So, in a week where I reached a milestone of 2,000 followers on 500px and decided to get a new camera (more on that in a future blog), I did my usual trip to my local WWT centre in Arundel, West Sussex.
For those who do not already know I am a volunteer photographer for the Wetland Wildfowl Trust. The aim is for me to take photos of wildlife around the centre that will be used for anything and everything. It could be used for their seasonal magazine, facebook publications or simply kept on their records.
This is something I do almost every week. Being at the same location on a regular basis means that I get to know the habits of the local wildlife and collection birds, consequently improving every week. This is ofcourse a theory, there is never any certainty's when animals are concerned.
Some weeks are inevitably better than others. Thankfully this week it was quite a pleasant one. I had a laugh thanks to some of the collection birds and got some images that I was really quite content with (though there is always room for improvement).
So the first lake I got too on this weeks trip seemed a hive of activity. I think the collection birds had just been fed as this particular lake is usually incredibly tranquil. It may also have been down to it being quite early, the centre itself had only just opened. As a result a lot of the birds seemed to be going through their morning rituals of preening and cleaning, such as this Red Crested Pochard shown above.
After photographing the Red Crested Pochard I headed over to the hide well know for its regular sightings of kingfishers (the scrape hide). You are usually pretty much guaranteed to see a kingfisher there if you are willing to give up a couple of hours of your day. The catch is that the way it is facing means it catches a bitterly cold wind that sweeps through the hide. It's lovely in summer, but in winter sometimes its just not worth it. This week I decided exactly that and briskly moved on to another lake. On my way I was distracted by a little Dunnock (shown below) sitting in amongst the thorns.
Distraction over I continued on my way, until I heard something that stopped me in my tracks. Being into wildlife I have found that there are some animals that seem to avoid you, however frequently seen by others around you. When it comes to photographing wildlife the same can be true. The long tailed tit is a delightful bird regularly photographed by many people and is one of my favourite garden birds. Unfortunately it is an animal that I am yet to capture (photographically speaking of course).
So, upon hearing what I deduced to be its call ( a faint, repetitive, high pitched squeak) I began to scan the surrounding undergrowth. Soon enough my eyes locked onto movement, a small group making their way along the hedges next to the path I was already on (but inevitably in the wrong direction).
Knowing that it is always best to let the wildlife come to you I made my way the long way round to the end of the hedges that they were moving through and waited. Sure enough after a couple of minutes one got close enough for me to take the shot below. A mini personal triumph if nothing else.
The Long tailed tit stayed for quite a while before flying off in its unmistakeable bobbing style (which contributes to its nick name of the flying spoon). An elderly gentleman that had been watching me take the photo then remarked "he was posing for you". A comment which for a moment seemed to be true.
I decided to end the day on a high and headed back to the main building and entrance to the centre. At the entrance to the main building however there is an unassuming looking bird feeder, next to it is a large bramble bush, a couple of trees and an old chain hanging down from the roof of the building that has clearly been there some time. I noticed that there seemed to be a lot of birds that were quite used to people walking past. So I stood still in the shadows to see if anything appeared and I didn't have to wait long until I got this shot of a blue tit.
It was a shot that I had visualised before when walking past but I had never seen much bird life around the feeder or on the chain. So understandably it was a shot I was very pleased with.
Within minutes I had another shot in the same location but the other side of the feeder in the large bramble bush. This time it was a Reed Bunting. Although upon closer inspection it may be a different kind of bunting, if anyone knows for sure please leave a comment and let me know what it is an why. Regardless, a bunting of any kind is something that i rarely see so i was very content with this shot.
Seeing that my luck wasn't running out anytime soon I changed my mind and decided to stay a little longer and headed to my favourite place at the centre to take photos. The area where you can feed the ducks (usually meant for families and children).
If you time it right and wait for it to be empty you can lay down in the corner, level with the birds on the lake and they will continually swim around and come up very close to you making them a pleasure to photograph and resulting in photographs such as the one below of a female chestnut teal.
This same lake is also home to one of my all time favourite birds, the common eider. It's a beautiful duck, native to the U.K, well known for its famously soft feathers, striking looks and its call. A call which will leave you wondering if you have stepped back in time and landed in a Carry On film starring Kenneth Williams. If that last sentence has left you feeling lost or confused a quick google search of the Eider's call should explain things. This week I was more than pleased with the Eider photograph I walked away with.
After laying there for about 25 minutes i felt something land on the back of my leg. I thought nothing of it at first until it happened again. I turned around to find a Manned Duck pecking at my trousers. I looked him straight in the eye, to which his response was to once again, peck my leg. This went on for about a minute before he seeming got bored and waddled away.
A few minutes later however i was disturbed from my concentrated staring into my viewfinder by a very close sounding chirpy quack. I lifted my head and turned to find the same duck stood next to me about 30 cm away.
He then decided that my lens and the hand holding the lens was either very interesting or possibly edible (its hard to tell for sure without speaking duck and asking him). He pecked his way along the lens even to point where his head disappeared into the lens hood (at which point i had to lift it away for fear of him scratching the glass). He then waddled away again, just as he did before (his photo is shown below).
You would be forgiven for thinking that was the end of Steve. Oh, i forgot to mention, i have named him Steve Redgrey. I have called him this seemingly bizarre name because every bird is ringed for record keeping purposes. So that they are all different, they will all have one colour on the left and another on the right. In Steve's case he has red on the right and grey on the left. Additionally, Steve is well known for being at home on the water, much like the famous rower Steve Redgrave (in case you hadn't already figured that out).
Anyway, as i was saying. Steve returned one more time, this time he seemed convinced that my hand was of interest and decided to peck it frantically. Luckily, being very small i could barely feel his pecks. Steve seemed so intent on finding something on my hand that it attracted the attention of a passer by who took photographs of me and Steve. I feel i made a friend that day, and hopefully i will have more photos of Steve Redgrey to share in the future.
Lastly, before i left, i was able to get this rather abstract shot of a Canada Goose as it dunked its head looking for food. This is not usually a shot i would have tried to get but it was nice to try something different.
All in all a very successful day at WWT Arundel.