Mark Cocker

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Photo of the Month

A great new adventure began in 2012 when I acquired a little over five acres of neglected fen woodland on the banks of the River Yare. The intention over the next years is to upraise its wildlife community through practical work and with the support of others. Blackwater Blog is a way of recording these slow-won achievements and celebrating this glorious patch of wild Norfolk. It is also a place where I can dilate on something that engages me.


To escape the hurly burly of promoting my book Our Place, Maria and I went briefly to Spain. Part of the plan was to research a new book but, by chance, I stumbled upon the steady migration of European swifts, common and pallid, over our hotel. Many of them, involving probably thousands of birds daily, stopped to drink at a small reservoir visible from our room. Every morning I would go down to watch this extraordinary performance, which involves enormous skill, practice and split-second timing.


This picture is of a pallid swift just at the moment before it takes a gulp. Look at the size of that gape! Getting into a position where its beak could trawl the surface, like a seine net, and scoop up a mouthful, involved the bird in a really tricky manoeuvre. As proof there was a dead swift floating among the algae one morning. I learnt a lot about photographing swifts! Firstly many of my shots were simply of blue squares devoid of animate life, most of the rest were of creatures out of focus and anything less than a two-thousandth of a second was not crisp. i had the wrong camera with me but this one at least gives you a sense of the thing. Amazing stuff! 

© Mark Cocker 2013

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Photo of the Month