Tony McLean's East Yorkshire Wildlife Diary

Wildlife photography in East Yorkshire

The Smew and I…


Last Thursday was a fine sunny day for a change so I managed to take a half day off work and visit Tophill Low. I was a little surprised that the hide at North Marsh wasn’t empty but delighted to see that budding young wildlife photographer Rory Selvey was there with his grandmother. Rory is a remarkable young photographer and a recent member of Driffield Photography Society. Only twelve years old, he has already has gained a comprehensive knowledge of photography and has an interesting Blog too.

For a while, there was not much of interest to photograph, then Rory spotted a pair of Common Buzzards in the sky (thank goodness for his keen, young eyes). Both he and I managed to get several images of the soaring Buzzards before they flew southwards along the River Hull.


The weather on Saturday was typically unpleasant, so I rose early on Sunday morning and drove to the replacement hide at Watton Reserve. I had done a quick check the night before on the direction of the sun as I didn’t want to be blinded by the early morning light. It is well worth downloading a fantastic and free bit of software called The Photographer’s Ephemeris. It enables anyone to check the direction of the sun or moon at anytime from any location on Earth.

I arrived at the hide an hour or so after sunrise. A couple of cormorants were drying their wings in the sun. A Grey Heron flew overhead and landed in the distance. I was hoping to get a shot of a red fox or perhaps a Barn Owl but no such luck. However, a pair of Smew were feeding on the lake and I settled down with my flask of tea and waited for them to swim a little closer to the hide. There was sufficient light for me to use my 1.7 tele-converter with my 500 mm lens giving me an effective focal length of 850 mm. I also knew from experience that this combination requires a very steady hand in order to avoid a blurred and useless image.

It was fascinating to witness the Smew feeding. Diving under water for up to twenty seconds at a time; it was almost impossible to predict where they would surface. At last I got lucky and managed to get a photograph or two of one of the birds surfacing with a fish.


This pair of Smew continued to provide me with some entertaining shots throughout the day culminating in one of the pair being rather startled by an approaching Moorhen.


There were several other species of waterfowl on the lake including Mallard, Tufted Duck and Widgeon (see below)


The only problem was that the strong light that made it extremely difficult to capture detail in both their white and black plumage. That’s why I always shoot in Raw rather than Jpeg. It gives me the necessary ‘wiggle room’ during post-processing so that I can reveal the plumage in all its intended glory.

Finally, a pair of Oystercathers were once again involved in their amorous activities. This time I was lucky enough to photograph two separate sequences of such behaviour. All I can say is, “get a nest!”


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2 thoughts on “The Smew and I…

  1. Roristy on said:

    thanks for the recognition, I have had 4 views so far from your link. I didn’t get much Saturday morning but that’s what I get for sleeping in. Is it worth getting a membership to Hull Valley Wildlife group so I can get in to Tophill whenever I want?
    I’m back to school and only going out at weekends. Today’s nice weather was unexpected and I didn’t take my camera to school to photography the flowers.
    Nice sharp image of the buzzard.

  2. Hi Rory

    I think membership would be worthwhile if you plan to visit more than say, 6 times a year. I would wait a couple of months; by then, the photography should get a little more interesting! Cheers…Tony Mc.

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