Friday, December 30, 2016

Bittern : Kenfig NNR

With grey overcast conditions today and some drizzle in the air I decided to get out for a few hours and headed for the South Pool Hide at Kenfig prepared to put in a few hours in the hope of getting a few photos of one of the wintering Bitterns in one of the channels in the reeds.
Photography conditions were far from ideal and a high ISO was the the standard from the start, I arrived at about 12.30pm and had missed a Bittern crossing the left hand channel by a couple of minutes I was informed by one of the four other birders/toggers present.
I didn't have to wait too long though and at 12.55pm a Bittern crossed the left hand channel from left to right and I managed a few shots in the gloom, checking the time difference on my camera from first to last frames the Bittern took 19 seconds to stealthily cross the channel............

I was prepared to put in a few hours and picked up a Chiffchaff in the reeds which I thought looked a good candidate for Siberian race tristis, a quite dark bird with very little olive tones and quite a buff supercilium, record shots only as a little too distant...........

Time passed and as the light deteriorated I gave myself until 3.30pm as a cut off time and bang on 3.30pm the Bittern reappeared crossing the same channel this time from right to left, I had hoped that another sighting would be closer but the bird seemed to be retracing it's steps.............

Not the greatest of days weather wise but at least I had got out for a few hours and I can't really complain at two Bittern sightings in an afternoon of what after all is a very secretive bird.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Great Northern Diver : Aberavon

It was a toss up today between sitting in a hide all day at Forest Farm NR, Cardiff in the hope of the Bittern appearing or a bit of exercise and a yomp from Bryn to Dead Sheep Gulley in Afan Forest for my second go for the wintering Great Grey Shrike, my dog Pearl was up for a walk so DSG for the GGS it was.
A two hour search venturing over into the next valley saw me fail miserably again so hopefully it will be third time lucky over the Christmas holiday.
Returning to the car it was again a toss up to spend what was left of the day at Kenfig NNR for possible Bittern, Firecrest or Sibe Ciffchaff or a punt at the River Afan walking up from Aberavon Beach in the hope of a white-winged gull, Long-tailed Duck or maybe a diver.
River Afan it was to be and within ten minutes of walking across the prom and up the riverbank I found a cracking Great Northern Diver, it proved elusive diving for long periods and resurfacing up to 100m from where it had initially dived but having made my way down on to the muddy riverside I managed to pin it down and I came away with some images that I was really pleased with.......

I 'filled my boots' with the diver and taking a punt on Aberavon Beach was a really good decision despite getting into a filthy state on the muddy riverside and having to shower the dog when I got home !!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Desert Wheatear : Thurlestone, Devon

I've just returned from a fabulous weekend away in Plymouth with Teresa to celebrate her 60th birthday.
As a massive fan of folk rockers Lindisfarne since the early seventies we took in their concert at The Wharf in Tavistock on Friday evening (showing my age now !!) and it was the first time in over 20 years that I had been to see them play live, they haven't lost their touch and were absolutely superb playing all the old favourites.
Teresa enjoyed a day's shopping in Plymouth on Saturday and we finished off the weekend with me twitching the Desert Wheatear at Thurlestone about twenty odd miles east of Plymouth on the way home.
We arrived at the car park at around mid-day and after asking a couple of people a few questions two girl walkers informed me that there were a couple of birders on the smaller of the beaches west of the car park.
Approaching the beach I could see one 'togger' on the bird which was chasing off a nice male Black Redstart which was intruding on it's patch, now there's a sight that you don't see everyday.
I joined the 'togger' and the bird made it's way back to us settling near the upturned boat on the sand which allowed me to get some images that I was really pleased with.........

I filled my boots with the Desert Wheatear and had a search for the Black Redstart but to no avail and with Teresa waiting in the car for me decided to call it a day.
This was only my second Desert Wheatear in the UK following my first almost three years to the day on 11.December 2013 at Severn Beach near Bristol, what a cracking bird and a great photographic opportunity, one happy 'togger' !!

Sunday, December 04, 2016

"A stroll around Cardiff Bay".........

I thought I'd head out on my own today and headed for Cardiff Bay hoping to get some photographs of the Long-tailed Duck that has been favouring the area near the 'Sails' on the barrage for a week or so, the bird duly obliged allowing me to get some shots that I was quite pleased with......

After a stroll across to the end of the barrage I spotted a nice male Goosander on my way back but as I speeded up my walk to get in position it continued to swim out into the bay and was quite distant by the time that I got the camera on it.......

As my car park ticket was about to expire I thought I'd head next for Penarth Marina in the hope of connecting with one or two of the small number of Black Redstarts that have been wintering for the last few years and a stonking male duly obliged although it never came down from the safety of the rooftops..........

I thought about finishing off my day at Forest Farm and arrived to find both pools mainly frozen and Cliff Woodhead and Colin Harvey occupying the second hide, not much on view other than a distant Water Rail and the regular obliging Jays giving a decent close-up opportunity.........

A nice few hours out on my own and to finish a photo of a female Kestrel from a stroll on Saturday in the hope of catching up with the Great Grey Shrike at Dead Sheep Gulley near Bryn, suffice to say I didn't see the shrike.......

A dreadful photo overexposed against a grey sky, would have looked great if the sky was blue !

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.