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JULY 2017

Green Woodpecker

Busy, busy


Green Woodpeckers

Apart from other photography work, I spent some very enjoyable days in Lincolnshire, Shropshire and Yorkshire!  Apart from a desire to improve my macro photography and learn some more techniques, I returned to Lincolnshire to Tom Robinson's Wildlife Photography Hides. In fact, it was so good that I visited a couple of times!  Tom has set up some incredibly comfortable hides that are visited by a number of species.  The 'Dyke Hide' is one of my favourites and the ant hills on the edge of the dyke attract Green Woodpeckers.  On my first visit, I was focussed on the antics of an adult bird when I noticed another 'head' wander into the bottom of the frame!  A juvenile had accompanied the parent.  It was the first time that a juvenile had been seen and of course, after that parent birds weren't half so interesting.  I was desperate for the juvenile to return.  

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Of course I went back for more!  A couple of weeks later the single juvenile that I'd seen was accompanied by no less than 3 siblings!  Amazing.  What an opportunity!  I particularly enjoyed watching one of the youngsters doing some rather balletic but amusing wing-stretching.  Thank you for sharing the experience Tom!  I can see that Lincolnshire is going to become a real favourite destination of mine.

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and Buzzards

I'd never seen Buzzards on a nest before.  As I climbed into Tom's tower hide and settled down, any apprehension that I initially felt about the birds being unsettled by the arrival of a photographer completely melted away.  The birds gave a cursory look towards the totally camouflaged tower hide before resuming their afternoon programme.  Jumping and flapping, eating, removing tickly down-feathers and above all, scanning the skies for the return of a parent with a food item... all part of the programme!  I had no idea that Buzzards sit down on their ankles.  What looks like a backwards facing knee is actually an ankle!

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I felt like a film maker from a BBC programme in my secret vantage point.  It was an extraordinary privilege to watch these birds and really difficult to stop anthropomorphising especially when the 'youngest' of the birds looked so utterly baffled by the jump and flap antics of its bigger sibling!   I have to say that these birds really get the prize for 'Dirty Bird of the Year'... the nests are a gruesome, fly ridden platform of old bones and carcasses! Grim. They seem to like it though and spend time sifting through the detritus in the hope of finding something that is no longer too big to eat!

then to the Ospreys

The other reason for a return to Lincolnshire was to spend some time with Gwash Ospreys at Horn Mill Trout Farm.  Horn Mill Trout Farm had been losing about 1000 fish per year to the Ospreys and in 2013, in discussion with the Rutland Osprey Project, decided to leave one pond open to the Ospreys and to net over their other ponds.  The idea was to offset the financial impact of the loss of fish from this one pond, with an income from keen photographers and bird watchers who would be only too delighted to sit and watch the Ospreys fish from close range.  A comfortable hide was built on the bank of the pond and the vegetation on the banks of the pond was allowed to grow.  The Ospreys were obviously going to thrive with regular access to healthy fresh trout! 

For our visit, Ian acted as spotter and provided some very welcome information and chatty banter via a radio link from his vantage point well away from the pond.  The weather wasn't the best, the light wasn't the best but the potential at this site is really growing and I'll certainly be booking again next year.  It's the most amazing sight to see a wild Osprey fishing.  They often land in a tree near the main pond and then watch to see what the fish are doing before beginning to dive.  Is it horrible to hope that the Osprey will fail to catch a fish on the first dive and have to try again?  

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and then more practice photographing small stuff

I've often said that macro photography is hard work.  It's physically hard work believe it or not and completely dependent on the vagaries of the British weather systems.  Macro in the rain, wind or sun is almost impossible.  Insects fly when they're warm, flowers blow in the wind etc etc,  My trip to Shropshire was a lucky one!  It was delightful to catch up with Mark Sisson and spend time photographing a variety of wild orchids and of course, the famous Shropshire Silver-studded Blue butterfly.  The weather was kind to us.  I had fun focussing on insects and the exquisite but tiny Silver-studded Blues.

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Walking in amongst Fragrant Orchids gives you an absolute clarity about why this particular plant got its name. The scent is quite extraordinary!  It was incredible to walk through the carefully protected managed meadow amongst the Fragrant Orchids and then to squish along the narrow pathways to get to the Marsh Helleborines.  I was soaked and covered in mud by the time I'd finished but it felt really important to try to capture the flower without damaging the marsh.

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My next outing was to learn more macro techniques with Oliver Wright.  It really was worth travelling from London to Yorkshire for this.  Oliver specialises in techniques that allow him to get astonishing close-ups in the field using focus-stacking techniques but often without using a focus rail.  I find looking at the magnified images absolutely mesmerising!  Oliver, thank you for the photo of me photographing the temeral Common Darter!

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But once you learn a new technique, it's all a matter of practice of course.  All good fun.  The percentage of field stacked shots that are successful is low but it's a technique that has even more potential on days when normal macro techniques definitely won't work. 

And I have been practicing in between work and not always successfully!  You might notice a Willow Emerald Damselfy in this last collection.  These are extremely rare visitors to the UK and are now beginning to spread into London.  This one was found in Clissold Park, Stoke Newington on a Water for Wildlife Survey after the first sighting last year.  Read more about this here.

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