An overnight stay at Flatford allowed me a quick Saturday morning visit to Alton Water whilst the sunshine put in a brief appearance. This is one of the best sites in the country for nightingales and every year I see if I can photograph this beautiful songster – I like a challenge
There have been around thirty singing males at Alton for several years now. Careful habitat management has helped to maintain and even increase this number. Although spread fairly evenly across the site this species tends to pick the fairly dense scrubby areas where photography is not the easiest. One of the best areas is around The Wonder. There are normally about three pairs very close with often one actually adjacent to the car park. This is also one of the best areas for bullfinches and I was lucky enough to have a sighting during my visit.
Often heard, but rarely seen, it is really a waiting and hoping game when trying to get any sort of a photograph of a nightingale. Ideally I wanted to get a photograph whilst in full song against a clean background – well we can always hope! It is perhaps a little easier during the first couple of weeks of their arrival whilst they try to secure their own breeding territories. This year I did manage to see, and photograph, a singing nightingale but is was a fair distance away, hence the heavily cropped image.
It was great to see that the tern rafts had been refurbished over the winter period. These have stood the test of time incredibly well thanks to regular maintenance by the Alton Water Volunteers. Winter storms and continuous threats from predators do need to be taken into consideration every year.
In addition to the expected common terns there were two black terns dancing in the middle of the reservoir as they chased the abundant insect life. Good numbers of swallows, house martins and sand martins were also enjoying the feast. Photographing these spectacular birds in flight from a distance is an all but impossible task. I had to settle for when one of them decide to take a rest on a tern raft – still at quite a distance. If they decide to stay for a while I may be tempted to have another go from the bank.