Monday 29 March 2010

Titterstone Clee - Ring Ouzel !!

A day off work and with a few hours to spare early afternoon, the prospect of a migrant forced down by the heavy rain looked promising? Venus Pool was waderless and rather than fall asleep, I opted for a visit to another Shropshire peak - Titterstone Clee! Minimal effort for this one though as you can drive to the summit....

I was going to have a good nose around the whole area but almost immediately upon entering the quarry, my ears were assaulted by an echoing 'chacking' of what could be only one thing.....

It's always a great birding buzz to find a bird you 'hope' will be there but usually isnt! I watched quietly as this cracking male Ring Ouzel flew left and then then right almost out of view. A quick call reannounced it's presence on the grassy ledges above a large boulder scree in front of me and unbelievably - it stayed! I settled down to record some images in the murk and drizzle.....

About as confiding as a Ring Ouzel could be!

There was obviously an abundance of worms in this area! Given the poor light, any of my images with 'movement' were blurred (and there's a lot of this when a worm is being yanked out of the ground). Nevertheless, here are some 'Ring Ouzel with worm' portraits!

The cloud ceiling eventually dropped and in a scene resembling pea soup, I left the bird to his worming. A couple of Wheatears had also been seen - my next target up high and I'm long overdue one of these - is a Shropshire Dotterel!! Keep watching this space....

Sunday 28 March 2010

Hopesay - Great Grey Shrike

Whenever Jim's away - good birds come to play (in Shropshire)! My Saturday alpine show in Exeter meant that I had 'missed' a showy Great Grey Shrike and a stunner of a drake Ring-necked Duck.

To cut a long story short the day started early with the Ring-necked Duck a little cracker - still across the road from the usual dire place but another bloody dog walker (everything was duly flushed!) ensured there was no point in returning to the car for camera gear.

I was in a rush to get to church anyway - well it was Sunday! Hopesay church to be precise and a little stroll up to the Burrow Hill Fort. A mere 'pimple' in the scheme of high places to climb and given the angst this site has caused, it's given me an idea (check back later for a course I plan to run)

Anyway - all the gym work has paid off and after jogging with kit up to the hill fort summit, here's a flavour of the Shikey scene. Like a very large tree laden Bury Ditches!

I'd bumped into Martin and Ian Grant (who hasd already put some time in!), Ian had to dash off to work so I teamed up with Martin and eventually after an hour or so - things were distinctly looking up!

Closer shots proved possible and here seen from every angle. Whilst this wasn't exactly a 'confiding' bird - it sure put the Whixall / Fenns Moss bird to shame!

My favourite! The background of the hill merging with sky seem to compliment the plumage colours of the Shrike....

Even jammed onto a take off and flight shot - just a shame about the white sky!

The day wasn't over either as Greenshank and Green Sandpiper were to be added to the Shropshire yearlist in the Allscot area!

Friday 26 March 2010

Devon - Breakfast Cirls

My overnight stay was 15 miles East of Exeter, I had to be up bright and early with breakfast at the wheel, to catch some Cirl Buntings! There are a few well known sites in Devon but the Broadsands bay one takes some beating - until I find a better one, this is the best for me!!

I wasn't alone either and a would be joggger turned out to be a Tai Chi freak, intent on kicking the living daylights out of fresh air - don't worry - I was at least 100m away from this whirling dervish!

It was Cirl Buntings from the word go, several males singing and eventually showing themselves.....

There weren't too many opportunities on the ground but with a little patient waiting....

Male Cirl Buntings are such beautiful birds and even classier in close up!

Not many females around but I eventually got one to pose!

Daylight was burning and the next call was at Dawlish Warren - surf was up though, the strong wind making the chances of locating the Surf Scoter less than good.

Despite a couple of hours wandering up and down the dunes and even rounding the point, there was no sign of the Surf Scoter. Other folk had more ingenious ways of tracking them down - have a look, I swear this guy has a camera in his harness getup? *

A few Common Scoter and a lone Eider were all that was seen in the surf and I did find some Brent Geese by the point....

Thinking it might be a good idea to move on, I glanced back in the direction of the car park - oh oh - another soaking - and it was!!

The rain then became pretty persistent but some good birds were still to come at Exminster Marshes: Spoonbill, large numbers of Bar-tailed Godwit, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Curlew etc. More of the same with roosting waders at Bowling Green Marsh too.

* If you looked, you must be as daft as me.....

Thursday 25 March 2010

Dorset - Double drenching!

Exeter was my destination for an alpine plant show on Saturday. Thought I'd allow plenty of time to get there and set off first thing Thursday morning??

I was heading for the Weymouth area and with heavy rain forecast, there were two main Dorset target birds: Bufflehead and Hoopoe, then if time permitted - round off with a Garganey in Devon on my way to friends and a couple of nights hospitality...

It was still dry (only just) when I arrived at Abbotsbury and having done my homework 'satnavved' New Barn Road. This overlooks the Fleet and the Swannery (with hindsight the admission fee would have been well worth it for the 200m closer views?) The arrow denotes the location of the distant Bufflehead - see below!

Eventually, with another birder scanning the water, we located the Bufflehead - well over towards the other bank, beyond the distant headland!

Not exactly the best image I've taken and whilst you can't quite make out the feather detail - it is a Bufflehead - honest, the scope views were much clearer! After a few minutes, it disappeared behind the headland!

Spots of rain were beginning to fall and the short drive to Langton Herring....

After parking at the local pub with good directions coutesy of local birder Aiden (cheers mate) I descended to the 'Hoopoe field' - wellies I was warned, are absolutely obligatory here!!

On arrival, I'm not sure whether it was me or a dog walker coming the other way - the Hoopoe was flushed within 30 metres! It flew over the adjacent wall and .... to cut a long story short..... after nearly two more hours.... was never seen again!!

Boy, was I wet!! Typical Hoopoe habitat seen here...

And then the long 'uphill mile' walk back! I couldn't really grumble though - I had actually had as close a view as I've ever managed of a Hoopoe!

The car heater did it's stuff and 40 miles later I was totally dry and parked up at the 'White bridge' upstream of the Otter estuary. Guess what, the rain came down in stair-rod fashion again and after scoping the 'second field' for quite a while (where the pair had been seen), an inspired check of a small wet flush in the 'third field' turned up the pair of Garganey! Here's the drake.....

It was virtually dusk and to be honest, I'd had enough by now - the thought of a nice hot meal, glass of wine......

Then up with Cirls for breakfast tomorrow!

Monday 22 March 2010

Hoveringham GPs - GW Egret

I was tied up in Notts for an evening talk in Keyworth and decided upon a preliminary visit to the nearby Hoveringham area (15 miles up the road near Hoveringham!)

Arriving at 4.15, there was not an awful lot of daylight left and I wasted the next 45 mins searching the Northern part of Railway Pit for the Red-necked Grebe which had been present for a few weeks but (I was told by a local birder) it doesn't tend to show on windy days! It was a windy day......

I did see a couple of Little Egrets fly in though, hopes of their much bigger cousin were all I now had to aim for! A subsequent cruise around the local roads checking ditches was at least noteworthy for a Hare or two - well within camera range!

Hares normally do a bunk whenever I've pointed a camera at them - eventually the penny dropped!

Eventually with light fading it was either a 'fly in to the roost' or double dip? I staked out a lay by the Southern end of Railway Pit with a couple of local birders (ominously - their fourth attempt).

At 6.33 precisely (I was meant to leave by 6.30 at the latest) and as I was packing everything away, I got the "it's flying in" call! A quick scope, Great White Egret joining two Little uns in trees at the far end! Not a chance of a pic now, even if I had time (added to the fact it was 600m away!) but it was job done. Thoughts now turned to putting my foot down and 'Spring Treasures at Kew' at Keyworth garden club.....

Sunday 21 March 2010

Leighton Moss - Green-winged Teal

One of those 'spur of the moment' decisions led me to desert a very quiet Venus Pool and join the local SOS field trippers at Leighton Moss. At least there would be waders plus and a few other good birds to see?

I suppose the bird of the day (from a year tick point of view) had to be the drake Green-winged Teal visible from Grizedale hide! I say visible but it did encroach within 60m or so - about as near as I've had the pleasure with this particular species....

Joining in the courtship rituals....

Calling and displaying a very smart hood!

Eventually coming a little bit closer but record shots only were the order of the day!

Just down the road in the field adjacent to the level crossing were the wintering trio of Snow Geese. Not the most atmospheric of backdrops however!

A juvenile Peregrine was terrorising the inhabitants of the reed bed too!

Now then - onwards, to continue with 'The Blog what I wrote', linking to the area's favourite son and celebrity birder - Eric John Bartholomew!