Most of my photography is taken ‘in passing’. It’s very rare that I go out with the intention of photographing a particular bird species. I just enjoy myself, see what’s there, and take photographs as a natural part of being outdoors. Sometimes, though, I really want to get some decent photographs; I have a plan.
Today’s plan is Pied Flycatchers at Yarner Wood on Dartmoor. They arrive from Africa to check out the taste of British flies and look for holes in trees in ancient woodlands. That’s a bit of a shame, because we’ve cut down 95% of our ancient woodlands. They particularly like the remnants of our ancient temperate rainforest, where epiphytes, plants which grown on plants, thrive. They also need very old and slightly decayed wood. It’ll be better for them if they come back in another 100 years, as there might be more natural nesting sites for them then.
Luckily there are large numbers of nest boxes in Yarner Wood, the only issue is getting back from Africa before the Blue Tits claim them. I get a tip-off about the best nest box to linger around and set off around the maze of paths. There’s a male calling outside a nest box. Isn’t he handsome?
The colour palette of early spring is wonderful. There’s spring light on autumn’s colours. Then there’s the shock of that intense fresh, new green:
I decide that they’re so difficult to photograph I’m going to get some flight shots. I might as well try the impossible. They flit like birds possessed amongst the small branches giving no opportunity to focus on them or track them against the dappled canopy. It takes me three hours.
I love the colours and composition of this shot.
Then I see one calling up above and it sets off on a mad journey. It’s only later, as I inspect the sequence of shots, that I see it was hunting a fly. It missed.
It’s a Pied Flymisser.