Thursday 4 April 2013

You wait for ages...

I've been back and forth to Portland this week like a quarry lorry. Blame the triple helping of Bluethroats. I did go specifically for the first one, but on my last two visits the damned things just kept turning up, each one more brightly marked than the last.

Wheatear, Chesil Beach
Wheatear, Portland Bill
First stop yesterday was at Ferrybridge, where a Kentish Plover present the day before could not be relocated. Then to an unpromising looking grassy patch at the south end of Chesil Beach which held at least 5 photogenic Wheatears. Onwards to Avalanche Road, where a pair of Ring Ouzels showed even better than at the weekend, though I had to lie down amid the horse dung on the edge of their chosen paddock to get the light behind me. Fortunately, like my fingers, most of it was frozen solid so didn't stick.

Ring Ouzel, Avalanche Road
Ring Ouzel, Avalanche Road
A not very thorough twirl around a windswept Portland Bill added nothing of note to the day's sightings, and the third male Bluethroat of recent weeks had by then been relocated so I headed back to Chesil Cove for a look. As I approached a small group of waiting birders the Bluethroat flew past me and into cover. So I'd seen it, but not a great view.

Sandwich Tern, Chesil Cove
Cormorant, Chesil Cove
Sandwich Terns fishing in the Cove provided a welcome distraction while we waited and eventually the Bluethroat reappeared to feed on the shoreline rocks. Chesil Cove was sheltered from the worst of the cold winds, so it was good to thaw out in the presence of such a photogenic bird.

Bluethroat, Chesil Cove
Bluethroat, Chesil Cove
This was a very flighty individual, and while it came briefly onto the path at our level it was soon flushed by some dog walkers back down to the beach below. When it comes to lying down in excrement for a photo, horse is one thing, but I draw the line at dog, and there was plenty of it to avoid it along this stretch of the West Weares footpath.
This bird showed a broader red breast band than the two previous males on Portland.
The white spot on the throat was also more obvious than the other two males
Nick Hopper and I were just leaving the main crowd behind and heading for our cars when the Bluethroat sat up in front of us on a rock. Portland stone has been used to builds citadels, castles and cathedrals, so it's good for many things, but making exposures easy for the photographer is not one of them, especially if the subject is a small brown bird on its sun-bleached surface. Churlish to complain though given how many opportunities the famous rock has presented to see this species lately.

Struggled a bit with the exposure on this one
A flash of yellow gape, as if red, white and blue weren't enough.

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