Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Winter Beachcombers

Apologies for the lack of updates but illness in the family has needed my attentions diverted elsewhere.

With a couple of snow bunting remaining on the local beach over the winter' it provided a good opportunity to do a targeted session. It is great to have such opportunities so close as you can keep an eye on light conditions and dash out for a quick visit in response to limited moments of wonderful seasonal soft warm light. These quick productive local sessions in great light are often amongst my favourites. So I was sat here one late weekend afternoon, and after a day of dark grey clouds overhead, the blanket parted to reveal that pale blue winter sky above and the warmth of a setting winter sun poured through.

5 minutes later and I was on the small area of beach that the birds had been so faithful to for several weeks. As the sun dropped, the light developed a Midas touch that turned everything golden that it fell upon. At this time of year the sun drops quickly and the moment was short-lived but memorable. I did try some silhouetted backlit photographs against the last of the light but it did not really work as the outline of the bunting did not present a uniquely recognisable outline. You should be able to see the change in the quality of light through the series of snow bunting images until there was none left to play with and it was gone for another day below the western horizon.
Another encounter with a winter beach-combing bird was found around 75 minutes drive northward with a long-staying Shore Lark in Fleetwood. It has been a few years since I last had an opportunity to photograph one of these birds, that time being in North Wales when the bird shuffled right passed me as I sat still on the beach. Unfortunately I timed my visit badly from a bird photography perspective to coincide with the day a large group of volunteers were undertaking a very worthy beach litter clean-up. Many small groups of people wandering the beach with brightly coloured sacks were making the lark unsettled and flighty.

Before starting to look for the bird I was temporarily distracted by a male Stonechat perched up on some thin stems in the dunes that backed the beach.
The search for the Shore Lark began. The beach in this area is mainly covered in gravel, pebbles and cobbles making the bird very difficult to spot. By searching hard I managed to find it on three occasions in different parts of the beach, the lark having been moved on by the litter pickers.

On the last occasion I saw a group of eight bird watchers approaching, who were also keenly trying to find the bird. I enquired if they had seen the lark on the beach in the direction they had just come from to which the answer was a resounding chorus of no. I decided to continue on anyway  and managed to find the bird perched on a small boulder having not gone more than 15 metres beyond the group of birdwatchers. Sixteen scanning eyes had missed it and walked straight past.

From the photographs below you may not think it would be that difficult to spot but the reality was very different. A selection of images of this attractive lark are shown below.

I must admit I have enjoyed these winter sessions laying on the beach and it has made a refreshing change to photograph birds other than waders. Spring is definitely in the air now with the birds busy singing and signs of nesting but there is a little bit more of winter I want to share with you before we the blog heads into this exciting time for the wildlife photography.


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