Source Brian Rafferty Wildlife Photographer

Bowland…A Few More

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Just a few more images from some of my recent visits to the Bowland area of Lancashire.The numbers of breeding waders has slowly increased and it was very nice to see and hear the calls and flight displays of the curlews.Apparently curlews are nationally in decline but it is still possible to see reasonable numbers on the upland meadows and rough pastures of Bowland.

Lapwings also seem to be doing ok and are already sat on eggs.It will be encouraging to see the chicks very soon now as they get use to this harsh upland habitat.It was nice also to see a few brown hares enjoying some warm afternoon sunshine.The usual red grouse were still posing for the camera close to the road,the female shown below is a perfect example of cryptic colouration as she blends in beautifully to the moorland grasses

Finally shown below was yet another redshank posing on a roadside fence post and guarding his future nesting site.It was nice to be able to approach slowly and carefully and grab a few images from the comfort of the car.The oystercatcher was also a nice roadside subject posing on the wall.Hope you enjoy this further selection from Bowland and I will be back soon with more of Lancashire's wildlife.











Source Brian Rafferty Wildlife Photographer

Shooting Grouse

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I am of course referring to shooting red grouse with the camera.At this time of the year I like to return to the Bowland area of Lancashire to see what birds have returned to the moors to breed. I have made a few visits recently and after a slow start things are at last improving.The better weather of late has helped and reasonable numbers of upland waders and red grouse can be seen on territory.

I like to drive slowly along some of Bowland's quiet lanes and backroads.There is not much traffic and most of the birds can be photographed from the comfort of the car.My main quarry was the red grouse and at this time of the year they can be seen on territory perching up on heather or the rough moorland grasses.The females are usually close by but are much harder to see as they keep low and rely on their superb camouflage for concealment.As well as the grouse I have shown images of lapwing,redshank and oystercatcher.The redshank perched up very obligingly on roadside fence posts to have their portraits taken.I have also shown a couple showing Ingleborough and Pen y Ghent both of which still had snow on the summits.

I will show more images in my next post from Bowland with more of the same and brown hares and curlews.The curlews were performing their wonderful display flights high over the moorland.Thanks for looking in and enjoy the weekend's weather which is set to warm up and bring more colour and life to the countryside.





















Source Brian Rafferty Wildlife Photographer

Gone but not Forgotten

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I am referring to the long staying bittern at Mere Sands Wood Nature Reserve.As suspected it was not seen for a number of days and the conclusion was that it would have returned to continental Europe for the breeding season.I understand from a knowledgeable birdwatcher that this bittern returns to Mere Sands Wood every Winter. If so I look forward to it's return.

As I usually do when at Mere Sands I visited the Cyril Gibbon's Hide to see if the great crested grebes were displaying and on my last visit they did indeed perform for the camera.The grey heron that flew in at the Rufford Hide soon caught a frog. The frogs were busy spawning and would provide easy pickings for the heron.I have shown a sequence of one of the frogs being despatched and swallowed by the heron.

It was nice to see kingfishers again showing well at Mere Sands.One bird visited regularly whilst the assembled photographers were awaiting the bittern to show.It provided some nice opportunities for the camera as it used the waterside vegetation as look out and fishing posts.Hope you enjoy my images from Mere Sands Wood and next time I will be concentrating on Bowland .I hadn't visited Bowland for some time and now that the red grouse and upland waders were back on territory I was anxious to capture the action.Thanks for looking in.














Source Brian Rafferty Wildlife Photographer

Hide and Seek

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The bittern which has spent many weeks at Mere Sands Wood Nature Reserve has recently been the star attraction.Most days the Rufford Hide has been packed with photographers hoping for a sighting of the very elusive bittern.At times it has been very obliging and provided great photographic opportunities for those present.At other times it has been almost impossible to have a decent view of the bird and some people have spent many hours sat waiting without a sight of the bird.Earlier this week I spent a few hours waiting in a busy hide but it wasn't seen at all during the day.It may now have taken advantage of clear days and nights to return from whence it came somewhere on the Continent.

The images shown below I obtained on an earlier visit when the bittern did come out to play.I have tried to show how well camouflaged the bird is and image seven shows particularly well how difficult it can be to pick out the bittern as it skulks through the reedbeds.Hope you enjoy my efforts below and it now seems unlikely that it will appear again as the breeding season is fast approaching.I have enjoyed some of the other wildlife at Mere Sands Wood and this will be the subject of my next posting.Thanks for looking in and it looks like another wet weekend awaits us.














Source Brian Rafferty Wildlife Photographer

Dancing Grebes

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I have made a few visits recently to Mere Sands Wood Nature Reserve to see the much photographed Bittern.It is certainly the star attraction at the moment but other delights await you if you visit.I always make a point of calling at the Cyril Gibbons Hide to see if there is any action from the great crested grebes which are currently performing their courtship displays.On my first visit I had only been in the hide ten minutes when the pair of grebes did their famous weed dance.They kept their distance but I managed some reasonable shots  as shown below.Also present was a handsome male goldeneye.

On my second visit whilst waiting for the bittern to show at the Rufford Hide the assembled photographers were treated to a visit by the kingfisher which showed well in the afternoon sunshine.Kingfishers seem to have been absent for some time from Mere Sands but hopefully after a mild winter they are on the up again and maybe breeding on the reserve.There were also nice views of a female goosander in front of the hide.As I left the reserve a robin posed for me to round off a super day at Mere Sands Wood.I am looking forward to returning next week for hopefully more action and maybe the bittern will still be around.Thanks for looking in and I will be back soon with more of Lancashire's wonderful wildlife.














Source Brian Rafferty Wildlife Photographer

Bittern…Mere Sands Wood

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There had been a bittern reported at Mere Sands Wood Nature Reserve for the last few weeks.I therefore decided  on a visit to hopefully see this uncommon and rarely seen bird.I hadn't been to Mere Sands for some time and it was nice to return to this lovely little reserve. The weather was still unsettled with frequent showers and the sun has been very reluctant to shine and it has remained on the cool side. I began by visiting the Cyril Gibbon's Hide to see if the great crested grebes had begun their courting rituals.Within ten minutes of arriving they performed the weed dance and I couldn't believe my luck.The grebes will be the subject of a future post.Later I moved to the Rufford Hide where the bittern had been showing.A fellow photographer informed me that it hadn't shown during the morning.

I duly arrived at the Rufford Hide to find the bittern had shown ten minutes earlier.I therefore settled down with the other photographers present to await it's return.I had last seen bitterns at Mere Sands in March 2012 when three birds were present and performed for the cameras.Suddenly around 2.30pm it appeared out in the open and I had to be quick to seize this opportunity of a bittern at close range and in full view.After this brief viewing it vanished into a nearby reedbed and played hide and seek for the rest of the afternoon.I did however manage more shots as it skulked and slowly made its way through the dense vegetation.This was more typical of bittern behaviour and at times it was extremely difficult to follow owing to it's wonderful cryptic plumage.Throughout the afternoon it was very wet but I made my way back to the car park content with my encounter with this very special bird.Hope you enjoy my efforts shown below and I will be back soon as better weather is hopefully on the way.















Source Brian Rafferty Wildlife Photographer

Waxwing Week

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Unexpectedly I have been watching waxwings again this week.I enjoyed some excellent sessions with waxwings around Christmas and New Year.There was a flock of around one hundred birds present at Barrow village near Whalley and many photographers and birdwatchers came to see them.So it was a great surprise this week to see they were back at Barrow village.There was a flock of around forty birds coming to feed at a cotoneaster tree in a nearby garden.

I made two visits to see them,the first was curtailed by heavy rain but I did manage one or two shots before I had to head for home.Of course I was keen to return and the following day I was there again.The waxwings were still there and were coming down at regular intervals to feed on the cotoneaster berries.I was not alone and Eric kept me company and we enjoyed some excellent views and photographic opportunities with these wonderful waxwings.Eric left later and I stayed on a while until suddenly around 2.30pm the birds suddenly departed.I also departed for home having enjoyed yet more excellent views of these very special visitors from Scandanavia.Hope you enjoy my efforts shown below and I will be back soon with more of Lancashire's wonderful wildlife.
















Source Brian Rafferty Wildlife Photographer

Yarrow Valley…Valentine’s

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I hadn't visited Yarrow Valley Country Park for some time.I had heard that the kingfisher had been showing well recently at it's usual spot so I went for a look.As I arrived David and Jackie Moreton were just leaving having spent a couple of fruitless hours waiting for the kingfisher to show.I went to the channel between the top and bottom lakes and joined half a dozen or so other photographers waiting patiently.

Eventually around three o'clock the kingfisher suddenly appeared and all the cameras were in action.The kingfisher stayed for around an hour,perching,preening and catching fish.Although the light is never just right at this spot I would have thought that everyone went away happy with their efforts.As well as the kingfisher a handsome male goosander appeared nearby and provided some nice opportunities for the camera.The usual nuthatches,robins etc were also coming frequently to seed left for them.All in all then Valentine's Day at Yarrow Valley had been excellent with good company and a brighter day for a change.Some of my better efforts from the day are shown below.Thanks for looking in and I will be back soon.Enjoy the weekend.










Source Brian Rafferty Wildlife Photographer

Around The Lanes

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The weather recently has been for the most part very dull and depressing.Consequently I haven't been out much with the camera.One or two afternoons were slightly brighter and better and I took the car for a ride around the lanes in the Pilling and Cockerham areas.Spring was in the air and ir was nice to see the snowdrops in bloom.Brown hares were becoming active and there were still decent numbers of wildfowl and waders in the area.

A selection of images are shown below of the wildlife.All of the images were taken from the comfort of the car which is always very useful as a mobile hide.The kestrel on the lookout for prey takes pride of place.Lapwings and curlews on the flooded fields were numerous throughout the area.It was nice to get a couple of close ups of Whooper and Bewick's swans showing the difference in size and bill pattern.Wild geese were also found in various locations,mainly pinkfeet but I did manage a couple of shots off white fronted and barnacle geese at Pilling.The geese are also shown in flight as they moved around the area.The final image shows a nice sunset over Pilling church.Keep tuned for more from my travels and hopefully the weather will brighten up and warm up in the days to come.















Source Brian Rafferty Wildlife Photographer

Black…White…and Red

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The weather this last week has again been dull and depressing most of the time.However on the Wednesday blue skies appeared but it was icy cold.I decided on a much needed afternoon out and about with the camera.I had seen images of a black redstart on the internet at St Walburgas Church in Preston and this was to be my first port of call.The redstart was still there but had just departed as I arrived.Susan and Peter and David and Jackie were already there,all well known local photographers.They had seen the bird and I was reassured it would be back.Sure enough it did return after 30mins and flitted around the church buildings very quickly.I did manage a few hastily grabbed shots and awaited it's return.I stayed for an hour or so and was eventually rewarded with nice views of this lively little bird as it did it's rounds of the church buildings.Other birders turned up and we all enjoyed the black redstart in the afternoon sun.

I then thought I would visit Lytham Moss where a barn owl had been showing well.On my arrival around 3.30pm it was indeed quartering the rough ground adjoining the Radar Station.It never came close enough for good shots but I did manage some shots as the sun began to set.I then thought I would have a look at Granny's Bay at Lytham to photograph the setting sun.My timing was spot on as the sun went down and the sky turned red over the Irish Sea.All in all a rewarding afternoon.Hope you enjoy my shots of the Black Redstart..White Owl..and Red Sunset.Thanks for looking in and I will be back soon as hopefully the weather improves as Spring approaches.