Familiarity can breed contempt and having done my weekly rounds in the New Forest I fancied a change. Working on a tip from Steve Covey, I decided a visit to Cotswold Water Park was well overdue.

I’d been there many times in the 80’s for little sailing expeditions with friends of mine but never knew that the site would gain extra significance later on in life.

Lower Moor Farm is a small Wiltshire Wildlife Trust site within the condos and water-sports complex with some very favourable sheltered rides alongside the lakes. However today a strong wind was spoiling any chances for opportunities.

Having walked around the reserve to ‘get a feel’ for it, I started again only to notice a freshly-emerged Downy Emerald climbing up the boardwalk.

Downy Emerald - freshly emerged
Downy Emerald – freshly emerged

Having achieved as good a shot as the position would manage, I continued into the first ride and found a better situated subject perching on the brambles.

Downy Emerald - immature female
Downy Emerald – immature female

My only other gripe, besides the wind, was the light.Awful for photography…and my subject wasn’t the the best of situations. But it was a Downy!

As she was such a willing subject I experimented with all manner of settings, using both cameras and both lenses. I even returned to the car to get the tripod…

I needed both the tripod and some fill flash, but can’t help feeling the latter interfered with the white balance to the extent that I’m still not happy with the results after several hours of ‘tweaking’ Need more practice, obviously!

I was also interested in trying a method Jerry introduced me to last season – using the camera’s screen to focus and compose the shot.

One advantage with this method is the ability to zoom in on your subject, offering a better view for fine focusing. Naturally you need a tripod, remote release and, in my opinion, manual focus to get the best results.

Downy Emerald - immature female
Downy Emerald – immature female

Grateful for finding my first Downy’s this season I decided to take a short detour on my way home to chance my luck with Club-tails on the Thames.

Arriving at Pangbourne I noticed with dismay that the lay-by had been closed. Luckily I found I could park at Beale Park further upstream and walk back down the path in the opposite direction.

Conditions were still gusty and to top it off a large black cloud drew in to cover the spot in darkness and throw down some rain. I sheltered under a willow and waited for it to pass.

With the reappearance of the sun, I spotted a few Banded Demoiselles along the path but alas no Club-tails among the foliage.

Reaching the lay-by I noticed two large trees had fallen across the path; maybe the reason for the lay-by closure?

A little disappointed I retraced my steps slowly looking for the tell-tale yellow among the bankside vegetation. Barely 100 metres and bingo!

Common Club-tail
Common Club-tail
Common Club-tail
Common Club-tail

Let’s not be greedy – to see any at all on such a day was a blessing.

I went out on Tuesday with the single-minded focus on two species and had came out trumps. Makes up for the wasted days I don’t report on, and there are quite a few this spring.

Here’s to a change in the weather!