Monday, 23 February 2015

Ton up!

I'm not sure what the run-rate for a 'good' photo year-list should be by the end of February, but I suspect 100 is well below it. Anyway, that's what I have reached and the honour of being the 100th species captured on film digital recording media falls to the Bohemian Waxwing. Naturally, I had to manipulate the order in which I notched up the ticks on my recent trip to East Anglia to bring up the hundred on such a glamorous species, but, let's be honest, it just wouldn't have been the same if it was a Skylark. We spent Friday night on the way back from Norfolk to Dorset in a budget motel at Barton Mills in Suffolk - conveniently close to Mildenhall where the Waxwing had spent much of the previous week. I was able to twitch it whilst the rest of the family were still doing their morning ablutions.
The Waxwing, a first winter bird, was feeding in prime Waxwing habitat - a modern suburban housing estate
That pesky twig spoilt an otherwise perfectly good photo - one step to the left or right and the bird would have been obscured by the vegetation in front of me (I was using a bush for cover) so there was no way around it. And Photoshop would be cheating.
As a first winter bird, the characteristic waxy red tips to the wing feathers, caused by the shafts extending beyond the barbs, could not be seen in the closed wing, but can just about be seen coming through here in the raised wing
So with that landmark chalked up, I am starting to wonder what I might get to by the year's end, whilst not being sufficiently committed or confident as yet to set a proper target. There is still significant potential for work and family commitments to scupper the whole project and leave me wishing/pretending I had never started it. For now, though, it is time to savour the milestone and admire the beauty of Bombycilla garrulous.

To rack up a really good score would require some of our more elusive and secretive species to perform for the camera. So having mobilised the rest of the family after twitching the Waxwing, I persuaded them that a trip to nearby Lynford Arboretum would be fun, more in hope than expectation that I might catch up with one of the Hawfinches that are seen there from time to time. Fortunately one had been staked out near a feeding station and was showing on and off to a small crowd of admirers. The photos were poor in view of the distance and low light but good enough to pass the 'identifiable' test.
I haven't seen Hawfinch (#108) for a few years so it was good to see one on the ground
This bird fed actively in the leaf litter
Check out that conk!
With two of the most desirable species on the British list in the bag there was time for a more leisurely stroll around the arboretum. A Brambling at the feeding station was a bonus and I was able to improve on the photos of Marsh Tit taken in the garden of our holiday cottage on the Suffolk coast earlier in the week.
Brambling (#109), Lynford Arboretum, Norfolk
Marsh Tit, Lynford Arboretum, Norfolk
Marsh Tit, Lynford Arboretum. Norfolk
Copper-headed Pre-teen, Lesser Blonde Chatterbox and Owl-headed Matriarch were three species I was not expecting to see at Lynford
So, not bad for what was supposed to be a travelling day, three potentially tricky species added to the year list and some quality time with the family (who spent the rest of the journey being totally uncommunicative and playing with handheld electronic devices). Oh go on then, one more of that twig.
Note how it is in perfect focus. The twig, I mean.

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