Park Life part 2

05th May 2012
As you know from my previous updates I've been visiting a few of my local park lakes recently in the pursuit of Great Crested Grebes. Although I've had some fantastic close encounters with these beautiful birds, I still haven't captured the images I'm after. It seems that every time they start a courtship dance they are either too far out or there's something in the way, like reeds, bushes or other birds.
One such morning this was happening all the time, I was on Caldecotte lake at the time which is a rather large expanse of water and I couldn't really see my luck changing so I decided to visit a smaller lake which was just down the road. I've avoided this lake in the past due to it's close location to the town as it seems to attract idiots that walk around with beer cans and confrontations are something I can do without. It was still very early in the morning so the chances of the idiots being out and about with beers in hand was slim -sod it I thought, I'll have a quick look and assess the situation.

On arriving in the carpark I glanced over to the small island on the lake and noticed a Heron perched in the top of one of the trees, then I spotted another one perched in the trees,strange I thought. I grabbed my gear and walked around to the island and couldn't believe my eyes, this tiny lake in the middle of the town had a Heronary. To be honest, I was gutted I hadn't visited this lake earlier in the year because by now the nest building was nearly complete.
Thankfully a couple of birds were still putting the finishing touches to their nest and one bird in particular was flying straight past me into a small wooded area to collect branches. I really could have done with a smaller lens at this point because the bird had no fear of humans and came so close at times and I couldn't pull focus on it.

A close pass that I managed to capture.

Herons are very large birds but I was still amazed at the size of the branches they were carrying to their nest.

Unfortunately there wasn't any nests that had a nice clear view so images of chicks and adult birds feeding their young wasn't going to be possible which was a shame.
The clearest shot of an adult bird I managed perched in the trees was when one landed away from the nest and started display calling.

As I said, I was a little too late and I was very fortunate really to get the last few days of nest building. I've been back several times since hoping to get more flight shots and I thought they would have be very busy feeding their young but this wasn't the case. I'm not sure how much food they bring back at any one time but it must be a substantial amount as I spent nearly a whole day there and only saw the adult bird fly in twice to feed the young.

I couldn't do much more with the Herons so I turned my attention back to the Grebes. I decided to try my luck at Caldecotte again arriving at first light. I made my way over to my usual spot only to find an angler sitting there. Damn!..this spot gave me good views of the lake and allowed me to stay in one area without having to move. The other areas on the lake have lots of bushes and reeds meaning the birds can quickly get out of view.
Standing there trying to decide what I was going to do, I spotted the Grebes further down to my right. I set up in a small clearing in the reeds but they were soon out of sight and moving to my left. All of a sudden they started the courtship dance so I grabbed my gear and moved further to my left but this was when disaster struck. In my haste I hadn't paid enough attention to where I'd placed the tripod and as I turned around to take my rucksack off I heard a loud bang. I spun around to see my whole kit in the lake and underwater, Noooooooooooooo! I grabbed the tripod as quickly as I could and pulled it out of the water.

I couldn't believe what I had just done, £11000 pounds worth of kit had just bashed against the rocks and submerged fully underwater. I tried to quickly clean the lens glass because the Grebes were still courting but it kept icing up so I had no choice but to take it back home and give it a proper clean. This was when I realised I'd done more damage than I'd first thought, pressing the menu button on the camera did nothing, no menu showing or image previews. I then decided to remove the camera from the lens but I couldn't,the impact had bent the mounts on the camera and lens. One good thing though, there wasn't any water inside the lens but I was gutted and couldn't believe what I had done.The following day I took it down to Canon for repair and after a few days I had another nasty shock with a repair bill of £800 pound,that was one expensive morning trying to photograph Grebes.

All repairs complete and a very expensive lesson learnt I was keen to try out the camera and lens just to make sure all was working as it should be, again I arrived at the lake for first light but this time I made sure the tripod legs were well spread and placed just back from the waters edge.

Once more the Grebes gave me the run around and they were too far out when they started courting, I swear they do it on purpose to me. All was not lost though and I came away with some nice wide angle Swan shots with a lovely misty sunrise.

Time is running out for the Grebe courtship images that I'm after but hopefully lady luck will be with me on my next visit to the lake..

Thanks for looking and be careful with your kit when you're near water... :-)