(CLICK ON A PIC AND IT WILL GO BIG)
It was the big day. The one we had been waiting for. The day The EFRS go aquatic. The day of deliverance one may say. Ok one may not say but still it was here nonetheless. The day that is not our deliverance.
It started well with James turning up half an hour late. It's a good job we gave ourselves about four hours to cycle the two and a half miles to the rendezvous at the super new carpark at Hamwall. So to kill those four hours we amused ourselves with the usual joys of Hamwall and the cycle there's terraferma.
Erm just before we start I'll have to apolagise for the blatant indulgence of my Takumar 17mm f4 Fisheye lens. I've just got a shinny new Canon 6D Full Frame camera so took the opportunity to really see what my Takumar lenses can do. There's going to be a lot of skies and bent horizons.
View from Aqueduct Bridge
Aqueduct Bridge with a James on it!
The Enchanted Wood as you've never seen it before
Kingfisher with fish by James
Now this is a Kingfisher pic by James. I left him to do the long range stuff while I was doing the mostly sky etc. It's very nice isn't it. But your also saying there has been a most excellent picture posted of a Kingfisher where you can count the hairs up it's nose. This was taken by one of our esteemed fellow nature snappers and regular coffee table Sunday Supplement contributor who will remain nameless. (Robin Morrison) It's very good I'll grant you. However let me just explode a myth here. Let me give away all the secrets. Expose the scandal that lies beneath his so called 'nature pic'. Poor James had to crawl on hands and knees through cow pat infested fields under blazing sun and buzzing flies harassing him to bring you that picture of a Kingfisher on a metal poll fence. Yes readers I hope you appreciate what this poor intrepid and hapless EFRSer has to go though every time he wants to get you a picture. Not only did his chain fall of his bicycle on the way and had to walk most of it but he didn't even bring a coat! Now let me tell you what the 'other guy' has to do shall I. I'll tell you alright. He rises at a leisurely hour and sips his Earl grey after a kipper or two. His butler slips his special bespoke Savile Row birding jacket over his shoulders and brushes of any dust, those old stately piles can be awfully tricky to keep clean don't you know. Crunching across the gravel path he stops to solve the tricky task of which four by four to take today.
Arriving at the allotted venue the door is opened by the same butler who went on ahead and he strolls down the leafy lane. Any dirt or unwanted wildlife is swiftly swept away by the butler. The door to the Hide is opened for him and seat brushed. His camera caddy is waiting to hand him his camera of choice. He settles down and nods. The butler claps twice and the assigned nature for the day hop into action. The Kingfisher flits across the water on cue, lands on the pre-positioned stick and gives his best side. SNAP! His Lordship departs.
THAT my friends is how it really happened.*
Just before we got to VP2 I had to stop at the new bridge crossing for a call of nature. Unfortunately I wasn't alone.
The idea was to stop at VP2 for a while and kill time. Three Bitterns and no Marsh Harriers later we moved on.
VP2 in all it's glory
Moving on we took the opportunity to just say hello and make sure all was well with Lee (Burt) Dutton of the RSPB and slipped into the new carpark. He and his
able assistant coworker were in charge of the day. All was well and we had to arrive back at 2:30. Time for more fisheye fun at Noahs Hide. We hadn't been there for ages. There was little to see unfortunately. What we did see was quit a few local celebrity birders out and about along with some other unfamiliar well equipped and serious looking birders. It turns out there was a juvenile Blue Throat on the far bank hopping in and out of the reeds at the Scrape at Shapwick.
Here is my pic of the Scrape where you can clearly see a small brown bird in the reeds on the far side of the water. Could this be the only known photograph of this rare Mega sighting? I think I'm going to make a fortune!
I swapped lenses to my 50mm and turned the Fstop down to 1.4.
When we got to Noahs Hide I put the fisheye back on to get the bigger picture for you
Then put the 50mm back on again
View from the Bridge to Mear Hide
Just trying stuff out
Bet you didn't know you can do macro with a fisheye!
Some long range stuff with some birds in it. I bet you were wondering when we were going to get to that stuff to.
Greenshank on the Scrape
Great White Egret directly overhead
We all marched down Famous Five style to the new raised hide area. This is going to be stunning. The bottom hide is up and it's full steam ahead with the upper tear. This is an area hardly seen by visitors up till now. This hide will open up the possibilities for Bearded Reedlings, Bitterns and Marsh Harriers. It's going to be great. The EFRS can't wait and well done to the RSPB team.
Famous Five or rather Seven visit Hamwall
Our weapons of choice
We were greeted by non other than Ray Summers the Warden at Hamwall. Great chap who regularly stopped and gave insights into the workings of the reed beds. Very interesting and entertaining. The paddle was also being conducted by the resident canoe guru Robin. Again a lovely guy who made us feel very comfortable with the boats.
We had great ideas of video and lots of pics of the day. Yes we took all our gear but spent most of it either avoiding reeds or Lee.
Climbing in and having a test paddle around the reeds we set off. Ok when I say we set off we actually started to go either directly into the reeds or another boat. It was often the boat of Lee's who quickly became our nemesis. Of all the reed beds to canoe round in he was usually canoodling up to ours. Once you get the hang of it its really good fun. The great thing is its very calm and flat and nothing hard to hit. Your often going headlong into the reeds but its all harmless. Haven't had so much fun on the water. The reeds close up are intriguing. We often saw big plops and bubbles as what must have been Otters having a look. A family of Swans sailing around before us were entertainment enough. Egrets over head and even a Marsh harrier all added to the enchantment. Even being close to the reeds made you see close up where all these Bitterns and Water Rails and Egrets walk, stalk and live. The tour seemed a lot longer than an hour. We wended our way through the narrowest of channels and into wide expanses of water ranging from two meters to about a feet deep. Never at any point did anyone feel unsure or worried. I did have a bit of a Clarkson moment when I wanted to go speeding off. Well as speedy as we could or dared or were capable of going. We had a great laugh.
Lee (The Burt Reynolds of the RSPB) Dutton
Ready to set off with Ray Summers and Robin in the red canoe
Up close and personal in the narrow channels
Stroke, stroke, stroke...........
Learning about the reeds themselves
This was my view for most of the trip. For the love of god buy a belt James!!
A Canon 6D an inch from going phut!
Looking back on the big adventure
A Bitterns eye view of VP2
Marsh Harrier during the trip
Fantastic! If you haven't booked already then do so. Their holding trips at regular weekends. Here's the link to book. RSPB CANOE TRIPS
What to do now? James, having only seen one all day, wanted another Marsh Harrier. We popped down to Westhay by the entrance to London Drove. A good spot as one often patrols along here. But all the young are fattened and the days are lazy. Nothing came along. I got some shots of the horses.
We deserved a pint at the Sheppey
On the way James stopped and I went on ahead to 'get them in'. He was in luck and got this ball of Starlings . They were massing for good reason. Not practicing for the Autumn but trying to escape a Peregrine.
Ball of Starlings
Peregrine heading for them
Erm there were no bikes when we got there!
One of the nicest bike rides in Somerset has to be the one from Godney to Glastonbury. Winding your way of an evening with a pint or two along the flat quiet roads passed all the fields and Pill Boxes and ditches and cows and Kestrels is really brings a smile to my face and calms everything down. Do it. It's a gem.
View from Godney Road at the Golden Hour
Pill Box on Godney Road. What a way to spend the war!!
A splash of colour amongst the vivid greens
Day over, canoes on land. Swans asleep and those reed beds full of fat young Marsh Harriers and Bitterns. Nice to have known it for real.
Thanks to Ray, Robin and of course Lee.
* Complete and utter BS - He hasn't got a four by four.