On the trail of ring ouzel

Dros y Ffin 3

The link above takes you to a clip of one of the Dros y Ffin episodes with Iolo Williams.  We went filming in The Peak District where one of our favourite encounters was with ring ouzel.  This bird is akin to an upland blackbird and their status in Wales is declining.  There is a very useful page here on the RSPB website.

Overlooking Llangorse in the Brecon Beacons

Last week we went out to film ring ouzel in The Brecon Beacons.  I cannot say where exactly.  We were working on good information and were only trying to film adults feeding, nothing near the nest.  This was a proper wildlife cameraman challenge.  The information we had was that the adults were spending most of their time on a rugged inaccessible slope, but every few hours were flying across the mountainside to feed on so-called improved sheep pasture.  At this stage of the breeding season a bird’s habits can change day by day, so there was no guarantee that this was going to happen, but we set up quietly in the vicinity of the pasture and waited.

Four hours later we had seen raven, whinchat, redstart, meadow and tree pipits, buzzard and wheatear (very close indeed), but no sign of ring ouzel whatsover.  The rest of the team went out on a tentative recce to other potential feeding grounds while I stayed with Pete, the sound recordist, in our original position.  As the four hour mark passed we could see the rest of the team returning from up and down the steep paths, body language and expressions telling that they had had no luck.  It was then that a single ‘chack’ call got my attention, and a blackbird sized bird dashed behind the hill.  Pete soon spotted a bird poke its head up over the near horizon and perch on a rock: we had our ring ouzel… a smart male.  It perched on a rock for a short while and caught and ate a worm in full view, then disappeared, the sighting lasting little more than a minute in total.  Such was its position on the hillside that none of the others saw it, despite being very close.  It was one of those times when sticking to your guns and not moving an inch had paid off.  To think, that we were minutes before having to leave the site for the day.

After having had a pretty tricky week when being a wildlife cameraman can start to wear you down I can honestly say that we were bloody jubilant!  They are very smart birds and filming one at a location in the Beacons was crucial to the end sequence.