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I set off for Fen Drayton not much after 4am to see what I could get image wise. First point of call was a stretch of road that nearly always produces Barn owls. Fortunately this time I was able to get a shot of one before it departed, which is usually the norm. And what with a lovely sunrise it started off well.
Whether I was in the wrong place or not, probably, I don't know. But there weren't many Terns flying around the waters, in the past Ive hunkered down and waited for them to pass and click away, but that was not the case today. As always there are good numbers of warblers during the breeding season here, and first up were the vocal Sedge warblers. Not always showing at the tops of scrub but always giving themselves away by the calls.
The Whitethroats were very active collecting insects and caterpillars and flying off to an awaiting family no doubt. A nice surprise was a Garden warbler which alighted a hedge not far from myself and unaware until I clicked off a few shots whereby it took flight, but I had an image I didn't expect to get and that bettered any of that species Id taken before.
I capped the morning off by eventually getting a couple of images of the Reed warblers. Not that they weren't active or in short supply, but because they are buggers for getting a shot without a frame full of reeds in the way. And with a supporting cast of hundreds of Damselflies and a passing Emperor and what looked like a Scarce Chaser I was ready to get out of the heat and head home. One bird which I had hoped of connecting with early morning were Swifts. On a previous visit on a previous year I had photographed them in swarms feeding on insects above the trees before it had gotten too hot and the flies had ascended, but on this occasion I did not see one Swift at all, hopefully it was just an off day for what is one of my favourite birds.
On the mothing side of things it was still very quiet indeed with a few species being recorded. This was obviously down to the cold temperatures overnight with several frosts being the norm. Hopefully a warm spell will enliven things soon.
I took a trip out to some nearby woodland just inside Cambridgeshire to view the Bluebells. I was not to be disappointed either with a huge carpet of colour as soon as you entered the wood. It is hard to capture how your eyes perceive the carpet of colour as opposed to a camera recording the scene, it never looks as intense somehow. I decided not to portray the shots from the footpath but from the many winding animal tracks, probably all badger, cutting their way through the wood.
*MEGA * MEGA * MEGA * MEGA * MEGA*
After receiving the pager message I was sorted and ready to leave the house less than twenty minutes later. With a journey of just under two hours the nerves started, especially after missing on the Oriental in Kent. Almost there and still no news but after a stop for petrol the pager relieved my fears and on I went.
While the weather was not always favourable when I got the chance to put the trap out, I was able to get a few species to photograph. Getting them to pose was another thing though.
Nut Tree Tussock.
Nut Tree Tussock.
Turning my attention back to the local dumps now that the weather had improved during the days and the wind had decreased, the number of Wheatear and Yellow Wagtails had increased. A male and female had set up territory on one pile and were most obliging and very inquisitive at times, coming too close to focus.
It was nice to get them against a blurred backdrop of colour too, with the greens and yellows from the surrounding crop fields certainly adding to the image. And as long as they were not too far away from me then the heat haze from the heaps did not cause a problem.
The subtle pastel colours on the males stood out at all times but it was surprisingly difficult to pick them out when they moved, blending in very well by just keeping still on one of the many clumps, looking for tasty grubs and flies to fly at and it was only then that you could relocate it. The female with the cream and browner tones simply vanished in front of you when running around for food, only when she ran up onto the highest clump of muck did she give herself away. But then she would pose and pose beautifully at that, keeping one eye on the fly banquet and one on the male, not letting him encroach on her corner of the heap for too long.
The Yellow wagtails were not as numerous as in previous years but I had been told a huge count was had the day before. They were active enough but the males were very territorial and just as one came into view it was promptly chased off by another male. I only picked up on one or two females so most birds were probably already very active around the nests.
There is no mistaking how striking the male Yellow wagtails can be, and with a coloured backdrop too bring out the vibrancy even more its not hard to see why I return year after year. Not that its easy to capture these gems though, they dart around at a great speed only when they stop to survey the area and decide to sing a few notes are you able to click off a few frames, but its challenging to follow them whilst feeding and try to get an action shot that leaves the rest behind... one day I'll get it.
And when all hell breaks loose and vanishes then you know a predator is nearby, and on this occasion it was a Kestrel. Dropping down to the ground to pick up insects it certainly had the smaller wagtails nervy. But the one thing that stood out the most was the incredible odour from the muck, and where I had manoeuvred the car around to get a good spot I had not noticed how deep it was around my car wheels. Later on parked up outside my home anyone would of thought that the local farmer was muck spreading the fields it was so intense... and I mean intense. Yet that was nothing compared to when I took it to the local hand car wash, those poor buggers were turning up their noses, I thought I would be charged more for the inconvenience I had caused. But even after jet washing the car you could still,albeit less pungent, smell the pong. Oh well ! I'm used to it anyway.