Most visitors to the North York Moors National Park can be placed into three broad categories; motorists, cyclists and ramblers. While doing what they do, they will all enjoy the scenery, but it’s only when the motorist turns off his engine, the cyclist slows to a point where he is no longer deafened by his own heavy breathing and ramblers stop chatting that they will begin to enjoy the sounds of the moors.
Anyone who listens long enough will begin to realise that underpinning the most obvious sounds is an almost constant, high-pitched tweeting that appears to be coming from nowhere yet everywhere. This is the song of summer-visiting meadow pipits. These tiny birds flit at high speed between heather clumps while constantly cheeping, yet they are hardly seen. It takes the eyes of a birdwatcher to pick them out, but even then they will often be dismissed as just another ‘little brown job’.
If they are so hard to see, what are they like to photograph?
Challenging is the word that springs to mind. These tiny birds are always on the move. If they aren’t flying around they will be hopping to and fro and constantly fidgeting. They are more hyperactive than a five year old packed full of E numbers and don’t sit still for a moment. As I said, they’re a challenge to photograph.
Every time I’ve photographed a meadow pipit, with one exception, I’ve been targeting something else and the opportunity revealed itself along the way. It’s a case of needing to be in what I call battery mode (ever ready). A typical sequence of events is as follows; drive along slowly with camera at the ready, spot a pipit, slow to a stop grab a few shots, turn off the engine and grab a few more. If the bird is still there, take a few more.
Ten seconds with one of these birds is good, 30 is astounding. A minute feels like a lifetime. Even a preening bird won’t stay put for long, before wrapping itself in its Hogwart’s issue invisibility cloak and flying off to rejoin the unseen choir.