As we enter the last couple of months of 2015, local wildlife photographer Sam Coppard reflects on one of his most memorable mornings at Brandon Marsh Nature Centre.
We all know that Brandon Marsh is a wonderful place, but occasionally nature pulls out all the stops to make it even better than usual. That’s exactly what happened on a crisp and clear spring morning back in March, when the chill of the night gave way to one of the most spectacular sunrises I’ve ever been lucky enough to see.
As the glowing disc of the sun rose above the horizon and turned the land to gold, a thin layer of mist slowly drifted up from the pools to blanket the reserve in its gentle embrace.
An elegant swan gradually woke from its slumber and began to preen as it drifted across the lake, bathed in beautiful orange light. The swan’s serenity was perfectly juxtaposed by the incessant squabbling of the assembled Coots, all gearing up for the breeding season by chasing each other around and fighting at every opportunity.
But as enchanting as this sunrise scene was, there’s something about lying in a cold muddy puddle that makes beauty just a little harder to appreciate. The same goes for resting your elbows in an extensive pile of goose poo. Ah, wildlife photography at its best!
Most of the best wildlife photos are taken from an eye-level perspective, and unless you’re photographing elephants, that often means getting dirty. The results are usually worth the extra effort, and this morning was no exception.
All the same, it didn’t take long to realise that my waterproof trousers had developed rather more holes than would be considered ideal, and an hour later I was shivering too much to hold the camera steady. Time to move on!
Before the soft morning light gave way to a clear blue sky, I wandered up to the Newlands reedbed, hoping to make the most of the perfect conditions. Luckily Brandon proved itself to be on fine form once again. A distant male Reed Bunting sang its simple song from a sparse bush growing in the middle of the reeds, a sure sign that spring was just around the corner.
By squatting down low I could place the little songster in a frame of fluffy seedheads, which caught the light shining through them and were transformed by the camera into soft orbs of light. I quickly clicked the shutter as he turned his head in my direction before taking off a few moments later, flying straight into the rising sun.
Later that morning I bumped into a more accomplished singer in the familiar form of a Robin. There are many Robins that call Brandon Marsh home, and a few particularly friendly individuals have grown accustomed to being fed. These birds will readily flutter down onto your hand if you have a few mealworms to offer.
Any wild animal that trusts you enough to come so close can make a great photographic subject, as well as providing an excellent opportunity to try something a little different. This time I set up my camera on the ground with a few sacrificial mealworms in front of it as bait. It took several attempts (and well over an hour) to get the shot I wanted, but it all worked out in the end.
Not really feeling like nibbling on a mealworm myself, it was finally time to head home for my own late lunch. It had certainly been a morning to remember – a beautiful misty sunrise with a great range of engaging wildlife. So it was with a smile on my face that I cycled off down Brandon Lane in the early spring sunshine, already looking forward to my next visit.
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