Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Winter wonders

Since my last post, I have been out a few times without a shot being taken. Other trips bagged only a couple mediocre record shots. Then there was the times when the light was just nice & the wildlife was behaving.

These Waxwings are part of the "eruption" we in Britain have been experiencing this winter. Due to harsh weather or failure of the berry crop in their native Scandinavia, they move south in great numbers, searching out berries, Rowan being a particular favourite.
These birds (a flock of up too 22 birds) was frequenting the grounds of the college in Minehead. These images were taken late in the day, just before sunset & needed a lot of processing to get them to a reasonable standard.
A drive one afternoon caught this roadside Buzzard in the watery winter sunlight. They usually scarper at the first sign of a human.
I was pleased to see a Barn owl hunting in one of their favourite haunts local to me. This was taken a couple of days ago at 2 in the afternoon, a sign that the bird is struggling to find enough to eat during the recent snow. On a lighter note though, the snow on the ground lights the underside of the bird nicely. A 2/3 stop over exposure was required to counteract the snows effect on the cameras meter.
A couple of hours at Shapwick heath on the levels, produced this fly-by Bittern. Again the snow on the ground has reflected the light back onto the underside of the bird. To prevent a silhouette, +2/3rds stop exposure compensation was needed.

To end, I would just like to wish you all a Merry Christmas & a Happy new year. Please come back soon in 2011!

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Sika here, Sika there.....

An early start this morning & a 11/2 hour drive found me at the RSPB reserve at Arne in Dorset. The reason for going? The rutt of the Sika deer (Cervus nippon). Sika deer were introduced to the UK from Asia during the mid 19th century. Initially confined to parks, individuals managed to escape over the years so that there are now established populations within the British countryside. Often confused with fallow deer, this species possesses a much richer coat spotted with white during the summer months.
Parking on the side of the road beside the car park (they dont get up as early as me in Dorset, the gates were locked!), I soon heard the unearthly whistling (more squealing) call of the Sika stag. If you have never heard this noise, then you could be forgiven for thinking that someone is being murdered!
Following the squeals along a path, i soon found the first deer, a hind, then further along, a few more. Then the first stag of the day.
It ended up that you could not walk around the reserve without litterally bumping into deer. They are everywhere. At one junction in the track i stopped to check my route map, when a young stag decided to check me out. He was only a few meters away when i turned around & saw him. I froze, he ran.

 And to finish with an opportunistic Dartford warbler..........

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Crake at Greylake

For the second year on the trot, a Spotted crake has taken up residence at Greylake RSPB reserve. Although not nearly as easy to see or photograph as last years, it still thrilled the watching birders & photographers in the hide. Luckily i had only been there about 10 mins before i seen it skulking along the base of the reeds on the right hand side of the pool beside the hide. It showed on & off for the next hour at least, letting most people get a view.
I managed a couple of record shots during this time.
Also of interest were a pair of Kestrels that were continually about. This immature male posed beautifully on a nearby tussock in the autumn afternoon sunlight.

 Teal are also turning up now, some didnt leave. This drake is still a little scruffy looking having not completely moulted from his eclipse plumage.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

More from the seaside

Continuing the maritime theme, today i visited the Parratt estuary along the Huntspill seawall. In the strong north westerlies a pair of Manx Shearwater battled up river against the wind. This was a rare chance to get some shots of this tough little seabird, not often seen close to land on the Somerset coast.
Several Wheatear were present along the rocks & on the short grass that they seem to love.
Other birds seen included a small flock of Turnstone & a single Whimbrel.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Cornish pelagic

Early on the morning of the 4th september (01:30 to be precise, well i did say early!), I set off from home to drive to St Ives (via N Petherton to pick up a mate). The roads as can be expected at that time of night were clear & we eventually pulled up to Smeatons pier in St Ives harbour at around 04:15. After a short nap in the car, I boarded the boat (Prime time) which was due to leave at 05:00 & take us out around 7 miles NW. 9 others joined Dave & me & we headed out of the harbour onto the open sea, which thankfully, was fairly calm (although not calm enough for one indivdual).
After about an hour, just as the light was getting to a reasonable level, the skipper, shut down the engine & startied chumming. For those of you that have never heard of this practice, fear not! It is not some sort of sordid practice of folks of the sea, but rather the depositing of a foul brew of fish heads, guts & blood, that had been hanging around for a while (in this case, 2 weeks), into the sea. The stench coming from the barrell reminded me of drains, but at least 10 times worse! Anyway this chum has the effect of drawing in birds from a long way off, & it wasn't long before the first Fulmars turned up. A kittiwake  followed us for most of the morning. The first Storm Petrel arrived around 2 hours after we stopped. More were seen during the trip, with up to 3  in a group. Unfortunately, no one managed to turn a stormie into the star bird of these trips, Wilsons Storm Petrel. Other birds seen included Gannet, Great & Arctic Skua, Herring & Great black-backed Gull, Guillemot, Cormorant & several Terns. Anyone that fancies a few hours with a barrel of chum, a bucket of sick & several other foolhardy souls, go to http://www.cornwall-birding.co.uk/pelagics/ for more info (trust me its fun, so much so i intend to have another go next year!)
The photos below were the best from a dreary day whist trying to stand up & not fall in the chum barrel. All were taken using a D2x at iso 400 & 800 with a Nikon 70-200mm VR lens fitted with a 1.7x teleconverter.  

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Pro video camera for sale.

We have decided to sell our Canon XL2 mini DV video camera & all associated kit. The camera is in mint condition & has only had light amature use.
Extras in this sale include all you need to start producing broadcast quality video.
Please go to http://www.lnrwildphoto.co.uk/otheritems.html for full details.
Please contact us if you have any questions or to arrange a viewing.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Water voles

Today I managed a few hours out with the camera (a rare occurrence of late). I decided to follow up on a tip off from a fellow photographer & birder about a local water vole population. Now I was told this information a couple of months ago, but due to other commitments was unable to visit until today. As I parked up in the rain, I wondered whether it would be a fruitless search. I decided to go on a recce to try to pinpoint this elusive species. After finding a likely spot overlooking a small weeded pond, I sat & waited. Not for very long, mind you. Because after only a couple of minutes, one of these delightful & charachterful creatures, treated me to cracking show, only a few metres away. Then further along the bank, another, and then another.

Without wasting any more time I went back to the car & got out the 600. Over the next hour, the sun came out & voles were busy going about their business all along the bank in front of me.

The Water vole (Arvicola amphibius), is widespread around Europe, living in the banks of slow moving rivers, streams and other waterways. The waterside burrows of these strong swimmers have many floor levels that hinder flooding, as well as nesting chambers and a food store for the long winter months. Although water voles are a quick meal for many predators, the UK population suffered a catastrophic level of predation by the American mink & sadly is a rare sight these days. Water voles are often mistaken for rats, but have a blunter, shorter snout, smaller rounded hidden ears & furry tails & feet. Ratty, in Kenneth Grahame's 'The Wind in the Willows', was actually a water vole. In the wild they seldom live past two years old.

Many thanks to James for the information, they really are cracking little animals!

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Mini beasts

Mid summer is usually quiet on the bird front & although various mammals provide some distraction, i like to at this time of year, explore the macro world. Its really hard for me to leave the big lens behind at home & travel relatively light with my 150mm lens, monopod & macro flash system. I am always glad to do it though, when i can wander through the long grasses, chasing butterflies & stare at the multitude of flies & insects visiting a bramble patch. The results of this Sigma lens never fail to impress me. If you haven't already read my review, you can read it at my main website.Apologies if the captions are wrong, please let me know if you can identify them.
Common blue Damselfly?

Bloody-nosed beetle

Small Heath butterfly.

Burnet moth (not sure which one)

Not a clue about this one!

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Bitterns on the levels.

I think its fair to say that it is no secret that Bitterns are breeding on the Somerset levels again this year. With up to 11 booming males across the area (possibly 20 or more birds i think is a fair estimate), even non birders are seeing this cryptic reedbed specialist.  On a recent visit, i was lucky enough to grab a few images as a bird travelled from its feeding area, back to its nest. Look at the bulging crop!

East Anglia 2010

A recent photography biased trip to the bird mecca that is Suffolk & Norfolk resulted in a veritable pile of Marsh harrier shots. Other subjects such as Hares, waders & Bittern were harder won. Here are some of my favourites.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010


Over the last week I have been lucky enough to hear, see & photograph a wonderfull little brown bird called a Grasshopper Warbler. A summer visitor to the UK which winters in tropical Africa.Named after its song, this skulker has eluded me for several years, until the other day. Whilst getting the car out of the garage, the unmistakeable reeling came from one of my garden hedges. I had to have a look. At this point I should probably mention that I have heard them on many occasions before & been within a couple of feet of a singing bird, though never clapped eyes on one, such is there skulking nature. Peering into the thick tangled vegetation, I soon spotted a movement. After moving to try & get a better view, there it was.....My first ever Gropper! It soon disappeared when it seen me, but was heard reeling later in the day. I did not see it again.
Today however, I travelled to the center of Dartmoor with fellow photographer Tim Taylor. After a slog around the high tops  & valleys, seeing not much more than Meadow pipits, Skylarks, a single female Wheatear & several Willow warblers, I again heard a Gropper. Determined for a better look, we set off through the sedge & moss of a boggy area towards the sound, stopping frequently to regain a bearing. We eventually tracked the noise to a stunted willow on the edge of the boggy area & sat & waited. There it was! Typically shrouded in bramble & thin branches. After moving around to get a clearer shot, I managed a few images that were in focus & not obscured to badly. The final shot below is for me the holy grail of bird photography, a gropper in the open! (pity i clipped the toe though.....doh!)
More information & a recording of the song of the Grasshopper warbler can be found at the following link: