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Sunday, 26 April 2015

Hudsonian Godwit in Somerset!! They don't come much rarer!!

So Saturday started just like so many before.
Up early and off to work. I need the overtime, new cameras don't pay for themselves!!
Also 3 young children, a Flat Coated Retriever, Somersets oldest cat (probably!), a Chameleon and 2 Ball Pythons don't pay for themselves either!!
   Luckily I was only working 20 minutes from home. Whilst I waited for the contractors to do their jobs, I surfed Twitter......and something caught my eye!
  Apparently there was a Hudsonian Godwit at Meare Heath, just up the road!
 I should point out here and now, I had never even heard of this bird until then!
It's a North American species, and had only ever been seen in the UK 3 times previously, the last time in the early 80s!
  In Twitching parlance, this was a 'Mega' or a 'Blocker'...... to everyone else it was a 'bloody rare bird'!!
  At this stage I had already decided I wanted to get to Meare Heath as soon as possible!
I don't 'twitch' rare birds as such, but if one turns up on my local patch I like to get to see it!
    After finishing work, my other half and I made our way to the new RSPB Ham Wall car park, opposite Meare Heath. The car park was packed!!
  We walked over the road and made our way to the scrape where the star bird had been residing. We passed so many other birders, I'd never seen so many in my life!
  People had come from as far away as Norfolk and the North of England to see this bird!
I also saw a couple of familiar faces, such as 'Cookie', who had actually only arrived  to have a look around and got a bonus Hudsonian Godwit as a result! Great timing!
   Opposite the scrape, a wall of tripods adorned with telescopes and cameras were trained on a group of Black Tailed Godwits. My other half and I looked in this general direction with our binoculars, but alas, could not find the bird at this distance.
   A kindly birder let us have a look through his telescope, and sure enough, the Hudsonian stood out against the 'cleaner' Black Tails. It wasn't very active, but it was a thrill to see!
  Shortly after we'd arrived it disappeared under the bank, so Nick and I walked to Meare Heath hide to see what else was about, which proved to be a wise decision as it started to rain!
  The weather was very dull and overcast, not great for photography at all, but below are a few pics of the rarest bird i've ever seen and probably will ever see!

Hudsonian Godwit

^Above^ - The Hudsonian Godwit was much easier to tell apart from the Black tails in flight, showing it's barred belly and black underwing.

^Above^ - The Hudsonian is the bird second top.

^Above^ - The top bird.

^Above^ - On the right (With Black Tailed Godwit)

Hudsonian Godwit

^Above^ - Spot the rarity!!!!  

^Above^ - The star of the show! The Hudsonian is the Godwit on the right in the bottom picture.

^Above^ - Birders and Twitchers galore!!!

 These were some of the lucky ones! Shortly after 4pm the Godwits took to the air, and part of the group flew off, unfortunately including the Hudsonian Godwit!
   I felt sorry for the people arriving as I left....they 'dipped out', another Twitching term, meaning to miss the rare bird they had travelled to see!

 Many of the people present had never been to the nature reserves on the Somerset Levels before, and lots of them were commenting on what a fantastic place it was! I have a feeling many will return for birding trips in the future!

  Amongst the other birds I saw during our 2 hours at Meare Heath were Bittern, Great White Egret, Marsh Harrier, Cetti's Warbler, Arctic Tern, Blackcap, Jay, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Greenshank, Dunlin, Redshank, Sparrowhawk, Pochard, Gadwall and many other commoner species!

At one stage i watched a Sparrowhawk stoop from a great height at great speed and attack a small bird just above the tree lines, much like a Peregrine!! Never seen a Sparrowhawk hunt in this way before!

 Below are some of the other photos I managed;

^Above^ - Male Marsh Harrier.

^Above^ - Female Marsh Harrier.

^Above^ - Bittern.

^Above^ - Great White Egret, complete with green breeding patch on the face!

^Above^ - Greenshank (With Black Tailed Godwit in bottom pic)

^Above^ - Dunlin coming in to land.

^Above^ - Dunlin with a Black Tailed Godwit.

^Above^ - Redshank.

^Above^ - Black Tailed Godwit flock.

^Above^ - Gadwall.

^Above^ - Cormorant.

^Above^ - Grey Heron.

^Above^ - Arctic Tern.

^Above^ - Little Egret.

^Above^ - Wren.

 A fantastic visit!
  So lucky that such a rare bird turned up so close to my home!
Sadly, there was no sign of it today. I wonder if it is still in Somerset? 
 Probably worth checking out your Godwit flocks, no matter where you are! 

Friday, 24 April 2015

Underwater Great Crested Grebe and the Nikon D7200!

3 days ago I took delivery of my new photographic toy, the Nikon D7200!!
I have had my D7000 for about 5 years and it's taken A LOT of pictures!
  I'd been thinking of upgrading to the D7100, then early this year the new D7200 was announced and I decided to take the plunge!
  I'm so glad I did!
What a camera! Immediately I noticed the difference in resolution (12MP to 24MP!) and the sharpness and clarity in the pictures! The colours 'popped' and there was less noise at higher ISOs too!
  Yesterday I stopped for my dinner break at Herriots Bridge, over Chew Valley Lake.
I took some pics of nesting Grebes and even captured them doing their delightful courtship dance! (Below)

Whilst standing at the bridge, I looked down and saw a shoal of fish (Roach I think!), the sun above my head meant I could see into the water clearly. All of a sudden a Great Crested Grebe came swimming in at great speed, underneath the water, and scattered the fish in all directions! I'd never seen anything like it!!
   The fish stayed under the bridge, which offered shade, and the Great Crested Grebe kept coming up and then diving down again on the attack! This went on for about 20 minutes, I grabbed my camera and tried to capture the action, but it was very difficult tracking the fast moving Grebe under the water and focusing, especially as there was only a small area with clear visibility, and I needed the Grebe to come into it!!
  It was a very exciting few minutes, and a thrill to witness!
Below are some of the shots I managed of the Grebe;

^Above^ - The one shot I managed with one of the fish in too!

^Above^ - Underwater assassin!

^Above^ - The Grebe went deep at one stage and came up underneath the shoal!

^Above^ - Having a good look in the water!

^Above^ - Diving splash!

^Above^ - Handsome above water!

^Above^ - Having a shake!

^Above^ - Head shake!!

^Above^ - Grebe food!

Whilst I was at the lake a small group of large waders flew over, at first I thought they were Curlew, but looking at the pictures I think they could be Whimbrel, a rarer passage migrant.
  Amongst them was a Godwit, either a Black Tailed or Bar Tailed, again I'm unsure, but I think it could possibly be a Bar Tailed, which I have never seen before! (Below)

Below are some of the other pictures I have taken in the last 3 days with my new Nikon!

^Above^ - Chaffinch at RSPB Greylake.

^Above^ - Buzzard near Middlezoy.

^Above^ - Canada Goose at Chew Valley Lake.

^Above^ - Carrion Crow at Chew Valley Lake.

^Above^ - Somerset countryside near Bath.

^Above^ - Rare male Garganey duck at RSPB Greylake.

^Above^ - Juvenile Herring Gull at Chew Valley Lake.

^Above^ - Mute Swan at Chew Valley Lake.

^Above^ - Landing male Mallard at Chew Valley Lake.

^Above^ - Jay at Chew Valley Lake.

^Above^ - Lapwing at RSPB Greylake.

^Above^ - Male Reed Buntings at RSPB Greylake.

^Above^ - Dunnock at Winsford, Exmoor.

^Above^ - Male Mallard at RSPB Greylake.

^Above^ - New leaves, near Ilminster in Somerset.

^Above^ - Blue Tit at Winsford , Exmoor.

^Above^ - Male Blackbird in my Somerset garden.

^Above^ - They're behind you!!  Male Blackbird and flies on the house next door!

^Above^ - My gorgeous Flowering Cherry!

^Above^ - Redshank at RSPB Greylake.

^Above^ - Male Pheasant at Winsford, Exmoor.

^Above^ - Lambs and their mothers near Bath, North Somerset.

^Above^ - Juvenile Blackbird at Winsford, Exmoor.

^Above^ - Woodpigeon in my Somerset garden.

^Above^ - Mistle Thrush at Winsford, Exmoor.

All in all, I'm very pleased with the Nikon D7200, great improvements on my old D7000 and easy to use! Will take me a while to learn of all it's capabilities, in the meantime though, I trust it to get the photo's I'm after..... until I invest in a new lens anyway! ;)