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I have been digiscoping for around 18 years now and through persistence and good equipment I am getting great results. I use a Swarovski 80hd spotting scope and a Sony RX100 camera which has just replaced my old faithful Nikon P5100. The majority of my bird watching takes place in County Durham in England which has a variety of different habitats from coast to moors. Digiscoping is great because it allows me to get good photos without disturbing birds. VIEW THE LATEST PHOTOBOOK AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Siberian Stonechat - Saltburn

We have had a full week of easterly winds in the North East of England, and at this time of year that usually means that we get a good fall of migrants, and this has proved to be the case this year.
Among the usual huge falls of Goldcrests, Robins, Blackbirds, Redwings and Fieldfares there is always a chance that something rare turns up.

I had been working all week in the South East which has meant I have not been able to get out birding as much as I usually would.  So when I saw reports of Red Flanked Bluetails, Red Breasted Flycatchers and various other rarities I was getting so frustrated.
When I arrived back in the North East there were still Easterly winds blowing.  At the first chance I got I went to the coast at South Gare, there were loads of Goldcrests and Robins then I spotted a fine male Brambling, I digiscoped it and got a couple of reasonable photos.

The light was poor and it was quite windy.  A report came in of a Siberian Stonechat near Saltburn, it was only about 8 mile away, I couldnt resist it.
When I arrived a couple of other birders were onto a Stonechat, they were not sure if it was a Siberian or not.  I got my scope onto it and saw immediately that it had a white "bib" or gorget - a definite Siberian.

I took loads of photos of it but only a few were acceptable due to the vibration caused by the wind and the bird sitting on stems that were getting blown about.
At last a rarity for me - in fact it is the first time that I had seen one.
Further down the coast at Easington near Hull a mega rare bird had turned up - a Siberian Accentor, but this was too far for me to go.
The next day 2 more Siberian Accentors were reported in the North East - very very rare, this was the first time ever that they had been recorded in the UK
With Easterly winds forecast again for next weekend who knows what will turn up?

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Desert Grey Shrike

After viewing the Shrike on a number of days, it was the last day that was the most memorable.
Again I was out before sunrise and got to the dunes area just as the sun was rising above the horizon.
At first I couldn't see the bird, but after about 10 minutes I could hear it faintly in the distance, but it was still out of view.  I walked towards the sound.

Then, in the distance, on top of a bush, on top of a dune I could see the Desert Grey Shrike silhouetted against the dawn sky.  It was still over 200 yards away.
I got closer to it and noticed that between its calls, the bird was singing, and it was a little flighty - previous mornings it had been quite approachable, then I noticed that it was a bit darker than the bird I had seen earlier in the holiday.
This was a different bird, it had no supercillium.
It then started fluttering on its perch and calling constantly, was this a warning to me, or some other behaviour. I had never seen this before.
I sat down and watched from 20 yards away. It flew to another bush and did the same, then came back..  Suddenly I heard another Shrike call from about 100 yards away, - was it courting behaviour?
The Shrikes then both flew to the same bush about 30 yards away.  They dropped down onto the ground in the bush.
I walked closer, and watched, I could see them chasing each other at the bottom of the bush, like rodents, running through gaps in the thorns.
Eventually one came out again and perched on top of the bush, and started fluttering and calling, the other bird joined it but watching the other bird keenly.
They dropped to the ground again and started chasing each other.
Then back on top of the bush, one bird arched its back and pointed its beak towards the sky, the other bird had its head down low almost on the tail of the other bird
This was fascinating,
Eventually both birds dropped out of sight in the bush again and I believe they mated, although I didn't see it happen.
Then one bird flew to another bush about 50 yards away and the other quickly followed.  While I watched them one bird found a beetle or insect of some kind and took it back to its mate and offered the food to the other bird which took it.
They then repeated the behaviour again.  I heard another Shrike behind, but that one stayed out of sight.
I spent a good 90 minutes observing the behaviour of these stunning birds - my favourite of all species.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Desert Grey Shrike - Gran Canaria

Its been a while since I have posted, or been out birding come to mention it, but recently I have been to Gran Canaria where I had the opportunity to watch and study a number of Desert Grey Shrikes over the fortnight I was there.
The first morning I went to where I had located some shrikes in previous years, but I couldnt see any, but it was just before dawn so perhaps they would appear a bit later.
I stood still and just listened and tuned in to the surroundings, some parrots were calling in the distance, a heron squawked over the lagoon and some and some goldfinches were singing in the tops of some trees.  I noticed a beetle 2 yards away heading for some shade, then I head a rasping call - just two short srrrrrrrrrps less than a second each. It came from not quite directly behind me. I knew immediately it was a Shrike.
I turned round and scanned the bushes.
About 200 yards away I could see a Desert Grey Shrike on top of a bush.  Wow I impressed myself that I heard that, and then located it. Now was the challenge to get close enough to get some photos, if I could get close and let it get used to me, I knew that they can get really confiding and trusting.
The sun was appearing in the East and the shrike was between me and the dawn sun.
To get good photos I would need to get on the other side of it.
So I planned my route, over two mid sized ridges of dunes and around some bushes to take me to the other side of the bird they up a smaller dune where it sat on the top some bushes.
About 15 minutes later I was on the sunny side of the bird. It was singing, a real nice song too and quite complex.
I got to within about 20 yards and took some photos, but it was quite high up still - too high to get real good photos.
Then a couple of Serin landed in the same bush, are they mad, they were just the right size for the shrike.
The shrike was nonchalant for a short while, then suddenly it dived down, I didn't see if it actually caught a serin but it disappeared into the bush for about 10 minutes, so I guess it did.
It eventually flew out of the bush across a dune and perched in a lower bush - much better to get some shots.
So off I trundled, down a dune, across some flat deep sand and got behind a bush that was about 15 yards away from the shrike. It was calling again, its two note call.
Having got some shots, I then stood in the open, deliberately not looking directly at the shrike, I stood for a few minutes, let it get used to me, and then I could see that it started to preen itself.
When it put its head down into its feathers I took two steps closer, A couple of more shots and repeated it again. Now about 10 yards away. I took quite a few shots of it in different poses and a short video of it calling.
Then I called it a day. I backed away and left it alone. I had two weeks so I had time on my side and there is no point in making it wary of me.

Friday, 5 August 2016

More Hobbies

On my way home from working in the South East I called in to see how the Hobby young were progressing.

On arrival I saw that both of the adults were quite active around the nest site, flying and calling.  I knew that they were trying to get the young birds to fly by their behavior.

After a while the adult female flew to a tree about 30 yards from the nest tree and kept calling.  All 3 young were quite active - out of nest and walking over the crown of the tree.

Finally a young bird made a leap and flapped furiously and made it to the same tree as the parent with a clumsy landing .

This was great and was the reason why I kept going back to the location.  After a while the female flew off to the edge of  a pine wood and the young bird followed.

Eventually all 3 young ended up in this wood about 120 yards away and more.

The light was great, little wind and it was just the perfect morning.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Hobbies in Bedfordshire

Unfortunately I have been having to work away from home a lot this summer, but an upside of this means that I have been able to visit a Hobby location where they have a nest and currently feeding 3 young birds.
Unlike the last post where it was miserable cold weather that affected the photos, in Bedfordshire it was hot humid weather which caused a heat shimmer which made it difficult to get great photos.
I saw the Hobbies taking young birds and dragonflies back to the nest.
But I think the hot weather affected how often the adults were going out hunting.
Sometimes the birds would perch about 120 yards away on the edge of a wood, but other times they came closer and with care it was possible to get good shots
These are one of my favourite birds of prey and I can not resist going to see them.
The young birds should fledge in the next week or so, this may allow opportunity for great photos, unless they disappear from the location altogether.

 I will check them out again next week on the way down to Kent

Merlin from Scotland

Spent a little time watching this family of Merlin in a location in Scotland.  The young had fledged perhaps a week earlier and were zipping about the valley like adults.  However they did come to rest on various rocks from time to time, but were fairly distant
The weather was foul with wind, rain and low light, so the photos are just record shots really. But they were great to see.
Also there were a number of Hen Harriers about with males food passing, young and female birds in the air.
An excellent site

Sunday, 12 June 2016


After 3 years of waiting I finally have a Redstart in one of my secret bird boxes.  In the previous years I have had Pied Flycatchers and Coal Tits, but never a Redstart.
I put them up there specifically for Redstarts.

Yesterday when I went to the wood I could see the male and female taking food into the box.
I edged myself to within range to digiscope them
Initially there were a few warning calls, but they soon settled down and were feeding the young without interuption.
There were a couple of challenges to getting good photos, firstly the light, it was really quite misty / foggy, which meant slow shutter speeds (that is why the tails are blurred - as they keep flicking the tail).

Secondly there were other birds distracting me, a Cuckoo called so close to me it made me jump, a sparrowhawk whizzed twice through the wood, and also a Green Woodpecker was calling not too far away.
But I managed to stay focussed on the Redstarts.
The female was feeding the young at a 4 to 1 ratio compared with the male.  And she was bringing back a bigger beak full of insects.

The insects varied from flies to caterpillars to crane flies.  These young are going to  be well fed, particularly when it warms up a bit - still only 11 degrees - in mid June, thats crazy!!

I am really pleased that I have provided boxes that have helped to introduce another 6 Redstarts into the world.

Digiscoping Blog By Colin Severs

Digiscoping Blog By Colin Severs
Barn Owl in North Yorkshire