Photography Blog

Whooper Swan 2

Filed in Wildlife on Jan.14, 2010

Spent a few days again photographing our most beautiful winter visitor to the UK shores,the beautiful and elegant,’Whooper Swan’, I have been trying to get close up views of the formations they fly in, inches apart from disaster should they touch each other in flight,  I was trying to convey the organised manner in which they fly so close together as well.

Whooper Swans

I’ve been watching them feed on farmland from the outskirts of woodland on the North-West coast of the UK for the last 3 months.Once they have eaten they fly off to their overnight roost site where they spend the night,the sky is temporary a wash with white as hundreds of Whoopers taken flight.While waiting I had a Treecreeper for company,wanted to show the lovely patterns on the tree trunk and the splash of white from the snow during our coldest spell of weather in decades in the UK.I have composed the bird to give you an idea of how well these tiny birds blend into their habitat

Treecreeper

Whooper Swans spend their time here during our winter months before migrating back to their breeding areas which range from Iceland to NE Siberia, they depart from their breeding areas in September and reach wintering areas by November leaving the wintering area,ie UK, in mid-March for a May return .Whooper swans are highly vocal,with bugling calls,these are used during aggressive encounters, with softer “contact” noises used as communication between paired birds and families. Calls accompanying pre-flight head-bobbing are also important for maintaining pair and family bonds. Several types of threat display are seen in winter to establish the dominance hierarchy in the wintering flock, ranging from head-low threats and pecks to more dramatic neck-stretching and wing-flapping displays, resulting occasionally in physical combat.

Whooper Swans

There’s still quite a bit of time to see these beautiful birds that spend their winters with us in their favoured habitats of lakes, estuaries, marshes,flooded fields and farmland before they depart for their breeding grounds in March-April.They fly so effortless for a large bird and I watched amazed at how close they fly next to each other,all knowing there places without colliding into one another

Whooper Swans

The couple of photographs below of a Whooper Swan give you some ideal of their individual size and wing shape which make these formations even more remarkable

Whooper Swan

Whooper Swan


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Texel Workshop

Filed in Workshops on Jan.11, 2010

At around 25 miles long and seven miles wide the island of Texel is the largest of the Wadden Islands, It’s a haven and paradise for thousands of waders and waterfowl during the spring/summer months where they choose this picturesque island to play out their courtship routines and breed, feed their young all quiet close to you, presenting some of this best chances to photograph Avocets, Spoonbills, Caspian and Black Terns, Oystercatchers, Kentish Plovers, and many more waders.The Texel workshop is being co-hosted with me and award winning Dutch wildlife photographer Jeroen Stel whose expert knowledge of Texel and the surrounding area is second to none and the perfect guide to get the very best images of wildlife this place has to offer.

Avocets

It’s one of the best places in Europe for close up views of Avocets with the chance of getting some amazing close up images of these beautiful birds.Jeroen Stel and myself have teamed up to offer you the very best in Wildlife Photography workshops,we also have a brillant trip planned for early june called The Magic Of Mull’ where we will show you the beautiful wildlife and landscapes this island has to offer.Other trips in the future are also planned all designed by Wildlife Photographers for Wildlife Photographers.

Spoonbill

Spoonbill

Our hotel is situated on the island of Texel, not far from the beaches, marshland, extensive fields, strongholds of Bluethroats, Short-eared Owls, Terns, Eiders, and many more, depending on what is about at the time of our trip,the photographic opportunities will never stop.Over the coastal marshes a healthy population of Marsh Harriers patrol the skies, hunting over the reed beds and marshland giving a great insight and close up view of these magnificent birds of prey.

Marsh Harrier

Marsh Harrier]

Jeroen will have planned the best places and routes before our arrival in Texel in an attempt to get the best images from this trip as possible, myself and Jeroen will guide you through each day, approach the wildlife with real care and settle into place and watch the magic of Texel play out before your very eyes.After our day has ending and we have finished our evening meal a a slideshow of the images will be presented giving you the chance to see your work and that of others, sharing best practices, so that as a group you can get the very best out your days on Texel. We will also go through tips and advice on wildlife photography covering both practical and theoretical examples that you can apply yourselves in your own time.

Bluethroat

It’s promises to be a brillant trip so if you would like to know more or book your place on this trip please go to my workshop section or clickTexel’ ,alternatively drop me a line on my contact page and I will give you all the details you will need for this action packed trip with have planned.

Tern

Avocet

More information on this beautiful island and what it has to offer can be viewed by clicking on Jeroen’s Blog 1 and Blog 2 and as you will see there is nobody better to show you around this beautiful island other than Jeroen who know’s this island like the back of his hand.Many thanks and hope to see you there.

Logo


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Barn Owl

Filed in Wildlife on Jan.09, 2010

As the country freezes in one of the coldest spells of weather for decades I have spent almost the last month moving from one location to another location in the hope of photographing Barn and Short-eared Owls in there habitats,and hopefully some close up shots.Over the last 7 days I have concentrated my efforts solely on alone male Barn Owl which has taken up residence over farm and marshland not to far from my home.I’d watch for hours on end some days and go home with nothing but the smile on my face as I’d laugh to myself knowing that dealing with wild animals is not always as predicable as you’d think.This laughter this week has also been tinted with sadness also as I’d watch a starving Barn Owl hunt over snow covered fields,making simple errors when diving for food,being mobbed by Rooks and Crows as they’d watch the Barn Owl do all the work and then rob him of his catch,knowing that all the energy the Owl had expended hunting was now in vain due to being mugged by the ever present,opportunist Crow family members.

Barn Owl

I have had some really beautiful and close encounters this week with this Barn Owl as he hunted for the healthy population of voles this area has with the constant rustling vegetation I’d witnessed as these rodents woke up and starting going about their daily tasks, as I lay in what for the owl to show up.The saddest thing for me was just watching the Barn Owl frantically trying to locate and hunt for prey as the ground had a small blanket of snow covering it which was made ever worse by the weather and cold conditions these and many more animals are facing during this unprecedented spell of cold weather we are having.I can say though on the few times I witnessed the Barn Owl hunting he was very successful in catching his prey and out running the Rooks,Crows that tried to take his catch,a real struggle for life and survival on all sides though,and with more snow predicted I fear for every animal that lives outdoors.

Barn Owl

Barn Owl

On one occasion the Barn Owl came almost alongside me and started to hover as he’d seen something below,I couldn’t believe my luck,the sun was starting to go down and here I was looking like a bush, listening to the wing beats of one of my favorite birds that has enchanted me from childhood,he allowed my a few images until he called time and disappeared-WOW!

Barn Owl

I managed to capture the moment he was flying off with what looked like streamers attached to him but they were pieces of long grass he’d picked up with the vole he’d caught the following two images show you this funny spectacle.

Barn Owl

Barn Owl

I am going back shortly once the forecasted snow has fallen to see this Barn Owl I’ve become quite fond of, hopefully he will have been able to survive the continuing cold spell which I do hope will break very soon to give everyone a break.  My aim is to continue  photographing this owl for as long as he lets me in this area.

Barn Owl

Barn Owl


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Owls

Filed in Wildlife on Jan.05, 2010

Owls have long since been one of my most favorite family of birds to watch and photograph,and I travel all over the UK to see them,their pull is that strong for me.So yesterday I visited another new site away from the failing North-West Coast where I’d spent 2-3 weeks on the run up to Christmas waiting in the freezing conditions for Barn and Short-eared Owls to turn up.This year though on the marshland and estuaries of  this area their numbers have been very low and quiet alarming.I did capture some amazing red skies there though and the ever popular ‘cheeky chappy’ male Stonechats that kept me company during the long hours spent waiting.

Barn Owl Hunting

The images included in this article are from this new site and I really was lucky to see both Barn and Short-Eared Owls on my first visit there yesterday.The conditions were perfect with no wind or rain and dry, the only difficulty for the hunting owls was that the ground was frozen rock hard and the image above shows the small pools of which their prey live and feed in and around in were all frozen.I composed the above image to try a convey this scene,with the frozen small pools and the owl small in the frame,with the setting sun just adding that warmth and wonderful colour to the photo,at full size it looks amazing.

Barn Owl

Most of the images I captured from the day were shot in near darkness at ISO 1000.,the image above was from early morning and one of the few chances I had until later on in the evening.The winter frost can be seem behind the hunting Barn Owl as I captured it quartering on this patch of farmland.I just love watching these birds I nickname the ‘Ghost’ as they are so silent and appear from nowhere then in a flash are gone

Barn Owl

In near darkness this Barn Owl seen above,  turned up and started to hunt,I managed a few shots and then a Short-Eared Owl showed up seen below,it had awoken from the area they are roosting in,sat on this fence post,had a look at what I was ,then went off hunting.You wait all day and nothing shows up then within the space of 5 minutes both owls turned up.

Short-eared Owl

Beginners luck on my first day I think!.Looking forward to going back with the aim of getting some close up shots of both owls. I watched both owls hunt and the paths they used, where they mainly hunted giving me a better idea of where to go,stand etc, so hopefully I can get lucky again the next time I go.I did manage to capture a Short-Eared Owl flying past me with a vole,taken with a slow shutter speed.

Short eared owl

Barn Owl

The last image of a wonderful day,the Barn Owl was heading back to its roost and I didn’t see him again, this image captures that as it was ‘Goodnight from Him’ and ‘Goodnight from Me’ as the famous line goes from one of my favorite comedy double acts ‘The Two Ronnies’ I hope you have the luck I had when you are out and about looking for wildlife, if you are looking for Barn and Short eared Owls remember they don’t come out in rain only in extreme circumstances ie feeding young.They like very little wind,hunt over open farmland and rough grazing,and favour dawn and dusk,good luck.


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Birdwatching Walk

Filed in Events on Jan.03, 2010

With a dusting of snow and temperatures of minus-4 with the wind chill, the cold,winter weather didn’t dampen anyone’s spirit’s on the Birdwatching for Beginners Walk,at Carsington Water, Derbyshire today with a brillant turn out of over 25 people that braved the icy conditions as the winter sunshine shone down on us all.

Entrance

Carsington Water has been a very popular visitor attraction since the reservoir was opened by the Queen in May 1992,the reservoir is owned and operated by Severn Trent Water and is a centre for outdoor activities.Today I joined the rangers and Matt Merrit Editor from the Birdwatching Magazine as we took a trip around this beautiful reservoir,I was invited by Matt to take photographs for an article that will be in the March issue of the magazine.Introductions out of the way and we headed around the reservoir looking out for what ever birds would brave the conditions and show up,stopping off at various different places and making best use of the wardens knowledge of this area.

Birdwatchers

As you can see from the photograph above conditions where very clear and cold but we didn’t have a great deal of luck apart from the usually common species,but we did managed to find a Redshank feeding on the shoreline and a lone Lapwing against the snow,the images can be send below

Redshank

Redshank

lAPWING

Lapwing

Carsington Water run these walks on the first Sunday of every month and they also put on more advanced walks that specialise in certain species and are aimed at the more experienced birdwatcher.Myself and Matt had a great day and it was lovely to meet such nice people and I hope you all learned something. look out for the article which will be in the March issue of the Birdwatching Magazine and if you would like to join the next walk please contact Carsington Water 01629 540 696 and they will tell you all the details you need or alternatively drop me a line on my ‘Contact’  page and I will answer any queries you may have.

Carsington water


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Merry Christmas

Filed in Articles on Dec.24, 2009

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

Dipper Fishing

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.

Dipper

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!


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Winter Sunshine

Filed in Articles on Dec.19, 2009

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.

Winter Sunshibe

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.

Kestrel At Dawn

Lone Kestrel

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.


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Beginners Birdwatching Walk

Filed in Events on Dec.16, 2009

On Sunday 3rd of January 2010, Carsington Water and Birdwatching Magazine are organising a Birdwatching For Beginners Walk  at Carsington Water in Derbyshire.It is a free two-hour walk around the area and lake with the intention of getting beginners young and old into Birdwatching.The magazine is doing a feature of this long-running and very successful event which takes place every month and the magazine has asked me if I would like to come along and take some photograph’s for them,and of the event and surrounding birdlife.Also I will be on hand to offer any advice regarding birdwatching,equipment etc.As a youngster I was a member of the YOC -Young Ornithologist’s Club,which is now called RSPB Wildlife Explorers  I gained so much by going birdwatching,also it introduced me to wildlife at a young age which was great,I went to different reserves and saw different places all learning about birds and their behaviours. It’s very good events like this are still happening today, and a brilliant way for people to reconnect with nature.

Birdwatching

Birdwatching for Beginners Walk, Carsington Water, Derbyshire, starts at 10am,so come prepared for a great start to your 2010 bird count, Volunteer Ranger’s will be on hand and pointing out any winter visitors and other birds that make their home on this beautiful stretch of water.Over the two hours there the idea is to help and talk to the absolute beginners and to see what they get out of it and how their knowledge changes over that couple of hours with the help and advice that is on offer,I will be also showing a few tips I’ve learned and passing them on and taking photo’s of any birds we see over the time we are there.

Birdwatching

It’s a great way to shake of the christmas and new year blues and to learn more about wildlife,so if you are interested or your children are then come along on the day or telephone Carsington Water on 01629 540 696 and ask about this brillant event,you also get the chance to meet the Birdwatching Team that will be there along with myself.I hope to see you all there and if you have any other questions or information then drop me a line on my Contact form

Little EgretBirdwatching

Timetable For The Day

9.45 – 10.00  People on course checked in.
10.00           Introduction, housekeeping and walk plans
10.05           10 minutes on a bird topic(s)
10.15           Walk to and round Stones Island
11.15           Arrive back at Visitor Centre, to pick up quick coffees; Loo stop etc
11.20           To Ranger Base to view feeder and Bullfinch (not guaranteed!)
11.30           At Shiningford Creek for viewing  followed by reminders of next walk.
11.45           To Wildlife Centre to join Date with nature team
Noon           Disperse……………. people can stay as long as they like

Above is the timetable for this walk and it should be a great morning for your interest the satellite navigation code is DE6 1ST or below is the full postal address

Carsington Water,Ashbourne,Derbyshire,DE6 1ST.

See you all on the day.



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