I paid a short visit to the RSPB's Burton Mere reserve on Tuesday afternoon. As I approached the main bird hide, a birder passing the other way informed me that a hobby was ‘displaying well’. I gathered this was a good thing, so I thanked him and carried on.
I hadn't seen so many people in the hide before. Every single one of them bore extremely expensive optical equipment in the form of binoculars, telescopes and telephoto lenses. I tucked my own horse-racing binoculars and bog-standard zoom lens discreetly under my arm, and sneaked my way in amongst the experts.
The chap who had tipped me off had been right about the hobby. It was putting on a magnificent show, gliding high, then plunging down, twisting and turning, snatching hapless dragonflies from the air, and eating them on the wing. Unfortunately, the light was appalling, and the hobby was a very long way away, so I couldn't take any decent photos.
The hobby continued hunting in this way for about half an hour. All the birders in the hide were extremely excited about it—as was I.
Once the hobby had left, a kestrel approached the hide, and I got some better photos. But, as I say, the light was appalling. I had to turn the ISO setting way up on my camera, then deliberately over-expose to get any sort of shot. I then had to crop and process them on my computer, tweaking up the contrast and removing a lot of the noise. Modern digital technology really is remarkable. I would never have been able to get photos like these with traditional film:
The recent prolonged spell of hot, rainless weather meant that much of the wetland near the Marsh Covert Hide was, in fact, dry-land, which meant that there weren't all that many birds close to the hide. But there were still plenty to see in the distant pool. Continue reading Serendipitous snaps, and two new bird species→
Plumbers, a joiner and an electrician are wreaking havoc in what was once our bathroom and will, in ‘a good week and a half at least’ (plumber's promise), be our superb new bathroom. Radio 2 and power tools have been on at full blast. The house has been filled with alarming banging. I have been exiled to the dining room. So, on Tuesday, for a bit of peace and quiet, I left for Dad's much earlier than usual, and paid my first ever visit to the RSPB reserve at Burton Marshes.
As I entered the new visitor centre, I was surprised to see my friend Carolyn's teenage son greeting visitors. He explained that he was on work experience. I embarrassed him something rotten by insisting I take our photo and text it to his mum.
I took a walk down the new cyclepath at Burton Marshes to Burton Point yesterday afternoon.
To be honest, I'm in two minds about the cyclepath. I can see the appeal of a bike ride along the edge of the marshes, away from traffic. But it's turned a place of solitude and quiet reflection into something of a thoroughfare. One local dog-walker I met yesterday was extremely vocal about “all these damn bikes!”. (Actually, I paraphrase, he used a different adjective.) Still, at least it's a clearly defined and well-maintained path, which any would-be off-road cyclists will stray off at their peril, thanks to the nearby military firing-range. And I suppose it keeps the cyclists off the hills.
I was pleased to see the yellow flag irises and southern marsh orchids out in abundance. As were the swifts, skimming low overhead.
The Burton Point sandstone outcrop is the location of a disgracefully out-of-bounds Iron Age fort. At the time that the fort was built, it would have been on the banks of the River Dee. But, in the eighteenth century, the river was canalised upstream and its route diverted to allow the navigation of larger vessels to Chester—which is when the marshes began to spread. Had this not happened, I suppose the heavy industrialisation on the Welsh side of the Dee Estuary, where the river now flows, would have taken place on the Wirral side. In which case, Burton would not be such a Mecca for birds. Or cyclists. Or me. So hats-off to those eighteenth-century Dutch engineers who inadvertently enmarshed the English side of the Dee Estuary!