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Purple on the rocks

  I have the real pleasure of writing my first blog post of 2022 about a trip to Battery Point, Portishead, Bristol to photograph Purple Sandpipers (Calidris Maritima). As many of my readers will know I love waders probably above all bird species and so when I had the opportunity to get some pictures with my good friend Paul Joy of this rare, specially protected and very confiding wader species that winters in the UK coastland I was really excited. Up until this point I had never seen a Purple Sandpiper. They are small waders, bigger than a Dunlin but slightly smaller and less robust than a Turnstone.  They migrate to the UK in the winter from as far away places as Canada, Greenland, Svalbard, Fennoscandia and Russia. They then spend their time along the coasts roosting and feeding on various rocky outcrops. They have a preference for rocks covered with seaweeds where they forage for insects, molluscs and crustaceans. They get their names because of a Purple sheen that can be seen in t

My eye in the sky at Goldcliff


 It's great when I get the opportunity to combine things I like when taking photographs. So I had the following photograph ingredients-

  1. A fantastic location - Goldcliff Lagoons, a place I just love.
  2. My DJI Mini 2 Drone - my favourite new toy that is an absolute technical marvel
  3. A nice sunset - Golden hour sunlight.
The drone gives you a new perspective on locations you can take for granted you have seen everything on. I have taken pictures at Goldcliff from almost every angle possible at sunset previously but never had the chance to take pictures from up above in the sky - until now.

When using the drone I am careful not to cause any disturbance so ensure I am well outside the reserve boundaries and take pictures from a distance. The DJI mini 2 has a zoom feature that I have used to also try and get some closer pictures. I don't fly the drone over the reserve.

Wednesday evening I spent some time after work at the lagoons. It was a very hot and humid evening, the skies were blue but the clouds were starting to streak across the sky and they were building upon the western horizon. 

Initially, I spent some time trying to locate the Wasp Spider that had been found on the reserve. Unfortunately, I timed my visit too late and the electric fence verge had been mowed and decimated all the vegetation where the rare spider had been.

No Wasp Spider

Becs Lagoons was full of birds - probably over a thousand in total. The busiest I have ever seen it. There were hundreds of Black Headed Gulls, 200-300 Curlews, 300+ Black Tailed Godwits, Ruff, Dunlin and a Wood Sandpiper using the lagoon to roost for the evening at high tide.

The view from the seawall hide ( at ground level)


I met up with friend Paul Coombes had a nice catch-up and then we parted ways. He intended to concentrate on getting some Wheatear pictures and I headed to the other side of the farm to Goldcliff Point so that I could put my drone up safely.

A Wheatear perched up on the reserve information sign.

Wheatear perched up on the farm fence


Once I found a nice spot, up went "My eye in the sky". The sun was starting to set and the western horizon had started to turn orange. It was not a perfect sunrise by any means as the veil of clouds caused the sun to be whited out nut nevertheless it looked pretty awesome from 100 m's up in the sky.

Sunset from 100ms up above Goldcliff Point

I say it almost every time I visit the reserve, but  I really would love to live in that house. The views they have are incredible.

With a birds-eye view of the lagoons, you really get a better sense of how big the lagoons are and also realize how limited our perception is of how big some of the lagoons are. Becs Lagoon for example, which we normally view from the Seawall ( Avocet) hide just does not look that big from ground level. There is a lot of water on the other side of the island. This area is also where the waders have been congregating most often this year.

The reserve


Wide-angle view of Goldcliff Point and the reserve in the background


The sun started to disappear over the horizon it was time for me to land the drone and meet up with Paul again.

We walked back through the reserve and Paul mentioned that a chap he had been speaking to earlier in the evening had mentioned that he had seen a Barn Owl quartering the field that runs alongside Priors lagoon the last few evenings.

As we got near to Hide 1 we looked back and saw a flash of white in the dusk light come over the hedgerow and I am pretty sure it was fighting with a Short-Eared Owl.

Both birds separated and the Barn Owl made off over another line of hedges towards Hide 2. Paul and I hurried after it. The light was poor now and it's only because my Nikon P1000 camera has a digital viewfinder that lightens the darkness up that I could scan the reserve for movement.

We headed to the Snipe Platform and then Paul saw the Barn Owl quartering the field that runs alongside Priors Lagoons. I watched it through the P1000 and it flew between the hay bales and then landed on a post started directly at us and then it flew over the fields border hedge. What an excellent way to finish the evening at Goldcliff. My third sighting of a Barn Owl in Gwent in only 29 Years!

Update

I have made a Skypixel 360 Pano which you can view by clicking on this.

Comments

  1. Blair - did you see these awards? https://twitter.com/PaulSeligNature/status/1438551333544595458

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Paul, Thanks for sharing that link. Food for thought for sure.

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