Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Bonus - a Waxwing!

At 2.15 p.m., I was walking down the road near my house, and passed a large cherry tree which has begun to attract a plethora of birds during this cold weather. I stopped to watch the local thrushes and Blackbirds compete with hordes of incoming Redwings for the berries. I started to move on, when I suddenly looked up and saw a Waxwing perched on a branch in front of me. Woohoo! Always a delight to see this beautiful bird, and even better when it's a five-minute walk from home (and only about a hundred yards from where I saw a single Waxwing about a month ago). I took a few pictures with the camera and small lens I had in my bag, before rushing home to get my biggest lens - a 500mm. I had been on my way somewhere else, but it could wait - for a Waxwing. I thus spent the next hour lurking suspiciously in suburban shrubbery, toting an unfeasably large lens, and doing my best to get a few decent shots of this bird as it fed towards the top of two cherry trees (there was a much smaller tree of the same species next to the big one):

Whilst waiting for the Waxwing to come within range, I was able to get a few shots of the very approachable Redwings:

About 3.35 p.m., the Waxwing flew into another roadside tree, where it sat for a couple of minutes, before flying off roughly westwards over the houses. Hopefully, it will be back tomorrow!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Limeslade Bay Sunset

Just before sunset, I decided to head around Swansea Bay to Mumbles, on the off-chance that a decent sunset might develop. As I left Sketty, I saw good numbers of desparate Redwings feeding on Firethorn berries, and continuing to feed as I walked past just a few feet away. As I passed the golf course, the small pool I mentioned yesterday had again attracted a few birds to this unfrozen oasis: this time, a few Oystercatchers, a single Curlew, and a couple of Lapwings. On arrival at Mumbles Head, I saw more Redwings feeding on berries of the prostrate Cotoneasters that drape the rocks there. A tired Lapwing perched on a roadside verge, ignoring traffic that thundered past only a couple of feet away.
I then walked along from Bracelet Bay to Limeslade Bay, where some colours were beginning to develop in the sky:

I set up my tripod, and tried for a few shots as the sunset slowly developed from orange to pink:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Afternoon Bird Photography

I had the afternoon free, so went down to Blackpill on Swansea seafront, where I had seen an influx of Redwings in the last few days, plus a couple of Fieldfares last thing yesterday evening, feeding on Hawthorn berries. A couple of days ago, the Redwings were mainly feeding on the copious berries on two or three Holly trees growing around someone's garden. Today, as I arrived, I was surprised to see most of the berries had been eaten, and that large numbers of Redwings were feeding frantically on the many berries that had fallen onto the still snow-covered ground. I sat down nearby to watch, and to try for a few photos:

A Mistle Thrush popped out of the hedge to join the feast:

I then went to top up the Teasel seedheads I have set up nearby with niger seeds. In no time at all, a small charm of Goldfinches arrived:

The birds were happy to drop to the ground and feed on the seeds that had dropped onto the snow:

Whilst I sat shivering waiting for Goldfinches to arrive, I saw flocks of Fieldfares fly over from the direction of Mumbles towards Blackpill, and one or two Lapwings fly overhead, which are only usually seen here when the weather is very harsh. As I walked on the snowy verge, a large, brown, plump, long-billed bird flew out from where it had been feeding on one of the few patches of visible grass under a bush. I'm almost certain it was a Woodcock, a bird whose normal habitat is woodland. Another sign of the harsh weather!
I trudged back across the golf course (which has been closed due to the snow for several days), where I noticed, near the small 'clubhouse', a watery unfrozen pool had attracted a number of birds, including a few bathing Starlings, a couple of Mistle Thrushes, a Meadow Pipit, and half-a-dozen Oystercatchers:

as well as this single Curlew:

There was also a single Snipe feeding right out in the open, but by now it was nearly dark, and the few pictures I took of it are even worse than the ones I've already posted!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Snow in Swansea

We don't get much snow here in Swansea; and, when we do, it usually melts pretty quickly. However, we had some snow a couple of days ago, and the cold weather has meant it is still lying quite thickly. I went out for a walk on Friday afternoon, and took a few pictures.
Singleton Park looked picturesque under the snowfall, and many were out enjoying the conditions:

The beach was clothed in a white blanket (for those who don't know, the large, white tower in the city centre is the Meridian Tower):

This fellow wasn't going to let the snow-covered golf course stop him:

I paused to throw down some breadcrumbs, and was soon surrounded by a group of hungry Carrion Crows:

As well as this Magpie:

Under a group of pine trees, was a small area of snow-free ground, which was being taken advantage of by this single Redwing. It was so intent on finding food, that it seemed oblivious to me as I sneaked up to it for a picture:

As I reached the area where the River Clyne flows into the sea, some sunset colours began to appear in the sky over the city:

As dusk fell, I took this shot looking across to Mumbles Lighthouse:

On Saturday, I went out again.

The nearby village of Mumbles was, like everything else, covered in snow:

The sky turned pink over the Port Talbot Steelworks across the bay:

As the sun went down, the moon rose:

Monday, December 06, 2010

Waxwings - At Last!

The cold weather has brought an influx of the beautiful Bohemian Waxwings into Britain, including into south Wales. In the last couple of weeks, I've had fruitless trips to Cardiff and Ebbw Vale in pursuit of these avian aristocrats. (They had always left before I arrived, but often reappeared after I'd gone!)
I half expected today to be third time unlucky as I headed out before dawn under a clear, starry sky for Monmouth, where a flock of twenty or thirty of these birds has been reported for a couple of days.
Unfortunately, Monmouth was shrouded under a heavy fog, the surrounding countryside being beautified by a thick coat of hoar frost.
Anyway, I went to the location I had been given, and there were the birds, about twenty, mostly roosting in a nearby tall tree; but, in rotation, a few would fly down to feed on a white-berried Rowan tree on a grassy area in front of some flats. Conditions were not ideal for photography, with the low light and thick frost. "You should have been here yesterday!", a local man said to me, when the sun had been shining brightly. So, I'd come on the wrong day, but at least the birds were here!
I began taking some pictures, setting the camera to ISO 800, and hoping my handholding skills were up to holding my 500mm f/4.5 lens steady at shutter speeds from 1/320th to 1/500th of a second.
Here are a few of the shots: