Friday, 27 February 2009

Kingfishers 0, Woodpeckers 37

I have been meaning to go to the Wildfowl & wetlands trust at Slimbridge for a while. The weather forecast on the web looked good for today & I had a free day. An added incentive was that an American wigeon had been reported on the grounds between the river & the center. Never seen one in the wild before so this was a must see duck. Also a Long-eared owl had set up camp a few miles north of Slimbridge. The plan was to see the owl, hopefully photograph it & then nail the duck after the trust opened its doors at 9:30. Simple!
After turning down several tracks, that werent the correct one, i eventually found Splatt bridge on the canal in Frampton on Severn. A 300m walk south along the towpath turned up a couple of other birders staring into a bush. A quick scan did not turn up the bird, so i had to ask- Is the Long-ear still about? One of the chaps ushered me to his scope for a look. I still could not see it. Then like one of those magic eye pictures, the cryptic camouflage failed (it moved!) & i could make out its back, bottom of its face & then an eye. This is the third LEO i have seen & they are always a challenge, No chance of a photo though. No way would i have found it on my own & my thanks go out to the birders from Bath that pointed it out. How the bird was discovered in the first place i dont know!
On to Slimbridge. The Zeiss hide was the place to go. Around 300 Wigeon were grazing on the grass beside the hide. I was roughly half way through the the flock, when something unseen put the whole lot up & onto a small pond behind a stand of reeds.....doh! This turned out to be a godsend as the duck swam through my bins onto the only bit of open water with a clear line of sight. A few long range record shots were taken with the 600mm & 1.7x teleconverter, the best being shown here. The large white patch on the flank was the first thing i noticed. It also appeared larger than Eurasian wigeon, but not quite as big as a Mallard. The greyish head with a creamy forehead stripe was also in contrast to the chestnut bonce & yellowy stripe of "our" birds.
Now for the rest of the day...... Two good birds ticked, now off to the Kingfisher hide, to hopefully get some shots of courting Kingfishers. To my amazement, the dark little shed that used to inhabit this position, has been replaced with a much larger brand-spanker hide with larger windows, individual moveable stools & a load of bird feeders to the left. Well the Kingfishers put in a couple of brief appearances & i only took one image, which i then binned! The hide is too far away to capture decent images of such a small bird, even tooled up with a 600 & converters. The visit to this hide was saved by the feeders though. A pair of Great-spotted woodpeckers were regularly using them & perching in the surrounding trees. After a severe cut of sub standard images, i ended up with 37 keepers of a species that i had, up to now, not been able to photograph well. All in all a successful trip!

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