Spoonbills by Simon Kidner
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Did you see the film on last night's #Winterwatch about the elusive cranes?! Well our very own Damon Bridge was their guide on the day and here's his brilliant blog about the experience...
5.30am, January 10th, and a long steady wade on a submerged drove through the inky black waters, with a moonless sky full of stars. Heading single-file, silently out to a trailer-hide, dropped in position in late December to attempt to film cranes, waking from their roost at dawn. A few lapwing close to our pathway take flight with a whoop of alarm, and a handful of snipe sneeze as they spring into the air. Other than that, just the gentle sloosh of water around our wellies. A rhythmic sloosh, sloosh, sloosh – like a rowing boat, carrying contraband, under the cover of darkness across a silent sleeping lake.
Photo: View across the marshland
The six of us squeeze up under the tarpaulin in silence and one after another clamber aboard the hide. Now in the comforting glow of red light from our head-torches, the crew mic Chris Packham and I up, and set up their gear - mostly left in place from the previous afternoon. As we all wait in darkness for the eerie silence of night to end, the moor begins to come alive. An occasional throaty laugh from a shoveler, more sneezing snipe, and almost imperceptibly, the wail and whoop of individual lapwings becomes a screaming cry – a constant sound, growing in urgency and joined by a constant staccato piping from a multitude of teal.
This backdrop is punctuated by the wing-whistle of returning flocks of wigeon, a splash as they touch down and soon a multitude of joyous two-note whee-ooos. What a sound! Greeting the day as it greys to dawn. The number grows, as does the sound, as flocks crash in to the safety of the roost from their nocturnal forays to graze on slumbering moors. And now the Canada geese, certainly awake in the half-light, a louty, brash honking. Noisy American invaders – lowering the tone.
We continue to sit, concealed behind a screen of camo-netting. Soon there’s enough light to start filming – flocks of ducks and waders wheel in panic as a marsh harrier drifts over in search of breakfast. We continue to wait, the surrounding waterworld now quite visible in a soft pinky-grey light, and the wind picking up. A north wind, a January wind – blowing straight in through the squares of the netting. The canvas now steadily flapping, but the birds all around us, unperturbed by the Winterwatch crew hidden at the heart of their world.
They had come to film cranes - it was always a gamble. This had been a favourite roost for the previous few days, but they frequently switch site – and time we were in the wrong place. Never mind. West Sedgemoor in winter - what a place!
Photo: The Winterwatch crew with Damon (second from right!)
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