Thursday, 5 January 2012

The Roaring Forties....

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Roaring Forties is the name given to strong westerly winds found in the Southern Hemisphere, generally between the latitudes of 40 and 49 degrees.

Air displaced from the Equator towards the South Pole, which travels close to the surface between the latitudes of 30 and 60 degrees south, combines with the earth's rotation to cause west-to-east air currents. Because there is little land below the 40th parallel south, greater wind speeds are able to build than in the same region of the Northern Hemisphere.

Or maybe not. It seems that the unrelenting winds that power the Roaring Forties have migrated north. The Patch has taken a fearful battering by the wind over the last couple of days. At it's strongest the wind gusted at force 11, force 12 is hurricane, there is no force 13.

A time to batten down the hatches?

Er, no! I decided to try and photograph the effects of the wind on the wildlife around the Marine Lake. I reckoned that there will be a couple of Redshanks braving the storm....

A few steps from the front door and I am doubting the decision to come out. It is wild. Sacry wild. Also I am fearing for the kit. All this salty sea spray won't mix well with the camera and lenses. Should I abort the mission?
I decide to risk it and head to the side of the lake. All is dramatic. Light, wind, waves all in topsy turvy motion. It looks fab.

The dramatic clouds are dramatically reducing the dramatic lighting and I am forced to dramatically increase the ISO setting. I also reckon I'm going to need to be shooting at really fast shutter speed as it is really hard to hold the camera steady in the wild wind. Settings set I start to look for things to shoot.
Gulls are fighting against the wind. They slow as they try and fly into it, the wind then forces them sideways or backwards or both. Taking their picture is tricky.

 Some give up on being airbourne and settle on the rolling surface of the lake. They are not much easier to photograph. They disappear behind waves, bobbing about like flotsam and jetsam.

Eventually the gull I am following is wiped out by a huge crashing wave....
It shakes itself down and flies off. If a Black-headed Gull could look embarrassed I think this one would. On the far side of the lake windsurfers are zipping by at a breakneck pace. Like the gull before one gets totally wiped out. He is pinged off the board and skips like a stone across the water for about 30 yards. His board is broken and I gasp as he tumbles - I think this could be serious. Thankfully he seems OK, a fellow surfer comes to his aid and he is returned to dry(ish) land. The surfing resumes and I get a few pics of them in the absence of birds to photograph.
I am buffeted along the prom to the armour stone and I come across my quarry - windswept Redshanks....

The birds face into the teeth of the storm, hunched up against the strengh of the wind. If they turn broadside to the wind feathers are ruffled or the bird is blown off its feet. It's a struggle for them.
They not only have to put up with the ripping wind, the spray from the crunching waves is pretty bad too. Watching them for a while they are stoic in the face of the storm, I don't feel sorry for them like I did when I arrived, they will ride this out and be fine and dandy. Although they do look uncomfortable on occasion....

I've enjoyed my wild trip out in the wind, I have felt the sand sting my cheeks, the spray wet my hair and I can taste the salt on my lips. Rather than avoid the inclement weather I have been there, in it, experiencing it's full force. I turn my coat collar up, hunch my shoulders and head for the safety and comfort of the house. The Redshank huddle together and wait for calm.

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