Duckling for Breakfast!

Date: Tuesday 10th April 2012

Location: Slimbridge Wetland Centre

Warning **This page contains distressing images**

The Back Story

Back in April 2012 we took advantage of an offer from my Mum to use her caravan down near Minehead for the Easter weekend, as it was due to be sold, it may have been our last chance to use it for a free mini break! As I was spending a lot of time with the Peregrine Falcons back then, I knew of a pair using the cliffs down there so it was an offer we couldn’t refuse!

For once we had a relaxing weekend staying put on the site, going for walks down the beach and around the cliffs. This made a change from our normal ‘Speed Sighting’ approach to when we get a few days away, trying to get in as much as possible!

Even though we had the full kit with us, we decided to let my back have a break from carrying all that weight up and down the slopes to the beach, instead choosing to stop off at Slimbridge Wetland Centre on the way home. Having been there on my own to see @chamiltonjames a few months earlier (on the day they were setting up Autumn Watch there!), Mrs E was keen to go see what all the fuss was about!


The weather wasn’t great unfortunately, with overcast skies and forecasts of possible showers, not ideal for photography! Still, we’d made it here, so I was going to do my best even though I didn’t have my usual camera!

My K-5 was in for repair as the lens release button had fallen off and as I knew I would be away SRS Microsystems were very kind to lend me one of their display K-7s for a week. This was great as at least I had a camera to shoot with but came with a downside of not having as much dynamic range as my K-5, as I was to find out very soon!

So, off we went into the centre to make the most of our visit! We were in the main area in front of the visitor centre, planning our route around the centre, taking a few shots, working out which species to see first, when I decided to just stay where we were and get some low angle shots.

The shoot…

It wasn’t the cleanest place to lie on the ground I can tell you, there was plenty of bird dropping dodging to be done, but I wasn’t going to be deterred! The shot I was after at the time was a head on shot of a tufted duck as they do look slightly evil when they are staring straight at you! Then I heard it..

A loud screeching noise caught my attention and it was obviously from a bird in distress. When I turned round I could see the noise was coming from a female Mallard, keeping her distance from a Lesser Black-backed Gull that had one of her chicks in its beak. My instant reaction was just to keep on shooting.

Over the next 63 seconds I witnessed this Gull struggling to keep hold of and eventually swallowing this poor little chick whole. A total of 39 shots were taken in that time, so instead of going into gory detail, I will let 9 of those images tell the story below.

The dilemma…

It’s taken me a while to get round to writing this story and sharing these images for many reasons. The perfectionist in me knows that the images are not great, as the gull is blown out and needed some work doing to tone that down, I knew that my K-5 would have produced better images.

The images may also cause distress to some people. It’s not pretty to see and that screech will stay with me for some time. Ultimately though, as a nature photographer, you have to shoot what’s in front of you and if you do, then it deserves to be shared.

*Please note: Due to the nature of these images, they will not be posted elsewhere on the site. Therefore comments on individual images are not available, but you may leave a comment on this page.*