The Black Redstart seems like a good place to start this series, as it was one of the birds that first tempted me into the realm of wildlife photography. Back in March 2005, after stumbling upon the Planet Thanet website (currently dormant, sadly), I saw a report of a Black Redstart - a bird I'd never knowingly seen before - along the coast not far from where I lived. The next day I wandered down with my binoculars, fully expecting it to have moved on, but it was still there and I got some terrific views of it flitting around. Inevitably, my mind turned to thoughts of what a great photo it would have made. This idea lingered in the back of my head through the summer until finally, a chance encounter with a cuckoo convinced me (to paraphrase Roy Scheider in Jaws) that I was gonna need a bigger lens.
|Black Redstart (female), Kingsgate, March 2009|
I've seen at least six Black Redstarts since that first encounter in 2005, but most of those sightings have been from a distance, with me standing at the base of a cliff while the bird flies to the top, or me watching from the top of the cliff as it disappears over the side. The few times I've been able to get one within range, it's either been half-hidden in shadow or between me and the sun.
All that changed however, when Barry Hunt's spectacular Eastern Black Redstart arrived in Margate for a week-long stay.
|Eastern Black Redstart, Palm Bay, Margate, November 2011|
I generally avoid "twitching" (I'd rather get a close-up photo of a common bird than a distant, blurry photo of a rare bird), but when a bird this handsome (and confiding) shows up in your neighbourhood, you've got to make the effort to go and see it. And, as all those who were there will remember, the EBR didn't disappoint, going about its business completely unperturbed by the array of big lenses pointing at it. Now if only I could find a "regular" Black Redstart that was as cooperative, I'd get the photo I've been after since 2005...
More of my Black Redstart photos on Flickr
Black Redstart (RSPB)
Black Redstart (Birdforum)
UK400 article on Eastern Black Redstarts