January 2007

More pictures from Slimbridge - bittern, white-fronted goose and tundra bean goose.




white-fronted goose

tundra bean goose

After years of deliberation, I've switched to using Canon gear for my bird photography. Although it is undoubtedly the photographer who makes a good photograph, it is also clear that Canon supertelephoto lenses with image stabilisation (IS) often deliver quality that Nikon lenses cannot. Nikon has adopted a strange strategy where it introduced stabilisation into shorter focal length lenses, but did not put it where it really counts - in the long focal length lenses. I've therefore followed a considerable number of photographers who have made this switch (see for example Omar Brannstrom and Mark Chappell's discussions on these matters). I prefer my Nikon body to the Canon one, but the superior lens quality of Canon, plus the better compatibility between converters, extension tubes and lenses which all maintain IS and autofocus with the 500mm lens left me in no doubt about moving. My first shots with the Canon gear were of a great crested grebe eating a fish at Chew (other birds included a female scaup, and a red-breasted merganser), and of the purple sandpipers (4 present on 27th) at Battery Point, Portishead (where a rock pipit was in song flight).

great crested grebe eating fish

purple sandpiper

Click on the purple sandpiper for more images

Slimbridge continues to hold some quality birds. During an afternoon visit on 21st I saw 3 tundra bean geese, a pink-footed goose and a peregrine. While watching the bittern in the reedbed outside the Zeiss hide at about 16.00h, I scoped the gull flock on the Dumbles and saw the first-winter, very white glaucous gull that has been in the area for most of the month. There is also a decent starling roost of about 7000 birds present now.

Local birds included a blackcap in Flax Bourton on 6th, and an adult Mediterranean gull at the Axe estuary on 13th.

On 4th I saw the first-winter drake SURF SCOTER at Beer. Also present were at least 3 red-throated divers, a black-throated diver, guillemots, gannets and fulmars. A black redstart (photo below) fed around the beach huts, together with a stonechat. At Bowling Green Marsh a distant grey phalarope fed by spinning close to the reed bed. There was no sign of the falcated duck at Exminster marshes.

black redstart

I visited Slimbridge on 3rd to see the bittern. After waiting for an hour, the bird walked into a channel immediately in front of the Zeiss hide. There were 3 spotted redshanks and 15 ruff among the waders on the Tack Piece, and a tundra bean goose with the white-fronted geese. Other birds included a little stint, a knot, many golden plover and 2 peregrines.


On the morning of 1st I saw a great northern diver at Cheddar reservoir. There was a pair of smew at Chew Valley Lake, together with a long-tailed duck and several goosanders. I also heard a water pipit there.