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.

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