Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"What a tern up!!"

After weeks of planning our weekend away in either Norfolk or Cornwall (location dependent on wind direction) finally fell through with Kevin preferring to stay put and spend Saturday decorating (is he mad !!).
And so it was that on what was to prove a memorable and momentous day in the history of "Birders in Boxers" (ie Sat 26.Sept 2010) that myself,Dan and Wayne met up at Sarn on Junc 36 of the M4 to head west in search of a rarity !!
After Paul "Sid" Parsons' incredible find of a Bobolink at Eglwys Nunydd Reservoir,Port Talbot earlier in the week we left Sarn with Dan at the wheel heading for Mewslade/Rhosilli on the Gower totally convinced that it was our "tern" to come up with the goods.
First call was the West Cross Inn near Mumbles where the previous Thursday local birder and photographer Jeremy Inglis had found an adult Turtle Dove,quite a rarity in these parts.
Despite a thorough search the bird eluded us and so we pushed on to Mewslade,the weather was fantastic and the bushes and trees were alive with small birds,plenty of Chiffchaffs,Blackcap,Garden Warbler,Stonechat,Gold and Greenfinches in the Nitten Field and although Dan bagged a Winchat nothing rarer was found,photo opportunities were thin on the ground although a Dunnock obliged rather distantly on a bramble.

Without even one of the local Choughs in sight we decided to call it a day at Mewslade and after a quick chat with Barry Stewart (what a part he was to play later !) who was clearing rides in and around the Nitten Field we decided to head back to Swansea for the Turtle Dove via a brief stop at Millwood near Penrice where we quickly picked up Treecreeper and Nuthatch but on this occasion no Marsh Tits.

We picked up Martyn Hnatiuk's posting of another Turtle Dove (juvenile)at Blackpill and were quickly on it as the tired looking bird sat in a tree at the rear of the filling station.

The pale looking bird was very obliging and I managed to get some nice record shots of what for Wayne and myself was a Glamorgan "tick".

An elderly couple out walking alerted us that the adult bird was now showing at the rear of the West Cross Inn and off we marched to get the bird,Jeremy was already there with his "paparazzi" size lens and camera in hand and the bird performed beautifully as it walked along the top of the wall at the rear of the pub enabling me to get in close for some nice shots.

Jeremy was unaware of the juv Turtle Dove and so he joined us as we walked back up to Blackpill and Dan's car,the bird had vacated it's tree perch and was relocated on the grassy sand area behind the beach and both Jeremy and myself managed several more shots of the confiding little dove.

We said our farewells and headed next to Eglwys Nunydd Reservoir in Port Talbot on our way to Kenfig NNR where a second Lapland Bunting in a week had been found,this one by Dean Bolt,nice one Dean !!

We were hoping that the Grey Phalarope that Wayne had missed out on previously was still at the reservoir and the brief visit would give me another opportunity to photograph one of several Black Terns that had been there for most of September.

We searched the margins for the phalarope but to no avail and then decided to move to the East end of the reservoir for a "controlled walkthrough" of the grass area where the now famous Bobolink had been found but managed to "flush" bugger all.

A loan tern flitted over the water ducking and diving as terns do and my immediate reaction was "great stuff,a lingering Black Tern giving me a final chance of a good photo",we all got on the bird,Dan and Wayne with bins and me through the camera.

Although distant at first the tern dashed in quite close to about 25m and I fired a burst of a dozen or so shots before it disappeared back out to the middle of the water.

I zoomed in on the images on the LCD to find to my surprize and delight that as well as some "duffers" I'd managed to get a few half decent shots.

Having assumed it was a Black Tern I was more concerned with how sharp the images were rather than scrutinising the bird as all my previous efforts were all of distant birds in difficult light.

We moved on and were soon trudging our way down to Sker from the reserve centre at Kenfig where a couple of birders were already on the bunting,one of these was Chris Jones from Bristol who was firing away with a superb Canon EOS 1D Mk 1V and 500mm f4 telephoto lens combination and as Wayne said "makes your's look small " in reference to my "Bigma".

The bunting was approachable to a couple of metres and I managed some nice images although the bird did disappear into the longer grass and out of sight at times.

We all enjoyed great views of the Lapland Bunting,I'd waited 4-5 years for my second in Glamorgan after the Werfa bird and then two turn up in a week which I manage to photograph.

We were all pretty knackered by now,at least I was,and after picking up our cars at Sarn headed for home content at what had been a good day's birding,no rarities (or so we thought) but then again nothing different from the norm,we never find rarities,do we ???

After a hasty meal I "chimped" through the images on the LCD on the camera dumping all the "crap" before downloading,processing and posting a selection on our now famous (or is that infamous) South Wales Birding blogsite,

Time had passed quickly and it was now about 10.00pm,just in time to catch "Match of the Day" or so I thought and no sooner had I posted the tern photos when my mobile rang.

It was Paul "Sid" Parsons telling me that he was pretty sure that what I had posted as a juv Black Tern (didn't give it a second thought)was in fact a much more desirable juvenile Whiskered Tern !!

He was phoning around several other birders including Martyn Hnatiuk for second opinions when Martyn called to say that he also thought it was Whiskered which was quickly backed up by Barry Stewart who confirmed he was 100% certain !!

"Bugger me",we go out to find a rarity and when we do we don't even realise it !!,just a good job I poked my camera at the thing and the more "elite" birders out there quickly picked up on my mistake.

After the furore about the distribution of information about the Bobolink I quickly put an explanation on the GBC sightings page and went off to bed hoping and praying that the bird would still be there in the morning,all hell then appeared to break loose as the "grapevine" went into overload !!

A phonecall to Martyn at 7.30am confirmed that the tern was still there,what a sense of relief and I quickly put the news out on GBC and SWB which was promptly picked up by Birdguides and lots of birders got to see the bird.

I'd promised Teresa that we'd spend some time in the garden on Sunday morning and then go down to Mumbles later for some food,and she didn't object to a quick detour into Eggy Nun for me to have a go at getting some more photos and I soon bumped into George Morgan,Paul Tabor,Alex Bevan,Steve Hinton,Rob Mitchell and Alan Hughes with the photographic contingent trying their best to get that one "crippler" of an image.

I got several "blurries" but not the "crippler" I desired and we never made it to Mumbles settling instead for fish and chips at Franco's on Aberavon seafront where a Common Gull,adult and 1W Med Gulls and Saderlings gave me a last photographic opportunity of the weekend.

What a weekend and huge thanks to "Sid",Martyn and Barry for the "loan" of their ID skills,I've learned that I'm far too casual and light-hearted about my birding and am probably concentrating too much on the quality of the image rather than the bird that I'm looking at/photographing and will certainly attempt to be far more critical in future.

Does one good "tern" deserve another ?????...............................


Dan said...

Nice blog Jeff. I'll never be as casual,, nor leave my 'scope behind, ever again! Surely the most frustrating birding event of my life :-(

Martyn Hnatiuk said...

Your photos are still the best i,ve seen, well done or this species would have evaded us all.

Jeff said...

Thanks Martyn for your kind comments,I do however think that given the length of time the bird has now stayed it would have undoubtedly been found by another birder probably yourself as following the GP and the Bobolink finds the number of visitors to Eglwys has inevitably increased dramatically.

Sid said...

Great story and photos Jeff. I took some visiting American friends out birding the weekend, nothing rare but Swift and Merlin at Nash point were nice.

Jeremy said...

Glad you got some good shots of the Turtle Dove!