Thursday, 4 August 2011

The Happy Dog of Molyvos....

Rain darkened the morning. A low grey fug of cloud was leaking a wet drizzle all over me as I cycled to work.

An unfortunate length of waterproof and the pedalling action left my shorts looking like I had just suffered a severe incontinent episode much to my colleagues delight as I arrived in the office.

I was not downcast though, despite the dampness and ridicule, and that is thanks to a brief encounter with a canine more than a year ago.

We were on holiday in Lesvos, Greece. The picturesque town of Molyvos was our base for our tour of the island.

A birding hotspot so you might expect my most memorable moment to be a chance sighting of a Ruppells Warbler or stumbling across a Cinerous Bunting, but no. Enter the Happy Dog of Molyvos.

On several occasions as we wandered around the town we bumped into what appeared to be a stray dog. Up by the castle, in the harbour, along narrow cobbled streets and on the shingle beach, we got used to seeing him. When we were purchasing a local olive wood souvenier to take home he wandered into the shop. The owner informed us that he is a regular visitor. In fact, he was no stray, he just liked walking himself and calling in various places about town to say hello. Sometimes shunned by tourists and shooed from shops he never took it personally, just carried on, enjoying himself whatever the circumstances. A happy-go-lucky positive attitude. The shopkeeper did not know his name so we labelled him with the title of this post.

What does this have to do with nature photography on the Dee?

When cold and wet, annoyed, stressed out or if I feel my mood darkening I think about what the Happy Dog of Molyvos would do. He'd shrug and get on with it, something good will be just around the corner.

So I decide that the damp grey squib of a day will pass and the sun will return, no need to be so miserable. Sure enough things picked up after work.

The vital ingredient for photography, light, looked delicious so I saddled up and headed for Gilroy Nature Park. There had been reports of Blackwits and Greenshank so it was worth a go.

2 Blackwits on the pool, a little distant but just reachable with the telephoto lens. Colours glowing in the evening light. They seemed pretty relaxed, just the 2. A bit of info supplied from a reliable source has told me we had 27 on 5th August 2010, rising to 800 by month's end. This could be the start of another bumper Blackwit spree - fingers X-ed!

All is calm, the only ripples are from a passing Moorhen family shamboling across the muddy margins of the pool. The sun is still red hot, burning my calves despite the lateness of the evening. My shorts fully dried off now.

The left hand bird is an adult male, the other a juvenile, both of the islandica race. I love these birds. The plumage looks stunning in this light. I rattle off a handful of pictures of the youngster, fresh in from Iceland. They are settled so I review what I take as I go along, tweaking settings to make the most of the light.

Adult male wakes up, seems his belly has got him going. Soon he is spoiling his immaculate tiger-striped plumage with gloopy mud as he feeds with a rapid stitching motion. Success is swift, a worm is wrestled from the pond....
...and sucked down it's bill, perfect spheres of mud, globules of dirt are squirted out and plop in the pool. The light is rendering all the details of it's feeding as well as it's feathers. Magic.
The bird's face is festooned with mud, some serious preening will be called for after dinner.

Dinner is calling me too, but not before I get a few more pictures of the juvenile. It is not so adept at catching the worms. It pauses inbetween attempts, letting the ripples slowly widen in gentle ever-increasing circles. A truly beautiful scene.

Light, colour, motion and reflection all combine to produce great scenes for me to try and record. As I look at the results "in camera" I think I'm getting there, but you really have to get out there and see it for yourself to appreciate the pallet of colours and their reaction to this light. The male pauses, ripples drift outwards.

I jump on the bike and hurry home as content and relaxed as the Happy Dog of Molyvos

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