With autumn fast approaching I thought I’d share a selection of images I took over two mornings back in July.
As I drove along a track on the North Kent Marshes I noticed a pool of water of just, approximately, 20 x 20m which was attracting a substantial number of birds. The water, it seemed, was just at the right depth for avocet, redshank and godwit amongst others. Not too deep making wading a problem yet not too shallow where it would support little or no life. About, I would say, an inch to an inch and a half.
It was warm and we were in for a dry spell and with the threat of the pool drying up and the birds leaving to find elsewhere to feed, I scanned the area through binoculars to see where would be the best place to set up a small hide. After settling on a spot and upon obtaining the landowner’s permission, I went home and collected the hide. Activity is at its peak first thing (not to mention the light) and with good weather forecast for the next couple of days I duly set up the hide that evening.
Under the cover of relative darkness I arrived at 3.30 the following morning and quietly made my way to the hide but before doing so gave myself a good dousing of insect repellent as mosquitoes in and around the pool become active with the rising sun. On the second morning, however, I forgot to apply it and with me settled in the hide and without thinking, liberally sprayed my ankles, forearms and tops of my hands which resulted in something akin to a fumigation tent! I dare not exit and spook the birds. I must have sounded like Dastardly from Dastardly and Muttley. I’m really showing my age now!
I used the excellent Dome hide (standard) from Wildlife Watching Supplies and as I wanted to obtain a low angle I used the slit at the front rather than the normal opening which is a good metre off the ground. A Manfrotto 190 tripod was fitted with an Acratech Levelling Base (beautifully engineered and highly recommended which I also use for panoramas) and on top of that, a heavy duty Gitzo 3-way pan and tilt head. An angle-finder was fitted enabling me to view the image when kneeling. It’s imperative when working this way to use such a levelling base if you are to keep the water and horizon level.
On the second morning I repositioned the hide to look into the rising sun.
The Nikon D300s was fitted with a 200-400mm, occasionally with a 1.4x tele-converter attached and ISO’s ranged from 200-800 depending on the circumstance. For the image of the oystercatcher at dawn below, for example, as it was stationary there seemed little point in using a high ISO so I used ISO 200 with mirror-lock to obtain as much detail as possible.
This juvenile redshank had caught a dragonfly and spent quite some time ‘pondering’ over what to do with it. Interestingly, it submerged it several times which, I am guessing, made it easier to swallow and digest.
I love working from a hide, especially is such a situation where you never know what might turn up. I would shoot from 4.30 through to 7 when the sun would become too harsh for photography but even though it was a short period it was very intense never the less with barely a moment passing when I wouldn’t be peering through the viewfinder or capturing the sounds of the marsh on my recorder.
Once the sun had risen too high to continue I made my way back to the car and as I did so spent a few moments photographing families of redshanks chasing and calling at one another. Two days later the pool was reduced to a muddy scrape which is testament, I feel, to a saying I hold close with my photography: “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today”.3 Comments