Sunday, 29 July 2012

Frampton Marshes

At long last the rain that had plagued England and Wales for so long moved elsewhere, and I had a chance of a sunny day out. I chose to head to Frampton Marshes, as it's not a million miles from where I got the recent barn owl shots from, but also offered possible sightings of marsh harriers, and other birds of prey from "Raptor Corner", pin-pointed on a map, by Ian.

The drive up was pleasant apart from the fog in the valleys, though the Sat-Nav took me a different route to that expected, so kept me on my toes. Parking up past the main RSPB centre, the first sounds that greeted me were from avocets, taking flight to chase anything that was available to be chased.

It was calm, sunny and warm, and there weren't many folks around. I made my way along the raised bank to the corner Ian had suggested, seeing a kestrel and a marsh harrier along the way. Both too distant for pics, and it was from these sightings that I almost wished it wasn't so warm. Heat haze. It wasn't even 9am, and it was so bad it was affecting shots close to the ground from less than 30 yards.

There was plenty to see, with common sandpipers and both adult and juvenile avocets on the pools, various geese around and terns making the commute from the feeding grounds of the marshes back to the nesting areas near the hides. Plus the usual array of noisy gulls. It was from watching these that my attention switched to something else, hunting the marshes. A barn owl. I increased my walking pace along the bank, though I could see someone closer to it, which gave me hope that it'd not vanish as soon as I approached. Alas no, the owl was in fact spooked by the walker, who as I finally reached where the owl had been hunting, told me he'd managed to get within 50 yards of one earlier in the week, by creeping along. I was tempted to ask why he'd not employed the same tactic today, but I think with the haze, I'd have needed to be within 20 yards to have got a decent image.

While it was lovely viewing the areas across the marshes, and very warm, the horrid flies trying to bite and constantly flying in my eyes and ears, encouraged me to head onwards, and after a brief view of the map of the area, I headed to the narrowest roads I could find.

"Little bit of bread and no cheese!" alerted me to the presence of yellowhammers, and parking up near a hedge where the birds were calling from soon yielded some results. These birds glow on dull days, so it was a challenge not to blow the highlights on such a sunny one.

A bit further down the road, another song caught my attention and it was one I'd not heard since Uist, back in 2010. A corn bunting, who was initially sat singing on a telephone wire. Thankfully it relocated to the crops growing in the fields beside my car.

Lovely birds, which are sadly a rare sight these days.

Having exhausted my bottle of pop, I was gagging for a drink and there weren't any shops nearby, so I headed to the barn owl area, calling in at a garage along the way. Ice cold Ribena never tasted so good!

Ian and his parents turned up later, which made the wait for something to show up more entertaining. Plenty of great crested grebes on the river, small flocks of common terns danced by, and I managed to get a few shots of a little egret, trying its luck on the shore.

That was about the only luck we witnessed on the evening, as the owls, while they occasionally ventured out, were always distant, and seemed to be more interested in checking out the various buildings in the area. No signs of grey partridges either, though I did see a vocal male red-legged variety, cackling from a barn roof. And the hares as ever stayed away, limiting me to very hopeful long shots.

Though a juvenile pied wagtail took pity on me, and posed on a post near my car.

And just as the sun was starting to set, we spied a pair of young foxes, which didn't seem to know what to do, when a male pheasant wandered by. They were more interested in us, as we poked our big lenses out of the car window, to capture them, sat in the grass.

As before, on the way home we saw another barn owl hunting near a main road, begging the question whether we should move our hunting grounds there next time too?

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