Sunday, 25 August 2013

Bird project 23 - Dipper

Cinclus cinclus Dipper

Location: Rocks on the Almond River, by Nasmyth Bridge, Almondell & Calderwell Country Park, Lothian, Scotland.
Conditions: Mostly cloudy but bright, mild, calm.
Photograph quality: 2 (borderline 1).

Comments: I took my parents to this lovely country park, as they live nearby and it's a great spot for tranquil walks by the river and in the woods. I had my bird lens on me, but didn't expect to see anything notable. However, crossing the glorious Georgian/Regency bridge, we all spotted a small brown bird flit across the rocks. I thought a blackbird maybe, until I looked through the camera and realised it was one of the local specialities I'd hoped (but failed) to see on every previous visit. It dipped, and walked through the water, giving us a couple of minutes' viewing, before it disappeared. I had to use longer than ideal exposures, and reached the upper limits of ISO I'm comfortable with for birds on my camera (3200-4000 for some shots), so the fast-moving dipper was often blurred. Still a few shots were okay - even one I was comfortable using on Flickr.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Bird project 22 - Whimbrel

Numenius phaeopus Whimbrel

Location: Levenhall Links natural reserve, East Lothian, Scotland.
Conditions: Warm, humid, sunny spells but plentiful cloud, late afternoon.
Photograph quality: 2-3.

Comments: I went to this location for something much rarer: a wood sandpiper had been seen here for a few preceding days. But also ruff and whimbrel - so a good choice in general. I had no idea what to expect, as the local bird reports just said 'wader scrape'. I thought it would be a few birds, out of the way. How wrong I was. Signposts were abundant once I found the site, and its importance was clearly understood. The hides were made of brick, and a local birdwatcher (I suspect one of the people who updates the website) was friendly, and he (and his friend who soon arrived) helped me - as there were hundreds of birds. When four whimbrel flew in, they noticed immediately, and I got a couple of unfocused shots in flight. The birds stayed longer than I did, so I got a few good shots, although they were quite distant. Note the striped heads, about the best visual clue to this species - many similar, far commoner, curlews were present nearby.