Just me, South Stack Lighthouse and the Kowa telephoto lens…
05.00: I’d set my alarm for 6.00 but I was awake at 5.00, I’d got that excited feeling in my stomach, just like I used to get at Christmas 30 years ago. I’d visited the RSPB reserve at South Stack Lighthouse on the North West tip of Anglesey at least half a dozen times this year already – but this time I was taking my kit. The early start was for two reasons – South Stack has become more and more popular in recent years which is great and the result of lots of hard work by the RSPB, but the problem is – Easter weekend, glorious weather predicted, if I had left it until mid morning I would be lucky to get a parking space. Reason two, and the main reason for me is that there is just something special about having South Stack all to yourself! South stack for me is either sunrise or sunset.
05.45: Coffee consumed, car loaded with kit and dog taken for a 10 minute walk much to his disappointment, I set off on the 10 minute car journey from Trearddur Bay to the cliffs of South Stack.
06.00: Backpack on my shoulders and Kowa telephoto lens in hand I was ready. I walked along the track from the car park to the cliffs. The sun was still rising and there was not a breath of wind – pure silence apart from the dozens of Wrens singing from the Gorse that lines the track.
06.15: I made my way down just some of the 400 steps to the light house to a good observation point to look over towards the cliffs. It is still early days yet in terms of sea bird activity, but give it a few weeks and these silent cliffs will be drowned by the noise of thousands of nesting Guillemot and Razorbill. A Peregrine Falcon cruised over my head and I enjoyed watching Fulmar and other gulls dart about the cliff face.
06.30: The early start rewarded me with fine, close up views of a family of Chough, a shy member of the Crow family which does particularly well in this part of the world. An hour flew by as I took image after image of these amazing birds with the Kowa telephoto lens using the 500mm f5.6 adapter and my Canon EOS 5D. It was a real treat, the birds came within twenty feet of me and I could capture in fine detail, their bright orange beaks and glossy blue/black plumage. The compact size and lightweight body of the Kowa telephoto lens meant I was able to hand hold it allowing me to react quickly and position myself where I did not disturb the birds.
07.30: After an hour had passed by photographing the beautiful Chough, I wanted to do some general bird watching, so I quickly swopped the 500mm photo adapter for the Kowa prism unit and 25-60x wide eyepiece and my telephoto lens was transformed in to a spotting scope. After scanning the cliffs, I observed a number of Guillemot and Razorbill. I also turned the scope out to sea and pushing the eyepiece up to 60x zoom I spotted my first Puffin of the year!
08.30: At this point, I thought I’d have some fun digiscoping with my iPhone – That’s the beauty of the Kowa telephoto lens, one minute it is a 500m f5.6 lens on my DSLR, then I’m using it as a super high quality spotting scope, then in just a few moments – I’m digiscoping with my iPhone – it’s that versatile.
The birds were a long way off and I needed the extra telephoto power that digiscoping provides – a telephoto lens would not give me enough reach. Now with my iPhone connected and my Kowa 25-60x eyepiece cranked up to 60x optical zoom – I was achieving focal lengths of up to 2100mm.
10.45: As the morning went on and the car park started to fill, I packed up and headed back to the car – a full English breakfast beckoned.
Copy written and pictures taken by Rob Wilton