• Peter Howarth

A Case of Mistaken Identity

Updated: Feb 6, 2020

My morning started as it so often does with the mile walk to the lower hide at Leighton Moss. However instead of the leisurely pace I usually enjoy, today I was walking with much more purpose. The sun had risen higher than I expected and I didn't want to miss the golden kiss its rays would give to my subjects. This was to be without cause, as upon entering the hide I noted a complete lack of life.

After settling in my usual spot, I stared out across the barren lake wondering where everything was. After the abundance of life I have seen on prior trips I was at a loss as to where all the birds had gone. After pondering this for a while longer I felt a rumbling and heard the tell tale sound of fighter jets flying over head, this explained where all the birds had gone. Shortly after the passing of these jets the birds started to arrive. It started with a few swans but soon squadrons of ducks were coming into land all over the lake. These mainly consisted of Teals, Tuffed Ducks and Gadwells however there were a few Shoveler and Mallard amongst their ranks.

D7500 Sigma 150-600c 1/3200 sec at f/6.3 ISO 2800

I watched the various ducks go about their business for sometime until I heard the distinctive splash of something entering the water. I scanned the lakes edges looking for what I hoped to be an otter. I looked and looked and suddenly out the corner of my eye I saw it, the ripple going against the wind, the black back breaking the surface; my heart raced it must be an otter. I focused my camera just as it lifted its head and relieved itself as none other than a cormorant. I have to admit I was more amused than annoyed as I frequently confuse hunting cormorants for otters.

I was joined by a fellow birder shortly after my forth or fifth "otter" sighting, he placed himself at the far end of the hide and seemed completely disinterested in the scene before him. Perhaps he was hoping one of the rarer species that call Leighton Moss their home would just jump out in front of him. Unfortunately for him that is not how it works and after five or ten minutes of sitting he got up and left. A minute or so later a real otter appeared in the middle of the lake, I enjoyed a brief glimpse of it before it disappeared into the reeds again. I waited a while longer as other birders arrived and left until at last I felt I had seen all the Moss would offer me, so I packed my gear and started back to the car.

On the journey back I noticed a tree creeper fliting from tree to tree in search of food, I looked for a photo opportunity but it eluded me. However in the same clearing as the tree creeper there was also a nuthatch. It was feeding on some seed placed strategically on a stump; I can only presume this was left by another photographer in the hope of attracting just such a bird. I picked out my composition and waited for the nuthatch to return. Of course he chose to land somewhere else entirely but after a quick readjustment I managed to get a few shots.

D7500 Sigma 150-600c 1/500 sec at f/6.3 ISO 2000

I sat a while longer enjoying being surrounded by the various song birds that had turned up for breakfast before finally heading back to the car and home.

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