Sunday, July 2, 2017

Birdlife at Ouse Fen

Black-headed gull flies in front of stormy clouds at Ouse Fen RSPB

Following on from my last blog post where I expressed my disgruntlement at not being able to photograph the myriad birdlife at Ouse Fen RSPB nature reserve. Mainly thanks to the lack of telescopic prowess of my lenses, and where, to my shame, I told the birds to go shove it, for which I wholeheartedly apologise, I decided to give it another go.

My lenses had not suddenly acquired new found abilities you understand, but I was ready to do something I have always tried to shy away from if at all possible. I was prepared to crop my pictures, and boy did I have to crop them. I've always been of the mind that if the composition cannot be found while actually taking the photo, then to leave it be.

But needs as must, and I snapped away with blithesome abandonment, ready to hack away at the images when back in front of my computer, which is exactly what I did. So below are a selection of pictures from that reckless afternoon with the birds, along with a brief description of each one appropriated from the RSPB.

Black-headed gull

Conservation status: Amber

Not really a black-headed bird, more chocolate-brown - in fact, for much of the year, it has a white head. It is most definitely not a 'seagull' and is found commonly almost anywhere inland. Black-headed gulls are sociable, quarrelsome, noisy birds, usually seen in small groups or flocks, often gathering into larger parties where there is plenty of food, or when they are roosting.

Flying Black-headed gull at RSPB Ouse Fen nature reserve

Wildlife shot of a Black-headed gull flying past white skies at Ouse Fen
I know this looks a bit weird, but it was flying in front of some flat, white clouds, same goes for the tufted 
duck image further down the page. Don't judge me. 

Black-headed gull flies away from the camera towards stormy skies

RSPB Ouse Fen nature reserve shot of a Black-headed gull

Flying towards the camera this Black-headed gull is in full flight

Common Tern

Conservation status: Amber

These silvery-grey and white birds have long tails which have earned them the nickname 'sea-swallow'. They have a buoyant, graceful flight and frequently hover over water before plunging down for a fish. They are often noisy in company and breed in colonies.

Common tern in flight at Ouse Fen RSPB reserve

Bird photography of a Common tern in flight

Swooping down to the water a Common tern dives for fish

Common tern fishing in flight at Ouse Fen RSPB nature reserve
Doing a spot of fishing.

Tufted Duck

Conservation status: Green

The tufted duck is a medium-sized diving duck, smaller than a mallard. It is black on the head, neck, breast and back and white on the sides. It has a small crest and a yellow eye. In flight it shows an obvious white stripe across the back of the wing. It breeds in the UK across lowland areas of England, Scotland and Ireland, but less commonly in Wales, with most birds being residents. Numbers increase in the UK in winter because of birds moving to the UK from Iceland and northern Europe.

Wings flap in flight of a Tufted duck at Ouse Fen RSPB reserve

Reed bunting

Conservation status: Amber

Sparrow-sized but slim and with a long, deeply notched tail, the male has a black head, white collar and a drooping moustache. Females and winter males have a streaked head. In flight the tail looks black with broad, white edges.

With a freshly caught insect a male reed bunting looks around while perched on a reed
Male Reed bunting with an insect for lunch. 

Perched on a grass stalk this female reed bunting looks around for food
Female Reed bunting 

Great crested grebe

Conservation status: Green

A delightfully elegant waterbird with ornate head plumes which led to its being hunted for its feathers, almost leading to its extermination from the UK. They dive to feed and also to escape, preferring this to flying. On land they are clumsy because their feet are placed so far back on their bodies. They have an elaborate courtship display in which they rise out of the water and shake their heads. Very young grebes often ride on their parents' backs.

A swimming great crested grebe at the RSPB nature reserve at Ouse Fen
I didn't capture any of their extraordinary behaviour, and only ended up with this distinctly shoddy picture. 


Conservation status: Green

A large and conspicuous waterbird, the cormorant has an almost primitive appearance with its long neck making it appear almost reptilian. It is often seen standing with its wings held out to dry. Regarded by some as black, sinister and greedy, cormorants are supreme fishers which can bring them into conflict with anglers and they have been persecuted in the past. The UK holds internationally important wintering numbers.

Cormorants look around on a small island in Ouse Fen nature reserve
Again, a very poor image, I just couldn't get close enough. 

So a bit of a mixed bag in the end, but better than nothing, and for the shots that didn't work out, I blame the birds.

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