Thursday, November 10, 2011

Adventures in the United Kingdom - the Recap Part 5 - Wildlife in Windsor Great Park October 13th

Having walked directly down the Great Walk to Snow Hill and the Copper Horse I quickly deviated from the paved walkway, exploring a good sized woodlot to the west of the statue. I was able to get bad, but identifiable shots of Great Spotted Woodpecker and Spotted Thrush. One of the real highlights of that area was a group of young Pheasants that were passing me as I descended the hillside. They kept their distance, but our directions were generally merging, and it was a nice few minutes of watching stealthy birds try to move more slowly than my notice. The ground wasn't the only source of interest though. Birds were also in the trees, this Great Tit for instance.

All the while Pheasants lurking.....I thought this shot really highlighted the adaptation of their plumage for camouflage. What are feathers and what are fern leaves? In all honesty, at the time I wasn't sure what these birds were. It was my first experience with this age of Pheasant, and I wondered if they weren't some form of grouse. Going to a place where the majority of birds are unknown kept me guessing. I also noticed that I had a much more difficult time picking birds out of the canopy. In past posts I have noted my repeated experience of finally spotting a long sought bird, and then refinding the species several times over the following days. One of my impressions from this trip is that the same brain function seems to happen on a larger scale as well. My visual cortex didn't seem to be dialed in on the patterns and shapes of unknown birds. I could hear them, and even spot motion, but until I had really picked a species out they would remain hidden far longer than I would have expected were I birding on familiar territory.

On the flip side, once I 'got to know' a species I would pick them up far more readily. Granted, the Blue Tit below was fairly obvious against a bare trunk, but they became frequent sights over the course of the trip.

I left the wooded hillside, and headed north across open fields, keeping the Long Walk in sight off my right shoulder. I was heading generally closer to where the Red Deer had been on my visit the day before. I spotted this lone bull, and gave it plenty of space as I walked past at an angle.

Despite my distance and passing route the deer eventually decided he had enough of my presence and camera and wandered off.

Meanwhile, I had arrived at a small pond I had noticed the previous evening. With clear skies and a sinking sun I had much better light for this visit. Common Moorhens are colorful sights on the water. Their red and yellow bills are very impressive against a mostly black body.

I don't think Egyptian Geese are going to be mistaken for classic beauties often. I will give them high marks for having a striking appearance though. They are certainly well suited to picking up the colors of fall.

I had just moved beyond the pond, when I suddenly found myself in an uncomfortable situation. A different male deer had crested a small rise, and I found myself too close for assured comfort, with a lake directly behind me. The male was 'roaring', and headed towards the walk, and the herds I knew to be beyond it. I didn't stick around for the 'killer' shot, opting for the middle ground of a short move to show him I was not a challenge, and then see what I could get for a photo. Unfortunately, (or fortunately), he moved off and didn't give me another direct look. Even in passing the shot is good enough to show the velvet shedding from his antlers. Definitely a memorable experience.

Having determined that he was not going to charge me, I settled back to the geese, getting another Egyptian Goose to pose on land.

Once again the sun was getting low, Windsor and London sit at roughly the same latitude as Calgary. That gave extended periods of soft light, and I took the opportunity to get a slightly different view of the castle towers.

Even though the day was winding down, and I was heading back towards a welcome seat at a pub, I still had one more memorable interaction in store.

Red Kite!

I was just at the point of leaving the deer enclosure fence along the long walk, when I spotted this bird working on a kill farther down the clipped lawn. It gave me a few looks, but I had sat down against a tree and was willing to watch as long as the bird remained.

It did just that, allowing me many shots, and a memory card swap, before a walker on the path behind it finally set it to flight. I believe it had finished its meal at that point, and was just waiting for a bit of motivation before moving to a perch to roost and digest.

A great sight, and a wonderful conclusion to a long and memorable day in Windsor. The remainder of my walk was highlighted by views of the castle, and anticipation of a good pint when I reached town.

The following day, Friday the 14th, I would meet my parents when they arrived in the early afternoon, but the question was how I would spend my morning...

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