Frogs and Toads
The Easter Bank Holiday weekend has been and gone but four days off work meant plenty of time to get out and explore. The time off was a mixed bag. I was really hoping to find a snake or two and whilst I did achieve this, I'm sad to say my only success was finding a dead Grass Snake. Judging by its size I'd guess it was around 2 or 3 years old. I felt a huge buzz of excitement when I first caught sight of it but that quickly turned to sadness when I realised it had been attacked and killed by something. Such a shame and it left me feeling very despondent. Such is the circle of life though, as harsh as it can be. This disappointment was repeated on Bank Holiday Monday when Dad and I went searching for Adders. The site we chose to explore used to be a haven for this much-feared but shy reptile and we recounted numerous memories from my childhood of snakes shooting off into the gorse left, right and centre. How times have changed. Not a single snake found. Maybe we were unlucky, but four hours of searching a relatively small area suggested otherwise.
On a brighter note, I saw some great birds including the now infamous Red-necked Grebe residing at Farmoor, a cracking drake Garganey and my first Osprey over English soil. Closer to home, the local amphibian population seems to be booming! Throughout the weekend I found countless toads of varying size, with a few mating pairs included in the count. I also found a handful of frogs - the first I'd seen out of water for what feels like years! I'd forgotten just how charming they are and made the most of the opportunity with plenty of photos taken. The macro lens got a really good workout and given such photogenic subjects so close to hand, I had a thoroughly good time trying to do these boggle-eyed beauties justice, with various shooting angles experimented with. I didn't bother with a tripod for any of my shots, instead opting for the flexibility offered by hand-holding. I got very wet and muddy, but given the practice I'd had during my time over the winter with the Water Rails, I didn't complain. The light varied considerably with this really defining how the final images appeared. Bright but hazy conditions were my personal preference with the frog images having a nice 'pop' to them, whereas dull conditions led to much 'flatter' results. Below are a few of the many images I came home with, illustrating the range in lighting encountered. I don't currently use any artificial lighting or reflectors for my macro work but that is something I'm hoping to play with soon. In the meantime, for more images of these water loving critters, check out my new 'Amphibians' gallery.
Looking ahead to the next month or so, I'm already getting very excited by the imminent butterfly season. The warm weather over the last couple of days has triggered an apparent explosion of some species, with Peacocks seemingly everywhere. I've also seen good numbers of Brimstones, Small Tortoiseshells and Commas. Top of the list though is the Marsh Fritillary colony at Strawberry Banks and the Pearl-bordered Fritillary colony in Cirencester Park. My main aim are some underwing shots and with both species normally on the wing in mid-May, I haven't got too long to wait! Until then, I'm hoping to get back to birds, with spring migration hopefully soon to really kick-in and deliver some nice rarities!
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