• Claire Stott

Feeling the heat

The weather here on the welsh coast really does go from one extreme to another. After unseasonably chilly temperatures and what felt like endless rain for much of June, we are now being blasted by Saharan winds.

As the temperature soared to 25 degrees today, I sought refuge in a shady spot beside the harbour edge, watching and waiting for the water to draw in visitors. Sure enough it wasn’t long before a starling appeared, eager to quench it’s thirst and take a refreshing dip in the cool water.

Starlings are probably the most frequently seen birds bathing, even so I have tried and failed to capture this behaviour on camera countless times before. When bathing they are usually very nervous, quick to sound the alarm and scatter into the sky at the first sign of danger.

Today however my luck was in and this individual showed none of the usual caution, allowing me to sneak even closer as it ducked beneath the water. The morning light was particular pleasing, illuminating the shower of water flung from the bird’s feathers.

Whilst viewed with the naked eye, the starlings bathing technique is lightening fast, merely a blur of water and wings. When captured at 7 frames per second and using a shutter speed of 1/1600sec however, you can see what is really going on.

Here the starling is dipping it’s head into the water before flicking it from side to side.

The wings are then lifted as the starling rhythmically ducks in and out of the water with it’s whole body whilst flicking the wings to ensure every feather gets a thorough clean.

Even shot at high speed, the starlings wings still appeared as a blur in this particular shot as it churned up the water beneath.

Her feathers fully saturated, this starling then departed the water to perch on top of a nearby boat and dry off in the sunshine. At this close vantage point I was then able to identify this individual as a female, revealed by the pinkish colour at the base of her beak.

A male house sparrow was also tempted in by the water, but just as he was about to bathe, one of the resident crow pair flew over squawking an alarm call sending him scattering into the bushes. I did get this rather charming shot, but sadly not the action I had hoped to capture.

I waited to see if he would return but sadly he didn’t, at least not before I had grown weary of the heat and called it a day.

— All photographs copyright of Claire Stott/Grey Feather Photography 2019 © www.greyfeatherphotography.com

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#outdoors #birdwatching #aberystwyth #summer #birds #water #ornithology #housesparrow #birdphotography #birdbathing #starling #nature #weather #heatwave

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