A new year but the same birds for me, at least for the start. I've been over to Northants for the short-eared owls twice now, though this last visit was interrupted prematurely when an ignorant rider from a local hunt decided to ride across the field where the owls roost, scaring most of them off for the afternoon. Brilliant.
We still saw a few, but they remained generally distant, so I ended up processing images from the trip I made at the very start of the year.
At one point, a pair chased each other towards us, and one came so close, I simply abandoned trying to angle the camera upwards, and settled for watching the bird fly right over-head. A fine sight, I have to say.
Northants does seem to be a good county for birds of prey, with a quick tootle round before the owls yielding several near misses with buzzards, but a couple of half-decent shots of kestrels.
Trouble with going over there, aside from the crowds (some of whom still don't realise that in order to get the owls close, you need to stay still and be quiet, and not chase the owls up and down the edge of the field) and the pillocks on horse-back, is that it is quite some distance to drive, and with the ever rising price of diesel, I'm really having to limit such trips.
So on Sunday, I opted for a closer trip, to check out reserves that I've not been to before, using the Guide Book from Worcs Wildlife Trust. First stop, near Redditch centre was Ipsley Alders Marsh.
With the sun shining, and frost on the ground, it looked promising as I parked up by the gate, grabbed my gear and trundled into the reserve.
First sighting was of a grey heron, soaring in from over the trees, spiralling down and coming to a gentle stop on the posts, crossing the reserve in front of me. Peering out from the reserve map sign, which I was reading at the time, I took a couple of shots, before I think it spotted me, and took flight once more. It could also have been from the fact that the pool was actually an ice rink, so no fishing to had there!
Wandering off around the perimeter, I mooched through some woods, where the usual suspects of blue and great tits flitted around, though the presence of several goldcrests was great to see. Too gloomy for shots, alas. The path then leads out across the marsh, which had it not have been frosty, would definitely have lived up to the billing of being a site for wellies.
Dotted around the marsh are areas of brambles, and on one of these, sat a wren, chirping as I made my way carefully past, given the frost on the boardwalk, and the rather moist areas beneath.
At the end of the wooden part, I made my way over to the far side of the small reserve only to discover that wellies were actually needed afterall, so I had no option but to turn back. The woods on the far side were more lively though, with a pair of noisy nuthatches being the stars.
Back in the warmth of the car, I looked at the book again and opted for a spot called Humpy Meadow, out nearer to Worcester. A most strange field, covered in small humps, apparently made from the hundreds of ants nests across it. Green woodpeckers eat ants, so I had hoped to get a shot, but aside from the humps and bumps, there was nowt much else around.
So, I chose to take a long route home, around some side roads hoping to see something interesting. On one wealthy person's drive, near a gated entrance, were lots of crab apples, attracting fieldfares and redwings. Typical, as I parked up, they scattered, and despite several instances when the birds looked like they might come back, passing traffic frightened them off once more.
All I mustered was a shot of a feeding redwing along the verge from me, and distant shot of a fieldfare at the top of a tree, in an orchard across the road.
I have to admit, at this point I was wondering how my friends were doing over in Northants. Perhaps I should have tried again? My luck seemed to be out, typified by not once but twice, having buzzards fly off from perches near the road, as I parked to get a shot.
Then turning into yet another b-road delaying my journey home, I spotted one sat in a tree, with its back to me. "Please don't fly off" I muttered as I coasted the car to a standstill. It didn't. And with the late afternoon sunshine on it, I couldn't really have asked for a nicer shot.
On closer inspection, there seems to be blood around its beak and talons, and bits of fur on the branch, so I suspect it had been feeding when I arrived, and couldn't be bothered to fly off. Suited me!
Not that I need reminding of how pleasurable my hobby is, but a moment of magic like that, turned a day that seemed a tad disappointing, into one to remember.