Monday, 2 April 2012

Spring, Flats and Time Lapse

Due to a month or so of non-stop university work I have had little time for the finer things in life such as: photography, going on a wild goose chase (quite literally) or even just exploring the places that intrigue me. During this time the seasons have changed, the weather has been unpredictable and much to my disgust; an hour of my Sunday was lost. Finally spring has sprung and seems to have more spring in its step than the lambs this year. Although, in all fairness they may just be trying to come to terms with this seasons new fashion.

The majority of University work was spent lumping camera equipment along the coast of Cumbria in search of a one legged sea gull. Yes it sounds ridiculous; it is ridiculous, however this is not just any gull. This is Stumpy the Mediterranean gull. Stumpy was eventually found near Workington harbour but finding her took a while as many black headed gulls tried to hinder my task by acting as imposters. Unfortunately for them, they had something Stumpy didn’t... the extra leg (and black wing tips to give more of an accurate technical identification difference).

The impostor! Black Headed gull
Stumpy has become quite the personality among birders in Cumbria and I have been chasing her down as part of a documentary making assignment. Anyway, there will be more on Stumpy once the documentary is finished...

Stumpy the Mediterranean gull

After doing a time lapse of the stars by Drumburgh and hearing the tidal waters flooding into the Solway estuary I got the idea of doing a tide lapse. Some tide lapse practice would be very useful if I am to make it good enough for the documentary. Fortunately I finally had a little time so decided to slow things down a little and see what else was about en route.

Early into the journey from Carlisle something brightly coloured next to a small pond caught the eye. Naturally I stopped to look, this time of year lots of migratory birds are getting lost and who knows what may end up on your doorstep. Unfortunately a second glance showed it was just a Moorhen.  This common bird was then scared off by the increasingly common dipstick, as it drove by honking its horn.

In pleasant contrast to this, the melody of the nesting Skylarks that swamped Burgh marsh acted as a refreshing reminder that spring had in fact arrived. Crouching behind a rock it was possible to get a couple of snap shots of one particular grounded skylark as it hopped between tufts of grass.

Several miles further towards the Solway, just after Port Carlisle, is a rocky section of beach that looked like the perfect landscape for a tide lapse shot. In hindsight researching  the tidal patterns of the Solway before embarking on this trip would have been a wise decision and with time (a commodity I am short of) they are something that can be learnt. However for the time being there was the issue of an empty estuary. The tide was due in 2 hours and there was still no sign of the flood into the estuary that had echoed a roar into the still night air just a few nights previous to this. Several minutes watching a Curlew and another encounter with a dipstick was enough force a decision.

With an urge to try out a new Manfrotto tripod and a brief attack of impatience the decision was made to ride on towards Campfield. There were a few gentlemen here enjoying the evening escape of bird watching under a golden sun. Amongst Wigeon, Pintails, Teal, Little Grebes and a Grey Heron they had apparently spotted a Garganey (too far away for my little binoculars). The Great White Egret that has made itself at home over the winter months was also strutting around the pool out the front of the hide. According to the regulars at Campfield the Great White Egret is often accompanied by a Little Egret to stave off the loneliness but unfortunately the Little Egret was nowhere to be found on this occasion.

After getting carried away with the duck related procrastination and temporarily forgetting about any intentions of doing a tide lapse, the sun dipped behind clouds on the horizon, a reminder that light was fading and the time for photography was diminishing. It was a race against time to get back to Drumburgh which after some thought seemed like the obvious place for a time lapse. The shore by Drumburgh is a beautiful place; the north facing point has a lot of potential for time lapses and more importantly it is away from the road (especially important on a day when the dipsticks are showing well).

My equipment nightmare that has ravaged me over the past couple of weeks struck again as my Hahnel Giga T pro time lapse remote broke. Since getting it I have used it twice successfully, used 3 batteries and now broken it. It’s safe to say any review on this product from me would not be flattering to say the least. This slight setback meant that the time lapse had to be done manually (using the timer on the camera so I didn’t case shake pressing the button). The set up was rushed and the sun too low in the sky for a decent lengthy time lapse however here is the result of the first test tide lapse.

Once again hindsight is a wonderful thing. A slower shutter speed could have blurred the water nicely and a lower shooting angle could have helped to improve the composition. During the production of the time lapse I found out my bike had 2 flat tyres and you can tell because at 4 seconds there is a slight jump. This was not best received... 9 miles from home and dusk rapidly setting in. There was no way I was walking home from Drumburgh for the second time in a month so I pumped the tyres to the best of my ability, desperately hoping for both punctures to be slow punctures, packed up and left.

One perk of travelling slower than usual is that there is more time to peruse the surroundings. The last day of March provided a treat with a mad march hare scarpering across the marsh. Despite being so common at home in Suffolk this was my first sighting of one in Cumbria. Nevertheless not even the rarity that is the mad march hare could entice me to get off the bike and take a picture; I was on a roll... sort of.

 A few miles down the road and travelling at an even slower pace, the bike was beginning to make strange noises. Not even these sickening noises could scare off the ghostly figure that swooped in the red sunlit dusk over a nearby field. A barn owl was out hunting. Ultimately it seemed a fitting way to end one of the more unusual Cumbrian outings of the past 8 months.

For anyone still bothered about my fate... I made it home 2 hours after leaving Drumburgh. From now on I may have to travel more places at 4.5mph. It’s a brilliant speed for wildlife!

Due to University trips to Gambia and Romania, assignments and a test later in May this could be my last post until June. I am very sorry about this but hopefully there will be lots of pictures from my travels so please come back another time!

Thank you very much and best wishes to all until next time.