Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Down the Road to Purple Sands

I am sure the weather gets worse every winter. As a wildlife photographer the weather, and more importantly the effect it has on the quantity and quality of the light, is everything. Since the start of December low depression driven storms have been rolling continuously in off the Atlantic on an unusually strong jet stream with a day or two of more benign between them.  Occasionally a quiet weather spell has fallen on a weekend day and the camera has got an airing but so far such moments have been few and far between. With the days currently still short in daylight, my only potential camera time is at the weekend and it certainly gets you down when the Friday forecast predicts another weekend of very wet and windy weather to come.

What has been particularly frustrating for me is, having located what seems to be a reasonably good location for Mountain Hares, I have just not been able to get back there. If the weather is poor where I live then you can guarantee it will be doubly dire in the hills.

So given the general lack of action I thought I would delve into my hand drive and catch up with some processing of images that I never got around to sorting out last year. The folder marked 'Wirral Purple Sandpipers' looked a good place to start on the backlog and so this what this post is about.

I am fortunate to have some Purple Sandpipers present during the winter months about 2 minutes from my home.  The photography is undertaken at high tide when the birds sit out and roost on the sea defence rocks and groynes over the high water period. So it is easy when some free time coincides with a high tide and half decent light to pop down the road for a quick half an hour session. Having said that these rock areas are not as reliable for photography as they use to be after a large inaccessible floating pontoon for boating was installed on the local marine lake and where large numbers of waders, including the Purple Sandpipers, now frequently sit for their high tide roost. However, there are benefits for the birds, which is important, as they now have a peaceful place to rest and preserve their precious energy reserves in the winter away from careless dog walkers and kite surfers. Of course being so local it is no big deal if the birds are not present on a particular visit as you know will encounter them at some point on a future one.

A wing stretch

I would really urge photographers to try and learn the good photography locations for their local wildlife. Being local allows you to undertake frequent visits, even if they are brief sessions,  which helps develop a good understanding of the behaviour of a particular animal or bird species and how different photo opportunities present themselves with the changing seasons.  It also allows you to concentrate your efforts towards certain species which brings its own rewards and benefits and  is with time often reflected in the resultant images. The more time you spend with a particular species the more likely you are to capture a special moment or light conditions.

Anyway I digress, back to the Purple Sandpipers. These are a bird I love to photograph. There is something visually very appealing about these birds, the white edged feathers, the very slight purple shimmer to the in the right light, the orange beak and feet all packaged up in a slightly dumpy looking wader. They also share a similar trait to Turnstones in that they are not particularly bothered by the presence of a photographer, especially if you approach them slowly and carefully and sit with them quietly. I consider myself very fortunate to have these birds so close to home and it being relatively easily to spend some time with them during the winter months.
Over the last few years I have accumulated many Purple Sandpiper photographs but it is still a species I find myself drawn back to time and time again. I hope I will be able to spend some more time with them before they depart once again in the spring, assuming the current run of poor weather improves in time.


Paul Challinor said...

Richard, I fully sympathise with your comments. The constant storms and driving rain is frustrating. Then when it isn't raining the cloud cover is so low and thick it's a real challenge to take any decent photos. I think you alive on identifying a local patch is real gold, and concentrating on a few species real helps to hone skills. Fantastic shots I must say.

Paul Challinor said...

Richard. These are fantastic photos as ever. I share your frustration over the weather. I'm sitting here as the wind batters the house, and rain lashes against the windows. Then when the wind and rain does stop, the cloud cover is so low and thick it's too dark to get anything decent with the camera! I think your advice on identifying a local patch is gold, and concentrating on a few species is an ideal way to hone skills over time.

The happy wanderer. said...

A lovely post despite the weather. They are tough birds as I saw them in both Iceland and Svalbard a couple of years ago, and there is something very appealing about them too.

Paul Sorrell said...

Far and away the best purple sandpiper shots I've seen. Shows the value of knowing your local patch inside out.

Trees Planet said...

I am very exited when I see like this wonderful pictures. How brave you are that took this great pictures.


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