Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Fulmars and Barn Owls

A day of two halves yesterday with some "nearly" great shots in fading light at the end of the day.

We started by heading over to Eastbourne so that Dave could pick up the Boneparte's Gull and were already feeling a little disappointed as the promised day of sunshine was not materialising. The gull was obliging and we soon had a few shots in the bag although as with my previous visit the overcast sky did not make for a very colourful picture.

Bonaparte's Gull

We then worked our way back along the coast in a westerly direction through Beachy Head, Birling Gap, Seaford, and Tide Mills. All great birding locations, but with showers and overcast sky very little appeared to be flying or visible and the day was looking increasingly disappointing.

Fortunately as we arrived at Newhaven West Beach the sun came out briefly and we found Fulmars inspecting the nesting sites on the cliffs.

Fulmars - pairing up

Squabbling over females and nesting sites
Guarding their territory

Having had some lunch and feeling more positive we headed off to Arlington reservoir in the hope of seeing the Slavonian Grebe that had been present there for a couple of weeks. Scanning from the picnic area by the car park we spotted what looked like a red headed Smew but our hopes were quickly dashed when the telescope revealed it to a rusty buoy sitting low in the water.

Fortunately the Slavonian Grebe was still present if somewhat distant. We did consider getting closer to get a picture but were already sinking into the mud in what appeared to be one of the drier sections of the footpath. Thinking better of it and still with some hope of a sunny evening we decided to finish the day at Waltham Brooks looking for Barn Owls.

Two Barn Owls did made an appearance at about 3.45 quartering the brooks but some distance away. A third joined later. We managed to get closer but the light was poor and even at ISO1600 I was only getting around 1/50 sec. Not much use when you are trying to hold a 500mm lens and lens hood steady in a gusting wind. The following pictures are all heavily cropped

ISO 1600  f8  1/60 sec
This is where you pretend you were not after quality portrait shots but were really looking for blurry artistic pictures.

And finally, I had to include the lost opportunity of the day. As we watched one of the Barn Owls hunting, a Ring Tailed Hen Harrier appeared to dispute the territory. Nice aerobatics but no contact and this is the best of about forty pictures.

If only the forecast of a sunny evening had been correct - but then I will probably be going back late this afternoon for another go.

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