Entries in the ‘Articles’

Havoc At High Tide

Filed in Articles, Events on Feb.02, 2010

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.

Female Stonechat

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.

Incoming Tide

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.

.Waiting SEO

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

Fox

 

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.

Fox

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.

Shrew

Shrew

Field Vole

Field Vole

Field Vole

Field Vole

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.

Crow

Crow With Prey

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.


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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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Countryfile Photographic Competition 2009

Filed in Articles, In the Press on Oct.10, 2009

My photograph taken of a female Barn Owl with prey flying over farmland in Norfolk at dawn made it to the final 50 in the ‘Countryfile Photographic Competition 2009’, chosen from nearly 33,000 entries.Joe Brand had picked my image out on the programme on BBC1 as one she liked saying  ‘I liked this,a barn owl flying home with food’

Barnowl

 

The image was taken in the first rays of sunlight and I got into place at around 4.00am and waited, then this female dived for something to my front and I followed her in my camera’s viewfinder as she flew straight towards me with this vole she had caught.With the poor light it was hard to get any shutter speed to freeze the action and out of many this one was the best with this beautiful pink,morning light as the sun came up in the left of this photo.

A moment I will treasure forever and never forget as Barn Owl’s are one of my favorite birds and to have seen this was great.


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Dippers Of The Dale

Filed in Articles on Oct.04, 2009

My “Dippers Of The Dale” article I wrote and supplied the images to in October’s issue of  Birdwatching Magazine has had a great response from it’s readers and colleagues and friends of mine.The Dipper has been a bird that has captivated me since I was a small boy and Lathkill Dale NNR in the Peak District is a beautiful place and one of the best place’s in the country to see these amazing ‘Masters of the river’ as I call them

Dipper

 

A sample of the response’s can be seen below in an email sent to the Editor Of Birdwatching Magazine;

Dear Editor-Bird Watching Magazine, I wish to congratulate Craig Jones on his article(October 2009 Edition-Birdwatching Magazine)on the continuing bad behaviour of some dog walkers in Lathkill Dale in the Peak District.Reading his article I was powerfully reminded of witnessing dogs encouraged to enter the water by their owners whilst walking in Lathkill Dale earlier this year.As a keen birdwatcher,I wrote to the Peak District National Park Authorityand to Natural england and received helpful letters from them both.

The rules talk about the requirement to keep a dog under ‘close control’ but as Craig indicates in his article,this is clearly not sufficient.The Natural England correspondent wrote that is was their view that a requirement to keep all dogs on leads would not tackle the persistent offenders.I am afraid that dog proof fencing of the waters is now required as Craig seem’s to suggest.In any case,I would like to encourage visitors to the Dales to report incidents of poorly controlled  effort to promote stricter protection for the Dipper and the other wildlife.

Sincerely

Dr D Brawn

Suffolk

The situation is affecting a lot of visitor’s to this area and many other places around the country where freshwater meets Dogs and Dippers/Wildlife and the more the issue is raised the more people will know and maybe something will change.I would like to thank Matt Merritt/Features Editor for allowing me to highlight this issue in such a great manner in your magazine and hopefully I can keep your readers up to date with developments  to see if anything has changed there.

I hope to educate others to change our approach on how we view wildlife so we can conserve the beauty around us and protect the Dipper,to allow future generations to enjoy the same charismatic behaviour that sparked my love for this bird.

Dipper


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