Part 1 of my week spent in Devon.
Running alongside the Exeter Canal, and next to that, the River Exe, Exminster Marshes provides opportunities to see various warblers, swallows, swifts and martins feeding on the numerous flying insects, plus at this time of year, hobbies.
I paid several visits to this reserve (it's actually an RPSB one), mainly to photograph the hobbies hawking over the marshes, but I didn't refuse other birds that I encountered either. The first bird that caught my attention was a reed warbler, but that refused to come out to play and I was soon distracted by another more tuneful song, that of the appropriately named song thrush.
Moving away from the reed warblers, the more accessible sedge warblers at the marshes gave me some chances when the wind dropped and the reeds stopped swaying, to add a few more shots of them to my collection.
The hobbies proved to be as difficult to photograph as ever, tending to favour the area right in the middle of the reserve (miles away from the footpath) to hunt, and whenever they opted to stray closer, they'd be against the sun or bright sky, giving darker results.
I did have a very close encounter with one though, which caught me by surprise as it hurtled over my head to nab a dragonfly from beside the railway line behind me, then changing direction in an instant, it was way out of sight before I could realise the missed opportunity!
The hobbies though, didn't have the reserve to themselves in terms of being the hunters. A lone kestrel popped over briefly one morning, and when everything seemed to go quiet on another day, scanning the pylons I spotted a bigger hunter, a peregrine falcon.
But the hunters were all outdone by a warbler. Bursting into its distinctive call, a Cetti's warbler kept mooching up and down the hedgerow behind where I favoured to stand for the hobbies. Occasionally I'd see it fly by, or perhaps poke its head out, but the usual chances for a shot, or so I thought.
Realising from its song that a bird was right next to me in the hedge, I backed off to see what would happen. The Cetti's raised its head from the brambles and I started to fire off shots, and it was this noise that seemed to intrigue the bird, tempting it to pop right out in the open, on a fence for a couple of seconds, to see what the clicking was. Needless to say I took advantage, and got the best shots of a Cetti's warbler I've ever managed.
Other birds photographed included a few grey herons, a mute swan and a pheasant looking as miffed with the gloomy conditions that day, as me.