One thing always striking on the marshes is the sky, it is a big sky. One that runs uninterrupted overhead, a massive dome of the endless. In the clean blue of a Summer’s day the sky dazzles and makes you giddy with a kind of inverse vertigo as you turn your face to the breathtaking space above.
The wide, blue sky
The long awaited warmth has brought the marshes to life with insects and butterflies. Small tortoiseshells are everywhere, there are six visible in this photo.
Six Small Tortoiseshells
I count myself lucky to be able to see sights like this because, contrary to appearances, these beautiful butterflies, like so many others, have suffered a huge and worrying decline in recent years. When photographing butterflies I find myself utterly focused on the beguiling beauty of the star of the show and it is not until later, when I review the pictures, that I often discover a supporting cast of creatures, equally interesting but not always as showy as the velvet winged wonders at centre stage.
The first photo here has a buff-tailed bumble bee busying itself on a thistle bloom and in the second is a hoverfly. Of course Small tortoiseshells were not the only butterflies about, there were Whites, Meadow Browns and Common Blues too.
Buff Tailed Bumblebee
These days, on the rare occasions when I do see slow worms, I prefer just to watch and photograph them while they go about their business undisturbed. Besides which, I have discovered that I’m not as quick as I used to be but the slow worms are still just as fast. Although this one was obvious on the grey stone of the track, once he wriggled into the grass it was easy to see just how effective his camouflage was.
How a Slow worm disappears
For all the distractions of insects and reptiles I go to Elmley primarily for the birdlife and I decided to stop on a spot on the seawall where I had a view over the marsh and I could find a subject for sketching. The sun was so hot that I had to put my scrim net scarf over my head to protect the back of my neck from burning. This had the added benefit of helping to keep some of the mossies away too but, as you can see from this photo by my friend Andy, it didn’t look too glamorous!
The fashion choices of a discerning wildlife artist!
The next photo here shows the scene in front of me and I have circled the position of a lone Oystercatcher that was snoozing quietly in the sun. Through the scope I had quite a good view so I settled in to sketch and to paint. I decided to use watercolours for the first time in ages and this is the result. I think I probably need more practice! Oh well, that should give me a good excuse to go out next week!
Oystercatcher at Elmley 30/6/13