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.