Open wide please


As usual James was busy this weekend so I went solo out to Hamwall, Shapwick and London Drove. These being our regular routes these days. Still, they are pretty cool places to see stuff. I'm not complaining. The plan was to meet up with Robin Morrison but due to me not getting out very early and stopping for a while at VP2 we didn't get to go a birding, just a quick chat.
VP2 was in full bloom and boom. The Bitterns were in full song with quit a few thundering away in the reeds. The Cuckoos were frustratingly calling in the distance from all directions and finally Swifts shrieking over head. I love that sound as much as the birds themselves.


Bittern far off

Great White Egret a bit closer

Heron closer still

Bittern far off again

The regulation B&W pic

My 300mm Photosniper was proving useful for macro as well

Coots were feeding with their chicks in good numbers from the Tor hide

A Mother Shoveler with a very impressive brood. She's got her work cut out!

High light of VP1 was this Red Shank. one of four there

Arriving at VP1 I was met by a bit of a gang of friends. Lee Dutton was on duty telling everyone what was what, Robin was waiting patiently but had used up all his free time so had to shoot off and Cookie said hello. A good chat was had with all anyway. 

This Bittern did a good fly-bye

Hmmm I think someone had a sneaky play with my Photosniper while I was distracted Mr Dutton!

I spent a while at VP1 doing other stuff other than birds at a distance as evidenced by the pic above but more of that later. In the meantime I cycled off down to London Drove. My intention was to do a circuit down then across via the raised hide and come out at the main entrance. This lasted for about a hundred yards when I saw something big fly past low the other side of the trees. Sure enough it was that Male Marsh harrier in full colours. It had done this the last few times I had started off down the Drove. It circled as before and sailed right along the main road with two cyclists beneath it. They didn't even see it!! That decided it for me. I'm going to get it in the bag. Nice and close. There are two set back gates at that point just past the drove entrance. I settled on the second. A perfect spot, slightly sunken and a post or two to blend in with. I waited...................... and waited................... and waited...................... and well you get the idea

Views from a sunken gate

This is where I expected it to be

There were quit a few of these Buzzards around. Judging by last weeks forty plus in the fields its a good spot for them.

While waiting I snapped some other interesting stuff

I noticed this on top of the gate post. Initially I thought it could be Hobby poo but the insect legs aren't part of the pile so maybe something poo'ed and something else ate. How unsavoury!

............. and waited................ and waited................. and waited............... and Ahhaaa! success. Coming out of a group of Buzzards what I at first thought was a Kite was my Harrier. It fly a little away from me and disappeared behind a clump of trees for quit a while. I walked around but couldn't see it. I waited.............. and waited.............. and waited................ 

and Oooh there it is again

It was all going to plan. It hadn't seen me or at least it wasn't bothered. It was starting its usual path and would be swinging round to come along the road any second now. Unfortunately its noisy neighbours had other ideas. A gang of Crows gathered and set it off over to the main entrance. I'm sure all those sitting in their cars who couldn't be bothered to go for a walk got fantastic views. Hump!

You have company

And it was gone

The clouds were gathering thick and fast. The light was terrible and the wind was picking up fast. Time for home I think. I went via Godney but past the pub without stopping this time. Just as well since I didn't want another puncture!
Turning towards Glastonbury i stopped in my tracks. In a large garden a Greater Spotted Woodpecker was hunting on the ground. it didn't seem phased even though it did see me. I did the classic thing of looking and thinking should I bother getting my camera out? I'll fly off as soon as I do. They then of course don't fly. This makes you even more tempted but the longer you'r tempted the more you think the more likely it will fly since you'r using up your time all the while it's sitting there. I went for it. It took me a while to tug the bloody Photosniper out my pannier giving the Woodpecker more time to fly but no it was still there. Eventually with half a dozen cars going passed I raised the sights to my eyes and Brrrrrrrrrrrr it was off into the thick trees.
So here's a picture of a very pompous and smug Collared Dove sitting on the cables above me.

The same thing happened a bit later with a Roe Deer very close in a beautiful field. This time it didn't move. As I was taking this I heard a car slow right down and stop just passed me. I didn't look but I'm sure the Photosniper made them double check I wasn't about to put a bullet between the Deer's eyes.

Now I'm sure you'r wondering what all this has to do with Gynecology. I'm glad you've asked. I've got a new toy. It's a Yashica 100DX Medical. The weapon of choice for many an operating theatre back in the seventies and eighties.
To be precise its a 100mm 1:1 Macro with a built in ring flash. Rather handy for bugs wouldn't you say? You also get a little man-bag which holds the flash settings controller and the twelve, yes twelve AA batteries.

Fully kitted out

The man-bag control unit

Isn't it a beast

Just to talk you through the set up. It consists of the control unit with the main power switch and a dial to set the strength based on what ASA your film is. This is made for film cameras of course. The cable then goes to the lens itself. There are two switches. One for Low and High relating to the ASA setting and one to switch the spotting light on. You can see this in the first pic. This is to aid focus in low light. The cable then exits and goes to a hot shoe clip. There is only one thing you can do with this lens and that is focus. this also acts as a zoom. The F stop changes as you focus/zoom. The reason being its designed for surgeons to use who either don't know or haven't the time during operations to mess about with settings.
This is all set up on my Canon 70D. Due to its size it needs a 13mm Macro tube acting as a spacer otherwise it would hit the built in flash! The most important bit is the pair of wireless flash triggers stacked on the hotshoe. Old flashes gave off a rather nasty kick back when fired . This isn't a problem with old manual film cameras but with modern DSLR's who can only handle about 6v its pretty likely that this thing sending +400v back wouldn't do my baby much good! The triggers are isolated between each other on the stack. I have read that modern Canon's including my 70D can handle 300v but Canon don't say this officially and I'm not going to risk it.
But on with the pics. I used it for the first time yesterday in anger. I also had great fun showing it off to the gang at VP1. That's what the mysterious pic is of me hunching down but Mr Dutton wouldn't know anything about would he!
All these were taken either at VP1 Hamwall or while waiting for the marsh harrier on the road at London Drove. Most are either not cropped or with very little just to tidy them up. Hope you like them. I certainly do. This lens is amazing. Its a bit tricky to use but once I sorted out the correct flash strength I was away. Oh and the big plus I was worried about is it syncs with the camera at 250th of a second. That's pretty bloody impressive for a 30+ year old flash.

I inquired from the seller where he had got it from. It used to belong to a Gynecologist! The tales this lens could tell ah!! Or was it a Dentist? I can't remember.

This was a tester for the flash in the gloom of the undergrowth

When you look out over the countryside anywhere its amazing to think that its made up of this sort of think times millions. (I don't mean the countryside is made of cuckoo spit I mean the detail and intricacy of it all)

This is pretty sinister. That spider has been sucked dry and if you look closely behind it you can make out a slightly larger and fatter spider lurking. Perhaps his femme fetale? Otherwise I love the spiral shapes the fern and legs make.

I think this one is pregnant?

Its hell trying to get Bees!!

and then it moved

Its not as tough as it looks. That face is on its back - amazing

This is my favourite. Those eyes!!

This is about as big as a match head

Tick Pretty cool looking if you ask me

I have no idea??

Finally got a reasonable Bee pic

Really like this one

So that was yesterday. Today was something very different. A day with Mr Riley. Its been quit a while so we had some catching up to do. We met at Decoy Hide, somewhere the EFRS rarely go, its not very cycle friendly being a bit boggy. Its a shame since its a beautiful walk through to the hide and that has excellent views towards the Tor.

Birding with Mr Riley is very different. To sum it up its not 'What you find' but more 'What you see'. There is no constant scanning looking for excitement, frantically grasping your camera or binoculars at every black dot in the sky. No this is relaxed. You look and observe and more importantly you enjoy. Only once did I grab the sniper to bag me a Bittern. There were two more fly-byes but I simply looked and enjoyed them. The camera stayed put. Nature was viewed as it was not with artificial aids. Pictures were taken but more of the plants rather than animals as we walked back through the wooded area to join up to the main track my the Sweet Track entrance. That wooded walk is sublime. Its a veritable wonderland. Time slowed down to Riley and natures pace. We listened and heard, looked and saw.

The one Bittern I bothered with

Marsh Thistle

Yellow Flag Iris

Mr Riley I presume

Views from the hide

An interesting feathery style fern

An interesting Oak spotted by Riley

Meadow at the entrance to the wooded walk

Pyramid Orchid

Royal Ferns were a plenty

More Yellow Flag Iris

A day out with Mr Riley is an old school tonic. I thoroughly recommend it.

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