Sunday 27 April 2008

Venus Pool - Dunlin / Tern up

The forecast was cloud and persistent rain, for the morning anyway and I decided to have an early start at Venus Pool. With Andy Latham covering the Eastern front (at Allscot) hopes were high of a passage bird or two?

There were five Dunlin on arrival (6.10) at the pool and shortly afterwards a group of seven flew in. Photography was nigh on impossible in the dull light but I had a go......

Perhaps the highlight was a Common Tern dropping in at 6.20 and staying for an hour or so! Don't quite know how I managed to capture a couple of half decent flight shots given the awful conditions!

The shingle island in front of the hide attracted quite a few birds during the session: Little Ringed Plovers, a rather bedraggled Wheatear and Yellow Wagtail (three were seen).

The rain cleared by mid morning and the Dunlin flock had increased to 14. Every now and then they would fly around the pool putting the Red Arrows to shame! Mind you, a couple of birds broke formation on the second circuit (lower pic)

The Oystercatchers eggs must surely hatch soon (sitting since the end of March). Routine nest changes have been seamless and the plucky duo take on anything entering VP airspace - pretty good parents these!

Sometimes I feel like putting the camera away in dull light and rain but it can lead to some moody atmospheric or dynamic motion shots. Once upon a time, I might have deleted these two shots - I actually quite like them but then it's all in the eye of the beholder.....

A great early morning session with some good banter being had by all. Paul, Dave W early on, then Jase after his lie in! The flash incident kept us all going and will remain in the annals of hidelore for ever more! I'm still not sure who won the 'war'. OK, maybe the Hobby and Ringed Plovers from the Eastern front edged the day but no question where the Dunlin had got their act together - Venus Pool!

Saturday 26 April 2008

South Shropshire - Hoopoe and Tripits....

I was nearly tempted to head North but the lure of a good Shropshire bird (plus maybe others?) was just to much to resist....

I headed South with the Longmynd first point of call - Dotterel eluded me last year so hoping for better luck this year? Not today though; after a scour of the Sheep fields and glider station. I did pick up a couple of Red Grouse however, a Swift overhead was the first of the year for me and of course there were Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Stonechat and Wheatear!

Then, off to the tiny settlement of Pentre Hodre near Bucknell in South Shropshire where a Hoopoe had been seen the previous couple of days. I bumped into Kev Joynes who had photographed it the previous day - we worked together, soon realising this was going to develop into a search! After about 45 mins of working the lanes, we unexpectedly found the bird in the roadside verge. It propmptly flew up and hopped over the hedge into the neighbouring field. It then became a stalking challenge - trying to get a decent view through every opportunistic gap in the hedge. As you can see, we did get some excellent views, all too brief sadly but some decent images were recorded. Eventually a passing birder decided to park his car right by where the bird was feeding and flushed it (sadly, not to be seen again that day!!)

At about midday, I decided to have a break from Hoopoe hunting and with Black Hill looming to the North, drove up there for a quick look around. There were plenty of birds singing - mostly Willow Warblers.....

.... a few Chiffs and then the unmistakable sight and sound of Tree Pipits! I saw at least four, fresh in and giving it their all with fantastic display flights with superb views on top of the conifers. The backdrop was pretty critical and some really atmospheric shots were captured from the darker surroundings.

A return to Pentre Hodre and the Hoopoe hunt proved uneventful. At about 3.45, I decided to move on to Bridges.

I never got there! Once the mobile signal was activated, a backlog of missed calls and texts came in - AVOCET at Venus Pool!!

Venus Pool - Avocet !!!!!!!

I had been lucky enough to see the Wood Lane Avocets in 2006 but this was just as exciting an event - second County record and a first for Venus Pool!!

All the speed limits were dutifully observed and I got there at 4.30 with the Avocet still showing really well. Best views were from the Memorial hide - this is a bird you take for granted in Norfolk but in Shropshire, a fantastic sight!

Here's just a taste of the action.....

Oh, I nearly forgot - there was a Whimbrel there too, would normally have been the star turn of the evening. Distant record shots only!

Tuesday 22 April 2008

Venus Pool - Warbling along...

A gorgeous sunny evening at Venus Pool and with birds in song all over the reserve, I chose to walk the hedgerows - we have Warbler movement!

First birds seen were a couple of male Blackcaps. These were busy picking up small insects within the depths of the hedgerow but every now and then showing well.

A Lesser Whitethroat, first picked up at lunchtime by Rob Stokes was also showing well and singing. Showing well from a birding point of view and trying to get a decent picture are two different matters of course. Managed a few pics without too many branches and leaves being in the way!

Over in front of the far hide, a Sedge Warbler was singing and occasionally flitting up the marginal reeds. With Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler also on view here, it certainly made it a decent Warbler session.

The Barn Owl was out on a pre-dusk sorte but gave up in the end after being mobbed by Rooks, dipping into the hedgerow and staying there.....

Sunday 20 April 2008

Anglesey - nightmare!!!

Oh my - a day I will never ever want to repeat and despite managing nine year ticks, it was pretty miserable stuff capped by a horrendous end of the session. Not a single bird pic from the day either!!

It was to be a day on Anglesey courtesy of Alan Northern with Rob and Mike Stokes. Worlds End seemed a good idea for starters and ultimately was (just about)! Heavy rain and mist do not help and it was with some amazement we all picked up a single Black Grouse flying close to and then away from the car!

Would the Hawfinches oblige at Llanbedr-y-cenin? No, of course not, so after a search here and another neaby known site, we left for the coast.

Conwy? Well I should have known better! There had been a Spotted Redshank but we couldn't find it and there was nothing else of note!

We called in at the Spinnies nature reserve - high tide and just a few Redshank moving around the coast....

Holyhead harbour at least served up one of our target birds - a lone Black Guillemot, with a bonus Common Guillemot and three Purple Sandpiper also seen.

South Stack was cold, wet, windy and miserable. There were NO Guillemots or Razorbills, hmm! At least here we managed Chough (5), Kittiwake, Gannet, Fulmar and on the return down the road a single Hooded Crow.

Cemlyn bay was next and I'll be honest, I don't remember much of it. After ticking Sandwich Tern, I returned to the car with steadily growing abdominal pains. It then got worse and I was nearly out for the count with the pain and probably frightened the life out of the the other three (not to mention totally ruining what remained of our 'fantastic' day!!)

The decision 'lets get him (me) home' was made and after a scary stop along the A55 where I had to get out feeling nauseous from the pain - ending up flat out on the roadside, it became - Bangor Hospital next stop....

The agony was easing and after thinking through the logistics of being stranded there, (banged up in Bangor) we opted to get back to Shrewsbury and I'm now fully recovered.....

At least it wasn't appendicitis! Renal colic or a bowel spasm the most likely cause, I did at least get my humour back later in the day - thanking the lads for not leaving me by the roadside! "Your health is more important than a few ticks" was the response - "but you'd have been on your own if that Calandra Lark was nearer".....

Of course the pain could have been much worse - missing that Black Lark!! Sorry Jase ;-)

Friday 18 April 2008

Venus Pool - Just a Dunlin....

The LRPs are now down to two birds, the original three males now whittled to one? Two Common Sandpipers and a new wader in town - a Dunlin. Well, nothing to get excited about but it does make a change.....

A Grey wagtail showing well in the evening gloom. Now where's that Yellow!