Saturday, 8 July 2017

A Kingfisher's Breakfast



The morning had barely begun and the Sun was yet to clear the horizon but there we were sat in a hide a few metres from a pond that contained goodness knows how many Trout. A tall tree to the left had a leafless branch that was, apparently, where an Osprey likes to sit to contemplate his next breakfast. I have told the story of our Osprey shoot but there was another story that morning, the stars of which were no fewer than three Kingfishers. They are quick, beautifully painted and wonderful to watch and photograph. We were at this place to watch two birds, both fisherman, both using the same pond, both incredibly successful and both completely indifferent to each other.
The light was still not what I wanted but the Kingfisher is a beautiful bird whatever the light and it is always great to watch. The shots I took that morning would have been improved tenfold if the sun had been shining but that was not to be and I have what I have. I also have some superb memories of a very successful predator doing what it does best.





Thursday, 6 July 2017

Rutland Footprints: Early Morning Ospreys.



At 3.30 in the morning the alarm went off and we drove the dozen or so miles to a Trout farm on the other side of Rutland Water, this was hopefully going to give us a chance to see close up just what an Osprey does best. The Sun had still not risen when we took our seats in the hide that looked over the pond that was to be a well-stocked breakfast buffet.
Then all we could do was wait. It was clear that the sun was not going to break through the clouds and this was going to make photography difficult but there was still a great deal of tension as we scanned the trees. We knew where the favoured perch was in a tree to the left and I kept focusing there, then following the imaginary line that I thought the Osprey would take to the water. It was dark and dull, light was going to be a problem and without light speed is compromised. The Osprey can reach speeds of up to 80mph when diving and so shutter speed is critical, I had no idea how many chances I would have to catch the action but I knew that I would need all the help I could get.
And so we waited, scanned the trees and the water surface, checked the camera settings and the light, looked at the sky to see if the sun was going to break and then did it all again two minutes later.
Suddenly there was a shape, it hadn’t been there a moment ago but finally we had company. It was dark, too dark, but we had an Osprey and suddenly there wasn’t enough time! 


Check the shutter yet again to see if you can squeeze just a little speed, speed is the key!
Speed and light!
The Osprey scanned the water surface too, I could see him moving his head from side to side, sizing up his breakfast, getting ready. He looked tense too, even in the low light you see the brightness of his eyes as he got ready
He dived! He was so close to the water that his wing tip must have got wet but he didn’t attempt to catch a fish, for both of us, perhaps it was a trial run.
A second dive followed soon after he resumed his position in the tree not giving me time to rethink, the settings are fine, aren’t they?
This time there was an explosion of water as the Osprey disappeared for a moment, completely submerging itself, before flapping those almighty wings and rising with a fish firmly in its talons.



The action was over in a matter of seconds and all was quiet again. The results would have been better if the sun had been shining but there was no doubt about the thrill of watching this superb bird catch fish. We had a second chance from the same bird about an hour later but although the light improved a little it was far from perfect. There was still the same tension though and still the same thrill at seeing the bird up close. It is always a privilege seeing wild creatures up close, especially predators, and that is something that will stay with me for quite a while.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Rutland Footprints

The last few days have been spent on the shore of Rutland Water primarily to watch and photograph their Ospreys but also to find whatever other wildlife we could in the limited time that we had. I met up with my brother whose wildlife knowledge is as exceptional as his company and we set up camp on the southern shore overlooking the water. We aimed to spend as much of the daylight hours as possible getting to know the area and the local wildlife. The western edges of the water are littered with hides both for the Ospreys and the other, mainly waterbirds that live here. The Rutland Osprey Project is undoubtedly doing a great job with these majestic birds and are extremely careful to make sure that nobody gets close to either the nests, resting poles or fishing areas and getting real close-up shots are pretty well impossible. Even with a big lens the best I could do from the hide some 300 metres away was this:





Now don’t get me wrong, being able to watch these birds will always be welcome and sitting in a hide on a beautiful summer’s evening while they fly back and forth feeding their two chicks or stacking yet more sticks on to an already full nest is a privilege. There was a real sense of excitement when the chicks, nearing the time when they will fledge, bounce higher and higher always on the verge of leaving the nest. Next time for sure, or the next, or the next.
So, all along the western shore are numerous paths leading to numerous hides, all well made and comfortable with views along different parts of the shore covering different habitats. Unfortunately, you cannot stray from the paths and access to the water is very limited but this is an interesting place for a wander and we spent the first day, from noon til dusk doing just that.
Views of the Osprey were rare and distant from most of the hides, but every now and again a shot was possible, the birds really were far away.

Now don’t get me wrong, being able to watch these birds will always be welcome and sitting in a hide on a beautiful summer’s evening while they fly back and forth feeding their two chicks or stacking yet more sticks on to an already full nest is a privilege. There was a real sense of excitement when the chicks, nearing the time when they will fledge, bounce higher and higher always on the verge of leaving the nest. Next time for sure, or the next, or the next.
So, all along the western shore are numerous paths leading to numerous hides, all well made and comfortable with views along different parts of the shore covering different habitats. Unfortunately, you cannot stray from the paths and access to the water is very limited but this is an interesting place for a wander and we spent the first day, from noon til dusk doing just that. When the light is good the camera is never far from my eye and the shot count just goes up and up.





After the first day we had got as close as possible to the Ospreys and at 300 metres or so distance it was clear that some help would be needed. We set the alarms for 3.30 in morning so that we could head off to a hide that would give us more of a fighting chance to get the shots that I wanted. 


Close but not too close.

Everywhere you look Autumn has well and truly taken hold of the Isle of Purbeck and there is no better example of this than our precious h...