Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Chat Show....

I'm not a huge fan of late night chat shows. They seem to me an odyssey of sycophancy.

A star host tells a star guest how great they are and then they try to sell us whatever book/movie/show/song they are flogging.


I thought the one exception to this smaltzy rule was the genius of Partridge. Alan Partridge was ace, such an intelligent send up of the genre, I never tire of him.

I found another chat show yesterday that I actually enjoyed, a second exception.

A pair of Stonechats on Red Rocks Marsh put on an excellent show that lasted for over an hour. I was able to spend some quality time in some quality light with some quality birds. I reckoned I would find a pair in the wind and salt scortched vegetation along the sandy marsh, and I wasn't disappointed.

The day was perfect, for one we had light in abundance. The marsh was lit up with strong winter sun, colours were vivid again after what seemed like ages of drab greys and dull browns.

With all this light I wanted to take pictures not do chores with my day off. So my list of tasks remained long as I drifted marshwards with camera and memory cards. I chose the marsh as I wanted to get the colourful Stonechats in this wonderful light. It wasn't long before I found a pair and was ablr to get their portraits.

First the male....

then the female....

I get plenty of images, the memory card is filling fast. I watch the birds and study thier behaviour. I see how they hunt for food, soon I recognise their tactics and work out thier patterns and habits. I start to get a bit bored with the "classic" subject-big-in-the-frame-with-a-blurry-background shots so I try and get a few different poses etc. The birds were feeding in one spot before flying to another perch to resume searching a fresh patch of marsh. I try to freeze one in flight.

The male is ringed, his BTO band shines in the sun. My back is warm from the same sun. Time is flying. The birds are well used to people, many pass by with and without dogs. Some stop and stare at them. A couple enquire of me the birds name. It is all in all a thoroughly pleasant day. The female flys to a reed. It bends down slightly under her weight. The stem looks like a "line of best fit" on a graph.

She does some calculations and swoops on some prey, pouncing before it can escape. She is quick. I watch as she takes several bugs from the sandy mess of roots on the dunes. The male feeds in a slighlt different manner. He seems to go for quality over quantity. I only see him take 3 items for his lunch. They are all plump and hairy caterpillars. He zooms to the safety of the reed bed to eat them, out of sight. He does pause briefly with his prize and I capture them both.

Three is obviously enough for him and he disappears into the reedbed, perhaps for an afternoon nap to digest his prey.

The female continues her searching of the strandline for morsels. She flits over my head and into the sun. When I relocate her she is wonderlully backlit by a quickly dropping sun. I shoot into the sun and get her with the light fringing her, tail feathers glowing like a halo.

All this feeding has made me hungry too and I take the flatness of a battery as a hint to draw my time with the 'Chats to a close. I wend my way back towards West Kirby and my sandwich shop of choice. I glance back and see she is still hunting bugs. She sees me leave as she too peers over her shoulder.

Her bug hunt resumes....

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