Norfolk photography

A visit to Norfolk was on the books between 29th Nov-3rd Dec with a very good friend of mine to see what sort of natural history photographs we could add to both of our portfolios. 
First stop for two days was Welney WWT on the Ouse Washes.   A great place to be for swans in the winter and we weren’t dissapointed with around 6000 Whoopers and 2000 Bewick Swans in the fields on and around the reserve.   The two days were spent in the photography hide underneath the main observatory hide over looking the ponds where the swan feeds take place.   Some great photography was had with the snow on the ground illuminating the undersides of the flying birds.  A escaped Harris Hawk was an unusual sighting on the reserve was fun to watch as it was constantly being harrased by the local crows, Marsh Harriers and Peregrine.
One of the more notable images from the day was of a Whooper Swan preening in the snow:

Whooper Swan.

Wednesday through till Friday were spent skidding around the snowy lanes and checking the quays around high tide hoping for some roosting waders.   At one place, using the car as  a hide, we managed to get some close views of waders (mainly Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Redshank, Turnstone and Dunlin) but on one of the tidal inlets we did managed to catch a glimpse of a Long-tailed Duck (one bird I haven’t seen for a few years), although not to get any images.

Grey Plover.
Turnstone at Salthouse.

Snettisham RSPB was one of the stops on the list to see the roosting Pink footed Geese.  The evening light was too overcast for any ambient light to break through for photography so the geese were only watched through binoculars but it was still a spectacular sight to see and hear thousands of geese flying over head.  Luckily, on the way to the reserve, hundreds of Grey Partridge were found so we decided to try our luck with these with some good images had.

Grey Partridge in the snow.

The approach road to the reserve were full of Curlew and Snipe aswell, all digging in the snow for food.

High key image of a snipe in the snow.

Throughout the week, a Hume’s Yellow-browed Warbler (aka Humes Leaf Warbler) had been seen at Wells Wood, which is situated on the coastline of Wells-next-the-Sea.   On arrival, heavy snowfall the night before gave mixed judgement as to whether the bird had survived or not.   Luckily, the bird was feeding strongly underneath the nettles and picking out a lot of green aphids (its amazing how much food birds find especially during the winter and under 6″ of snow!).  A new bird for me, great views of this warbler were had as it fed, sometimes within a metre away.   Hopefully it will see itself through the winter and onto warmer climes.  Another added bonus in the vicinity were 4 Northern Bullfinch that been found within the woods.  I only managed to see and photography 1 female, although the male had been elsewhere and was quite elusive.  Some fantastic light for photography allowed me to get these pictures:

Humes Leaf Warbler.

Northern Bullfinch.

Wells Wood in snow.

Travelling back home I managed to find a field full of thousands of Pink-footed Geese.  Knowing that these would be flying in and out until sunset I decided to pull in and spend the rest of the day with them.  With the setting sun as a backdrop I managed to get myself into position ready for the ultimate takeoff as they headed back to roost.  Unfortunately, a dog walker prematurely flushed them so I was unable to get the shots I had visualised. Here are some that I managed to get before hand though.

Pink footed Geese flying against the setting sun. 

Pink footed Geese flock taking off.

Flight photography – Canon 800mm f/5.6

I had a few days off last week and had the chance to try out the new Canon 800mm f/5.6 L IS lens with my Canon 1D Mk4.   I’ve used it already photographing around my local areas but thought I would have to put it through its paces by taking it to Slimbridge WWT in Gloucestershire for flying wildfowl and Gigrin Farm in Powys at the Red Kite feeding station.   At Gigrin, with over 300 Red Kites in the air at once, there were no end of subjects to photograph and Slimbridge was equally effective with  small  flocks of Pintail, Mallard and swans filling up the airspace.
I can honestly say it is a fantastic piece of kit that I would love to have the money so I can add it to my equipment list (any offers out there!!?).  With an aperture of f/5.6, I was surprised at how quick the autofocus was at finding subjects.  It is very responsive (probably because the subjects are so large in the frame!!) and locks the subject in focus consistently.  It is even quicker when the range distances are correctly set on the lens.  I often found when photographing subjects at different distances it took a while for the lens to track from minimum focusing distance and then to infinity, but once focused on the subject it didn’t want to let go.  With the lens itself being 4.5kg in weight, on several occasions I found myself handholding this lens without any problems.  A big plus for those situations where tripods can’t be set up quickly enough. 
With mixed weather at both Slimbridge and Gigrin, the presence of dark snow clouds mixed with sunny intervals allowed me to get some interesting photographs with atmospheric results.  I love photographing in these conditions as photographs have an extra depth and edge to them compared to the usual all blue or white overcast skies that are usually present.
Below are some of the results from my trips.  Hope you enjoy.