I mentioned in my last post that I’d had an eventful day down the canal, well here’s why.

It started out pretty normal: I trekked down to my usual spot and saw the kingfisher, so I waited for him to fly off and then set up for a shot. I was down at the bottom of the river bank, in a copse of bracken, with my camera on a monopod and a sheet of camouflage netting covering me, with just the lens sticking out.

Unfortunately, the canal was really busy that day. People were constantly walking along the path to my right, and so the kingfisher never settled. As usual, quite a few people stopped to stare at me – a kingfisher might not recognise a camouflaged man, but people tend to spot me. I just ignored them as usual, focusing on the waterside.

When I finally gave up and emerged from my hiding place, back onto the path, a man walked up to me. He told me there was a woman telling everyone that a man with a gun was hiding by the canal. She had somehow mistaken my camera lens for the barrel of a rifle – my lens is about 5 inches wide, the only thing with a barrel that big is a tank!

He warned me to expect a warden coming up to investigate. I hung around for a while, but nobody turned up, so I went for a walk. When I got back to my favourite spot I spied a pair of police officers patrolling the canal. Assuming their purpose, I went over to the nearest and said, “I think you’re looking for me.”

He was indeed. The police had been called and told that there was indeed a man on the canal with a gun. Quite quickly he ascertained that there had been a mistake, I obviously had a camera and not a gun. There was no threat to man or beast, and both the police and I were able to go back to doing something productive.

Although, I did actually ‘fire off a few shots’ that day…


Kingfisher. Canon EOS 7D and Sigma 150-500mm lens @ 500mm, f/6.3, 1/250, ISO 640.

This was the best of the pick from that day, but over the next few days I tried my best to photograph goosanders, which come to the canal to spend the winter. Strangely, the goosanders are even more skittish than the kingfishers.

IMG_0889Goosander. Canon EOS 7D and Sigma 150-500mm lens @ 500mm, f/6.3, 1/250, ISO 640.

I saw this individual swimming towards me, so hid behind a bridge. When it was on the water beneath me, I popped up to take a shot, catching it just as it dove beneath the surface.

IMG_0943Goosander. Canon EOS 7D and Sigma 150-500mm lens @ 500mm, f/6.3, 1/640, ISO 640. Cropped to ~70%.

When the goosanders see you they bolt, flying away to land a few hundred yards further down the canal. This time I got lucky, the bird was caught between me and a dog. Judging me the lesser of two evils, it flew towards me as it took off.

IMG_0997Goosander. Canon EOS 7D and Sigma 150-500mm lens @ 500mm, f/6.3, 1/160, ISO 640.

Finally I managed to sneak my way close enough for a portrait, keeping low and waiting patiently for one to come within range. Unfortunately, this happened on one of the darkest parts of the canal, leaving the image a little underexposed – in hindsight I should have raised my ISO to 800.

About TM HIbbert

Naturalist, photographer, fiction-lover.

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