Christmas at Tophill Low
Unfortunately, there was no white Christmas this year. Nevertheless, I was looking forward to the break and an opportunity of reacquainting myself with the wildlife at Tophill Low. I arrived at North Marsh hide around dawn on Christmas day. A Kingfisher turned up briefly but flew off to explore a less windy location. I waited patiently for a fox to arrive but to no avail. Another chap turned up shortly after 9:00 am and we sat together in the golden light waiting for some activity. A few moments later, I heard some voices outside the hide and suddenly saw a black labrador dog dashing around in the undergrowth at the edge of the lagoon. I opened the door and informed the two young men (as politely as possible) that dogs were not allowed on the reserve.
After an hour or so, I disappeared into North Woods with my camera & tripod and eventually managed to get a photograph of a Great-spotted Woodpecker that had been taunting me all morning with its call and tapping. I returned to the hide and to a lovely female Kingfisher. The Kingfisher stayed for about thirty minutes of fishing before departing. The light was perfect and I was happy to get some more photographs of this delightful bird.
I visited Watton Reserve on Boxing day. After a short wait, I was joined by a chap who was intent on viewing a Green-winged Teal that had been reported a few days ago. He waited around for a couple of hours but left somewhat disappointed. Nothing much happened until after lunch, then a couple of Roe Deer ran across the spit of land separating the two lagoons. I managed to capture a short sequence with almost perfect, golden light. The fox didn’t turn up all day but that’s the way it goes with nature photography.
Yesterday dawned warm and clear and more importantly, the wind had dropped. I headed over to Hempholme to photograph the Short-eared and Barn Owls. A couple of Short-eared Owls turned up around lunch time and spent an hour or so hunting over the scrub. For most of that time, they were either too distant or obscured by the trees and grasses. Still, I persevered, and was eventually rewarded with a couple of close-up photographs that did justice to those haunting, yellow eyes and magnificent plumage. I used my 500 mm lens with a 1.7 T.C. on a tripod with a gimbal head. I must admit that getting a focus lock was tremendously difficult as the birds flew low between the trees.
A pair of Barn Owls appear to share the same hunting ground but usually they wait until the Short-eared Owls have moved on to another location. The photograph above illustrates that the relationship between the two species is rather aggressive and competitive. This photograph was taken a fraction of a second too late but you can see by the flying feathers that the Short-eared Owl had attacked the Barn Owl from above, pushing it downwards with its talons.
Finally, this must be my most unusual photograph this year. On Christmas day, a child’s balloon in the shape of a fish (with a plane suspended below) suddenly appeared drifting NE on the wind above North Marsh hide. I couldn’t resist taking a few photographs before it disappeared from view. It certainly made me smile!
Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year to everyone! I hope that 2012 is a successful year for one and all.