Male Blackbird on telephone wires, along Swanshard Lane, southwest of Wells, on the Somerset Levels; 21 Mar 2012.

I was out on the Somerset Levels again early this morning, toting my ungainly Nikkor telezoom once more.  My first stop, to try and get awake after the not too long drive via large infusions of hot coffee and marmalade sandwiches, was along Swanshard Lane, which is a little, winding back road north of Polsham.  This lane just allows two cars to drive past each other in places, but in other places it really is a better idea if one vehicle stops and gets up close and personal with the hedge, while the other vehicle moves carefully past.

And, of course, this is spring and the birdlife is really going for it.  Wonderfully active rookeries were dotted around, and a veritable crescendo of calls included Buzzards, Wrens, Green Woodpeckers, Pheasants and Blue Tits.  And the first Chiffchaffs, little, unobtrusive warblers, are back from sub-Saharan Africa – having flown across the world, they are very probably nesting in the same tree or bush they used last summer.

And as I turned a corner, there was a male Blackbird – all black with a bright yellow bill – sitting on wires and singing his head off.  As he caught sight of me he stopped singing >>> but he didn’t move – he was on his territory and he didn’t feel like being shifted!  So, very carefully, in slow motion, I brought up the 400mm, took a spot meter reading from the sky to produce a silhouette, and started carefully firing frames.

I might have been able to get him larger in the frame, either at or post-capture, but just left of him there was this big, shaggy tree trunk, a very exciting silhouette, and I knew at once that I wanted that in the picture too.  So here it is: down an English country lane, early on a morning in spring.

This archive presents some of the pictures that I’ve taken on the Somerset Levels over many years.  More context can be found in the first post in this archive – 1 – and also in my first Somerset Levels post, from 2011 – here .  Further posts in this archive are here: 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 .  All of these links will open in separate windows. 

Click onto the “early morning” tag (below) to see more images from the early hours of the day.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

Technique: D700 with 80-400 Nikkor lens at 400mm; 800 ISO; converted into mono with Silver Efex Pro 2.


And finally – some keywords that will often be mentioned in this archive series:

Droves:  to avoid crossing other peoples’ land when accessing their own, the farmers constructed a series of tracks, known as droves, between the fields. Some of these droves are now metalled roads and many persist as open tracks – all of which allow wonderfully open access to this countryside.

Rhynes: the fields are bounded by water-filled ditches – which both drain the ground and act as stock barriers. Hence strange landscapes – where fields appear quite unbounded, except for a gate with a short length of fencing on either side of it, where a bridge crosses the water-filled boundary ditch to provide access the field.  These small wet ditches communicate with larger rhynes (“reen” as in Doreen), which in turn flow into larger drains, e.g. the North and South Drains in the Brue Valley. All of these waterways are manmade and, by intricate series of pumping stations and flood gates, all of them have their water levels controlled by local farmers, internal drainage boards or the Environment Agency.

Pollarded Willows: the banks of the rhynes were often planted with Willow trees, both to help strengthen the banks and also to show the courses of roads and tracks during floods. These Willows are often pollarded, i.e. their upper branches are cut off, which results in distinctively broad and dense heads to the trees. Pollarding keeps trees to a required height, while ensuring a steady supply of wood – more important in the past than now – for fires, thatching spars, fencing and so on.


About Adrian Lewis
Photographer - using mono, colour and combinations of the two - many types of subject, including Minimalism, landscapes, abstracts, soft colour, people, movement, nature - I like to be adventurous, trying new ideas, working in multiple genres. And I've a weakness for Full English Breakfasts and Duvel golden ale, though not necessarily together.


  1. bluebrightly says:

    Another wonderful avian portrait that conveys the essence of the bird, and the whole experience for the human watching.


  2. Meanderer says:

    I’m sure I see something different whenever I see this image. Today, I can see a man in the sky looking down; the left side of his face is in shadow.


  3. underswansea says:

    Great shot! Silver Efex Pro – you must be hanging onto an older version of Photoshop to run that.


    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Thank you! No, I don’t use Photoshop itself, prefer the simplicity of Lightroom. I run SEP and Color Efex Pro via an old copy of Photoshop Elements, tho I don’t use PE for anything else. 🙂


      • underswansea says:

        That makes sense. I keep an old copy of Photoshop to run the Efex Plugins. New copies of Photoshop will not run them. The Silver Efex is great to play with. I always enjoy your posts. Take care.


        • Adrian Lewis says:

          Thank you for what you say about my posts, that’s very encouraging! You take care too.

          The other thing of course is that the Nik Efex programs are now also available from the DxO software company.


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