Saturday, 5 December 2009

Pomarine Skua and Bittern

In our never-ending quest to film all the birds of the Western Palearctic in HD, some species turn out to be trickier than others. Ring-necked Parakeets and plasticky Egyptian Geese are like falling off a log here in central London, but other species are by their very nature a whole lot harder. This applies to pelagic species in their entirety. The last time we filmed European Storm-petrel there were two black pixels, separated by a white one. Not top-quality footage.

The photo galleries had been filling up all week with some stunning shots of a photogenic Pomarine Skua over in Gloucestershire. Last night a quick check of Gloster Birder confirmed it was still in residence, and a commando Saturday twitch was planned, via a rendezvous with a bird of an entirely different sort. So forgive me whilst I digress for a moment:

For those of you who are trapped within the confines of the M25, let me recommend my favourite source of Interesting Things To Do. Ianvisits is a London institution, and I look forward to his weekly email. It's packed full of entertaining ideas, lots free, for enjoying London to the full. It's often quirky, occassionally ever-so-slightly anoraky, but ALWAYS up-to-date and chock-full of stuff. Ian, we salute you. (Not least because I once starred in one of his blog-posts in my alternative life).

So - this morning's first outing was scheduled. We were to intercept a Bittern as it passed through Slough en route to the Pom Skua. Maps were consulted to find a bridge over the mainline railway from Paddington to Slough, and I eventually found myself in a leafy Slough suburb. The Bittern was duly twitched.
Hooray. A marvellous moment as this miracle of steam passed underneath the bridge. Then onward to Beachley, just over the old Severn crossing.
Here's the small twitch. The Pom was in residence at this point but hiding under a tussock - we waited for about half an hour and then it treated us to a fly-by down to about two feet! It's a ridiculously confiding bird. Here frame-grabs. I'll do some YouTube tomorrow with any luck...Some of you may find the following images revolting disturbing. If you don't like rotting sheep brain then look away now!
What a bird! It's slightly tatty - but top marks for filmability and general loveliness. I did warn you about the sheep. So - thanks to all of the kind and helpful birders we met today, and those who were texting me with updates. It was a really great twitch.

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