Monday, 5 November 2007

Shropshire - Air space now open!

After a couple of relatively 'birdless' weekends and lack of opportunity due to the dark evenings, this was hopefully going to be a day when something might happen. I'd spoken with Andy Latham the previous day and we agreed, the hills of South Shropshire were well worth a look. I was still looking for that elusive bird No 150 - the target for my Shropshire 2007 year list, fingers were crossed and with Andy around, something usually does happen.....

Our first call was Titterstone Clee where we concentrated on the quarry area. A male Peregrine was our first bird (good omen) and despite an hour or so of searching for something special (Black Redstart maybe), it was just the usual crowd of Meadow Pipits plus a Stonechat. Plenty of distant Fieldfare seen as well. The weather was fantastic here - clear blue skies which would stay with us all day.

Black Hill was next with the Great-grey Shrike found by John Tucker our target. We walked and walked for at least two hours getting a little frustrated but there were a few other birds around including a group of 18 Crossbills! Siskin, Redpoll and a single Brambling were also seen overhead. Finally, we found the right clearfell area which 'oozed Shrike' and after 20 minutes or so Andy was onto it. Words like 'distant and elusive' immediately became appropriate and the best picture I could manage was from a little too far away. Who cares - Shropshire bird No 150 for 2007!!! Jim very happy with a record pic too! We watched it off and on, for nearly an hour so.

I still needed a local Hen Harrier for the year too, so after rehydrating and eating (with big flocks of Redwing for company), we set off for the Longmynd. About a mile North of Clun, I jammed the anchors on - Red Kite! This looked like a good photo opportunity and the Kite for once in this sort of situation, didn't immediately disappear. It wasn't until later on that I realised the bird had wing tags. Not a local bird at all, the black tag indicating Wales and yellow strip - 2004 the year of tagging.

We arrived at the Longmynd by about 3.30pm and our first call was the copse at Pole Cottage. I had left my camera in the car, not like Jim at all and then (you can guess what would happen) - just 20 metres along the enclosure fence - up onto a fence post popped, would you believe, a female Black Redstart (151)!! Not surprisingly, it was a quick scramble for the gear then agonising wait to see if it would reappear in such a photogenic pose? It didn't disappoint, what a fantastic bird - the only problem being the highly directional low evening sunlight,which caused big exposure and contrast problems. I'll settle for the following sequence though!!

Almost as a sideshow, a flock of 20+ Brambling were also feeding in company with the Redstart. There was no time to make the most of this so a few quick shots and then with dusk looming rapidly, we needed to get to Cow Ridge

You know it's your day when literally a couple of minutes out of the car our final target - a distant female Hen Harrier (152) came into view. This was a scope job, too far for photography but a perfect finale!

The temperature on top of the Longmynd started to plummet as we kept our hopes up for a Short eared Owl or another Harrier? It didn't happen so we decided to call it a day and what a day it had been! No exaggeration to claim it was (eventually) one of my most enjoyable days birding in Shropshire (Andy had a broad smile on his face too). So, next time you open those curtains to an Autumnal 'pea souper' - get in the car and drive up high - you just never know what might be waiting.......

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