16th December 2015
Yet another dull and gloomy day so Stuart and I limited our outing to a couple of relatively local sites. The first port of call was Fairlop Waters near Hainault where a juvenile Great Northern Diver had been present for a few weeks now. Not expecting to be here long we only bought a 1-hour parking ticket and began our search.
Although the lake is easily viewable with no major obstructions apart from just one small island near the Sailing Club, it took us 20 minutes to get our first sighting of the bird. It then disappeared for another 20 minutes. The problem was that it was diving constantly for long periods and travelling underwater for distances up to a quarter of the lake.
It did eventually settle down for a bit of preening allowing some rather distant shots in appalling light to be taken. However, it then started swimming slowly towards the car park and within some 50 yards of the bank it dived. So where was it going to surface? After what appeared to be an age, it eventually popped up just 15 yards from the bank and didn't appear too startled by my presence allowing some close-up shots to be taken. How good is that?
Mission accomplished at Fairlop. so now off to Rainham Marshes for the afternoon. The reserve itself was still fairly quiet, so we headed through the turnstile and made our way to the Serin Mound. There were a couple of Short-eared Owls flying around the area so we positioned ourselves with our backs to the hedge and waited.
Eventually one of the owls started coming our way, but its flying in and out of bushes in the gloom made auto-focusing very difficult. Then my luck changed, and we all need some luck now and again. The owl flew straight towards me but instead of flying over my head, landed on a loop of cable just 30 yards away. It was necessary to wind the ISO up o 4000 to get a reasonable shot but the camera handled it extremely well. What a fantastic day in the gloom!!!