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Wednesday, 20 September 2017

A Dilemma Resolved - on 27th August, 2017

I'd had a hankering to have another session with the new macro lens, and try it on a few dragons and damselflies. The local weather forecast for the Sunday didn't look too bad and as it was probably the last open Sunday at Alvecote Wood at which I'd have a chance at these creatures (the open days are on the last Sunday of each month until December) I'd made up my mind to go there for the day, taking sandwiches with me. My main interest was to photograph some Emerald Damselflies as I'd not photographed many so far this year.

For some reason, that morning, I checked Birdguides for the latest news on sightings. I confess that this is something I probably only do once every week or two on average at this time of year. I was, therefore, highly disturbed to see that a Hoopoe had been being reported since the Friday only about 11 miles (18km) from my home. I've only ever seen one in UK once before, and then only got very distant views. 

Do I carry on with my plans to go to Alvecote, or do I head for Loughborough? Could I fit in both? If I fit in both, where do I go first? Ah, but I need the macro for Alvecote and the 50-500 for Loughborough - do I really want to be changing lenses in the field?

You'll probably have guessed wrong! What I decided to do was to go to Alvecote first, taking both lenses with me then, at around mid-day, look to see if the Hoopoe had been reported that morning and, if it had, scoot over to Loughborough.

I arrived at Alvecote Wood to be told that Sarah, the co-owner, was down by the ponds looking for dragons and damsels already, so without more ado, I set off for the ponds. 

At the ponds, I saw Sarah in the distance, but immediately saw some Emerald Damselflies. I soon found a limitation with the 150 macro. A mating pair were in front of me, but too far away to make anything of with the 150 - I'd have just about managed it with the 50-500.

Sarah told me that she'd seen plenty of Emerald Damselflies and a few Migrant Hawker dragonflies. However the latter hadn't been settling, and kept flying up into the trees.

I set about practising with the new macro lens, with the Emeralds as my prime target as they can be quite photogenic. I'm quite pleased with the results although, as always, there's room for improvement.

Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa) (male) - Alvecote Wood
If you only ever saw bronzed specimens as shown in those last four images, you could be forgiven for wondering where the 'emerald' epithet came from. I do love those blue eyes!

There were a few Ruddy Darter around, but I didn't spend much time on these.

Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) (male) - Alvecote Wood
The Common Darters were being a little more obliging than their ruddy counterparts.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (male) - Alvecote Wood
That last set of images really convinced me that I'd bought the right lens! 

At one point I was watching a Migrant Hawker, and it settled on the far side of the pond that I was standing beside. I took a safety shot from a distance and I'm surprised that the shot (quite heavily cropped in the image below) turned out so well.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) (male) - Alvecote Wood
To my delight, it soon flew and settled a bit closer to me - then, almost immediately, it did so again!

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) (male) - Alvecote Wood
I just couldn't believe my luck when it again rose from its perch and came even closer still. I am pleasantly surprised by the depth of field achieved, and these are almost certainly my best images of A. mixta yet!

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) (male) - Alvecote Wood
I learnt something that day which I wish I'd been aware of for the past few years, and that is that if I am using my camera in autofocus mode (which I always do), I can override any mis-focus by turning the manual focus ring. I have subsequently found that this works on the Sigma 50-500 also! Another thing that I soon found with the new macro lens is that the minimum focal distance is not as good as that on the 50-500!!

It was approaching lunchtime, and time for a decision. Fortunately, I was able to get an internet connection and check on the state of play in Loughborough - the Hoopoe had shown only a few minutes previously. I returned to my car, gobbled my sandwich, switched lenses so that the Sigma 50-500 was now on my camera, and set off for Loughborough which was only half an hour away.

I arrived to be told that the Hoopoe had shown for a while, but had then disappeared into the distance, looking as if it might not return. There were around half a dozen people standing at the roadside waiting for the bird. Whilst there, pal Col Green showed up and we had a chat just down the road from the main group who seemed to be talking far too loudly for our liking - we didn't think there was much chance of the bird returning under those circumstances. After around an hour it was starting to look as if we would be unlucky - and then we found ourselves being beckoned round the corner into Cherry Close, where an extremely kind lady invited us all into her house so we could stand in her lounge and dining room to watch, through the windows, the bird that was in her back garden. 

The bird was directly in front of me at one point, but it stayed virtually motionless and almost head-on for a while. Suddenly it became animated and moved off to the right. I still had great views, but the photos of it then deteriorated somewhat as I was shooting at an angle though double glazing. It was, nevertheless, a totally magical experience. I can see from the camera data that I was only there for 5 minutes, before deciding that it was time to let someone else have a chance, and so departed, leaving a donation with the wonderful lady who had let us all into her home without even asking us to take our boots off! I'm allowing myself to be totally self-indulgent with the images below as I just know I'll never get another opportunity like this with this species!

Hoopoe (Upupa epops) - Loughborough
It seems that some people stayed considerably longer than I did that afternoon, and some were lucky enough to get some excellent images of it with its crest up. I'm more than happy to get what I did, however! The next day the bird had gone.

I take this opportunity to thank, again, the wonderful lady in Cherry Close. You're an absolute star!

 Thank you for dropping by.