The Birds of Newland’s Corner

Marsh Tit, Newland's Corner

Marsh Tit, Newland’s Corner. Nice to finally put this perch I’d half inched from Tomlin’s Woods to good use, and nice to get the bird I came for.

Just before Christmas in the middle of the cold snap, I’d made the journey to Newlands Corner, hoping to get some landscapes covered in hoar frost. It looked great on the Hog’s Back and I figured with Newland’s Corner being so high up I would see more of the same. Sadly, when I got there it was disappointingly ice free. So I thought I’d have a little look by the feeders and get some snaps. The light wasn’t great, but I was delighted to see there was a Marsh Tit in the area. Their population has been in steady decline, and I’d certainly never seen one before, so a first for me. I also spied a very colourful Bullfinch, and behind the Visitor Centre I saw a couple of Tree Creepers. I resolved to return on a better day and try my luck.

Great Tit, Newland's Corner

Just a Great Tit I know, but I really like this shot, especially the detail in the lichen!

Chaffinch, Newland's Corner

I don’t really get Chaffinch’s round my way, so always good to see and photograph such a colourful bird.

I returned fully equipped with a couple of lichen and moss covered perches, as well as a plentiful supply of nuts. At first there was nothing but the usual Great and Blue Tits, but after a little while the Marsh Tit came in, and fortunately for me, wasn’t at all shy. More than can be said for the Nuthatch. Although I’ve photographed them a few times I’m still yet to get one I’m entirely happy with, but today I got perhaps my best yet.

Nuthatch, Newland's Corner

I find these really difficult to photograph. They’re really quick, and really quite nervous, so unless you’re already focusing on the spot they land on you don’t stand a chance.

Light levels still weren’t great, the clear skies that had been forecast didn’t really materialise, so I was pushing a high ISO with exposures between 1/200th anf 1/400th of a second. Having recently upgraded from the 500D to a 7D I feel I can get away with it a little more, but it’s not ideal. I’d still rather get a good sharp shot with a little noise though, than a noise free but blurred bird.

Robin, Newland's Corner

A Robin, doing what Robin’s do best, trying to bully all the other birds away.

After having lured in the birds with the nuts, I then noticed that the Marsh Tit was feeding on the nuts on the ground right in front of me, so I returned to the car and got my mossy ground perch out, laid it down, and covered the area liberally with nuts! It worked a treat, not only did the Marsh Tit pose nicely on it, but the Nuthatch was becoming increasingly bold and landed right where I wanted him. Even the Jay got over it’s shyness and came right in.

Marsh Tit, Newland's Corner

He wasn’t more than 9 feet from me here, and cared not a jot.

Nuthatch, Newland's Corner

So glad to finally get this kind of shot. It took a few failed attempts, but I think this was about as good as I could hope for.

Jay, Newland's Corner

I’ve never got this close to a Jay before. The main problem was fitting him in the frame. Very greedy he was, I had to stand up to shoo him off before he nicked all the nuts and left nothing for the others.

Part 2

I returned again in mid March, keen to get some more of the nuthatch. It was far brighter second time around, and with shutter speeds of around 1250th sec I was able to freeze the movement of the nuthatch completely.

Nuthatch, Newlands Corner

Nuthatch, Newlands Corner, looking great in their breeding plummage.

The Marsh Tit was still around but not quite so bold this time, but a Pied Wagtail paid a visit, a nice bonus.

Pied Wagtail, Newlands Corner

Pied Wagtail, Newlands Corner. So full of character.

I promised myself no photos of Robins, Blue Tits and Great Tits, but the Robin looked so good I couldn’t resist.

Robin, Newlands Corner

Robin, Newlands Corner. Far easier to photograph than the nuthatch.

I think I’ve finally got the nuthatch out of my system now, so I can move on!

The Waxwings are in Town!

Waxwing, North Camp Station

Waxwing, North Camp Station

Ever since Chris Packham plotted the Waxwing invasion on Autumnwatch a couple of years back I’ve been fascinated by these beautiful birds. If the berry crop fails in Scandanavia then they’ll make the pilgrimage across the North Sea and feed on our Rowan and Pyracantha. I didn’t think I’d be in with a chance of seeing them, but then around January/February my brother told me they were feeding off the apple tree outside his house! For whatever reason I was never able to get over to photograph them, but then not long after they turned up at the end of my garden. It was just a passing visit unfortunately, but I did manage to get a couple of shots a little later, in March, when I was photographing Grebes at Basingstoke Canal. They were high up in a tree, so the shots weren’t great, and ever since I’ve been keen to get some decent ones in the bag.

Waxwing, North Camp Station

Waxwing, North Camp Station

Last year there wasn’t much of an invasion, but this winter seems to be far better. Reports started showing up on the Surrey Bird Club site of them making an appearance in Ewell, then it was Woking, and then finally in Farnborough, at North Camp Station. It seemed too good to be true to have such an exotic looking bird in that most unlikely of wildlife havens that is ‘Norf Camp’.

The week they arrived the weather was, for the most part, pretty awful, but on the 30th the rain stopped, the sun came out, and I made the five minute journey to the station. When I got there around 30+ waxwings were feeding off the berries, but they very soon departed, and then the rain came in. With a little time on my hands I was prepared to wait this one out, along with around a dozen or so other photographers all with their long lenses and tripods. When I got talking to them it turned out a couple of them were photographers I was familiar with on flickr, namely Aaron Gee and Mark Slokey, so it was good to finally meet them.

Waxwing, North Camp Station

Waxwing, North Camp Station

The rain passed off, and not long after the waxwings returned, and this time they stuck around for an hour or so, perching high up on a tree on the opposite side of the road, before all flocking to the berry trees to feed. They spooked pretty easy, and all quickly returned to the safety of the opposite side, but the lure of the berries was too much for them, and every time they flew in they were greeted with the sound of a dozen shutters all firing off continuously!

Two Waxwing, North Camp Station

Two Waxwing, North Camp Station

Waxwing, North Camp Station

The contrast of the black hoarding works well here to separate the bird from the background.

Although the blue skies didn’t return I wasn’t too bothered, I was very happy to get to photograph them at such close quarters. It was sod’s law that the next day, New Year’s Eve, it was a clear day with blue skies, but unfortunately I had a prior engagement. I was still tempted to make a quick diversion, but decided my marriage was more important! Still, at least I’ll have something to aim for next year…

Redwing, North Camp Station

Redwing, North Camp Station. Although I was there for the Waxwing, I think this shot is probably my best from the day. Another attractive visitor from Scandanavia that we only see this time of year.