Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Down Dale and Up Hill

Where to start? The bird? The location? Or the wellies? Day two of the trip Up North and the second target. I was told by several sources not to start my trip to Lathkill Dale at the normal starting point of Over Haddon, but to go a bit further up to the campsite and use the path down the steps. It was a cold but bright day, and the Dale was several frozen fields away. I never got round to buying waterproof walking boots, and it wasn't training shoe weather so I got out some big socks and the wellies. That frost would melt and I could see the frozen mud and imagine the slush to come. Pile on the fleeces, and off I went lugging the fair weight of the camera, lens and tripod, plus a bag of bits and a small flask (Thermos rather than hip). Get the picture? By the time I could actually see the Dale I was sweating like a pig.
The valley sides were steeper than I expected, and the steps were in large part rather worn rock. 2 things - the wellies don't have the most adhesive soles and I am a real wuss when it comes to heights, especially with a couple of grands worth of kit balanced on my shoulder! I was buggered if I was going to trek back for some better footwear so I pathetically tottered my way down. It wasn't really that bad, but I never felt I had a good foothold, so I probably looked like a teen on her first real heels.
Arriving at the bottom there were two ways to go - upstream in the light, or downstream into the fully shaded wooded gorge. I tried up, but the stream was pretty overgrown, and there were no birds except for the many wrens that populated all of the stone walls, and a few thrushes chewing on the hawthorn berries.
So downstream it was, after a wistful glance back up to the sunshine I was to leave behind.
A mallard had a good stretch, and a grey wagtail twitched and bounced - completely unsnappable in this light, unless you want a sort of arty blurring motion picture (I binned them all).
Then at last one flew past. Zik - zik. They were once thought to be the drab female form of the kingfisher. Dipper. Target species 2. In the darker section the environment was classical dipper territory - waterfalls, boulders, oxygen-rich ruffles and some smoother sections for 'dipping'.
They were obviously reasonably used to people - a bit of basic fieldcraft and I could get near enough to ditch my usual 2x teleconverter. The narrow stream helped.
At one point I paused in my pursuit of a bird to listen to a rather lovely birdsong - a bit thrush-like with different themes, but a few scratchier bits thrown in. Couldn't place it or see the bird. Looked back into the viewfinder and Bingo. It was the dipper, it's little throat working away. Never knew they sounded so well.
Never knew they coughed up pellets either until I saw this one - just missed the regurgitate, but I'm sure you can picture it. No surprise I guess when you think about what they eat.
Climbing back up the hillside felt less precarious, but was a lot more sweaty and breath stealing. Must get back to the gym. Still a second good day and 2 of 2 for the Up North targets.
As always better shots HERE in the web albums -
look in 'latest' or 'Tits, wrens and allies, etc'

No comments: