Pictures of the month 2020

January

Short-eared Owl

© David Ball, Burwell Fen, 9th January 2020.

This month, Tony Roberts had chosen the Picture of the Month , the first for 2020.

Tony says succintly that he chose this because the composition was just right and a lovely clear view.

February

Stonechat

© Garth Peacock, Fen Drayton Lakes RSPB, 26th February 2020.

This month, Nigel Sprowell chose the Picture of the Month.

Considering the appalling weather in February, photographers need to be applauded for producing some excellent images which made it very hard to single out the best . There were some very fine photos of Greater White-fronted geese, especially from Roger Orbell and Matthew Mellor and I particularly liked Roger Cresswell’s detailed Water Rail. James Hanlon’s excellent portrait of a female Kestrel nearly took my vote, but after much deliberation, the nicely composed , beautifully detailed and pin sharp image of a female Stonechat by Garth Peacock won the day.”

March

Long-eared Owl

© George Walthew, Site Undisclosed, 21st March 2020

This month, David Ball chose the Picture of the month.

"A long shortlist included Neil Bramwell’s beautifully captured Barn Owl in flight (6th March), Garth Peacock’s immaculate Buzzard portrait, James Hanlon’s engaging Blue Tits and the pleasing symmetry of Simon Stirrup’s flying Whooper Swan formation. After much deliberation, however, I decided that, for me, the most memorable image was George Walthew’s Long-eared Owl. It’s an achievement in itself to create a photo opportunity with this bird, but the pin-sharp and optimally lit and exposed image also do full justice to its features and characteristic surprised expression, making a nice connection between viewer and subject".


April


Starling

© Garth Peacock, Apr 22nd.

Vince Lea presents his case for his choice of this month's bird:

I decided we needed something to offer a bit of amusement in these dark times. David Ball started the ball rolling (sorry!) with an April Fool's Day Snowy Owl, but Colin Brown's Blackbird doing a dancing and juggling act had a bit more photographic merit. However, Garth Peacock's series of flight shots of Starlings shows what can be done with a good set up in your own garden, and the image with one appearing to be balanced on the head of another as they come down to land is my selection for photo of the month. There is a stunning array of other images to admire for anyone still confined to home, including an impressive array of spring migrants, with White-tailed Eagle, Hoopoe, Dotterel and some lovely passage gulls and terns to admire, including a very useful image of Arctic Tern by Matt Mellor showing the key identification features. Regular species were also the subject for several superb studies, ranging from Grey Wagtails and Grasshopper Warblers to Red-legged Partridge. Christoph Zockler's photo of a hybrid Aythya duck and Steve Cooper's studies of Pied Wagtails are also well worth a look.

May

Long-tailed Tit

© Nigel Sprowell 7th May

Louise Bacon chose May's bird. "There were lots of great action shots in the May gallery, and I am a fan of good bird action photos. I am a bit bored of birds in flight or birds on water, though, so my photo of the month selection almost automatically excluded those. Although I did waver over a runner-up spot for a Common Tern pair over water in early morning light by Garth Peacock, I ended up deciding between photos of three resident species. Narrowing it to three photos was fairly easy (but a sneaky Sedge Warbler trying to steal a spider from a web was also an excellent photo), I had a photo of a Little Owl in amongst the branches of an Ash tree by Ed Gill... the bird is only a small part of the picture here, and simply highlights the unobtrusive nature of our smallest owl. Abhishek Nag's Dunnock on May 18th was, I thought, a photo which shows the very intricate plumage of a very common and overlooked bird which we all see on a very regular basis.

However, my photo of the month is Nigel Sprowell's Long-tailed Tit. The curved tail shows this is probably the female, recently off the nest taking a break from incubating duties... the confines of the ball of feathers, web and moss which is the nest means that the tail gets bent round on the female whilst she spends much of the day on her eggs. The great composition against a completely plain background shows off the colours and pattern of a common bird nicely, as well as almost highlighting the fatigue and boredom (?) of the incubation period."

June

Common Cuckoo

© Simon Stirrup 17 June

Andrew Dobson chose June's photo. "There are many photos to admire in June’s photo gallery. The paparazzi were out in full force to record the successful peregrine breeding and produced some superb images. Perching birds are usually easier to compose and capture and I was very tempted to pick the partially obscured Tawny Owl – a chance occurrence for Peter Lawrence in his back garden.

What really impresses me are the photographers who not only capture birds in flight but with great detail. Roger Cresswell’s Oystercatcher with earthworm is terrific and Colin Brown’s Swift delightful, but my choice is Simon Stirrup’s female Cuckoo. Never easy to photograph in flight, his photo is taken in gorgeous light showing off the plumage to best effect. It is as if the bird looked at the camera and tipped its wing to you as it flew past."

July

Red Kite

© Nigel Sprowell 26th July

Rowena Baxter picked the photo of the month for July. "As has been said many times by members trying to decide on the Photo of the Month, the standard of photographs in the Club Gallery is extraordinarily high. I'm not a serious photographer so my choice will not necessarily be the most technically excellent or skilled. Kevin Taylor's mute swan and Steve Cooper's little egret are beautifully tranquil and I particularly like George Walthew's adult water rail. Good to see Robert Skeen's spotted flycatcher as I haven't been fortunate enough to see one this year. Colin Brown's juvenile blackbird made me smile; Garth Peacock's juvenile robin is charming and his magpie reminds me I should appreciate them more. Ed Gill's little owls appeal to me hugely as that's just how you see them in the field. I've enjoyed looking at them all, but my choice for Photo of the Month for July is Nigel Sprowell's juvenile red kite - a really stunning portrait.

August

Sparrowhawk

© Colin Brown 14th August 2020

Ann Beeby made the pick for August. "It is a pleasure and a privilege to see so many fantastic photos in the gallery, quality appreciated as a keen birdwatcher, but I'm not an expert photographer myself. August is great for birds on passage, anything can turn up anywhere, and this is reflected in the variety shown, especially waders. All the waders are good photos, but I especially like David Ball's Greenshank just taking off. There are some really alert images of Whinchats and wagtails in different habitats, some of the birds look as if they're curious about these new places they're visiting. However, I've chosen Colin Brown's Sparrowhawk as the photo of the month, it's an iconic bird of Cambridgeshire, and this photo has amazing sharp detail of the plumage against a blue summer sky.

Many thanks to all contributors."

September

Whinchat

© James Hanlon 5th September 2020

Richard Palmer selected his top picture this month:

"Lots of great photos submitted in September and, consequently, a tough choice.

Whinchat is one of my favourite European passerines and James Hanlon's, 5th Sept shot is superb. Although autumn plumage is somewhat muted, the surrounding hawthorn berries beautifully bring out the bird's subtle hues."

October

Blackbird

© Colin Brown, Willingham, 16th October 2020

Peter Bircham has made the October selection:

I chose this photo because it epitomises October: birds and berries. Two other candidates were Will Bowell's Radde's Warbler - clever to get it, and Garth Peacock's photo of a Yellow-legged Gull which was almost like a painting.

November

Great Northern Diver, © Will Bowell. Deeping High Bank, 9th November

Matthew Mellor made this month's selection: "There were some really excellent photos taken in the county in November, of the utmost quality. In this darkening month, I was particularly looking for photos that were well lit and sharply focused, had the subject matter doing something interesting and just had that 'je ne sais quoi' about them. Jon Heath's imperious male Sparrowhawk ticked the aforementioned boxes and was a study in menace - though Sparrowhawks on fences feature rather often in the gallery, so I moved on... Despite the rarity in the county, and the quality of the photos, I felt I couldn't favour Andrew Dobson's struggling Kittiwake from Dernford. Neil Bramwell's Great Northern Diver from Grafham caught the bird's and the water's colours really nicely, though I dare say that Andrew Dobson caught it well too and at a more interesting moment a day or so earlier. There was a preponderance of nice Cattle Egret shots from the field in Fen Drayton - I liked the cow's rather curious glance behind at the bird on its back in James Hanlon's picture, Garth Peacock caught another beautifully in flight and Nigel Sprowell captured a full crop in yet another. A stonechat on a fence is not the greatest photographic challenge, but Roger Cresswell did well to get his so beautifully in focus and it's always great to be able to see the colour in a bird's iris. It feels wrong to give the award to a photo of a bird in the hand, but the Jack Snipe with wings splayed in Tony Martin's hand is definitely worth a very honourable mention. I must mention Will Bowell's Great Northern Diver photos - clearly, a close-up to end all close-ups, but Will deserves a mention anyway, for capturing arguably the best photos of the county's first Radde's Warbler and possibly only ever Lammergeier in months past. For my photo of the month for November 2020, I will plump for one of his pictures of the Great Northern Diver, its bill in perfect parallel with the placid water, its hazel brown eye caught nicely in the difficult November light and the droplets of water on its head and neck in lovely clear focus. I am hoping against hope that the bird itself was technically in Cambridgeshire at the time!"

December

Whooper Swan © Simon Stirrup, near Aldreth at sunrise, 17th December

“There are many photos to admire in December's gallery – a mixture of lovely portraits, rarities and excellent action shots.

I particularly liked the Cetti’s Warbler taken by Jonathan Heath and the Dusky Warbler photos by Nigel Sprowell and Garth Peacock. To see (let alone photograph) a Cetti’s Warbler fully out in the open is a real treat and to capture Cambridgeshire’s first Dusky Warbler so well deserves praise (particularly as it did give birders the run-around on occasions).

December certainly was a good month to catch up with Glossy Ibis in the county. The birds at Earith were certainly very photogenic and both Simon Stirrup and Neil Bramwell captured some excellent images.

Another feature of December was the arrival of small groups of Russian White-fronted Geese along with a few Pink-footed and Tundra Bean Geese. James Hanlon, Andy Dobson and Neil Bramwell captured a number of excellent instructive and action shots from both Fen Drayton Lakes and Wimpole Hall. I particularly liked James’s Tundra Bean Goose with part of the Hall in the background.

I could watch Bearded Tits all day, so it was great to see a number of images posted of this iconic denizen of our fenland reedbeds. The photographs from Ouse Fen that Nigel Sprowell took at the beginning of the month are superb, in particular the flight shot.

However, the one December photo that for me fully captures a fantastic start to a day's winter birding in the county was Simon Stirrup's shot of Whooper Swans taken at sunrise near Aldreth on December 17th. It is so atmospheric ( you can almost hear them calling ) and the swans' breaths condensing conveys how cold it must have been! It gets my vote as Picture of the Month”.Great Northern Diver, © Will Bowell. Deeping High Bank, 9th November