Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Public vote

I have had the honour of one of my entries into the Somerset wildlife trusts photographic competition short listed into the final 10. The final 10 entries are now open to a public vote to find the winner of the peoples choice award. Please take a couple of minutes to visit the voting page here & pick your favourite. The winners of the peoples choice & judges choice will be announced in february.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Waxwings at last!

Waxwings have invaded the country. Some huge flocks have been seen stripping berries in Scotland & the far north. Birdguides birdmap has been "pebble dashed" with markers denoting where they have been spotted, everywhere it would seem but down here in Somerset. Over the last fortnight, small numbers have been spotted in Weston-super-mare, Avonmouth & Bristol. This week they have been turning up locally at Shapwick NNR (18), around Taunton & Westonzoyland. The latter is where I ended up this morning after a post on Twitter from Roger Musgrove (thanks mate!) where he had spotted 3 in a small suburban street. By the time I had got there the total was now 6. They were favouring a Rowan tree with its ample supply of pink berries.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Stint at Steart

A Small flooded field at Stockland reach near Steart in Somerset has turned up another quality wader, this time in the form of a Temmincks stint. An arctic breeder, this bird should now be wintering in Africa. Much less common than the Little Stint but as likely to occur in spring & autumn on passage. I have seen them before at Meare heath & at Titchwell in Norfolk but both those birds were a long way off & still dots even with a scope. This one was only 35m away & came as close as 20m on occasion. The sun even came out briefly!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Colourful day

This morning started with a trip up the M5 to Sand bay near Weston-super-mare, to try & catch up with the Hoopoe that has been there for nearly a week. The rain clouds cleared just as we approached the beach & the sun shone down. After a short 10 minute wait, in it flew & landed in front of the few waiting birders & photographers. We all then spent the next half an hour or so snapping away & most of the dog walkers steered there charges away from the small happy crowd. What happened next I could not believe. A lone woman walked towards the group, staying behind the forest of tripods only to then walk across the grass towards the bird & flushed it! She then after walking on for a few metres walked back from where she came from! Most of the crowd then disappeared off home or followed the bird up the beach, leaving me alone & dumbfounded wondering what had happened to common sense. I must point out that she was neither a birder or photographer & did walk behind the group. But surely she must have clocked all the optics pointing in the direction of her travel after she had passed the group? If she had stayed on the path, all would have been ok.

 Earwigs seem to have been its favourite nosh today!

This afternoon I visited Noahs lake hide at Shapwick heath NNR. After a couple of fruitless freezing hours a Bittern dropped into the small reed bed in front of the hide, too quickly for me to get on it & a Kingfisher fished from a reed stem.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Carrying a big lens

One thing that I have hated about my 600mm lens since I have had it is the really annoying carrying strap. For those that do not know, the strap is attached to the tripod foot & to a fixed loop on the lens body near the camera mount. Now the trouble is that I hate to have dangling straps when the lens is fixed to the tripod. They are either flapping around in the wind or getting in the way. Also because of the way the strap is attached, one end swivelling & one end fixed, it always manages to get twisted up beyond belief.
There are alternatives of course. I used to use an Op-tech strap on my old Sigma 500 that had quick release clips, the type that you squeeze the sides together to release them. This was ok until I accidentally grabbed hold of the clip when loading the car & the clip released allowing the lens to hit the deck. Fortunately the lens hood took the brunt of it & the lens was undamaged (the hood regained its shape after a bit of fettling). After this, I no longer trusted the Op-tech strap.
Other alternatives include offerings from Kirk & Black rapid. These both appealed as they have a single mount that screws into the tripod foot. That is ok until you want to fit the lens to your tripod. You need to unscrew the strap.
A variation on the same theme had a small Arca-swiss type clamp attached to the screw on the end of the strap, giving a secure quick release system. Just what I needed! These type of straps are around 80 quid.
While searching the old faithful ebay, I came across a small clamp with eyebolt screwed in for £25 delivered. Hunting through my camera gear, I found a thick padded strap that came with my Lowepro lens bag complete with the type of clips used on dog leads. More than strong enough for the job. Delivery of the clamp was fast & tonight I attached it to my strap & then to the lens. To say I am pleased is an understatement. Comfortable, secure & true quick release. Perfect!

Link to the clamp on ebay

Please note that I have in no way any connection  either personal or financial to the seller on ebay. I am purely a satisfied customer.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Brean down Wryneck

A couple of shots of the Wryneck that has been at the walled garden at Brean Down for a few days now, much to the delight of many birders both local & visitors. A Ring Ouzel was also present although when i seen it last, it was being harrased by a Sparrowhawk. Pretty sure it got away.

A member of the woodpecker family, it is usually hard to see due to its cryptic plumage. This one however frequently fed on ants out on the open grass & allowed these long range record shots to be taken with the 600 & 2x converter.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Sunny Exmoor

Today I spent a enjoyable morning with Tim Taylor down in the coombes of Exmoor. The target was a bird was a first for me in Somerset. It is a bird with a name that raises eyebrows with non birders. It is of course the Ring Ouzel (stop tittering at the back......).
 After a 10 minute walk down through Chetsford water to where Ember coombe meets it, We found the Rowan trees laden with bright red berries. Alas no Ouzels were present at this time.After a wait of approx 30 mins a pair appeared from nowhere & gave brief views before disappearing again. After a short walk along Nutscale water we returned back to where the streams meet & again found a male & female further back along Chetsford water. A fellow birder also pointed out a female on a bush up on the hillside & said he had seen at least 5 others that had flown off. So that made at least 6 individuals present & judging by the amount of berries, they could well stay a little longer before migrating to Africa for the winter.
The record shots below show a male with his large white gorget.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Osprey leg rings.

The recent Immature osprey that has been frequenting a couple of local reservoir for the past 3 weeks has been fitted with some bling. On the right leg is the normal metal ring that is inscribed with an unique code & on the left is a larger colour ring with a letter code in white. As you can see on the above enormous crop, the code is ND (not NB as it looks on the photo-thats just shine on the ring). The record has been sent to those in the know & we are currently waiting on a reply. From this we will then know the birds history up until now. I find this fascinating & cannot wait to find out. Watch this space......

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Another yank & more odds & sods

I went down to Dorset on a recent trip with Tim Taylor to see the immature Short-billed Dowitcher that has been present for a couple of weeks now. I wasnt that worried about going for it, although it was a british tick for me, until i realised this is only the second british record! We didnt have to wait too long for it to show itself on the western scrape.

This immature Osprey has been commuting between Hawkridge reservoir & Ashford reservoir for a while now. I had previously got some flight shots with a lovely blue sky for a background at Hawkridge, but desperatley wanted some fishing shots. This is about the best so far. I will hopefully get to go back before it decides its too cold & heads south & try my luck again.

And finally for now, I found the pics below skulking on my hard drive & decided to process them. They were taken back in 2006 at Shapwick nature reserve with my first DSLR, a Nikon D70.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Items for sale

I have recently added a couple of items to the other items for sale section of my main website. Please go here to view my D2x & 70-200mm f2.8 vr lens.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Revelations.....to me anyway

I have recently pulled the trigger & upgraded my venerable old Nikon D2x to a D4. Over the last 4-5 years, since the D3 came out, I have been secretly yearning for the fantastic high iso performance of the fore mentioned model. Tied to ISO 400 or lower in order to keep the noise under control, I was struggling to get a decent shutter speed to freeze the action, especially during the frequent dull , rainy days of this summer.
The auto focus system of the D2x also is slow & clunky & dare I say unreliable against todays bottom of the range DSLR's.
 Despite all these short comings, I feel I have found work arounds to most of these issues & got results the hard way. Having used it for so long, I know its moods & can second guess how its going to react when I press the shutter button. If I end up with a crap result, its because I have caused it.
The D4 came out of the box & superficially it looks the same as the D2x. A few buttons have moved & some have been added, but it still feels the same. Thats about where the similarities end! Now I have only had the chance to use it a couple of times so far, so this is really just my first impressions. After spending a couple of hours with a manual the size of a phone book, I had got it to a stage where I felt I had it set to my liking. By now the batteries were also fully charged & off I went to give it a go.
All I can say is WOW!
The first thing that struck me like a hammer blow to the head was the autofocus. It locked on straight away & stayed locked. Revelation 1- The AF works straight away even with a 2x teleconverter attached (giving an aperture of F8).
Because I was using a 2x TC, & the light was crap, I had bumped the ISO up to 1600. Revelation 2- The high ISO image quality is fantastic. At 1600 the D4 images are as clean or more probably cleaner than my D2x on ISO 400.
The 3rd thing that I noted was the lack of blown highlights. Revelation 3- The D4 sees much more like we humans do. Dynamic range is far better than the D2x.
Now, some of you guys that have kept pace with the constant upgrades over the last few years, probably wont find these revelations a very big deal, but I had high expectations of this new camera & so far they have been blown clear out of the water.
Even so, I am finding it very hard to part company with the old girl. I think I will end up trying to sell her, but if I don't get what I want, she can sit on the shelf in the cupboard. I have a job in mind for her that she excels at & can come out of retirement a few times a year. What is that you may ask? Just keep an eye on the bug galleries!

Heres a few shots taken with the D4 (all IIRC at ISO 1000 & above). Please click on the images below to see a slightly larger version.

Osprey at Hawkridge reservoir

Swallow at Huntspill river 

Spotted Crake at Greylake

Monday, 11 June 2012


LnRWildphoto is now on twitter! find us @lnrwildphoto

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Discover Skylark meadow

I will be leading groups to photograph wildflowers, insects & whatever else may turn up at the event below on saturday 26th may. If you want to learn how to take better pics, then this may be for you. It will be a completely informal meeting & will be aimed at beginners & novices. The more advanced are of course also welcome & can contribute to the images that will be displayed in the village hall. The event is taking place in the village of Bawdrip from 1pm until around 4. Walks will be started from the village hall, so please drop in & say hello & maybe take part. Just bring your camera (any camera is fine) & your wellies & raincoat. Best of all its free!!!!!!!
Directions to Skylark meadows can be found here
And for more information, click here

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Blagdon Squacco

This showy Squacco heron has been at Blagdon lake for just over a week now & favourite areas are the Top end & Burmah road.When i visited on sunday, it spent most of its time in the flooded long grass in the Burmah road area giving views down to 30m, feeding quite happily on invertibrates & small fish in the shallows & ignoring the admiring birders & photographers.

A rear view showing the beautiful plumes on the back of the head.

Please note that entrance to Blagdon lake is by pemit only & visitors to should first aquire a permit from Bristol water to enter the reservoir enclosure. These are availaible from the tea rooms or Woodford lodge at nearby Chew valley lake.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Migrants & hangers on

Despite the appalling april/may weather, many summer migrants have once again graced our shores. Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs,& Willow warblers sing all over the Avalon marshes & the Bitterns have been booming since February.
A recent drive down onto Tealham moor revealed a water scape not a landscape! A look for Yellow wagtails drew a blank but Wheatears were everywhere. At least a dozen were seen at the cattle pen along with a pair of Whinchat & hundreds of Hirundines & swift swooped low across the waterlogged grass. In another field at least 500 gulls bathed. Sedge warbler & Reed bunting also frequented the area as Skylarks filled the air with there beautiful song.

Singing male Blackcap

Northern Wheatear

Wheatear & Whinchat

Diving Wheatear


Close by on Chilton moor, a Short-eared owl was for once posing nicely on a gate post & allowed a close approach in the car to around 30m (Many thanks Tim for the heads up!). I blocked the road for a good 30mins while snapping away & luckily, no one came along. Up to 4 have been seen over the winter in this area & you must presume that this one wont be around much longer.

Whilst watching the owl, a fox trotted through the gate, next to the owl who just glanced in its direction. It had a mouth full of something which i thought at the time was a Moorhen. It was only when i processed this image that i realised it had a mouth full of moles! At least 4 can be seen. I was always under the impression that they were unpalatable. Obviously not to foxes.....
Fox with a mouth full of moles!

Monday, 5 March 2012

More from Catcott

Another short visit to Catcott lows this morning saw the Spoonbills asleep again apart from a quick flight when everything went up, presumably reacting to an unseen (by me) raptor.

 A nice view of a Hunting ringtail Hen Harrier.

All for now....

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Late winter oddsie's

Not done alot of photography since my last entry, but have a few shots from the last couple of months including the Spoonbills at Catcott lows.

Also at Catcott was a pair of Peregrines, occasionally putting the frightners on everything present. This shot was taken in low light & a slow shutter speed.

Foxy looks in great condition here. What you cant see from this shot is the huge bump on its nose & its limp as it trotted off.

The 4 adult Spoonbills currently resident at Catcott lows. One has its legs festooned with bling. Its history can be read here.

A pair of Pintail ducks dozing on Catcott lows.