I have always had a strong fondness for the Divers as a group of birds. Elegant shapes, beautiful summer plumage and of course that haunting atmospheric call of the 'Loon'. The soundtrack of every US film which features a lake. Having said that my photography of them has been somewhat limited to the Great Northern Diver on a couple of occasions in the winter. This is one of the primary reasons why I am heading to Iceland in a little over a month's time now where I hope to encounter both Great Northern and Red Throated Divers in their glorious summer plumage. Its been booked a long time now and so is an exciting prospect that is rapidly drawing close.
I always keep an eye on bird watching reports and back in mid-February, a Red Throated Diver started to be reported on Fairhaven Lake near Blackpool. Some photographs started to appear of what seemed to be and was being reported as a very approachable bird. As I am quite crowd adverse, with these long staying birds, I tend to leave it a while before visiting and the early rush of interest has died down. This strategy obviously runs the risk of these 'popular' photography birds disappearing but on occasions has had the benefit of it being just me and the bird. To me that is my favourite situation, far from the maddening crowds.
So I headed up to Fairhaven for an afternoon session when the weather looked like it would be reasonable. The formerly accommodating bird now seemed to be taking a bit of an exception to people no doubt having been chased all around the lake over the proceeding weeks by scores of visiting photographers. So it was quite happy to spend the majority of its time drifting around and occasionally fishing in the middle of this sizable lake. There were a few other photographers present, one who I found particularly annoying.
It was a cold day with a strong icy wind blowing of the sea and I was lying down by the side of the lake waiting for the bird to occasionally drift in close. The car park was a short distance away up a slope. This 'photographer' insisted in sitting in his car and every time the bird started drifting close in to the bank, came running from his car down the slope and jumped down by the side of the lake resulting in the bird doing a rapid u-turn and heading back away. This would see him scuttling off back to the warmth of his car. Fortunately he left after about an hour. Its this kind of stupid behaviour which is primarily not fair to the bird and inconsiderate to other photographers which is why I have become crowd adverse.
The weather didn't quite turn out as forecast and the sun on arrival quickly disappeared behind overcast skies turning the water from dark to pale grey. However, this is an attractive bird even under the flat light and in its winter plumage with some beautiful patterning across the back of the wing feathers.
The session was about 4.5 hours long with most of the time spent watching a distance bird but occasionally interrupted with brief flurries of photo taking as it drifted close. When moving to get a better position on the bird I always did it whilst under the water and tried to anticipate where it might surface. This is not easy as they can spend a long time submerged and travel a surprisingly large distance. On one occasion it dived under and surface right in front of me so all I could fit in frame was its head. I like it when they do that :)
Just before I was about to leave the bird made its way into the northern corner of the lake and right up into a narrow channel where the banksides created some nicely coloured darker water.
A great place to finish the session and return to my car to thaw out. This was a useful session as it gave me a little insight in to how these birds behave which hopefully will be of some help when I get to Iceland.