Choices. Saturday was supposed to be sunny, so I had the choice of either going to find the 2 local birds of interest, the black redstart and the firecrest(s), or meet up with the lads down at Milton Keynes for the short-eared (and barn) owls. Took me about 10 seconds to decide that the others could wait, as I find watching and photographing owls a magical experience.
As with the last time, I awoke early through excitement, and was soon enroute, though this week the lack of black ice allowed me to pick up the pace somewhat. Parking in the same place, I was soon plodding through the field, and in need of a tinkle. The trees at the bottom looked like a good spot - they smelled of fox wee anyway, as I found out last time, when lying down. Mmm - lovely. Looking around, as you do when peeing, I spotted something up at the top of the field. A short-eared owl... already quartering the fields... before 9am!!
What followed consisted of me trying to sneek alongside the fields, or under trees to get as close to the birds as possible, though they kept at a decent distance, mostly. I did have some joy with the paler one, that chose to sit in one of the trees, and I also witnessed at close quarters, one hunting over the field next to me - getting some decent shots as it flew towards me, through the trees. Stunning birds - breathtaking.
By about 10am though they had decided to take a late sleep, and dunked down into the fields. This was when Ian, Joe, and then later Richard and Ben arrived. Ken was out on deliveries, and I know he's gutted not to have made it. The owls then didn't really show very much - rather disappointing. I managed to get one in a tree again, though two birders spooked it from its perch after a couple of minutes. They (the owls, not the birders) just kept dropping down into the grass, and with their camouflage, virtually disappeared doing so.
The barn owls stayed well away, so I again missed the chance of a decent shot of them, though a little birdie has told me where to aim for next time I'm in Norfolk (cheers Richard!).
Sunday started with processing the SEO shots, and I would have been content to stay sat in front of my PC, nursing a headache from the Davenports IPA the night before, but the sunshine on the window tempted me out, and over to Coleshill to see the black redstart. By then though the clouds had rolled in, and it even started to rain. Spirits were lifted though, by the arrival of Kay and Max, and also Jo (lovely to meet you!), all three wrapped up against the "mild" conditions.
The black redstart then made a very brief appearance, looking as happy with the weather as us, before disappearing into thin air, not to be seen (by me) again. Ah well, it encouraged me to head over to Hams Hall for the firecrests.
What a little oasis of wildlife! Wrens, goldcrests, long-tailed tits, chiffchaffs, robins, blue and great tits, and a distant buzzard, all spotted within 10 mins of being there. The star though, was the firecrest, and despite its "dodgy leg", it still performed acrobatics, and after a few rubbish chances, came down low enough for some pics. It was dull though, and I was glad that ISO 1000 on the camera still allows me to get "keepers"!