Nature is on the side of the big guns


With apologies to Voltaire.........................

That was it wasn't it. The first one of the year, of the season. You felt it, you smelt it. Things where moving weren't they. You had a bit more energy didn't you. That glimpse. You thought about Cuckoos and Hobbys, of beer gardens and cut grass. Yes the sky was blue, so what, it was blue a few days earlier. This blue was a bit different. Those little clouds seemed a bit friendlier, a bit fluffier. Your coat wasn't buttoned to the top.

But lets not get carried away. Its the first week in March. A lot can happen and there's a little voice inside saying 'Hold on now Andrew just enjoy today and don't get over excited. A few more frosts to come and definitely a few more grey days' But that's OK. It was only a brief "As if winter never was".

And with thoughts of spring in mind I was whizzing down out of Glastonbury with shades on and no gloves or overcoat! Madness, sheer madness.
The wildlife had a bit more sense. They knew the score alright. Non of this bounding about nonsense for them. Sure a few crazy flowers were popping through and the green shoots scattered about but the more salient of them were nowhere to be be seen.

VP2 at Hamwall, we were doing a classic run on bikes for a change, was bereft of anything interesting at first. There was a little fella flitting round who I had been told of before. A Gold Crest was in the trees just by the side of the platform. I tried to get him but they move so often and quickly plus I was facing the sun.

Gold Crest

However it did start getting interesting. For some reason all day there were a number of Male Marsh Harriers about. Its usually the female or juvenile chocolate brown ones you see. Maybe these juveniles have grown up and bloomed!

A magnificent sight I must say. I really do love the look of these male birds. Those colours are beautiful. One of my favorites and a good reason to go to Hamwall.

But I had smaller things in mind. The brief views of the Harriers were not enough to keep my attention span happy for long. I looked around, spied the finer detail and clipped on my Super-Taks. Alternating between the 50mm and my new 28mm with its uber cool square metal hood. I also played with some macro tubes I didn't know I had.

Silly depth of field

'Dynamic' grasses

View from VP2 up South Drain to Glastonbury

View from VP2 down South Drain to Shapwick

It was fun playing with my super cool hipster retro manual stuff but I do need a full frame camera to make the most of these short lenses. Anyone have a Canon 5D Mk1 they don't want?? James turned up after a bit and we got to work on the day properly. I was still in hipster mode and kept on going back to my Takumars leaving James to do most of the long range stuff.
James:  It was at this point that I took my first ever RAW picture.  A truly amazing moment...
It looked like a JPEG and even made the same noise... But it wasn't!
It took some convincing on Andrew's behalf.  But with some encouragement I settled in and got some alright pictures!
 My first RAW shot!  Its a ... Canada goose.  Which can be seen pretty much everywhere.
Still its one up on a Blue Tit on a stick (that's for later on in the post)

While at VP2 we were joined by a nice chap with some seriously big guns. I was particularly intrigued since it was all Canon. Here's a pic of James trying it out. Boy was it heavy!!!

James and the first of the big guns!!
(Canon 1DX Mk1 with 400mm f2.8 and x2 Converter Mkiii if your interested!)

Even Conan would have struggled with that thing!

Thanks for the play however I think we're happy with our current stuff for now. My 7fps 70D and tiny 400 did feel a bit toy-like when I picked it up again!

But on with the day. We only glanced at VP1 as we popped down to the Tor hide. Once again I concentrated on the wider picture as James did the birds.

A view of the Tor

A view with the Tor in it

And finally a picture of the Tor

The light was amazing

Bit of reeds
Here is the second bird shot in RAW.  I was quite pleased with this one.
 The herons were very active

So to Shapwick. Now I'm not sure why but I do get drawn to swamps. I keep wanting to get a picture of the water. Maybe its the detail. I don't know. There's a particularly nice one just before the Scrape on the left next to a gate. I had to stop and bag some pics.

Why is this picture interesting to me??????

While I was foraging in the undergrowth James had met up with an old pal of the EFRS. Again hes got a fair bit of big gun kit going on. (A 300mm f2.8 if I remember right) Way better than ours combined and his pictures do it justice. Unfortunately its been so long, must be a year, we cant for the life of us remember his name so if your reading this sorry!!

James: Why can I never remember anyone's name!?

 Slipping through Shapwick and after a cuppa at the Award winning (Congratulations guys) Eco-Friendly Bites we found ourselves down London Drove.

James: Not before I got some pictures of birds on wire, stick and logs!

Its a Dunnock ... pondering why their is a man with a cup of hot chocolate sitting on one of those wobbly tyres at Eco bites, whilst trying to take pictures

Here is a Blue tit looking all important, possibly in some futuristic and gritty drama
Its a Reed bunting who looks like he has an eating disorder, food goes in the bill.  It looks like its all over his head (or maybe I am just seeing things)

This Bunting has fallen off its perch.  Shocked that I have finally got a new laptop AND am shooting in RAW
Anyway back to what Andrew was talking about...

Not for the Fire Crest I may add, we sailed past that spot, but to head to the hides at the end. There was little there so time was passed with talking of ventures past and future.

This Long Tailed tit looked like it was ready for a parachute jump

The cycle back did present a chat with a newer friend of the EFRS, Steve Balcombe. We had met first at Tealham when I got the second Herons in a Ditch pic. And guess what, he's got a big gun as well (7D Mkii and 300mm f2.8 with the x2 converter) which we talked about (I don't need a 7D..... I don't need a 7D........ I don't need a 7D)!!!

Here's another Male Marsh Harrier. This time over at Shapwick

View from a bridge

View of (a bit of) a bridge

The return route brought us back to VP2 where the murmurations where about to take place. Wow was that sun golden as it set!

There was one gal around who could have made it even more interesting but she decided to go elsewhere.

Female Sparrow hawk
Plus a bigger cousin
Just because we haven't had any duck pictures yet.
Andrew running about with his short lens inspired me to take a photo of something not feathered.

The day was done. Not a classic in terms of the birding but still a nice promise of the days to come as it brightens up. Lets just hope the big guns out to play will be the ones with good intentions.............


  1. Great pics and an entertaining read as always!

  2. Thanks Carl. We can say the same about yours as well. Nice work mate :¬D