November last year was the next time I was able to visit the reserve. Any previous chances I would have were be stifled by bad weather. Conditions were very similar to my previous trips, with glorious sunshine and again a slight breeze. The Reedbed hide was a given to head to first and also being the first from the car park. There was not much going on when I settled down, but eventually another first for me up close was a Male Shoveler Duck. He had flown in to the bay area. He swam around and then eventually came to rest on a post just showing right in the middle of the bay. The light was perfect, with stunning reflections in the water just as the time with the Grebe. Really showing the drakes plumage and colouring off at its best as can be seen below.
|Preening and token feather|
After the Shoveler Duck there was no more visitors to the bay. My next port of call was to be the Marsh Hide. No longer had I sat down, opened the viewing hatch and turned on the camera, had a Grey Heron come into view and heading my way. I prepared to capture it landing and as can be seen I managed to freeze it just as the tips of its feet entered the water.
As soon as he landed, I believe it spotted me and proceeded to take off again with me freezing it a second time...
Some time later finally a Kingfisher turned up, however hidden in the bushes next to a feeder stream. It then flew off across the expanse of water and into the distance. Kingfisher 1, photo by me 0! At least I had proof that they really are inhabitants of Stodmarsh and not a myth. So with this, after some lunch I made my way to the Turf Fields hide where it does make regular passes and stop on the stumps placed for it by the Warden. A lady in the hide told me it had been showing regularly there and was a very good chance it would appear again. After more waiting, suddenly in the distance, some 150ft away, there was a blue flash. It was back. It landed down out of sight in the edges of the water. Camera at the ready, it suddenly rose up and hovered about 12ft above the water I would guess. I had never thought they could hover and this behaviour was completely new to me and I caught this in the following photos.
I must admit I had become tired of seeing Kingfishers in photos really really close up from sites that do photo experience days. So with this male (it has no red on the bill which females have) being so far away, gave me the opportunity I was after in capturing one in his general surroundings. By luck it was still a bright day which enabled me to use the fast enough shutter speed to not only get it sharp but freeze him while hovering. Third time lucky then for me to finally capture one at Stodmarsh. With this 3rd highlight of the trip I headed back to the Reedbed hide.
By the time I got to the hide it would not be long before Sunset. There was the Marsh Harriers hunting in the distance on their normal routes and the odd Coot moving about in the bay and as always arguing with each other. Then about 10 minutes before the light faded hundreds of Starlings in a Murmoration decided to land in the reeds to the right of the hide. They had just settled, then suddenly they were up and away again. Initially there was no rhyme or reason to it. They came back in and settled again, and then there it was, a Sparrowhawk. Despite the low light I was able to catch the moment the Hawk made a second pass...
It is quite hard to make the Hawk out, but just above the reeds an inch in from the right, it can be seen with its wings swept back. I am not sure if it was successful and to what sex it was either as it was so quick. I guess it must have been as the Starlings made several circuits of the area again before a final settle down for the night. As they circuited and with the light being so low, I could try out a few ideas with creative shutter speeds. The following image is one such and I feel captivates the essence of a Murmoration by Starlings. I have yet to visit Stodmarsh after this climatic trip...