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MAY 2017

 

 

A trip to Texel

 

I've always wanted to see Avocets.  They're such beautiful birds.  Delicate but dangerous looking curved-up beaks and long blue legs.  A friend offered me an opportunity to go to Texel, a beautiful island off the north coast of Holland and I jumped at the chance.  Getting to Schipol airport to meet Dick was incredibly easy despite the usual ridiculous weight in camera equipment.  I hopped onto the Eurostar to Brussels and then a Thalys train to Schipol.  As we drove through the astonishingly beautiful countryside, I was lucky enough to see the last of the tulip fields and a good few windmills.  The landscape really appeals to me.  I love the ditches bursting with wild flowers and the dykes that somehow manage to hold back the sea. I really want to go back next year.

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My Dutch hosts were so incredibly friendly and welcoming that I felt part of the family.  The other guests were also part of this incredible extended family and we very quickly got into a pattern of getting out and about early with cameras to watch the sun come up before then heading back for breakfast.  We did a bit of sightseeing during the middle of the day or sat outside in the garden chatting to our new friends before heading out again for the late afternoon and evening light.

Texel used to be a honey-pot destination for photographers who came for the vast numbers of wading birds.  These days the variety and diversity of species is much the same but from stories from the locals, the numbers aren't the same and the birds aren't quite so habituated.  They tend to keep frustratingly out of range so almost all the pictures that you'll see here are hefty crops..with the exception of the hares!  They were undoubtedly the stars of the show for me. We managed to get some decent early morning light and spent a good amount of time watching these bewitching creatures.  They didn't seem at all camera shy... unlike their avian friends!

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We kept a constant look out for Marsh Harriers and were often rewarded with the sight of these majestic birds soaring over the polder.  One pair kept returning to a particular spot and we realised that we'd found a nest site.  It was very special to watch the Harriers gathering nest material from the reed beds and take it back to their nest site.  The other birds didn't like the Harriers at all and each day we watched them being mobbed by crows or oystercatchers or other small but fearless birds.

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We found lots of pairs of avocets but they were often quite a distance away and so the pictures could be a lot better and I hope to go back to improve on them.  It was fascinating to watch the avocet chicks learning to become independent. Little balls of fluffy feathers on long blue legs.

We found several families and watched the adult birds protect their chicks either by 'crouching' so that the chicks could nestle underneath, or by going into full attack mode and seeing off any birds or animals that came near.  It didn't seem to matter how big the incoming birds were but they always flew away quickly in the face of the fearsome avocet beak!

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My beloved stepfather used to keep Texel sheep on his farm in Essex and I have many happy memories of spending time with the Texel ewes and lambs.  It was special to see the familiar faces on Texel.  They seemed to speak Dutch though and didn't take too much notice of my usual sheep talk. 

Much as I liked the Texel sheep, the Avocets didn't really share my views.  Those who had nested on islands were safe from their sharp trampling hooves but the pairs who'd missed out on prime real estate and had nested on the beach were in big trouble.  I found it completely fascinating to watch the sheep v avocet stories unfold.  I'd never seen birds do the 'please chase me, I've got a broken wing/leg' routine before.  The sheep were unimpressed and for the most part carried on grazing whilst stepping perilously close to the nests.  The sitting bird would eventually have to get off the nest and take on the sheep.  Extraordinary sight to watch!  Who would think that such delicate little birds would be able to see off big heavy old sheep?

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Thank you Dick for showing me Texel and for keeping up your hilarious running commentary.  I haven't laughed so much for months as I did in those hours on Texel watching bird and sheep wars.  Thank you Elly and Izaak for your hospitality.  I'm looking forward to returning next spring.

 

London Impressions

I love learning new tricks with my camera and so I grabbed the opportunity to learn with Valda Bailey and Doug Chinnery when they were in London for a workshop.  Although I won't claim any particular merit for my resulting experiments, it was really good fun to get rid of the tripod and 'play' with some more impressionistic work.  All a bit 'marmite' but it's the freedom to be creative that I like and it's good to have a few more photographic tricks up my sleeve.

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