Sunday, 13 February 2011

Ugly Duckling to Swan Lake

Ugly Duckling

Saturday afternoon brought the promise of some sunshine - remember that? I managed to escape the household chores and headed over to Oare Marshes, somewhere I have not been for a while but fancied trying to get some flight shots from the roadway. A north-west wind was in my favour as the birds taking off from the east scrape would be head-on. It was that flat, grey light that has blighted us so much of the year that greeted me - it was a real 'ugly duckling' of a day!

Huge flocks of lapwing were on the move over Sheppey with a ring-tail and peregrine making brief appearances as the grazing Highland Cattle gave birders in the east hide a close encounter.

There were plenty of wigeon, teal and pintail around - the latter keeping out of range.
Drake teal
A flock of 19 mute swans glided onto the east flood as the tide came up, coinciding with the odd break in the clouds.

What a difference a stop makes!

Gradually the light improved and, by around 3.30pm, it was looking very hopeful. Hundreds of golden plover were making their way off the Swale onto the flood to roost up.
Golden plover in improving light
Wigeon were constantly on the move
Swan Lake

I guess the swans had been on the estuary for most of the day and were keen to wash the saline remnants from their plumage and preen up. What happened next was amazing - I was witness to a command performance of Swan Lake - too many images to load but here are some of the best.

[On arrival I was getting a shutter speed of 1/640th at ISO1250, by now I was at 1/6000th at ISO800. Very contrasty light so needed to keep an eye on exposure compensation and histogram so as not to burn out the white highlights]

I've titled this image 'Angel' in memory of John Devenport, fellow photographer and member of Ashford Photographic Society who died suddenly, aged just 55, last Wednesday. A finer chap you could not wish to meet. He will be sadly missed by all that knew him and my thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Katrina and son Oliver.

It must be love!


In my photography I'm not too worried about chasing rarities - a good image of a common bird is far more pleasing to me than an average image of a rare bird. I strive to get images of my subjects actually doing things and pay particular attention to composition - note how there is separation between head and wings on the single-swan shots - a slight overlap kills the impact.

The supporting cast

Enter stage left - greylag geese
At this point, I'd like to say thank you to Gabby and Brian for the most welcome (ever) mug of freshly brewed coffee. Brian seemed to be more interested in keeping up with the rugby until the barn owl took centre stage for a cameo appearance.

Gabby - good luck for the London Marathon next month. Keep fit and enjoy it!

It was great to meet up with Nige and his wife (sorry, did not get your name...) and Steve Mackay at the reserve. I hope to see you again soon!

Time to go home . . .

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