Sand Martins on the Teign

We are watching Sand Martins on the BBC’s Springwatch on TV when I tell my son that there are Sand Martins on the Teign. In fact, there’s a colony of them. The next day he suggests that we go to find them, so we set off on our bicycles along the River. He’s surprised at how soon we see them. They are fluttering up and down the River at a furious pace, gathering insects with erratic diversions and acrobatics.

The light is poor and it’s late evening now, so I vow to come back with my camera the next day.

The next morning my bicycle bumps on the cracked and rutted field, flies attempt to get into my mouth and an overcast sky shows pale glimpses of potential sun. I’m hoping to find the Sand Martins’ nesting site to give me a better chance of some decent photographs.


There’s a bend in the River and signs of excavation of burrows, but not the dozens of holes I’m looking for.

Sand Martin - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

I manage to get just two photographs before the light is too poor to take any more and I decide to cycle home before it rains.

This is one of them.

Sand Martin - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

I’m so disappointed with it that I almost bin it. I decide to put some effort into developing it by removing some of the digital noise and rebalancing the exposure. It’s better. I decide I probably won’t blog about it, because I want to go back and get better photographs, so I post it on my Twitter account. I don’t post any links, or any hashtags or @ anybody. I just post it. And then, for 24 hours, my Twitter goes mad and I receive thousands of likes and hundreds of retweets.

Maybe it’s better than I think it is?

I get comments like:

“That’s amazing David!! Best photo I’ve seen of a sand martin in flight. Lovely detail, and boy is it difficult to capture them!”

“Don’t think I’ve ever seen a Sand Martin in such detail. Great pic!”

“That is a fantastic picture of a Sand Martin in flight, crystal clear with all its lovely colour and markings.”

Sand Martin - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Twitter being Twitter there are plenty of negative comments about my post, but we’ll ignore the inhumanity, shall we? After all, in my experience I’ve never met a talented troll. It’s only people who can’t and don’t create anything who criticise those who can. Oddly, it’s the negative comments which spread my post and many more people see it as a consequence. It’s my use of ‘first attempt’ and ‘better light’ which particularly enrage people. Perhaps they thought it was false modesty? It was the truth.

Here’s the second shot I took:

Sand Martin - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

I post this one too. I don’t mention ‘first time’ or ‘better light’ this time. This photograph receives four likes and no retweets.

Popularity really does have no relationship with quality, does it?

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