Dippers

March 15, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

I feel like I've had a frustrating few weeks of late. The weather hasn't lent itself to photography and when the sun has decided to show itself I've been at work. I'm getting used to the predictability of this happening but it is still a real pain! This weekend has been a mixed bag with Saturday spent close to home with, unfortunately, diddly squat of interest seen other than the first Sand Martins of the year over Lakeside in the Cotswold Water Park. On Sunday, with Wheatears already being reported in the southern half of the country, I decided to have a scan of Minchinhampton Common on my way over to see my parents. I gave myself a good 20 minutes to scout a few areas but with a bitterly cold wind buffeting me whenever I got out of the car I unsurprisingly departed without a Wheatear seen. If they have already arrived locally they may have been hunkered down waiting for a calmer interlude. Who knows.

After wishing my mum a happy Mother's Day, dad and I took a short drive down to Capel Mill in the hope of catching up the resident Dippers. They're normally very reliable at this location and have been seen throughout the week so I was confident of seeing them. Getting some photos would depend on the light being kind enough and the Dippers being as confiding as usual. Almost as soon as I had set up in my usual spot I heard the distinctive call of a Dipper coming upstream towards me. It landed right in front of me but spent the whole two minutes it was present staring right at me so I remained still so it could get comfortable with my presence. It soon departed continuing upstream. A short time later two Dippers came back downstream, both calling, but carried on straight past me.

Patience pays with these birds and lo and behold it wasn't long before I had another bird in front of my lens. It was using the same rock and was perched on exactly the same spot so presumably the same bird as earlier though now it seemed a lot more relaxed and even treated us to a few minutes of singing. As with most streams on which Dippers tend to reside, the banks are tree-lined with plenty of overhanging foliage. Great for providing cover and great for blocking out light. Even during winter. I've never previously managed anything close to a keeper from this location, mainly due to the lack of light but today's plan would hopefully rectify that. I didn't want to bump the iso too high as any images would include large dark areas which show up noise like there's no tomorrow. The D800 copes well with high iso but I wanted something nice and clean and as I was shooting at a static bird I wouldn't need a high shutter speed as long there was minimal movement so I opted to keep the iso at around 640 combined with the camera's timer to avoid vibration caused by me manually pressing the shutter. I still haven't got a shutter release cable but this will be rectified asap as it will also help with my forthcoming macro projects. A few test shots to get the exposure right and we were off. I even shot a bit of video!

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An enjoyable little session that resulted in my best Dipper images to date and also included sightings of a Kingfisher, a Grey Wagtail, two Treecreepers and a female Sparrowhawk hot on the proverbial heels of a Magpie. Judging by the brief glimpse we got, the Magpie looked to be in trouble. Good to get out and find a slightly rarer subject. There are only so many shots of a Mallard one can take! Have a good week folks!


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