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Saturday, 19 April 2014

Sand Martins, Marsh Harrier and sunsets!

Yesterday afternoon I popped into Westhay Moor National Nature Reserve on the Somerset Levels. I'd only visited once before despite it being close to where I live, I tend to visit RSPB Greylake or RSPB  Ham Wall if I have the time instead as they are slightly closer and easier to get to.
    The first thing I noticed were the many Sand Martins feeding and calling as they flew above the reedbeds. These birds are fast.... and I mean fast!! Still, I like a challenge, so grabbed my camera in the hope of catching one in flight! I had a very frustrating hour, trying to focus on these little blighters is an incredibly difficult task, not helped by their unpredictable flight patterns as they twist and turn in the air!
  I managed a few passable attempts, plus one pretty sharp capture I was particularly pleased with. Made all the effort and frustration worthwhile!
   Amongst the Sand Martins was one House Martin, my first of the year!
  Summer visiting Reed Warblers sang deep in the reedbeds, also my first of the year! I didn't actually see them though, despite trying, let alone get any pictures! My failure also extended to photographing the Cetti's Warblers that were dotted about the reserve, their loud explosive call prompting me to stop and search the vegetation where they were coming from, I had a couple of brief glimpses of these at least though.
    Nature photography can be so frustrating! However, it can also be so rewarding! It wouldn't be so fun and addictive if it was easy!!
  Yet more frustration came when a beautiful Male Marsh Harrier flew over the reeds and across the track I'd been walking down. Frustrating because the bird was between me and the sun and the pictures I managed were almost silhouetted as well as being quite distant! Still, as a nature moment, it was wonderful to see! Not long ago Marsh Harriers were an extremely rare bird, confined to the Norfolk Broads, now though they are a regular sight on the Somerset nature reserves, but always exciting to see!
  The Sand Martins weren't so pleased to see him though and mobbed him mercilessly, as they did a Kestrel that was hover hunting at the edge of the reserve.
  A very pleasant couple of hours in lovely Easter weather!
On the way home I couldn't resist taking some pictures of some Lambs I saw in a field next to the road in Shapwick.

A couple of days earlier I stopped at RSPB Greylake to get some sunset pictures. Sunsets are lovely here!

Below are some of the pics from Westhay and some of my sunset shots from Greylake;

^^Above ^^ - My favourite Sand Martin shot!

^^ Above ^^ - Passable Sand Martin shots!

^^ Above ^^ - Male Marsh Harrier

^^ Above ^^ - Kestrel, the top picture shows some of the Sand Martins harrassing the Kestrel.

^^ Above ^^ - Heron

^^ Above ^^ - Greylag Geese

^^ Above ^^ - Westhay scenes

^^ Above ^^ - Lambs

^^ Above ^^ - Greylake sunset.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014


As it was another gorgeous day, I decided to pop up the road to RSPB Greylake again this morning. I'm so lucky to have such a great reserve on my doorstep!
  From the hides there were some distant Ducks including Gadwall, Mallard, Teal and Shoveler, but also 3 scarce Summer visiters, Garganey! 1 handsome male and 2 females.
  Plenty of Little Egrets were dotted about the site, but no Great White Egret which I had seen here a couple of days previously.
  Some Lapwings entertained by doing their song flights in front of the hide.
I was surprised that no Hirundines were present during my stay, I had seen a Sand Martin and a couple of Swallows 2 days previously.
  I was talking to a lovely chap, Malcolm Taylor, and saying that despite it being rather quiet, you could never tell what might fly in! Little did I know how prophetic my words were to be, for within a few minutes a Hoopoe flew in from the left and landed right in front of the hide!!! Surely a million to one happening in the UK! Unfortunately it was partially hidden by a clump of grass and within seconds flew up and headed off in a South Westerly direction!
  We couldn't believe it! I managed a few passable shots, despite my excitement!
What a fantastic morning, and a real moment to remember!!

Below are some pics of the Hoopoe and other shots from the last 2 days;

^^ Above ^^ - The Hoopoe.... the star of the day, week, month and year!!

^^ Above ^^ - Male and Female Garganey

^^ Above ^^ Shoveler and Garganey

^^ Above ^^ - Little Grebe with fish.

^^ Above ^^ - Mallard

^^ Above ^^ - Lapwing

^^ Above ^^ - Little Egret

^^ Above ^^ - Goldfinches

^^ Above ^^ - Reed Buntings

^^ Above ^^ - Chaffinches

^^ Above ^^ - Dunnocks

^^ Above ^^ - Great Tit

^^ Above ^^ - Great White Egret, taken on the 13th April

^^ Above ^^ - Sand Martin, taken on the 13th April