Friday, 16 July 2010

Near misses

Another rainy start turned sunny around lunch time. I was in two minds as to what to do. Go fishing or go looking at somewhere to fish, and check out another place to photograph birds (and maybe other stuff). The drive took longer than expected owing to roadworks on the dreaded M6. I called in at the lake that I had heard about and turned round immediately. It was more of a barren hole in the ground than I had expected. No matter how big the fish it holds I'll not be fishing for them.

The reserve car park was quite full, but when I went to look for the place you hand over your cash I couldn't find it. So I availed myself of the toilet facility and drove elsewhere. The track to the other car park was tricky to find. As I turned the final bend a swallow appeared to fly into the wall of a building. When I stopped and looked there was a hole in the wall, and the swallow flew out!

My first stop was at the hole in the wall to try and freeze a swallow on its way in, or out, of teh hole. This proved extremely difficult hand holding the camera. After many failed attempts I held the camera pointing at the hole but didn't look through the viewfinder. using my peripheral vision I could tell when a bird was approaching and fire off a burst of shots. It didn't work too well, but it was an improvement. Then I noticed other swallows flying in through a gap in a door in the front of the building. So I tried for a shot there as it would be more pictorially pleasing than what looked like a shell hole!

My results were equally useless. What I really needed was a tripod and  a remote release. Maybe I'll return.

Best of a bad lot

After that episode I headed out onto the marsh, disturbing a heron and an unexpected kingfisher. I did manage to photograph a young starling perching on the back of an obliviously grazing sheep! There were flocks of waders wheeling over the watery edge of the marsh, a redshank flew up and along a gutter flooded by the tide, and a young pied wagtail perched briefly on a fence post before I turned back.

I wandered around some more, photographing butterflies with an unsuitable lens and a lurking hen pheasant before she ran off. The path to the hides was horribly hard and the view non-existent. I had a quick look out of the first hide and there was more wildlife inside than out. Time to go look elsewhere.

Avoiding the main car park I found a pull in and set off down the long track, as hard on the feet as the other one, with nothing to see but reeds higher than me. Some swifts were wheeling and swooping over the track by a tree and I tried to get some flight shots. Failing again. Poking my head round the hide door I shut it immediately. I'm not a sociable hide user. It was far too crowded for me. There didn't seem to be much to look at either. I really do hate hides, much preferring to go to the wildlife than wait and hope it'll come to me. When I spied a boat pulled up in the reeds I was sorely tempted to take it for a jolly!

I carried on to the other side of the reserve then gave up. The walk back to the car was as eventful as the walk away. Dull, dull, dull. That was me done. I set off for home, pulling over to take a look at the reserve from a hill. All that water and reed and there's only a fraction of it visible from the hides and paths. Drives me nuts. Coming down the hill there was another pull-in by a stone wall, obliviously well used as it gives a clear view over reeds and open water. Straight away a marsh harrier flew up and to the right just sixty or so yards from the car. If the camera had been in my hand I'd have nailed a clear shot. By the time the camera was in my hand the harrier was long gone.

I got out of the car and camera at the ready scanned the reeds. It wasn't long before a big dark bird flapped up, hovered a little, glided forward into the wind and dropped down again. The autofocus bypassed the bird and hit the distant reedbed. Sharp reeds, blurred bird. Another miss. The day wasn't going well, not least because the recently 'repaired' lens was playing its old tricks. I'd already missed a couple of shots when the lens threw up an error message and failed to work. But now it was failing more than it was working.

I took some landscape photos, no need for haste so the faulty lens wasn't a problem. Then a harrier landed way off across the open water. It was joined by another, both juveniles by the look of them. Despite them being so far away I took some shots as the second bird landed, just to prove I had seen them! I hung around hoping that I'd get another closer chance, but after an hour I reckoned I'd well and truly lucked out. Monday morning Sigma will be hearing from me again. If I had a photo of an unhappy bunny I'd post it here.

The two 'best' harrier photos

Sunlight on the farmstead

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