Saturday 29 September 2012

7th time lucky

A couple more attempts to get better pictures of the Short-billed Dowitcher at Lodmoor had come to nought earlier this week. It had been showing very well at the start of the week but by the time I went back on Wednesday evening heavy rain had raised water levels over some of its closer feeding areas. Although present, it was frustratingly distant.

Short-billed Dowitcher in the shadow of a Heron

Good light today tempted me back to Weymouth with the family, and with them playing crazy golf nearby I knew I would have a couple of hours with the bird (visiting birders with impatient families please note: drop them off at Lodmoor's Pirate Crazy Golf course as a diversionary tactic. It costs almost as much as a round at the Medinah Country Club, but takes them ages to do the 18 holes). The Dowitcher edged closer but I was still having to use a 2x converter with a 400mm lens - not an ideal combination - to get reasonable pictures.

I changed the angle, but couldn't quite get the Heron's reflection out of shot
After a couple of hours a Sparrowhawk flushed everything on the scrape including the Dowitcher, which called as it went. I lost sight of it in flight and was unable to relocate it. Shortly after I was joined by Brett Spencer, whose photo of this bird (when it was initially thought to be a Long-billed) first alerted the world to its presence when posted online. At about the same time the kids returned with their mum, who was punching the air after a 4-under-par trouncing of her offspring, so we prepared to leave while Brett headed towards the seaward end of the reserve.

A fortunate shot as the Dowitcher took flight

A moment later a shout from Brett had me heading back down the path where he had located the Dowitcher at what felt like point blank range. It wasn't, but it felt like it after two visits with no views and four more with only distant ones. It stood alert for a minute or so before taking flight again. Brett was back for his 8th visit, one more than me, so I was grateful for his shout, and we both felt we had earned our close-up.

A less tightly cropped shot showing more of the Heron's reflection

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