Sunday, September 12, 2010

Wild At Heart

Another cloudy, windy, showery, north-westerly morning with no chance of a ringing session led me to Conder Green where there is always a good selection of birds with not too many Sunday Morning grockles for the first hour or two. The alternative was a bout of bush bashing in search of little brown or green jobs, if I could find a sheltered warm spot on our eternally windy coast. I suppose that is the only downside of living so close to the sea, the isobars not only pack a bit closer, they often pack a punch on even the most innocuous looking morning.

It was the normal situation at CG, it seemed quiet with not a lot of birds immediately apparent, but I gave it time for the birds to show and a while for me to find them. The 7 Little Grebes were a bit more obliging this morning near the closest island with no need for me to go to the far end of the pool where they usually hang out, disinclined to venture very far. The 3 Wigeon were also reasonably close initially, but drifted off once they realised cameras and ‘scopes were about again; half a dozen Teal in the shallows also sloped off to a safer distance, but I had my doubts about how wild were the 4 Mallards.


Little Grebe


I made the observation once before, but maybe it’s worth repeating. To wildfowl, and probably to waders with whom they frequently mix, a human pointing a telescope must look remarkably like one wielding a shotgun, a scenario which they remember and to which their instincts are attuned for an immediate response. Therefore we shouldn’t be surprised when at the first sight of the human form or noises associated with us, such birds flee from our presence. All the more reason then if we wish to observe and photograph birds is for us to learn and adopt fieldcraft, something so obviously lacking in many of the newer untutored birders who arrive hot foot from pager messages with expensive top of the range equipment but without an apprenticeship or the essential skills to acquire the best from their recent purchases.

Also on the pool, 1 Little Egret, 15 Lapwing, a Grey Heron and the Kingfisher doing a circuit of the pool before it disappeared to the furthest bank and out of sight. From the platform I watched a Wheatear that took a liking to the posts that mark the road during high tides, as it perched up on several of them in turn as passing cars made it favour one after the other. It’s not a bird I’ve ever seen much of just here, and they are much more likely to appear just up the road at Glasson.

In the creeks I counted 4 Greenshank, 3 Spotted Redshank, 6 Snipe, 2 Common Sandpiper, 7 Curlew, 18 Redshank, 1 Curlew Sandpiper, another Little Egret, 26 Teal and unusually, a Ringed Plover. I took some distance shots at ISO 800 in the poor light, but what a fine selection of waders all at close quarters and I asked myself why would anyone go elsewhere to see such birds?

Ruff and Spotted Redshank

Common Sandpiper

From the roadside I could see lots of Goldfinch in the hawthorns near the bridge so I drove round and checked them out. There was actually a flock of 120 birds flying between the marsh and the hedgerows near the viaduct, spooked a couple of times that I could see, by on the second occasion an overflying Sparrowhawk that obviously took a close interest in such a plentiful, easily caught supply of food.

I drove up to John’s set aside for a check on the finches using the plot. If it wasn’t so close to the road and passing traffic I am sure the numbers would increase from the 40 Greenfinch, 8 Chaffinch and 4 Linnet I saw today, but for now I am hoping there is a bit of a settled spell that builds up the flock followed by a windless, mist net suitable day.




Idaho Birder said...

That goldfinch is really striking!

Mary Howell Cromer said...

Phil, very interesting read! That little Goldfinch, so much more spectacular than our own is just a beauty!! Have a great week ahead~

mick said...

Beautiful photos of the Goldfinch and Chaffinch but the shorebirds are definitely the most interesting for me! I like your comments about the necessity to learn some fieldcraft.

Mark Young said...

Lovely images Phil, the Mallard and Finches look great! Your observations are spot on. I've noticed the same thing over here where a little more thought when approaching birds would certainly go a very long way. It's frustrating to take 30 mins to slowly approach a bird, only to have the local fisherman not see it and scare it away!

Unravel said...

Birders/photographers in Thailand are now increasing quite dramatically and I see the same problem as you're seeing over there. These people have some extremely good equipment but they just don't really 'know' the birds.

NatureFootstep said...

in sweden the mallard looks like h-l right now. Still changing plumage. :)

I wish I could get such a photo on the Teal.

Larry said...

It looks as if you had a very productive day Phil. The photos are exceptional as always. The finches, amazing.

I must chime in with the other comments on the need to learn fieldcraft as you call it. Learning bird behavior and understanding why they do what they do is more important than just seeing them and checking them off a list.

Fieldcraft is not only important to be able to get good photos of the birds but to be able to help conserve the wildlife we enjoy for future generations.

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