Like many readers, I guess, we’re still under the cosh of the Beast from the East up here, with minus 14 degrees C measured on occasion, and horrendous wind chill. Though for now we’ve escaped the worst of the snow. The meadows all look like life has been sucked out of them, and our tough sheep are hanging on hoping for warmer days.
Our stream has iced over completely in places, which we’ve never seen before, and our ponds are frozen hard, but still there’s signs of life.
Relocating the camera over our stream as it heads from our land through scrubby wet woodland… brought a very blurry picture of 2 otters – they didn’t realise they were meant to walk up and down the stream, though, and not from side to side…
I think they’re viewed as really challenging birds to hit with a shotgun – Indeed the word for a skilled shot, or sniper, derived from the need to be both well disguised and a good shot if you were ever going to hit one. But for goodness sake, how much better to give them a chance and frankly just as challenging to try to get a decent photo of them in flight.
No matter how slowly or quietly I progress, I never see them before they explode into life, often from really close by, and fly away with their characteristic zig zag, high speed darting flight. Today I disturbed 3 different birds from about 200 hundred yards of Westerly, still just flowing, ditches overhung with mature hazel hedges.
My key for getting any image in poor light, was to use a tracking focus set up on my camera in advance, and setting the shutter speed priority for the photo, and then walking slowly along the ditch margin with the camera already up at eye level and re-focussing periodically a short distance ahead.
They still explode out of nowhere, and you still have to reflexly pan the camera round at speed, pressing the shutter button and hoping, but actually even these poor images are better than I usually manage to see with the naked eye. In particular the typical 3 linear back stripes as it heads away and up over the fence…
So well worth wrapping up and getting outside and looking for, and again marvelling at the ability of these birds to survive in such constant sub zero conditions, on the fringes of “poor” wet upland meadows.
For anyone interested in such things, my brother just sent me a link to this evocative poem by Ted Hughes on Snipe – though it’s written with a hunter’s perspective. Click below:
Julian Wormald, Gelli Uchaf
Thanks for reading, and remember I’m always happy to receive any suitable articles or photos to include as blog posts. Please send them to me…
Rachel Barber… email@example.com