On Saturday (22nd May) I had the use of a half-decent Canon SLR (a 40D) and Canon's 500mm f4 telephoto lens. Now, I know how to use the camera and lens, but lack experience... so whilst I had a ball, the photos are those of a learner!
(I make no apologies for this blog entry being more about playing with the camera and lens than the birds themselves.)
Saturday was host to glorious weather - so glorious infact, I had to give up by one o'clock for fear of heat exhaustion (lugging the lens about was hard work). So hot it was. Gave me a chance to watch the Championship play-off final anyway. So not all bad.
Early in the morning I went to the sailing lake in the hope of seeing a Hobby or two. Alas, none. Still, I had fun photographing some birds. Of the few reasonably successful efforts I include those of a House Sparrow and a Greenfinch.
Other birds about were some Linnets, Reed Buntings, Reed Warblers and lots of Black-headed Gulls. Just as I was about to leave, a pair of Common Terns landed on the Sailing Club jetty.
They represented a long overdue year tick, and seemed well bonded. After posing for photographs they flew off to fish on the lake - looking rather splendid with their tail feathers flowing behind them.
I stopped in Frampton itself to try and get a photo of a House Martin in flight. No real success - I'm not getting them sharp. More practice (if I ever get my hands on the equipment again!) and I'm sure I'd succeed. Here's my best effort.
Next I moved onto Green Lane in the hope of photographing a Reed Warbler. I know I could go to Slimbridge and photograph the obliging birds there, but I wanted to get one 'in the wild'. Hard it be. Here are two of my best efforts, along with a poorly exposed shot of a Cygnet (camera facing into the light!). The Swan family was on the water immediately behind the first viewing platform.
Further along Green Lane I ran into a bunch of Long-tailed Tits. Mostly youngsters.
To be honest, the Lane wasn't overflowing with interesting birds. Once out in the open - along the way to the gate and sharp left turn, I tried for a while to photograph an obliging Whitethroat in flight. No luck, alas. Even with a nice tripod and Wimberley head (as supplied), I struggled.
Finally, and best of all (back to a purely birdwatching perspective), on my way back to the car I stopped at the second Green Lane viewing platform - the old one. I don't usually, but boy am I glad I did. All week I'd been hearing about the Spoonbill present at Slimbridge, but expected it to be gone by the weekend. On Saturday morning a report popped up on birdguides advising that the bird had flown south shortly before 9.00am. I harboured no expectation of seeing it after that, but lo-and-behold it flew right past the viewing platform giving great binocular views (mobbed by gulls, oddly?).
Right place. Right time. A lifer.
I really enjoyed using a nice camera and lens, and the experience has prompted me to think about getting my own in due course. Perhaps not a giant 500mm lens, but something decent nonetheless.
The pure joy of birdwatching is best experienced with only a pair of binoculars and a telescope - one can feel under terrible pressure to get a photograph if you've got a camera with you - and this can detract from the observation itself (which is why I'm there). I think there's room for both, though.