Well my new camera arrived and I spent all week and the next weekend threatening to throw it straight in the bin and revert back to my old one!! The photos were all too pale, the focussing kept going out of whack halfway through taking a picture and I kept pressing buttons I didn't even know were there. Highly frustrating! But after a while of persevering, and some research on the internet, and some email advice from Mike, I realised that the settings I was trying to use were all wrong for bird photography, and it was just a case of changing a few things here and there. It was clear that I would have to learn a lot, since there seemed to be twice as many things to think about on this camera compared to the last, but at least I had the basics OK for now. Some practise pics from the first week are shown below.
Very soon I got a chance to try out the camera with a proper rare bird as a Black-winged Stilt turned up at the Claire Mare whilst we were all enjoying the Tuesday off for Liberation Day. I didn't go down to see it straight away as I thought that the light would be much better in the evening for some good photos and I was glad I waited. Not exactly difficult to pick out as it waded through the water, but it was a bit far away for any more than record shots, but luckily it came closer and closer until it was right in front of us. I managed some terrific photos and terrific views of this classy wader. Black-winged Stilt is becoming almost expected every spring nowadays and this was my fifth sighting in Guernsey - but still, always worth a twitch.
The day after the Stilt, the 10th May, there was a report of a Golden Oriole in the Talbot Valley in the morning, so I headed up there during my lunch hour, not really expecting to see it but you never know (Golden Oriole is only one of two 'non-official-rarity' birds I still need for Guernsey). So I went for a stroll down the road a little way from the top of the valley and had excellent views of a male Bullfinch and two singing Firecrests. Firecrest seems to be really increasing as a breeding bird here on the island.
After school the same day I stopped at the top car park at Pulias for a quick scan out the window, when all of a sudden, the Royal Tern appeared out of nowhere right above my car and flew into Pecqueries Bay! It carried on straight away and I revved the engine to try and cut it off at the next headland. I screeched to a halt there and waited for it to fly over but there was no sign of it doing so. I walked back towards the bay and found the bird just sitting there on the rocks with the large gulls. I scrambled over the pebbles onto the beach to try and get some photos but there was no sign of it stood in the same place and it must have took flight without me noticing. Again - as this bird seems to do - it appeared from out of nowhere and started circling the bay and hanging in the breeze. I hadn't learnt how to do flight shots yet with the new camera and so it was a bit hit and miss, but I managed to get the best photo I had taken so far of this mega rare bird.
Despite these couple of rarities, there were still not a great deal of migrants around - in fact this was one of the worst springs I can remember on patch for general numbers and variety. On 11th May there was a small influx of Spotted Flycatchers and I had one at Pulias and one at Le Guet. Three Painted Ladies at Chouet after school indicated to me that perhaps the birds had finished and it was now time to look for insects.