Last year was all about the 200 bird challenge. It was a great way of getting myself out of bed in the morning, and it was great fun. But with that completed I’m going to spending my spare time this year concentrating on something else: photography. Or, to be more accurate, film photography.
It doesn’t mean I’m not going to be birding, but the last few years have been all about seeing birds and making sure I get photos of them for social media, etc. Since 2015 I’ve broadened my creative horizons by getting back into film photography – in both medium and large formats – and with this I shoot non-avian subjects. I still take my binoculars with me but if I take my large format camera out on a weekend there’s no room for the DSLR and long lenses so all that has to stay at home.
For this update I’ll be covering the birding that we have done so far this year, and then I’ll soon be telling the story of how and why I got back into shooting film in subsequent posts.
Visits to Epping Forest, Abney Park Cemetery and walks around our reservoirs in early January brought us the usual species: Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Treecreeper, Redwing, Kestrel, Tufted Ducks, etc. The annual wintering Greater Scaup was found on Reservoir #4 and two Green Sandpipers were in the drainage channel north of the Lockwood. Further visits to the Reservoirs brought Goldeneyes (although several attempts to see Goosander were fruitless – always a bird I find elusive when everyone else is reporting them). Peregrines were seen as usual on my commute from Tottenham Hale and also one over my head when I was on the High Maynard.
Most excitingly it turned out to be a good Waxwing winter. Jem and I headed down to Balham to look for a flock that had been active around there. Whenever I see Waxwings in the UK the conditions are bad. The light is always poor and my photos are always uninspiring, and this occasion was no different. When we arrived to the correct location the birds were nowhere to be seen. There were plenty of Redwings and Fieldfares gorging on berries in the same tree the Waxwings had been visiting, but nothing else. After a while the weather turned to freezing rain so we headed off for a walk to keep warm around the neighbourhood to a few other spots where the Waxwings had been reported but to no avail. But when we got back to the original site there they were. The conditions weren’t much better but at least we saw the birds.
February saw a couple more trips around the Reservoirs, and visits to Hainault Country Park and Claybury Woods. The highlights were a Kingfisher and a Sparrowhawk flying past the Reservoirs car park within a minute or two of each other, and Common Buzzard, Skylark and Nuthatch at Hainault. I also took the opportunity at the Reservoirs to practice with focusing on birds in flight – I’d become a bit rusty with the recent emphasis on my photography turning away from birds and Jem and I had recently booked a big holiday: Canada and the USA, with birding in Manitoba, ice-hockey in Pittsburgh, and family fun in Rochester, NY. Oh, and with a stop at Niagara Falls on the way home.
And that’s what my next update will be about…