The Joys (and frustrations) of photographing Sedge Warblers and Cetti’s Warblers!

The sun has actually come out in the last few days and it seems Spring has finally arrived with a vengeance! Hard to believe that just 2 weeks ago I was driving over Exmoor in a snow storm!Summer visiting birds have started to arrive, in the last week ...

The sun has actually come out in the last few days and it seems Spring has finally arrived with a vengeance! Hard to believe that just 2 weeks ago I was driving over Exmoor in a snow storm!
Summer visiting birds have started to arrive, in the last week I've seen my first Swallows, House Martin and Sedge Warblers of the year! No Swifts yet though, they come later....not so swift in arriving on our shores!

  I just love the singing of the Sedge Warblers in the reedbeds at RSPB Greylake in Somerset, when they first arrive they give regular brief song-flights above the reeds as I first discovered last year. So me being me, I tried to photograph them in flight! This is a real challenge. They're tiny birds, they're hidden in the reeds, you don't know where exactly they'll fly up from, they'll go up and quickly down again in an arc, landing back in the reeds a few metres further away! Their whole song flight lasts about 4 or 5 seconds! Trying to get a zoom lens on them and locking the focus on is extremely difficult! I tried with my Sigma 150 - 600mm lens on my Nikon D7200 first, and failed to get a shot. So I changed to my Nikon D500 with the Nikkor 70-300mm vr lens instead and tried with that. The advantage is that this combo has a wider field of view to get the bird in the frame and a quicker focusing system, the disadvantage is that any photo captured will need more cropping and so will lose detail. This kind of juggling with equipment and settings is a constant in nature photography. There is always a trade off in getting the shot and trying to achieve perfection!

   I've never achieved perfection and I never will, but it doesn't stop me from trying!

I also managed a couple of shots of the birds singing in the reeds, this can be almost as difficult, as they usually sing out of sight, and if you do see one through the reeds the camera will struggle to focus on the them due to the swaying reed stems between you and the bird which will confuse the focusing system. In such circumstances most nature photographers switch to manual focusing, however I rarely do this as I don't trust my eyes when looking through a little view finder!! What may look in focus to me then will usually actually be out of focus when I check the picture on the back of the camera!
 However....I got lucky, one bird shimmied up a reed stem and sang in full view for just long enough for me to grab the photo's I wanted!
It was lovely meeting Devon nature photographer Tom Wallis there, who joined me in attempting to photograph the Sedge Warblers. We'd also bumped into each other at nearby RSPB Ham Wall the day before where we attempted to photograph an even more elusive bird, the Cetti's Warbler!

On another day I photographed the Pink Footed Goose near Westhay Nature Reserve, which was closer to the road than it had been when I'd seen it a couple of weeks previously! Whilst taking shots out of my van window, Somerset Levels birder Jeff Hazell and his lovely other half Kay pulled up alongside me. They told me about a field further up the road that had Cattle Egrets in it.
  I managed to get some distant shots of these uncommon Egrets. They first bred on the Somerset Levels 10 years ago and are doing well! It's fantastic seeing exotic species here in the UK. Great White Egrets are doing really well too, and I managed some shots during the last week of them too.
Below is a collection of pictures I've taken in the last couple of weeks, featuring everything mentioned above, plus Peregrine Falcons at Stolford and Brean Down, Common Cranes over Bridgwater, Avocet above RSPB Ham Wall, My first Swallows of the year, Grey Wagtails, Buzzards and much more!

^Above^ - Sedge Warblers at RSPB Greylake in Somerset.

^Above^ - Kestrel at Greylake.

^Above^ - Marsh Harrier at Greylake.

^Above^ - Redshank at Greylake.

^Above^ - Lapwing at Greylake.

^Above^ - Roe Deer at Greylake.

^Above^ - Goldfinch at Greylake.

^Above^ - Robin at Greylake.

^Above^ - Cetti's Warblers at RSPB Ham Wall in Somerset.

^Above^ - Chaffinches at Ham Wall.

^Above^ - Cormorant at Ham Wall.

^Above^ - Nesting Wrens at Ham Wall, plus one having a dust-bath!

^Above^ - Blackcaps at Ham Wall.

^Above^ - Avocet flying over Ham Wall, the first I'd ever seen on the Somerset Levels!

^Above^ - Great Crested Grebes at Ham Wall.

^Above^ - Pochard at Ham Wall.

^Above^ - Garganey at Shapwick Heath in Somerset.

^Above^ - Great White Egret at Shapwick Heath.

^Above^ - Pink Footed Goose near Westhay in Somerset.


^Above^ - Cattle Egrets near Westhay (With Little Egrets, which have the black beaks and no orange on feathers).

^Above^ - Jackdaw at Westonzoyland in Somerset.

^Above^ - Common Cranes over Bridgwater in Somerset.

^Above^ - Roe Deer at Edithmead in Somerset.

^Above^ -Buzzard near Mark in Somerset.

^Above^ - Woodpigeon near Clatworthy in Somerset.

^Above^ - Swallows near Clatworthy.

^Above^ - Rook near Clatworthy.

^Above^ - Carrion Crow near Clatworthy.

^Above^ - Blue Tit at Clatworthy reservoir.

^Above^ - Cormorants at Clatworthy reservoir.

^Above^ - Male Pheasant near Clatworthy.

^Above^ - Buzzards near Clatworthy.

^Above^ - Goldfinch at Clatworthy reservoir.

^Above^ - Linnets at Stolford in Somerset.

^Above^ - Peregrine Falcon at Stolford.

^Above^ - House Sparrow at Stolford.

^Above^ - Dunnock at Stolford.

^Above^ - Lesser Black Back Gull at Stolford.

^Above^ - White Doves at Stolford (Not wild!)

^Above^ - Rabbit near Stolford.

^Above^ - Female Pheasant near Stolford.

^Above^ -Collared Dove at Stolford.

^Above^ - Grey Wagtails at Cheddar reservoir.

^Above^ - Pied Wagtails at Cheddar reservoir.

^Above^ - Goldcrest at Cheddar reservoir.

^Above^ - Redshanks at Combwich in Somerset.

^Above^ - Canada Geese at Chew Valley Lake in North Somerset, with a Black Tailed Godwit in the bottom pic.

^Above^ - Great Crested Grebes at Chew Valley Lake.

^Above^ - Jackdaw at Chew Valley Lake.

^Above^ - Mute Swans at Chew Valley Lake.

^Above^ - Mallards at Chew Valley Lake.

^Above^ - Distant Pintails at Chew Valley Lake.

^Above^ - Tufted Ducks at Chew Valley Lake.

^Above^ - Shelducks at Chew Valley Lake.

^Above^ - Meadow Pipits at Brean Down in Somerset.

^Above^ - Blackcap at Brean Down.

^Above^ - Peregrine Falcon at Brean Down.

^Above^ - Male Stonechat at Brean Down.

^Above^ - Buzzards at Brean Down.

^Above^ - View down the M5 motorway to Brent Knoll, from Brean Down.

^Above^ - Lesser Black Backed Gulls on my office roof in Bridgwater!

^Above^ - Goldfinch on razor-wire! Taken outside my office in Bridgwater.

^Above^ - Roe Deer at Shapwick Heath.

^Above^ - Chaffinches at RSPB Greylake.

^Above^ - Reed Buntings at Greylake.

^Above^ - Robin at Greylake.

^Above^ - House Sparrow at Greylake.

^Above^ - Dunnock at Greylake.

^Above^ - Goldfinch at Greylake.

^Above^ - Great White Egret at Greylake.

^Above^ - Female Shoveler at Greylake.

^Above^ -  Teal at Greylake.

^Above^ - Coot at Greylake.

^Above^ - Snail in the reeds at Greylake.

^Above^ - Distant Buzzard at Greylake.

^Above^ - Blue Tit at Greylake.

^Above^ - Robin in Westonzoyland.

^Above^ - Great Spotted Woodpecker in my Somerset garden.

^Above^ - Horse at sunset in my Somerset village.

^Above^ - Spring Somerset lambs!

^Above^ - Angry mob of thug horned sheep at Cheddar reservoir....I jumped in the water and swam for my life!! :P

^Above^ - Beautiful Magnolia in my village.

^Above^ - My companion at Greylake!