My bird world...
Every photograph on my instagram page or in the galleries on the website have been taken locally. This is what local means to me...
Having embarked on this journey of discovery at the start of Covid this to some extent was inevitable but to be honest it’s where I am happiest. In this post I thought I would talk a little bit about what local actually is for me.
I am aware how lucky I am to live where I do, particularly in respect of my obsession with bird photography. In a small village called East Preston in West Sussex, I am a ten minute walk from the beach, a ten minute cycle to the South Downs National Park and close to a number of coastal and inland RSPB reserves. The town of Arundel is also nearby. Sitting on the River Arun, this beautiful old market town has a stunning wetland centre, lake, river of course and is one of my favourite places for early morning bird photography. If all that wasn’t enough, when I need a break from the office desk for an hour (usually ends up as 2) I have a small local river reached by a short walk across fields, that offers continual interest.
I work from home (yes I do have to find some time to work, it’s a massive inconvenience) and I try to visit any one of these locations throughout the week, usually early morning. When I do I am always blessed by a continual display from a huge variety of birds. Each location provides something different, sometimes something surprising.
The local river
I love bird photography so much because you never quite know what you will see even when you have got to know a place. For example, the local river. To get there, a short walk across fields brings its own distractions, skylarks, pied wagtails, the occasional buzzard. A ten minute walk always takes thirty but then the river is reached. I have probably walked along that river path more than any other. It's my go to place when I need a break, to clear my head and get some fresh air. There are birds that I know I will see every time I go there, such as willow warblers, reed warblers, whitethroats, blackcaps, goldfinches, the list goes on.
Trees line the edge of the river, a mix of deciduous and evergreen and I know every time I will see herons and egrets roosting in one of the large conifer trees. As many as four herons and double figures of egrets have been seen in these trees, all hanging out together. It always makes me smile.
A little bridge spans the river and at a certain time of day I know I will always find an egret fishing underneath it, stirring up the mud with one foot and then spearing anything tasty that appears as a result.
These things I am now so familiar with and even spend time showing other people out walking, many who seem to be totally oblivious to the wildlife around them. I can’t tell you how many times I have been standing taking a photograph of the roosting herons only for someone to stop and say ‘what are you taking a picture of then, anything interesting?’ Hmm, I reply, just the three herons and four egrets up in that tree.
So these things I know I will see but so many times this one location will throw up a surprising first and it’s totally addictive. All the locations I mention here have that air of familiarity but also carry an element of surprise.
The beach always harbours a great selection of birds that changes through the seasons and I am only just beginning to learn what I will see there at certain times of the year.
It is never short of activity, with egrets and heron's feeding in the rock pools at low tide. Always plenty of gulls and crows and I can never get bored of watching and photographing them. I have taken sequence shots of both opening shellfish by repeatedly flying up high and dropping them onto the rocks below until the tasty meal inside is revealed. Fascinating to watch, challenging to capture. The seasons bring in different birds that over winter here such as turnstones and sanderlings, that then disappear again in the summer. It’s a constant rotation of visitors and a constant joy.
The South Downs
A ten minute cycle on my mountain bike takes me off road, through woodland and up on to the South Downs. The woodland trail takes in part of the Monarch’s Way, the famous escape route used by King Charles II after his defeat by Cromwell in the Civil Wars in 1651. It has a wonderful variety of birds and wildlife.
From there I can get right up onto the downs and the South Downs Way. It is genuinely beautiful downland countryside, graced by the presence of buzzards, red kites and kestrels, with the occasional hare trying to avoid their steely glare.
Bird’s of prey are my particular favourite and the South Downs never fails to deliver more than just a glimpse of these majestic birds.
Apart from being a stunning old market town with its mediaeval castle, Arundel is surrounded by beautiful countryside and sits on the banks of the river Arun that snakes its way through the county of West Sussex. With its wetland nature reserve and lake, early morning visits are becoming more frequent for me and this was where I finally got my first kingfisher shot. I also had an amazing ten minutes watching a heron catch and devour a trout, one of those unforgettable moments that I will document in a later blog. It’s a place bursting with wildlife and I am looking forward to seeing more of it as it changes through the seasons.
RSPB nature reserves (the not so familiar)
A relatively new discovery for me and along with my wife we have now joined as RSPB members. Our first visit was to Pagham Harbour Nature reserve no more than thirty minutes up the road, an internationally important wetland site for wildlife and one of the few undeveloped stretches of the Sussex coast. Stunning is the only word I can use, a place that instantly seduces you with its beauty, serenity and overwhelming abundance of wildlife. Nature in harmony. We have been a few times now but no amount of times will be enough.
There are inland reserves close by too, such as Pulborough Brooks, yet to be visited but eagerly awaited.
So there you have it, a small flavour of my bird world. A world I am so lucky to have on my doorstep. I will chat about all of these locations individually in future posts as each deserves much more page space than I can give them here.
Thanks for dropping in. If you want chat about your local spots, it would be great to hear from you. Just leave a comment.
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I live on the South Coast of England, close to the South Downs National Park and am totally obsessed with bird photography.