Sunday, 31 August 2008

A good week at the local patch

No major birding trips recently but it's been a good week at my local patch Port Meadow ( and I wanted to share some of my sightings there. In addition my digiscoping is improving and I wanted to post some of my better efforts to the blog.

For the last couple of weeks I've been getting up at around 7am and heading straight down to Port Meadow for an hour or so to check out the birds. There's not been any rain recently so lots of the mud has dried out and doesn't look so productive now. Still there's been a greenshank and a ruff on there all week and I even managed to get a couple of reasonable digiscoping shots of the greenshank.

The long-staying greenshank on Port Meadow.

I also managed a passable shot of a snipe

and quite a few close-ups of some of the many black-headed gulls that are currently present.

One thing which has improved my photos has been that someone put me on to post-processing of my shots using Paint Shop Pro. I know that many birders use Photo Shop Elements instead, but a local photographer, who supplies quite a few shots for the Port Meadow Birding blog, said that he uses PSP and that you can do everything that you can do in PSE with it. I've been experimenting and whilst I'm just getting started I can already notice the difference with some of my shots, even if it's just lightening or darkening them and sharpening them up a bit.

Anyway, as far as the birds have been concerned, this week there have been a few decent passage birds around. What's also been interesting has been that I've started going out at lunch time for my run now, seeing as I don't have time in the morning now that I'm birding then. What I've noticed is that you tend to get some interesting stuff passing through then that I'm not seeing first thing. I also noticed this on the spring passage: there was a period of several days when there was nothing first thing but at lunch time there'd be one or more greenshanks on the floods. I suppose the birds are using the Meadow like a motorway service station for a quick stop-off and a rest before resuming their journey.

On my lunch time runs I've twice seen a wheatear and also some yellow wagtails. I also managed to see a whimbrel which was very nice. I heard it calling, saw it land on the far side only for an aggressive lapwing to chase it off its patch so that it took to the air, calling again and headed off. It was a shame that it didn't stay longer but nice to see all the same.

The highlight of the week for me was probably a cracking whinchat. I'd noticed on the various Bucks news groups that whinchats were coming through and in particular were being seen at the local high points (Ivinghoe Beacon and Pitstone Hill for example). I'd been thinking of heading out that way to see if I could connect with one but I'd also decided to extend my lunch-time run through Burgess Field NR to see if I could pick one (or a redstart) up there. It seemed like a long shot but I wanted the exercise and I could do a nice circuit through the NR and back round the far (river) side of the floods. This Thursday lunch time I was running along, scanning the tops of the bushes as I went when I saw something sitting on top of a hawthorn bush. Now Burgess Field is so quiet at the moment on the bird front that actually to see anything is quite an achievement (apart from a few "hueeting" willow/chaffs) but this bird turned out to be a lovely whinchat. I was able to get to within about 30m and watch as it sat for a while and then made a sortee to pick off a fly before returning to its perch.

I tend to lump wheatear, redstart, whinchat and ring ouzel together as birds that will just be passing through Oxon and which you can often pick up on the hills. The only one that I still need for my year list now which I missed on the spring passage is ring ouzel so I'm keeping an eye out on the postings for one though I'll certainly have to head for the hills to connect with one of those. Anyway, the whinchat is another year tick for me.

2008 year list
198: whinchat.

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