Thursday 18 June 2009

Redstarts & Peregrines

Redstarts at Cannock

About this time last year, Dave Hutton and Steve Seal invited me over to Cannock Chase to join them photographing common redstarts. The birds had successfully raised a number of fledglings and they were down from the usual perches in the canopy of the woodland, at fern-top level, feeding the young still. It was a wonderful few hours and one I was keen to repeat this year.

Parking at Seven Springs, at an ungodly hour, I tried the same spots as last year, trying to remember what their call is like. I could hear robins, blackcaps, other woodland birds including wood warblers, but nothing different.

So I opted to wander down to the Stepping Stones area, about a mile away. It's a nice walk, and the sun was out so I didn't mind the hike. On arrival at the stream I immediately spotted a brownish bird singing on a dead tree. Bins out and I'd bagged a spotted flycatcher. Excellent - one of my targets from the Wyre Forest I'd missed out on recently.

However, it didn't want to play ball, and remained at a real distance from me. Whilst trying to creep up on it, to get a more detailed shot, I spotted something behind, on another dead tree. A male redstart, glowing gloriously in the morning sunshine. Fantastic. Target acquired!
Following the bird, it led me into the woods, and I soon spotted the area where it was returning to. The female was around too, and with decent light, I was soon lying amongst the ferns, taking shots as the birds went by.

Thankfully I'd remembered to pack my mozzie spray as they were abundant, and with me trying to keep out of sight, meant I was often encountering the horrid creatures. Didn't get a single bite though - good stuff that "Jungle Formula".
After receiving a half message from Ken, I tracked back to the Stepping Stones to bring both him and Ian back to the spot, so they could also get some shots. It was a first for them and they seemed as chuffed to see this colourful bird as I did, 12 months back.

Peregrines At Clee Hill

The Sunday started with a very pleasant 9 holes of golf at the Lickey Hills course, and followed with a trip over to Clee Hill. This spot has proved to be wonderful for seeing peregrine falcons, and on Sunday the chicks had already fledged. Three fabulous youngsters, dotted about on the cliff face, practising flying, pecking around at old meals, crying for their parents and doing a rather strange 80s style head-bobbing dance move.

On a couple of occasions, one of the juveniles chose to fly over to a feeding post near to the viewing area giving me cracking views of it. I'd recommend not trying to climb the slope behind the viewing area in trainers though, as grip is limited, and sliding down clutching a camera, trying to avoid (and failing) sheep droppings, isn't fun. Amusing after the event though, of course!

I spent a few hours watching them. The parents came and went, bringing back a kill late in the day. The juveniles flew around at times, gamboling together in mid-air, practising skills needed later in life I assume. At one point, a pair chased one another right over my head, forcing one of them to land on the grass behind me. Taking off again, it flew within 20 feet of me, giving me a real glare as it went by.

I guess it won't be long till they're catching their own meals, so I expect I'll be over there again soon, to try to get some more shots before they go. An impressive and unforgettable sight though, seeing 5 peregrine falcons in the air at one time.

1 comment:

Max Silverman said...

Super shots Pete.You did better than me with the Redstarts at the very same spot.Mine were always in a gloomy coppice.