I left home this morning at 7.30 for Grove, arriving in heavy mist just after 8 (despite it being perfectly clear at Chartham). I walked down to the Feast hide in anticipation of the sun breaking through quickly. Cettis were signing and a pair of reed bunting went about their daily business in reed bed. There was not much other activity but I decided to stay there until visibility and light levels improved, which was a full two hours later. In the meantime I took a few shots of a greylag that was on the raft. The light was very 'white' and I was compensating a full +2 1/3 stops to get good exposure - now that's shooting to the right!!
In the past I've used a Wimberley tripod head for support and although it works really well it's quite a lot to lug around in addition to the tripod. I used a monopod today as I was planning to do a fair bit of walking. This turned out OK and I will probably do it again when I want to be more mobile - particularly as image quality was not adversely affected.
Once the light improved, I cut over to the Stour and walked down towards Stodmarsh. The same rain that had drenched me on Canterbury golf course yesterday had left the walkways very treacherous. I slipped over once but somehow managed to keep my equipment from landing in the mud - more by luck that judgement.
There were plenty of teal and lapwing on the meadows and robin, chaffinch and various tits in the bushes lining the river but no sign of bullfinch or yellowhammer, which was disappointing. By now there were marsh harrier over the reeds and a sparrowhawk circled over too.
It was fairly quiet in the wood so I continued to walk up towards the Marsh hide, taking a shot of some nicely coloured catkins on the way. There was a black-tailed godwit in with the lapwing from the marsh hide - not something I've seen at the reserve too often.
Just as I got to the end of the cleared out area I spotted a willow warbler *** in one of the willows that has fallen over. I hung around photographing it for about half an hour and managed a few good shots despite it being highly active and often in dense parts of the tree.
*** On closer inspection probably a chiffchaff - could someone confirm? I usually rely on song to differentiate...
I dropped into the Feast hide again on the way back but it was just as quiet as earlier. One bonus was a merlin that flashed across the top of the reedbed, heading towards the orchard.
Waxwing at Fort Belvedere (Berks)
Despite all the waxwings that have been about I've not seen one this winter (I know, I need to get out more!). However, Martin Washford had a flock of over 50 individuals where he was working at Fort Belvedere and managed to get a shot of them drinking from the edge of the frozen lake early one morning last week.
One of the smallest spring flowers, that of the hazel.