Thursday, 16 February 2017

Chasing Waxwings

My second twitch of 2017 (150 Birds seen)

I've always had a fascinating with Waxwings, ever since first discovering them in my books when I was a younger birder. It's arguably my second favourite UK bird, after the Hoopoe and I've always wanted to see one.

When I was a youngster I would desperately crane my neck skywards whenever I went out bird watching, not realising that both birds are fleeting visitors to the UK and normally seen at very specific times of the year.

The Waxwings were high up in the trees, making photos quite a difficult task.
So when I heard that Waxwings had been spotted a short drive from my house I knew I couldn't pass up the chance to see them. Nomadic by nature, they typically move around in large flocks, breaking up into smaller groups as food becomes more scarce. Annoyingly, the birds where nowhere to be seen the afternoon I had off, so I missed my chance to see them.

As I've been off on holiday this week I decided I was going to head off to Weymouth in search of the Bitterns that had been spotted at Radipole Lake. I changed my mind when I found out that a small group of six Waxwings had been spotted at Corfe Mullen, some thirty minutes from my home.

A half decent shot, took from the other side of a busy road. 
I set off early in the morning (well 8 is early for me) and located the birds relatively easily thanks to great directions from the ever helpful Ian Ballam. There were a small group of photographers there when I arrived, so I quickly set my camera up and waited for the birds to move.

They were flitting between two locations, staying to peck at berries for a few minutes, before heading off to a larger tree. Sadly, the light was atrocious so it was extremely hard to get shots that would do the birds justice.

All the shots were with my 600mm prime lens and 1.4 TC. Expensive, but worth it for getting close.
And they really are quite magnificent to look at. Beautifully coloured and with amazing erect crests, they get their name from the small red marks on their wings that look like candle wax. They have a weird, almost sculpted look to them compared to many other birds, giving them a very unique looking appearance.

I managed to spend 30 minutes with the birds before they flew off. We headed over to a second location where they had been feeding previously, but they were nowhere to be seen. After waiting for nearly two hours, the general thought was that the birds had found a more suitable food source and were feeding there instead.

I love the bottom bird shown here.
I'll try and connect with these birds again this year, but it's been a particularly busy season for them, so it's unclear if we'll see anywhere near as many this coming winter. I'm certainly glad I made the effort to see them, even if my shots weren't the best. 

Oh and it's my 150th bird since starting my blog nearly three years ago, so that's worth celebrating, too.
I wasn't fast enough to get good shots when they were on the berries.
And here's a shot showing off how the Waxwing gets its unusual name.
I've whacked up the vibrancy here, I don't think it ruins the shot too much.

Patchwork Challenge Trip 6 (14th February) 54 Birds

Valentine's Day saw me getting up early for two things: flowers for the wife and a chance to spot the Fieldfares that had been spotted by Martin at Longham Lakes.

I headed right over to the usual spot, spying one lone Great White Egret, around 21 Pochard and a small group of Tufted Ducks and Great Crested Grebes, but very little else.

See if you can spot the two rarer gulls here.
It was quite windy and there wasn't a lot of bird song around. As it turned out there weren't any Scandinavian thrushes either and despite checking several key areas for extensive amounts of time I found nothing other than Blackbirds and the odd Song Thrush.

Martin's gap has been slowly increasing over the last few weeks so as I walked along the back of the lakes I was scouring the reeds and the skies for Water Rails and Falcons of any description. I came up short and the back fields were also light on action, with a large group of Carrion Crows being the only notable action.

A harsh crop showing the different between the two gulls. The Mediterranean is far white with no black on the wingtips.
I found my new birds over the far side of South Lake but I really had to work for them. Martin had already seen some Mediterranean Gulls, so I scoured the large group of gulls that were floating around and causing a ruckus. I counted 127 Black-Headed Gulls, two of which were Mediterraneans, Success!

New Bird Total = 54

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Patchwork Challenge Trip 5 (05th February) 53 Birds

Pursuing Pintails

I'd already missed the first lot of Pintails that had appeared in January, so when Martin mentioned that he spotted more on his Saturday visit I knew I had to try and find them.

I arrived at Longham the following day at 8.20 and was greeted to a largely deserted car park and even fewer birds. A few blackbirds and carrion crows were wheeling around but it was otherwise quiet.

The island was pretty disappointing with just Cormorants to be seen.
Heading to the large island on South Lake where most of the exotics and waders are typically found I saw no sign of the Pintails, although I did spy what looks like the last two Great White Egrets (the other appears to have flown off now).

As I got to the back fields I saw that everything had flooded, pushing all the geese and swans further away than usual. I tried to scan the large groups with my bins, but it's a folly without a telescope so I gave up.

A Great White Egret and Grey Heron fishing.
I walked along the back of North Lake in the hope of spotting Water Rails but saw nothing other than one of the Egrets and a Grey Heron, a small number of Great Tit and a flock of around 17 Pochard. Other than that it was pretty quiet so I headed back to South Lake.

Halfway along the back of South Lake I saw the Pintails, they were right in the middle of the lake, so my shots are pretty poor, but you can still make out how dainty and charming they are.

Not the greatest of shots, but you can see how dainty these ducks are.
Other than the Pintails my walk was pretty uneventful with the only new bird being a Green Woodpecker that was flushed by a pair of joggers.