It’s been a bit of a busy week for me this week, starting off the week down in Southampton not only to visit friends, but to spend a little time doing some bird watching around the Pennington Marshes along the Hampshire coastline. Since I’ve been back home I’ve been having plenty of late nights and early starts, getting out regularly trying to catch a glimpse of some owls that have been reported to be present on a nature reserve not too far from home, and on top of this I’ve been working closely with members of A Focus On Nature (AFON), the young conservationists network, regarding various plans for a few different projects. One of these projects being to get the ball rolling that will allow AFON to set up a photography exhibition this September aiming to showcase powerful imagery regarding environmental history topics. All in all, pretty busy!
So, Southampton, a very welcome change of scenery for myself! Spending my days smack bang in the middle of England, the smell of the seaside in the air as I stepped off the train soon brought memories of seaside holidays rushing back to me, but as much as I would have loved to have stopped and smelled the “roses”, it was 3 o’clock in the morning and I had to get some sleep (the trick is getting trains at stupid o'clock in the morning to really save on rail fare…)!
Copyright Ed Marshall. This was the view that was be had at my friends house. Looking out over the River Itchen.
On the Saturday, I had made plans with a friend of mine (the one and only Professor Paul White of The University of Southampton) who is an active bird ringer and an avid bird watcher, and he had told me of his plans to go and try and catch a glimpse of a long-billed dowitcher which had been sighted around the Pennington Marsh area just on the coast. Greeted with the first “t-shirt and shorts weather” of the year, we headed out early in the afternoon, and spent a great amount of time having our hopes raised and dashed by spotting the various other waders that were present such as redshank, spotted redshank, curlew, and ruff. Though I have to admit, I was enjoying watching them through the binoculars so much I forgot to take any photographs of them! Brent geese were there in good numbers and were a pleasure to watch as they passed overhead (not so easy on the ears I might say), but unfortunately there was no sign of the dowitcher for the entire visit, hopefully I’ll find myself down that way again sometime soon to see what other species there are to be seen.
Copyright Ed Marshall. Prof. Paul White searching for signs of the long-billed dowitcher.
Once I had returned home, I got straight back into the effort that I’ve been putting into finding barn owls around the fields not too far from my home. There have been sightings of them being present from around 5 weeks ago according to a local birder that I bumped into, so apparently I have yet to find the right locations and be there at the right time. One evening I headed out to the field where they have been sighted, and got comfortable. The sun set was amazing, and definitely kept me entertained as I waited, the low lying cloud on the making the sun appear like a perfectly visible golden orb. If only I had some owls to pop in the foreground!
Copyright Ed Marshall. An amazing sunset through the misty clouds as it sinks towards the treeline.
Once the sun had set, I moved over to an adjacent field and kept my eyes and ears peeled, waiting for something to happen. It was then that I heard a call, very unfamiliar to my ears, but one I will never forget. As soon as I got home I looked through the RSPB’s database of bird species, listening to each of the calls for the owl species. Tawny I could rule out straight away, and it wasn’t barn, it was in fact short-eared owl! I’ll be back there frequently as and when I get the opportunity, and I only hope that I can start to share some images of them. I guess I’ll have to be patient but then again that’s the joys of wildlife photography, I can happily spend hours sat in a field seeing nothing, with one glimpse of something special making it all worthwhile.
Copyright Ed Marshall. Ok, maybe I didn't quite see nothing, these swans were there to keep me company...
I hope many of you out there share the same viewpoint, and as usual please share your stories of special wildlife moments by commenting below, it’s always great to hear what you have been up to!
At the start of this week (by which I mean last weekend), The Photography Show was on at the N.E.C in Birmingham, and seeing as I was there with fellow wildlife photographer and artist Matt Lissimore to see what the world of photography had to offer, you can imagine my surprise to see the RSPB being represented by some of its volunteers! They had some great information on the RSPB available to those who were interested, and it was encouraging to see many visitors taking an interest. Let us know if you were one of them, and what you thought about the information on offer! Furthermore, I met some of the guys from Opticron who, as some of you may know, provide great quality binoculars and digiscopes ideal for watching wildlife. I will be hopefully chatting with them over the coming weeks to potentially try out some of their kit!
Anyway, for some time now I’ve been trying to build up connections with various people who are involved with conservation work, generally those who get their hands dirty for the good of the natural world around them! The reason for this from my point of view has been to document this activity, to build a portfolio focusing on the efforts of the unsung heroes in nature conservation.
This week saw me meet up with a good friend of mine from my time at university, and fellow member of A Focus On Nature (AFON), Beth Aucott. She volunteers with Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, and as they were coming to my hometown of Tamworth, I couldn’t miss the chance to tag along to see what pictures I could get!
Copyright Ed Marshall. Upon my arrival to the location the volunteers would be working in, I came across this little critter, a common frog! These guys are well into their breeding season now, which runs from January to April, and some of you who have ponds in your garden may have already started to notice the unmistakeable presence of frog spawn.
The volunteers were here to cut back a dense area of young willow trees that were encroaching upon the reed beds of this marshy area, as well as removing some of the surrounding fallen tree branches that had come down due to the high winds of recent weeks. As this site was predominantly a wetland area, removal of this scrub is important in order to maintain and encourage the natural wetland species diversity. This was achieved by first removing the young willow trees as low as possible with the use of tools, and then by applying a substance that prevents the regrowth of new shoots. Then, finally, these remaining stumps will then be removed at a later date.
Copyright Ed Marshall. Displaying fine use of a paint brush, Staffordshire Wildlife Trust Volunteer Beth Aucott coats the willow stumps in order to prevent regrowth.
Copyright Ed Marshall. The area is soon covered in blue-tipped willow stumps, something that may confuse any passer-by!
Copyright Ed Marshall. One of the volunteers piles up the cut willow ready to be placed on the bonfire. This is an important step that ensures the surrounding area isn't covered with the chopped wood, letting light in for wetland species.
Copyright Ed Marshall. An important role was taken up by one of the volunteers, managing the bonfire.
The willow that had been cut down was then made into smaller pieces, ready for burning on a bonfire in order to reduce the large piles of wood that soon build up, keeping the area in which the trees had been removed nice and clear, allowing light in for the growth and development of wetland species surrounding it. The volunteers of the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust were a hard working group, and were great people to meet. For me it highlighted the importance of generating interest in activities such as this from younger people, in order to ensure the important work that volunteers such as this carry out, is continued for generations to come. Are you or members of your family volunteers with a wildlife trust or conservation group? Let us know what you're group has been up to, or tell us about how you got involved with this sort of work. You are the people I admire!
And last but by no means least, the start of this week also means it’s the first week of spring (according to the MET office’s records!), so keep your eyes and ears peeled for the various signs of spring. Flowers are already blooming, skylarks are singing and I’ve even been passed by a few bumble bees already! Over the coming season please feel free to send in any photos that you capture to the team here at Natures Home magazine, as we love to see what our readers get up to! I’ll leave you with a recent image of mine showing off the amazing sunrises that I’ve been lucky enough to capture thanks to the milder weather of late. Take care!
Copyright Ed Marshall. A passing rain shower is lit up by the sunrise over the horizon. Tamworth, UK.
You can see more of my work on my website www.edmarshallwildimages.co.uk