Thursday, September 26, 2013

Bird of the Century! - 09 Aug 2013

Red Kite
Aptly named by the British Trust for Ornithology, the Red Kite (Milvus milvus) is truly one spectacular bird, and a wonderful success story.  After almost disappearing completely from the countryside of England the bird has been re-introduced, and is now flourishing in many locations near London. In just three short days we saw dozens of these magnificent birds, especially in the small town of Monks Risborough in the county Buckinghamshire, near the home of Ros and Pete Haigh, where Robin and I spent a wonderful weekend enjoying new families, new friends, new ales (Piddle in a Bottle), and some new birds.

We arrived in London early Thursday morning and were greeted by Tim and Maria Haigh, who had invited us to  spend the weekend celebrating their recent marriage and renewal of vows for Tim's family and friends here in England.  Robin was asked to be maid of honor, and I was asked to play the part of wedding photographer / paparazzi. The plan was to drive to Monks Risborough to visit his parents, participate in a wedding rehearsal, have dinner,  and relax.  The celebration service was going to take place at St. Dunstan's parish in Monks Risborough.
St. Dunstan's is the oldest recorded parish in all of England.  The Haigh's belong to the parish, and Peter is a bell ringer for St. Dunstan's, so I would have the opportunity to see the bell tower and photograph some kites from atop the church! The church itself is gorgeous, full of history and complete with cemetery and ancient Roman ruins (some of which were still being excavated). Click on the image at left for a short slideshow tour of the parish.

While viewing the countryside from atop the church roof I had the opportunity to capture some flyby pics of a pair of Red Kites that were soaring nearby.

The Peacock Inn
After the rehearsal we headed to the Peacock Inn, a lovely Bed & Breakfast just a few miles away.  Martin, the proprietor of the inn, was a wonderful man with a very dry sense of humor who took great care of us while we visited.  We would enjoy wonderful dinners and breakfasts at the inn during the course of the weekend, and with great views out of our windows upstairs, we had a hard time saying goodbye.  The cows kept us company during the morning, while Kestrels provided a little bit of digiscoping opportunity from our hotel room.

Common Kestrel

European Robin
During the morning hours, before we would hook up with the Haighs, I would spend some time wandering the nearby fields and roads looking for birds.  A small farm next door provided nice opportunities to see some Robins, Blue Tits, Long-tailed Tits, Willow Warblers, Common Buzzards, more Red Kites, and Blackbirds.

Wood Pigeon

Ring-neck Dove

Green Woodpecker

Common Blackbird

Willow Warbler

Long-tailed Tit

Blue Tit

Grey Wagtail
Tim came by mid-morning and picked us up at the Peacock Inn.  We headed back to Appletreewick (Ros & Pete's House) and were planning to do a local day trip around Oxford, but Robin wasn't feeling too well.  So, she stayed w/ Ros and Pete, while Maria, Rebecca, Tim, Ryan and I drove over to a local reservoir to get in a walk and look for some birds.  The Wilstone Reservoir Nature Reserve was nearby, and before the rains came, we wandered along the dikes watching Mute Swans, Common Tern, Magpie, Gray Heron and Little Egrets, Pied Wagtails, Grey Wagtails, Northern Lapwings, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Scaup and Wrens.  A snafu with the tuxedos forced us into town where Tim had to get refunded for a tuxedo that was never ordered, so we cut short the morning plans to take care of business.  

Pied Wagtail

Mute Swan

Common Tern

Common Magpie

We then returned to pick up Robin and get some lunch at a local pub.  We then drove around a bit before heading back to start setting up gazebos and tents for the wedding celebration on Saturday and a party on Sunday.  

A beautiful morning greeted us Saturday, where Tim and Maria exchanged vows at St. Dunstans while I sat in the bell tower taking photos through the glass window.  Surprisingly, while Peter and crew rang the church bells I didn't lose my mind over the noise (quite muffled from our location).  The rest of the day would be spent playing paparazzi and partying back at the Peacock where the reception was held. Best part of the great time was just having to walk upstairs when we had had enough fun.

So, what do we do to top a great day like Saturday? Have a yard party on Sunday! After an early breakfast at the Peacock, Robin and I took a walk up the lane past nearby farms, water-treatment plants, and dog kennels, and managed to find some nice birds.  A low-flying Red Kite was the highlight of the walk, allowing me to get some nice closeups in the mostly-cloudy skies.


When Tim and Maria came to pick us up some other friends were staying at the Peacock, so we all decided to drive into the hills to look for Red Kites.  Unfortunately the restaurant that puts food out the kites was closed, so the morning was shortened. We all headed back to Appletreewick for an afternoon yard party.  I brought the camera equipment and scope in case I'd get a chance to photograph any of the Red Kites that tended to fly over the yard.

And chances I got.  I warned folks ahead of time that if I bolted from the table it was only to photograph the kites flying overhead.  I was rude several times...

We would spend the entire day eating, drinking, eating, drinking, etc. until we could not eat/drink anymore.  It would be late by the time we returned to our rooms at the Peacock Inn, and we were exhausted.  The original plan was to fly back to Detroit on Monday, but the Haighs convinced us to stay an extra day.  We had planned to visit the mansion/set of Downton Abbey, but tickets were already gone, so instead, we would drive to Bampton to where the church scenes were filmed for the show.

St Mary the Virgin, Bampton
A lovely old town, Bampton provides a throwback to the early 1900's where historic buildings accent the beautiful countryside of England.  St. Mary the Virgin Church was especially nice, complete with 'old' cemetery plots and historic documents - I looked for Matthew Crawley's gravesite.  The nearby Bampton Library is the location of the Downton Hospital.  Parts of the town were already removing signs of 'modernity' for an upcoming film shoot.

St. John the Baptist

From there we drove to Waddesdon Manor to view the historic mansion of Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (1838-1898).  Not much more to say than 'Wow'.

It was back to Ros and Pete's for one last dinner party, then back to the Peacock Inn before flying home in the morning.  A most wonderful long weekend with some of the nicest friends on the planet! BTW, Her Majesty the Queen said 'Hi'...

1 comment:

david boon said...

Pretty sure she would say "Waddup Jez,A-Ite?" Pretty modern is our Queen.....Love the Blog Great to see all my Birds I used to watch as a kid,although we called the Dunnock Hedge Sparrow!.Forgot how old everything is in the old country!

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