Friday night. That's usually the time of the week when I finally make up my mind about where to head on the weekend. And so it was this weekend, when the shots seen during the week of a lone Dartford Warbler in Wales, persuaded me to plan a trip that way.
Had it been the only bird that way , I might not have bothered, but pics from a friend (Carl) of black necked grebes not million miles away, tempted me to get up very early (for a Saturday) and blast up the M6. I hate the motorway with a passion, but at weekends, when I'm not going for a company meeting, it seems almost pleasant. Using Google's Street View, I'd worked out where to go, and before 9am I was stood, lake-side, scanning the water for the grebes.
Didn't look promising at first, but once my sleepy brain had remembered that the grebes were smaller than coots, I managed to spot a couple... and then 3 more.
Ideal conditions for pics, no. Not for the first 2 hours or so, and stood being piddled on, beside a breezy lake when I could have been at home having a lie in, did make me question my sanity.
Once the sun appear, my decision was justified, though the light was still harsh. Almost satanic-looking birds, with the ruby-red eyes and flame-like facial feathers. They did look fabulous against the green reflections on the water. Aside from diving for tiddlers, they seemed pretty content with picking off flies from the surface. All in all, there were 2 pairs, plus a loner, which was still not quite in summer colours. Clouds rolling in once more, I decided to head over to World's End, in a remote spot not far from Wrexham, though the road getting there reminded me of those from the moors near Aviemore. Could be a spot worth exploring more, on a full day.
Using instructions from Carl and Dave (cheers!), I eventually found the right area, and clocked the Dartford warbler, posing right in front of Carl! Deserved, as he'd been waiting for a couple of hours for it, and I had to advise him to delete his pics, when he showed them to me shortly afterwards. What are friends for?
Didn't have to wait long for seeing the bird close up, and what followed was a couple of hours of watching and waiting, and then snapping furiously, as the proud warbler zipped around his territory, singing away from whatever lofty perch he could find. Back in 2009, I must have spent about 20 hours walking around the moors near Minehead, tracking down the Dartfords, hoping for a shot, and managed a few in the end. This seemed too easy, but hell, I wasn't complaining. In full breeding plumage too.
Eventually though, time was ticking on, and I knew I'd got the shots I was after. Would have been nice to spend a day there, but the breeze was drying my eyes out, and yet again I looked vampiric, so home seemed the sensible option.
That just posed the problem of condensing 900+ photos down to a handful for airing online...