Most years see reports of ring ouzels in various Exmoor hotspots as they congregate by favoured berry-laden trees prior to their autumn migration. This year they are a little early and were reported on this thread on the SOS website. Dave Dawe very kindly emailed me detailed instructions and Rob Chace and I set out this morning to find them. The sharing of this sort of information is much appreciated and to add that I might need wellies an added kindness.
The particular hotspot on this occasion was at the confluence of Chetsford and Embercombe waters where there is good shelter and some heavily laden rowan trees together with good hiding in scrub and gorse. There we met John Rivoire, a birder from the Minehead area with experience of seeing these birds at this spot in previous years. Interestingly it is his experience that they normally arrive a little later in November. After about 30 minutes 2 ring ouzels arrived, the male feeding briefly before flying off down the combe with its companion. Unfortunately my canon 1.4x TC chose that moment to fail for good so I missed any possible shots. I switched to the 2x TC which has fortunately performed above expectations.
At one point I was chatting to John when Rob to my right started pointing frantically behind us, I turned looking for ring ouzels and seeing none turned back. He then mouthed 'stag', I turned and was just in time to see a pair of antlers disappear over the brow of the hill! A young deer was then seen on the opposite side of the valley which gave us something to occupy us for a few minutes. After another 30 minutes or so with no sightings, Rob and I set off down Chetsford combe while John went up Ember combe.
Just a quick word about the terrain at this point. It was really very wet and boggy following the recent rain. Wellies were absolutely essential and you have to be prepared to ford streams at several points through fast flowing water. If you are at all lacking confidence on foot, go in company and take a good walking stick.
Having blanked down on our route, we went back to the confluence of the streams and saw John again. He had seen I believe 5 birds up Ember combe and some had flown back towards us. Shortly after that news we had a visit from a beautifully marked male and a young or female bird (I'm sure someone will tell me!) and we got a few quick shots.
Apart from that, opportunities were limited although Rob had one more crack at the male.
The day would not have been complete without some sort of mishap so I duly obliged by placing my right foot in up to the knee filling my welly boot. Thanks to Rob for rescuing my camera while I rescued the boot! I can't really complain. A great day out in beautiful sunshine with only a wet boot to dampen my spirits.