A little fall at St Mary's

Posted on 10 October 2010, 20:43

For the last few days we’ve had damp-to-wet, mild conditions with a decent Easterly wind – perfect Autumn fall1 conditions – so despite the predictably crappy forecast (thick low grey cloud – and the forecast was depressingly accurate as it turned out) my buddy Mark Mowbray and I decided to spend a few hours from midday, casting an eye over some of the local venues in the hope that we might find a bird or two to shoot.

There had already been reports of interesting birds in the vicinity – Dusky Warbler and Great Grey Shrike at Tynemouth, Red Breasted Flycatcher and Red Flanked Bluetail at St Mary’s, Barred Warbler at Newbiggin, Yellow Browed Warbler at Blyth and more – all good, typical Autumn stuff, and all birds I’d be very happy to photograph.

We arrived at the car park at New Hartley at just after 12:30 and started a slow “birder’s stroll” (nothing in nature moves more slowly than a birder looking for something interesting to ogle!) along the path towards the first of the old “shooting butts” – a quick look at the shrubs and then on towards the wetland, was the plan…

We didn’t get far: within a couple of minutes we’d seen a tiny little something flitting between the branches of the Sloe bushes… then another something… then another.

Goldcrests – and a good few of ‘em.

I was delighted: one of my favourite birds by far, and – if the decent numbers in front of us were anything to go by – there’d been a bit of a fall.

No real photo opportunities though, and the birds eventually flitted (it’s the only word for Goldcrests!) to the next butt…

...Where they joined – and were joined by – more and more of the little gems. It had the makings of a proper event, rather than the generous handful I’d initially imagined.

There were other birds too: Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs were hawking small insects from above the shrubs (as an aside, the number of insects about were good news for the survival prospects of these birds and the Goldies); and increasing numbers of Redwing were flying in over the sea and landing all around.

By the time we’d reached the wetland there were birds in every bushRedpoll in the Willows, the Bluetail was still about, a handsome – and delightfully approachable – male Siskin, Garden Warbler, Barred Warbler, Redstart... Just what a birder wants to see.

But the weather was exactly not what a photographer wants to see – it was so heavily overcast that of the following images, not one is under 1600 ISO, and some – like the Willow Warbler – are 2000 ISO. It doesn’t matter that the 7D can do high ISOs (and it can), the nature of the light makes images look flat, grubby and generally grotty. You can recover some lost ground in conversion and PP, but it’s not the same as having good light to start with.

Still, these look OK, I reckon.


Goldcrest


Goldcrest


Goldcrest


Goldcrest


Goldcrest


Goldcrest


Goldcrest


Goldcrest


Goldcrest


Goldcrest


Goldcrest

As I said, there were other birds about too:


Willow Warbler


Siskin


Siskin


Siskin


Siskin

If I’m honest, I’m not hugely happy with the Siskin images. It’s not just because they’re at 2000 ISO, they just lack something to my eyes – but hey, this is the first time I’ve had a Siskin anywhere near my camera and these are full frame, near as makes no difference, so it’d be rude not to!

Every available part of my anatomy is currently crossed in the hope that there’s a repeat performance and some light next weekend!

1 When weather and bird movements on the continent combine to force (hopefully large) numbers of birds across the North Sea onto the East coast, you’ve got a “fall” of migrants.



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