After my last post about the ethics of bird photography and the rights and wrongs about getting close to rare birds, in particular a Grey Phalarope at Cheddar reservoir, it was quite ironic that I got very very close to another Grey Phalrope just a couple of days later!
This one was at the Huntspill seawall near Burnham on sea, a great place for birds! (More on that later!).
The difference between this bird and the Cheddar one was that this bird was on a tiny pool, there were no other birds around to disturb, it was right beside a footpath and there weren't groups of birders watching from a distance! This bird was ridiculously confiding, and an absolute delight to watch as it swam about, constantly picking food/bugs off the surface of the water, it's head going up and down rapidly and constantly, a bit like a Woodpecker pecking at a tree!! At one point it swam right up to where I was laying, so close that my camera wasn't able to focus on it!
Also present and enjoying this delightful show were local birders/photographers Allan Chard, Wayne Tucker, Penny Wills and Brian Gibbs.
A week later, the same area produced an extremely rare bird.... A Short Toed Lark!
This was found by eagle-eyed birder James Packer (The same guy who 'rescued' the Bank Vole in my last post!). Bit of an all round hero is James, not to mention a great bird photographer!
When I went to see it myself, it was handy that James was still there, along with Ash Warne, John Hansford and later Cliff Smith, all guys local I know from Twitter but hadn't yet met!
I found them all to be great people, yes, even Ash! He kindly offered to let me see the Lark close up through his scope, whilst John let me use his scope to rest my camera on to photograph the bird, as it was pretty windy and tough to handhold and focus!
This Short Toed Lark was the first Somerset record for 25 years! It was a pleasure to watch it feeding along with a group of Meadow Pipits and to grab some photo's!
As this has turned into a bit of a name-dropping post, it's only right to mention that I met a couple of other people for the first time that I know from Twitter whilst visiting Burnham on Sea seafront during stormy weather one evening. Lovely to meet Julian Thomas and Carol Rushton there!
Unfortunately I was too late to see the Sabines Gull that had been showing for them before I arrived, but I did find another Grey Phalarope flying along the shoreline!
I returned to Cheddar reservoir last weekend in the hope of seeing a Little Gull and a Black Tern that had been present there for a few days. I got lucky and saw both, they seemed to associate together and I got some shots with both of them in the frame! I bumped into Wayne again there, who was with his daughter Lauren. It was also nice to meet Paul Milo and Katie Horrocks, yet more people I know from Twitter but hadn't met until then!
During a drive across Tealham and Tadham Moor I was delighted to see a Hen Harrier! I grabbed a rushed record shot of it through the passenger window of my van, but when I got out of the vehicle it had disappeared. Luckily the photo confirmed the sighting, clearly showing the white rump and ruling out the much commoner Marsh Harrier!
Whilst scanning for the Harrier I saw a Sheep stuck on its back in a field! Coincidentally I had seen a video on Twitter a couple of days before where a farmer showed how to save a Sheeps life in this situation by just rolling them over onto their feet! I hadn't realised that sheep can get stuck like this...it's called 'casting', and they're unable to right themselves and will soon die if left this way! So I jumped over the gate into the field and rescued the poor animal, filming myself as I did so in order to spread the message with my followers. If I hadn't seen the farmers video myself I would never have known the sheep was in danger and it might have died! It felt good to see it trot off happily after, at least as happy as a sheep is able to be! :)
OK, so it's time for the photo's, after saying I'd keep the writing brief, I've gone and rambled on again.....apologies!!
Below are pics of everything mentioned above, plus many other photo's taken during the last week, including ones taken yesterday at RSPB Ham Wall during a get together of the Somerset Nature Photography group that I run on Facebook! Thank you to everyone who turned up, it was a great day and the weather was perfect!
^Above^ - The very rare Short-Toed Lark at Huntspill seawall in Somerset.
^Above^ - Meadow Pipits at Huntspill.
^Above^ - Pochard at Cheddar reservoir.