Sunday, 5 September 2010

Bank Holiday Bonus

September already - the summer (don't laugh) has flown by and autumn is approaching rapidly, though some would argue that the autumnal weather is well ahead of schedule. As such, the recent Bank Holiday weekend failed to offer any really promising weather, and ideas of going to bearded tit sites were blown away with the strong winds. Instead I'd have to make do locally, and after seeing a wryneck sighting at Clee Hill, that was my first target.

Arriving early on Saturday morning, I spotted Bob's car, but couldn't spot the man himself, and ended up climbing to the summit of the hill in search of both him and the bird. No sign, and with the lung capacity of a shrew following this cough (still hasn't gone) it was hard work. So you can imagine my annoyance to realise the bird and watchers were about 100 yards down the hill from my parked car. D'oh!

Still, I got to watch a dozen ravens swooping in the gales, a pair of sparrowhawks, buzzards and several kestrels, though none would allow me a shot where the light was any good.

Following instructions from a birder, I stumbled around a narrow path to discover I had accidentally wandered right on top of the bird, and I doubt upset some of the birders, though none had words later, other than asking if I'd seen it close up. I hadn't. In fact it took a good hour of looking before I did, and then commenced a few hours of creeping around in a very wet field, to try to get any sort of a shot.

I was in good company as it turned out, with several photographers there who I knew or read the blogs of, so despite the wind being so unseasonably cold, we amused each other waiting for the bird to show.

First one I've seen and rather reminiscent of a nuthatch, both in appearance and behaviour, though this favoured eating ants. Unlike the nuthatch, this was remarkably well camouflaged, like a leaf with legs and a beak.

With nowhere else to go, we spent hours stalking the wryneck, taking shots when possible. The light wasn't great and eventually, the biting cold got the better of me, and the shelter of my car won out. A great bird to see though and a good start to the Bank Holiday.

Sunday started with a walk around Whitacre Heath, where I saw nothing. Seriously, nothing. Just one gull flying overhead. Then I headed to Draycote Water, which was rather a stupid idea. The place is windy even on the calmest of days, so in gales it was obviously going to be unpleasant, though the shots Max had managed of the waders tempted me anyway.

I got some shots of the dunlins and ringed plovers, but crikey was it hard work. The gusts of wind blew me off my feet at times, and I had to catch the camera when one particularly strong gust knocked over the tripod.

Wisely I opted to head for somewhere with a hide and arrived at Upton Warren's Flashes to be asked by the sole birder in the hide, to bag some record shots of a flock of curlew sandpipers that had just landed. Didn't take long for the news to get out and soon the hide filled up with local birders, eager for a view.

One of which then provided me with a snippet of information about the whereabouts of a family of hobbies, which takes us to Monday...

An early start again, and soon Stuart and I were wandering across some fields in Worcestershire, to meet with the birder who informed us. Without realising, the hobbies were sat near us on the ground, and took off when we got too close.

I'd expected them to perch on posts or in trees, not just sit around on the ground, but as it turned out, the field was sheltered and they could sit in the warmth of the sunshine there. That said, they did also perch in trees, and we spotted 3 juveniles, all on one branch. A stealthy approach was needed, and with next to no cover, we crept alongside a hedge, taking shots as we got closer. It almost worked, though when one took flight, the others almost immediately copied and that was the end of that idea.

Even so, we'd got some pics of hobbies perched, which is what I'd wanted, and Stuart had also got some flight shots, which he was after.

1 comment:

Max Silverman said...

Dammit Pete great shots again.Very jealous of the Wryneck and Hobby shots.