Lamplighter’s Marsh

There is a small nature reserve underneath the M5 in Avonmouth, tucked away between the park & ride and the river. It’s a hidden little gem that is well worth exploring. You have to go under the M5 bridge, and follow a narrow path surrounded by construction materials, which makes it feel even more secret. Not so secret that the always great Bristol Barkers website has a guide.

I visited on Sunday, and here is a small selection of photos, mostly just the banal everyday subjects, but those the the ones I am mostly drawn to. I think there is something interesting in them.

I usually sit on images for ages, before choosing which ones I like enough to post (if at all) but I am trying something different here, these were taken on Sunday, and I’ve given myself this arbitary deadline to sort through, edit and post them as a blog before I have time dawdle or overthink it too much.

That severn estuary mud feels instantly recognisable
This isn’t a graffiti spotting blog, but I see that cnts tag evvveerrryyywhere

I tried to keep the editing relatively minimal, these are raw sony images, with my favourite LUT applied (caph 100), then just a tweak of the white balance, and a boost of the brightness & shadows sliders.

Glastonbury Murmurations

It is Murmurations not murmations, I’ve been spelling it wrong this whole time, and had to hastily go back and swap each wrong spelling before publishing.

Try and guess the slowed down version of the song I used?

Starling murmurations are incredible in person. This might undermine the whole blog post, but pictures don’t really do justice to the scale, and the sheer amount of starlings flying over in unison. I took the video above to try and show what it was like at the time.

This was about as much colour as the sky would produce, and even that has been tweaked a little bit in post.

If you are thinking of going, the RSPB website has loads of useful information. There is a worrying section in the website about turning you away if the car park is full – this might happen over christmas – but I’ve never had a problem visiting in January/February time, there have always been spaces.

There are two main reserves – Ham Wall & Shapwick Heath. Watch out as only one of them is dog friendly, so it’s worth checking. You can phone them up, and they advise on an automated line which reserve the starlings roosted on the previous evening.

One of my main influences in venturing out to Glastonbury is the Murmurations photobook by Billy Barraclough, it a series of photos from his local reserve taken in lockdown, and the images are stunning.

Once there, I wasn’t sure how to find the best viewing spot. I found the best method was to just have a wander, and spot a few people that looked like they knew what they were doing, and just see what location they chose to watch.

Timings – they are wild birds, which means they are pleasingly random and unpredictable. I think it depends on the weather that day, but on my visits they started flying over around 30/40 minutes before sunset, and can keep flying over until dusk. Part of the fun is not really knowing exactly where and how many will fly over. Or even when you think they have mostly stopped, a massive flock will fly over all at once.

This river was so still, I like how the algae undisturbed has formed these abstract patterns on the surface.

The first time I visited, there is a long straight road that takes you to the car park. I noticed there were plenty of abandoned looking buildings. So on the next visit I made an effort to arrive extra early, and went for a wander down the road to have a (cautious) explore.

It’s hard to capture the scale of the murmurations in the photos, I think this one helps to give a little bit of scale. All these photos were taken with ‘normal’ focal lengths a 50mm & 85mm, which helps give a regular perspective. This wasn’t really a conscious choice, it was just because I don’t have a decent telephoto lens.

Even if you are not interested in photography or bird watching, I would recommend visiting to watch the murmurations. I’m sure I missed a whole load of potential photographs, because I was just enjoying watching it unfold. It’s nice to have an excuse to go out into nature, and just enjoy how peaceful and quiet and still everything is. It’s so quiet you can hear the sound of their wings when they fly directly overhead. There is something about the organised chaos of the thousands of birds, all flying so closely together, that I find quite soothing.

Heading back to the car after the sun had set, I noticed the sky reflecting in this lake, and managed to get a photo just before it got too dark.