Friday 30 November 2007

Melverley - Whoppers galore!

A quick ten minute stop at Melverley and no change to the latest count (23) of Whoopers - 16 Adults and 7 juveniles, together with another 7 Mutes today. Keeping my distance - straight out of the car, they were quite at ease - great views (apart from some in the dip - up periscope!)

The sun even came out!

Wednesday 28 November 2007

Venus Pool - Swan wars

Okay, the're not Whoopers but that doen't mean they can't provide interest. With little to excite at VP, it was down to the Mute Swans to provide some action....

Lesson number one for this bunch of juvenile intruders - group together to appear as a three headed monster?

Or maybe - try the aloof, this is our pool now approach?

Didn't work - I think he means business!

Oops - let's paddle our way out of trouble - better still, get out of here.......

The second pic from the top is actually one of the most endearing (to me anyway) pictures I've taken this year. No light, no birds, no chance?? Always have that camera ready!

Monday 26 November 2007

Parkgate - Kestrels galore

A day spent at Parkgate and nearby Burton Marsh with the SOS was memorable for raptors. Despite a 9 metre plus high tide, it was not enough to force the birds near enough and much of the day was spent scoping. With Hen Harrier (2), Short eared Owl (2), Merlin (2) and at least 2 Peregrines it was like a scene from Noaks ark. I had to be content with capturing pictures of the local (female) Kestrels and with low light, this introduced just enough motion blur to give acceptable yet aesthetic shots. Which is your favourite?

Not a chance of getting close to a Peregrine but I caught the moment this one sped into a panic striken flock of 1,000+ Starlings - can you see him? One fortunate Starling lost a feather or two and lived to play another day......

Monday 19 November 2007

Melverley Green - a dozen Whoppers

I had been keeping a trip to Melverley Green up my sleeve for some time with the Whooper swans being banker birds for my County yearlist. The weather was vile (rain/snow/sleet) but despite this, it was great to find numbers had increased to 12 comprising 8 adults and 4 juveniles (2007 Shrops tick No 154!). A couple of Mutes were keeping them company.

A brief visit to Venus Pool in the fading light (and heavier sleet) proved that at 640ASA and 1.30 sec, a decent record shot or two of the female Goldeneye was possible!

Sunday 18 November 2007

Chelmarsh - Alder feast

An early morning visit to Chelmarsh reservoir in the hope of a decent bird or two proved to be uneventful. The scrape held the usual Teal and Snipe and my only excitement of the day was the Alder trees outside the hide which on arrival had a flock of 60+ finches busy feeding. There were a dozen or so Redpoll and Siskin, first-time visitors to these pages......

Sunday 11 November 2007

Shropshire - normal service resumed!

A quiet Sunday morning spent in the 'Telford' area. At least it was quiet when the cackle of Mistle Thrush and Fieldfare had died down. After last week's adventure, a return to normality and had to settle for pictures of common birds including this nice male Stonechat portrait down Isombridge lane. 

Apley had numerous very mobile Goldcrest. Mistle Thrush, Redwing and Fieldfare also obliged - no shortage of the latter two species anywhere!! Kept the 2007 Shropshire list going too when I dropped on a single Golden Plover (no 153) amongst a Lapwing flock.


Friday 9 November 2007

Venus Pool - Mandarin pair

Love them or hate them, there is no denying that a male Mandarin in breeding plumage is quite a colourful sight! This pair arrived at VP today and seemed to be settling in very nicely with the Mallards......

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.......