be back in residence in no time. Instead you need to take them at least a mile but prefarably further from the house to be reasonably certain that they don't return. This I have now duly done on no less than 3 occasions, the last being last Thursday.

One has to admire the inginuity of the mice. On checking the trap on one occasion I found it jammed open with loft insulation, and no mouse in sight. From the look of it the mouse had decided it might make a nice home, particularly as there was food at one end of it!

And the best way of getting the mouse into the trap...chocolate. We currently have it baited with an After Eight Mint!

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Yet Another Sunset

What is it about sunsets? They only last a matter of minutes but its probably the most photographed time of day. My excuse, as if I need one, is that this is the first sunset we have seen for about a month!

And I managed to combine it with this overflying Mississippi Air National Guard Boeing KC-135 tanker (the military equivalent of the Boeing 707) , with the last vestiges of the suns rays illuminating the starboard side. Amazingly the pictured aircraft was built in 1957!

Monday, 7 December 2009

Grey Squirrel

Perhaps not the most well loved visitor to the bird feeders, but you have to admire their inginuity. We have 2 so-called Squirrel proof feeders. Well, they are sort of, but as the photo shows, they may be proof against adults, but certainly not against the young....see photo!

Moving on to the adults, we have one or two regular visitors, who between them eat most of the nuts in our one non-squirrel proof feeder. Feeding the birds can get quite expensive!

Friday, 4 December 2009


It's that time of year when the Starlings get together in ever increasing numbers. We now see them in huge flocks on the fields arounds us.
When they are not feeding or performing their airborne ballet, they seem to like residing in some of the neighbouring trees.

Or maybe a quick visit to the birdtable!

Marsh Tit

Easily confused with the much rarer Willow Tit, this is a Marsh Tit. This is the first one we have seen this year. Despite their name they are more likely to be found in woodland as opposed to marshland areas. They are much scarcer than the likes of the Great Tit, Blue Tit, Long Tailed Tit and Coal Tit, so much so that they are on the RSPB's "Red List" of endangered species.

Thursday, 19 November 2009


The Wren is smaller than the Coal Tit (about 3.5 ins long), and for me, more elusive in terms of getting a photo. We catch regular glimpses as they hop in and around shrubs and hedges, but they normally remain under cover and only occasionally appear in in the open for any length of time, so not the easiest of "catches". I managed this photo of a Wren perched on one of our plant pots.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Coal Tit

Back to Wales and the unusually mild and dry autumn has disappeared. November has started cold and damp. In otherwords much the norm! With Winter around the corner we have noticed significantly more activity at the bird feeders, and throughout the garden in general. In addition to the usual occupants, we have seen Jay, Goldfinch, Starlings (now moving around in large flocks) and, yesterday, the first Redwing of the doubt more will follow soon. In amongst these, at long last, I have managed to get a decent photo of a Coal Tit. This is the smallest Tit and one of the smallest birds to be seen in the UK.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

More bird sightings

Last of the Woodpecker's from last months trip. This is a Downy Woodpecker, the smallest of the species in North America, measuring just 7 ins in length. They can be found throughout the US and most of Canada. This is a female...the male can be distinguished by a red patch at the back of the head.

To the right is a Mourning Dove, a common sight which can be found throughout much of the continent. Similar in size to the Collared Dove.

Below is a Loggerhead Shrike. Less than affectionately known as the "Butcher Bird" as a result of its rather unusual behaviour of impaling its captured prey on plant spikes or barbed wire! Quite why it does this is unclear. It is found throughout the southern half of the US. It measures 9 ins long. Here it is seen at a suitably appropriate location!

Friday, 6 November 2009


Our way out to the US earlier last month involved a 3hr stopover in Newark. Boring for many, but other than giving us the opportunity to stretch our legs, it allowed me a short period to photograph some aircraft! These all had to be taken through the expansive windows of Terminal C, which overlook downtown Manhatten accross the Hudson River. So here are a few examples that did not have annoying reflections or significant distortion. Newark is the 2nd major hub of Continental Airlines (after Houston) so movements were dominated by them. Nevertheless in the afternoon and evening it comes alive with international traffic, largely from Europe plus India and Singapore.

Top...One of the oldest aircraft in regular airline service, this 40 year old Douglas DC-9 of Northwest taxies out for departure

Above...Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-700 on very short finals

Right...Air Canada Jazz Bombardier RJ900 taxying.

Left... the latest and largest of the Boeing 737 family, a -900, this example in retro Continental colours. of the many Continental commuter types, this being a De-Havilland Canada Dash Eight Q400 aircraft

Bottom...a Delta Airlines Boeing 767-300
ER taxies out

All in all a pleasant stopover. We flew home via Newark, but sadly it was getting dark, so no opportunity to spot or photograph.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Fall Colors

I have gone slightly American here....I do of course mean Autumn Colours! However whatever you prefer to call it, and however you prefer to spell it, what you see is still the same. Perhaps not as well known for its colours as New England, our trip timed very well with the change of season, and despite less than ideal weather, I was able to capture the flavour of autumn. These pictures were taken in West Virginia (above) and literally from our car whilst driving north through Virginia.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Red Bellied Woodpecker

Another Woodpecker, again from West Virginia. This is a female Red Bellied Woodpecker. Mainly found in forests in the eastern half of the US. The female has a red patch on the back of the head...the more spectacular male has a red top half of the head. This bird actually gets its name from the reddish patch (that you can just see) on its lower belly. Smaller than the Pileated Woodpecker, it's approx 10 ins long.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Pileated Woodpecker

You will not see these this side of the Atlantic. This striking bird is a Pileated Woodpecker which I photographed during our recent trip. This particular example was at my brothers home in West Virginia. The picture quality is not good as it was (a) taken through glass and (b) it was a long way off. Still hopefully it gives a good idea of what they look like.

This is a large Woodpecker, approx 16-18 ins in length. What you cannot appreciate from these photo's is that the undersides of the wings are largely white. Sadly I never managed to capture a moment when the wings were extended.

The Pileated Woodpecker can be found in forests right accross southern Canada, the eastern half and western coast of the US.

More from Charlotte

Here are some further photo's I took whilst at Charlotte.

Above....US Airways Airbus A320 inches from main gear touchdown.

Left....another US Airways A320 (thi
s one being one of many acquired with the take-over of America West).

Right....Bombardier RJ700 of US Airways Express

Below...United Airlines Airbus A319 moments from landing

All in all I can highly recommend this location to any aviation photographer or anyone who just enjoys watching aircraft. I think the only downside is that with the predominance of US Airways aircraft it could get a little boring after a while! Mind you there is always a chance for a different view when the runway changes.

Below....a US Airways Airbus A321 shortly after take-off.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Charlotte, North Carolina

Apologies to those of you following my blog, but I have been away on holiday, and whereas I would like to think that I am a reasonably dedicated person, some things are more important than blogging!

Still, I am back refreshed from 2 weeks visiting family in the US. Despite being a very relaxing and welcome holiday, amazingly we visited no less than 7 states, namely New Jersey, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia! I personnaly squeezed in an 8th, with a flight Florida to visit the NBAA (National Business Aircraft Association) Convention being held in Orlando.

One of my finds during our travels was the aircraft viewing area at Charlotte International Airport. The US has never really understood the concept of aircraft spotting and aircraft photography, treating as they do their airlines and aircraft much as we do our bus services. But despite this the authorities at Charlotte have allocated a sizeable area for the likes of the aircraft spotter/photographer, and I have to say, it probably ranks as one of the best viewing locations that I have ever been to! So here are some photo's that I took.

Pictures from the top:

A queue of aircraft jostle for position for departure.
Above left...US Airways Embraer 195 on short finals.
Above right...Northwest Airlink Embraer 170 touches down (downtown Charlotte in the background)
Above....Northwest Airbus A319 on its take off roll.

Left...Delta Connection Embraer 170 just about to touch down.

Surprisingly Charlotte ranks as the 9th busiest airport in the world in terms of aircraft movements (that puts it ahead of Heathrow, Frankfurt and Tokyo to name but a few). This is largely due to its position as one of the two main operating hubs for US Airways (the other being Phoenix). There are a number of international flights serving Charlotte but the majority of services are domestic, and a good 40-50% of
these, gathered from my limited time there, are operated by regional jets in the 40-70 seat category. Hence Charlottes somewhat lower ranking of 26th in the world in terms of passenger numbers.

Right...US Airways Bombardier Regional Jet on very short finals while a company Embraer 170 awaits take-off clearance.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Another Sunrise

The rains of yesterday subsided and it cleared up overnight. This morning we were greeted by a thick blanket of mist. I took this photo at 8am this morning. Since then the mist has now cleared and we have a lovely sunny day.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009


Not exactly the most likely things to see flying, but following yesterdays reference to the moon, who knows! Besides which there is actually a case of a cow flying, vertically, at least (although I think I am using some poetic licence by using the term "flying"...falling would be more appropriate!). This happened some years back when one fell out the back of a Russian cargo aircraft flying accross the Pacific...apparently the cargo door somehow came unlocked and during a period of air turbulence a prize bull literally fell out the aircraft! Allegedly the said bull hit and sunk a ship, although I am not sure how much truth there is to does seem rather unlikely....mind you a bull falling from 30,000 ft is pretty unlikely too! Anyway here are some with their feet definitely on the ground which have just moved in to the field at the back of our house. You can also see that the fine weather has finally broken....a very damp and dismal day today.