THE KINGFISHERS OF WOLSELEY BRIDGE

The Wolseley Centre, set in 26 acres of former landscaped gardens near Rugeley in Staffordshire, was formerly the ancestral home of the Wolseley family. Today it is the headquarters of Staffordshire Wildlife Trust and one of the Trust’s two visitor centres, the other being at Westport Lake in Stoke-on-Trent.

Being only a few miles from my home, and situated on the River Trent, it is one of my favourite places to visit throughout the year. Whilst the grounds and its wildlife offer many photographic opportunities, it is one very special little bird that has drawn me back to Wolseley over the past few years. More often glimpsed as a brilliant iridescent blur of blue and orange as it flashes past above the water, Kingfishers are one of my favourite birds.

The viewing platforms overlooking the River Trent at the Wolseley Centre are a fantastic place to watch the resident Kingfishers as they fly up and down the river. I have spent many hours sitting on the platforms watching their antics. Unfortunately, the platforms do not offer that many opportunities to make great images of the Kingfishers as they tend to stay just a little too far away from them. Most of my images of Kingfishers have been made from a hide that I installed on another river in Staffordshire. However, the platforms offer one very unique photographic opportunity.

For the past few years, the resident Kingfishers have nested in the banks of the River Trent directly opposite the viewing platforms. In so doing, they have presented many people with incredible views of their behaviour as they fish in the river and come and go from their nests. Kingfishers are protected under law and it is an offence to disturb them at or near their nest with a licence being required to photograph them if there is a risk of causing disturbance. However, the viewing platforms are far enough away from the nest site that there is no risk of disturbance and the Kingfishers are completely unperturbed by human presence on the viewing platforms.

Given the distance between the viewing platform and nest, the image I wanted to make was a composite sequence of a Kingfisher entering the nest, in a single image the Kingfisher was too small and lost against the background vegetation. After many long hours and many failed attempts, I was finally lucky enough to capture the sequence I was after.

By capturing six consecutive images of the Kingfisher entering its nest, I was able to merge the individual images together to make this composite image showing the flight of the Kingfisher. The positions of the Kingfisher and its shadow in the composite have not been altered from those in the original images. One of the interesting things this image shows is how the speed of the Kingfisher’s flight changes as it approaches the nest.

In order to make this image I used a Nikon D3s with a Nikon 600mm F4 Lens and 1.7 Teleconverter. The lens was locked firmly in place on a heavy, stable tripod. I manually focused on a point infront of the river bank and released the shutter with a cable release. The images were made at ISO 2000, 1/2000 second at F11. The raw images were processed in Adobe Lightroom 3 and the composite made in Adboe Photoshop CS5.

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