Sunday, 15 January 2017

Gloucs & Oxon mini tour 14 January 2016

Waxwings are always a good, albeit challenging photographic subject. With the Oxford birds seemingly gone, the most reliable location appeared to be Cheltenham where a flock of about 40 birds had been reported everyday from the same location for at least the last week.

So I set the alarm clock fairly early, and arrived before the shops opened and the roads started to get congested. On arrival, I first drove past a small group of birders apparently staring at an empty tree, before spotting the Waxwing flock nearby in the top of another. This early, parking was no problem and I could start taking photos immediately from behind the open car boot!

These birds appeared to favour 3 locations within about 100m of each other - the tree on the corner, a group of trees and bushes down a quieter side road by Buildbase and the main tree with berries over the main road - that needed to be viewed from the opposite side. As the morning progressed, this became hardly the most peaceful spot with a constant stream of cars (and larger vehicles) going between the lens and the birds! Later on a thin stream of pedestrians began to add to the disturbance. Not surprisingly, the Waxwings only came down to these berries very briefly and I found it difficult to get onto them in the time available before they all flew off for the next half hour or so. This was however probably the best place for photos as a few of the berries were in sun (when it was out) and hung down from the rest of the tree giving a clean background. Only once though did I get a shot of a bird feeding there - but the shot was rather spoilt by the shadow across the birds head:

Waxwing with berry - goto my website for a larger image

This is another photo of a bird in the same tree, but slightly higher up and with a more cluttered background:
Waxwing without berry - goto my website for a larger image

Birds resting in trees are much easier targets, as they spend a lot of time hanging around not doing very much, but often the view is then somewhat distant and from below. Just once, some birds appeared in a tree just behind us, on the same side of the road, and I managed to get this well light shot:
Goto my website for a larger image

I also spent some time down the side street that was a good deal quieter to start with at least. Here the bushes included mistletoe:

Goto my website for a larger image

Dropped it!

After the better part of 3 hours here, the intermittent sun seemed to finally disappear into cloud and with more and more people around, it seemed time to go. 

My next destination was Middleton Stoney where I walked down the muddy track to the pig farm to find a Cattle Egret quite close - but it flew before I could deploy the lens and the chance was missed. Thereafter views were very distant, and I heard with interest that several other birders there had just come from Dix Pit where the male Smew as apparently "showing well". Having dipped on this at Pit 27 last week, this sounded like a good chance to connect with it. 

So I decided to truncate my viewing of pigs and distant white blobs and headed off to Dix while there was still a bit of daylight left. Arriving there, I parked as directed at the recycling centre end and walked the short distance along the gravel path to the viewing area where the Smew had been performing earlier to find... nothing! After some time here without any sign, I decided to walk further on, and passed the restored stone circle (a bit bizarre) to another viewing spot closer to the northern end. From here there was no sign either, so I retraced my steps to give the first viewing area another go. At last I spotted it briefly way over the far side, and close in to the shore, but by the time I had set the lens up it had almost reached the nearer island. It then disappeared behind the island, to eventually appear at the other end. But it showed no sign of coming any closer, and with the light fading it was time to call it a day.


  1. Thanks Jim. Still waiting for the killer image though (although I guess we all are generally)!