Monday, December 07, 2009

Paparazzi Birding

On Saturday 28th November a post on the Gloster Birder (sic) website announced a young Pomarine skua at Beachley, a couple of miles along the Severn. On the 29th it rained almost constantly, and I decided not to go and see. I'm never over comfortable when the birds are surrounded by people, and the light was shocking. And it would probably have gone, wouldn't it?
Over the next week I began to get more regretful, as the bird was still there. In summer I'd have got up early and headed down before work, but at present my journeys to and from work are completed in the dark. Come Friday night and the bird was still there. And the sun was promised - at least for periods - the next day.
So there I was down below the bridge, just as the sun cleared the low cloud. And there, under water was the reason the bird was still around - a very 'distressed' sheep - sort of end-stage Turner prize if you know what I mean. It seemed to be mainly bones and fleece, with little to tempt a hungry skua. No bird, submerged food, and half a dozen of us thinking we'd blown it, as an hour or more drifted by.
The keen ones took to the river ..........
(OK that was a joke, not even birders go that far ............. do they?).
Then the message came that it was along the bank, on the other side of the reedbeds.
Anyway, there followed plenty of opportunity to watch a remarkably unphased, and well fed(not meaning to be rude, but there must be some goodness in that mutton), bird, preening,
watching (and being watched - see why I feel a bit like a paparazzo?),
doing some sort of strange stretch,
and finally having a feed.
(I'd swear it was licking it's lips in the shot below)

My flight shots didn't work out really, although you can just about see the streamers,but there were some nice poses on the carcass, including a couple with my new compact camera (good zoom lens of about 300mm). I also took some video with the little gem which can be seen on my Vimeo site - see links. Bit distant, but you can see the enthusiastic way the bird went about feeding.
So there we are, worth the wait. And finally, courtesy of Birds Britannica, did you know that the real name is, or rather was, pomatorhine skua (pomato lid, rhinos nosed) after the thin plates overlying the base of the bill. You can just about see them on this crop
but if you go to the web album HERE you'll get much better views.

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