Monday, 27 September 2010

Priorslee Lake - Common Scoter

A bit of a purple patch looming? The Black Tern still present on the fishing pool next to Venus Pool for the third day but no time (and no light) for photography. I was off to Priorslee lake where Andy had picked up a juvenile Common Scoter !

A second Shropshire Scoter this year for me following the Colemere drake. I've only ever seen juveniles well out to sea, nice to see one close up - this bird was striking with with pale buff fringes to the plumage giving it a 'streaky' appearance.

Apart from diving and not seeming to come up with much..... all I could come up with was a few different angles!

Given the light, decent record shots - hopefully the gloom will persist and help to down a wader or two in the next few days?

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Venus Pool - Black Tern

Déjà vu in reverse? Having spent a couple of hours at VP in the morning and with the recharged birding batteries flagging somewhat, I went and did a bit of shopping!

I popped back at 3.40 precisely and scanning the Trout Pool from the car park, a welcome sight put some life into them batteries!! What appeared to be a Black Tern!! A sprint/yomp to the causeway where a small group of birders (Geoff H, Rob S and Dave W) were watching what they thought might be……. Oh no, here we go again – a Whiskered Tern??!!

It was flying in close on occasions, so I got set up for an identity shoot to try and settle matters there and then. The flight manner and habit was completely different to the Whiskered Tern, this bird was catching the vast majority of insects up in the air, with very few picked up from the water surface. The first few shots revealed a quite dark obvious shoulder patch and the bill appeared to be much too long for Whiskered. The wings were darker too with an obvious dark carpal bar. After a bit of camera screen browsing, everyone was convinced – we had a juvenile Black Tern…..

Problem was, somehow, someone (probably hearing of ‘possible’ news being texted out) had contacted the news services and put ‘Whiskered Tern’ out – we quickly corrected the identity!

A couple more flight shots…..

Image of the day?

The Tern was spending significant time resting on a buoy at the far end of the pool (unlike the Whiskered Tern which flew non stop for 2 hours + in a strong wind). To completely set the record straight, I took a chance on attempting a perched record shot. Some of the fishermen were quite interested in the bird but at least one ‘reckoned’ I had no right to be there! A ‘tense situation’ developed but after a bit of diplomatic discussion, I got access down to the bottom end…..

A bit better than record shots then and clearly a juvenile Black Tern….

Perhaps the shot of the day ‘nearly’ came earlier as the Tern made two aborted attempts to land on the floating ‘buoy’ at the other end of the pool – a sleeping Mute Swan!!! Now that would have been a sight to behold!!

Footnote: after winning the ‘anti me’ around, and chatting to him, it transpired the Tern had been there all of the previous day (and was still there Monday evening). It does pay to scan the Trout Pool, who knows what it might turn up next?

Friday, 24 September 2010

Upton Warren - Pectoral Sandpiper

The only worthwhile bird on my route home and it was possibly the smallest detour ever, turned out to be a juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper at Upton Warren.

Always a desirable bird at County level, there were plenty of locals enjoying the scene at the flashes and fortunately it was showing well!

Working the muddy islands not too distant from the hide, it eventually ended up as close as is possible at UW, covered from virtually every possible angle....

Nicely head on.....

Feeding with a Common Snipe…..

The fates took an unkind turn as I left the reserve at 5.30ish. I bumped into Dave Barnes as I was leaving and then 15 minutes later go a phone call --- BONXIE just dropped in on the flashes!! Crikey, I was only a few miles down the road, did a handbrake turn and rallied back to no avail, it had flown South soon after.

Never mind, it happens - a good day all round though and with a few good birds seen over the past few days, I’m ready for the frustration of Shropshire again!!

Turf Hotel - Spot Sand take 2

One thing I’ve learnt when out birding is that a period of initial observation prepares you to make the most of a situation, if you get a second chance…..

I was taking that second chance, knowing that it might not work out and minus my scope this time, the 1.8km yomp began again! I got to the Turf knowing exactly where the Spot Sand would be and how it would behave as the tide dropped. One thing I hadn’t considered …..

the Jack Russell effect!

The hotel dogs had been ‘turfed out’ and were on the rampage - incredibly, just as I was lining up for my first shot – they completely spooked the Spotted Sandpiper which flew off downstream and out of view L !!

It was keeping company with a Common Sandpiper and whilst it was really difficult to lock onto either bird - I had a 50% chance – I got a flight shot of the main bird! The wing bar on Spot Sand (see upperwing)is much shorter than a Common Sand and tapers off well before the body. The white trailing edge to the inner secondaries is more obvious too.

Eventually after 30 mins or so, both birds flew back to the Turf area and whilst still ‘flighty’ the Spot Sand settled down (and so did I) feeding in mud close by. The first picture sshows the more 'dumpy' appearance with short a tail projection.

I was looking for the feeding ‘crab’ shot and managed an 'intact' one!

Perhaps the highlight were moments of frozen action as it wondered along the mud downstream of the lock gates, culminating in the perfect shot showing all the key identification features!

Not much else doing, I opted for a return up the M5 corridor and hopefully a good bird on the way .....

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Turf hotel - Spotted Sandpiper!!

After stopping the night with friends near Exeter, I did battle with the Countess Wear mayhem and headed off for Exminster Marshes and hopes of a special wader?

I don’t know if you can park nearer but I didn’t fancy leaving the car anywhere ‘unofficial’. The sign at the Exminster Marsh reserve car park indicated 1.8km to go to the Turf Hotel….. I gave it a go, yomping camera gear and scope in anticipation…..

The well berried hedges held a few Warblers but I didn’t linger and 25 mins later following a never ending grassy track reached my destination! The tide was just starting to drop as I searched the shoreline. After 15 mins or so of ‘nothing’, I sat down on a ‘platform’ overlooking the estuary and then my luck turned, some movement caught my eye – a Sandpiper!

With Common Sandpipers in the area, a close inspection of the bird was necessary. I’ve seen one before and an instant gut feeling kicked in – this was a Spotted Sandpiper! It was the legs, more than anything, a rich orange yellow which immediately caught the eye.

Then (having done my ‘homework’) close inspection of the tertials which were ‘spot on’ with completely plain edges (notched in Common sandpiper)

The wing coverts too had a very striking barred pattern, a similar appearance is seen in juv Common Sands but the contrast in colouration is nowhere near as great.

Closee detail.....

Just a matter than of getting some appealing images of the bird feeding and small crustaceans seemed to be on the menu!

I never did get the perfect crab shot, usually mutilated beyond recognition! Hmm, unless something else mega turns up in the area, I might just nip back the following morning?

A Hobby was seen distantly over the marsh on the walk back to the car, busy catching dragonflies like this female Migrant Hawker....

The rest of the day was spent checking out the estuary and Dawlish Warren which produced few Wheatear (an obliginhg individual below) and Stonechat in the dunes and nowt special out to sea!

I ended up at Bowling Green Marsh with the high tide wader roost starting to build up (large numbers of Curlew plus Black/Bar tailed Godwit, Greenshank, Redshank before I had to leave…..

MORE Spotted Sand to come (including that crab!)

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Avonmouth - Glossy Ibis

An evening talk in Somerset meant I was well placed for a stop in the South West whilst travelling down. A likely year list candidate was a juvenile Glossy Ibis in the Avonmouth area. I arrived (thanks entirely to satnav) somewhere in the midst of an industrial estate jungle and with a sea of yellow lines, parked up on a grass verge opposite a pretty imposing Police Station……

I was half expecting the riot squad to appear the moment I unloaded the mobile rocket launcher (Canon 500mm lens covered in cammo is a bit of a dead ringer). No-one appeared thankfully, so I wandered around the moat like ditch surrounding a big warehouse.

I reached a small bridge and the object of my attentions was immediately apparent! Hello, hello, hello, what's going on 'ere...

....this juvenile Glossy ibis had presumably been banged up in the ditch by the local constabulary for possession of an offensive bill??

A few hasty portraits in case it flew off..... (it didn't)

The youngster was preening in between bouts of feasting on the underwater occupants of the ditch – aquatic snails! I watched as it simply wandered towards and then beneath me, feasting on them in quick succession. One quick flick of the head and the snail was consigned to a rapid doom via a pretty efficient digestive tract!

Confiding or what? The 500mm lens was redundant and fortunately, I’d got the 300mm lens with me (lesson learnt after New Brighton!!) My only previous experience of this species has been from (at closest) 100m distance! It was now firmly in the ‘feather detail’ class and I have to say, with the plumage glowing an iridescent green in the sunlight – quite an attractive bird.....

A bit of a preen....

Favourite crops.....

I had time for a brief stop at Chew Valley Reservoir and made my way to Stratford hide. This was distant hard work with the scope and after scanning the 100’s of ducks present ended up with the main quarry: 2 drake Ferruginous ducks and another eight wildfowl species plus Kingfisher and walking back to the car, Cetti’s Warbler (seen!) I never did find the eclipse Ring-necked Duck and with time running out, a pub meal beckoned near Taunton……