Having stopped over in Yorkshire after the successful Orphean Warbler twitch last night, I spent a couple of hours this morning at Bempton Cliffs photographing the abundance of seabirds there. I'm not sure if it was just a quiet day but the cliffs didn't seem to have the same intensity of action or noise as usual but still a nice way to spend the morning...
You can't go to Bempton without being asked if you have seen a Puffin
Ok, so it's not a seabird, but this Meadow Pipit was just posing!
Computers are meant to make life easier, well that's the theory, but after a few hours of being increasingly frustrated at trying to make a new computer program at work actually work, I had had enough. News of a Western Orphean Warbler trapped up at Hartlepool in the morning was tempting but for most of the morning, I just put that to one side but once the computer program started to play up and frustrations built, suddenly the Orphean seemed like a good idea and a plan was hatched. Unfortunately, I had a boiler repair man coming at lunchtime so had to wait in for him which meant a quick get away was not on the cards. As he dallied and dithered and drank his coffee, updates confirmed the warbler was still present, and eventually, just before 2pm he was finished and I was off....
As I pulled in to the petrol station I got a text message from Nick saying "Sounds like you may have a race against the reaper! It has yet to move (other than breathing)". The pager had failed to mention the fact that it may not actually still be alive by the time I got there but as I was already committed to going, I carried on. Thankfully the traffic was flowing and I made good time and news that the bird was indeed mobile was encouraging. Arriving at a very busy bowling green on Hartlepool Headland just after 6pm, within minutes the bird flicked across into a tamarisk and showed well looking quite active for a bird reportedly at death's door for several minutes before dropping out of sight. Moments later, there was a flurry of activity as the bird once again appeared sat in a patch of sun and there it stayed back on to the crowd, virtually motionless for the next hour, allowing me to get a poor phonescoped shot.
By the time I left at 7.30pm, it had not moved an inch and anyone turning up and seeing that can not possibly have ticked the bird on those views since it wasn't even obvious it was still breathing!! It was obviously a unwell bird, sitting fluffed up for hours at a time, and I will be amazed if it still alive tomorrow morning...
Every year I have a list of animals I would like to photograph that year, an every year boxing Brown Hares, Fox Cubs and Water Voles are top of the list (if anyone knows reliable places for any of these, plese get in touch!). Yesterday afternoon, WWT Welney tweeted about Water Voles showing on their pond so having been woken up early with sun streaming through the curtain (not something that happens often at the moment), I set off full of hope.
An hour later and I arrived at Welney and after a short wait, saw a Water Vole swimming under the bridge over the pond. The charcteristic crunching noise soon gave away its location and I was on the bridge looking down on it as it munched its way through some stems. As the clouds built up and the breeze got colder, frustration was beginning to set in as although the vole was only a couple of metres away, getting a clear shot was virtually impossible as it sat amongst reeds which were constantly blowing. As thoughts turned to giving up and getting a bacon butty and a cup of tea to warm myself up from the reserve cafe, eventually the vole gave itself up and sat out in the open, completely unafraid of me just above it, well until I nearly dropped my mobile phone on its head!
Photography wasn't the easiest, not only because the vole often chose to stay concealed but the viewing was from a wooden bridge so you are always looking down on the animal and for health and safety purposes, the sides of the bridge have handrails and below that metal rungs which although flexible, do get in the way a bit. That said, having only ever seen Water Voles on four previous occasions in my life, it really was a fantastic way to spend a few hours and I will no doubt be back for more soon.
I had just walked in the house when the phone rang and an excited Nick Moran was telling me about a Dowitcher sp. at Livermere. Twenty minutes later, having gone the scenic route, I joined the group of birders (including just about every birder from the BTO) watching the bird, by this time confirmed as a Long-billed Dowitcher busily feeding on the far side of the lake alongside a Bar-tailed Godwit. As the bird was too far away, there was no chance of any photos but it showed well enough through the 'scope and along with a Hobby and 2 Yellow Wagtails overhead, made for quite a successful evening.