Thursday 30 April 2009

Shropshire - Warblers galore

The past few weeks have thrown up some memorable moments concentrating on Warblers not always seen so well! Here's a quick catch up with some of the more 'common' birds singing and generally doing their thing right now.

Male Blackcap at Clunton

The rare 'Horned' Chiffy at the same venue - didn't seem to be affected by this rather strange condition - anyone an idea as to the cause......

The obliging Sedge Warbler at VP - shame the same cannot said about the light!

Another one singing at Chelmarsh....

A Common Whitethroat at Mire Lake - singing and then giving me the 'look'....

Make the most of it as the leaves grow and birds sing less, they will not be so obvious!

Monday 27 April 2009

Venus Pool - Osprey fishing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What an evening to remember? I was at Venus Pool hoping for a wader or a Tern and checking out the small Gull flock - for once there was an interesting bird present - a Herring Gull type but with distinct small beady black eye and from certain angles bloody long bill! I'd given Andy a call to discuss and for want of something better to do (Mire lake was dead) he was on his way to have a look.....

Meanwhile, out of view to the South of VP and also on their way was....... an Osprey......!

As ever, the first locals to pick up the intruder were the Corvids and then immediately after - the Gull flock - including the interesting Herring type! They were all up mobbing the unfortunate bird who seemed totally unconcerned and giving those which got too close a playful 'slap' with those powerful wings.

Most Ospreys I'd seen at VP circled and dived from great height - this was working at a much lower level, stooping at 45 degree angle on at least four occasions into the water and emerging fishless!

The wingflap shedding of water soon got the bird airborne again before the next plunge!

Photography was difficult (excuses I know) but getting technical..... The poor light meant too slow a shutter speed for flight photography - merely 1/100-200 at 640ISO and the changing background of dark trees (-1 stop) to milky sky (+2 stops) meant I was constantly adjusting the in camera exposure settings.

Amazingly I did get a few 'keepers' as the bird was circling

It was THIS close at one stage!!

Eventually (at roughly the furthest point of the pool from the hide!) success was achieved in the form of a large Roach for supper.

Then, off to consume the meal....

Hmm, surprisingly I'd forgotten all about that Gull.....

Sunday 26 April 2009

Willington Pits - Whiskered Terns

A Sunday morning drive to sunny Derbyshire turned out to be a very good decision with the brief consensus from contacts out and about in Shropshire - Nowt special!

The reason I was there - a group of Whiskered Terns which seemed keen to make a name for themselves. Eight were still there on arrival! There was a constant procession of visiting birders, mixing with the locals - still bearing smiles and relating at length the disbelief/joy of having them (the Terns that is) drop into your local patch!

A couple of hours were spent just enjoying them and trying to get some pictures. It nearly lasted just a few minutes though! They grouped up and flew fairly high almost out of view before eventually returning to the water. (A Common Tern seemed to be constantly present with the group)

This perch is mine!

They remained distant, either perched or working the surface of the water for the abundance of small flies. Occasionally, one or two strayed close enough for a record shot. The silvery hue to the upperwing really striking in the bright sunshine!

Mission accomplished, a quick return to Shropshire to check out the Wood Warblers at Clunton.....

Clunton Coppice - Wood Warbler!!

A first visit since reports that Wood Warblers had arrived back. You will find them elsewhere in Shropshire but this is the best local venue to see them by far!

There were Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and plenty of Blackcap singing in the area but no sight/sound of Garden Warbler! A male Pied Flycatcher was also seen.

At least two singing Wood Warblers were soon encountered and with a bit of patience, they flew quite close. Wood Warblers are really smart birds with their bright yellow supercilium, throat and contasting white underparts. All angles were covered and for once not just the view of the underparts!

The dappled shade didn't help with this portrait but best to date......

Saturday 25 April 2009

Pole Cottage - A Shropshire Gropper!!

Quality time with my daughter turned into quality time with a rather special bird! It was meant to be a full morning shopping followed by a taxi run to Loughborough. Somehow (thanks Kate), I managed to sneak off for a late morning look at Pole Cottage having heard news of a Grasshopper Warbler reeling in the area the previous day!

No doubt about it either as I was retrieving kit from the car boot, I could hear the unmistakable 'reel' - somewhere at the back of the plantation.....

Such an obliging bird too, I only had to walk to the small pool to get my first glimpse (mid reel)!

It would dive down in the heather and then reappear a few metres away - playing a sort 'now you see me, now you don't' game....

I got some brief but fantastic views (missing more than I actually captured!)

Eventually I was treated to the amazing spectacle of a more distant reel perched on top of the heather!!

The briefest, best and perhaps, the view of a lifetime chance!

This was the last I saw of it as taxi duty beckoned and sadly (see below) the last sighting????

Two Red Kites flew by as well - one was wing tagged - Number 12!

I found out later that the bird hadn't shown at all first thing Saturday morning! On getting tht news out of this late morning appearance - unbelievably, as Jason arrived soon after (and before he could see it!!), a dog blitzed the area flushing it!! It was seen briefly by Mike and Rich late eve the following day......

Sunday 19 April 2009

Doxey Marshes - Gropper

A Sunday morning visit to Doxey Marshes in Staffs, teaming up with the local SOS trip, paid dividends! Whilst everyone was having lunch, Yvonne and myself followed up some 'local info' down the old railway track and found the first of three Grasshopper Warblers of the day - not just reeling but showing well too!!

The harsh backlit situation in which the most showy bird was placed, relegated images to 'record shot' status but I musn't grumble - just seeing a Gropper so well is never guaranteed!!

Two Cuckoos showing well in flight within 200m of the track from Katyn memorial finished the day off nicely.....

Friday 17 April 2009

Shropshire Birding - Bloody hell!

I hope Alex Ferguson doesn't mind me pinching his famous quote - as Shropshire birding went from dire to sensational! A brief word only summary then (look back - I might sneak a poor record shot or two in), of one of the most frenetic weeks I've spent birding in the County! Sure there were one or two 'downs' but it was mostly 'ups'!!

The bank holiday weekend started at VP with a long overdue Blackcap but a superb and very obliging Bar-tailed Godwit truly made Good Friday Very Good!!! Saturday continued the theme with an awesome male Black Redstart at Pole Cottage, enjoyed by many. A return visit the following morning revealed it's overnight departure but brief and amazing views of ringtail Hen Harrier (having caught and discarded a female Common Pheasant!!) plus pair of Red Kites made amends. Two Yellow Wagtails at VP for the yearlist and yet another Ring Ouzel seen on Titterstone summit in the evening rounded the day off nicely! Bank Holiday Monday morning at VP saw a brief fly through Osprey steal the show!
Tuesday saw the first Lesser Whitethroat (my earliest yet) of the year at VP and the Bar tailed Godwit - yet again at the muddy pond/scrape down the road from Berrington 'Top Pool' (it was there 13th to 15th).
That was surely it?? A dipped White Stork at Rednal was the prelude for an astonishing 12 hour recovery period at Mire Lake! As Andy put it - a rarity wormhole was nicely positioned over the lake and down came the birds: adult Little Gull (increased to SIX the following evening!), drake Garganey, fem/imm Ring-necked Duck followed by Arctic Tern the following (Fri) early morning. The 'wormhole' birds were still there and VP then yielded 4 Dunlin a Common Sandpiper and would you believe, Lesser Whitethroat singing on a wire!

I'm out of County this weekend but who cares!

Shropshire birding - Bloody Hell!!

Tuesday 14 April 2009

Venus Pool - Lesser Whitethroat

Mid April is Lesser Whitethroat arrival time and looking back over the past three years, my first sighting at VP was on the 23rd (2006), 15th (2007) and 22nd (2008), so this just pipped the 2007 sighting. I'd been keeping an eye on the top field hedgerow for the past few days (including a walk with Rob Stokes the previous day - definitely not in then!)

Great news from early bird Jason - getting news out of one present today. What a vocal, showy bird too. I could hear it singing on entering the field and within a minute or so it was added to the image files for the year!

This is the customary view, part hidden / skulking....

But better was to come - shame initially against a milky white sky!

A game of peekaboo...

Then, feeding on small insects in full view - very nice indeed!

A final pose against a darker background to complete an awesome ten minutes!!

Reed and Sedge Warblers will be in next and who knows what else???