Saturday, January 02, 2010

Reeds at sunrise

click photo to enlarge
Reeds were once one of the dominant plants of the Lincolnshire Fenlands. Around the margins of permanent meres and seasonal pools the Phragmites australis grew tall and lush. Reed and sedge warblers churred their coarse song perched on its stalks; moorhen, water rail, bittern and heron stalked around its roots, eating the plentiful insects, fish, and frogs; and water voles and other small mammals built their homes among them. During the Middle Ages the reeds provided a valuable roofing material, and thatched cottages can still be found so covered, though today they are more likely to use Norfolk reeds or straw.

The draining of the Fens and the turning over of the land to arable agriculture saw a drastic reduction in the acreage of reed beds. Today, with a few exceptions such as wildlife reserves, reeds are most commonly seen lining the natural and artificial streams and dykes that criss-cross the fields. Here, on a more limited scale, they still offer sanctuary to wildlife, and on my walks I regularly see sedge warblers, reed buntings, little egrets and other birds amongst them. In the early evening I can watch barn owls patrolling the grid of reed-lined water-ways, hoping to surprise a water vole, shrew or mouse: occasionally marsh harriers can be observed doing the same during daylight hours.

The character of reeds changes over the year. In spring and summer they are a fine, fresh green, but in autumn they turn a khaki brown. Some - for reasons not known to me - have a quite strong orange colour in October and November. Today's photograph shows reeds by the side of a stream near my house. I photographed them on a cold December morning shortly after the sun had risen, catching their delicate silhouettes against the clouds that were tinged with pink, orange and yellow.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Lumix LX3
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 7.4mm (35mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f4
Shutter Speed: 1/800
ISO: 80
Exposure Compensation: -0.66 EV
Image Stabilisation: On