Friday, 12 September 2014


Today, I decided on a crazy whim to go to Oare Marshes. It was a sunny day (though breezy) and, excitingly, I have a new camera to put through its paces. New's the wrong word, actually. It's a secondhand and bargain-tastic D700 - it's been well-used but, as far as I can see, well cared-for. After using a borrowed D700 on the Farnes back in June, and being very impressed with its no-noise sensor in the grottiest light, I've been hankering after one for myself. Actually I would have liked the newer D800 even more but it's way, way out of my price range, whereas the D700 I just bought cost less than my (also secondhand) D300 did.

Oare was probably a bad choice to try the D700 on birding shots as you are just that little bit too far from the action, but I fancied seeing some nice waders and I did get a few opportunities to try the D700 on some birds as well as some other stuff.

There were swarms of Starlings moving between the fields and the marsh, and they went by pretty close at times.

Solo Starling. I am pretty happy with how the lens/camera coped with this speedy passer-by.

And some stationary Starlings. These three are all juveniles going into first-winter plumage, quite a variety of head colours going on there. I wonder if the palest-headed one is actually leucistic.

The East Flood was smothered with waders - tons of Black-tailed Godwits, Avocets, Lapwings and Golden Plovers, garnished with liberal sprinklings of Ruffs, Dunlins and Redshanks, plus a few Curlew Sandpipers and at least one Little Stint. The distance thing meant that there wasn't a lot of point taking photos of any but the nearest, though I did much admiring through bins. This is an uncropped shot of the closest bit of mud, to show what I was dealing with...

... and a crop on that rather nice Ruff. Besides the waders there was wildfowl in the form of Mallards, Gadwalls, Teals and a few Shovelers and Wigeons. I heard rumours of a Pintail but couldn't find it. During the time watching the flood I noted three flyover raptors - a very dark Marsh Harrier, a Kestrel and a Hobby, none of which alarmed any of the waders etc into flight.

It was a low-flying plane that put up the Avocets, and none of the other birds joined them.

This Sedge Warbler was slinking about among the rushes lining the little channel that's between the road and the flood.

There were a few Mallards in the channel too, including this one which provided a handy close target for the camera. Also, rather sadly, there was a dead Mute Swan cygnet (full-grown) in the channel, and it was disconcerting to see the ducks feeding right next to it - can't be great for the water quality. I hope some enterprising fox makes away with it during the night.

I walked the loop along the sea wall as the tide came in, and saw very little, did hear some Beardies in the reeds but saw no sign of them.

On the bridge just beyond the seawatching hide was this juvenile Swallow, along with one of its siblings or schoolfriends. It's weird and rather humbling to think that this little, cross-looking scrap will shortly be flying to southern Africa. The path back along the southern edge of the East Flood delivered a few Linnets and a passing Kingfisher, as well as new viewing angles on not-new waders and ducks on the flood.

I wandered down to the hide overlooking the West Flood, which was so uneventful as to be barely worth mentioning... but it did produce one of the day's few butterflies - a Small Heath. I also saw a couple of Red Admirals and Small/Green-veined Whites. Dragon-wise, there were many Migrant Hawkers and a few Common Darters.

The viewpoint was becoming busy when I got back to it. I went down to the sea wall again and had a sit-down. The Swale was, as usual, full of many nice boats, but this one, 'Josie' was easily the nicest with her radical burgundy sails.

Here I took off the birding lens and put on my... new lens. Yep, I bought a lens - again, it's not really new but secondhand. A 50mm f1.8, it's short enough to be OK for landscapes (well, some landscapes), and hopefully will usher in an exciting new era for my blog as I can show you the places I'm looking at as well as the wildlife in them.

When the birding lens went back on, it was to photograph these sow-thistle (I think) seedheads, because there were No Birds. Seriously, I sat here for some 20 minutes looking out over the Swale (high tide by this point) and saw one Black-headed Gull. I would love to visit here on one of those amazing spells when the weather sends streams of seabirds up the Swale. I wouldn't even ask for a Tufted Puffin, I'd be very happy with some 'normal' auks and a skua or two. But they tend to happen early in the morning and so it probably won't ever happen for me, unless I move house.

I took a last look at the now quieter viewpoint, where the Little Stint was showing nicely.

A Curlew Sandpiper had also wandered into the closest muddy inlet.

Finally a couple of flybys - Lapwing, and a motley crew of Mallards. I and my new camera gear are off to Hastings tomorrow and my mission is to find some rockpool life (though I'm sure I'll end up photographing 10,000 Herring Gulls as well or instead).


Mike H said...

Another nice blog Marianne Oare can certainly be a magical place for waders and the like even if not close enough for photography. I paid a visit on Wednesday and like you managed to get a few shots of the swallows queing on the sluice . You can see my efforts here if you choose.

Warren Baker said...

Sounds like a good day out Marianne, I may visit Oare next week sometime, see if I can photograph something :-)

Bob Telford said...

Another fine read and some nice pictures. Interesting to see your Ruff picture - the full frame and the crop. Do you feel the full frame allows for a better crop and tehrefore compensates somewhat for the shorter reach?

Marianne said...

Thanks for the comments, folks :) Bob, I think that with D300 vs D700, the reach vs sensor size pretty much cancel each other out. What I love about the D700 is the lack of sensor noise. The shorter reach will hopefully encourage me to take more care over fieldcraft, and composition :)