Monday, 31 December 2007

Ellesmere - Goldeneye finale

It was meant to be a Sunday session capturing close ups of the Scaup flock at Colemere but they seemed hell bent on finding the exact centre of the mere and then staying there, so I left them in peace.......

Wood lane was 'peace' personified - nothing of note there.

So, a call in at the Mere before heading back home for lunch. There wasn't anything exciting there but every Common Gull in sight got the once over just in case..... The Mere is one of the best locations in the county for Goldeneye. They are normally out in the middle or on the far bank but away from the 'Sunday Geese' crowd I found a quiet spot and a pair of obliging Goldeneye. Not the most amazing of images, the light put paid to that but the best I've managed to date. They are not easy birds to expose correctly in dull light either - you can't get more extreme than black and white!

A Great-crested Grebe (one of about 30 on the Mere) was also culling the Perch population nearby. Not sure I'd fancy that spiny fin going down my throat!

Almost certainly the last pic of 2007, wishing you all a fantastic 2008 with lots of interesting birds.....

Sunday, 30 December 2007

Colemere - Scaup special

News of a Ring-gilled Gull and an amazing seven Scaup was put out Friday evening so North Shropshire was the obvious destination for a Saturday morning session. Jason dragged himself out of bed mid morning, complete with mammoth hangover but where was everyone else?

Colemere had provided my only other Scaup for the year, a long distance job then but these were visible from the bank above the sailing club.

The seven had somehow become six and they stayed close together for much of the morning. I can't be sure but they looked as if they could be a family group? (posing straight out of the 'Collins' guide)? Adult male / female, 3 juv males and i juv female.

An interesting interaction took place with the local Tufties, three of the Scaup broke ranks and flew over to eyeball them - the size difference quite obvious when you see them side by side.

Here's a closer view of the adult and juvenile males

The juvenile female.......

And one seriously impressive, gorgeous female - she was fantastic, really bright plumage and pure white patch to die for - it was love at first sight!

Finally the adult male.......

How do you follow that - well a Ring billed Gull would have been nice but despite getting to the Mere early and scanning the the roost with John Porter, no sign of it. Two adult Yellow-legged Gulls were some compensation......

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Boxing Day - Holiday cruise

Any birding in Shropshire, after the excitement of Saturday's Jack Snipe was always going to be an anticlimax. I opted for a general look around, cruising here and there with a few pictures recorded on the way

Acton Burnell yielded plenty of woodland birds, Goldcrest, Nuthatch and Treecreeper in particular. A Common Buzzard at Cressage - looking like he'd found a Turkey or two?....

Venus Pool had 'common' birds aplenty including 36 Tufted Ducks, the highest count for me recently. Plenty of 'Christmas' family squabbles amongst the Greylags too! A dapper male Pintail too.

Brief stop at Chelmarsh which was 'back to normal'. Paul King was there, hoping for lightning to strike twice (it hadn't when I left). A few Siskins around including this nice male but nothing else of note, so off to Priorslee (via Dudmaston - which was 'Smewless')

Priorslee was pretty quiet on the Gull front so with Chasewater 30 minutes aways and recent reports of a male Smew, I decided to give this a go. Time was short and I didn't have enough of it to walk to the North bank (Smew sadly not found) but I did find the two Great Northern Divers still in Fly bay. One of them appeared to have some ? fishing line dangling out of it's bill - see bottom pic (also present in a few other shots of the same bird). A couple of Goosanders kept them company for a short while, their departure signalled mine.....

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Chelmarsh - hits the JACK pot

Have you ever woken up and felt lucky? Well I had a feeling something would happen (I think that every time though and I guess that's why we carry on birding!!) It was an early start to see if the cold weather was importing interest into Shropshire?

First stop Venus Pool and it was barely light but an amazing (for VP anyway) TEN Gadwall including six males in front of the main hide was a fair start. A male Pintail also present.

My routine search for that potential Chelmarsh Diver was next, with a diversion via the Cressage Bewick haunts on the way - no joy, including a fruitless stop to scope what turned out to be fertiliser bags!!

Chelmarsh reservoir was enveloped in pea soup - no more than 50m visibility and after 30 mins of eyestrain with just a Cormorant or two to get me going, I decided to check out the scrape. Was I glad I did!!

There didn't seem to be much there, scanning around.....

A sleeping Common Snipe,

Oh and another one.... Er, wait a minute, that's a bit small for a Snipe, that head pattern and just look how bright the bird is.....

Yeeeeeeesssss! I had a Jack Snipe, out in the open and literally 15 metres away!!

While I waited for him to wake up, some decent shots of the 'Common' for starters....

There were at least four Water Rails around too. Check out that last picture, at 1/15 sec, any movement usually destroys an image - how the head remained in focus with all that motion blur I'll never know.

This was a pure magic birding moment - spoilt for choice at times (Rail or Jack?) No contest in the end, Jack Snipe are not a bird you see every day and other than record shots, I'd never taken a decent picture of one to date!!

The next couple of hours were spent snapping away ad nauseum - whilst feeding, the charcteristic constant 'bobbing' does not make life aasy for sharp images. I had to shoot literally hundred of pics in the gloom, most of which were taken at 1/30sec!

And finally, the two together, nice to contrast the distinctive head patterns in a single shot. The plumage of the Jack was also so much brighter and distinct! With two birds and a long lens, it takes a lot of patience and luck to get them both in the same focal plane.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Picture of 2007 - final poll

Here, we are then - the final vote for Jim's pic of the year. The top three Shropshire bird pics (congratulations to the Spot Fly!!) doing battle with another nine from elsewhere around the UK

You will find an voting box to the right, simply check the THREE pictures you like most! (click thumbs to open a larger image) NB THREE votes only this time please! (Only one voter is possible per PC sorry!)

This poll run until New Years Eve with YOUR No 1 choice being declared on New Years Day....

Thanks for taking part - wishing you all a Happy Christmas, fantastic New Year and great birding!!!!

Picture 1 - Snow Bunting at Salthouse (January)

Picture 2 - Grey Phalarope at Blithfield (September)

Picture 3 - Little Owls at Warton Crag (July)

Picture 4 - Marsh Harriers food pass at Cley (June)

Picture 5 - Woodlark at Kelling Heath (June)

Picture 6 - Red-backed shrike at Blakeney (June)

Picture 7 - Kingfisher at Venus Pool (May)

Picture 8 - Knot at Blithfield (September)

Picture 9 - Turnstone at Titchwell (September)

Picture 10 - Hobby eating Dragonfly at Venus Pool (July)

Picture 11 - Spotted Flycatcher at Acton Burnell (July)

Picture 12 - Bar-tailed Godwit at Titchwell (September)