Saturday, 29 September 2007

Blithfield - Grey Phalarope

It was too tempting to ignore; a Grey Phalarope showing well and having done so for several days!

So, I made the short drive over to Blithfield reservoir for a morning of sheer delight watching and photographing this most obliging juvenile. I even took pictures with my mobile phone (who needs a long lens!)

Shots from every angle, close ups and a few arty wing portaits, this really was an obliging bird. A knot and a couple of Ringed Plover were also on the same bank, equally obliging.

Please note, West Midland Bird Club membership is needed to gain access, apart from the causeway.....

Now my thoughts turn to a couple of days down in Kent and hopes of megas.......

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Venus Pool - Another Arctic!

I've struggled to catch one of these at VP for years then just like London buses along they come.... This juvenile, the third one I've had at VP so far this year (but first one on the deck)

Monday, 24 September 2007

Venus Pool - Kingfisher relapse

I vowed that I wouldn't take another Kingfisher shot. At least, unless it was an in/out of the water moment, with which I've yet to celebrate success! At least you can admire the water droplets and bear with me as I get closer to my goal (yes that is a tiny fish in it's bill).
As well as the Kingsishers, Venus Pool is also a predictable place to see a Hobby right now. There were two around on Sunday and a single adult today - just keep looking over the trees from the public hide - far side of the pool (note the Rook in hot pursuit too!)

Monday, 17 September 2007

Norfolk weekend day 3 - Oh Knot again

My planned 'escape' involved a very early breakfast. I woke up with a rather itchy bite (pesky unswatted mosquito) plus a very achy back from the metal mattress springs!
The decent cooked English breakfast gained a little redemption for the B&B and the meal went without incident. Time to load the car and hit the road. With no rarities around, I decided with Titchwell just 5 minutes away to go for another beach photographic session. There was still a chance of something interesting, either here or elsewhere on the reserve?

A day in the life of a Knot is quite predictable and repetitive. High tide is spent snoozing/preening and then as the tide recedes, slowly but surely interest in the shoreline becomes heightened as food is exposed. The huge resting flock becomes fragmented with small groups seeking out fresh pickings. Activity becomes heightened however as the local mussel beds become exposed with a feeding frenzy ensuing, birds swarming and literally landing on each other in their efforts to find food. Finally, as low tide is reached, a much more leisurely approach is taken, time for a wash, another morsel or two and then back to resting.....

Some examples of other small waders in flight. Sanderling are tricky little so and so's due to their small size and speed but quite satisfying to capture, Turnstones are not much easier but just as satisfying.

Perhaps the best looking bird on the beach was a gorgeous summer plumaged male Bar-tailed Godwit. The best bird seen over the sea was an Arctic Skua mugging a Sandwich Tern, too distant for a picture though.

The sun shone and it was blowing an offshore gale all day, any skin exposed got burnt and/or sandblasted. I needed to heed two important lessons for the next time. One - don't forget the suncream, even in September! Two - remember that Gitzo tripods do not like sand - in fact they hate it and I needed a careful cleaning session afterwards to get rid of the rather dodgy grinding sound of the collars being tightened!!

I called it a day late afternoon, the 3.5 hour drive home was pretty good all things considered. As was the weekend!!

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Norfolk weekend day 2 - the feast continues!

This isn't meant to be a birders guide to B&B but if it was, Claremont House Sheringham would be in the Premier division! The alarm went at 6.00am, it was just a two minute drive to the seafront and pre-breakfast seawatch. Sadly, the light breeze indicated that not much would happen and not much did, although I added Little Gull to the list (and a few more Gannets). So, I decided on a quick dash to Cley for 45 minutes, making the most of the peace and quiet. At least two Marsh Harriers were also up in search of breakfast, Black-tailed Godwits in front of the hide plus a brief view of a Water Rail made it worthwhile.

Then, back for a Premier league breakfast, slightly gutted as I knew it was merely a one night stand, car loaded and on the road....

Salthouse was first stop - just Ringed Plover and Redshank. A passing birder was off to 'Coastguards' at Cley on the strength of a Lapland Bunting report - and hot on his heels, so was I! The booth was closed so I got free parking and headed off with a small group of birders down the shingle. Despite a good search, there was no sign but a large brown Skua grabbed our immediate attention as it drifted by and then soared away. The white wing flashes and short tail pointed to a 'Great' tick and long overdue Bonxie for me!! Sea watching was otherwise pretty dire with a freshening offshore breeze. Still enthused by the events of yesterday, I decided to have another session at Titchwell beach - hoping to try and capture those pesky Grey Plovers!

Taking portraits of posing or even running birds is relatively easy, flight is another matter. The ever changing exposure, sudden deviations in flight path and the uncanny knack of the camera's focussing system to lock onto the background all conspire to confound that decent shot.

Just a few examples of the session, posed and flighty. The ever present Knot, a Red throated Diver just offshore in a classic pose plus Sandwich Tern and Oystercatcher in flight......

Barwits and Sanderling became addictive and it was interesting to see both species take to the rocks as they became exposed, leaving the surf behind.

Then came my moment, a juvenile and adult Grey Plover flew in. It took a lot of 'pretending' to walk away when in reality I was creeping ever nearer and eventually got the picture (flight as well when I got too close for their liking!)

Turnstones fascinated me as they really are the most opportunistic of feeders - much of their time was taken in plundering the spoils of other birds. One plucky bird was in and out of the legs of a Great Black backed Gull who was feasting on a crab and eventually persistence paid off and the left overs were there for the taking

Finally, after a busy feeding session, time for Turnstones to freshen up and have a good wash. Always an ideal photographic opportunity - a fast shutter speed (1/2000 +)is essential to capture those droplets and freeze the moving bird.....

I popped up to Choseley barns to watch the sun go down. Starling roost and a few Red-legs but not much else seen. The sky however gave me a treat with strange rainbow like phenomenon (ice crystals in the cirrus?) preceding the sunset.

Then it was off to my B&B, a friendly welcome and then up the dark dark creaky uncarpeted stairs to the dark dark creaky uncarpeted room, where......

Well, it might be nice one day? There was a '40's' festival on in the area and I reckon the bed would have made a very useful prop for this! After swatting 30 odd mosquitos and gently ushering a couple of spiders out of the window, I decided the pub was a good idea.

A couple of pints of Stella later, the room didn't look so bad after all, time to select 'keepers' from the day and delete a load of 'not do good', then zzzzzzz....