So now I have that out of the way, let’s get on with the business as usual.
When you volunteer for the Lee Valley Park, what that really means is you are actually volunteering to experience many amazing things and events. From a ticket to the Bird Fair to organised trips around bird reserves such as Frampton Marshes. More importantly, it presents you with great people who can plan and organise days that live with you forever*. (*This might turn out to be a slight exaggeration as it only happened yesterday but I doubt it.)
A massive thanks has to go to Jo Gildersleeve for giving me and our other partner in crime, Brenda, the chance to experience the close handling of birds during a bird-ringing session given by Paul Roper, one of the top bird-ringers in the country.
We arrived at Paul’s place on a farm in Hertfordshire around 7.15am. Paul and his trainees had already been ringing birds since 5.30am. Hardcore. They had just come back from the three sites for the mist nets and had a few drawstring pouches with birds inside. The birds go through a systematic data procedure where age, sex, weight, wing measurements etc are all noted down and a ring attached with a unique code. It’s incredible to see how calm most of the birds are during this process. We had the easy bit of photographing the birds in the hand before they were released.
|Common Treecreeper underwing|
|Spotted Flycatcher nest|
|Spotted Flycatcher chick|
We thanked everyone for a special morning, in particular Paul and Lorraine who were fantastic hosts and we made our way north to Paxton Pits for an afternoon of birdwatching and photography.
We arrived at Paxton Pits and got ready to walk the Heron Trail. It was now that near disaster stuck me. Having sorted out my camera bag and fixed the macro lens, I failed to properly close the bag and my 500mm lens tipped it’s hat to gravity and disembarked the bag with a thud onto the gravel car park floor. This is not good and not to be recommended. The lens seemed to be fine though but it was a nervy few minutes as I tested the kit to make sure. Worked fine. Thank you God.
There were masses of Blue Damselflies and a few chasers to tease us as we set off. I spotted a small butterfly in the low scrub and at first thought it was a small Heath but on closer inspection it turned out to be a Brown Argus – a species I hadn’t seen before but was hoping to see this year. It wasn’t alone and a pair gave us the run around for a while but eventually we all managed some open wing shots of this little beauty.
|Common Blue Damselfly|
|Common Blue Damselfly|
|Just a Small White|
|Just a couple of great friends|
On the way home, Jo gave us a the rare opportunity to see the whole of Stevenage just to add the icing to the cake. Very thoughtful. Very Jo.