Since finally bagging the glossy ibis, I have been scratching around for places to go. The unusual weather patterns seem to have prevented a number of usual suspects from spending their winter in the UK, so I have been unable to get my fix of waxwings and short-eared owls, for example. I think suffering from the latter is called Withdraw-owl Symptoms. Ok, I'll get my coat.
I have been tempted to head back to the Wyre Forest for the crossbills, but along with the rain has been almost constant strong winds, and that makes seeing and photographing such birds nigh on impossible.
And the shrike is still very much a hit and miss affair. My good friend Max has tried several times to photograph it, resorting to a super-zoom bridge camera in a vain attempt to get a better shot at such distance, which isn't a bad option when the bird is perched. I used to have a Canon S2IS, which had incredible zoom capabilities for stationary objects, though the end result never got close to that from a proper D-SLR, which isn't surprising given the price difference.
But while the shrike stayed distant, I did catch sight of a sparrowhawk on a hunting mission, and despite being gloomy (a storm was rolling in), the camera (my 7D) managed to lock on as it hurtled by, and I ended up with a couple of pleasing shots, much to Max's disgust, as he'd missed it approaching!
After hearing of Max's gymnastics at Marsh Lane (he attempted a backward roll whilst holding his camera, trying to photo the resident male kestrel) I thought I'd try there, and sure enough, spotted the kestrel hovering over the meadow near the car park. I soon worked out that he was returning to the same perch on a nearby tree after each hunting attempt, so I crept closer and waited.
Needless to say, he then caught a vole and headed over to the fence posts near the car park to eat it. I managed to get back to a reasonable distance, grabbing some shots, before the local corvids mobbed him, forcing him away down the concrete road to eat in peace.
When the kestrel returned, I again set up hoping he'd land on his favourite perch. He didn't, of course, choosing a new favourite just out of sight. However, with the light occasionally being decent, I grabbed a few shots as he hovered.
So, did my luck change this year? Yes. I managed to connect with 4 hawfinches in the end, and come away with some half decent shots, even though they tended to hide amongst the branches mainly, and were always the last to feed from the ground, and of course, first to fly off.