Tuesday 11 January 2011

Berkshire Birds

At the start of 2010, I saw my first glossy ibis over in the marshes near Holt. Since then I have wished I'd had my big lens to have taken better shots, seeing as it was so accommodating. Well, after seeing some shots of one down in Berkshire (Dave Hutton), I was tempted to head down for a look myself, especially with the threat of sunshine for the first time on a weekend in weeks.

The trip didn't start well, with my satnav taking me to the wrong village! I thought it was weird when approaching the destination, not to have seen a single sign for Hungerford, and I soon worked out something had gone pear-shaped. Fortunately, it wasn't miles out, and I found the place manually instead. Technology eh?

Parked up and wandered to the reserve, and as Dave had warned, it was very muddy. Unfortunately, after the overnight rain, the river was high and there was no sign of the ibis. I think if the drive had been shorter, I'd have left, but as it was, I was determined not to miss out and give it as long as possible, and as hope faded (no-one had seen it at all), one of the locals reported that it had been seen further up-river.

Trudging through the mud, I made my way as far along the river as I could, and having now been joined by two other togs, we all searched together. No sign. I was cursing my luck when it suddenly appeared, flying over head, and so began the chase. We tracked it down to the shadows of the other side of the river initially, where we managed some shots, though the light was terrible, before a dog racing by spooked it further down river again.

Here it was a bit brighter, and we watched it hunting about in the shallows for food. At one point it managed to catch an elver, which took some wrestling to subdue and bolt down.

It was so tame though - we were stood within feet of it, yet it didn't seem worried at all. If anything, I'd have been better off with my 100-400mm lens, which I'd foolishly left sat at home. Being close was one thing, but getting some light was another, and thankfully at about 1pm, the clouds finally parted, and the sun lit up the scene, transforming the black bird into one that shone.

In this light, it really lived up to its name. Iridescent colours. Stunning.

Needless to say, this made the majority of the hard-worked shots in the morning look dull and most have been binned, but I wasn't grumbling. To see one so close in such bright light was fab.

Eventually though, I decided to head off to find the other attraction locally, and thanks to directions from one of the togs there who kept me entertained during the day (Winston Churchill no less), I was soon parking up at a place called Great Shefford, and looking at a new bird. A great white egret.

Stood amongst half a dozen little egrets, it really showed the size difference, and was rather elegant when walking around. Stretching and ruffling feathers, it gave a good show for a few mins, and I was glad I had arrived when I did, as suddenly it decided to fly off down the field, and dropped into the river below, not to be seen again! Well, not by me at any rate.

Despite the sun being out, it wasn't warm, and I headed back before dusk to the warmth of home. A very successful day trip.

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