Sunday, 20 March 2011

First warmth of Spring

I thought today, I would do a quick 3km walk along the cliffs from Souter Lighthouse to South Shields, with the weather looking to be sunny and reaching the heights of 10 degrees.  I got there around two hours after sunrise so the sun was still quite low in the sky at this time of the year though it was quite strong – not good for photographing landscapes but giving me a good shutter speed for photographing anything else.

I soon came across my first subject to photograph, some Jackdaws on the cliff edges.  They showed a certain wary curiosity towards me, not quite sure how they perceive me pointing a large lens directly towards them.  There’s no doubt that some animals see this action as some kind of threat, the corvidae family are supposed to be very intelligent and these Jackdaws, after a while, settled down but would still every now and then just look at me as if to wonder what to make of me.  The sun wasn’t such that it was too strong yet and was just at the right angle to make the birds stand out.  I just had to make sure I waited before taking a picture, that the light caught their eyes.


A short distance on was Marsden Rock, a 100 foot sea stack near the cliffs.  This was once quite a famous local attraction, up until 1997 being much larger with an arch which, with erosion and a storm, broke away from the main section leaving a small stack next to it which was demolished.  It’s used as a nesting area for seabirds of which I could see Cormorants and various Gulls and the odd Fulmer.


Marsden Rock


A smaller stack near Marsden Rock


Further along the walk and inland next to the cliffs is an area of grass known as The Leas used for people walking there dogs, cyclists and just general walkers and at first glimpse, not much for wildlife, but I could hear some Skylarks.  Unfortunately I had forgotten to pack my binoculars and lovely sounding birds were not in the air singing as you would normally expect but in the grass which in many areas just tall enough to hide them.  After some eye straining, I eventually saw one nearby which popped its head up and was clearly responding in song, to another singing Skylark nearby.  Obviously they were sorting out territories as the neighbouring one came over and a brief skirmish ensued.  I didn’t manage to get anything in focus from this as I had a converter on and was manually focusing anyway due to the difficulty of getting a focus lock with such a small subject in grass.

Hearing Skylarks always make me think of warm, sunny summer days from my childhood and it gives me a good feeling.


No sooner had I just managed to get closer enough to get a reasonable size in my view finder when a dark shadow flew over and the edgy Skylark few off.  I was just a few Crows.  These seemed a bit more obliging to be photographed.  Crows are very common in this country and over looked by me as a photographic opportunity.  It’s not until you sit and watch them that you realise they are quite photogenic characters, though from a technical point of view, difficult because of the dark plumage – though nothing normally a bit of exposure compensation can’t sort, or some editing at the RAW stage on the computer.

My walk finished at Trow Quarry where I had hoped to maybe spot a Little Owl, but without the binoculars, I had little chance.



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