Friday, 31 January 2014


This morning as soon as I saw that the weather from lunchtime onwards was going to be stormy for a couple of days I thought I'd better get out there with the camera.I decided to go to Coleshill to try and see the Hume's Leaf Warbler that Dave Hutton had found last Saturday.

Things got off to a very poor start when I parked up near the bridge at 9.30 AM.Firstly I'd forgotten my mobile so what would I do if I needed help.Secondly my camera was dead and had developed a battery communication fault (this sounded like lots of £).Thirdly it was very gloomy,cold and muddy there not conditions suitable for a Wimp. 

Did have some luck though Dave Hutton was there and so was the bird because he had heard it calling however it wasn't till well over an hour before I had a very brief sighting.Dave was up on the bridge and called down he'd heard it call in the bushes below the bridge.At the same time a bird flew from the bush near the river across the water to the other side.A birder next to me said that that was it.A very brief view but glad I saw it.

The pic below shows were it was.Low in the bushes  to the right and then it flew across to the other bank and out of site.Stayed another hour and although I heard it call once I never saw it again.

Last Winter I boasted to anyone who would listen how good my back garden feeders were at attracting decent birds.This year they've been very poor but one gloomy morning earlier in the week a couple of Lesser Redpolls dropped in for a quick feed.

Have now found out the camera is caput and will need to be sent back to Canon for repair.This could be costlty.OH Dear ! ! !

Sunday, 26 January 2014


On Saturday morning as soon as I saw that the weather was going to go down the pan that afternoon and be pretty grim on Sunday and Monday I decided to get out there with the camera.However where to go locally was a problem with nothing decent about as far as I knew.In the end I decided to go to Hopwood again and hope that the Great Grey Shrike would for once come into range.

Got there at 10.30 AM and luckily my good friend Pete Walkden was there and he had the Shrike in view but unfortunately it was right down the field on or around the Oak tree.

I was there for about 3 hours in total and in all that time it only came closer twice and then only for short periods and still about 150m away.Took loads of shots but I'm blowed if I could focus on it against the undergrowth background.This is my best shot. 

I'd brought with me my new camera the Canon SX50 bridge camera which is really just a fun camera that can do everything quite well.It does have a huge zoom feature however so I had a go with that.The first shot is about 200m away and the second one is about 150m away.Not bad for a little camera.

Whilst waiting for the Shrike to show we were entertained by a few birds of prey including a Common Buzzard,a Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk.The Buzzard was the only one that came close.

The Buzzard showed again later on and whilst it was looking for food it was attacked by a Crow who eventually chased it off.

Thursday, 16 January 2014


                 At Ice Station Draycote earlier in the week a couple of birders reminded me that a Great Grey Shrike had been present in the fields along Redditch Road not far from the Hopwood Park services on the M42.So on Thursday morning I thought I'd go over there to try my luck.

I made a couple of mistakes early on in the trip.The first was deciding to go there on the country route rather than the motorway because in Wood End I came across three-way traffic lights at some road works.The trouble was they had broken down showing red on all three roads.It took a brave white van driver to chance his arm and go through the red light before any of us wimps would do the same.

The second mistake was parking up as told by a lay-bye and searching the field next to it.It took me an hour of wasted time to realise that there were two lay-byes and I was of course at the wrong one.It took me that long to spot a couple of birders about 500m further up the road.When I got there one of them was a good friend Pete Walkden who I hadn't seen for ages.

Pete had got some great shots of the GGS previously and it was him that spotted it this morning.That's where the good news ended because it was a hell of a long way off and never got any closer in the 90 mins I waited.This shot shows how far off it was bearing in mind that this is through my 400 lens.

Here are a couple of shots heavily cropped.Pretty grim Eh !!!

Here are a couple of shots I took earlier.November 2010 at Napton as it happens where the bird there was much more sociable.

I must have another go and hope it comes closer although the locals think it now favours the distant field.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014


As soon as I saw that it would be sunny Tuesday morning I decided I'd better get out there with the camera but where to go ? With all my other local patches flooded or very quiet there was only once choice and that was Ice Station Draycote.

Got there just before 10.00 AM and as I was getting kitted up in the car park it felt like a pleasant English winter's morning.This changed dramatically as I climbed up to the Farborough bank path where it felt as though I'd been transported to deep winter in Siberia.My God it was cold.

The bitter wind was soon slicing through all my layers and was  threatening my thermals and if they go I would be finished.I wasn't alone one friend I met was racing to the cafe because he'd "lost all feeling in his fingers" and another had got so cold in Toft that his "jaws had frozen up".Nice to know I'm not the only wimp birder.

Back to the birding.Along the Farborough bank I soon met up with Francoise who had got the drake Smew which had been in close but had drifted out by the time I got onto it. Got some shots but not any better than before.

I was joined by another friend whilst waiting for the Smew to come closer and was very impressed because he'd bought a stainless steel electric bike so getting around Draycote was now a doddle for him.After he moved off a Common Buzzard cruised by and a dead fish floated by.I thought Barracuda but I think the water would be too cold.

I then walked down to the spit where it was very quiet with no sign of my good friend the Great Northern Diver which I later found out had become more adventurous and was now popping up all over the place.I was then rewarded whilst multitasking when I was scanning round with my bins and eating a cheese roll at the same time I spotted the Long-tailed Duck.Although it was closer in than before it was still the best part of a 100m away.Managed a few shots in the now rather rough water but still far too far away for my lens.

I then headed back to try and warm up a bit in the cafe when I bumped into my good friend Bob Hazell. Bob is a Draycote Water legend because he walks all round the reservoir most days and it's him that finds any new birds and puts them out for us to go and see.Today his new find was a dozen Pintails.

Whilst having a cup of tea in the cafe I noticed the Smew had come in very close.I grabbed all my stuff raced down the stairs and along the path.It couldn't have been 5 minutes but the Smew had drifted out again.Wonderful !! Got some more pics but still no better.

Sunday, 12 January 2014


Of the four decent birds currently at Ice Station Draycote I have been able to get some shots of the Great Northern Diver,the Smew and some poor ones of the Long-tailed Duck but the Red Breasted Mergansers have eluded me completely.So when I saw that Saturday morning would be sunny I set off pretty early to see if I could get some shots of them.

The big trouble for me was that the Red Breasted Mergansers had been favouring the water from the Inlet to the Valve Tower and this is a hell of a long walk for me these days.These old legs that half a century ago were bursting through defences and scoring fantastic goals now struggle to handle long walks.

Before I rabbit on about my epic trek I was very pleased the day before to get my first shot this winter of a Lesser Redpoll that visited my back garden very briefly. 

Got to the Ice Station at 9.00 AM and set off to Draycote Bank heavily layered against the cold.I walked via the Yacht club and was a bit dismayed to see that numerous boats were being readied for action so I'd better find the Mergansers quickly.

I didn't see anything to point the camera at until I got the other side of the inlet where there were several Goosanders which are great birds to photograph.There were only a couple of males and at least a dozen females but more importantly there were no sign of the Mergansers.

I then went to check out the Valve Tower to see if the Mergansers were there but they weren't. Oh Dear !!! Did have some fun down there though a Grey Wagtail led me a merry dance in the rocks but I didn't get a single decent shot.A Little Grebe was being very successful fishing.

 Feeling a bit down I headed back to the Inlet which was where I received text from a friend which told me that the Mergansers had been in Toft but had just flown my way.Damnation !! I had to walk back to the Valve Tower to see if they had flown there.The miles were mounting up.

They weren't at the Valve Tower and they weren't at the Inlet when I walked back there.Just as I was half way to Rainbow corner and was seriously thinking of stiff arming one of the passing cyclists and commandeering their bike so I could give my aching legs some help with the walk back I spotted what I thought initially were another couple of Goosanders. But no I'd found the Mergansers !!!!.Thank God for that.Managed a few shots in difficult very bright conditions as they swum quickly towards the Inlet.

After this I very slowly ambled back to the car park very pleased to slump in the car and have a drink.I think I must have walked at least 5 miles which is the equivalent of 20 miles to most people but a very nice morning's birding.

Thursday, 9 January 2014


As soon as I saw that there might be a break in this grim weather on Wednesday morning I decided to go again to Ice Station Draycote hoping to improve on the shots I'd taken on my last visit which shouldn't be too hard.Well I hoped not.

Parked up at 10.00 AM  and climbed up to the Farborough Bank heavily layered against the cold.There were some Goosanders and some Goldeneye showing fairly well as I began to walk down the path.

I hadn't walked that far down the path when I met up with Jeff Rankin who had the drake Smew in sight a fair way off but much closer than on my last visit.Cracking birds.

It didn't stay around long and soon disappeared.As I approached the Spit I was very pleased to see that this time my old friend the Great Northern Diver was showing very well again.

It came in quite close but when I was in deep conversation with another birder regarding the merits of the new bridge cameras that are now coming out the Great Northern Diver popped up right by the rocks barely 2m away.We both were caught unawares and missed the chance of a real close up.Never been so close to one before.

A bird that didn't come in close was the female Long-tailed Duck that although was closer than on my last visit was still no nearer than the middle of the pond.Still can't get a decent shot.

After a cup of tea in the cafe although it was only 1.30 PM it was now much too gloomy to try for any more shots so I headed off home.


Tuesday lunchtime I was so fed up with staying in I grabbed the camera and set off for Marsh lane despite the very blustery damp conditions.I was a bit surprised to see a few other birders there as well.They must have been as fed up as me with this dreadful weather.

As expected the place was very wet and on both pools the islands had all but disappeared.There was very little about from what I could see except for some Common Gulls and a Common Buzzard that was battling with the strong wind.A Peregrine was sitting in a very distant tree.

Just before leaving I checked the dragonfly pool to see if the Little Egret was there.It was trying to feed in the gusty wind.