Sunday, 28 August 2011

A couple of local visits.

Saturday morning I went over to Brandon Marsh which as it turned out was a bad move because it was very quiet with very little about.

Luckily for me I was able to team up with a couple of friends which eased the pain of not being able to point the camera at anything.It was well into the third hour together that we had our first bit of action when a Sparrowhawk landed very briefly in the bushes to the left of the Carlton hide.

The only other birds of note where a couple of Green Sandpipers on the Teal Pool.

Early on Sunday morning I went over to Marsh Lane hoping that yesterdays Black Tern was still about.

The first bird I spotted was one of the Black Swan/Mute Swan signets which I'm sure would be a good question in a bird ID quiz.

Shortly afterwards I spotted the Black Tern which was good news but there was bad news as well because it favoured the spit by the River hide which was a long way off.Too far for a decent shot.

When it did fly I managed to mess up most of the shots.If a bird is in the sky I can get some decent shots but if it is against a tree background I'm in trouble.I did fluke one OK shot.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Struggling this week to get some shots.

I have struggled this week so far to get any decent bird shots mainly because there is nothing of note around locally.

On Sunday morning I made an early trip to Marsh Lane and although is was very pleasant in the sunny weather there were no birds of note around to point the camera at.The only bird of interest was a Common Sandpiper although later in the afternoon I believe someone got a male Common Redstart down the Old Road.

Monday morning I met up with a friend who wanted to go to the Middleton Hall reserve.I was not that keen as the birds are too far off for my lens but it was a lovely morning and we did see a couple of Little Egrets,a lone Black-tailed Godwit and a couple of Greenshanks.Others had seen the Wood Sandpiper but we didn't.It will be a better place for me when they build a hide.

Did a bit better when I went to Draycote Water on Wednesday morning.I decided to walk down the Farborough Bank and soon got onto a couple of Yellow Wagtails on the water edge.

When I got to the spit I joined some other birders and I realised straight away that the group was a gathering of some of Warwickshire birding legends.Local birding royalty in fact.There was Richard Mays,Bob Hazell,Colin Potter,Bob Duckhouse and me.Well all right not me but I was standing with them.

The stretch of shoreline from the centre to the spit held quite a few waders.Here are a few shots which were taken from distance mainly because the water is so low now that the waters edge where the waders feed is a fair way off.

Don't laugh too loud but here is my best shot of the Black Terns that were whizzing around over the water but in my defense they were miles away.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Brandon Marsh.

On Friday morning I thought I'd go over to Brandon Marsh as I hadn't been there for a while.I entered an empty Steetly hide just before 9.00AM with fingers crossed I might be able to point the camera at something decent.

I was in luck because I soon found six Green Sandpipers scattered around the muddy areas of the pond.

These soon decided to fly off in the direction of the river and the next hour produced nothing except a Common Buzzard that quickly flew past.

I then walked down the jungle path to the River Pool hide but there were only a few Mallards there so I quickly moved on.As I got to the end of the broadwalk to the River Pool hide I noticed the Willows and adjacent trees were very active with birds most of which were Chiffchaffs but then I saw a couple of other birds which much to my delight turned out to be one of my favourite birds.

I didn't expect to see any Spotted Flycatchers this year as their numbers had been drastically
reduced but I've been very lucky having seen them in five separate local locations and have seen at least twelve different birds including these two at Brandon.

I then went to the hide that's died (Teal Pool) and it was dead.The East Marsh hide was deserted and I could find nothing of interest to see on the islands.A visit to the Carlton hide was worth the effort but only because I had lunch there.There were no birds at all to see in my 45 minute stay but I did receive some interesting news whilst in there when a couple of friends had been able to get shots of a Marsh Harrier a few days earlier.

I then walked past the Wright hide and round past the golf course back to the centre but hardly saw anything at all.It was all very quiet.I did get a shot a what I think is a juvenile Chiffchaff but that was all.

To cheer myself up I thought I'd visit the cafe and have a chat with the pretty waitress but the cafe was closed ( a water leak).Knowing it wouldn't be my day I headed home.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

A Trip to the Chilterns.

The birding locally was a bit flat and the forecast was good so on Monday morning I headed down the M40 to the Chilterns to try for some Red Kite shots arriving at the NT car park at Watlington Common at just before 10.00AM.

Just as I came out of the wood onto the common I was stupidly lured into the bushes on the left of the path by a complete stranger.He said "Have you come for the Silver-spotted Skipper ?".Worried that this might be code talk for something very sinister I responded with a harsh "What" He said "The butterfly".Very relieved I told him no but I would like to see it.

I've very little knowledge of butterflies but he was chuffed to see it and had come all the way from Merseyside to do so.He showed me the silver spots on the underside which appeared to be important so I can only assume that they are rare.

I've been to Watlington Common twice before this visit and each time there have been loads of Red Kites around often swooping low over the Common.You could pick a spot, plonk yourself down and let them come to you.However this time was completely different I could only see two and they were literally miles away.Oh Dear.

By the time I reached the end of the Common just before it slopes down steeply and sat myself down on the bench there I hadn't seen a single Red Kite.Was it just a bad Kite day or had they all moved on.

Half an hour later two did start cruising the field well below me and I managed my first shot of the day of one which appeared to have caught a mouse.

It was still pretty quiet for the next hour except for this chap who was cruising the area.It might have been looking for me as I had gone through a radar trap a few days earlier on route to Draycote.

My first bit of luck happened as I was eating a chicken role when one came pretty close and I was able to rattle off a few shots.

Fed up with trying to take shots and eat my roll at the same time I suddenly had a brilliant idea and I threw the remainder of the roll out onto the common.My new best friend immediately got interested and I was able to get some closer shots.Suddenly it did a wing flap and it swooped down and grabbed my roll before flying off with it's lunch.Wow!!! Not many people can say they shared lunch with a Red Kite.

A few minutes later it turned up again looking for more food but I decided to eat the last roll myself.This did not please my new best friend and it stared down at me as it flew off calling out angrily saying I'm sure "You tight fisted git".

I then went down to the little town of Watlington and after a quick drink in the pub at the bottom of the hill I had a walk round the town.I saw no more than three Kites on the Common but saw at least six flying round the town so this might be the better place to see them.

Although I only had a twenty minute spell with these cracking birds on the Common it was well worth the visit.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Another trip to Draycote Water.

Having enjoyed seeing loads of waders earlier in the week at Draycote Water I thought on Friday morning I would have another go.

The weather on my previous visit was pretty grim with a howling wind blowing being worse down the Farborough bank but there were loads of decent birds to see.This visit the weather was great it was warm and calm but there were few birds to be seen.I think there is a lesson here.

Things started well as I walked down to the Spit when this wader was flying round high in the sky calling out all the time.Trouble was I couldn't ID it.

When I got to the Spit the only bird on view was a Greenshank which was nice to see.It didn't stay long as it was spooked by a fast moving cyclist.

Things went downhill after that as I struggled to find something to point the camera at despite having a bit of a walkround.Only successes I had were a juvenile Yellow Wagtail (well I think it is) on the sailing club roof and a distant view of a Kestrel.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Chasing after a Wood Sandpiper.

When on Tuesday morning I found out a Wood Sandpiper was still at Draycote Water I did some early morning shopping and then raced over there arriving just after 10.00AM.

I headed straight down to the spit on the Farborough bank where I found several waders including a Sanderling but no Wood Sandpiper.

I then decided to head down to Toft where someone had seen it earlier in the morning.I was chuffed when I found it on the water's edge in Toft just before you get to the hide but it was a long way off so I set myself down hoping it would come a little closer in range of my lens.After nearly an hour it did come a little closer but then flew off to just past the picnic area where it stayed for only a couple of minutes before flying off again.I was very pleased to get a few shots.

I then headed back to the Spit to try and get some shots of the Wheatear that everyone else had seen but I kept missing.As I stood by the wall scanning the rocks and saying out loud "Where the hell are you" it suddenly popped up only a few feet away.It looked straight at me and it's expression said "You tosser" and it flew off.I then had to use all my fieldcraft skills to get some shots.

By this time the wind kept blowing my hat off so I had to stuff it in a pocket.The wind was so strong it reminded me of sailing round Cape Horn in a three master tea clipper in a full gale (mind you that might have been a dream).

I decided to go home then but as I walked towards the centre Dave Hutton raced by and said there was an Icelandic race Black-tailed Godwit by the picnic area just past the sailing club.Not wishing to show my ignorance that I hadn't heard of one I said I'll see you there.It was a nice looking bird but was a bit far off to get a decent shot.