It must have been the port. Maybe the combination of the pâtè, the cheese and the port.
Whatever, I find myself sunk low in an armchair in that familiar, satisfied, comfortably reflective mood as we approach the eve of a new year. So I’ve had a good trawl through the memory banks and hard drives of 2014 and after a bit of deliberation I have found my five favourite pictures of the year from along the muddy banks of the Dee (and beyond).
1 The Manta Ray
It was a cold, drab day on Hoylake Shore. The tide and the assembled birdwatchers were a little subdued by the unpleasant weather. The waders were in a fight flock hugging the edge of the tide, not really giving us the usual spectacular show. That was until the Peregrine swooped.
An unlucky Dunlin bit the bullet, its neck snapped in front of the shocked crowds. The rest of the flock took to the air in panic, weaving fantastic shapes against the dull grey sky. This was my favourite.
2 The Flutter
The start of 2014 was a tempestuous affair. Storms battered the Patch relentlessly for the first few weeks leaving the estuary empty of Knot, Blackwits and Pintail. I had to find something else to point the camera at. I came across a feeding station with a sunny aspect and a distant background (this was good because it appeared blurry on the pictures) frequented by some boisterous Chaffinches.
I had a fine time messing about with the camera settings to get some flight shots. The sound of the fluttering wings as the birds vied for position on the feeder was great to hear too.
3 The Death of a Fly
In the spring, after work, I would head down to the bench where Gordon sat to relax with the camera. A pair of Chiffchaffs was nesting close by and would feed in the old Oak tree opposite the wooden seat. The bench is popular with resting ramblers so the birds become quite used to people and if you sat still they would come reasonably close.
Sitting there quietly with the big lens I was able to get some close ups of the feeding Chiffies and I even managed to capture the demise of a small fly…
4 The White Out
May saw my third trip to Porsanger in the far north of Norway. As usual I was there for the Norwegian Knot Project to do a bit of fieldwork. This year Spring and the Knots were late so I had a bit of time to look for other wildlife. Snow Buntings were still in large flocks around the few small farms that eek out some limited agriculture in the frozen north.
Occasionally some would fly down to the shore to feed on the seaweed strandline. Here I was able to photograph them and was lucky enough to get a summer plumaged male on the snow. White on white, snow on snow.
5 The Great Escape
On Hilbre in early autumn I spent some time with a family of Swallows as they prepared for their migration to southern Africa. The details of the extra ordinary story of a lucky hover fly escaping what looked like certain doom is detailed in the post “Dog Days Are Over”.
As always, time spent with these birds continued to grow my respect and admiration for their efforts. I hope the family made it safely south, they certainly had enough fuel.
That’s my top five; they are in chronological order as I couldn’t pick a Number One. Each photograph reminds me of days spent in my favourite places surrounded by my favourite birds with my camera in hand. Good times.
2015 fast approaches and promises much, but in the meantime, where’s the rest of that Port?
Happy New Year.