I spent a few hours down at Port Eynon today in visibility that can best be described as poor. For what seemed like the umpteenth time this year a thick band of fog was again swaddling our bit of South Wales forcing me to abandon my plans for a decent bit of birdwatching along with any hopes of using my scope. Instead I decided to simply enjoy a walk around the coast to see what popped up. As it turned out I didn’t have to go far before the familiar sound of calling Chough reached my ears. A quick scan of the camping fields soon located the culprits but even I wasn’t expecting there to be five of them!
I grabbed a quick record shot through the gloom and was just preparing to creep in closer when a group of walkers coming from the other direction spooked the birds into flight. Fortunately I had the camera pre-focused and by some miracle managed to capture the whole flock as they shot past. In a way I’m glad that the tent got caught in the background as it’s almost as rare a sight as the birds. I mean who goes camping this early in the year?
I thought that was the last I was going to see of them but my good fortune was to continue. Instead of heading off to a quieter area the Choughs instead landed just behind me on the old salthouse ruins. This was a far easier location to approach with a stout wall providing good cover. In no time at all I was in prime position with a Chough filling the frame although I couldn’t help cursing the weather. Here I was with my best ever opportunity to photograph these beautiful birds but with possibly the most inappropriate lighting imaginable. Big black birds against a bright white sky really don’t mix.
I only had a few moments to savour being so close before the next group of walkers passed by, again putting the Choughs into the air. Who’d have thought that so many people would have been at the beach on a day like today. As it turned out the flock once again only moved a short distance, this time into a tree next to where I had originally spotted them. This was an interesting turn up for the books as I have never before seen Choughs sitting in trees. Indeed both while there and looking back at the photos the whole scene seems somewhat surreal.
In all I spent about ten minutes with them, all at a distance of only a couple of metres and all in equally appalling photographic conditions. Every now and then though a tiny bit of sunlight would filter through which really helped to pick out the blood red beaks and legs.
As a parting gift the Choughs again moved, though this time of their own accord, and landed on a fence next to the salthouse ruins. Finally I had a decent background against which I could shoot and got arguably my most pleasing photo of this species to date.
And now for something completely different.
A Rock Goby spotted in one of the many rock pools at Overton Mere.
The rest of my walk was pretty uneventful apart from an ill-judged attempt at rock hopping whilst wearing my older and substantially less grippy boots, as well as a sighting of two pairs of Stonechats. They couldn’t quite entice me into our usual game of cat and mouse though. I blame the weather. One bird that was a lot easier to photograph than normal was this Rock Dove just along the cliff top from Port Eynon Point.
For those pedantics out there I know that truly pure Rock Doves are only found in isolated spots around Scotland and on various offshore islands, but this individuals plumage is as clean as any of those of supposedly true lineage that I have seen previously. In my book this one is therefore going down as a Rock Dove. Whether the county recorder would agree is another matter however….