Tuesday 1 January 2013

New Year's Day

First day of a new year, and I was keen to try to get out after all the rain of late. A slight hangover and dodgy stomach didn't aid a speedy start, though I have been much worse after such celebrations in the past. Having not been there for a while, I thought I'd try Marsh Lane, as reports of a bittern, jack snipe and a brambling had surfaced in recent days. 

After de-icing the windscreen, I actually remembered to fire up my hand-warmer, and set off, calling in at Little Grump's oak tree on the way. No sign of either of them. In fact, not a great deal around even along the lanes. Reminded me of Mull, when the light was finally available, all the wildlife went into hiding. 

At Marsh Lane, I trudged through the mud, around the reed bed and stood for about 20 mins, with some other birders, hoping to see the bittern. Reed buntings and wrens, chaffinches and dunnocks, but no sign of the bittern. Oh well, off to the Oak Hide where folks had seen both a brambling and the jack snipe. 

The brambling hadn't been seen for some time according to those already in there, but the jack snipe was sat, bill tucked into its feathers on its back, obscured by some reeds. I could see it well enough, but not much good for a shot. Occasionally it'd stir, bob a few times, and then go back to sleep. 

Whilst waiting and hoping it would do something other than sleep, I kept a watchful eye on the feeders. Plenty of finches, but no brambling amongst their numbers. So I was pleased when a tree sparrow turned up. I was less pleased when, after waiting for the tree sparrow to finally hop into view from the oak tree it was hiding in, that one of the birders in the hide decided that was the right time to leave, clattering open the door and scaring off all the feeding birds, including the sparrow. 

Eventually it returned and I took the first shots of the new year. I suppose the good thing about getting average shots on the first day of the year is that it leaves plenty of room for improvement later in the year! 

Just after the almost mild excitement of taking a photo on such a lovely day, we spotted the jack snipe moving. Would it come out into the open? No. It moved into a spot that was even more difficult to see it. Swine. 

Got some shots as it moved, but compared to those I got of one at the North Moors (Upton Warren) these were only ever going to be record shots. Such a shame as the light was there for a change! 

I decided that I would stay ay Marsh Lane - I had previously considered heading down to the Moors for a look, but that would waste valuable time driving and instead, I could be sat freezing in the hide, watching a jack snipe do jack s**t. Which it did. The light started to fade mid afternoon and again I found interest with the feeders. One of the finches looked a bit different... yes, a brambling. 

The light being low meant high ISO, but I was pleased to see one, let alone get a shot. Sadly the flock were spooked and they flew off to the trees behind, leaving me to watch the jack snipe again. Bored. I thought I'd go watch the reeds again, in the hope of seeing the bittern. The reed bed was actually in decent light, though the bittern was nowhere to be seen. 

Thanks to the eagle eye of a fellow 'tog, I did get to see it eventually, but it was so dark by then I was shooting at ISO 3200 and the image below is at best a record shot, and a very grainy one at that. Still, better than a no-show, as the one at UW had done recently. 

So ended the first day of 2013, and despite actually having decent light, I'd hardly taken a shot. Let's hope things improve for the rest of the year!

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