I always think I am very fortunate where I live to have such a wealth of bird photography potential on my doorstep. The anticipation increases in late September and the start of October when during prolonged periods of north-west gales, the Wirral peninsula is one of the best places in the UK to see Leach's Storm Petrels. This small enigmatic pelagic species is swept in to Liverpool Bay and a number usually end up lingering in the mouth of the River Mersey, before making their way eastward along the top of the peninsula on the ebbing tide. All the conditions have to be right, good sized tides and a very strong north westerly wind for several days. On some years the number of birds sighted can be counted on one hand however, during this last week they were driven in by the 100s by the pummelling winds.
Photographing the petrels is very difficult. I will try and paint the scene for those who have not experienced it. Basically you are stood facing the full force of the elements that includes a face full of gale force sand-laden winds and salt spray from the raging sea.
What are you are looking for is a small dark coloured bird about the size of a small thrush battling in a bat like fluttering flight through the crashing waves.
A significant problem faced is the difficulty focusing on the rapidly erratic flying object in the severe conditions.
It never ceases to amaze me how such a tiny bird can battle against such harsh conditions.
I was fortunate to have one bird temporarily pause in front of me to feed on some seaweed.
The birds as they struggle across the rocking sea show the delightful behaviour of walking across the water.
My brief after work sessions were a memorable experience that will stay with me for a long time. Hopefully we will get some further gales very soon which will let try and meet the challenge of photographing these wonderful birds once more.
As an aside and for those who may be interested in seeing the face behind the camera, I am due to appear on BBC Countryfile tomorrow (Sunday 19th) on BBC 1 at 6:30pm as I was involved in the long-listing of entries to their photographic competition this year.