Saturday, September 18, 2010

Storm Walkers

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.
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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.
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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.
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A significant problem faced is the difficulty focusing on the rapidly erratic flying object in the severe conditions.
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It never ceases to amaze me how such a tiny bird can battle against such harsh conditions.
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I was fortunate to have one bird temporarily pause in front of me to feed on some seaweed.
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The birds as they struggle across the rocking sea show the delightful behaviour of walking across the water.
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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.

9 comments:

Mary Howell Cromer said...

What a delightful summary of explaing how and what it takes to get these captures. My goodness, such harsh conditions still certainly rendered you with excellent results, for these images are breathtaking. I really love the ones of it walking on the water, such wonderful faces they have too. Thanks for the grand share, just wonderful~

Crafty Green Poet said...

those are stunning photos, particularly the ones where the petrel is walking on water

Dave Adshead said...

Excellent series of photographs.

Dave

Doina Russu said...

Excellent images!
Congratulations to all the work!
All my appreciation.
best regards,
doina

Paul Foster said...

Hi Richard,really enjoyed your Storm Petrel shots,all are favourites!Considering the conditions you were working in, makes them all the more enjoyable......

Wildlife Photography by Uwe Skrzypczak said...

Beautiful series, thanks for sharing. Uwe

The Early Birder said...

Thanks for sharing this experience Rich as it's one I haven't seen and certainly puts a different slant on 'walking on water'.
Cheers FAB.

Steve Borichevsky said...

Yes I have tried to photograph Storm Petrels an no it is not easy! You forget to mention that in all that bad weather, you have to nail the exposure, which you have done here. Bravo.

Rich Steel said...

Thabnks for the comments. I was pleased with sessions with the petrels. However, a couple of days later I was struck down with the lergy for two weeks which included a touch of pneumonia. As I said it was tough conditions, I suppose thats whay you call suffering for your art.

Cheers

Rich

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