north kent marshes
Well, I don’t need to tell you what a dreary February it’s been! And so, as a result, it hasn’t been the most productive month in terms of taking pictures. Hides are in position and hares on the marshes will have started doing what they do best….running and boxing, but, the light is so darn awful! It has, however, given me the chance to catch up with all image processing and agency submissions which in turn should (hopefully) free up my time over the next month or so to concentrate on taking pictures. Here are a selection taken earlier in the month when the weather was more favourable.
Those of you that follow me on facebook (that’s where you will get my latest news on projects and workshops) will know that for the last month or so I have been attempting to photograph barn owls. A permanent wooden hide is in position and so far my efforts haven’t been rewarded as much as I would like. Activity at present is quite sporadic so I’m hoping that with the possibility of young to feed in late spring and summer, I’ll have stronger pictures to show here.
Lapwing numbers are incredibly high at the moment reaching several thousand strong on the marshes. Courtship displays have already begun and once again I am sure I will endeavour to record this aspect of their lives. Due to all the rain, breeding condititions are good too with lots of pools and flooded areas throughout the area.
Shortly after sunrise on a perfectly calm, misty morning, I began shooting general views and close-ups of a reedbed.
On the way back I noticed a pair of swans and lay on the ground with the 300mm f2.8 resting on a beanbag. It was still quite misty which not only injected atmosphere into the scene but cut down the overall contrast.
The first ‘story’ of an new addition to my website has just been completed. It’s about my favourite bird, the Lapwing or Peewit. Possibly, the greatest breeding population in the UK resides just a stone’s throw from where I live, which, over the last 10 years, has afforded me the opportunity of recording their life history. The story section differs from my ‘collections’ in that they tell a story (no surprise there then!) with extended captions. Click here to go straight there. More stories will follow which I will let you know about as and when they are added.
Making New Year’s resolutions is one thing I usually steer well clear of. Those that I have made in the past invariably get broken in the first week anyway! Does anyone actually make them and keep to them? If they do, they are either liars or have incredibly strong will power. But, when Practical Photography contacted me asking if I would do 50-60 words on my plans for 2011 for their New Year’s Resolution feature for the January 2011 issue, how could I refuse?! But this wasn’t personal resolutions, to give up drinking and hard partying (in my dreams, though I’m not sure I have the energy anymore) and so it actually took me a lot longer than I expected. To my surprise I gave it serious thought and if I achieve all that which I stated, I will be a very happy man. There is something to be said for putting it down on paper. It kind of makes it definite and not just a thought that may never materialise. This is what I wrote…..
“I’m determined to increase my coverage of invertebrates of the North Kent Marshes, obtain more landscape images of the South Downs and attempt to photograph wild boar.”
Roll on 2011!
This is probably the best picture I have of a barn owl. Compared to many out there, it’s nothing special at all. The lighting’s flat and it’s a little too much over to the right. The one thing I do like, however, is the wing position. It’s not hovering or floating but heading straight for the camera. It was taken some years back on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent on a small patch of grassland that is a mini nature reserve. I attempted photography from the car through a gap in the hedge but clear views were few and far between and more often than not the bird would hunt the far side of the field.
Although barn owls can be seen quite regularly throughout the North Kent Marshes, their movements are rather unpredictable, preferring large expanses of rough grassland and marsh as opposed to following the predictability of a reedbed. Indeed, many of the top barn owl images you see today have been taken in Norfolk where their population densities are greater than here in Kent.
Over the last week I have secured permission from the land owner to place a couple of permanent hides on the site so, with Christmas and New Year out of the way, normality can resume and I can start work on attempting to get some half decent images of this beautiful bird. I’m not sure I can produce anything better or significantly different than what has already been done but I’ll certainly have fun trying! Over the last few months I have seen short-eared owls regulalrly use this site as well as marsh harriers and hen harriers so I look forward to spending many cold mornings and afternoons in my hides.
The following images were taking during the (obviously) snowy period we had a few weeks ago and, by the looks of it, there’s more to come by the end of the week. If you’re anything like me and reside in southern England, when we do get it I kind of go into panic mode, frantically thinking of places to visit. Bird feeding station? Marshes? North Downs? It’s unpredictability prevents us from planning, slowing down and thinking more carefully about what pictures to take.
These woodland scenes were taken at a local nature reserve called Cromer’s Wood, just south of Sittingbourne. I’ve been a voluntary assistant warden here since it’s conception in 1990 and although not a huge area (62 acres) it does have some very interesting plant species as well as a large pond where, amongst others, sparrowhawks occasionally come down to bathe.
Freezing fog regularly occurs on the marshes and as I drove along a track early in the morning I noticed this pair of pheasants feeding on a hawthorn.
About Robert Canis
Robert Canis is a professional photographer specialising in the natural world.
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