Monday, 28 December 2009

Red letter days!

Every now & then you hit a purple patch, when every thing falls into place with very little effort (at least on your behalf). The last couple of days have been like that for me. On sunday a drive around the levels looking for "winter swans" started off slowly with just a few mutes, here & there. I eventually got to Sharpham, where i had heard reports of Whoopers being present with a large herd of Mutes. I found the field & was delighted to find that there were 2 groups of whoopers (2 adults & 3 juveniles & a further 2 adults) amongst the 50 or so commoner mutes. For those of you not in the know, Whoopers are winter visitors from Siberia & more recently Scandinavia. They are however rarely seen in Somerset & most winter on the Ouse washes, Scotland & the north west.

Top: Adult Whooper swan

Middle: Juvenile Whooper

Bottom: Mute swans landing after being disturbed further up the field.
After Sharpham, i drove out over Kings sedgemoor where i found a pair of Ruff in a field, along with Starlings, fieldfares & a few Lapwing.
Stopping off in the carpark of the Greylake inn & looking across the road into a grass field, i noticed a large flock of Golden plover amongst the Lapwings & Starlings. A few Dunlin also put in a brief flyby.
Today was even better! Cheddar reservoir is gaining a bit of a reputation for turning up good birds. The latest "batch" have included, Great-northern & Black-throated diver, Ring-necked & Ferruginous duck & Red-crested pochard. My main target for today was the Black-throated diver, a bird i have only seen once before, miles out on Portland harbour. As i walked up the ramp onto the footpath that runs around the res, i noticed another photographer running along & then putting his gear down & waiting. A quick scan with the bins showed nothing but water. Then as if on cue, up it popped not 20m from me. For the next half hour it slowly made its way towards the sailing club. As it dived, i tried to get in front of it & waited for it to surface. I was never far enough along & it always seemed to pop up right next to me!

A wander around the res towards the sailing club, found me scanning the large flock of Pochard, Coots & Tufted duck for my secondary targets. Straight away i found the Ring-necked duck & shortly afterwards, i was put onto the female Red-crested pochard by a nearby birder.

Top: Ring-necked duck & common Pochard

Top center: Ring-necked duck

Bottom two: Red-crested Pochard.

On the way back from the res, i stopped off atWesthay moor, where a Yellow-browed warbler had been found a couple of days before. After a wait of no more than 10 mins & in brilliant sunshine, it appeared along the edge of the road, flitting in & out of the overhanging brambles. Using manual focus, i managed a few shots, some of which were sharp & in focus!

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Sign of the winter to come?

Coastal sites usually turn up a few "special" winter migrants every year, Shore lark, Lapland bunting & of course Snow buntings. Unfortunately, Shore lark is not very likely in this part of the world, Lapland bunting not impossible & Snow bunting, more or less annual.
Stolford, near Hinkley point turned up a pair about 1 week ago, but there could have been as many as 8 of these visitors from the far north, strung out along the shingle between Stolford & Steart.
My visit yesterday afternoon in the weak wintery sunshine, yielded just the 1, a few hundred meters east of the car park.
A very confiding little bird that allowed a very close approach. It was not confiding enough however, to put up with the spaniel that was running riot across the marsh though & was flushed a number of times along with the resident Pied wags & Meadow pipits. The owner was quite pleased that the bird had gone (read flushed by her dog) so she did not have to walk behind our tripods!
With the entire marsh available, why did she feel the need to disturb the bird & excercise her dog where we were? I sometimes think common sense is a thing of the past! Rant over.......
Anyway, Myself & Tim Taylor managed to relocate the bird & get a few more shots before the light went altogether.