Sunday, 31 July 2011

Property Ladder

The estate agents details would probably read something like this:

     "A unique opportunity has arisen to purchase a fantastic bespoke beachfront
      property with superb views of the Dee Estuary. The accommodation comprises
      of, in brief, a metre long entrance hall leading to a charming, cosy nesting
      chamber. Demand is sure to be high so an early internal viewing is essential."

It occurs to me that us humans would pay silly money to live in such a smashing place as the Sand Martins that I intend to observe and record are currently dwelling in. Their interest in this charming location is a little more practical and utilitarian than our more "climbing the property ladder" self-centred ambitions.

The exact location of the colony is not something that is widely publicised but it is on a busy stretch of public beach and so the birds have become well used to and largely tolerant of people, dogs, horses, paragliders, kites and a host of other beach fun paraphinalia.

I say this beacause it is important to note that I have ensured that I have not disturbed these birds while I have been photographing them at the nest. Photography at the nest is not something that I would normally do or reccommend others do, but in this instance it is possible to take a few pictures without causing any disturbance or stress to our subject. The extreme telephoto lens I have borrowed and some severe cropping of the images in Photoshop means close up images can be obtained guilt free.

The birds are busy, 9 nest holes seem to be in action. Adults working hard to keep the supply of insect food to hungry juveniles.
They swoop and jink over the meadows that end in the cliff face they have made home, sometimes in great numbers. While not quite a swarm they seem to fill the air. Gentle calls between pairs soundtrack the airshow. The juveniles creep to the entrance of their nests and peep out.
They are very cute. Mouths almost frog like with a huge gape. This will come in very useful for bug hunting when they fledge. They'll need to put on quite a lot of fatty fuel for the impending journey to Africa. For now mouths are used to beg for food....
The adults do their best to keep up, only briefly pausing for a rest on the parched cley cliffs.

I have a go at getting some flight shots, most are worthless, only the odd one freezes the bird on a hunting sortie.

There are plenty of bugs up there too, I love these birds for what they do. They are taking out plenty of biting pests. Horse flies are a particular enemy of mine and I'm glad to see plenty being brought in as lunch for the chicks. Green Bottles seem a favourite prey item too.

There seems little strife between neighbours, they are a happy colony. I wonder how many were here last year and if any of the young raised last summer are here raising a family under this summer's sun.
The birds have no time for such musings, there is much to be done before thay leave for their journey south.
Young crave food....

Adults supply it....

I watch and record these intrepid little birds, my admiration for them increasing the more I think of the trials and tribulations that await them in the coming winter. How many will make it back here next year? Will I see these birds again.

Good luck boys and girls, fingers crossed we'll meet up the other side of winter.

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