This picture excites me. A lovely result from a short session. It was a real surprise when I got home and I had a look at the results at the end of yesterday's shortest day. Just about every local birder is aware of the potential for good photographs at Turf lock on the Exe Estuary. There is a a spot on the river that, at high tide is used as a roost for Dunlin, Redshank and Grey Plover. You would think that it would be simply a case of concealing yourself close to the roost spot, at the right time of course, and wait for the birds to come in. If only it was that easy. I have tried two different methods of concealment but neither has worked adequately really. The birds are simply not prepared to accept the presence of a strange object close to their roost. Yesterday the high tide was due to coincide with sunset so I decided to try my pop-up chair hide. I arrived at around 10 to 3, knowing that it would be dark by 4 o'clock. I concealed myself inside the hide, close to the edge of the bank and waited, something that I am very used to doing. The tide continued to rise quickly, the water was "millpond" calm and the sun came out very low in the evening sky, it was beautiful. Then a small flock of Dunlin did a "fly by" of the roost. They were checking out the area before they flew in, firstly flying down river, circling back and then flying up the river past the hide, each time getting closer and closer and I really thought they had decided it was safe. Then one bird settled on a rock just in front of me and I waited for the others to join it. But they didn't! At least now I had a bird to photograph!
It seemed calm, content and relaxed and over the next 20 minutes the water level rose until the rock was completely submerged and covering it's feet and now the bird was almost swimming. To my right and very close in, there was a real distraction. A drake red-breated Merganser was fishing in the flat calm water, only 10 feet from me, a real photo opportunity. It was diving constantly as they do and I just couldn't get my camera on it. Then it popped up with a small flat fish which it immediately dropped and then dived again to try to catch. That was very close to being a wonderful photo but unfortunately, it didn't happen.
After not too long the water level was almost over my boot laces so I had to climb out of the hide and pack up before I had wet feet which pretty much coincided with the loss of light anyway. Before I departed the scene I had a look further down river for the small flock of Dunlin and there they were in another little spot that I know they favour. I crept close on my belly. One of the Dunlin alarmed and off they went leaving this lone Grey Plover to have his photo taken.
Grey Plover are an interesting species that I also see on my travels to the USA where they are known as Black-bellied Plover. They are often seen on the beaches near to Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood, Florida where my sister lives and where my wife and I visit regularly and where we will be spending most of January.