Friday, 13 June 2014

Choughs, Kites, and Hens

Last weekend I went to an awesome outdoor hen weekend in Wales. A weekend of surfing, horse riding and troughing with near strangers. Not to mention a little birding. It was a great escape from PhD-dom, plus I got to see two of my favourite birds. 

The first chance photo op came when I offered to take snaps of our brave horse riding crew. As Caroline and I rushed down the cliff steps to get into position to shoot the others cantering along the beach there was a jackdaw like call. They were right at the foot of the steps, probing for insects. In our rush, we flushed them.

Luckily, after 15 minutes of snapping horses, they were back and I managed to get a few shots in. For anyone not familiar with choughs, they're AWESOME! Intelligent and curious, they play on the wind in a way jackdaws can only envy. They're mainly insectivorous, and like to forage in grassy areas, particularly grazed pasture. And just look at those amazing red/orange feet and bill. There are roughly 300 pairs around the UK, distributed around coastal cliffs.

Just could NOT get the iso right for the perfect shot

Expert landings on vertical surfaces

My other bird of the weekend were the wonderful red kites around Cardigan Bay. They remind me of my time working at the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre following my MSc. Unsurprisingly, the birds were most numerous as I passed Bwlch Nant yr Arian (where there is a feeding station), and could be seen in great clearly from the road. 

I love a good comeback story (part of why I love white tailed eagles so much), and the kite's is a great one. First releases of Swedish birds took place in 1989, with first successful breeding recorded in 1992. Wild reared birds successuflly nested a few years later, and there are now an estimated 1600 pairs in the UK. Much of the success of the kite reintroduction is the result of the goodwill of local population and the introduction of more stringent protection of both the birds themselves and their nests, not to mention the occasional free feed.

Anyway, these shots were snapped beside the A487, drive along it for long enough and they're a safe bet.

Chance shots from the side of the road

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