Thursday, 14 January 2010

Ladywalk NR and Kingsbury WP

As a birding photographer, I have various memberships for accessing reserves around the local area and nationally. Mostly I get my money's worth from them, but one I have not really used as much as I ought is the West Midlands Bird Club one, as I find Blithfield a bit distant for pics, apart from the causeway, which is public anyway. Belvide is great, but a bit of a trek and then there's Ladywalk. The latter is one I often overlook in favour of Whitacre Heath, as they're next door basically, and I really enjoy the feeder hides there.

Anyway, Saturday I decided to aim for Ladywalk for a change, and arrived to find a few cars in the snow-covered car park, and upon exiting the car, the heavens opened and a blizzard came down. So much for a sunny day! Waiting at the car park for a few moments, I watched redwings and fieldfares, along with masses of robins - seem to be loads around at the moment. Plus various finches and tits, and a blackcap which evaded my camera.

Walking down to the feeding station, I scraped the snow from the window sills of the hide and watched the volunteers provide a feast of seed and other food to the birds. They're certainly well fed here. With an icy breeze blowing into my face through the windows, I was very glad of my new thermos flask of coffee. Helped warm my cockles it did.

At the feeders were several pheasants, the males glowing against the snow. Greenfinches, chaffinches, reed buntings, gs woodies, yet more robins, blackbirds (always fighting), blue / great / coal and long-tailed tits, plus at least one marsh tit (I think). Only a distant view of a hunting sprawk - shame, I hope they'll drop in for a snack, though I doubt the feeding birds would be so keen.

After chatting to a couple of the locals, I tried a couple of the other hides, in hope of seeing one of the bitterns, but alas nothing was around. So back to the car... at which point I spotted a buzzard flying over the fields near the river. A walk in the snow ensued, and I was very surprised to flush a woodcock beneath some small trees. Scared me to be honest as it burst up. Wish I'd spotted it as I would love a shot of such a rarely seen bird.

The rest of the walk was fun - I love messing in the snow, though the birds on the river were very flighty. These included the usual mallards, coots and moorhens, though teal and gadwalls were also about. The buzzard I saw soon spotted me and took flight. S*d!

The highlight of the day came back at the car park, as I was pulling out of it, I clocked a lone goldfinch feeding from the thistle tops. The light wasn't great but gave a rather icy feel to the shots. A perfect winter shot.

After Ladywalk, I headed over to Kingsbury Water Park, in the hope of seeing the short-eared owl that has been spotted occasionally. At the car park was a pied wagtail, making the most of the sprinkling of seed people had put out. And on the walk to the meadows, the frozen lakes had grouped all the wildfowl quite close to the water's edge.

From the SITA hide, I was lucky to watch a male goldeneye preening on the only patch of water, along with some shovelers, gadwell, swans, a couple of pochards and lots of vocal widgeons.

Alas, despite standing overlooking the meadows, I failed to see the SEO. However, I did get a brief magical moment when a fox sloped by, not seeing me initially, but then stopping to look for a second. They're beautiful animals, when they live in the sticks - this one was in fine condition. Scared me later too, when it hopped the fence I was stood next to! Crafty Mr Fox!

Then as I walked off, to try to defrost back at the car, I caught a distant glimpse of a barn owl, but returning to the area, it had already flown off, and with fading light and frozen limbs, I headed home.

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