Friday, 15 July 2016

Marsh Harriers and Turtle Doves at Fowlmere

14th July 2016

The Marsh Harriers at Fowlmere have bred again this year and the young are just about to fledge, so time for a visit. As soon as I walked into the Drewer Hide I could see one of the dark chocolate, golden-crowned youngsters sitting in a bush some way out in front of the hide. It then took off for a brief fly round before landing back in the same bush but out of sight.

The female put in a few appearances before flying out to hunt at 11.00am and had still not returned by 3.00pm.

The male was by far the most active with several sorties away from the site, but never returning with food. Both adults, however, did return to the nest on a number of occasions suggesting that in addition to the one flying youngster there are more still in the nest so watch this space.

While watching and photographing the birds I remarked to a fellow photographer that, although this is one of the best sites for Turtle Doves, they were difficult to approach for a decent shot, not helped by the fact that their favourite trees are often away from the footpaths. I then left the hide and walked round the reserve in an anti-clockwise direction and had just arrived at the cow meadow where I had photographed a pair last year. Nothing doing there, but I could hear one purring away somewhere behind the owl box.

A scan of the large dead tree only produced four Carrion Crows, but then I spotted the dove sitting at the top of a small dead tree to the right. This must be quite close to the track which runs up to the Reed Bed Hide. I took a quick record shot in case it flew.

The track is lined with thick bushes with just a few gaps along the way where I might get a glimpse. The problem was how to appear in the gap without spooking the bird. I crept into the first gap and was probably already closer than I have ever been before and took a couple of shots. So far so good.

I then made my way to the next gap and still the bird appeared quite settled so I took a few more shots. The other advantage of moving along the track in this way meant that the background changed.

I was now very close and wasn't that confident that I could get into the next gap before disturbing the bird, but I did. Now the dove was just 12 feet above my head at a range of 15 yards with a lovely blurred-out dark green background.

Why can't it always be like this????

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