Sunday, 13 November 2011
Saturday, 22 October 2011
|Knackered and in need of drink !|
|Red Deer yawning|
|Caring for one of his hinds|
Thursday, 13 October 2011
Saturday, 8 October 2011
I will be part of their exhibition which is taking place at Lloyds of London at the end of this month, and several of my pictures will be on display and for sale, which is a first for me.
Tuesday, 4 October 2011
As the tides advanced, so did the birds.
|Knot taking off as the tide rises|
|Thousands of Oyster Catchers|
|Some of the estimated 200 people that made it for the spectacular|
|Bill Oddie ?|
I walked past the chap on the way back to the car at 10.30. It was 28 degrees at that point.......I wouldn't have wanted to sit next him on the drive home !
Saturday, 1 October 2011
After setting up for the sunrise I thought I might try for some silhouettes against the dawn sky.
Within 30 minutes, I wasn't alone.......
There was only 1 other car in the carpark when I arrived.
As I type this, it's 7.15 and I would say there's now another 100 or more people here.
Still, that gives the mossies plenty of other bodies to feed on.
Friday, 30 September 2011
I'm in North Norfolk for a couple of days and I have to say, I've never known anything like it. It's currently 5.10pm and I'm on a beach, in shorts and a teeshirt, wondering how red my sunburn is going to be tonight!
The car showed the temp at 30 degrees earlier, and tomorrow is Oct the 1st.
I've been here before at this time of year and enjoyed bitterly cold days and frosty mornings......this is like July, in Spain.
The next big tide is tomorrow morning, so I'll be up early to see the show.
The forecast is the same for tomorrow too, so it should herald a cracking sunrise.
One comment of the wildlife so far - I've not seen a single barn owl at any of my usual sites. I didn't see any at the end if august either. I hope that's because they've taken to feeding at night again rather than at dawn and dusk.......
Saturday, 17 September 2011
Sunday, 11 September 2011
Tuesday, 23 August 2011
I returned from my hols with a head full of ideas, but knowing deep down, that I'd have to wait a few more weeks for things to get going again and for the Autumn to really kick in.
At the weekend, Calum and I decided to take a trip to see if the Dartfords that we shot earlier in the year were still about, or more importantly, still approachable.
In a word, the answer was no. After a pre-dawn start, we met and Calum drove to the location - the day looked promising and we certainly heard a lot of the birds calling while they were looking amongst the heather for their food.
The heather was a sea of colour - beautiful purple and mauve.
This was the best shot I managed after 3 hours and more by luck than judgement:
You can get a hint of the colours here, but not really what I was after.....
Later in the day we moved to another location to see what was happening there. I have to say that I was surprised to see that Swallows were still feeding just fledged young - again, this is about the best I could do of one of the parents, with the hungary young behind ......
Monday, 15 August 2011
Apologies for the sound and video quality (and for my video skills !) - once again, this was shot on the wife's Sony Cyber-shot DSC- W30....
Friday, 12 August 2011
Below is the view from inside - a commanding position from which to see all that flys past
the view facing another hide a bit further along the cliff top. You can see the cleared ground and perches on either side...
Another view - here you can see at least 3 hides in close proximity......there are dozens all around the coast line.....
From this image you can just make out several perches against the sea. They aren't as far away as they look here....
Final picture on this subject. This is taken from yet another hide, and from behind. To the right, left and behind you can see block piles - each one one at this location had a small metal cross set into the stone, either a perch, or perhaps some way of holding a net ?
To be honest, I've no way of telling if these are structures are 50 years old or whether they were built last year. Personally, I hope they are 50 years old, and are unused relics of a hobby that has long since passed into the annals history.
Thursday, 11 August 2011
Jayne, Hannah and I went for a drive yesterday and explored some of the less accessible parts of the island that we could find - well off of the beaten track and using bumpy unmade roads.
One of the first things I've noticed is the lack of birdlife here. There is a complete absence of any sort of seabird (although I did see a single Oystercatcher this morning). Not being sure as to why, I googled it and found a simple answer contained within a report written in the Independent in 2005 - it said that the reason why there are no gulls is because 'they shot them all'.
At that time, over 2 million birds were being trapped or shot each year - and that was a reduced number. In 1995, the numbers were far higher - something approaching 5 million birds. And yes, you did read that correctly - 5 million birds - now just let that sink in for a moment before you read on.
What I have seen here are a few sparrows, quite a few pigeons (racing pigeons and few escapees) and one or two birds lurking in hedgerows or cactus that I can't get near enough to id.
On our drive/explore I noticed quite a few stone structures that looked to all intents and purposes like pill boxes.
On a long walk/run this morning I went to check one out a bit closer.
It looked very much like a purpose built hide. Placed in front were various posts, 2 - 3 ft of the ground and set at various ranges. All had flat surfaces on top - it looked like the dense, brittle foam that flower arrangers use.
My conclusion (despite an absence of spent cartridges)- it was a hunters hide, and we saw literally dozens of these structures yesterday. The posts and platforms used for seed bait I guess for the tired and hungry migrants.
Whether this was a shooting or net trapping hide I don't know.
The villa we are staying in has wifi, so I did some googling when I got back and I have to say I was pretty horrified at what I found.
I realised very quickly that I knew precious little about hunting in Malta, but a little research brought me to the point of this piece.
During the spring, many birds use Malta and Gozo on their migration to northern breeding grounds.
Under EU law, the hunting of birds during their spring migration and breeding period is prohibited in general. Malta, however, insists on using a derogation clause of the EU Birds Directive for allowing the shooting of a limited number of individuals of two species (Turtle Dove and Quail).
Whilst the numbers of shot species appears to be diminishing (in line with the numbers of hunters) a quick search of the net revealed a litany of recent horror stories - Osprey, Red Footed Falcon, Honey Buzzard, a flock of Spoonbills seeking shelter during a storm, Lesser Falcon, a flock of White Stork - all birds that any wildlife lover would travel to see - all reported as being illegally shot by hunters.
And that's just the birds that have been found dead or injured and handed to the authorities. God knows how many get shot and not reported ?
Something else I've learned today is that when the island was ceded by Charles V to the Knights of St John in 1530, it was on condition that an annual rent of two Maltese falcons (a Peregrine variant) was paid - one to the Spanish emperor and the other to the viceroy of Sicily.
Maltese falcons were reputed to be the finest of the peregrines. By the 1970s, the species had been all but destroyed by hunting. The last pair was shot off Ta' Cenc cliffs in 1980 - this is on Gozo, and this was where we visited yesterday.
It may have been no accident that the bird in Dashiell Hammett's classic detective novel, The Maltese Falcon, is not a real falcon, but a statue. But in the ultimate irony, Malta's national bird, the blue rock thrush, still featured on its one-lira coin - that is until the Euro took over.
Having said all of this, I am not against shooting - provided it is controlled, by the hunters and gamekeepers themselves, and the law. Provided also that the 'shoot' is of purpose reared 'game' birds that are for the table.
I wouldn't do it myself, but then I would eat, and have eaten, the prepared game.
What I can't get my head around however is just blasting something out of the sky for no reason other than 'tradition', or in the name of 'sport'. It staggers me that a place that is so beautiful and has such friendly people can support such a slaughter.
The UK is not immune of course - stories still appear all too frequently of birds of prey being illegally shot or trapped. Thankfully, the perpetrators seem to get caught and prosecuted regularly, so its certainly not open season.
Knowing how much people are willing to spend in their pursuit of rare and elusive species, I wonder what extra revenue would come to the islands if the hunters turned wardens and guides ? It is very evident that EU is investing funds on redevelopment on the islands - perhaps more pressure ought to be brought to bear and funds allocated in this direction ?
Sorry if this has been a depressing read for you, and subject for me to have researched, but I'll try to end on a relatively positive note.
RSPB, CABS (a German bird protection society) and MaltaBirdlife, the numbers of hunters appears to be diminishing. The numbers of licenses applied for is reducing year on year (Gozo had something like 56 applications in 2010 and less than half that for 2011). The Maltese government is also limiting the hunting window - this year was from 13 - 30 April, only.
Let's hope the trend continues and that the annual wonder of the migration of Europe's birdlife can use Malta and Gozo as a springboard rather than a very high, and deadly hurdle.
Saturday, 30 July 2011
The Badgers seem to have dispersed and i've been leaving the foxes alone for fear of having them get too used to human company, which on a farm isn't great for a fox's life expectancy.
Why did I title this post in the way I have ? Well, I'm currently sitting in my hide, waiting for a family of little owls to appear that I've been watching with my mate Bob. The light is stunning, but the owls have not come down from their trees yet.
To pass the time, I've been watching Sky sports on my mobile - Broad took a hat trick against India in the second test - a feat never achieved by any bowler in a test against them.
I've also checked the news, have been listening to a bit of radio, and now I'm writing this post - not bad for passing a few hours in my hide.
What about the lowls ? Well, the normally blissfully quiet spot is rather busy this evening unfortunately. The farmers are starting the harvest and the game keeper is busy getting his birds ready in preparation for the shooting season.
It's a wonderful sunset though, so fingers crossed.
Wednesday, 13 July 2011
It reminded of my time on Unst as Robbie, Suze and I stumbled across what appeared to be a sick Gannet one evening whilst on our way back from Saxa Vord.
I didn't see the bird at first, but the ever watchful Robbie spotted it tucked into the rocks near the roadside.
Robbie stopped the car and we got out to investigate.
Gannets look quite large on the wing, but up close and on the ground, they are huge - especially with wings out stretched!
As I approached, the bird didn't notice me and sat, with it's head tucked under a wing.
It was only when we got quite close that it awoke. Robbie hung back a bit and when the bird stretched itself to it's full height and started to flap its wings I backed off as well - suddenly being a good Samaritan wasn't quite so appealing.
The bird then made it's way to the shore and swam off into the bay. We'll never know what was wrong with it or whether it survived the night.
One thing I'll never forget though were Robbies words of advice as I approached the bird;
'Be careful Graham - it'll go for your eyes'.............
Sunday, 10 July 2011
I've taken the plunge and after several months of deliberation, I've decided to build myself a website. Yep, something I never thought I'd end up doing, but I'm now a good way through setting it up, understanding the site builder I am using and getting to look how I want it to look.
As I mentioned, it's still in the design phase and I won't publish details until I am happy with it.....keep watching for news.....................
Sunday, 3 July 2011
At this point, I would point out that I have the original version and that Stealth have now produced a revised version of the trouser - the mkII.
The trousers themselves are identical to those shown in the link above although mine do not have the removable knee pads and as I will explain below, they do not have the reinforced stitching.
Why did I decide to purchase these trousers ?
Well, I'd been after a pair of trousers that suited me more for photography than my usual Paramo 'waterproof' hiking trousers.
As anyone who as photographed wildlife will tell you, there are certain things that are essential in any clothing item - the main one is waterproofing.
Most 'waterproof' trousers will repel water in various clever coatings or linings however, if you put pressure on an area of the clothing, water will find its way through. My Paramo's certainly allow water to soak through when say, kneeling.
The Stealth Trousers deal with this by firstly having goretex reinforcing on the knees, but also knee pads and a water resistant lining. I'm now quite happy to kneel anywhere to take a shot, get out of sight etc., knowing that I'm not going to get a soggy knee for the rest of the day. As the knee is lightly padded, it also makes kneeling on rough, hard ground a doddle.
The trouser seat also has a Goretex panel but no padding (I've enough padding as it is), which means a dry bum when sitting, which is also a great feature.
Pockets are plentiful with 2 rear bellows pockets, 2 cargo pant style pockets, hand warmer pockets, secure zip pockets and even fold over secure CF card 'storage' (useful, but I'm not sure I'd put my valuable UDMA cards in there !).
The trousers also feature zip out internal gators, a high back with braces buttons and zipped side gussets for ventilation and 'extra' room.
Day to day use -
Firstly, and as mentioned above, waterproofing - tested on Unst in extreme conditions, I can vouch for their waterproofing - walking in sustained rain to Hermaness (and a very heavy storm in the Cotswolds), these trousers remained dry on the inside. Crawling around Puffin burrows on soaking grass also didn't phase them.
Comfort - very comfortable and warm - great for winter, spring and autumn. Due to the layers though, unless you're out on a cold evening/morning, I wouldn't wear them on a warm day, but then that's not what they are designed for anyway. I'd also add that when walking into a location, carrying kit, they do get hot inside - a way of allowing them to breath more would be great for those situations.
Storage - lots - more than enough for keys, gloves, wallets, cable release, cards etc,.
Stealth - very quiet in use - the moleskin helps and is pretty tactile and thornproof.
Downsides - the biggest issue so far for me is that the vertical stitching has split next to the vent zips on either side of the waist band.
Heat - they are warm trousers. When walking a long way to locations with a lot of kit I have got pretty hot, even on cold days. Having said that, I'd rather be warm (and dry) - especially if I am going to be sitting for any period of time when in position.
Overall - I love these trousers and would thoroughly recommend them, provided the drawbacks have been addressed in the MKII version.
Monday, 20 June 2011
I've interviewed myself for this one............
Did I enjoy my second visit ? - Most certainly I did. Robbie and Katrina are super hosts and Robbies knowledge of the island and it's wildlife is second to none.
Did I get what I wanted ? - for the most part I did - it's easy to get photographs of wildlife wherever you go. Getting special images however requires observation, patience and time. After 2 visits to the island, I think I started to be happy with the results of the hours spent. I was lucky enough to photograph species I didn't last year, and improved upon some of the images of subjects I took last year as well.
Would I recommend Unst - Yes, wholeheartdly. It is beautiful place and it has a pace of life all of its own - if you want a photographic challenge, or just a place to unwind.
Where would I head for again on Unst ? - Hermaness, without doubt. Photograph's cannot do it justice, and if it was on mainland UK, it would get thousands of visitors a year which would spoil its rugged isolation.
So that's it......I need to plan next years trip now to wherever that will be..........
Tuesday, 14 June 2011
The weather wasn't great, so having booked a boat trip to the seabird colonies around Muckle Flugga, we had to wait for confirmation that the boat would be going.
When the call came through, we drove to where the boat is moored and set off for a super trip where the puffins, razorbills, guillemots and gannets where flying and swimming everywhere.
The boat gets you very close. The rocks from sea level are huge and I can only imagine what life would have been like when the light house was manned. It's also pretty scary to imagine what the place would be like during a winter storm - I'd love to see that one day.
After the boat trip it started to rain and having previously decided to walk up to Hermaness, I got dressed up and set off in pouring rain.
I love to photograph wildlife in rain as it adds that extra dimension and providing I am warm and dry, I'm happy.
My Paramo jacket and 'Stealth Gear' trousers kept me dry, but when it eventually stopped raining, the jacket dried a whole lot quicker than the trousers (I'll post a review of these trousers at some point I think as they are great, but have draw backs).
Skua in the rain:
At the top, the cliffs were blanketed in cloud and it was still raining, so I decided to walk to where Robbie had shown us the best area for the Gannets. On the way the rain stopped and what I'd hoped would happen occurred - the Puffins started to emerge from their burrows.
I managed around 20 minutes with these super little birds that will happily allow to crawl right up to them without being bothered - provided you don't make any sudden moves and get down to their level.
That was probably the best part of the afternoon (aside from trying out slow shutter speeds on a Skua in the pouring rain).
After getting back to Ordaal quite late, Robbie and I shared a few too many whiskies before we finally called it a night and that was it, my Unst trip was over for this year.
I'll post up some final thoughts when I get a moment later in the week along with adding some pictures to the other posts I've written this week.
Big thanks to Robbie, Katrina, Sula and Rona for being perfect hosts for the week and for sharing their home. Thanks too for Suze for being such good company this week.
Thanks also to everyone who has taken the time and trouble to read through my ramblings......
Sunday, 12 June 2011
It's been a super trip and I have enjoyed it even more than I did last year. I'm on my way back home now so with plenty of time to kill at Sumburgh and then Edinburgh airports, it's time to catch up on my blog.
Day 5 was a hit and miss day - a bit of a hit for me, but alas a bit of a miss of Suze. The weather was forecast to be fantastic, and I awoke at 6 to glorious sunshine.
Suze decided to try for flowers and Curlew on Baltasound Sound airstrip and I headed back to Saxa Vord to try to catch a final session photographing the Golden Plover on the morning light.
The Plover was most obliging and by staying in the car, I was able to sit quiet, let the bird relax and wait for it to come closer to the car which it did. Success one for the day.
After a quick breakfast at Ordaal it was off to the Otter site just up the road.
The sun was shining and the light was getting a bit harsh, but I'm not going to complain as sitting in position with the water lapping, a slight breeze blowing and a few Arctic Terns for company.
There were two problems though - the first was that the tide was only just turning but worse than that, the couple we'd seen earlier in the week were just setting off from their car. Today the lady was not only sporting a bright red coat, but also white trousers.
Hubby then proceeded to wander across all of the high points along the walk which the ever wary otters would spot from a mile away.
Eventually however they moved off and Suze and I decided to swap places on either side of the bay from previous days. As I headed back to my spot I noticed a small movement out of the corner of my eye and there, by the waters edge was a lone otter making for the safety of an old sea wall. He'd spotted me of course before I had an opportunity to duck down.
With the whole bay in view however, I got into position all the while keeping an eye out for the otter to reappear. As Robbie says however, otters are like mercury and this one just vanished.
And hour of a half of watching and he didn't reappear.
What did show up though was a Red Throated Diver. A fantastic looking bird - especially in sunlight. The diver was quartering the bay so I decided to try get into position.
Divers spend a degree of their time face down in the sea looking for fish, so along with their frequent dives, a bit of uncomfortable crawling over sharp rocks got me into position, low down in the weeds at the waters edge.
Sure enough, the diver eventually swum close by and I got my shots. Beautiful birds with fantastic coloration and a striking red eye.
Unfortunately, Suze didn't get to see any otters, but we'd booked a ferry for Fetlar and had to leave.
Fetlar is a 20 minute ferry ride from Unst, or longer if you have to do the leg to Yell first before the ferry goes on to Fetlar.
One of the reasons to visit Fetlar is to visit an RSPB reserve called Loch Funzie (pronounced 'Finny') where the very rare Red Necked Phalarope breeds and feeds. The nest sites are actually in the near by mires, but the birds are supposed to feed on the Loch, which is fairly small and shallow.
This was my third visit in 2 years and Suze' third in as many years. Suze has seen one Phal, and I've not seen them at all.
Today was to prove no different. I fact, the loch was very quiet indeed with very little life evident aside from a few terns and gulls.
We sat for a couple of hours and nothing appeared, and so we are beginning to suspect that something has changed at the site which means that the Phals have moved elsewhere on the island.
Numbers have been very low with very few sightings in the past few years, which is a great shame as a lot of visitors come to see these diminutive waders, and this must create a lot of extra income for Fetlar.
Having given up on the Phals we moved to another spot where Great Skuas regularly bathe.
This was much more successful as in the evening light, the water spray and running take off's towards the camera where great.
Another late finish to the day, but 3 successful sessions with different species which will hopefully produce some great results which I post when I have some time for processing.
Graham Goddard ARPS
Friday, 10 June 2011
The forecast was for good weather and with the days being so long up here, you could literally start at 4am and go through until 11pm. I didn't quite make 4am but we stayed up to watch the sun set at Muckle Flugga at 10.50!
After a few whiskies with Robbie the night before, I clambered out of bed at 6am and made my way to Saxa Vord with Suze to see if we could photograph the Golden Plover and Bonxies in the morning light.
After coming back for some breakfast we popped to an Otter site quite close to Robbies new place, split up, got as comfortable as one can when sitting on rocks with rotting seaweed nearby, and waited. And waited, and waited.......
3 hours passed and nothing showed - i found out later from one of Robbies friends, Brydon Thomason from Shetland Nature Tours, that a group of photographers had recently hammered the site and the otters are now very wary of shutter noise - a shame and very poor from a nature lovers point of view. The subject always has to come first, not the photo ! Disturbance of a feeding animal gives photographers very bad name.......
Suze and I decided to then visit Hermaness as I really wanted to spend a lot of time with the puffins that had been all over the cliffs on Monday. The walk to the cliffs is a killer, even without a stack of gear.
When I arrived, there were no puffins - and that's how it stayed all afternoon. Very strange, but plan b was to walk on to the gannet colony and there I stayed for the rest of the afternoon and evening. Watching the constant action and movement is fascinating - some of the pairs haven't a nest site yet and others had a chick already. Constant noise, movement and that particular smell that only comes from a seabird colony.
Robbie and Suze picked me up at 9.30 and we drove to the top of Saxa Vord for the sunset - none of us are landscapers, so we were probably better off leaving the cameras in the car to be honest, but the sight was amazing.
I'll try and add some pics and links to these posts when I get home so that if you ever decide to visit the island above all others, you'll see what I've been blogging about.
Off for more otters now and then Fetlar for the afternoon.....
Wednesday, 8 June 2011
The Salmon farmer has been farming his stock this week and it looked like a seal had eaten the carcass and disgarded the head which the otter had found.
The otter took the head to the opposite side of the bay and so I had to plan how to get to it - without being seen, heard or smelt !
After some serious fieldcraft - running across a small beach, crawling through a lot of weed and slippery rocks.
I found that the otter must have seen me crossing the beach though as when I arrived however he had scarpered.
The fish head was still there though, so after getting into position, I waited.
Sure enough, after 30 minutes, the otter couldn't resist coming back to his tasty free meal before the gulls got to it.
The otter was incredibly wary, but with poor eyesight, and without being able to pick up my scent(perhaps because by now, my kit now mainly smells of sheep poo and seaweed) he eventually came back to find his prize and I got my shots.
As I can't process here, you'll have to wait to see them (now added though):
The weather is very changeable so I decided to spend the rest of the day on the beach - initially at Skaw, then down at Westing.
Aside from another otter sighting, the day was very quiet apart from a late afternoon trip to the old MOD early warning site at Saxa Vord. And incredible place !
With Suze driving, I managed a few pics of a Golden Plover (new species for me) in pouring rain - I hope the pics come out as they will be dramatic.
It's now 10.20 and not dark yet - if it clears, I'll be up at 4 to catch the dawn !
Tuesday, 7 June 2011
After a brief scare at Edinburgh airport when Logan Air told us that the weight limit for hand luggage had decreased from 10kg to 6kg (we transferred the excess stuff into our pockets and were allowed on the plane !), we arrived on Shetland in glorious sunshine.
After a quick visit to Sumburgh Head we then set out to drive up to Unst.
Mondays weather was poor to start with, but improved all day and at 11pm (!) we watched a super sunset.
Monday morning we saw 3 otters, but the light was poor, so no pictures.
Later we went to Fetlar to see if we could find the Red Necked Phalaropes, but for the second year, they eluded me. After a return to Unst, we spent the rest of the day watching seals, Eiders, Dunlin and Sanderling before an evening visit to Lamberness and the old MOD site at the north of the island.
Today was spent on Hermaness - the walk in wasn't quite as tiring as last year and on arrival at the top, the puffins were everywhere. Being so trusting and curious, they were walking within a few feet of where I was sitting and a joy to watch.
Bonxies were on the hunt for the Puffins, the Fulmars were soaring and showing off on the updrafts and Gannet were constantly streaming past and looking.
Hermaness is a huge place and utterly beautiful. Rugged, windswept, and at this time of year full of the sights, sounds (and smells !) of seabirds.
Dependent upon the wind direction, you can position yourself to get pictures of fulmar and gannet hanging on the updrafts - I hope the pictures I took today are sharp.
Anyway, it's 10.50, still light, but time for bed......
Graham Goddard ARPS
Saturday, 4 June 2011
If you've followed my blog regularly you'll know I visited there last year. I loved it so much I'm going again.
I'm travelling with a friend, Suze, and staying with Robbie Brookes (whose own blog can be found in the blog links section on this page) - he's a great guide, photographer and naturalist and loves to share info about his beautiful island, Unst - the most northerly in the UK.
If I can, I'll post a few trip reports while on location, but pictures will have to wait as I can't load them from my iPad.
Graham Goddard ARPS
Monday, 30 May 2011
All I got was a fleeting glimpse - if I'd been looking in a different direction I wouldn't have seen it.
I racked my brain - what could that have been ? Rabbit - no, tail too long. Hare - no, same reason. Stoat - possibly, but it was slightly too big. Fox - couldn't have been, could it ??
Well, just as I moved forward another one shot across in front of me and into what I could now see was a well used hole. Further inspection revealed obvious signs of use with feathers and the like littering the area.
I retreated, covered my face, pulled my hat down and stayed motionless as I tried to blend with the trunk of a large tree.
10 minutes later, a little head appeared and yes, it was a very young fox cub. In a few moments a second head appeared and after a careful sniff of the air, to charming little cubs emerged from their den to play.
I watched for a few minutes until they spotted me, or picked up my scent, and after a hard stare to work out what I was, they dissappeared and left the area.
The den site is very overgrown and using a 500mm @ f4, I am lucky to be getting shutter speeds above 1/100th, but careful technique and choice of moment is proving successful.
Since I discovered it, I've been back to the site several times a week and have watched the cubs progress. They certainly are growing fast, doubling in size since I discovered them and their coats are turning from a greyish pink to a lovely red.
Not sure how long they will stay around the den, but I intend to make the most of the opportunity to photograph something I've wanted to work on since I got my DSLR.
As I've mentioned, the light is particulary challenging in the area, so rather than attempt to introduce artificial light, I decided to work with the shadows instead.
Here is my best 'moody' effort so far - keep coming back to check for more:
Sunday, 15 May 2011
Spring seemeds to have arrived in a rush and nature has gone mad - some of the birds I watch regulary have bred, had their chicks and are preparing for their second brood. For instance, my local Kingfisher chicks have fledged and the parents are busy digging a second nest tunnel.
One project my friend Calum and I have been working on (for a year now), are badgers, and if you're a regular follower of this blog, you'll know we've not been hugely sucessful.
I discovered a set last year. All the signs indicated it being an active set, but getting shots has proved to be a massive challenge and learning curve, and not to mention an expensive exercise.
Aside from a few super close-up experiences in 2010, photographs were very had to get and we closed our efforts that year with one, not particulary great image.
This year, we set about trying to get some better stuff, and so far, after 2 nights at the set with the cameras, we've come away with some super images. One problem we have though is that in getting the badgers to where we need them. We've been putting out peanuts to tempt them, but of course, they then feed face down so the next challenge is to get them 'face up'.
Here's our first, acceptable effort - the badger is on it's first venture from the set of the evening and busy checking out my camera............more on this project to follow:
Friday, 22 April 2011
Now to the main reason for this entry - possibly my favourite bird in the UK, the Dartford Warbler.
It is a bird that I have sought to photograph for a very long time with my inspiration to do so coming from seeing a wonderful image from the cover of an RSPB magazine a couple of years ago that had a classic, simple image of a Dartford sitting atop a gorse bush, singing his heart out to any ladies present.
Primarily breeding on heathland, often near coasts and using gorse bushes for nesting, the Dartford is insectivorous and populations can and do suffer during harsh winters when insects are hard to come by.
Dartford Warblers are named after Dartford Heath, but the population became extinct there in the early 20th century.
The winter of 1962/1963 was particularly severe and UK numbers dropped to just 10 pairs which shows how fragile this species can become when conditions turn for the worse.
The birds recover well though in good quality habitat, thanks to repeated nesting and a high survival rate for the young and so I am pleased to say that where I photographed my Dartfords, they now have 40+ pairs that survived the last 2 winters well and continue to thrive.
As I said at the start of this piece, I've tried to photograph these super birds for quite a while now but every time I went to find them conditions weren't quite right - too windy (they stay in cover), too wet, or I was simply looking in the wrong place !
Here's the best image I've processed so far from 2 full days at the site:
Saturday, 2 April 2011
Sunday, 27 March 2011
Pretty much all bird species are in breeding plumage and the males are showing off looking for a mate.
Male Pheasants are particularly colourful and will display regularly at this time of year. Carefully choosing your position for the rising, or setting, sun can result in some spectacular images.
I'm rather proud of this one.......
I was after particular shots, rather than record shots and so my photography was limited - I wanted good light and if that didn't happen, then I was happy to just look and show the other guys around the area I know so well and love.
Different birds were moving around each day - we saw Teal, Gadwal, Avocet, Ringed Plover, Snow Bunting, Pink Footed Geese and many other species.
My favourite shot of the weekend was this one of a Teal;
All in all, a great weekend - good fun, some serious photography and best of all - a long weekend in my favourite place of all.