Monday, 25 February 2013

Shropshire - 2nd Feb

A weekend visit to the beautiful county of Shropshire beckoned at the start of the month, and hopefully a visit to Gigrin Farm just over the border in Wales, that never came to fruition so I left Nat asleep and was off to find myself some of the local hotspots.

I had been reading on the Shropshire Ornithological Societies bird reports about a fairly showy Green-winged Teal at Polemere a small reserve about 20miles away on the outskirts of Shrewsbury, having dipped on the Blashford one the weekend before this seemed a logical place to start. I must admit on arrival I expected something a little bigger, on first appearances Polemere NR is nothing more than an flooded farm pond, with a hide plonked on the horse paddock over looking the water.

And to be honest thats exactly what it was, but what a haven for wildlife. Positioned right in the middle of some arable farmland, just a few trees and a couple of hedgerows surrounding it. I could instantly see a fair few Teal, Greylag Geese, Wigeon, Coot, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Tufted Duck, Canada Goose & a lone domestic farm Goose all from the comfort of cushioned seats and a carpeted hide.

The sun was pitching in quite nicely on the water and certainly helped in searching for that special Teal. I guess in total around 250 Teal graced the farmland water a lot less than the 2000 or so the week before at Blashford. But after a good hour and a half of continual Drake Teal scanning, nothing more exciting than a common Teal Drake having a good stretch and wing flap presented itself.

Drake Teal
From Polemere I ventured north east towards Venus Pool, a reserve I have heard quite a lot about on various other blogs and websites. Run by the Shropshire Ornithological Society I was quite surprised by the amount of cars in the car park, as I headed the short way down the lovely clean gravel path to the first hide. 2 White-fronted Geese instantly presented themselves 60 yards or so from the hide in amongst the Greylags. My first new Year tick for the weekend. (and my last), unfortunately the amount of cars made sense now as the hide was bursting with Photographers, an unusual occurrence for me, usually there are a lot more twitchers.

So no room to squeeze in and get a photograph. The other hides where a lot quieter and I soon picked out a drake Pintail asleep on one of the islands. Plenty of Lapwing continuously flew off and circled before coming back in to land back on the spit they just left. They were soon joined by a large flock of Snipe, a good 65-70 strong mimicking the Lapwings behaviour.

The woodland bird feeding station was quite a site, with a ridiculously large number of common garden birds visiting the various feeding stations present. A shame the trees blocked out so much light to prevent some decent photography. Nice to see a good dozen or more Greenfinch making light work of the sunflower seeds.

After a bit of a do at home on Saturday night, Sunday morning required some fresh air, with Nat in tow this time we decided to have another crack at Polemere for the GW Teal. Fair to say not a lot was different than the day before other than the arrival of a pair of Goosander and 3 Snipe. Still no Green-winged Teal!

Having the topic of my photography brought up at Saturday nights party, I was told of a place we should visit for some easy access to Fallow Deer. And although I've said in the path I think this is cheating a little bit, I decided to go with the flow and do the same as everyone else. It's not like I am going to pretend they were wild animals!

Attingham Park is also on the outskirts of Shrewsbury and just 2 miles or so away from Venus Pool, home of a very large herd of Fallow Deer that are fed at weekends during the winter. Having arrived a good hour before the scheduled 'feeding' time, I said to Nat it would be good if we could get some shots before they all disappear off to be fed. How I rued those words. We followed the signs to the deer park seemingly walking miles and miles before eventually coming across the 300+ strong herd in the field not to far from the car park.

A good 3 mile looped walk if only we had gone the other way. With 10 mins or so to go until feeding time I quickly tried to pick out some single subjects, trying to capture one individual as a natural photo rather than the massive huddle that formed as a few visitors tried to get closer from all angles. It's fair to say I took exactly 7 photographs before a Pickup full up with sugar beat arrived and led all the deer away down the hill to near enough the car park and main house.

This seemed remarkably idiotic to me as a good 60 people stood waiting a top the hill, having walked through shitty muddy puddles and soggy waterlogged parkland to be told they would have to walk all the way back through it again straight away.

Then to make matters worse the deer were fed in a small gully, meaning only there heads could be seen as they enjoyed there daily food. It just made me think what a bunch of idiots the National Trust staff at Attingham Park are. It was a real shame the light was so dull as this location minus visitors and idiotic staff had a lot of potential for some nice shots.

Fallow Buck
Fallow Buck

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