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MARCH 2018

Fieldfare, Stoke Newington, London

Visitors

It's pretty magical when unexpected visitors turn up.  The cold snap was fairly grim from a human perspective but the unexpected delight was a small flock of fieldfares who spotted the berries in my neighbour's garden and descended for a few minutes every hour or so and ate as many as they stuff down before disappearing to digest them. 

It was fascinating watching them, all the while hoping that one of them would hop into a more photographic position.  Each fieldfare would eat berry after berry until its crop was bulging and couldn't fit any more in... and periodically the bird would look extremely uncomfortable and would regurgitate a berry whole before swallowing it down again.  A bit gross but rather fascinating to watch!  

The reflected light from the snowy garden made the birds almost glow... and the local primary school made a wonderfully diffuse background!

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One of the best aspects of photography is meeting people with common interests!  It's quite a small world too so spending a long night in one of Tom Robinson's hides with David gave us lots of opportunities to chat and to find that we had friends in common.  To cut a long story short, David invited me and our mutual friend Sarah to come and visit him and his farm and buzzards on the Marlborough Downs.

We arrived the night before buzzard o'clock and had dinner with David and Diana before retiring for an early night.  The alarm went all too early and David picked us up for a fabulous sunrise safari around the farmlands and Downs.  It was a real privilege to see the Roe Deer wandering around looking for new growth to nibble on.  The young bucks were sporting their rather new-looking head gear.  Very velvety looking and incredibly handsome but it must be a real headache and perhaps rather bewildering to have these start to grow out of your head each year!  

On one patch of the Downs we found a fair old group of Roe Deer who seemed to be racing and chasing each other around an ancient clump of Beech trees.  It looked like fun.  Roe Deer, playing hide and seek just for fun!  Of course we did our best to photograph them from the landrover windows...and hoped that a Roe Deer would pose beautifully in perfect light.  When at last we found the right Deer, in the right light, he was standing just by a fence post.  If that wasn't enough, he was being photo-bombed by a Meadow Pippit!  You have to laugh!

Our day in the buzzard hide was action packed.  Buzzards came and went regularly throughout the day.  It was an incredible spectacle.  These are very shy birds and to be so close and to watch the feeding and preening as well as the squabbling and fighting was an extraordinary privilege.  

 

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I should think that at least 5 if not 7 birds turned up during the course of the day.  Mostly they came alone but every now and then a second or even third bird would appear and they'd indulge in some fierce fighting.  It was very difficult to capture this because the lens set up would have been different from the portrait set up... and the one thing that you don't do with buzzards, is to change anything!  They need it all to look exactly the same or they won't come in.

Other visitors included opportunistic magpies and crows who didn't quite dare to steal food from the buzzards but amused us with their 'just one step closer' antics. Eventually, when the buzzards departed they'd do a little bit of clearing up!  

After David collected us at the end of the day, we went on another landrover safari and found a Short-eared Owl and a Barn Owl.  The farms and the land in the Marlborough Downs area are managed for wildlife and it certainly shows.  It was incredible!  Thank you so much David and Diana!  We loved our visit.

 

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I also went with Mia and Neil to Rainham Marshes to look at their relatively new photography hide. Enormous potential for woodland bird photography and a constant stream of photographers wanting to take up the opportunity.  

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