Sunday, November 20, 2016

Shore Lark : Garway Hill, Hereford

The report of an inland Shore Lark found on Friday at Garway Hill, north east of Abergavenny had me intrigued but with my usual morning walk and rugby on Saturday it meant that I had to wait until today to go for it.
Good friends Richard Smith and Steve Wilce were up for it and we set off from Richard's house in Llantrisant picking up Steve near Talybont-on-Usk on the way.
The bird hadn't been reported today but we were all willing to take a chance on it still being present,
we made good time and as we pulled into the small car park at the bottom of the hill a returning "togger" confirmed that the bird was still there, result !!
The walk up the hill to the small pond which the bird was favouring was a bit of a lung buster and within seconds of arriving Richard picked up the bird on the far shore of the pond, a little stunner.
The three of us set up our cameras and all managed shots that we were pleased with despite the dire light and resultant high ISO..........

The bird was a little flighty at times flying off but returning to the pond to feed, but with rain starting to spot and the light worsening we decided to call it a day before calling into a wood near Bwlch where we saw but failed to photograph Brambling due to the poor light.
We dropped Steve off and headed for home passing through a very snowy Brecon Beacons, a bit of a last minute decision to go for the bird but certainly worthwhile, only the second of the species that I have seen away from Norfolk.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

An afternoon in Cardiff..........

After a lazy morning with a bit of a lay-on I thought that I'd spend the afternoon carrying out a reconnaissance visit to Rumney Great Wharf in the hope of seeing a couple of Short-eared Owls for the first time this autumn/winter.
With news of at least one seen recently I thought I'd check out the fields between the road and the seawall where they hunted regularly last winter.
With a little time on my hands I paid a first visit in a long time to Forest Farm NR on my way attempting to get an obligatory Kingfisher photo, I allowed myself an hour and after about 40 minutes a male bird came on to one of the near perches making one successful dive before leaving as quickly as he had arrived.
We are so lucky to have this photographic opportunity on our doorstep and I easily managed a few pleasing images.......

An added bonus was a close-in Common Snipe feeding along the edge of the pool.......

As the Kingfisher left so did I and made my way to Rumney Great Wharf, I had heard on social media that the two fields that the owls used last winter were now occupied by horses and can confirm that they are indeed.
The result of the use of the fields is that it appears for sometime that the horses have grazed away the 'rough pasture' and to my untrained eye it would appear that the grass is now not long enough except for a few sporadic patches to support a thriving vole population, I hope that I am wrong.
I had a good search but with a brisk wind and spots of rain any Shorties could not be blamed for laying low, I have a feeling that we are not going to have the numbers of owls that we had last year, again I hope that I am wrong as I do really enjoy photographing them.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Hume's Leaf Warbler, Middleton, Gower - or is it ?

News broke last Saturday of a Hume's Leaf Warbler found by Eddie Hunter mixing with a couple of Yellow-browed Warblers at Middleton on Gower, Ed covers this little patch and has discovered some great birds in the past month.
I couldn't make it down there on Saturday but met up with Richard Smith at 8.00am yesterday morning at Sarn Junc 36 on the M4 and with Richard at the wheel and quiet roads we rolled up at Middleton at 8.55am.
Eddie Hunter, Alistair Flanagan, Paul Parsons and Paul Tabor were already present and Ed led the two of us into the cottage garden which the bird had been frequenting with the kind permission of the lady owner of the property.
The warbler had already been seen and throughout the morning we heard it's distinctive call a few times and got views of the bird in the dense foliage but getting a clear shot of the bird with the camera was another thing !!
As lunchtime approached we decided to take a break for a sarnie and Paul Tabor phoned to let us know that he and 'Sid' had found a Pallas's Warbler in the lane leading down to the coast from the village.
As we set off we were joined by Chris Brewer and bumped into the two Pauls who gave us directions to the location but also advised that the bird had been lost from view.
We reached the location and decided that it would be impossible to refind the bird and so headed back to the cottage for another go at the Hume's joining the two Pauls in the garden.
After a little while we struck it lucky and the warbler came into the apple tree on the boundary and showed about as well as one could hope for and both myself and Richard managed some shots in the gloom at high ISO.........

A few birders looked in on the bird one of which was Gary Harper the Carmarthenshire County Recorder and much discussion ensued about the bird's characteristics, the call was perfect for Hume's in comparison to YB which had also called whilst we were there and the general consensus as we left was that the bird looked good for a 1st winter Hume's.
We next headed for Broughton Bay Caravan Park near Llangennith where Mike and Emma Cram had found a pair of Black Redstarts during the half term break.
We found the location on the site but no birds but after a search found two over the opposite side of the park which include a smart but rather dowdy male.......

We decided to finish the day at Llanrhidian hoping for a couple of owls but had to be satisfied with a distant female Marsh Harrier in the gloom as the Little Egrets came in to roost.

My run of cracking day's out connecting with some great birds in the last couple of months had continued with Hume's Leaf Warbler if accepted being a 'lifer' for me having failed to connect with one over in Norfolk on a winter lad's weekend some years ago.

Monday, October 24, 2016

"Boxer Boys" Day Out

After much trying the four of us finally agreed on a date for a well overdue lads' day out and Sunday 23rd October found us heading 'over the bridge' to Somerset and Steart Marshes which over the weekend was holding some good birds.
Dan, Wayne, Gethin and myself left our meeting point at Dan's house at 8.00am with Wayne at the wheel and made good progress arriving at Steart at 9.30am.
WWT have made an excellent job of turning the place into a proper reserve with car parks, good paths, top quality hides and a toilet block at the main car park.
We parked up (in the wrong car park !) and headed for the location of the 'star' bird, this being an american Lesser Yellowlegs which had been identified from photos on Friday and which Gethin wanted to add to his 'life' list.
As we walked up the embankment the word from a departing birder was dissapointing, he had made his third visit and was yet to connect and the bird which had been at the lagoon earlier had flown off.
We settled on the embankment and after a short while the bird dropped in from nowhere and started feeding as close to us as was possible, bingo, result !!
'High Fives' with Gethin and Tunnocks all round !!
I grabbed my camera and although the light was poor with a grey, overcast sky I managed some shots which I was quite pleased with.............

A Merlin flew through and a Meadow Pipit had a lucky escape, the Lesser Yellowlegs became a little edgy and after about 45 minutes or so flew off strongly in a north-westerly direction and didn't return.

A female Kestrel was hunting the rough grassed area just below us and I managed a few shots as it perched up on some fence posts.........

We decided to move on to try and catch up with a Cattle Egret which we had picked up on fields in the distance and it flew strongly towards us landing in a field near Marsh Farm adjacent the main access road to the reserve, we crossed paths with bird a few times allowing me to get some shots......

We next headed for the beach on the Severn Estuary side of the reserve which held good numbers of waders the main bird being good numbers of Dunlin, with smaller numbers of Knot, Grey Plover and Wayne picked out a Little Stint before the birds took flight.

After a spot of lunch we decided to leave and at about 2.30pm we headed over the M5 to Ham Wall on the Somerset Levels hoping for a few more good birds and were not to be disappointed.
After spending some time at the look out point and the hide out on the marsh we decided to chance our arm at the fairly new Avalon Hide and soon had a couple of Marsh Harriers hunting the reedbed....

As we scanned the various wildfowl present which included Shoveler, Wigeon, Gadwall and Common Teal the pair of Glossy Ibis which have been on the reserve since the early summer dropped in to feed and preen on the edge of the reedbed in front of the hide, luck or what, needless to say my camera sprung into action.......

Wayne called a Great White Egret from the back of the hide and two dropped into the near reed bed......


We finished off the day hoping to see the Starling murmuration picking up a confiding Grey Heron on the way having been told that in the order of 10,000 birds were coming into roost in the reed bed, birds flew in from various directions in different size flocks and we estimated that something like 40-50,000 birds came into roost over 30 minutes or so.

Unfortunately probably because of the windy conditions the birds did not display and settled almost immediately in the reeds, still it was an awesome spectacle........

The light was now beating us and having enjoyed a great day out we headed for home at about 6.00pm, great company, plenty of friendly banter and some cracking birds made for a thoroughly enjoyable day out, we mustn't leave it so long next time.