Wednesday, 10 March 2010

If At First You Don't Succeed...

Last weekend I found myself plodding through a swamp, water almost reaching my socks over my boots, to reach the hide at Feckenham, to see the Slavonian grebe that (seemingly) everyone else had managed to get superb shots of. Funnily enough I muttered something similar to "Feckenham" when I heard from the hide occupants that it had gone overnight. To make matters worse I then got rained on walking back to the car. Over at Upton Warren there was little about apart from the little egret which may as well have been a plastic pond guard, the amount of action it provided.

Sunday wasn't much better either so that weekend was a write off. However in the week that followed some interesting news appeared locally on two counts.

On to this weekend when on Saturday morning I opened the curtains to yes, rain. Brilliant. After a sunny week at work, the sight of rain on your day off is most pleasing, not. Anyway I decided to try to see the waxwings over at Wilnecote near Tamworth. Didn't have to wait long for the three of them to appear and in terms of seeing them it was great as they perched in the branches of the trees above me, or on the wires nearby. In addition to these migrants, the resident mistle thrushes, who were guarding the rowan berry tree, were also great to see. Sadly the light was awful, so I'll be performing some paint-by-numbers on the shots to add some colour to them.

Over to Ladywalk next where the feeders were busy with the usual flocks of finches, plus a welcome visit of a willow tit. No brambling alas, but as I was about to leave, the bittern appeared from the reeds in the small pool, and crept across the gap to the next patch to disappear completely again. Made a change to see one away from Upton Warren or Brandon Marsh.

By now I had my mind on another subject, one that I normally have to go to Norfolk to see. A barn owl had been seen at a private site I have access to, and with the skies clearing, I headed over full of optimism. My spirits were lifted higher when I met up with several friends who had obviously seen the same info and also wanted to see this bird.

So great end to the day? Well, no. You see, in the excitement of watching the barn owl in full sunshine, I tried to apply the techniques from running around with my 100-400mm lens to this new one. It doesn't work. Too awkward, too slow. End result: zero pictures, yet my friends with their smaller hand-held lenses all managed great shots.

Feeling rather peed off with myself I went home to lick my wounds and plan Sunday. I was going to head to the Wirral, but a late night conversation with Steve Seal put me off (cheers mate!) as the tides were wrong and not high enough for what I wanted to see.

With a clear sunny start, and the Slavonian grebe back on the map, relocated at a farm near Grimley, I was soon setting the tripod and camera up next to two other 'togs by a small lake, with the subject lazily bobbing around on the water in front of us. What followed was quite extraordinary, with the grebe coming so close to us that I could have reached down and picked it up out of the water! And what a striking little chap it was, especially with that pair of ruby-red eyes.

Okay, so the morning sunlight was rather harsh at times, which made for some blown whites on it, but it's rude to complain when a subject is so close!

Tamworth again, this time in glorious sunshine. Shame that the waxwings were nowhere to be seen! Timing eh? And Whitacre Heath failed to amuse either, with a pair of little grebes being the highlight.

Round two with the barn owl then, only this time I opted to engage my brain, and set the camera and tripod up, parked my bum against a nearby tree, and waited. No point running around after a subject if it can come to you, and it did.

I've watched several barn owls hunting in Norfolk, but this hour spent watching this bird was arguably better. Ghostly yet vibrant, and bloody fast when they want to be.

Watched it hunt back and forth until the light faded and we left it sat, in the distance, taking a much deserved breather.

And so ended a weekend of ups and downs, but most definitely one to be remembered for the right reasons.


Max Silverman said...

Great shots Pete.I'm not jealous at all !!!!!!

Steve Seal said...

Should have let you come up here instead .