Saturday, 25 April 2015

Wood You Believe It?

I do love Wanstead.  A migrant hot-spot within walking distance, what's not to love? Sure, it's probably one of the high causes as to why my patch produces oh so little, but I really can't complain. It's like a second patch almost, but with the twist that it's actually quite good.  Last year Wanstead got a Blyth's Reed Warbler, I got a Gadwall.  You see what I'm getting at?  Maybe I should just make a permanent transition of my patch... I'd probably end up missing the Squirrels.
 The routine morning check of Twitter showed once again that the dedicated Wanstead crew had another great find, a Wood Warbler.  A rare bird in London, and perhaps another site mega.  As soon as breakfast was eaten we were off.
 Half-an-hour later we arrived to the news it was still there, and to hear it a second or so later.  It seemed it would be that kind of a day. Turn up, see it, done. That joy was not to be. Try it more like this: turn up, hear it, search for ages, hear it again. Despite it tormenting singing with some regularity, it just didn't seem to fancy being seen. A Garden Warbler early on was our only consolation. It made one think fondly of finding a Cetti's Warbler.
 After three hours of canopy staring, it's trill finally began to come from lower down.  After a slightly tense few minutes where it managed to hide in a small patch of branches a small bird flew to the left into an Oak, where it finally showed, revealing that stunning yellowness of a Wood Warbler! Whoo, what a weight off the shoulders!  It showed for a good thirty or so seconds, so I managed to grab a couple of record shots before it disappeared.  Incredible bird, worth the wait.  It probably would have been quicker to go to Wales...

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Scotland (Part Two)

After successfully twitching the Harlequin duck  in Aberdeen, we drove down to Blairgowrie, where we'd be staying for the rest of the trip.  Having the next three days already planned out, my preparation was perhaps in vain.  Admittedly, being as we were, near to the highlands, I should have expected it. Weather - The spite of so many dreams.  Wind speeds exceeding 45mph and heavy snow forecasts meant travelling nearly one hundred miles through the Cairngorms was rather astray from the safe side.  So no Crested Tits, instead we explored an area near Amurlee for grouse.
It wasn't too far, and the drive did produce my first Grey Partridge for nearly three years, it was however, sadly, a rather flattened individual on the road.  If only it had looked before crossing.  The number of Pheasant I saw who had met similar unfortunate ends is just ridiculous, somewhere in the region of fifty I might guess? Crazy.
 Another mile or so further and I spotted three (thankfully) very un-flattened male Black Grouse in a sheep field off to my left!  They were fairly distant, but also pretty amazing, so I felt obligated to take a few photos. As the Black grouse began to slowly disperse into the rougher grass behind the field, a Red Grouse called from, umm, somewhere.  Somewhere distant. Although I don't believe it to be the same bird, after a few minutes I did find a Red Grouse, but far, far away.
 It was an excellent start to the morning, but I had my hopes up for some better views, so we continued on towards Amulree before taking a turn off down a road I'd read to be good for Grouse.  And as it turns out, it was. We drove it six times, and saw a further three Black grouse (including two females with their stunningly intricate plumage), about eight or nine Red Grouse, a Mustelid, either Stoat or a Weasel and a Short-eared Owl! And yes, the Grouse showed a lot better.

It snowed heavily on and off, and the Grouse appeared -or rather didn't- to go into hiding.  So we drove a little further along the main Amulree road, and saw a load more Black Grouse, including a group of nine males, taking the day count up to twenty-two! Exceedingly better than I had hoped for.
 The weather picked up briefly on the drive home, so we stopped by Loch of the Lowes, and straight away had the male Osprey from the hide!  He was on the nest, but then took off with a piece of fish and disappeared behind some trees.  An absolutely incredible morning, and all before midday!
 As part of the prize for winning the Junior Scottish Nature photographer of the Year in 2014, I had a day out photographing with professional nature photographer Lorne Gill. So on the 1st we met up with him, before heading north to Braemar to photograph more Grouse.  Lorne was a nice chap, and with his excellent local knowledge it was a successful day of photography.  We had another two female Black Grouse, numerous Red Grouse, Buzzards and even a few Red-legged Partridge. The Red Grouse showed well amongst the heather, but they just wouldn't sit up on the stone walls. No matter how nicely I asked.  Still, very beautiful birds up close!

After a fantastic few hours photographing the Grouse we decided to try and look for Mountain Hare and Ptarmigan at Glenshee Ski Centre.  The night before and most of this day had been heavy snow and strong winds, so we were doubtful we'd have any luck.  It was hard work getting up the mountain, in the first ten minutes you would overheat, and just a bit further on you felt as though your ears would fall off.  The snow was above my knees at point!  We got about two-thirds of the way up, and saw quite a few Mountain Hare scampering away in the distance, but beyond that, with the wind being what it was, it seemed perhaps foolish to try any further.  Getting down thankfully was a lot easier, and between us we only fell over a few times. So concluded another great day, and my last full day in Scotland.

Our train from Glasgow on the 2nd wasn't until half-past-four, so we had an hour spare in the morning, so.... we went looking for Grouse!  I'm sorry if you were looking for variety, but, Grouse are great.  Although this time it didn't seem like they would play ball, metaphorically speaking of course.  After driving up and back once along the road near Amurlee, we'd seen only a single hen Red Grouse, and no Black.  We pulled up for a while and got out to scan the moors, and did manage to find one or two distant male Red Grouse, and in the fields Lapwing were displaying, along with Skylark and Meadow Pipit.  A Red Grouse then flew across and landed just further back down the road.  Without much hope, I decided to walk back along and see if I could see anything.  As I approached I realised where the Grouse was, on a stone wall!  The wall was about sixty foot away, and I was a little worried it would fly the moment I left the road, but I used the heather as cover and crawled a bit closer.  The Red Grouse (a male) stayed, and continued strutting along the wall, and was soon joined by a female, who had been hiding in the grass to my left.  It wasn't quite as close as I would have liked, but I was buzzed to finally get the shot I'd been after for the last three days!  And in the final few minutes I had spare before heading back down to Glasgow.
 There ends my trip to Scotland, three lifers and a few hundred images, an awesome trip, I can't wait to go back now!
 If you have read this far, I honestly, honestly applaud you.  Give yourself a pat on the back!

Monday, 6 April 2015

Patch News!

Part two of my trip to Scotland is being temporarily put on hold, because (wait for it)... I have patch news!  I know, hardly believable.
 Having returned from Scotland the previous day, I was back on the patch on the 3rd. It was pretty quiet really, not much of note (as is the norm), but there was a singing Chiffchaff to put a bit of spring mood on things, although it was probably an over-winterer.  As I was beginning to head home I caught sight of a large bird flying over, pure white, heavy wingbeats and long extended black legs with yellow feet... In simpler terms, Little Egret!  A patch-lifer, I've been hoping for one of these to fly over the park for years, namely since I missed one which was seen in the canal after the park was reopened having been closed due to storms.
 Returning to the patch on Sunday, I took yet again to searching the old Pitch-and-Putt course for any Wheatears which decided Valentines look nicer than Wanstead. So of course it drew blank.  All was not at a loss though, as there came the distinctive call of a Meadow Pipit.  A moment of confusion followed, as I tried in vain to see it fly over with no luck, no wonder, as my father then found it sitting in a small tree! It showed nicely before flying down into the grass.  A second patch lifer in a week!
 Later that day, I even managed to find my second Great-crested Grebe for the patch this year! For now, the patch is good(ish).

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Scotland (part one)

Five hundred and thirty miles for one duck? No I'm not that bad, well, not quite. That said I did twitch a duck that distance from my home... In my defence I was in Scotland anyway, so it would have been rude not to go. And, it was a drake Harlequin Duck, that justifies it.
 I'd headed up to Glasgow on the Saturday (28th) and spent a couple of nights there before continuing the rest of my six day trip to Scotland by journeying a few hours further north to Aberdeen for the Harlequin Duck. We got to Seaton Park before 11am and although there was a ridiculously cold wind, it was a nice bright spring winter's day. Upon arriving at the river Don, three ducks flew by, the two at the back I have no idea what were, I was a little distracted by what was at the front. Yes, it was the Harley!!! It continued past and disappeared around a bend in the river. A mega warms even the coldest of days.  The day got warmer and warmer as we tried to find Papermill Drive, I then began then to regret the giant coat I was wearing, oh for that chill wind.
Papermill Drive has seemed a favourite spot for the Harlequin during it's long stay on the Don, and after about five minutes of searching here we had it showing reasonably well. I spent a couple of hours photographing it, and eventually got some great views. It's beginning to look rather nice now that it's moulting into summer plumage.  It'll be a hard duck to top!

 Generally it stayed mid-river, but on one occasion did come down to 15 foot, unfortunately the light was bad, and you know how it is when a mega pops up right in front of you, keeping your hands from shaking isn't easy!
 The Don is a great river, while I was there I also saw plenty of Goosander and Grey Wagtail and even an Otter swimming upstream!
The next four days of my trip to come...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...