Saturday, 23 October 2010

A few days off

IMG_7724With a few much needed days off work, I decided to make the most of a break in the weather and headed off to one of my regular haunts along the Derwent.  During the week there tends to be fewer people walking around the area so I thought I would see, and hopefully photograph, more wildlife, particularly so far this year, the elusive Kingfisher.  After a cold three hour wait and not even flash by, apart from an overhead Kite I moved on.

I’m not sure why this year I’ve had no success in photographing the Kingfisher, the cold long winter, more disturbance from people or just changing their location.  I am still seeing them flashing by and hearing them, they are just not stopping where they use to.

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There are certain places along the Derwent where Kestrels perch which I always check before getting too close as they are easily spooked.  From a distance on a pylon, I could see one right at the top.  Still within its ‘comfort zone’ I thought I would see how close I could get and followed a line of bushes and trees that hid my approach but through a few gapes could see if it was still there.

On what was a very windy day I was amazed at what is a light bird not been blown away, perched at such a height.  The images I took weren’t very good, taken at the equivalent of over 1000mm, hand held.  The second image was taken after I managed to get closer and photographed  through  a  break  in  the trees I was using as cover.

IMG_7751Eventually I had no option but to move out into the open so I sat down, letting it get used to me and every time it looked away, edged a bit closer.  After about 45 minutes and half the original distance, it suddenly flew off, originally thinking I had pushed my luck but then behind me, saw some people out for a walk coming towards it.

As I followed its flight through my lens, I noticed a much bigger bird which I then tracked and saw that this was a Buzzard.  I managed to get a few shots off despite hand holding the camera in windy conditions with such a long lens, one image which turned out quite good as it had its wings spread out in typical Buzzard pose.

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I still have an old tatty copy of a Collins guide to Birds of Britain and Europe from my childhood in which it shows the then distribution of the three birds of prey I saw (below scans) – Buzzard, Kestrel and Red Kite.  The Buzzard then quiet common in the west has now spread east throughout the country and is now very common.  The Kestrel which was very common then is now apparently becoming rarer though around these parts it can is still regularly be seen.  The Red Kite which was very rare after been hunted nearly to extinction in the UK, has now been re-introduced to various areas including the Gateshead area where you can almost be guaranteed to see it.

       Buzzard                 KiteKestrel

The day finished with a brief appearance of a male pheasant which seemed indifference to my being nearby with only my camera shutter noise getting its attention.

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The next day saw me take the train up to a small place called Prudhoe along the Tyne.  The hope was to catch the trees changing to their Autumn colours and as I would be doing a 4-5 km hike, I travelled light with just my 5d camera and 17-40mm lens.  The weather was sunny spells along with showers and strong winds.

Most of the scenic part of the Tyne was the first stage between Prudhoe and Wylam as this is were most of the trees next to the river were, unfortunately they didn’t have the ‘golden’ colours I had hoped for.  The trees were at different stages of changing, with the wind blowing those leaves that had already turned colour, off their branches.  Still, there were some sections which were reasonably picturesque.

Image 1

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Image 2

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Image 3

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Image 5 - Looking up towards Wylam Railway Bridge

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Wildlife wise, there was little to be seen, justifying my not trying to drag along a telephoto lens though I did take the opportunity to look at what possibilities there might be and certainly there were plenty of Fox tracks.

There’s also a bit of history along the walk such as Wylam Railway Bridge, opened in 1876 and in use until 1968, looking like a small version of the Tyne Bridge.

Apart from the very strong winds which made keeping my camera still while taking a photo difficult, it was quite a good days shooting.  Normally when taking landscapes I would use a tripod even during the day.  Apart from keeping the camera completely free of camera shake (preferring to use a low ISO and f22 for maximum depth of field) it also means you can use long exposures for a different effect, and also slows you down when taking a picture, making you think a bit more about what you’re doing, however, this would have added to the weight I would have to carry.

By the time I had reached Wylam, I was in more familiar territory, just being further on from here is where I watch and photograph Sand Martins though, of course, they had long since headed for warmer, sunnier climes and with the skies darkening and the wind as strong as ever, I was wishing I could join them.

When I reached Newburn the journey had taken around three hours mostly spent on the first kilometre where I took most of the photographs.

Image 6 – fishing on the Tyne Taken from Wylam Railway Bridge

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Map

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