Heron

Awake early and with the prospect of wind and rain, I set off for Penllegare woods again in the hope of spotting the elusive Kingfishers. As soon as I saw the river, swollen with yesterday’s heavy rain, I knew they wouldn’t be around. Kingfishers prefer a gentle flow that they can dive into; this would have swept them downstream in an instant. So I headed off along the river bank and was rewarded almost immediately by the presence of a robin, which came towards me and my camera as if it wanted to appear in this blog!

Once again, the birdsong was loud and continuous. I’m useless at identifying birds by their singing but even I recognised the blackbirds, and this was confirmed by the numbers hopping about on the ground searching for food.

But then my attention was caught by a long neck, grey feathers and sleek head and as I looked, the heron leapt into the air and flew off along the river.  I watched it head off over the trees and managed a couple of snapshots as it made off. I love herons and despite seeing quite a few around the area, have rarely managed to get photos of them as they are so shy and cautious.

I carried on into the woods and across a recently restored bridge to walk on the opposite bank of the river for a bit. The Rhododendrons are starting to bloom and I found one tree that had bright red flowers, very much like the ones I saw in Nepal in 2011.

With the first drops of rain, I decided to turn back for the car and I retraced my steps across the bridge and along the side of a small lake. Suddenly, I spotted the familiar shape and colour of the heron again. I was surprised to see it as I thought it would have left the area. I stopped still and it eyed me up from the lakeside. I managed to slowly raise the camera without spooking it, and took a few photos. Then I moved gently so there was a large tree trunk between me and the heron, and slowly crept forward.

As I emerged from behind the tree, I had time for two quick photos before the heron took off but I followed it to see that it had only flown a few yards down the path. So I continued to slowly and quietly make my way along towards it, keeping bushes and trees and other cover between me and it. Had anyone been watching, they would have wondered what I was up to.

And then there it was, eyeing me up as I stood with the camera to my eye. I guessed that the camera partially blocked my face and may have confused the heron, as I was able to creep a little closer. I managed to snap a few more frames before I saw the bird tense up and launch into the air and fly off again, this time high up over the trees opposite where I stood. I decided not to wait around as I didn’t want to disturb the bird any more than I already had.

Still didn’t see any Kingfishers though.

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Heron

I’m turning into a bit of a birder. First Kingfishers, now a Heron. They’ll call me Bill Oddie next.

I first spotted it yesterday with Rufus but this evening I went back to see if I could get closer and snap a few more pictures. There was also the promise of a colourful sunset. How could I miss out on that?

My first sighting of the heron was as it flew over me, having spotted me first. It crossed the road and settled in the ferns opposite the lake. I didn’t want to disturb it too much, so I headed back to the car with the intention of using it as a hide. But the heron saw me and flew back to the lake again. I got the photos of it flying then. Carefully, I edged around the lake shore until I spotted the heron in amongst the reeds. I approached it using a tree as cover and took a few more photos through the branches. The heron looked relaxed and wasn’t looking at me.

Conscious that it needed to settle for the night, I turned and walked away.  I managed to get some nice sunset shots, the but they weren’t as great as I’d hoped.

On a technical note, I’ve been using the D600 with high ISO settings in low light conditions and I’m really pleased with the results. Most of the wildlife stuff I’ve posted over the last few months has been at high sensitivity settings either on the D7000, D700 or it’s replacement, the D600. The heron in the reeds was taken at 1600 ISO.

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Kingfisher

Spoiler alert: No Kingfisher Photos!

I have always wanted to see a Kingfisher. They are beautiful, colourful birds and rarely seen as they are nervous, too. Recently, I was told of a place where I might be able to catch sight of one. Around the same time, a friend managed to spot one close to her home. I decided to try and get some photos. I even researched the kinds of camouflage professional bird photographers use. Common sense took over and I only had to imagine the reaction from walkers in the woods to seeing some bloke dressed like a sniper stalking through the undergrowth. After all, we live in a world where photographers are prevented from taking pictures of people and places on city streets.

So this morning, in lieu of my planned hill walk, I went for a quiet stroll in the woods, dressed like a normal person. And I was almost immediately rewarded with the sight of not one, but two Kingfishers perched on two different branches jutting out into the river. One was side on, and the upper blue plumage was bright in the sunlight. As my brain registered the second one, facing me and displaying the lower orange feathers more prominently, they spotted me and before I could blink, they’d disappeared off up the river.

I hadn’t even reached for my camera, which was still in the bag. Poor show on my part. They didn’t come back so I walked on with the intention of giving them time to return. It was lovely and warm in the woods and I managed to get some photos of the insects pollinating flowers all along the river. After 30 minutes or so I headed back, taking much more time to approach the riverbank, and making sure I was obscured by bushes as I did so.

Alas, the Kingfishers weren’t there. Like them, though, I’ll be back.

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Foxy Lady

Out on a comet hunt but thwarted by clouds again. Instead, I spotted this fox. She was big and she had a beautiful red coat. But the light was fading fast. I managed to get a few shots but despite using ISO 1600, I was shooting at 1/15th of a second. Hence the blur. Nevertheless, I thought I’d share.

There’s another photo on my Flickr site – part of my ‘one-a-day’ project.

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Frog

No one believed me when I said I had a frog in the garden. Rufus was the only independent witness, and when I tried to show friends, the frog deliberately hid to make me look a fool.

But I was right, and this morning I found it again. More importantly, I managed to persuade it to pose for a portrait session.

There are several places it could be living. There’s a hidden pond underneath all the old carpet and wood that is keeping the weeds at bay. On top of those, to keep them in place, are several trays full of water. And by the side of the house there are some old buckets in which I’ve seen frogs before. So while I kept an eye on the little frog to make sure the neighbour’s cat or birds didn’t go for it, I didn’t try to help it along.

Wildlife is welcome in my garden. I like the diversity and it’s part of the reason my garden isn’t a perfectly manicured show-piece.

 

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