Sunday, 20 February 2011

Warnham LNR - Lousy Weather Again!


Siskin, originally uploaded by Christopher Mills.
Roll on spring. For the third consecutive weekend, the weather has been awful. However I was determined to get out today and the February murk was not stopping me, so I spent a few hours at Warnham Local Nature Reserve. Given the conditions, there was little hope of getting any action shots as such, a shutter speed of 1/200 was about as good as it was going to get. I did consider ditching the Teleconverters altogether and making do with the 300 eau naturale, but there would have been no real advantage in the extra stop in that light... so I went with the 1.4x. Feeders are great in this weather - you know that birds will perch on branches and twigs near the feeders before coming in to nibble; focal length isn't quite as important and with a steady hand, you've got half a chance of a reasonably motion-blur free shot . But 300mm is still on the short side for smaller critters.

There seems to be a lot of action at Warnham at the moment. Numerous Siskins and Redpolls joined the regular cast of finches, tits and thrushes. Species observed at the feeders included:

Siskin
Lesser Redpoll
Treecreeper
Nuthatch
Long Tailed Tit
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Coal Tit
Marsh Tit
Greater Spotted Woodpecker
Greenfinch
Goldfinch
Chaffinch
Robin
Dunnock
Blackbird
Reed Bunting
Sparrowhawk (swooped in, but left empty handed and was gone in the blink of an eye)
Wren
Magpie
Pheasant
Grey Wagtail
Moorhen
Noisy Children

So although the weather wasn't playing ball, there was plenty of feathered friends keeping me company on a quite horrible day. At least it wasn't raining!

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Something Missing?

Insert raptor here...

On Sunday, I decided to forego my usual approach to wildlife photography in an attempt to raise the bar somewhat. That "usual approach" involves walking around with the camera slung over shoulder, covering as much ground as possible to increase the likelihood of snapping a variety of different species.  More often than not, this yields quantity over quality and good results are largely down to luck.

In the past few visits to Amberley Wildbrooks, I've spotted a number of raptors using a similar flight path alongside a wooded area beside a section of long grass (as seen in my distant Barn Owl shot posted a couple of weeks ago). What marvellous potential - the possibility of capturing a Harrier, Kestrel or Owl floating over the marshy field, with a suitable DOF to isolate the subject against the foreground of golden grass and backdrop of tangled branches was too good to resist. My intention therefore was to hide amongst the tall grass and wait for that opportune moment - however long it took. As I arrived at Amberley, the signs were good; The Met Office were spectacularly wrong in my favour for once, an adult Hen Harrier drifted over the trees toward Rackham Plantation, A Kestrel hovered over a nearby field and corvids harassed another unidentified raptor (possibly an immature Hen Harrier or Short-eared Owl - although easily larger than a Kestrel it was too distant to distinguish). I picked my spot, made myself comfortable and waited. And waited....

Four hours later and with nothing to show for my patience, feet like blocks of ice and hamstrung legs I walked a few hundred yards along the footpath and back, then resumed my position for a further three hours. A fox I'd seen frolicking in the marsh came within three or four feet, but caught my scent and was off as I desperately tried to coax the AF to lock on. He disappeared from view just as I'd switched to Manual Focus... chance gone.  The Hen Harrier didn't return. The Kestrel teased me above the wetlands, then engaged in some peculiar foot-stomping behaviour of which I could only assume she was searching for a stashed catch. To add insult to injury, as I trudged back to the car in the failing light, the familiar ghost-like shape of a Barn Owl could be seen haunting the banks of the Arun.

This time, I was defeated. But in true Arnie style - I'll be back. As any Wildlife Photographer will tell you, patience and determination are essential to getting "that" shot. Unfortunately I'm restricted to one day a week at the moment, so need to be more patient than most.