Wednesday, 23 May 2018

A Day with the Sand Martins

14th May 2018

..............and now for something completely different. I have photographed Sand Martins before, but only perched on a barbed wire fence such as this shot taken at Rutland Water.

But today was going to be different. Because today we were going to attempt to photograph a Sand Martin colony on a cliff-face. This involved standing on a slope on a wind-swept cliff for a couple of hours, but I must admit it was probably one of the most enjoyable photographic trips I have been on. The birds were still excavating and lining their nest holes, and photographing them as they perched on the cliff-face was relatively straight-forward.

This bird was just starting to excavate a new hole.

But then came the challenge..........photographing them in flight. Taking shots as they flew in to the nest wasn't too difficult as you had plenty of  warning but, at the risk of stating the obvious, you always got their back view.

But photographing them as they left the nest hole was a different matter altogether, as they came out of the hole so fast as if they had been expelled by compressed air. Then, by the time you had pressed the trigger, they had moved so far as to run the risk of being out of focus. So this was the fun bit, taking lots of shots in  the hope that just a handful would be sharp and capture the action.

WOW, what a fun-packed day and by the end I felt fairly exhausted purely due to the concentration required. That was GREAT FUN!!!!!

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Warblers and a Wheatear at Rainham Marshes

8th May 2018

The day started with a Heron parading in front of the Purfleet Hide and Marsh Frogs doing their best to drown out the birdsong.

Whitethroats are now present in good numbers and appeared to be singing from just about every bush. Reed Warblers were, as usual, less showy and mostly hidden down in the reeds as they delivered their rhythmical babble. However, even they agreed to break cover now and again.

Sedge Warblers normally like to sing from a vantage point and are therefore fairly photographable, as shown by this one which had the advantage of a shrubby backcloth.

However, the star of the show today was this female Wheatear along the river wall. Wheatears are normally quite flighty and therefore difficult to approach for those rather special photos. However, this female was pretty confiding and would let me approach to within just 10-15 yards.



Thursday, 17 May 2018

Tree Pipits and Wood Larks in The Brecks

5th May 2018

The targets today were Tree Pipits and Wood Larks, but first a quick visit to Lakenheath Fen. We normally come to Lakenheath about the third week in May when the Hobbys are at their best, but today was a last minute decision as 50 Hobbys had been reported the day before. Indeed there were about 20 Hobbys this morning, but all the far end of Joist Fen and high in the sky. However, on our way down the reserve we did see probably the largest brood of Coot that I ever seen, and a Grass Snake swimming across the mere.

Also hanging in the grass was my first Hairy Dragonfly of the year.

Back now to the targets and a return visit to a new section of clear-fell that we visited for the first time last year. Then we did indeed see a Tree Pipit, but it only sang from the tops of tall trees and at no time came down to the ground. At first it appeared that this year would be the similar as the bird was first heard once again at the top of a Sycamore escorted by an army of St Mark's Flies.

However, it then parachuted to the ground and spent some time feeding, calling as it went, thereby providing some great opportunities for some shots.

Today's choice of site for Wood Larks was Cavenham Heath. A little frustrating at first because for some reason the Stone Curlews were much closer than normal, probably only half the distance, but photography was out of the question due to the heat haze, so perhaps an early morning visit may be on the cards.

However, at that point a Wood Lark was heard singing wistfully in a nearby Silver Birch allowing a few shots to be taken.

Then the bird flew down to the ground to join its mate and spent the next half an hour feeding.

So, what a great day. Two target species, and both seen and photographed at reasonably close quarters. I love it when a plan comes together.