Ring Ouzels

12th November 2012
Thousands of wintering thrushes are coming in to the Beacons now, quickly hoovering up the Rowan and Hawthorn berries. These birds can strip trees of their fruit very quickly in an almost Locust like fashion. Up in the nearby Elan valley there was a super abundance of Rowan and Hawthorn berries this Autumn, trees were laden with fruit, one week later they had been completely stripped by Redwings and Fielfares. There were only a few small trees left with any berries, these were situated in two car parks quite close together. I had a message that some passage Ring Ouzels were in the area, these are Scandinavian birds which pass through Wales every Autumn but are usually very difficult to get near because they are painfully shy. However, because there were only these few trees left with any fruit there was a fair chance they would be nearby. I decided to travel there the next day after I had the message, you can't afford to wait as they don't hang around, once the fruit is eaten then they are on their way South.
I arrived at one of the car parks at first light but after 15 mins waiting there were no birds to be seen so I moved on to the other car park and after a few minutes I spotted a male Ring Ouzel. You have to take it very easily with these birds they are very spooky indeed, one male bird I had been watching at another location a week previously, in an old quarry, was incredibly wary and would not come anywhere near as soon as he saw any movement.
I positioned my car where I thought the best angle was to the Rowan trees where I had first seen the bird and I sank down in the seat with a lens resting on a bean bag, immediately I could hear the distinctive 'chuck chuck' call that they make, but I could hear another noise and as I looked in my mirror a car pulled into the car park. With all the car park to choose from this guy in a suit came and parked right between me and the Ouzel tree. He got out of his car, looked at me, with a Canon 600mm lens sticking out of my car window, draped in Camo netting, pointing at a tree right behind him and proceeded to get a flask out of his car and pour a cup of tea or coffee. I found it incredible that someone could be so lacking in common sense, he was standing there with a white shirt on just looking at me while stirring his drink with a spoon he produced from his inside pocket. While I accept fully that it was his right to park wherever he chose and I have found from experience that it's no good saying anything because it only makes people dig their heels in and come out with it's a free country etc. I just found it so strange that at 07.30 in the morning in an isolated location with someone obviously trying to photograph 'something' that you would choose to park in the very worst spot possible. I really thought that the day was ruined for me because these birds will not come anywhere near with someone standing out in the open, especially with a white shirt on!
Then something seemed to click and he must have realised that he was being a plonker and he just got into his car and left with no prompting from me.
I must say I was very relieved because as the morning goes on there is less chance of a shot because it is a very popular area, so I settled down again and waited.
I heard the bird again and amazingly, again in my mirror, I could see three male birds in the tree right behind me. I thought I'd picked the wrong tree but it's no good trying to move you just have to put up with it, however, after 5 minutes or so they began to fly into the tree I was looking at. This was a very rare opportunity and although the tree branches were awkward I managed to get some reasonable shots. I was very happy to have the opportunity to get some shots as it could be years before another opportunity arises.
Please see UK Birds, Ring Ouzels.