Rich Andrews photography
Rich Andrews photography
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I've always liked photography, and for years used a number of Canon and Minolta film cameras. I sold the lot in 2003 and bought a Nikon Coolpix 4500, but soon decided that a digital SLR was what I really needed.

Since 2004 I've been through five Canon EOS bodies from a 20D to a 5D Mark III, and 20 lenses and extenders from 14mm to 500mm. Thank god for Ebay.

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White-billed Diver

Two trips to the south coast on consecutive days! Never done that before.

Funnily enough, White-billed Diver is another high-Arctic seabird, and although nowhere near as rare in Britain as yesterday's Brünnich's Guillemot, most British records are in Scotland. South coast birds are extremely rare. Ironically the last time I saw a White-billed Diver was on exactly the same day that I last saw a Brünnich's Guillemot - on the Arctic coast of Norway nearly ten years ago. Even then, the views I had of both species might generously be described as "shite".

So I was looking forward to seeing this one. Annoyingly, the bird vanished just prior to my arrival and it wasn't for a couple of hours until it was relocated. But when it was, as is not untypical for an Arctic species, it was unconcerned by human presence and gave luxurious views. In fact this was a situation similar to yesterday in that it would surface for a few seconds, take a deep breath, dive underwater and reappear at some inordinate distance, so I was only able to reel off about three decent sets of shots when I was lucky enough to guess where it would appear.

Divers are so elongated when sat on the water I never know what to do with composition/cropping. So what follows is a set of 2:1 panos and 3:2 head shots, just like all my other diver shots...


Boxing Day Brünnich's

Good job I didn't have much in the way of plans today. I took a quick shot of the Spenny Bridge early this morning, but had I been telepathic I would have been in the car on the way to Portland Harbour...

Brünnich's Guillemot is the high-Arctic counterpart of our Common Guillemot, and has never been recorded in southern England. Most of the few British records are of birds in the Northern Isles, and even then, the majority of those have only been recorded as tideline corpses. So news of one in Portland Harbour this afternoon was of interest.

Many a time I've lamented the fact that the road between Bristol and Weymouth isn't a motorway (19th October 1997 was the first occasion), and this afternoon was no exception. Luckily the bird remained faithful to a stretch of the harbour off the sailing academy, where it showed at ranges between 5 metres and 500 metres until dark.

Previously, catching up with one of the few living Brünnich's Guillemots to have been recorded in Britain would typically require an agonising overnight wait, a few hundred quid and at least one aeroplane (as well as having to be a bit mental), so it was hard to believe that such a fabled and difficult-to-see bird was tarting about just a few metres in front of us after such a short trip from home.

Despite the bird's proximity, it was very difficult to photograph. When feeding, it would be on the surface for only a few seconds, then dive underwater and reappear some distance further along the shore, leading to ridiculous Benny Hill scenes of camera and telescope-carrying birdwatchers running up and down the sea wall trying to second-guess where the thing would pop up next.

Thankfully I managed one decent set of shots, although if it stays around I might be tempted to have another day at Portland before the end of the year.


Desert Wheatear

A rare bird! And a proper smart one, too. Inconveniently found mid-week at Severn Beach, it meant a three-day wait until I could go to see it, close as it was on somebody else's doorstep. The previous (and only) Avon record was of one at Clevedon in 1997, which I managed to see, so there was a little less haste to see this one.

That said, reports of it looking in a miserable old state after a night of rain on Thursday led some to proclaim that it was on its last legs. Luckily those fears, at least in the short term were unfounded (I'd look pretty miserable after spending a night at Severn Beach in the pissing rain), and on my arrival this morning it was constantly active and showing really well in front of a dozen or so people.

For a couple of hours it fed amongst the tide wrack and spartina catching flies, earwigs and picking up a few mealworms left out for it. It was so tame that on several occasions it came to within less than a metre, prompting further thoughts from some that despite looking perfectly well, it wasn't in particularly good nick.

The following day the bird was nowhere to be seen; it had popped off overnight, one way or the other.

All of these photographs were taken at ISO 800 or 1000 with the 5D3 and EF500mm f/4L and the 1.4x II extender. Most of them also had a bit of fill-flash as well; it's surprising how much better they looked compared to the ones without. The results at high ISO are miles better than what I would have achieved with the 7D, although again I was lucky in that I didn't need the extra 'reach' the 7D would have given me.

Loads more on Flickr.


Light trails

I drove over the bridge at Trench Lane on the way to somewhere else this evening, and noticed that they've finished the speed limit work which they seemed to have been doing forever. So I stopped for a few minutes and took some telephoto light trails, which is something I've meant to do around the interchange but have never been able to find the location/motivation to do it.

These were all taken at the long end of the EF 70-200mm f/4L and a EF 1.4x II extender. I could almost have done with the 500mm really, but I think that the vibrations from the traffic might have been a bit too much.


A grey bird on a grey day

An early morning call to be told of a Black-throated Diver at Chew. With less than ten previous records, it's a rare bird at Chew, and unlike just about every other diver that I've seen there, it was only a few metres off the bank. Most of the time they're just about as far away from the shore as it's possible to get. Unfortunately the light was dreadful - these were all taken at ISO 800 with 1 1/3 extra exposure.

Hopefully it will be OK, as some tame divers that turn up locally at places like Cheddar Res are either in poor condition to start with, or end up meeting a miserable end in some pike fishing-related mishap.

A few more on Flickr.


Sabine's Gull

A rare trip to see a rare bird. Hopefully a better result than the last twitch which resulted in me not seeing a Buff-breasted Sandpiper. This time, the bird in question was a Sabine's Gull which had been seen for the last few days at Cogden Beach near Bridport.

Thankfully this bird was everything the Davidstow Buff-breast wasn't. Firstly, it was still there, and secondly, it gave brilliant views, dipping down to pick earthworms from the surface of a field whilst in flight. Nice to have decent views of one whilst not bobbing up and down on a boat!

There were quite a few Mediterranean Gulls in the field as well. More on Flickr.

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