23 May 2006

Some more holiday photos

Having progressed from digiscoping (fun, but quite hard work) to more conventional photography, I am really enjoying the new found freedom. I took nearly a thousand photos on holiday (edited down to a modest 50 or so with which to bore friends) - including some of my favourite bird photos to date.

Here is a small selection of those bird photos in addition to those already published - a Skylark on Skomer with a Chough in flight overhead, a female House Sparrow at WWT, and a Nuthatch at Dinas.

16 May 2006

Dinas - Lesser Spot and Pied Fly

What a day. Dinas is an RSPB reserve located in hilly woodland to the north of Llandeilo, and plenty of birders on Skomer had recommended it to me. I arrived with high hopes, but our eventual haul exceeded every expectation.

The car park had Siskin (20 or more around the feeders) along with a very friendly Nuthatch. Along a boardwalk we found the promised Pied Flycatchers, with Spotted Flycatchers, Willow Warblers and plenty of more common woodland birds (tits, Robins, Blackbirds and so on). We moved on and found another Nuthatch, Treecreepers, a Redstart, and a Tree Pipit along with many Meadow Pipits.

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Along the cliff faces we found one of the nesting Ravens, although sadly not the local Peregrines. However, it was once I went back to photograph the nesting Pied Flycatchers that the day hit its real high point. Unusually for me, I had a feeling I knew what it was as soon as I saw the dark shape fly into some nearby trees.

A few minutes waiting and it finally showed itself – great views of a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. This tiny, rare and perfect little bird only let me glimpse it for perhaps 10 seconds, but that may still be my birding highlight of this year.

15 May 2006

Around the Cabin

The small estate on which our cabin is located, plus the surrounding countryside, are themselves packed with wildlife. Day one saw several Spotted Flycatcher outside the window, and we are awakened by a Song Thrush or two every morning.

On the road outside we found a Red-legged Partridge, and today our first Red Kite soared in a nearby field (fortunately there was nothing behind me as I slammed excitedly on the brakes).

Swallows are everywhere, as are some of the more common warblers such as Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff.

14 May 2006

Skomer - an island paradise

Skomer is perhaps the best known of the islands off the Pembrokeshire coast. Just 15 minutes away by boat, it is home to a wonderful array of seabirds. Almost certainly the most notable of these is the Manx Shearwater - the island is in fact home to half the world's population of this nocturnal marvel.

With our good weather continuing, I stole a day away from the family to enjoy the island and all it had to offer - and what a day it was. As we made the short crossing we were surrounded by Puffins, Guillemots and Razorbills - there were plenty more on the island itself to photograph and enjoy. Grey seals basked on the rocks as we arrived at low tide, and before long I was watching a Peregrine Falcon hunting along a rocky outcrop full of gulls, Guillemots and even a few Chough.

12 May 2006

Welsh WWT - unexpected lifers

Close to our cabin is the Welsh home of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (owners of Slimbridge and many other highly regarded reserves). So along with some beautiful castles and gardens (of which I won't bore you in a birding blog) this seemed like an obvious destination.

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The reserve is in a format familiar to all WWT visitors - first the wildfowl collection, captive birds that form part of the WWT's conservation and research work. Second is the wild bird reserve, a series of scrapes, pools, reedbeds (see Reed Bunting photo above) and scrublands overlooking the estuary.

Charlie seemed to enjoy the wonderful wildfowl collection, but probably not as much as I enjoyed the wild areas - in a brief 15 minute visit my first thrill was a Spoonbill (photo below), and my second a drake Garganey. Both are pretty spectacular birds, and both were lifers. Unexpected and thrilling.

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10 May 2006

Our first family holiday

Ravens, Peregrine Falcons, Spotted and Pied Flycatchers, Redstarts, Choughs, Puffins, Red Kite, Wood Warblers and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker - and I thought I'd have no time for birding on a family holiday in Wales!

We are staying in a log cabin tucked away in woodlands near Llandeilo, a lovely little market town in Carmarthenshire. This is the first time I have been able to spend a decent amount of time with Charlie since he was born some four-and-a-bit months ago, so that was always my main priority. However, if birding opportunities arises... who am I to turn them down?