Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Still not doing a year list...

With the weather having not been very conducive to birding recently I was feeling a little bit cabin feverish and needed to get out. As regular readers may know, I'm not doing a county year list this year but I still keep an eye on what birds I still haven't seen in the county this year (marked in red on my spreadsheet) and when there's nothing better to do I go off and see some of them. Therefore for my trip today I thought that I'd head west into the murky depths of the county near Standlake. There were three "red birds" on offer in this area: some Bewick's swans at Shifford, a red-breasted merganser at Pit 60 and the tree sparrows at Tadpole Bridge which it would be rude of me not to drop in on whilst I was in the area.

I was just heading along the A40 when I got a text from Badger saying that there were now 8 swans at Shifford. I told him I was on the way so he waited for me. Sure enough there were 7 adults and a juvenile all grazing away with some mute swans at a reasonably close distance to the road. I took some obligatory record shots and chatted with Badger for a while before we went our separate ways and I headed off to Pit 60.

The light was abysmal this morning so these digiscoped shots were taking at ISO 800. They've not come out too badly, thanks in part to the great noise reduction capabilities of Paint Shop Pro which is the editing software that I use. I understand that Photoshop's noise filter isn't that great and people often resort to using third party software for noise.

Pit 60 is a former gravel pit (part of the Lower Windrush complex) that has been made into a nature reserve with a couple of hides. The walk down the lane was longer that I was expecting (a few bullfinches being the main birds of note) but whilst en route I met up with Mr. Pit 60 himself, Antony Collieu, who lives in the village and checks out the pit frequently. He said that it had been a very quiet year for the patch with nothing of particular note having been found there this year apart from a recent weather-displaced bittern and the merganser though unfortunately the latter had flown off a couple of days ago with a bunch of goosander. Despite my target bird having gone I thought that it would be interesting to take a quick look so we visited both the hides. All the birds were at the southern end standing on the edge of the ice around a large ice-free area and the only bird of note was a single distant red-head goosander. I thanked Antony for his kindness in showing me around and headed back to the car.

A record shot of the site

My last stop was Tadpole Bridge for the tree sparrows. In the back of the car park there are a couple of feeders installed and I positioned myself so that I could watch them from within the car. Four tree sparrows soon came down but left before I could take any photos and I spent a fruitless further quarter of an hour waiting for them to return. I decided that I had to get back but as I turned the car around low and behold there were several of the little beasties sitting in the hedge behind me quite happily. I recalled that Badger had said that exactly the same thing had happened to him when he visited so for future reference it's worth checking the hedge out first! I took a few point & shoot camera record shots for the blog though there was no light to speak of. I'd suggest partaking of a little something at the pub by way of gratitude for using their car park and for supporting the tree sparrow project. Whilst on the subject, it's worth acknowledging the amazing work that the volunteers do for the tree sparrow project in the county: this little bird has gone from strength to strength since they started and is gradually spreading further and further along the Thames. Thanks guys!

Two lovely tree sparrows, taken with my point & shoot camera
A nice comparison shot with a house sparrow

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