Reed Buntings

May 18, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

If you read my previous post, you'll know that my lockdown photography had revolved mainly around the birds right outside the house and those seen on my daily walks (limited to Starlings at the time of writing the aforementioned post). Since then, I've continued enjoying photographing the resident robins and blue tits and have also been trying to get some more shots of the dazzling starlings. The former has gone well though the latter has proved somewhat of a disappointment. It's not all doom and gloom though as my daily walks have involved a little more exploration of the local area and this has resulted in the discovery of a few ponds not too far from home, one of which is tucked away and therefore very quiet, and is home to a number of reed buntings. These smart and vocal birds have never been too hard to find but for some reason I've never got any decent shots of them. During an evening walk, I found the buntings for the first time and was able to get relatively close without disturbing them. I didn't have my camera with me but a plan had formed in my mind, with the reed buntings my next 'project'. 

A few days later, I decided to visit the pond at sunrise, when it would (hopefully) be at its most peaceful with the light also at its best. The walk there was a great way to wake up, with clear skies and a refreshing chill in the air. The camera was packed and it wasn't long before I arrived. I sat down on the bank and enjoyed the dawn chorus, with a very vocal blackcap taking centre stage. A grey heron was either roosting or fishing and took flight a few minutes later before I saw my first reed bunting of the morning. It was a very smart male, in full breeding plumage, and it began singing as it gradullay climbed a reed stem. The stem was nicely isolated so I was able to position myself so that there was very little distraction in the frame.

Reed BuntingReed Bunting

It remained on the same stem for a good five minutes before dropping down into thicker vegetation, lost to view. I didn't have to wait long before I was again watching and listening to another male reed bunting, with this one a little further along the edge of the pond, but a lot closer in. A very slow approach allowed me to get within better range and after a bit of effort was able to get an angle that meant only the main perch was visible. I managed some pleasing images before sitting down and watching.

Reed BuntingReed Bunting Reed BuntingReed Bunting Reed BuntingReed Bunting Reed BuntingReed Bunting

This particular bird seemed very content perched where it was, and after a little more time I decided to move a little closer. Unfortunately I was too stealthy for my own good as I was about two feet from where I wanted to stop when a snipe flew up and called from pretty much under my foot. I'm not sure if the snipe was more scared than me but it made me jump out of my skin! Suffice to say, the reed bunting was also spooked so it was back to sitting and waiting for the next opportunity (and for my heart rate to return to normal). It was another male reed bunting (if not the same) that was next to pop up out of the vegetation and I was in the perfect place, with the rising sun now almost directly behind me, with the bird at close range in front of me. I simply had to remain still and adjust my monopod but just as I was about to take my first shot the reed bunting flew to another stem. Bad news because I'd have to get into position, good news because the perch looked like it was clutter free. I again moved slowly and quietly and I was soon snapping away with the bird completely unfazed by my presence. I had a very enjoyable few minutes with this super smart bird before another male appeared and a scrap between the two began. No shots of that sadly but below are a few of my favourites from this particular encounter.

Reed BuntingReed Bunting Reed BuntingReed Bunting Reed BuntingReed Bunting

Subsequent visits haven't proved quite as successful but nonetheless I have managed a few more images which I'm quite pleased with. Having had no reed bunting images a few weeks ago, I now have plenty!

Reed BuntingReed Bunting Reed BuntingReed Bunting Reed BuntingReed Bunting In all honesty just being out at sunrise has been the real reward with the dawn chorus a real lift and plenty of good birds seen. One thing that I'm still waiting for though is my first odonata. Not a single dragonfly or damselfly seen so far, despite the habitat looking ideal for them. I'm sure it won't be long though.


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