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Sunday, 24 May 2009

Trip Report Day 3 - North Norfolk

Day 3, and another early start.

I set off to look for the Barn Owls again - this time getting the best shot I've managed so far. I was very pleased with this image.........................

Later in the morning I left the Barn Owls and went in search of another target species I've wanted to photograph for a long time, Hare.

Using my knowledge of the area, I went to another spot where I'd seen Hare's before and sure enough, from my vantage point there were 3 - feeding and playing in a field about the size of 8 football pitches.

Once again, I set myself up and waited. It's amazing that once you blend in, the wildlife forgets you're there and continues it's business.

While I waited for the Hare's to move closer, this Pheasant wandered into view - their colouring at this time of year is magnificent.

Eventually my wait paid off.

The Hares, completely unaware of my presence came closer and closer allowing me to simply pick my shots.

Once again, I managed to get a shot that I was really pleased with and one that I've never managed to get before.

I've nicknamed this guy Bugsy - he had real character and a scar across his face that only he, and the thing that did it know how it got there.............

Trip Report Day 2 - North Norfolk

A very early start saw me zooming down to one of my favourite spots for photography, Salthouse Pools. These pools, just behind the flood defences are very close to the car park and are a mecca for all sorts of birdlife and birdwatchers. 

Because of the number of people who visit the place, close approach is possible and it makes for a great mirror pool on still days.

I arrived there just as the sun was coming up but was staggered to discover that the Pools are no more. They have dried up. 

I later found out that North Norfolk is suffering from a drought. It has not rained there since the beginning of March. Global warming ?

Plan B had to be put in place, so I made my way to a spot I know very well and started my hunt for the Barn Owls that I know frequent the area.

Having spotted that familiar ghostly, fluttering flight, I set about putting myself in a position that would allow the Barn Owl to come to me.

After an hour or so, my plan worked.

The Barn Owl made his way to the perch I thought he might have been using to scan the area and this allowed me to get the shots I wanted - the best images I have taken of Barn Owls so far.

Super birds and a joy to watch.......

Trip Report Day 1 - North Norfolk

My second trip of the year took me to probably my favorite place of all - North Norfolk.

Ever since my first visit, I've been captivated by all that this part of the UK has to offer. Fantastic wildlife, unspoilt beaches and countryside and relatively few people if you know where to go.

My specific target for this trip was Barn Owls.

I know of a few sites, but it can a frustrating way of passing time !

I set off from home at 3am on 8 May, and made my way to my first stopping point - RSPB Snettisham, which is not far from Hunstanton and Sandringham.

Snettisham is know for it's vast winter flocks of Knot and Dunlin that roost on the scrapes, although this has been in decline in recent years.

I arrived to a windy and cold morning with quite a bit of activity in the pools.

I had the place to myself for 4 hours and took the time to practice photographing Black Headed Gulls in the dawn light that were busy nest building.

Another spectacle that occurs at Snettisham is the daily take off of roosting geese - Brents, Pink Footed and Grey Lag.

I was happy to get this shot of a flock of Brents and they took off from fields and made thier way out to feed on the Wash.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Final thoughts

It's taken we a while to get round to writing up these trip notes, and I hope you have enjoyed reading them.

I have visited Scotland on several occasions, and if the weather is good, it is the most stunning place to be. I hope this has given you a taster of what is there to be seen and that you might consider a visit.

Trip Report - Scotland - Day Seven

No early start today as it's our last day on Scotland and time to head South.

Driving in Scotland is a dream. On our return journey, I did not see another car for an hour once we left our hotel in Loch Awe.

Stunning scenary led us all the way back to Glasgow, and then the north of England, and finally ending up on the North York Moors for more Red Grouse spotting.

This time I was able to get a fine shot of this female who, rather than disappearing stood up and looked back at us for a while.

Super birds, and I can still hear them calling........

Trip Report - Scotland - Day Six

Our first trip to Mull was so good, we decided to go again the next day and explore some more.

Another very early start to get back on the ferry.

Although windy, the weather was once again super and this time, we came determined to get that killer shot of a Buzzard. Being a scavenger, I thought that if we could find some fresh road-kill, we might be able to place it and lay in wait for the Buzzard to come and tuck in.

We found 'Roger' laying in the road. Luckily he'd not been run over, but had clearly been hit by something and was dead as a doornail, but intact. He was quickly shoved into Steve's boot bag ready for use later in the day.

Having spent quite a bit of the day exploring more of the island, we waited for the light and went back to Grass Point to deploy 'Roger'.

I parked up and then jumped out to place Rog on the top of a large boulder - prime position for a diffuse background, super evening light and hopefully some great shots of a Buzzard eating a rabbit.

The excitement grew as one of the Buzzards spotted Roger and started to fly around looking for danger - at one point he swooped in, but turned away at the last minute and didn't land.

A real shame, but as we had the last ferry to catch, we left Roger to his fate and reluctantly returned to ferry, fish and chips in Oban, then our hotel, a few beers and some kip.

Trip Report - Scotland - Day Five

Wednesday and time to go sailing - across the water to the Island of Mull.

Our mutual friend, Martin Dyer, had told Steve and I a lot about Mull, and what a wonderful place it was for wildlife so yet another early start saw us making tracks for Oban to catch the first ferry across to the Island.

Once ashore, we set off for our first place of interest, Grass Point - apparently one of the best raptor viewing spots. Sure enough, we came over the brow of a small hill and right in front of us was a Buzzard which had pinned a full grown rabbit down in a ditch beside the track.

As soon as the buzzard spotted us, he took off and the rabbit scarpered. Neither of us had our cameras ready at the time (sod's law), but it gave me an idea..............

We spent the rest of the day exploring Mull in super weather. 

Mull really is a special place.

Highlights were a meadow pipit (I think), that sat up for us quite nicely, and a Buzzard, that obliged us by sitting on a post and watching as we got closer.

Trip Report - Scotland - Day Four

Time to move on. 

After a very nice 'Scottish' Breakfast, I defrosted the car and we headed across to our second hotel on Loch Awe which is one of Scotland's largest Loch's and situated on the West Coast, near to Oban.

Once in the area, Steve navigated us around several of the nearby Lochs looking for subjects to photograph. As we had headed west, the weather had deteriorated, and we saw our first, but only rain for the trip.

The highlight of the day for me was spotting a bird I had really hoped I would see, but didn't think I would get near enough to photograph.

Spotting the bird from about a mile away, I drove down to the spot nearest and while Steve set up to shoot some Stonechats, I set about trying to get some shots of what I think is one of the most stunning birds that we have within our shores - the Black Throated Diver.

Luckily I found a very comfortable spot, laying head down on a mossy bank, and hiding behind a tree. I set the camera as low as I could get it and waited for the bird to come in close. Half an hour later he duly obliged allowing me to get a few shots off before he took off and disappeared over a hill, letting out a strange wailing call as he went.

Now that I seen one of these birds, I will be going back for more -they are truly awesome birds.............watch this space !

Trip Report - Scotland - Day Three

Having stayed the night at the Rowen Tree (lovely hotel) it was another early start for us. 

We had arranged to spend day with local photographer, Neil McIntyre, who took us straight up into the hills to try to find Red Grouse.

I won't forget hearing my first Grouse call in the still and cold morning air. A cross between a chuckle and a gurgle, it really is quite comical - especially when they start to 'talk' to each other.

The light was simply fantastic and allowed for some super photography.

Next up was breakfast followed by a trip to find the Red Squirrels. Another first for me, and
a simply wonderful couple of hours spent in the company of these very cute mammals. 

Once again the light was very kind to us, and we were able to observe and get some great shots.

After the squirrels, we moved back to the Glen that we had visited yesterday to go for more shots of the Red Deer.

Late in the afternoon, just as the sun was setting, the deer came down from the surrounding hillsides and made their way to be fed by the gamekeeper.

Provided you stay in the vechicle, they remain curious, but do not run. As you get out of the vechicle, they are gone - this proved to me what a good hide a car can make.

Trip Report - Scotland - Day Two

Not an especially exciting day unless you like driving (which I do).

I fine Sunday morning saw us make an early start and head on up to Aviemore.

It's a long drive, but the scenary was just super.

Arriving in Aviemore late afternoon meant we had some time to kill so we headed for a Glen to catch the evening l
ight and the Red Deer as they came down for feeding.

As we drove along the Glenn road, I spotted some movement by the roadside. We jumped out of the car and were able to observe several Wheatears which looked like they had just arrived. 
They allowed us to get quite close as you can see from this picture - I think he was exhausted.

Next up we spotted what we had come for - the Red Deer.
These magnificent creatures were looking resplendent in the late afternoon sun, and using the car as a hide, we were treated to some great views.

Trip Report - Scotland - Day One

My first big expedition of the year took place at the beginning of May with a trip to Scotland with my friend, fellow wildlife enthusiast and photographer, Steve Kaluski.

We planned our first day as a staging day, intending to stay in York and then to complete the journey to the Cairngorms area on the Sunday.

We decided to take a diversion however and accept an invite to join Danny Green to go to a little spot where a pair of Dippers were busy preparing to breed, nest and rear their young.

Having met up with Danny, we headed down to the location and spent a fantastic day observing these great birds who were completely unphased by 3 photographers.

We were later joined by another NPN member, Craig Jones.
A few hundred images later, we left Danny and Craig to head back to our cars. I won't forget that walk in a hurry - it didn't seem too bad on the way down, but with a full load of gear, the walk back was something else !

I am really pleased to have met Danny and been given a chance to observe and photogragh these wonderful birds in a cracking setting.

A great start to our trip !