In the two hours since my previous post, I've been frantically writing Christmas cards and have also risked a trip to the Post Office (not because it would be busy, but because the waves are close to crashing over the road). So now I'm treating myself to a reasonably well-earned break and blogging again.
Really, Tense? On a school day?!
Well, there's another gale going through and I don't fancy being up a ladder, or having a van door ripped out of my hand. All work for today is postponed until tomorrow, which will now be rather busy.
Yesterday was a pleasant day, mind, especially after the weekend's weather, and as I was prepping the van, after breakfast, I had a fortuitous moment.
Back in the Autumn, the remarkably-energetic Countryside Tales offered up a challenge. Luckily, this didn't involve me having to run an ultra marathon or wearing Little Miss Happy leggings, but did require me to up my game in the context of photographing Hen Harriers. See the comments to this I&T post.
So, the fortuitous moment...
There I was, delving about in the back of the van, making sure I had everything on board for a busy day of sorting out satellite and internet woes, when I heard the alarm call of a Snipe. Odd, I thought, because if our wadery neighbours are spooked by us, it's normally as we step out of the front door. Swinging around, and looking skywards, I did indeed spot a couple of Snipe, climbing and wheeling away, so the question was, from what?
Scanning about, I saw a shape at the far side of the field over the road. It was low and mainly grey, so could've just been yet another gull, but I wasn't completely sure. With a sudden flick, the bird flashed black wing tips and a white rump, identifying it as a male Hen Harrier. And as it quartered the field, it did seem to be coming closer.
Yay! and Dang! in equal measure! Harrier flybys are always special, always incredibly brief and never when I'm holding a camera. The low morning light from a Winter sun was perfectly placed, if said optics had been in my grasp. Conscious of CT's wager, I threw caution, and a box of connectors, to the wind, dashed inside for my camera and hurriedly returned, shedding lens cap, expletives and hope.
Rounding the van, the harrier was nowhere to be seen. Gah! But I continued looking and spotted it in the next field south, low over the furrows and heading away from me.
All that lovely light and this photo catches the bird in the shadow of the farm.
Umpteen out of focus shots later, the Hen Harrier soared up and turned around, making back for where I'd first seen it. So, sadly, not any closer.
I wasn't sure whether it had prey in its talons or not, but looking back at my images, now heavily-cropped, it would seem that the bird was flying with its legs down. At this point, I wondered whether it was injured. It wouldn't be unusual for a bird which skims field edges and vegetation boundaries to come to grief against a wire fence, especially with the wind speed we have been experiencing recently.
The harrier wheeled around once more, hunting along the fence line at the far side of the neighbouring field. The light was absolutely peachy, but the distance was too great for my 300mm lens (whose brilliant idea was it to remove the 1.4x converter recently?).
After a gale, the fence lines are often home to bits of silage wrap and feed bags, which have made a break for it. Perhaps after today's meteorology, I'll have a surreptitious womble across the field.
Eventually, the Hen Harrier settled on a fence post, and it seemed that it was perching quite happily on both legs. Phew.
I don't think the challenge has yet been met, CT, so you can keep your Dunnocks on standby, as it were. To be continued, at some point...