Saturday 27 October 2007

Venus Pool - Starling roost!

Starlings are unlikely to feature in these pages often and I wouldn't normally bring them to your attention. A regular roost seems to becoming established at Venus Pool however and I for one, always find this evening activity one of natures spectacles.
Are they just doing it for fun? I think so and other species seem to be drawn into the proceedings although the Jackdaws didn't seem to be able to keep up with the manouvres. Capturing the spectacle is not easy due to the low light and obvious movement of the birds.
Here's an attempt - how many do you reckon? I would have estimated at least 5,000 birds - quite a sight!

Sunday 21 October 2007

Titterstone Clee - Mipits and Wheatears

An intriging late Friday post on Shropshire Birds with the header 'Titterstone Clee summit' had a completely blank message! I was agonising whether to try there or the Stiperstones anyway and eventually opted for the former armed with hot drink, tiffin and bacon sandwich (fuel for at least a day). Of course, the blank message could have clearly meant 'nothing there'?

It was a fantastic 'blue sky' frosty morning up the top, once I'd left the foggy roads behind.

Well, there wasn't anything special that I could see there, so it turned into a Meadow Pipit and Wheatear session (plenty of those about of course) whilst I wandered around the Quarry and Summit area. Meadow Pipits will eat anything from flying ants up to large grubs and if you sit quietly in the car will come quite close!

There were quite a few Buzzards on the thermals, mostly distant but one came close enough, Ravens practising acrobatics over the Quarry, plus a brief glimpse of a Mistle Thrush which as you can see didn't stay.
A brief drive and walk around Catherton Common didn't reveal anything else of note but it was a glorious day!

Thursday 11 October 2007

Venus Pool - Pintail in a flap

Despite the overcast conditions, the camera came out of the bag when the female Pintail, which has been present for two or three weeks now, decided to come within 50m of the hide (that close?) Whether it was camera shyness, the closer encounter didn't last long, a quick flap and then away!

Tuesday 9 October 2007

Venus Pool - Greenshank encore

Down on the pool a Greenshank has been regularly entertaining in front of the main hide. I usually complain the light isn't good but a couple of pictures in heavy cloud were quite pleasing and the next sequence in full sun at least allowed a shutter speed to freeze the moment a Lapwing decided to move this intruder on.....

Up in the sky a couple of Ravens were soaring with up to seven Buzzards, two Kestrels and a Sparrowhawk. Generally far too distant for photography although I managed an acceptable record shot of a Raven

Wednesday 3 October 2007

Kent - wet and windy frustration

When I'm not out birding, my main (and original) passion on the leisure front is alpine plants and I regularly travel the length and breadth of the country - spreading the word. So, when the Tunbridge Wells group of the Alpine Garden Society asked me to speak, this was a golden opportunity to take in a few Kent birds as well?
A Paddyfield Warbler - in St Margarets at Cliffe seemed irresistable for starters on the Sunday morning. Having delighted observers for the previous couple of days, it had decided to move on however, much to the frustration of myself and the many other birders. Oh well, there was a juvenile Red-backed Shrike on show just 400m away so I didn't come away empty handed.

Then, off to Samphire Hoe where Greenish and Yellow-browed Warblers were both ticked but not a chance of a photograph as these were both distant and elusive. The camera stayed in the bag and it was back to a good old 'scope session (which I quite enjoyed!) Got the bag back out when I got to Dungeness though.......

Difficult conditions for photography shooting seaward into the light. Nevertheless managed to pick out a Mediterranean Gull being harried by a Herring Gull (both 2nd Winter). Sandwich Terns were more obliging with a parent/youngster duo landing on the beach for a short while. There were plenty of other birds seen: Gannet, Arctic & Common Tern, Little Gull, Common Scoter, Razorbill to mention but a few.

Sunday saw the weather conditions become dire with what would be best described as gale force drizzle of the type that gets you soaked in seconds. The only bird I photographed was from the refuge of the car! I'd been watching a male Marsh Harrier from the access road, drove to where I reckoned he'd cross over and considering the shocking light was pleased with this shot. And also pleased I was pointing the camera out of the window downwind! A brief view of Firecrest was had later by the visitor centre, then definitely time to retreat and dry off!

The final morning was spent at Bough Beech reservoir where impatience got the better of me. My third Pec Sandpiper of the autumn was a welcome sight but I really fancied the Long-billed Dowitcher, nowhere to be seen of course. I gave it a couple of hours and then decided to do battle with the motorways and miss the worst of the mayhem. You can guess the rest - driving up the M1 - got a text telling me the Dowitcher was back.....

I was philosophical, the change of scene was good and I was there on plant business anyway! One lifer in the shape of Greenish Warbler and a few other decent birds. A very brief stop at VP on return to Shropshire made me realise just how good murky Kent really was in comparison!!!!