Having the skies re-opened has enabled me to re-book my plane ticket and my trip to India is back on if not a little revised.I will be flying to India with British Airways who have been brilliant with their customer service,help.I have a 9 hour flight arriving in Delhi at 11.30pm and instead of staying over in Delhi and catching the train in the morning I will be picked up and driven through the night to reach Ranthambhore in the morning-What an adventure!.
I would like to thank all of you that have sent me lovely,supportive emails as at the beginning of the week this journey looked doubtful with 3 months of planning up in smoke alongside the Volcanic dust,but fortune favours the brave and here I am on the fringe of a real adventure,seeing India as the locals do.I have seven days of Safaris planned and thank you to Aditya Singh for all you have done in re-booking these safaris as my original ones had to be canceled.With my dogeared determination I have never given up all week,countless phone calls to BA always hoping to get my chance to fly to India to see these beautiful Bengal Tigers.Aditya has got me the best guide,I have loads of Compact Flashes/Hard Drive space and really looking forward now to ‘cracking on’ with the trip.I will update my blog with the Raw India entries once I am back ,thank you all again.
April 2010. At last a chink of light amongst the gloom of tiger conservation in India. Reports from various reserves around India indicate that at least 112 tiger cubs have been born recently, reinforcing the theory that the tiger will breed well and multiply if just left alone for a while.
On February 14, 2010, the Chinese lunar calendar moved into the Year of the Tiger,an animal that has captivated me with its beauty from the moment I received my first wildlife book as an 8 year old,with the face of a roaring Tiger on the front cover-I was hooked.This book started my love and interest for wildlife and more so the Tiger,as I’d trace around the Tiger,copying it on all my school books.The book is an integral part of my younger years and forms one of the many images on my ‘Profile’ .So with this year being the year of the Tiger it was a wish of mine to visit India and hopefully photograph these beautiful creatures in the wild,so at the beginning of the year I contacted my friend and fellow wildlife photographer Ganesh H Shankar who lives in India, asking could he help in this matter.
Ganesh has a brilliant ‘Compositinal’ eye with stunning vision,he strives very hard in the field to create a unique and artistic composition, not bound by the rules of conventional composition.We met on ‘Flickr’ some two years ago and have become friends over the years,where we share the same vision in our photographs we take.Below are a few images Ganesh has taken,showing his unique style of wildlife photography
Ganesh wrote a few words “Close usual portraits of subjects in nature stopped impressing me long back and found myself a comfort zone in portraying my subjects small in the frame yet drawing enough visual attention. I didn’t know any nature photographer who liked her subject small in the frame till I discovered Craig through a nature photo forum Yes, Craig and me seem to share some common
interests when it comes to composition and treatment of light in our images. Very happy to know Craig is visiting India to to see tiger through his lens.
Looking forward to see his wonderful creations in the new future !” Ganesh April 2010
His help and advice on my four coming trip to India has been second to none.I am flying from London to Delhi then a 5 hour train journey to Sawai Madhopur,a district of the North Indian state of Rajasthan and staying with his good friend Aditya ‘Dicky’ Singh who owns and runs a small lodge on the outskirts of the Ranthambhore tiger reserve in India.Aditya’s help and advice has also been great and it promises to be a trip I will never forget whether I see a Tiger or not.The title ‘Raw India’ will be the name I’m giving to the blog entries I’ll make covering the trip,as I am doing it alone,going to heart of India in a ‘Raw’ manner,hoping to seeing parts of India far removed from the tourists eye.
My wish is to capture some beautiful Tigers images and help the profile of this beautiful creature,as the plight of wild tigers is suffering greatly where three subspecies having already been driven to extinction in the past century alone and experts estimate there are as few as 3,200 tigers left in the wild.Tigers are being persecuted across their range – poisoned, trapped, snared, shot and squeezed out of their homes,there is hope for them in this Year of the Tiger,as there has never been such a committed, ambitious, high-level commitment from governments to double wild tiger numbers alongside top wildlife experts,photographers all helping in their respective ways by highlighting the Tigers case both domestically and worldwide.
The WWF are doing brilliant work in raising the plight and profile of the Tiger.They are securing habitats with their partners,working with local communities trying to give sustainable alternatives to logging,also they are creating forest ‘corridors’ to allow Tigers to roam and breed.The programmes are working and have helped the Amur Tigers in Russian come back from a population of around 40 to its present day total of 500.The WWF with your help can save the Tiger by just giving what you can, also you can Adopt a Tiger for as little as £3 pounds a month,with all the money going towards helping the world in which Tigers live and roam
21st Century Tiger do a great job in Giving wild tigers a future whilst raising funds for wild tiger conservation since 1997 with 100% of funds raised going directly to wild tiger projects. Tiger Awareness founded by Phil Davis from Leicestershire do a brilliant job also,a voluntary non-profit making charity, giving free talks to schools, the public, and other organisations with all donations and funds raised going towards tiger projects.I spoke to Phil recently and I’m hoping to help him with this charity anyway I can in the future when I return from my trip as I feel we can all do a little to save this stunning animal from disappearing from the wild,with only captive ones to remind us of the beauty and what they looked like,not a choice in my book as its never to late to do something to save these beautiful animals
I will update my blog on how I got on India with my ‘Raw India Dairies’ once I have come back.
I have just spent the last 3-4 days in Mid-Wales photographing some of the beautiful wildlife this part of the UK has to offer.I was invited by my friend Ken along with a number of fellow wildlife photographers who have a annual week in this breathtakingly beautiful place.First on my wish list was a trip to Gigrin Farm to photograph the amazing population of Red Kites that live and feed here.
The Gigrin is a family run upland sheep farm of approximately 200 acres, owned and farmed by Chris Powell, and Mrs Lena Powell.The land is 700 feet rising to 1200 above sea level giving wonderful views of the Wye and Elan valleys in mid-Wales.Gigrin became the Official Red Kite Feeding Station in the winter 1992/93 following a request from the RSPB who had witnessed the late Mr Powell feeding the kites.Red kites being hungry when they awake, will hunt for food during the morning and early afternoon, so Gigrin is a top up or emergency ration for them and is not intended to replace their wild food source.
On the day we were there the weather was a mixture of overcast and cloud with the odd ray of light piercing the cloud cover,this added a great atmosphere to the place and shows what ever the weather throws at you there will always be a photograph you can obtain from the day.Being my first visit there I wanted to try and capture a few different images from the normal portrait of this beautiful bird that at close quarters is massive.With the light and overcast conditions I was able to create some images from Gigrin that were a little different,encapsulating my trademark of strong composition,with the poor,overcast conditons turned around to help and aid my images.
While photographing the Red Kites this ‘Leucistic’ Kite turned up.It has started to visit the feeding station more and more after being born in 2003 and until recently had’nt been seen for some time I was told by the owners of Gigrin.Leucistic means that the colouration is mainly pure white and not the usual red or black of the normal kites and not to be confused with an ‘Albino’ as these lack colouring and have pink eyes unlike the yellow/blue eyes of this beautiful Leucistic Kite.
I also tryed out a few ‘Arty’ shots using a slow shutter speed which results in capturing the sense of movement within an image,giving the photo great impact like the two I have included below with the first one capturing the Red kites trademark of ‘Diving’ for the food which is placed out for them by Chris.There is also a small in the frame image I have converted over to ‘Black+White’ which has brought out the cloud patterns on the day.They have done a wonderful job at Gigrin over the years and its well worth visiting.
During my stay in Wales we all covered a vast distance,traveling to different location,from the Osprey Project at Cors Dyfi Nature Reserve,three miles south of Machynlleth.We were able to see the Osprey on the CCTV screen but a little to far for photography.We headed for the coast,where I photographed the returning Waders,I managed to capture this Oystercatcher feeding away,turning over Shell’s and breaking open mussels.
Wales really has so much to offer in the way of different habitats,and various wildlife,from coastal to reedbed/marshland we covered it all,with the weather being very kind,the odd night frost thrown in just for good measure as I was camping.I had brought the essentials through;Tea Bags,Bacon,Fresh Bread and HP sauce all so important when you are camping as a warm drink and food are the best tonic,in my case a bacon sandwich.
The trip was great and thanks to Ken for inviting me,thanks also Brian,Tom,Phil,and on the last day before my drive back home to Staffordshire I had my best shots of the stunning Willow Warbler within this habitat of ReedBeds,with the sun behind me setting it was a real treat to end a great trip.
On a windswept, freezing day yesterday I visited a snow-covered Lathkill Dale Nature Reserve,Derbyshire,with temperature’s below zero,there was little activity in any shape or form from the abundant wildlife they live in this breathtakingly beautiful part of the Peak District.My aim is to capture 12 months in the ‘life of the Dipper’ through the medium of photography,so we get a better understanding of this amazing bird,the way it lives and how this beautiful bird and other wildlife in this precious habitat is been affected by human disturbance,with numbers down last year to an all time low it prompted me to write an article ‘Dippers Of the Dale’ which was published in the October issue of Birdwatching Magazine and can be seen by clicking here
I did catch sight of this lone male,preening,making final adjustments to his stunning condition in order to attach a female with the onset of the breeding season around the corner,and with the warming temperature’s last week,this week must have come as a real shock to the Dippers with a deluge of heavy snow confusing their body clocks.
Over the last few months since my article in October, the signs have been replaced with new ones,where the wording has changed being more precise and specific with the welfare of the wildlife at the core,educating others to the issues/problems faced by the species of wildlife here,more so the Dippers,Watervoles.
Natural England who run and manage the site are doing a brillant job at Lathkill Dale,with new indicatives to help the Dipper and its survival here.I spoke recently to its head warden;Phil Bowler who had seen my article and liked how it highlighted the problem,he has many plans under way for the successful survival of this bird,and I’m pleased to say I will be helping out when I can,offering my services to Phil/Natural England in an attempt to help,educate people into enjoying the breathtaking beauty,but at the same time respecting the wildlife that chose to livehere.The signs are a clear and positive, physical reminder to people/children in how to behave which is a great start.The number of these signs has also increased along the river,with key sites having a sign strategical placed so know one can miss them, an example is seen below,with the river in the background.
The four coming breeding season will be the real test,but small steps lead to bigger ones,as all help is good help in my eyes.The response I got from my article was very pleasing with people been highlighted to the issues there,and the people I have taken on my workshops called ‘Dippers Of the Dale’ has been great too,where they have enjoying seeing this bird,learning about its skills and behaviour’s, at the same time respecting its welfare and habitat.So for me its a great start as I feel the Dipper’s plight is more protected now then last year,and maybe the result will be the peace and solitude it so rightly deserves at the same time people enjoying this beautiful part of the country,its just the beginning,but a very good,positive one for the ‘Master of the River’ as I call them.
An image capturing one of the many waterfalls that frequent the river Lathkill above,adding great impact and atmosphere to this stunning landcape where the Dipper lives,and where my love of the Dipper started as a small boy and over the years the Dipper has always brought a smile to my face with its charismatic nature , and bobbing or dipping movements which I’ve always viewed as the bird ‘Curtseying’ for you.I hope to carry on helping/educating others so future generations can enjoy this charismatic bird like I have done from childhood.Thank you to everyone who has emailed me over time and highlighted this issue,where we can all do our bit in helping.I will continue to update my blog with regard to the Dippers at Lathkill keeping you informed as to the welfare and hopefully successful breeding season that’s approaching and my workshops dates for the year can been seen by clicking here.Any further help or advice then please feel free to contact me by clicking on my contact page,alternatively here.
Having returned to my Barn Owl site over the last few days, where I’d previously watched and photographed this beautiful male Barn Owl hunt for food during the country’s really cold weather last month,I was delighted to see the male hunting but at the same time quite bemused as it was raining,with the rain falling as sleet,a behaviour I’ve never seen before in Barn Owls due to it’s hazardous nature.The structure of an adult Barn Owl’s feathers make them perfectly adapted for silent flight,but this makes them prone to waterlogging so consequently they are not suited to hunting in wet weather.The key to an owl’s silent flight is in its feathers, the next time you find an owl feather, turn it on its side and look at the edge — the line of fibers is scalloped, like a stretched seam. The slight alteration in shape allows the feather to cut the air without making sound,making them perfectly aerodynamic.
Hunting is certainly more difficult in these testing conditions, as sound as well as sight are hindered in locating small mammals due to the rain.I watched him hunt for about two hours with little success,the wind buffeting him around like a kite ,expelling loads of energy in the process.There was no sign of the female so I presume he’s alone and may probably move on shortly.I really hope not as I have become quite fond of this very resilient Owl.I also have received a lot of ‘Fan’ emails asking if he survived the recent cold snap which I covered in my first ‘Barn Owl’ post,so thank you to those people and here is the proof that he’s alive and kicking and his plumage is in stunning conditon with the onset of the breeding season around the corner.
And what seems to becoming customary now when I go out photographing of late is the ever presence of Stonechats,whether it be male or female they seem to always find me,and keep me company.The image below is of a female who was really intrigued by me,capturing the mood of the day with the inclusion of the weather conditions in the background.
The following is a list of useful Tips, which will help to increase your chances of successful Owl watching:
Wear dark, quiet clothes
Get to know the area during daylight, and establish the most suitable areas of habitat for the species that you are hoping to observe (i.e. where they are most likely to hunt)
If you suspect that an area is being used as a roost or nest site you must not disturb it, but watch from a safe distance
When watching a nocturnal species, arrive at your observation position before dusk – this will allow for your eyes to become gradually accustomed to the gathering darkness, and will ensure that you are ready and settled before the owls emerge
Do not disturb the birds in any way – remain hidden at all times
I have really enjoyed my close encounters with this tough,hardy male Barn Owl and if he remains in this area I will look forward to photographing him,even better if he attracts a mate and breeds I’ll have another long term project to concentrate on with the images being displayed on future blogs-fingers crossed.I hope you’ve enjoyed the trails,tribulations of this owl documented in my blogs as much as I have on the ground.
On the promise of a high tide of 10m+ yesterday I visited ‘Parkgate’ on the Dee Estuary,Wirral,a 100 kilometre stretch of salt marshland.Little did I know how different this day would be to the many other hide tides I’ve attended over the years that didn’t really measure up to their name.The day started beautifully,with the sun shining bright and that crisp feel to the air.I had decided to hide within the reedbeds,choosing the highest point as not to be flooded out with the promised high tide.This beautiful female Stonechat came right up to me in her pursuit to see what I was hiding away in her territory,she stayed for a very brief second where I managed to capture a few portraits of her in the morning light as she perched on top of the reeds.
The beautiful sunshine was soon replaced with dark,angry looking clouds as you could see this weather front heading in shore alongside the predicted high tide around lunchtime.Very slowly at first the tide started coming in,over the years I’ve attended these promised high tides I ‘ve always been disappointed at how little they come in,while I’ve waited to photograph the many raptors that live and hunt over these marshes.With the wind picking up and the distant activity of the flocks of waders,ducks taking to the air as the encroaching tide covered their usual roosting spots,this felt different and indicated this day may measure up to its title.
As the water breaks over the edges of the marsh,flooding the small gullies it brings the wildlife closer to you,the birds start to take flight to avoid the oncoming tide,and waiting predators,small mammals retreat to higher ground escaping the high tide briefly as they’ll be forced to move again later on.With all this wildlife moving it attracts predators in vast numbers, ie Gulls,Crows,Rooks,Kestrels,Peregrine Falcons ,Short-eared Owls,and many more all waiting for mother nature to do their work for them in locating prey,giving away their positions as they flee the water,then swoop down for the easy pickings,as they are to preoccupied in survival, a cruel trick of nature for the small mammals you never normally see.A Short-eared Owl waits for movement as the tide is seen covering the land below.
Ground predators get involved in this bounty to,this Fox had gone out before the tide had reached it’s peak to feast on one of the easiest meals he’ll have during the year.Unfortunately he became cut off from the mainland,preoccupied in feeding.I managed to capture a few images of this moment,also with a short film showing him wet, shivering and freezing with one of the main gullies of water being fed by the tidal currents in front of him.Forcing him to stay put rather than chance swimming for the shore and being swept away in the very strong currents
He did however escape later on as the tide went out and the sun came out the image below shows him fleeing,hopefully having learnt his lesson.
As the available land diminishes beneath the sea water, the mass of tiny,furry creatures with their disheveled coats cling onto the last high ground in an attempt of steer desperation as the tide reaches its height,the last remains of vegetation are covered with the lucky ones who’ve made it to the walls of the reserve,the less unfortunate ones have either drown or been pick off by the predators.Below are a few images I took as the rodents-Field Vole,Common Shrew, made their way to the shoreline where I was standing,the brick wall of the reserve can be seen in some.I did help to fish out a few with a make shift pole made out of reed as some looked up at me I was concerned I’d give them a heart attack, but it was better than seeing them drown.
These where the unlucky ones below,mother nature I know but on such a large scale as this day it shocked me to the core.
I went to Parkgate yesterday with a clear mission to photograph Short-eared Owls and other raptors feeding on this plentiful bounty which hide tide gives them a few times a year,what I came away with was a real story of survival and suffering on one hand ,on the other the power of nature and the food chain stained by the days events for me.The hide tides attracts alot people,yesterday being no exception of which most where unaware of this suffering around/below them as they ticked of the number of birds they’d seen,with the ever present thrust of seeing new species at the forefront of the minds.I needless to say went home really saddened by what I had seen during the day and I have tried to convey that here with the images I took on the day, almost like a reporter capturing someone in their final hours.It was the first time in 3 years I had seen a tide so high, helped along by the wind reach the shoreline in this manner,with the winners and losers played out before my very eyes,to watch animals forced into this ‘Do or Die’ sacrifice was hard for me to stomach as a wildlife photographer where the welfare of nature becomes before anything.
Thank you all for your support during the last year,and I hope to have helped you in someway with regard to Wildlife Photography and seeing the beauty of the natural world.Just wanted to finish the year as I started with a photo of my all time favorite UK bird “The Dipper” fishing here on the river
Makes a change from a Robin at this time of year I thought and this was taken yesturday and it was freezing. Next year I am hoping to photograph 12 months in the Life Of The Dipper, documenting the character and behavior of this fascinating bird during the different season’s,building a better picture and understanding of this bird through the medium of photography.
So what ever you are doing over the Christmas period I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.And lastly a big Thank You to Andrew and the team at RapidWeb for a brilliant website!
Over the last couple of days during the countries cold spell the winter sunshine has been amazing on the North-West coast. While waiting for Barn/Short-eared Owls last night to come out to hunt the colours of the sky were just breathtaking. I managed to capture this with the image below in near darkness.
I was trying out the Nikon D3S at low light and all these shots were at iso 2000 in almost near darkness.The sharpness/clarity of the camera is amazing,the feel of it in your hand is brilliant,and at 14 bit Un-compressed Neff (Raw) file size the frame rate is 9 fps, has a buffer capacity of 35 shots in FX (36×24) mode,In Dx (24×16) mode the frame rate goes to 11 fps and buffer capacity increases to 52.
The images I captured of a lone Kestrel frantically hunting in the very last rays of sunshine,composed small in the frame to include as much of the sky can be seen below.
I was praying a Short-eared Owl or Barn Owl would just come out to hunt but it was’nt to be,the colours of the sky more than made up for it though.Winter sunshine and it’s colours are really beautiful to see,coming about when a cold front meets a warm front resulting in these magic colours and cloud shapes.So when you have finished photographing or walking at the end of the day just hang on that little bit more to see if the sky changes colour as the sun is setting and you too maybe treated to the sight I witnessed last night.