Wednesday, May 02, 2007

No Pain, No Gain

Last weekend I was left with a dilemma. The pied flycatchers and redstarts at Nagshead, or another go for the Hawfinch. Received wisdom was that Hawfinch may well have moved on, but their attraction still proved too great, and my hide and I ended up going back - twice.

I set the hide up nearer the spot they had shown the week before, despite the fact that it was on a 15-20 degree slope. As usual the tricky little buggers then appeared in the other spot! When they flew I turned the hide round and ....... you've guessed it; they moved and once again I was having to view them out of the little side window.

Over 2 days and about 6-7 hours of very uncomfortable balancing and twisting (cramp and 'dead legs' - couldn't use a seat) I racked up some great views, sometimes within 6-8 feet. The best time was a period of several minutes when a male was feeding a female. The female took on the pose adopted by young birds begging for food - head down and wings fluttering, and the male hopped over and passed food with great tenderness given the size of that beak. Sadly the camera was pointing out another window at the time, but I didn't want to scare them by moving it so I just enjoyed the show.

Overall there were more birds around than the week before, and there was a ticking in the trees for long periods. More extraordinary was the sound I heard once and which Chris had described the week before. A high whistle in a rising tone that sounded for all the world like a camera flashgun recharging. The light was still poor, and I ended up shooting with the aperture wide open, exposure shortened a full stop and I was still only getting a shutter speed of 1/50-60th at best. Unfortunately the Panasonic FZ30 I use is rubbish at anything higher than 200 ASA equivalent. Still in the end some pictures weren't too bad (click on the pics for bigger views). Wait until I get out with a DSLR!

The hide again allowed some great views of the local squirrels, including several youngsters. The most surprising view was the jay that hopped onto a branch 4 feet away and had a good look at me before flying on, sadly before I could get a shot (bloody camera out wrong window again!).

The level of foliage on the trees means that's probably it for pictures this year as the effort is outweighing the results, but it is reassuring to know they can be snapped with some time and patience (and good tips on feeding sites - thanks Chris).

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