It all started so well! It was the year I was determined to enjoy my photography again and get my mojo back. I was determined to get out more birding, attempt some nightscapes with a new lens and I had a stack of gigs lined up with photo passes and a meet & greet for an intimate gig with Joanne Shaw Taylor at the Liverpool Arts Club. Harnessing that enthusiasm I was at Crosby Marine Lake on a bright and sunny January 3rd for a Long-tailed Duck. It was yet another 1st winter female, oh how I long for another crack at another male, but still, a decent local bird to kick off the the new year, and it showed well on the small boating lake.
A couple of days later, and a showy juvenile Purple Heron in Lancashire at Eagland Hill. I’ve only ever seen one Purple Heron in the North West, at Leighton Moss years ago, so a trip was arranged. I even managed to persuade my long time twitching partner to venture out, that itself is a rarity these days. Arriving early-ish the bird was instantly available in a small weedy field next to a barn, aptly a Barn Owl ghosted through the field on silent wings and disappeared through a barn window as we got out of the car. The field was well overgrown and despite striding through the field it was amazing just how much it seemed to ‘hide’ behind dead thistles.
Next up was trip to Marshside to find the Long-billed Dowitcher that had been around for a couple of weeks. What I didn’t consider was the overnight frost. This resulted in the bird not being present at its usual location and viewable from the bottom of Glencoyne Drive. The despite the Dowitcher not being present I was determined to shoot something and a large flock of Wigeon were feeding close to the hedge on Marshside Road.
Two days later and I was down at the office for an afternoon sales meeting so I managed to get a couple of hours at Whipsnade Zoo. I have said for years that I don’t ‘do’ zoos for photography. There is no doubt that many zoological societies do great things for species conservation around the world, I just prefer not to see my wildlife caged. I was only at the zoo for the male Black-throated Thrush that was devouring the berries near the Education Centre. It had been a long time since my last male Black-throated Thrush on the isle of Bute, in a Rothesay garden. Then I photographed the bird through a dirty double-glazed kitchen window, so I wanted to make the most of this bird on a gloriously sunny morning. The bird was typically elusive when I was on a short time window. Two hours of waiting from opening time, then just as I started to give up of it returning to its favoured tree it arrived and perched on branch in the under story and in shade. More time would have to be spent with the bird. Fortunately the zoo is only 8 miles or so from the office, so i stayed and glad I did too.
Two days later I made a scheduled work visit to Norfolk and spent some time in the morning overlooking a dung heap. An over wintering Eastern Yellow Wagtail of the sub species tschutschensis had been feeding around a dung heap near Sedgeford. It was quite a cold and grey day but the bird showed quite well around the mud & sludge draining from the dun heap. Certainly an interesting bird that seems to have been allocated the English Common name of Alaskan Wagtail as the bird has a foothold in Alaska. You never know what the taxonomists are likely to do so definitely an insurance tick.
Another couple of days later and I was back at Marshside for the Long-billed Dowitcher, this time the bird was at its usual snoozing location and that was just how we found it. I would prove to be another stake out for the bird to wake up and start to feed or preen, or just anything.
February would see me leave the country three times with two trips to Netherlands and one to Sweden, none of those trips gave the opportunity for serious birding or photography. It wasn’t until the 17th when a visit to Grimsby for another Black-throated Thrush Male before travelling to see a customer in Cleethorpes. Unlike the Whipsnade bird that was feeding on berries this bird was a ground feeder and taking worms out of the saturated ground at the local college. This bird was not as bright as the bird in Bedfordshire and even had a couple of bent feathers on the bird’s right hand side. This meant waiting until it was face on or facing left.
Same day but in the evening I had my first gig of the year. I’d secured a photo pass for Beth Hart at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester and she was supported by Kris Barras who performed an acoustic set. Instructions for this shoot was that I had to shoot from the sides or from the back of the auditorium. This was the first time I had used the 500 f4 at a gig. To be honest it was nowhere near as an enjoyable shoot as some of the smaller venues I have shot at, despite having much better lighting. This is the first gig that I have treated the shoot like a job and left after 5 songs.