Thursday, December 30, 2010

Find the berries, find the birds

When Kay decided to have a kip for an hour on Christmas day (full of cold and knackered after coughing all night) I did what any newlywed would do. I took advantage of the one sunny day forecast for the holiday period and headed out in search of some berries. I knew the rowans on the industrial estate had been stripped, but some brief visits to the garden from redwings and a fieldfare led me to look again at what other berries might be around. After driving round the Severnbridge estate for a bit I saw some small thrushes fly into some bushes. No idea what the shrub was, but it had small black berries and the redwings were tucking in. After a while it clouded over so I had another explore. the pavements were lethal with ice under the snow, but under a hawthorn largely stripped of berries some redwings and a fieldfare were eating the fallen fruit. They were pretty twitchy, but snapping from the car one relaxed enough to chase a lively berry almost under the wheels.
2 days later (now apparently known as 'Next sale day') I tried again, despite the crummy weather. Nothing at the previous sites, but I followed a few redwing flying into a small car park and found some pyracanthas, redwings and, to my surprise, a greenfinch. At first I thought it was on the berries, but then realised it was discarding the pulp and eating the seeds, bullfinch style.
Heading for home I found a patch where the snow was already retreating, with a flock of winter thrushes rooting amongst the leaves. Again the car was needed, and the fieldfares stayed out of view but in time some redwing came along. My 1DIII is having a new mirror box (?) fitted so all I had was the 400D - not the best in low light, and nasty pictures at more than ISO 200, but I did get a few just about sharp shots.

Some more of all on the web album.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

At last - local waxwings

Ok, there are shots of waxwings everywhere! However the chance to see and snap some 5 minutes from home with vibrant coloured berries led to a whole load more pictures, a few of which are below. As ever more on the web albums. The buzzard was a nice bonus and seemed to be hanging around the industrial estate, so one to log away for another day.

In the shot below you can just see the waxy red projections on the wing feather tips.

I expect this will be the last post before Xmas, so here's wishing you a good one.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Now they're everywhere

There had been so may reports of big waxwing flocks in the North this year, that it was only a matter of time before they appeared locally. That was the logic, but it has come as a relief to see that they have now arrived in South Wales, and are being seen at many spots (although not in my immediate vicinity yet). Named for the waxy looking red tips to the secondary wing feathers they are one of those birds that just excite people.

A flock had been reported for several days in Monmouth feeding on what seems to be the tree of choice - a white berried rowan. Setting off in bright sunshine despite the forecast fog all was well until I reached ....... the fog-bound Monmouth. Not too bad, but enough to block the best of the sunlight. The birds were there though, just a bit grey and washed out colour-wise. During the day the sun broke through leading to some quite garish colours, before the evening sun produced a lovely warm glow and the third colour phase of the day.

It's only really in photo's that you see the way birds rotate their necks to twist off the berries.
It wasn't only the waxwings raiding the trees there - mistle and song thrush and blackbirds flitted around too, but they preferred the orange/red berries.

On this shot you can see something evident on some snaps of all the birds - as they put their heads right in among the berries they close their nictitating membranes (basically a third eyelid) to protect their eyes.
On Tuesday I had an appointment in Newport, and given that the retail park where I had seen the birds a couple of weeks ago (flying over) was just 5 minutes away I stuck the camera in the car on the off chance. And bingo. Backgrounds a bit less cluttered than Monmouth as the trees were smaller, and it was possible to make use of the relatively approachable habit of the birds to get some shots in the sun. Only had about 25 minutes (basically my lunch break) but it was enough.
And the closest view of a mistle thrush I'm ever likely to get.

Lots more pictures on the web album HERE

Thursday, December 02, 2010

November, Schnovember

I don't have too much to say about November. And not just this year. Looking back at past years it's never been much of a month for me, and 2010 was no different. The only thing of note was the switch from mild autumn days when butterflies were still (just about) on the wing ..............
to the onset of winter with a bang. We've escaped the snow, but the weather has largely been rubbish for pictures. Standing in a car park waiting for waxwings (what else would you find in a car park) the wind made the -4 degrees seem even colder. Especially when all we got was a view of a dozen fly over, around and away. Nearby the berries did pull in some blackbirds, and thrushes, but even the fieldfare and redwings skulked at the back through a maze of branches. Eventually got a few shots worth a blog post at least - can't go a whole month without posting something - and the thrush was quite cute.

Here's to December, something I can snap and some light.