Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Ballynamona Strand

So much for the settled weather continuing until Thursday, this morning it was overcast skies and drizzle. A quick check of the weather forecast showed that tomorrow would be wetter so I decided to head out.
I drove over towards Ballynamona direction and decided to check for the Barred Warbler, Whinchat and Buff-bellied Pipit.
Arriving at about 10.30am I parked up and began checking the roadside bushes and hedgerows where I'd had the bird last Sunday. Sadly however it all seemed much quieter today with the only birds present being a few Greenfinches, a Robin, Song Thrush and a few Blackbirds. I gave it about 45 minutes before deciding to myself that the bird had moved on! As I write this entry at home now I have just received a tweet from Cork Bird News that Ger Walsh has had the bird at that exact spot.....d'oh!
Anyway, I moved further up the road on foot towards the car park and could see a chat sitting up on the right hand side of the road. However looking at it through my bins I could see it was a female Stonechat...darn! I'd only gone a few paces further when a second bird appeared sitting up on the hedgerow on the opposite side of the road and this turned out to be the Whinchat. Still there after all! I decided the best bet for a shot was to use the car as a hide so I went back and set up my gear in the car and drove carefully back towards the spot where it'd been. The bird was quite obliging, at times sitting quite close to the car but all the shots I got were of it against a dull, milky-grey sky and apart from being tricky to expose properly it didn't really look that nice. Plus the bird was quite mobile, often flying around the other side of the hedgerow or disappearing altogether. OK, maybe the Buff-bellied Pipit would be easier!! Let's try that instead I thought.
I parked up at the beach carpark and began making my way towards the lake. About half-way along I picked up the bird on the decaying weed. As I mentioned in a previous post there is a heck of a lot of weed on Ballynamona Strand right now so plenty of insects for wintering Pipits and Wagtails to feed off.

Ballynamona Strand 8th November 2011 - loads of weed!

A tweet just then from Cork Bird News said that Ger Walsh had had a Water Pipit at Silver Strand Ballycotton. That might be worth checking later!
I spent about an hour on and off with the Buff-bellied Pipit but the grey light meant crisp sharp shots were difficult.
Buff-bellied Pipit - Ballynamona Strand 8th November 2011
A kind dog walker asked me if the silver Saab in the carpark with its boot open was mine.....no wonder I lose stuff at Ballycotton!!! I headed back to shut it....this isn't going too well I thought. On returning I met Ger, he'd had a juv. AGP and the White-rumped Sandpiper at the back of the lake, too distant for shots though. The tide started to come in and as a high tide roost formed further up the beach Ger kindly showed me a juvenile-type Ringed Plover amongst the flock of other Ringed Plover, Sanderling and Dunlin which was smaller and darker than the rest suggesting it may be of the sub-species tundrae. Interesting stuff and worth keeping an eye out for over the coming months.
I decided to give the Whinchat one final go and drove slowly back down the road. It was still there and with a little break in the clouds the light was slightly better. The bird continued to move around fly-catching but as before all the shots were against the back-ground of a dull sky. If only it would sit against the hedge or even for a moment lower down in the hawthorn. It paid no attention at all to my car and at one stage flew within a few feet of my face as it chased a flying insect. Finally it perched on a low barbed wire fence. With a nice green back-drop this was my chance for a shot. Holding my heavy 500mm lens in my right hand balanced against the drivers door window and steering with my left hand, I edged carefully forward in first gear. When I felt close enough to get a shot and not spook the bird, I fired the shutter 3 or 4 times. Just then the bird flew, I checked the camera and one of the frames looked sharp. That'll do, time to go before I break any further rules of safe motoring!!
Whinchat - handheld (with one hand!)

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