Sitting in a damp, cold hide in the middle of January is not quite my idea of heaven but it was certainly better than sitting on the sofa at home. “Nature is good for your mental health” I have read so often of late and I would certainly concur from my experience today.
It was not a day for great photos but the snipe in front of the Stratford hide at Chew Valley lake were more obliging than usual; and the sight of a flock of teal being spooked by a peregrine at close quarters and a marsh harrier overhead were a blessing for me (but maybe not for the teal). Golden eyes are very cute too.
A pheasant at Blagdon Lake (which was teaming with ducks) on the way back was the most colourful of the day and a kestrel near Banwell was a bonus.
I had read that the best way to see hawfinches in the Forest of Dean was to stay in your car and, as that is the sort of birding I am restricted to at the moment, I saw an opportunity. In fact, I did have to get out of the car at Parkend but did manage to see three hawfinches. However, they were very high up and almost impossible to photograph.
At Cannop Ponds we stopped near a feeder and the best I managed to photo was a marsh tit, a nut hatch and a little grebe on the pond.
A planned visit to the Llanelli Wetlands Centre proved not to be feasible due to my Achilles injury but it’s amazing what can be achieved by not venturing too far from a car (and the help of a long lens). Our accommodation on Llanelli beach (with its amazing sunsets) and a trip to Llanrhidian Marsh and Weobly Castle on The Gower proved a more than adequate late substitution.
As I am currently somewhat restricted on my birding activities I thought I would take Stephen G Hipperson’s advice in my last blog and do some garden birdwatching. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic I have been used to making do in this way at various times in the last two years. In this blog I present a short video of birds I have seen in (or over) my garden during the lockdowns.
Let’s hope that as the year goes forward, as much as I have enjoyed seeing and photographing these birds, we don’t have the same restrictions again.
After a drab morning at Chew Valley Lake where the best I saw was a great crested grebe, several snipe, a jack snipe and a pair of distant marsh harriers I moved on to the nature reserve on the disused airfield at Weston-super-Mare.
I was hoping to see the penduline tits which I have never seen and which had been reported here recently. There was a fresh breeze and it was very cold but I was encouraged by the excellent light. However, for the first hour I only saw reed buntings and stonechats. My patience was well rewarded , however, when two penduline tits appeared and stayed around feeding on the bull rushes until I felt I could take no more photos.
I was quite excited by this addition to my life list but my exaltation was rather tempered by the fact that I tore my achilles tendon (which had been sore for some time) slopping around on the muddy path and limped back to my car in some pain.
I ended last year with a trip to Slimbridge and started this one to the same venue as, with a short break in the gloomy weather, I knew we would be bound to see a wealth of birds.
I saw a group of birders looking at something near Slimbridge but only realised when I returned home that they were looking at a glossy ibis. A chance missed. Nonetheless, there was plenty to keep me happy before the rain came back. We loved seeing the big flocks of godwits, wigeon, pintails, lapwings, curlews and golden plovers but the focus of my camera was on the ruff, which I don’t see often, and some white fronted geese.
We were beginning to get cabin fever after a day or so of rain and so this afternoon we took a chance and drove half an hour up the road to Slimbridge to get a bit of exercise and some air. We were so lucky as the rain stopped and the sun shone for an hour.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many birds in one place. I felt like a kid in a sweet shop being able to take a free pick The huge flocks were quite spectacular in the sunshine and I didn’t know where to aim my camera.
I had no intentions of bird photography today but when I could make out the silhouette of a peregrine falcon on the spire of my local church from my lounge window (half a mile away) I could not resist taking a closer look. Unlike us, at this time of year, the peregrine wouldn’t be facing the prospect of leftovers.