Monday, 9 April 2012

Ouzels, Falcons And Sausages?

Scanning the various reports during the week, I noted that a pair of ring ouzels had been seen daily up on Clee Hill, on the Titterstone side. This was where I had seen some before, so fancied my chances of adding photos to my collection with another trip. Unfortunately, on the Saturday morning, as I drove towards the hill I could see it shrouded in cloud so knew it wouldn't be welcoming. 

I was right, and glad I'd put on my thermal trousers and remembered my woolly hat. The hill was generally quiet, though there were a couple of hardy birders and photographers looking around the derelict buildings, and as such, locating the bird was made easier. They were initially feeding on the same steep slopes as the desert wheatear had favoured, which made it difficult to get any sort of shot, plus they were flighty and as soon as they caught sight of you approaching, even if you were really careful, they flew off. The wheatears weren't so bad, and I managed some very close shots, although hardly colourful in the conditions. 

As the hills are so undulating, it was possible to get to within a few metres though, and wait for the birds to move into sight, and this was the tactic which seemed to yield the best success during that drizzly morning. I got some very close views of the female as she fed from the rain-soaked grassy slopes, but the light was pretty dire. 

Later, the male and female favoured the buildings themselves, and by slowly creeping closer, I managed some half decent shots, with the male being the one I wanted most, due to the better markings. 

He liked to watch over the female when she was searching for food, and called out to her frequently, which gave his location away, even when he was tucked into hidden corners. 

With fading light (plus a group of American idiots who found it funny to chase off the birds), I decided to call it a day, but not before a moment of hilarity. Stood chatting to a local tog, a raven flew overhead, and it dropped something from its beak, narrowly missing us both. A string of sausages!! I couldn't stop laughing. I wonder where it got them from? Someone missing part of a BBQ maybe! 

Hardly BBQ weather, though the Sunday was much better, and being keen to get some brighter shots, I returned to the hill once more. This time, both Ken and Stu were present, interested in both the ouzels and the small number of wheatears around. As before the ouzels were flighty and I ended up following them around the hillside, away from the others. Here, whilst watching the pair feed below, I got chatting to another local, who let it slip where he'd seen some peregrines, only a short drive away. 

With some brighter pictures of the ouzels in the bag, I decided to pack up and head off to this new site and hope. Upon arrival, there was no sign of the birds, but within seconds of me sending a text to the lads reporting the lack of activity, I heard something whoosh past, a bit like the sound a jet makes before you hear the engines, but this was no jet - it was a peregrine falcon, and it promptly shot upwards to start chasing another peregrine around the blue skies. 

Just wonderful. Calming for a second, I made sure I'd got the right settings, and switched to the expanded focus point, as the birds fly rather quickly when they need to, making keeping them in the shot a tad difficult. But seeing them fly around overhead was fabulous. Another text, and about 20 mins later, I was joined by Ken and Stu. 

Another lull in the action, tempted Ken to wonder off to try to photo a wheatear nearby and left me to try to describe the sound the bird had made when it passed me earlier. Just as I'd given up with my poor description, it did it again. Same whooshing sound, speed of it coming past and the sight of it as it hurtled upwards after the other bird - Stu said it was one of the best wildlife moments he'd ever had. 

No time to dwell in the moment, as the falcons put on a display over head again, chasing one another, occasionally landing, calling out and off chasing again. 

With them being so low down, we were able to get some good shots, when we managed to get the bird in the frame, of course. Easier said than done. 

And with the warmth of the sun, heat haze became a problem, as it had when Ian and I had tried to get shots of the same species down in Devon. I managed a few good shots despite this, and by the time the birds left once more, we had all filled our cards with shots of this awesome hunter. 

 I drove back to look for the ouzels once more, but by that time, the dog walkers and picnickers had arrived and the pair were very difficult to follow. I did catch a decent view (as did Pam & co) in some of the buildings, but a dog walker decided to play ball with his mutt in the same area, and scared the birds off. 

Typical. I knew it was time to leave before I lost my rag with someone. A productive weekend though, and perhaps something to keep tabs on over the summer.

2 comments:

Christian said...

Brilliant Peregrine photographs Pete. Love the one casting the shadow against the rock.

Max Silverman said...

Super stuff Pete.