Split Personality

Split Personality - Mute Swan on the River Ouse
Split Personality - Mute Swan on the River Ouse
It seemed today that the patch had a bit of a split personality today, what do I mean? Well I am mainly talking about the weather, as I left my house the clouds were completely blanketing the sky, a thin layer of rapidly moving, wispy, low level ones and a fascinating, undulating sheet, the dips being blue sky the peaks dark grey rain laden ones, above them. 

By the time I came home the heavens were clear blue, the kind of skies that you only get in winter. Not a cloud in sight but clearly offering no warmth, the golden orb of the sun slung low in the sky offering a golden hue to the world but failing to really put her faith in her heat.

During much of my walk there was a clearly defined line striking right through the heart of the patch, crystal blue skies to the East, while dark rain laden clouds covered the western skies. It really did create some odd lighting.


Split Personality


The birding was much the same, with a clear East West divide on their numbers, my approach along the Ouse offered little as I passed through the sheep fields on the Mill side of the canal, but over the river in amongst the lush, thick growing, green grasses of the cattle fields, Pied Wagtails (45+) leapt and bobbed their way in amongst the tall grass, accompanied by good numbers of Meadow Pipit, their brown and golden yellow colourings standing out cleanly against the greens of the field.

A Lone swimming Mute Swan (see opening image) was the only creature to brave the icy cold waters of the river, even the hardy Moorhen were walking the banks and field edges rather than dip a toe, and the resident Mallard were nowhere to be seen. 

A brief appearance of a Grey Wagtail added some much needed colour to the bird life and brightened an otherwise pretty dull start to the walk, but I soon headed under the canal and through into a much more inviting scene.

Grey Wagtail walking the banks of the Ouse
Grey Wagtail walking the banks of the Ouse


West End Wonders


The contrast of the two sides of the canal was remarkable, no sooner was I under the bridge and I could hear a calling Great Spotted Woodpecker, clearly agitated by some interloper. Long-Tailed Tit flocks could be heard searching their way through the willows that edge the river, the occasional Blue Tit or Great Tit joining their cousins in the hunt. Overhead small flocks of Fieldfare and Redwing could be heard as they passed over high, occasionally dropping in onto an unseen berry bush beyond the small copse across the river.

A large movement of Lapwing (71) suddenly appeared, flushed up from the Manor Farm pits by some mystery predator, or more likely from the workers still plugging away putting in the paths and ramps ready for the hides to come. 

The difference between the two sides of the canal could not have been different, and the birds continued to improve as I headed further East. The light, however, was still not great yet and so my camera saw little use.

Blue Skies and Sunshine


As I headed East, down stream, I was walking into blue skies, and I had high hopes that sooner rather than later I would be able to put my camera to good use. Today however, as I approached the millennium bridge I bumped into another photographer who clearly had the same thoughts, he was set out photographing Wren as the river bends around towards the camp site. After discussing the merits of the site, trying to locate the local wintering stonechats (and failing) and talking about what else was around, we parted ways and I headed into the west corner to check out the pits.

Again the birding here was not as hot as it can be, whether this was to do with the people working the site or the lack of winter waterfowl I'm not sure, but other than Shoveler, Wigeon and Teal it was only the residents huddled up against the banks.

Turning I headed back up river and as I spotted some thrushes alight on a berry laden bush the sun finally broke free of her shackles and light up the land with a beautiful golden cast.

Waiting for Thrushes


I decided with the sun now shining I would try and approach the berry bush and see which of the winter thrushes would allow me to photograph them. Of course my approach sent the Fieldfare off "chacking" their alarm call to alert their cousins to take flight as well and so was quickly followed by the "rasping" Redwings and the "rattle" of the Blackbirds.

I waited though and after 20 minutes or so of standing (possibly the most painful of all activities for my back) I was rewarded by the blackbirds returning followed briefly by a fieldfare, although his presence lasted little more than enough for me to fire off a couple of shots before he was off again.

A Well Marked Female Blackbird
A Well Marked Female Blackbird

Fieldfare nervously checking my presence
Fieldfare nervously checking my presence

Return West


Turning back toward the path I headed back past the bridge and was pleased to be accompanied along my walk by small groupings of both Goldfinch and Linnet as they fed in the weedy area bordering the pits. The occasional flash of gold or red standing out from the browns of the autumn plants.

Pausing as a Reed Bunting flew in front of me I spotted the female Stonechat as she popped up on the weeds beyond the fence, I've talked of my stonechat obsession before so I set down my camera and tripod to watch her for a few moments, when suddenly the male appeared very close to me. Making sure I made no sudden movements I directed my lens his way and rattled off a few more photos to add to my growing collection of these two beautiful birds.

Male Reed Bunting surrounded by flies
Male Reed Bunting surrounded by flies

Male Stonechat at Manor Farm
Male Stonechat at Manor Farm

Male Stonechat at Manor Farm
Male Stonechat at Manor Farm

Male Stonechat at Manor Farm
Male Stonechat at Manor Farm

Male Stonechat at Manor Farm
Male Stonechat at Manor Farm

Quick Walk Home


After having my fill of the Stonechats (well the male was flushed off by a passer by) I started on my journey home, by now the sun had gone back into hiding and the chill in the air was starting to cramp my hand as I walked holding my camera gear.

Actually here is an interesting (well to me) aside: My right hand doesn't feel the cold half as much as my left. I can carry my camera, tripod etc. in my right hand in the cold for quite a while, but if/when I swap to my left I can only manage for a few minutes before the cold gets to it, is that odd? sorry I'll get back to the walk now.

And so it was that I upped my pace, and at a trot (nearly) I made my way back home, barely stopping for any of the passing birds, with the exception of checking out my only Stock Dove of the day. Arriving home and looking back out across the road there was nothing but the blue skies again, truly a day with a split personality.

Photography as Art


I got into wildlife photography because I always wanted to be able to capture the beauty I was seeing when in the company of birds and wildlife, but sadly my artistic abilities, with pen or brush, did not match my desire, and so photography became my art, I can now finally say that my photography is matching up to my artistic intentions.

Today, after photographing the thrushes, I had a brief encounter with a female Reed Bunting, she perched beautifully for me in glorious, golden, light and allowed me the time to capture a couple of images that match the sorts of paintings I would love to be able to create.

I thought I would therefore showcase them at the bottom here, as I'd love to know what others think of them.

Female Reed Bunting in a Golden Light
Female Reed Bunting in a Golden Light

Female Reed Bunting in a Golden Light
Female Reed Bunting in a Golden Light

Female Reed Bunting in a Golden Light
Female Reed Bunting in a Golden Light


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1 comments:

  1. It sounds like it was a great outing in the end, loads of wonderful photos to show for it. It's not that often I encounter Grey Wagtails but they are a real pleasure to see! I love the golden lighting you can get in the winter, it showed off the Reed Bunting in your images a treat! :)

    Interesting comments about unevenly cold tolerant hands too - I recently discovered gloves meant for angling/hunting (I have no interest in either) but they are ideal for photography - thumb and index fingers can be fingerless, and a rubbery underside is far better for keeping hold of a camera than cold hands - perfect!(Teenage son thinks they're terminally sad!)

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