January - a good start to 2016.

The beginning of the month began in a promising way with some `proper` cold weather and sunshine, so a trip to Calke Abbey was decided upon; good for birds and a good walk on well-made footpaths (mostly). We hoped to see Siskin and Brambling in particular and were not disappointed; the feeders at the car-park hide delivering these northern beauties within minutes....
brambling 029 (174)

siskin 029 (138)

It was good to get a good view of a great spotted woodpeckers from the hide as well as a treecreeper, long-tailed tits and nuthatches.
great spotted woodpecker 029 (14)
tree-creeper  029 (22)
long-tailed tit 029 (236)

nuthatch 029 (289)

I have continued to practice flight-shots whenever necessary; Slimbridge WWT offering plenty of opportunities on a couple of visits. The new Mk2 Canon 100-400mm lens is perfect for the task with very quick autofocus: Shovellers and Shellducks remain my favorites...
Shoveller Ducks 031a (395)
Shellducks 031a (385)

Close views of Water Rails and a Cetti`s Warbler at the feeders were the highlights of the latest visit.

water rail 031b (252) Cettis Warbler 031b (398)

Birds of prey are always nearby at Slimbridge but I have never managed to get a good close shot until now; first a female Sparrowhawk posed for a while and a Buzzard did the honours on our next visit. It seems to be worth-while to check the fences in the evening before leaving....

Female Sparrowhawk 031a (1287)
buzzard 031b (1165)

A walk to Warwick via Hatton Locks is a nice way to spend a bright frosty Winters` day and the view of the castle from Castle Bridge is always worth the effort.

Warwick Castle 034a (24)

The River Avon can provide food and shelter for a good range of birds and this female Goosander was to be seen among the usual gulls and swans...
034a (61)
The black-headed gulls provided good practice at in-flight shots. Surely the Albatrosses next month will be easier - at least they will be bigger!
Black-headed Gull 034a (89)
Draycote Water has provided my only good views this Winter of Fieldfare and the Great Northern Diver, Smew and Goldeneye were present to brighten the walk!

Redwing 032a (163) Goldeneyes 032a (183)
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O yes, then there was that Bittern at Brandon Marshes.....
bittern 033a (23)

So, all that remains now is to wait for the `off`. Five weeks on South Island New Zealand beckon; it would be nice to leave the rain behind us....

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