Tuesday 26 May 2009

Early Start In Shropshire

One of the many pleasant things I've noted from bird photography is meeting such good people when you're out and about, and hence making new friends. One of these friends, Rob Smith, emailed me last week to ask if I fancied a trip out to the Long Mynd area of Shropshire, to try our luck with finding whinchats.

The day started very early indeed and after a slight detour, we met up on the top of the moors, to set off for a look around. The area is very picturesque with steep-sided valleys, heather and gorse, streams and marshes, all looking very colourful in the early morning sunshine.

The only problem with the place are the suicidal creatures. Both sheep and rabbits seem intent on being run over, and make little effort to move out of the way, which is a tad daft when the hills there meant my car's brakes were almost on fire from over-use!

Anyway, back in the valleys, we were trying (well, Rob was) to remember what a whinchat call sounded like, and we tried discounting other calls to identify it. We could hear willow warblers, wrens and whitethroats, and some others, from meadow pipits and skylarks. Occasionally though, we'd hear something else, similar to a phone ring, and we'd try to follow where the call came from.

Easier said than done! We ended up splitting up, with me venturing up a smaller valley after thinking I'd spotted one. I had, but despite sitting in a bush and hiding, they didn't return. As the weather was so nice, I decided to go to the end of the valley, where there was a rocky outcrop devoid of sheep droppings, to sit down for a while. The steep hills were killing my legs! A willow warbler sat nearby, singing its heart out which was a lovely sound. Moments later though, it was joined by another song...
That of a whinchat. Fantastic! As I was below the bird, the sky behind had such a deep blue richness, that when coupled with the bird's bright colours made for some great shots. The bird seemed not to be bothered by me at all, and hopped between a few perches, singing away. Eventually, another one flew over, and this one took off and followed.

Alas Rob hadn't seen them, so I felt somewhat guilty that I'd managed to bag some shots of the target bird and he'd not. The luck of the draw I guess, and he got some crackers of the willow warbler and a kestrel whilst I was off roaming.
Deciding that we ought to press on, we headed to a small woodland area nearby, off the Mynd, where pied flycatchers would be present. They were, but the light was fading with increasing cloud, so getting shots proved tricky. In addition to the flycatchers though, we saw wrens, a redstart and a rather bizarre grey wagtail, that enjoyed seeing its own reflection on cars. We got some amusing shots of it perched on window-sills and door mirrors - not the usual choice of a perch!

Next stop was Clunton Coppice, where Rob hoped we would see wood warblers. We did, though they remained pretty elusive high in the canopy. The woods were carpeted with bluebells and the smell from them was gorgeous. I found myself stood amongst them, just breathing in their scent.

The woods were alive with the usual birds - robins, tits, blackbirds, nuthatches and woodpeckers. I did see a female pied flycatcher but it was in very gloomy light, and she was gone in an instant.

The final part of the day was spent at Clee Hill, as it is on the way back home. The peregrine gave a very brief flight as we got there, but then sat resolutely in the same place for a good hour or so, long enough for me to get bored and go home. Rob had a bit more luck later, when it flew around, but for me, I needed to get back.

A superb day though, with some varied birds in some more great company. And some more locations to visit again, though I don't think I'll be rushing to get up at 5am too many times!

1 comment:

Max Silverman said...

Great trip again Pete.You sure know some good spots to visit.If you write a "Where to watch birds" guide put me down for a copy.