Spot the bird

  • January 11, 2015 5:38 pm

Wildlife photographers have a habit of showing only their very best work, which is of course understandable. It does leave aspiring wildlife photographers a little disillusioned or disappointed with their own efforts, because it’s a fact that for every amazing photo taken, there’s ten, twenty, or a hundred (or more!) ‘misses’. After all, we’re dealing with living beings which move, run or fly away, and refuse to look in the right direction. Sometimes, we go out to shoot, and come away totally empty handed, which is why patience and persistence is key to nature photography.

Today was nearly one of those days. Over on the fen this morning, bright but incredibly windy. In the shelter of the hedgerow, a twittering flock of small birds were feeding, Long-tailed tits, Blue and Great tits, a Robin, and several cryptically camouflaged little birds. Can you spot the bird in this photo?

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It’s a Treecreeper, fascinating little birds that creep up the trees, checking every crack and crevice for insects, using their curved needle like beak to extract their quarry and their long, stiff forked tail as a prop to help them cling to the bark. They are constantly in motion with tiny mouse like movements, making them extremely difficult to photograph. This one refused to look at the camera, but does nicely illustrate just how well camouflaged they are, and also my point about the frustrations of wildlife photography!

Walking on to see if I could spot the Bearded Reedlings, I was faced with a sea of swishing reeds, swaying violently in the swirling wind, and I knew it was unlikely I would see them. After an hour of waiting I heard a few pinging calls, but didn’t see the birds.

Heading back to the warmth of the hedge line, I spotted one of the Fieldfares perched so attempted a stealthy approach. Fieldfares are one of our wonderful winter visitors, a beautiful thrush species, they are closely associated with orchards, feeding on the fallen apples, and may also be seen feeding on berries in the hedges. On the fen they seem to pay close attention to the dry mole run riddled areas, perhaps taking advantage of the worms and insects bought to the surface here. This one was surprising tolerant and allowed me to photograph it as it sat in the hedge.

Fieldfare110115DM3056

 

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Not Otters

  • March 12, 2013 9:38 pm

Sometimes you can try too hard. My lovely boss let me have the day off (thanks!) and to make the most of every minute, and hoping to avoid other photographers, I was out at first light – first car in the car park.  Nothing doing. Retracing my steps up and down the rivers, still nothing. I did find some other wildlife though.

Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos, male, drake, on water in golden sunlight, Norfolk,

Muntjac deer, Muntiacus reevesi, in undergrowth, Norfolk

Egyptian Goose, Alopochen aegyptiacus, resting on river bank, Norfolk

 At 8.30am a trio of photographers arrived, and then a few more followed. I could read their minds before they opened their mouths to speak – are they here, have you seen them? I set off in the opposite direction but a photographer hurried past – ‘if you’re interested the otters have been seen further down’. I hesitated, do I join the crowd, or stay here with nothing to photograph. I followed along, after all, there weren’t as many people as last time. Arriving on scene I see a tail slide into the river, and a head pops up. The two youngsters are hunting, one catches a large fish and takes it into the undergrowth to eat. The other photographers follow their progress up and down the river, but I hang back. I dislike this chasing them up and down, it doesn’t feel right photographing like this, so I turn away. This is incredibly frustrating.

Despite the chill in the air and frost on the ground, in the sun it actually feels quite spring-like. Siskins are feeding in the alders by the river, Marsh tit’s are singing, somewhere close by a Green Woodpecker laughs. I sit for a while next to the fast flowing river, it’s so peaceful here, you wouldn’t believe you were so close to a town.

Jay, Garrulus glandarius, perched in tree in sunlight, Norfolk

Treecreeper, Certhia familiaris, Norfolk

Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos, female, on water in golden sunlight, Norfolk,

I head home, and return later in the afternoon. Walking slowly along to where I last saw them, but there’s nothing around. I retrace my steps for the umpteenth time. Again I meet another photographer who informs me there’s an otter heading this way. Again I hesitate, but I follow anyway walking back the way I came, this might be my last day off  for some time, I have to make the most of it.  They set up, and I move away and find my own spot. There’s a Kingfisher on the far side of the bank, a shining blue jewel of a bird. I watch him for a while, but suddenly the water swirls in front of me, could it be? A few bubbles pop up, then a broad whiskered head appears by the bank before disappearing again, rolling away. This time there’s no splashing, this is one of the adults, she moves from land to water with fluid ease, silently hunting. She bobs up again and glances at me, and there it is, that amazing moment, just the otter and me.

She moves off  back the way she came, and some friendly locals encourage me over and point her out. Everyone I spoke to today were so enthusiastic about these creatures, they are so proud to have them here, and lots of people were keen to share what they knew, where they’d seen them before and describe their amazing encounters. The other photographers invited me closer, and I gratefully accepted. This is much more civilised than at the weekend, everyone keeping their distance, waiting for the otter to come to them. I set up hoping she would come up the bank for some photos with a reasonably clean background. Instead she headed straight for me, too fast for me to track her, and too close to focus. She peered curiously at me, ‘hunfff’ she snuffled. My research suggests this means ‘I smell you’ – I know you’re there. I imitate and she looks at me, we repeat and she’s now just a couple of feet away. I just can’t believe it, an absolutely incredible experience. I haven’t got any decent photos, but right now it doesn’t matter. I’m sure I’ll be back to try again.

European otter, lutra lutra, on river bank under bridge, Norfolk,

A big thank you to the lovely friendly photographers I met today, thank you for not only your help, but for restoring my faith in human-kind!

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Treecreeper

  • December 16, 2012 2:07 pm

All quiet on the Fen this morning. The Bearded tits were heard but not seen, making the long walk and long wait seem a bit disappointing, but such is wildlife photography. On the way back I spotted a Little Egret, hunched up in the wet fen. There’s water everywhere, the fen is a damp place anyway, but I’ve never seen it so wet. The flooded areas reflect the big Norfolk sky and the golden sun gilds the reeds, a little corner of wilderness.

I notice a bird in a tree and set the camera up to have a look. It’s a Water rail, a secretive creature that’s rarely seen. I think there are quite a few on the Fen, as I’ve often heard their eerie shrieking call, but I’ve only seen them here a couple of times. Looks like this one was trying to keep his feet dry. He was too distant for a decent photo, but I thought I’d show you this for interest.

Walking back through the wood, a group of Long-tailed, Great and Blue tits were foraging in the tree tops, a pair of Treecreepers were with them. Back at the car park, I found a Treecreeper on one of the oaks and tried to photograph this small mouse like bird as it crept up the tree, using it’s needle thin beak to prize insects from the bark. It would creep to the higher branches and then tumble like a falling leaf back to the bottom to begin searching the tree again, always working upwards. Only after repeating this process numerous times was the Treecreeper satisfied that every crevice had been checked and it moved off to search another tree.

The soft winter sun wasn’t quite strong enough to capture this fast moving little bird, but I was pleased to get one photo!

 
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