Sunday, 27 March 2011


You can achieve a lot in an hour. I had just that amount of time to spend on the patch with the camera.
One hour. Where to go is the question I have to answer.

I decide on the small cluster of old flooded marl pits that go by the name of the Nature Ponds. It's close by, small enough to work in a short space of time and I should get something to photograph. It might not be out of the ordinary, but that is no big deal. The commomer residents of the patch deserve to take centre stage every now and then.

Reflecting on my decision some hours later it seems I got it spot on for a change! I had a fine 60 minutes that yielded 131 images of six species. What I have tried to do with these pictures is to capture the birds how I was seeing them rather than in 'Field Guide' poses. I'm not interested in record shots or the run-of-the-mill bird in focus with a clean background pictures that you see so often.

As I arrive a Great Tit is flitting from tree to tree inspecting anything that moves including myself, so it is first to be recorded. He posed for a portrait in profile but that is not what I chose to capture. He stares right at me on several occasions, then at a passing Grey Squirrel. The stare is the shot for me.

He soon gets bored with me and hops off to look at the nestbox in a big willow tree, much to the distress of a pair of Blue Tits. Much flapping and cheeping ensues.

Above all this in the top branches of the willow a Chiffchaff is calling. It drops down a little way and starts to feed. Looking intently at the buds and bark for tasty morsels. It is living up to it's scientific name (the genus part of the name means leaf gleaner of leaf watcher). So that's what I decide to record, leaf watching.

While all this is going on a lone Collared Dove is sitting nervously in a nearby tree. A few frames of this individual are taken.

Something stirs deep in the hawthorn thicket. Just a hint of something moving. It really is in deep, close to some ivy. It's dark so I adjust the ISO of the camera and open up the lens apperture, we'll need all the light we can get to record the male Blackcap that has just hopped into view as I make the adjustments to the 40D. It is a bird that skulks in the depths of the hedgerows and that is how it is going to be shown in the picture.

True to form he disappears into the tangle of twigs, thorns and leaves, the only sign he is still around for the rest of my hour-long photoshoot is his cracking song.

More buzzing calls overhead and a few birds drop into the tall Oak on the fringe of the pond cluster. This is a totally unexpected bonus as they turn out to be Redpolls! I've not seen any at all this year and I never find them that easy to pin down on the patch so I'll settle for any kind of shot of these birds as I don't have any at all in the (not too extensive) archives! They are distant so it's not a frame filler, but I'm chuffed anyway.

Time is running out now and I've done much better than I expected but I want to capture on C-MOS sensor (it's no longer 'capture on film' is it?!) the Robin that has been singing for almost the full hour I've been here. He is deep in the cover too but I get close enough to capture him in full song. it's the singing I want to illustrate here as this is how I'll remember him. In full voice.

The clock has beaten me so I leave the residents of ponds to continue their leaf watching, staring, skulking and singing  and drift off feeling rather pleaded with myself.

Cracking hours work!

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