16 November 2008

Napton Reservoir - Sexy?

After last weekend's fox-related excitement at one of Warwickshire's best-known reserves, I found myself back on patch at Napton Reservoir this morning. And I found myself thinking: why are some place 'sexy' and not others (I hasten to add I mean this in a birding sense).

There are some reserves and locations that are heaving with birders day in and day out. Then there are others, such as Napton, where there are virtually none. Obviously a lot of this is down to what people think they might find in a given location. But a lot of that feeling is driven by a site's historical record of turning up 'good' birds. And, as the FTSE and housing markets have been helpfully showing us in recent weeks, past performance is no guarantee of future returns.

Today at Napton turned up nothing new or unexpected, the Cape Shelducks having moved on (see photos a couple of posts back, including the comments). But then nor did Ladywalk last week, Brandon Marsh on a great many occasions before that, and so on with a number of our better known reserves. Yes, I know each of those turns up the occasion 'mega' rare bird, but then so do most places if you watch them long enough (I refer you to Napton's greatest recent hit, a Ring-necked Duck).

So, there you go. Well known reserves are a con, past performance is no guarantee of future returns, go and find your own obscure location and watch it until something rare turns up (and then email me and tell me where to find it).

Still, on the bird front, I at least found pretty much everything I would expect to at Napton and then Ufton Fields. In among 90 or so Coot were eight Shovellers, half a dozen Gadwall, a pair of Wigeon, just over 40 Tufted Ducks, Mallards lurking everywhere, a Great Crested Grebe, six young Mute Swans with two adults, 50 or so Common Gulls among the hundreds of Black-headed, a Great Heron, trees and bushes full of Fieldfare, Redwing and Blackbirds, and great many crows (Carrion, Rook and Jackdaw), a few of which were lazily mobbing a Buzzard. At Ufton I found the smaller birds - Willow, Coal, Blue and Great Tits (see 'fighting' photo), Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, a fly-by Sparrowhawk and a Green Woodpecker.

Bird of the day: Shoveller (Anas clypeata), a favourite of mine among the ducks. Most easily and frequently seen in the autumn and winter months, it is clearly identified by its bright terracotta and white patched plumage (male) and of course its distinctive shoveller bill.
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9 November 2008

Foxed - a photo story

This is a story about a fox, a helpful man and me.

I first noticed the fox when it popped its head up a hundred metres or so from the hide in which I was sitting. Excellent I thought, and took its picture (picture 1). Then it started to circle a little closer, and I took its picture again. My best ever picture of a fox, I thought (picture 2).

When someone else climbed into the hide, I pointed out the fox. After watching me take a few more shots he announced that he knew a way of 'calling them in'. And, to my delight and amazement, he put his hand to his lips, made a strange sqeaking noise, and in came the fox.

It ran towards us a great speed (picture 3), paused to watch us for a moment (picture 4), and then paraded right in front of us (picture 5), before turning tail and trotting off.

So whoever you were, thanks fella. It was a pretty grim morning (showers and a chill wind), there were no interesting birds to capture the imagination, but the fox made it magical.

3 November 2008

Ideas anyone?

A quick trip to Napton Reservoir and Ufton Fields on Sunday turned up something exciting and new - sadly I've no idea what!

Although the weather had warmed a little after our recent cold snap, it was still bitterly cold at Napton - to be fair, it pretty much always is. It attracts wind like nowhere else I know.

However, the first thing I saw when I arrived was enough to take my mind off the cold - three extremely unusual ducks. I didn't recognise them, I've checked all of my books since, and I still have no idea what they were. Escapees I'm sure, but escaped what? Any ideas anyone - Ruddy Shelducks with black rather than red heads is my best description (sorry about the quality of the photo, I only had a compact camera with me). Red body, beige rump, black tail, black head, white face with a black eye.

Elsewhere on the water was a good collection of winter birds - 20+ Wigeon, perhaps 30 Tufted Ducks, a couple of Great Crested and Little Grebes, 75+ Coots and the usual crowd of Black-headed Gulls with a few Common Gulls scattered about. I was also pleased to see my first big flocks of Fieldfare this year, and good numbers of Redwing flying over.

Ufton, by way of contrast, was deathly quiet. A couple of Green Woodpeckers, a few tits, and... that's all folks!

Bird of the day: Wigeon (Anus penelope), a striking (mainly) winter duck with striking colours and a distinctive wee-oo call.