Saturday 3 August 2013

Take me to the river!

I wanted to head back up to the Lielupe river area to try for some better Red-backed Shrike photos but it was harder than I first thought. I got into position opposite one of their favourite posts, made myself comfortable and started to wait. No sign after an hour and the sun which was beating down on my back was getting hotter and hotter (mid summer in Latvia can be in the mid-thirties, hard to believe that in mid winter it can be in the minus mid-thirties!).
Eventually the male appeared flying towards the post but obviously got sight of me at the last minute and banked away. The strategy appears to consist of the male keeping a watchful eye on the family as they hunt. He perches atop a high tree or post scanning the area for any danger and calls the juvenile away with a few screechy sounding alarm calls if danger beckons. If he decides to move them to a new area, he seems to check it out first and then calls them to him once the coast is clear. What a good Dad!

The sentinel keeps watch!

Meanwhile one of the youngsters hunts below - look at the size of those feet!

So the up-shot of all that is getting a photo of any of them will be quite tricky. Also the light was very strong and the day was very hot.
I decided to leave the area and take a little stroll around. Perhaps I might come across that Wryneck again. As I passed a small stand of conifers a movement caught my eye. A small Phyllosc was poking around the upper branches of a stunted fir tree. At first I thought it was a Willow Warbler, then a very pale Wood Warbler before I finally saw the thin off-white wing bar and realised it was a Greenish Warbler. It didn't hang around for long but I was pretty pleased to have seen it all the same.
After that, I found a path that went past some apple orchards before coming out onto some open uncut meadow. I hadn't taken this route before and figure now that if I had been here earlier in the summer the chances would have been good for Corncrake, it was perfect habitat and the bird is still hanging on in Latvia. Anyway, before I reached the open meadow I had a couple of Reed Warblers, several juvenile Common Whitethroats and another RB Shrike family (they've done well this year it seems).
I was just thinking Whinchat when off in the distance I could see a small chat like bird sitting up on a piece of thistle. As I scanned I could pick out three of four more including two rather shaggy looking adults (obviously moulting). I had to do a bit of creeping around on my belly before I could get in anyway close for a shot. This juvenile posed on a clump of nettles before catching sight of me and hare-tailing it off in a right hurry. The result is not too bad though, if I say so myself.

Whinchat, Lielupe River, Jurmala, Latvia - 2nd August 2013

After that I took off home. Today I gave the birding a break but stayed in the back garden all afternoon. I even cut the grass for Polina's Mum. I was rewarded with the presence a very nice Lesser Whitethroat mooching around some bushes by the back fence. What great garden birds!

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