Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Now that's aviation


What first comes to mind? "Ergh," "Ewe," "Humph?" How about the echoing cries of "AIIIIIIIIGGGGGGGGGG" at the seaside?

I must confess. In the urban sprawl of London, I dislike gulls. Ducking and diving for scraps on the roads and pavements, they are up there with our friends the rats in my estimations. (Sorry everyone)

Things change at the wetland centre. For the reason why, there was no better example than when I visited last week - I was greated by a vast number of them, making the cacophony of noise only gulls can. And they were incredibly active. Ducking and diving, swooping and skimming accross the lakes surface. It all looked rather fun.

So for this blog post, the focus is our friends the gulls. Photos are a mix of old and new - enjoy :D

Sitting in the WWF hide (soon I think I will ave left an impression in the bench where I always find my perch...) I turned my lens to trying to capture the skill and pannache that these birds employ while hunting, socialising or just having fun.

The next two photos come under the theme 'verticle.' Its almost as if the bird has been cut and past back into the photo after being rotated 90˚ as even just before impact, these black headed gulls kept their wings extended.

Next up, fishing. Or... Stealing. Or just play?! Nature does not have the greatest of tollerance for sillyness. And sillyness is what I witnessed one sunny morning at the wetland centre. Feeling very pleased with himself, a herring gull had caught himself a fish. "Yum." Thinks he, as he gracefully wings his way accross the lake.

CAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! Reverie over. The mob begins. Spotted by the flock which was so docile just moments previously, a wall of white wings rises from the lake and mobs our friend and his breakfast. Ducking and diving, the play pans out in a bizarre reverse pecking order: Herring gull loses fish to another herring gull. Herring gull 2 loses the fish to a smaller gull. Smaller gull loses the fish (after much pestering) to a black headed gull. Black headed gull realizes fish is a bit big and after dropping it a few times, surrenders it once more to a herring gull. So. Competing fo food like this is a wise evolutionary strategy? WRONG. After the gulls had spent all that energy, the only chap to get breakfast was a crow. Watching patiently from the sidings, when he perceived the silliness to be drawing to a close, he swooped in, grabbed the fish and was gone. Game. Set. Match.

And finally, to bring this whistle stop tour of gulls to a close. Here are a few pictures from my archive of gulls being gulls. Taken in Cardiff (fishing for minnows) and Henley (the later 2). Enjoy!

Friday, 11 November 2011

10/11/11: An Autumnal affair

"Its getting chilly," I was thinking as I stepped out on a rare day off to scamper over to the Wetland Centre. "But come on, its more or less mid November! It should be much, MUCH chillier. What are you complaining about?!"

"Humph." Thinks I, and casting meterological averages aside I fall back into reality: "I'm chilly".

And whats more, just as I got to the Wetland Centre car-park, my previously 'full' camera battery was now reporting a rather measly 1 bar out of 4. No hundreds of rapid shutter shots for me today then! This is NOT a bad thing. I dread to think what I would have been like if I had discovered photography before digital. "Considerably more in debt" I think would be the key phrase.

So, flashing my card and bustling past mothers with babies, watchers with telescopes and strollers pondering along with autumnal whimsy, I scamper to my hide of choice and make myself comfy.

It was a good day. There were HUNDREDS of birds on the main lake at the London WWT site. HUNDREDS.

Gulls. Ducks of bewildering variety. Lapwings. Grebes (Small and Gr Crested). Herons (10). Cormorants. Coots (angry). Moorhens. Crows (devious). And I'm sure there were many more! AND everyone seemed to be active and on full display for my lens.

The first two of todays photo focus on a rather handsome duck. After much flicking through books I believe he is a Gadwall. It took be bloody ages to realise this because most illustrations show no hint of the dashing auburn flash at his side, and I only confirmed his identity when i spotted the short phrase, "gadwalls also have white and brown colourings but tend to be rather too shy to display them." Not this chap, his lovely hazlenut flash was proudly out for all to see.

Moving on!

This is not that great a photo. But I have a soft spot for little grebes. They look like little balls of fluff when above water, but submerged they are the terror of many a little fish. Here he is in the Autumn sunshine, and again below diving for his lunch.

And finally, and without further adoo as I need to make dinner for some friends... Here are 2 fun photos of a (Black headed?) gulls. Neat.