Some days striking moments pull you in and just grab your attention, holding you in their hand, absorbed within the joyous occasion, as they unfold around you. Today while walking the Floodplain Forest I was blessed to have two such moments, one of chattering masses the other stamping hooves and shaking manes.
After wandering through much of the reserve without really seeing much, the first two hides having a few Tufted Duck and a Little Egret as the only birds, I was crossing the iron bridge heading towards the Viaduct hide, when I was suddenly surrounded by a mass of hirundines as they darted and swooped low over my head. Racing, with grace, they grabbed the swarm of flies that must be filling the air.
Screeches of Common Swift, chocolate brown, and scimitar shaped, mingled with the chattering of small, fawn coloured, Sand Martin and the odd flash of deep, almost black, electric blue of House Martin. Standing in rapt attention I just enjoyed the moment for 10-15 minutes, eventually I began aiming my camera skyward, trying to capture one of these masters of the sky as they whizzed passed me.
|House Martin one of the Chattering Masses|
|You can hopefully see the striking blue of this House Martin|
|Another House Martin|
The mass of birds almost followed me to the hide, in fact one Sand Martin had beaten me there, and dashed out of the door as I approached. Settling down on one of the wooden benches I spent far longer than usual watching as Sand and House Martin swooped low over the water, deftly dipping their beak into the murky waters for a cooling drink.
|House Martin over water|
From the Viaduct hide window I relaxed and watched a lone Little Ringed Plover, standing, still as a statue, mere feet from the open windows, a pair of Oystercatcher flashed in, their shrill, piping, alarming calls startling in their eeriness. The usual Pied Wagtails stopped by briefly working their way through the rough stony ground, and were joined briefly by a couple of young Grey Wagtails.
|Little Ringed Plover|
|Young Grey Plover|
|Young Grey Plover|
As I was leaving the hide I spotted a Sand Martin attempted to fly straight into me, banking away at the last moment, but resting on the handrails to the hide instead.
|Sand Martin resting on handrail|
|Ready to fly – Sand Martin|
Stamping Hooves and Shaking Manes
There had been one glaring omission from my walk so far, I had not seen hide nor hair of the Konik Ponies, assuming this meant they were somewhere in the one corner I had not explored today, I headed over passed the Aqueduct hide and off towards the river.
Crossing the, flood proofed, bridge I was suddenly in amongst some real weeds, shoulder high thistles lined the path, the purple flowers buzzing with various bumble bees, wasps and hoverflies, the off electric blue damselfly darted in and out of the spiky green plants, while Small Tortoiseshell butterflies gently fluttered above.
|Bee on Thistle|
As I rounded the final corner, puzzled to have not seen the horses, I was stopped in my tracks, literally, as my path to the gate was blocked by one of the grey beauties. Standing blocking the path I waited, hoping I would soon be able to pass, but enjoying the view of the 4 ponies as they browsed the tall weeds.
|Blocking the path|
My presence did not go un-noticed though and one of the dark maned stallions decided I was too close for comfort and began to huff and whinny at me, stamping his large hoofed foot in a mark of defiance. I took his hint and backed away to a safer distance to continue to watch.
|Seeing me off|
|Getting Feisty – Konik Pony|
It wasn’t long until the ponies began to head my way once more, and as I backed away they began to follow me, along the path, I am sure this was a friendly move, but took precautions and was soon behind a gate, I have one rule, any animal that is larger than I am is one I should respect. So I took the hint and headed off home leaving them in peace.
|On the move|
I should say I am sure I was in no real threat, but it always pays to be safe around large animals you are not familiar with.
Some Experimental Photos
Along side my moment with the martins, I took a few photographs that, while they were in themselves not that impressive, I got a little experimental with the cropping and thought it worth sharing them here.
|Hopefully this shows the speed of the Sand Martin|
|two House Martin|
|Green Woodpecker in Flight|
|Female Tufted Duck in Flight|
And here are the remaining photos from today’s walk.
|Female Tufted Duck|
|Tufted Duck Pair|
|Little Ringed Plover|
|Browsing the weeds|
|Guarding the path|
|Looking for food|
|Follow the leader|
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