Saturday 26 March 2022

A Beautiful Afternoon

Birdy stuff is happening thick and fast, so here's a quick update before it all gets out of hand...

An afternoon visit to Rockit Land has done my head in a bit. I found five birds and got photos of them all. This evening I've been trying to match them to the previous 13 (and it is 13, not 14 - the bird in yesterday's post is actually #1 again, my only definite petrosus) but without success. I cannot believe it was five new birds today, but there is only so much looking at Rock Pipit photos a person can take, and I need a break now. It definitely is possible to tell them apart from photos, but it ain't easy!

I am finding that a good shot of the tertials is probably the most useful pic.

Also in Rockit Land was my first Burton Cliffs Wheatear of the year...

...and my first female.

Here it is in context. Taken from a clifftop field overlooking the splendid shower block of Freshwater Beach Holiday Park, with the B3157 coast road passing the western outskirts of Burton Bradstock village in the background. The road was very busy. Judging by the noise, a fair few Harley Davidsons had been dragged out into the sunshine this afternoon...

Wheatear circled

 Next, I headed inland to a spot where at least two Green Sandpipers have spent the winter...

Green Sandpiper

Even at considerable range the bird in that photo was looking very twitchy, nervously bobbing up and down. I find it really difficult to get anywhere near them for a close-up photo, but today I spotted an opportunity. It involved crawling on hands and knees, then on my belly, wriggling into position behind a little clump of sedge. I shuffled sideways until the camera was free of sedgy impediments, zoomed in and fired away...

Without the help of a hide, this is probably the best shot of Green Sand I'm ever likely to get.

At this point I bumped in to West Bex stalwart Alan Barrett, and together we headed to Puncknowle WRC to see if any Chiffs were still in residence. At least two or three birds present, but no sign of the wintering Sibe Chiff. As we stood there chatting, Al alerted me to a raptor flying east up the valley. It was not much above head height from our position up the hill, and gliding along at an unhelpful angle, but didn't look quite right for a Buzzard. Was that tail a bit too long? It was steadily going away, but at the last minute twisted in the air and dropped behind a hedge, presenting us with the gloriously dark upperparts and cream crown of a female Marsh Harrier. Yesss! If my sums are correct, that's #LocalBigYear bird number 115.

With things going so well, it seemed obvious that I should visit the Bridport Yellow-browed Warbler before calling it a day. As far as I know, the classiest bird within ten minutes' walk of my home. How could I not say hello once more?

If I don't get a better shot to remember it by than this one, I shan't care.

I am frequently amazed at how deftly the autofocus on my Nikon P900 is able to thread its way through a forest of twigs and foliage, and find the bird. Impressive. As I stood there alone in the late-afternoon sunshine, papping away like a togger at one of the smartest little warblers to draw breath, the unwelcome thought that I'll be getting an hour's less sleep tonight was far from my mind...


  1. Hi Gavin - what's the secret with the P900? Mine invariably focuses on the nearest twig, I could never get a shot like that excellent YBW pic. (And not only because I never see a YBW...)

    1. Hi Martin. Good question! In settings, the 'AF area mode' I prefer is 'Manual spot', and I suspect this is why I can often get in-focus shots of birds through twigs, reeds and whatnot. Some time ago I wrote a couple of blog posts about the P900 settings I use. If you type 'Nikon' in this blog's search box, they are the first two posts listed. All I can say is that these settings still work for me. I'm on my third year with the camera, and the only major change is that I always use 'Continuous H' now (i.e. high-speed burst) rather than 'Single'. Hope that helps.