Weekly Photo Challenge: Unexpected

Friday was a beautiful autumnal day. Blue skies, some wispy clouds, a warming sun, perfect for photography and so I decided to take a little trip into the Conwy Valley.

Now in our little part of North Wales we are sometimes afflicted by unpredictable weather, especially during the winter time. It can be sunny on the coast and blowing a blizzard in the mountains.

Low Cloud

On Friday it was low lying cloud. Lots of it, covering the Conwy Valley. Not what I expected. So it was time to change plans and with a quick diversion I ended up at the RSPB Bird Reserve at Conwy. Time now 10:03

RSPB Bird Reserve

Not good at all, the lagoons were empty, not a bird in sight. I mean I’m on a bird reserve for goodness sake, there should be birds. Totally unexpected (there, I’ve said it).

Walking around the reserve I caught this Blue Tit. Great little birds, they’re common in woodland, hedgerows, parks and gardens.

Blue Tit

I’ve got two who regularly visit my garden, trying to avoid the Robin which gets aggressive at the feeders. Blue Tits can be found across the whole of the UK except for some of the Scottish islands.

But here’s the thing I can photograph Blue Tits in my garden, I want something different…….

If photography is about anything it is the deep surprise of living in the ordinary world. By virtue of walking through the fields and streets of this planet, focusing on the small and the unexpected, conferring attention on the helter-skelter juxtapositions of time and space, the photographer reminds us that the actual world is full of surprise, which is precisely that most people, imprisoned in habit and devoted to the familiar, tend to forget. – John Rosenthal

….and as luck would have it along came this Female Reed Bunting.

Female Reed Bunting

Now that’s more like it, something unexpected (that word again). The Reed Bunting is predominantly a farmland and wetland bird but sometimes in winter they will stray into gardens.

I’m totally useless at identifying birds so I have to rely on my good friend Steve Ransome to help me identify most of them. Check out his photostream on Flickr.


The Dunnock more often than not is seen on its own. Nervous birds and never really straying from cover, they will creep along the edge of a flower bed or near to a bush.

The RSPB reserve is situated on the banks of the Conwy estuary and walking around you can get magnificent views of Snowdonia and Conwy Castle.

Conwy Castle

You would also expect to see birds that are at home in the water but they were noticeable by their absence.

Little Egret

Except for the Little Egret standing alone out on the mud flats and this lone Teal which was rooting amongst the vegetation growing along the banks of the estuary.


The UK is home to a significant percentage of the NW European wintering population of Teal and many who winter in the UK come from around the Baltic and Siberia.

It’s 12:30 and the tide is starting to turn. More water is flowing into the estuary, maybe now some birds will return to the lagoons. And I’m not disappointed.

In Flight

Suddenly they fly into the lagoon in large numbers. It’s looking like I might be able to get some reasonable close-ups.


Still a bit of a distance away so I had to do quite a severe crop to get the Redshank to fill the frame. No prizes for guessing how the Redshank gets its name. The biggest groups of breeding birds can be found in parts of Scotland and north-west England, up to a half of them may be from Iceland.

Like I said I’m not really a bird photographer I much prefer landscapes. They don’t move. Not like the next bird in my photograph. One second it was there, the next it was gone. I managed to take two photographs, neither of which was great.

Water Rail

The Water Rail is fairly common but not often seen inhabitant of freshwater wetlands.  A highly secretive bird you’re more likely to hear them than see them. That was an unexpected find….. there’s that word again.

It was getting time to leave Conwy RSPB, I’d run out of coffee for a start, had munched my sandwiches, so I set off walking back along the estuary. heading towards the car park. Sitting on a tree was a big old Carrion Crow and I knew it would fly off as I got close. So camera up, to my eye I started walking towards the Crow, waiting for it to fly off.

A slight digression. Any Doctor Who fans out there? Did you see the 50th Anniversary show last night? Anyway, there I am with the camera and that big 500mm lens and lens hood attached to my face, need I say more.

It was worth it though.

Carrion Crow

Must admit I quite like this one and it helped that the sun was low in the sky helping to accentuate the eye.

I was almost back at the car-park when this female Chaffinch landed on the branches near me. Too good an opportunity to miss.

Female Chaffinch

So there you have it. An unexpected trip to Conwy Bird Reserve at first looked like it was going to be a total washout. However, some unexpected photo opportunities made what could have been a wasted journey a great photo day out and helped me put together this weeks challenge post.

There’s lots of bloggers writing about unexpected so here’s a few you might like to visit and support.

28 thoughts on “Weekly Photo Challenge: Unexpected

  1. Good shots Mike. As a regular to RSPB Conwy, you must have caught a good bird day. Of late we see more in our garden than there! A suggestion. Hve you been to RSPB Burton Mere? Well worth a trip and the birds are more numerous and closer. Richard


  2. Hi Mike. What a super set again from you. I like that one of the pond with the sky reflected in it, the framing with use of the grass really (in my view) a super shot. Of course, all the bird shots are great too and thanks for the mention…..Lol No I had nothing to do with Dr Who…never was a fan till David Tennant and John Bannerman got involved. Another fine photoblog Mike.


    1. Hi Steve, you know me can’t resist a landscape. Just had a conversation about Burton Mere which is on the Dee Estuary, opposite side from me. I might take a little trip there in the next week,or so.



    1. I was lucky to buy the sigma before the prices for them went up dramatically in 2008. I don’t use it a lot but it’s nearly always in my camera. Yes, it’s heavy but I once missed a great opportunity to photograph a buzzard which was sitting on a fence not more than 30 metres from me. It sat there for ages but I only had my WA with me.



  3. Mike. Is it the Sigma 50-500mm you have or the 150-500mm? I have the 50-500mm OS and I am now finding it just too heavy for prolonged hand holding and now use it either with a monopod, hide clamp or beanbag. I still recon it gives the new Nikon AF-S 80-400mm a run for its money.



  4. Mike these are a great set of photos and have given me an idea for some shots also. Like you I tend to photograph that which is not moving…and birds have their own character.


    1. Hi Yvonne, I’ve got a trip planned for tomorrow to a reserve that is the other side of the estuary from where I take the lighthouse photographs. Could be interesting as I’ve just phoned them and they’ve told me some interesting birds wintering there.



  5. Congratulations Mike. Water Rail is always a good find and I like the Reed a Bunting and Dunnock. Most reserves are productive but not necessarily all the time. I’ve had plenty of blank days. Keep visiting.


  6. Was there on Saturday Mike, Plenty of Goldfinches, variety of Tits a Snipe and other waders. The down side is that the sun this time of year is in your face, but the birds come close. Water Rail and Kingfisher seen on Saturday too. Enjoy, we’re off to Conwy this afternoon. Richard


    1. Thank you. It was a grab shot. I had gone with the intention of photographing birds, so my big 500mm lens was on the camera. When i realised there were none in the lagoon and it was like a mirror I switched lens and did a landscape.


  7. These photos are so clear they almost look unreal. In my world I mean. If I got those closeups of the small birds and the duck, I’d be ready to create a nature critter calendar. I love taking pictures also. When I get a really good one, I’m on cloud nine.

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    1. Goodness me, this is a blast from the past. All of those photographs were taken when I was seriously into wildlife photography and used a very big and heavy zoom lens on my camera which allowed me to get close-ups like that. Nowadays I tend to photograph landscapes, so I can travel much lighter. Anyway, thank you for taking the time to comment on my photographs.

      Liked by 1 person

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