Thursday, 19 February 2015

Rallying around the Crossbills

On no less than 4 occasions I've been down to the Forest to try and get shots of Crossbills. They have been much photo'd lately and I thought it only right that I give it a go.
Much easier said than done. On my first visit to the church at Parkend there were approximately 6 photographers in situ. and a quick chat revealed that the birds had been down on one or two occasions, but not within the previous 20 minutes or so. I don't like being amongst too many other people and was very doubtful that with so many people standing less than 10 metres away from the puddles the Crossbills would be too inclined to come down very often. So I didn't hang around. That afternoon I went back to find even more people so again I didn't stay too long, just long enough to meet a few of the people who's images I've seen on Birdguides. We were blessed with a view of 3 males and 2 females who came briefly to the puddles and surrounding branches, but I didn't have my stuff out so I missed out. It was reminiscent of a war film with camera shutters being fired off.

My second visit was about the same. Too many people and far too few views of the birds, again I didn't hang around. The third visit was the same. Finally I went down on Wednesday 18th and upon my arrival was pleased to see that there was only one photographer and that he was in his car. I quickly checked that there were no birds down and then drove into position behind him. He informed me that he had, had one sighting whilst he had been there but he believed that the Crossbills he had seen were Two Barred Crossbills, this got me a little excited as photos of them would be brilliant. Shortly after I arrived and with no further sightings, he waved me goodbye and drove off. I was hopeful that as I was the only one waiting and that despite a number of cars being parked it wasn't going to be too long before something came down. Unfortunately the best laid plans don't always come off and within 5 minutes I was joined by at least 6 other birders, all looking to see the birds.

I sat and waited for almost 2hrs without any joy, and was quite frankly amazed by how dull and inconsiderate some people can be. Dog walkers, graveyard visitors, and even other birders were walking around in front of where I had my camera pointing, and I'm sure some did it deliberately. At one point an elderly couple turned up with their bino's and a scope and preceded to walk towards my car, seemingly oblivious to the fact that I had my lens sticking out of the window, they didn't seem interested in walking around the other side of my car where they wouldn't obscure my view. At the exact moment that the old chap was going to walk in front of me a male Crossbill dropped like a stone to a puddle. after almost 2hrs of waiting I was beside myself and as loudly as I dared I hissed "Stand still" at him. I managed 5 frames before the bird flew off. He calmly said "Was that one of the Crossbills"? suffice to say I had to bite my tongue really hard, and indeed I then drove off. Fuming. I've put the one shot on Smugmug, but it will hopefully be replaced with better.

The Wyedean Forest Rally took place on Valentines day, my brother came down from Chester and we joined my son and family for a days spectating. I was pleased that the weather held up for most of the day as it gave my brother a chance to use the 50D I'd given him, for the first time doing stuff other than small birds in his garden. I think he enjoyed the day, I know I did. Here are some shots.

The second shot was the winning car driven and co-piloted by Paul Bird and Aled Davies. The last shot was of Graham Elsmore the winner of the first three Rallies in 75,76 and 77. He was competing to celebrate 40 years of the rally and was in a Mk 2 Escort supplied to him by the sponsors of the rally.

Whilst waiting for the cars at the afternoon stage we decided to watch I was amazed to stumble across some fabulous Fungi.

Scarlet Elfcup, Sarcoscypha austriaca. stunning things aren't they? Never seen them before so a real bonus. So much so that I returned yesterday to get them with the macro lens. I had a good mooch around but couldn't find any others.
 I did see a fallow buck through some trees and find a badger sett which is currently being used by a sow with cubs. How do I know? Well it is a fact that when the sow gives birth she is extremely reluctant to leave the sett for anything more than a few seconds until the cubs at least have their eyes open. The one reason she does leave is for toileting. Usually badgers will not do their business near the sett, if the weather is particularly harsh they will sometimes build toilet chambers inside the sett which are sealed off afterwards. When a sow has cubs she will usually leave the sett but find a toilet area very close to the sett which she re-uses time and again.

Here is an example of such behaviour, clearly evidence of more than one use, and located, in this instance about 8 feet from the sett entrance. It was a satellite sett of only one hole, with only one track too and from it. It may be worth a look in late April to see if the cubs are emerging. Its usually 11 weeks from birth that they start to emerge, and the sett had a potential viewing area only a short distance away. I have deliberately not shown the sett entrance, just in case there is a remote chance someone might recognise it. May be being paranoid but that's my choice.

Oh I did get a fabulous shot of a visitor to the puddles at Parkend whilst I was waiting for the Crossbills. I'm more than happy with it.

Thanks for looking and don't forget to check out the Smugmug link.