Sunday 30 January 2011

Sun, Sea and Sanderlings

I’ve barely been out so far this month.  A combination of dull, windy, damp weather that seems to time itself for the weekends and the general feeling this kind of weather, at this time of year can bring.  This weekend, although more of the same was forecast, I was determined to get out, if only for a walk and exercise, so I got up before sun-up and headed for the Northumberland coast around Cresswell. 

By the time I got there it was a sunny, clear day with a heavily layer of frost on the ground and clearly much colder than the forecast predicted which soon left me regretting not putting on the extra layer I would have normally have done with temperatures at around zero.  I spent the first hour and a half inland hoping to see Barn Owls, but after loosing contact with my feet and only seeing flocks of Geese and some Lapwings, I decided to just go for a walk along the beach.

Map picture

The coastline from Cresswell to Amble is part of Druridge Bay, an expanse of sandy beaches with sand dunes and at this time of the year, comparatively empty of people and it has a number of wildlife reserves.  It’s a beautiful place just to go for a walk and clear ‘the cobwebs out’ despite the usual ‘dog problem’, it was very relaxing - just what I needed and by 11:30am, with the sun still shining brightly, it felt quite warm , helped with little wind.


Southern Druridge bay looking northwards


Along the way I came across a small group of of around seven Sanderlings so decided to set up my camera and see if I could get any images of these small birds.  Conditions were ideal with the bright sunny light I was able to get 1/1000th and above to try and freeze their constant movement and darting backwards and forwards.   Unlike my experiences at Whitley Bay, the passer-bys were thoughtful enough to kept behind me, so not disturbing the birds which also might explain why they seem to keep in front of me, going form one side then turning around and coming back but never straying very far from my location.



After about an hour I decided to head back as it was becoming more overcast and when the sun wasn’t out, it was noticeably colder, at least when sitting still.  I walked a bit further on before heading back to Cresswell and then home.  After finally getting out this month, I’ve managed to recharge my batteries despite being a little disappointed at still missing seeing and photographing any owls.

Tuesday 11 January 2011

Slow start for 2011

Finally, after three weeks I’ve been able to get out and about this weekend.  I didn’t get out for the sole purpose of taking photographs, rather than to stretch my legs and get some exercise after such a while of inactivity.  The weather is back to ‘normal’ – cold, damp and grey.  I think I prefer the snowy weather, for some reason it didn’t feel so cold.

I basically decided to walk around and photographed whatever was about – which wasn’t much as seems to be the case at this time of year.  The few animals that were around were less timid than usual so I could approach them quiet closely which is just as well as I didn’t feel like doing my usual hanging around and letting them approach me.  Lots of Pheasants around sun up – ten at one time – but it was too dark to take decent images of them, only managing one who stayed still and posed for me as did the only one Grey Squirrel that came down from the trees.

Where I walked, it varied between sheltered areas still covered in snow, to heavy frost to open areas which were just wet and icy.  All areas of still water were frozen over though the river was still flowing, which is were I came across a Heron which I approached slowly and managed to get closer than I would have at any other time of year, but it didn’t seem too bothered by me as it continued to preen, stretch, yawn and the occasional alertness when it must have seen or heard some possible prey.

Despite getting quite close I still had to put a converter on the 500mm lens and, although on a monopod, the lens was shaking quite badly as I was shooting in an awkward position due to having to shoot through branches trees which prevented a clear view and which the auto focus focused on so had to manual focus.  I also had to use spot metering and exposure compensation due to the lighting conditions and light plumage of the Heron.  After about an hour of obliging me with photographs, it eventually flew a hundred metres upriver and, although a better viewpoint for me, I decided to leave it in peace and called it a day.