Saturday, 24 January 2009

South Shropshire - out and about

I'll probably end up trying to match last year's county list (a hard act to follow) later in the year when enthusiasm returns, plus a few migrants but for now, my interests lie wherever travels and good birds take me. In fact, this was to be my first County based day birding since the first week of the year and also my first proper session getting to grips with my new camera body (Canon 50D). Some reviews and the forums (mostly folk who have formed 'opinions' based on other opinions or views after reading the specifications) have given this body a hard time but I'd spoken with a couple of 'users' who were well impressed with performance. I was overdue a second body upgrade and it will be interesting to see when/if the 40D gets reattached to the big lens?? 300mm duty may be beckoning?

A day down in the South was the theme of the day! The omens looked good with an early start at VP and fleeting views of the Bittern obliging for Yvonne at VP.....

First stop was Longnor bridge and with one of two Dippers showing well downstream on the shingle bank, the card was duly christened with the first few frames!

The first striking 'plus' noted with the 50D is the LCD screen which is simply awesome. The similarly sized 40D display is kicked into touch on sharpness and quality! The only downside is that images look so good - some flattered to decieve when eventually viewed on a PC screen.

Onwards then and a check of Black Hill is always worthwhile and I knew the chances of Red Kite were pretty good on the way there. 'Good' was an understatement, with now one but TWO showing over the car between Aston on Clun and Clunton.

A hasty shot into the light...

Followed by the mandatory roadside stop and whilst this wasn't exactly 'Gigrin' views - it was great to get relatively close to two Shropshire birds! A good ten minutes were spent watching them, always within 400m of the road and with one approach to within 60m or so.

Now then, I need to get a bit more sessions in, to truly prove the point but the second big plus was what I perceived as improved ease of locking onto and then staying focussed on a bird in flight. Local birds don't come much bigger than Red Kites though and I need to see how the camera performs with smaller birds.

This is truly raptor country and whilst Goshawk didn't put in an appearance, check out the crop on this gluttonous female Peregrine - is that one pigeon or two for lunch!!

I did say the omens looked good and a 'comfort break' at the riverside car park in Clun yielded yet another surprise find - four WAXWINGS - feeding on a small Sorbus tree. They were just as harrassed as the Stokesay birds though and soon disappeared from sight.

This was the reason why - aggresive, no nonsense, 'get orf my berries' Mistle Thrushes! A good few birds were also present here in the Alders - Siskins, Lesser Redpoll and various Finches.

Funny how the afternoon never seems to match the morning? It was downhill all the way for the rest of the day with not a Shrike or Crossbill in sight - including Black Hill, Whitcott Keysett, Clunton Coppice or the Longmynd (apart from another Peregrine!)

As for the Canon 50D? Judge for yourself, I reckon quite reasonable images from some obliging birds and I've no doubt got to get to grips with all those extra pixels and RAW processing quirks before I've truly sussed / mastered it and formed a real opinion - watch this space.......