Thursday, September 13, 2012

A jewel amidst the mist and mud

So what to do - wetland or buzzards?  I decided to have a go at both, popping the hide up near the flooded field and putting a rabbit down on the grass.  Frustratingly the Bristol channel mist hung around for hours and the herons were more shy than last time - a few grey shots of black and white birds didn't really grab the lens,

and I began to give up hope of any decent shots.  In the background,  intermittently., I could hear a peep-peep which I assumed had to be another sandpiper of some kind, but I just couldn't see it.  Then a plop and a spreading ripple in the water under the adjacent trees.  Slowly it clicked, although I struggled to believe it at first.  I peered round the corner as far as I could and sure enough ............ kingfisher!  Trouble is it was perfectly positioned between me and the sun.  It flew off after a few minutes, and I looked to see if I could move the hide.  Looking at the sea of mud and four inch deep hoofprints I decided that would probably be more hassle than value - as mentioned last time this hide is a woolworths tent complete with built in goundsheet, so the outcome would be quite gruesome!

The sun finally broke through, but the egrets remained twitchy, and after a further visit from the kingfisher I decided something had to be done. 
So I fell back on my pocket hide from Primark.  When snapping birds drinking at a woodland pool without a hide I found my success was boosted if I draped a camo  scarf over my head and camera in the fashion of those old plate lensmen.
Wading thought mud, nearly leaving the wellies behind a couple of times, I tucked in near some reeds, shoving the tripod legs down until they seemed to hit solid ground.  Trouble is to get the lens over the reeds I had to raise the camera up, meaning that to see through the lens I had to kneel with my right leg.  I've been there before and the blotting paper effect isn't my favourite feeling, but what the hell if it came off it would be worth it.
To my surprise the first bird down was an egret, as near as any that day.  I had to swing the camera round 90 degrees, but a slow move meant the bird wasn't disturbed.

After perhaps 10 minutes a blue dart shot across me to the trees.  Another slow pan round and bingo!  My best ever views of a kingfisher.  Frustratingly the hide was showing as a dark blob in the background, more evident when I got home

but it was less marked on some views and with a bit of cropping I'm pretty happy with my first bash at this bird.

Hopefully it will stick around - I don't have another free weekend for a while - but if it does I know what my next project is.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Carmargue? Donana? No it's the world famous Gwent wetlands!

We live near an area that floods in the winter.  In the summer the fields reappear, then disappear again under a sea of amphibious bistort, tall enough to turn into a maze for our collie. 

2012 has been different.  At first glance the horse looks like it is walking through the plants, but the white blob in the background gives the game away.

This year, our wettest in 100 years, the fields never reappeared.  They nearly did a few times but then down came the rain again.  The bistort though came back - I guess the clue is in the name, but more than that it came back differently.  Not so tall, just tall enough to peek above the water.  It turns out that this is a plant with two forms; the one that grows in the water and the one on the drier areas.  What is intriguing though is that a single plant can actually grow in both forms at the same time, depending on where individual shoots are growing. 

OK botany over - I just thought it was interesting!

My interest really lay in the fact that the flooded fields attracted 2 types of heron and even more extraordinarily for flooded fields cormorants.

I couldn't get it until I realised the fields were nursing fish - just like those south east asian rice fields I saw on travels long ago!  They'd obviously come in from the adjacent reens - certainly sticklebacks, but I'm sure I also saw small perch.

The targets for me though were the herons, and I wasn't sure if my hide (camouflage tent, woolworths £5) would put them off, but popping it up in a corner where I'd seen a few fishing soon revealed that it didn't.  So far I have managed 2 sessions - the first productive, the second with water levels perhaps 2" higher completely barren.  That's wildlife photography for you.

The grey heron stalked in velociraptor-like and nearly ended up too close for even the 300mm lens.

The real prize though were the little egrets.  I know for people living in London or Poole seeing herons and egrets close up isn't a big deal, but in Wales these are shy birds, taking to the air when you are still 50 yards away, so it is for us!  Here the views were great - even down to the fish in mid-air shot (you'll have to click for bigger views - 3rd pic down)

Finally a bonus. 

I'm pretty sure this is a wood sandpiper, but click on the pic for a bigger view and if I'm wrong please let me know.