After weeks and weeks with no birding and no photography, I decided to kill two birds with one stone and head to Whitacre Heath - a nature reserve in north Warwickshire with excellent opportunties for the many photographers who visit every weekend.
Arriving early to miss the rush (there were at least half-a-dozen big gun lenses on site by the time I left at 11am), I was greeted by the most stunning sunrise - clear red skies melting into vivid blue, frost on the ground and absolute still. It was a belter.
I set up at the car park feeders, and used my car as a mobile hide for half an hour or so, grabbing some nice shots but quickly realising that the light was really still too poor. This was my first real birding trip out with the Pentax K100d with Tamron 70-300di and Tamron 1.4 teleconverter. It's a real budget set-up, costing a fraction of the price of the big 400 and 500mm lenses, but as today was to prove, it's good enough for my requirements. The only real problem being - not great in low light. So I set off for a wander round the reserve until the light improved.
The first thing I managed to do was find the hide that had eluded me on previous visits. This is the one overlooking rough fields, apparently good for all sorts of treats (I have read reports of Stonechat and Curlews at various times of the year, both relatively hard-to-find in Warwickshire, certainly on my south Warwickshire patch). Sadly today found it oh so quiet, so I moved on.
In fact, I won't bother recording much else by way of birding notes. Suffice it to say that I was really out to enjoy the walk more than anything. A Willow Tit at the feeder hide, a couple of Tufties on one of the main ponds, a couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers along the way - all pleasant enough, nothing spectacular.
So it was back to the car for a final session behind the lens, picking up a few nice shots of Reed Buntings, Robins and Dunnocks as the light started to improve. Nice to be back out again, getting a bit of exercise for the shutter finger and giving the binoculars a bit of an airing.
Bird of the Day - Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus), for being there when I needed a photographic model.