March 2014 gave me the chance to upgrade my kit to a much better longer lens. Now with my new acquisition, I could get the extra reach I had been wanting for around a year. My first tryout with the new lens was planned to head back to Elmley. With some research on the reserves main website, there was some great showings of the Short Eared Owls the proceeding weeks. It was a Sunday that the weather proved fine, and so armed with my gear of I headed to Elmley.
Along the main track that leads to the main car park, there was a lot of bird activity with Lapwings, Little Egret and Redshank all feeding within a stones throw of the car. The light was fantastic, really enhancing the colours in the Lapwing and Redshank. With all these birds so close by I was able to begin to learn how the new lens worked and what it could achieve with image quality. The following image is one of the first capturing the natural feeding behaviour of the Redshank.
I have recently revisited these first images and spotted one that could demonstrate how well Redshank can be camouflaged. I decided to turn it into monochrome and adjust the settings to really enhance how well hidden this particular bird was. The only real giveaway to the bird being there is the darkness of its bill and that it is horizontal.
After parking, I made my way to the first hide, (a good 20 minutes walk) chatting with a film maker on the way. This hide provided me with another first sighting in my life, the Avocet! Such an iconic bird that I had only ever seen on TV and publications.
2 hrs drifted by, with quite a few shots taken of Avocet activity. From them resting and stretching through too courtship dances, these were aspects I had never observed before.
|Let the displaying begin...|
|Dancing on the Water...|
After exhausting my Avocet observations, I made my way back to the open ground in anticipation of the Shorties appearance. On the way I managed to get a Meadow Pipit sitting on a post by using a parked car in the disabled parking as shelter. This was also another first sighting, so all bodes well for the main attraction.
After 5 minutes of walking, some fellow photographers were also waiting around too. Then suddenly, the wife of one of them, spotted a Shorty on the ground some 300ft or so away. Result! it does come in three's then after all. It was too far away for a photographic opportunity but with some waiting, it was sure to take flight. Not long after, with great expectations, not only this Owl, but another took to the air.
|Just taken flight|
Some 16 months to the date it transpires, from first hearing and seeing photos of these stunning Owls only a 45 minute drive away. I was to have my first ever sighting of this visitor to the UK. And this, on my second ever visit to Elmley to try and photograph them! The pair circuited for 10 minutes or so before one disappeared over the sea defence mound. The other stayed a while longer, hunting just as the Barn Owl had in the field that backs onto my garden. Gliding effortlessly through the air, pausing, looking down, then carrying on in flight. Pure magic to watch. This was as close as they came to us, just keeping that safe distance. But close enough for me to really appreciate how the Shorty goes about it business.
The day wasn't quite done with action though, as not long after the Owl moved on, I managed to get the above shot of 3 Little Egrets in flight. An evening Suns glow, lighting the birds otherwise plain white plumage as they fly. After the first and this visit successes, I am so appreciative of the reserve and its diversity of bird life.