Tag Archives: Grey Heron

River Witham in May

As I have said in some of my other Blog posts we are quite lucky in Lincoln to have many parks, pools, rivers and lakes and these are inhabited by a whole host of different wildlife species although birds are the most common and visible. As part of my “keep-fit” regime (limited though it is) I occasionally walk into town form home. This is between 4km and 5km depending on the route I take often culminating in the Starbucks on the High Street; as I walk quickly I’m quite warm at the end and I enjoy a Mocha Frappuccino Light which isn’t too high in syns (see the Slimming World website for details on what a “syn” is).

Although I walk rapidly I do look around on my journeys and so note anything of interest, I have even modified my route on occasion if there is something to see. My route into town takes me down Brant Road onto Newark Road (aka A1434) which then joins the A15. The two roads turn into a short dual carriageway called St. Catherine’s which after a round-about splits off into the High-Street and South Park Avenue. I follow the High-Street route into town.

At the bottom of the high street (just after the afore mentioned roundabout) is a pedestrian route to the right called Altham Terrace which runs adjacent to an off-shoot of the River Witham called Sincil Dike. On the opposite bank that is inaccessible to people is a large swan nest that had a female Mute Swan as the occupant (as well as no doubt one or more eggs).
I had wanted to take pictures of the swan and hopefully see how many eggs she had for some time and just over a week ago I made time to takes some photo’s. As I had walked from home to this Altham Terrace, I first had a quick drink of some coke I brought with me. The wasn’t much action so after the drink I took out my camera (OM-D E-M1 Mark-II + 300mm f4 IS PRO lens) and took a few shots. I waited for a bit and apart from some preening by her and the male “cob” there wasn’t much to see.

After taking a few shots of the two swans I carried on down Altham Terrace and saw my first set of ducklings this year, in total I saw five families of ducks and ducklings. In my enthusiasm, I had my shutter speed set too low (1/250 sec) so my first shots of the ducklings are all blurred as they were moving too fast.
As you progress down Altham Terrace / Sincil Dike after a small weir there is a river crossroads of Sincil Dike and the River Witham. Altham Terrace joins a road of the same name after crossing a pedestrian foot bridge. If you follow the River Witham to the right (North) it ultimately goes into town and eventually flows into the Brayford Pool in the centre of town. If you go left (South) the river flows towards the junction of Brant Road and Newark Road. You can either walk down the bank of the river or alternatively back from the bank is a tarmacked path (perfect for bikes). This has led to a completely new route which from the end of Brant Road and town.

Now onto the photographs…
My first three photographs are around the Mallard ducks; a small family, a female and 3 ducklings swam onto one of the banks that had some other Mallards there and there was an altercation between the mother and one of the males:

Whilst this was happening the ducklings took cover:

However, it all turned out well and the family carried on down the river foraging for food along the way:

Near where I was standing watching this (the junction of the two rivers) was a railing where a House Sparrow was collecting food and I caught a shot whilst it was perched on these railings:

When it jumped to the ground I took a couple more shots but that low shutter-speed caught me out and the bird was moving too quickly. However, a female Blackbird landed not far from the Sparrow and it wasn’t moving too fast so I managed a few nice shots like this one:

During all the commotion and the large number of birds in the water a Mute Swan that was swimming down (probably a Male) puffed himself up as follows, needless to say the other birds got out of its way:

Once I started to walk down the river towards home I saw other Mallard duck familes, Common Coots and Moorhens such as this one:
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What I didn’t expect to see though were any Grey Herons such as this one:

In fact, there were two Herons present, this one was on the other bank:

As this was on my side I walked slowly towards it and I managed to take a few head-shots as it looked over the tall grass. Not long after this the first Heron (on the opposite) bank took off and a few seconds later this one also flew away, this was my best effort and it would have been great if the other wing had been in frame too:

I think this a combination of my (lack of) skill and too much focal length and/or being too close.

As I said earlier this will most likely be my preferred way into town now as it is picturesque, offer photographic opportunities and is less polluted tank to the lack of cars.

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Hartsholme Park – Early June

I try to visit Hartsholme Park at least once a fortnight during this time of year as there is a lot of activity, you can read about my previous visit here. Unfortunately, Richard was unable to join me due to family matters so I was alone like last time, although I prefer taking photographs with a friend it did allow me to go much earlier than normal. I arrived there at 07:45; which was fortunate as I had a lot to do on Sunday. I also had plenty of time to walk around the lake and get more photographs than normal.

Rather than provide a running commentry in chronological order of what I saw I have tried a different tact in this post. I have collated all of my favourite photographs by species and will provide an introductory piece to each one. Hopefully this will make them easier to write and hence get this post out much earlier than I would have – hopefully you’ll be reading this Monday morning. Please let me know if you prefer this style or would rather me revert back to the older way of writing.

Enjoy 🙂

Grey Herons:
During my last visit I thought that the Herons had vacated the central island of Hartsholme Lake but it was clear that there were still a few nests in use as evidenced by my first photo below. There were also a number of solitary Herons dotted around the island like in the second photo. One photo that isn’t here is the one that got away, whilst I was checking the time on my phone, one landed only a few feet from me and before I could put the phone away and take a shot it flew off!

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Greylag Geese:
The Greylag geese were their usual vocal selves on Sunday and did a lot of flying, honking and not much else. I have seen Greylag Geese goslings on Hartsholme Lake in early May this year but not for some time , I wonder where they are?
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Common Coot:
In my previous post I pointed out that there was a Common Coots nest which had the female on the nest and the male bringing twigs and other items to shore up the nest. Since then the eggs have hatched and think that there are now 4 or 5 chicks. They aren’t the prettiest things and look like minature plucked chickens at the moment but they will soon grow and become the back and white-beaked Common coot that is (as its namesake suggests) is very Common on water ways in the UK.

The female was still on the nest trying to keep all of the chicks together and the male was going off and fetching food for them, in a few days the adults will split the young in to two groups and each one look after one of the groups. These birds can fly after 55 days. I apologise for the large number of photos but it was a joty to watch the two birds and the young chicks in action.
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Magpie:
Not far from the Coots nest, this magpie landed and was moving about quite a bit so I decided to take a few photos of him/her as I don’t have many magpie photographs at all. In totals I saw 5 or 6 of them so that’s Silver or Gold!
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Great Crested Grebe:
There are still a large number of Great Crested Grebes on the lake and I am still trying to capture the illusive chick (or chicks) on a mother’s back – no such luck. However this one was relatively close and I do like the action shot of him/her as it plunged out of the water.
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Mute Swan:
Like most waterways there are a pair of Mute Swans on the lake, these were luckier than the St.Marks swan in that they have 3 cygnets (which is still very low), I don’t think that this can be a good year for Mute Swans.
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Canada Geese:
These are the first Canada Geese goslings I have seen this year.
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Mallard Ducks:
And at last I have seen some young ducks although I wouldn’t call them ducklings any more
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I had a good time at Hartsholme Park today but I must watch the ISO a lot more; some of the shots I took are unusable as they are very noisy thanks to the very high ISO setting. to help combat this in the future I have adjusted my auto ISO setting so that it doesn’t go quite as high.

Hartsholme Park in Early May

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A few days ago (on Bank Holiday Monday) I visited Hartsholme Park to see any young birds that might be present after all of the various mating that had been going on. I took the Olympus OM-D E-M1 with the excellent 40-150 f2.8 lens with the 1.4x extender attached. Fortunately for me the sun was behind me giving me the best chance to get decent pictures although the intensity varied quite a bit as the various clouds in the sky moved in front of the sun from time to time.

When I arrived at the water-front the first birds that I saw were the three Grey Herons almost mid-centre of the island near the water as per the image at the top of this blog post.

I took various photos of the usual inhabitants of the lake such as the Black Headed Gull now with its Spring/Summer plumage which shows how this bird got its name:
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We also had a number of Moorhens in the area too (I saw no pairs though):
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And the Great Crested Grebes were swimming and diving a lot of the time, I have never seen so many as per the last few weeks:
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With all of the different birds around they seemed to largely ignore each other, just like this Grebe swimming past the aforementioned Grey Herons:
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However, after all of this activity I did see a pair of Greylag Geese with 8 goslings, I do love watching groups of young and adult birds swimming together:
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As the Geese and Goslings swam out of view I moved around the lake towards their direction to see if I could get a better look. As I ventured around there were a number of Mallard ducks sleeping at the edge just like this female:
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As I was getting myself into a better position to get some photos of the Geese (being careful not to disturbs the ducks), I noticed this squirrel scurry in front of me and perch on top of a tree stump. I couched down and took few photos such as this one:
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There were at least two Greylag Geese families; in addition to the parents with 8 goslings there was another family with only 2 goslings, they warned each other to keep away:
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After watching the geese for a while I started to go back to my starting place and saw a rabbit scurry away. As usual they are very quick and shy and this was the best photo that I could get. This is what is known as a “butt-shot” but you can see that this is rabbit and it is the best one I have taken at Hartsholme:
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Just as I was about to venture around the corner not far from the rabbit I noticed two small birds hopping around the ground and fence, one was a robin on the fence:
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The other is a bird that I am not sure of, it looks a bit like a “Dunnock” but it could be female from another species:
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After walking around another way to the water-front (my starting position) I took a few photos of the Herons in their nests. There must be dozens of them on the island:
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As I was watching a magpie retrieve food from a bin and taking some mediocre shots a squirrel came within a few centimetres of me as I was crouching down. I suspect that he hoped I had some food, I managed a few shots even with the tele+extender combo on the E-M1 – the close focus distance of the lens came into play here. This photo isn’t great but it shows how close he was:
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What I was hoping to capture were some ducklings but I didn’t see any around in the near vicinity but I did see a family of them (I think) swim from one end of the lake to the other to the far right of my current position. So I decided to head in that direction to see if they could be found. Unfortunately when I got there they were nowhere to be seen, other birds were there such as adult Mallard ducks and Common Coots:
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After a while another Moorhen showed up and started to wade through the vegetation at the water’s edge as follows:
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So I decided to head back to the car and I noticed something that I must have passed (and not noticed) on my way to my last position. Not far from the edge of the path in the water was this Common Coots’ nest. On the nest was one bird positioning various plants, twigs and leaves around the nest as well as another Coot that had been collecting them in its beak and passing them to the other coot for the nest, it was joy to watch:
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I took one final photo as I left:
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It was a great session at the lake and I look forward to my next visit there. I took a few videos and I might put them up on Youtube when I get some spare time. This post has taken far too long to create and publish.

Hartsholme Park – April 2015

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Last Sunday I visited Hartsholme Park which at the moment is teaming with life as Spring is definitely here and all of the animals (mostly birds) that live there are have either had their young or are preparing for young. So you have a lot of nest building and courtship and mating going on too. I try and visit at least every fortnight at this time of year and if possible at least once a week – today is a wet and cold day and not as nice as a week ago.

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When I got there it was very foggy and I was not hopeful of getting any great shots as this is almost the worst type of weather to shoot in for any animals that are more than a few feet away as any type of haze can seriously deteriorate the sharpness of the photographs you take. However, it was evident that a lot was going on and the best shots come from knowing your cameras capabilities and actually getting out there; the old adage “practice makes perfect” really applies to photography. That said you can never be “perfect” but as long as the quality of your photographs improve taking to account all of the technical, lighting and composition techniques then it certainly is worth it. Also learning new techniques and tips helps improve the photographs too.

Along with the usual crowd of birds that are here all year round were the Grey Herons and the Great Crested Grebes – these two were the most active and I mostly concentrated on them. The Grebes were also a lot closer than usual so i was able to get some of my best shots ever – its just a shame that the haze made them not as sharp as i would have liked.

The following pair kept swimming near each other:
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It was clear that a Courtship ritual was taking place and after I took a couple of photos I also captured a short video too:

The Grebes were very entertaining to watch and got closer and closer to me allowing many more photographs:
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The final shot in this sequence (as well as the top photograph) are clearly some of the best I have ever captured – this was mostly down to their vicinity towards me and the knock-on effect of only needing a small amount of cropping:
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I have already mentioned the usual birds that inhabit the park such as the Canada Geese, this one was part of a pair that were defiantly “flirting” 🙂 with each other but they were crafty and I couldn’t get a clear photograph of them before they were finished:
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There were also a lot of moorhens and common coots around although part from a pair of moorhens seemed to all be alone. This common coot swam from the bridge at the far end the lake to near me and the light just fell on the bird at the right time:
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Whilst Mallard ducks are very common at Hartsholme I have never seen a duck like this before:
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I initially thought it was a Mallard cross but it has the wrong colour beak and there is no “tuft” on the tail feathers. I have had a quick search and it could be a “Black-headed Duck”, a “Velvet Scoter” or possibly a “Black Duck”; it might be something completely different or a cross of two different species:
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My final bird photographs are of the Grey Herons. This is a very majestic bird and there is a very large colony of them in the central island of Hartsholme lake. They return every year and for many months are simply great to watch and photograph. Thanks to the haze and my limited focal length my shots are not some of the best that I have taken and maintaining focus on them isn’t easy at the best of times but here are a couple the better ones:
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This second one shows how close some of the nests are in certain part of the island:
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My final shot was taken during my final few minutes at the park and a bit of serendipity, I tried lots of different angles and landscape/portrait orientation to get the best shot and this is my favourite of the bunch:
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All photographs were taken with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 body using the M.Zuiko 40-150mm f2.8 PRO lens and the 1.4x Tele-converter. They were also geo-tagged using the “GPS-4-Cam” software running on an iPhone 6+ as well as the desktop companion application. They were edited in Lightroom 5.7.1 running on an Apple iMac 27″ (latest generation non-retina).

Hartsholme Park with OM-D and 1.4x Converter

When I purchased my Olympus OM-D E-M1 in November last year from the LCE Photo and Optics show I also pre-ordered the 40-150mm f2.8 PRO lens and 1.4x teleconverter too. A few months later I got my 40-150mm lens and then soon after the teleconverter. What I have not really had an opportunity to do is use the lens and teleconverter combo at Hartsholme Park or any venue for that matter. I decided that this weekend I would make the effort to go to Hartsholme Park and try this out; I also invited Richard Brown and met him at our usual vantage point. Richard had his Nikon D800 and Nikkor 300mm f2.8 lens with the Nikon 1.7x teleconverter; this gave him a slight field of view edge over my combo.

As soon as I got there I noticed that we had some Grey Heron clearly visible in the trees on the central island, although the Grey Heron’s were mostly building their nests one of them in this nest had different colouring so may have been a young one:
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Every now and then the Heron would bring a twig back to their nests:
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Occasionally they would land in the wrong location and were chased off by the current occupants:
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Although the Heron are the most interesting bird around, the most common were the Black-Headed Gulls:
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Although the one above has its spring/summer plumage, there were many others in varying degrees of head colour from almost pure white to the black head of this bird. There were also a number of Herring gulls around too.

It was mostly the standard occupants of the lake, such as the Mallard Ducks, the difference is that they (like most of the birds around at this time of year) are starting to pair off:
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We had a few Canada Geese like usual:
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But they were outnumbered by the Greylag Geese, who were in flight quite a bit
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This is one of my favourites even though it isn’t perfectly in focus:
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Like the ducks and the Heron, the Greylag were starting to pair off too:
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Unusually there were quite a number of Great Crested Grebe around sharing the lake with the Greylag Geese:
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These two were performing some kind of ritual, unfortunately I didn’t have a lot of reach to get them and this was cropped quite heavily:
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Finally we had some Moorhens, Crows, Common Coots:
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And as usual, the Wood Pigeons were quite vocal and friendly too:
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Thoughts about the Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm f2.8 lens + 1.4 Converter:
I have a mixed reaction to this combo, anything that was relatively close (a few meters) came out nicely in focus and not soft, the colours were vibrant and very little editing or cropping was required. However anything that was far away came out not so good and this is where I had a problem; whether it was incorrect focusing or simply a factor of the subject being (too?) far away I wasn’t that pleased with the results. Not having clear sunshine behind us for more than a few minutes during the morning’s exclusion didn’t help. I think more practice is needed before I can come to any concrete conclusions though.

Did Firmware 3.0 help?
Again I’m not sure, it did seem slightly more responsive but all of the various focusing modes I tried had strengths and weaknesses. More practice is needed and there were a few things that I didn’t try that I would like to play with. Hopefully I will be able to try them out during one of my lunchtime breaks this week.

Final points to note:

  1. I tried Aperture and Shutter priority but in the end I switched to manual exposure mode as the light kept changing and the amount of exposure-compensation needed for the A and S modes varied all of the time. Having a histogram in the viewfinder certainly helped.
  2. I used GPSCam to capture the GPS coordinates via my iPhone 6+, this is still the best way to do this short of using a dedicated device such as is available for Nikon and Canon DSLR bodies.
  3. Heavy cropping of images form the OM-D cameras is not recommended as the detail goes southwards very quickly especially if you are above ISO 200 which I had to be due to the light levels during the day.
  4. I tried taking a picture of this friendly Crow that came quite close to us and all of my pictures had camera shake so not sure why that happened as the shutter speed wasn’t too slow and the IBIS is usually excellent. I think that when you use continuous AF and/or drive the amount of image stabilisation is reduced – I need to investigate this a bit more.
  5. I did get some nice shots so all in all it was a productive morning. 🙂