My blog will be a little quiet over the next two weeks as I venture off to the island of Sumatra. What a waits me is a chance to see and photograph one of the last frontiers of rainforest habitat anywhere in the world, the only place left in the world where wild Tigers, Rhinos, Elephants and Orangutans live alongside each other.
Spotlight Sumatra is an idea which has been around for almost two years. No script and nothing pre-planned as such, it’s just me and my guides trekking through the jungle and hoping to capture critically endangered Sumatran Orangutans that are hanging onto life there. Fingers crossed I will be also going out on rescues, as currently SOS staff know of many stranded Orangutans either kept as pets or cut off, surrounded by a sea of bare, burnt land or palm plantations. They need to be moved and this involves staff darting them and then moving them to safety. Such important work to safeguard these guardians of the rainforests. One happy ending can be seen here.
I will be seeing at first hand the work that the charity along with many others are doing out there. I will be presenting some slideshows in their ‘cycle powered’ cinema too, showing the locals wildlife outside of Sumatra. Also showing the people that the world cares and is watching the fate of their country and wildlife. I will be updating SOS back in the UK when and where I can while on this amazing adventure. Their blog can be seen here. There will be a few talks planned also in late October- showing you these amazing animals and Sumatra. For more news on this then please keep checking on SOS’s website.
My simple aim is to hopefully give the Sumatran Orangutans a voice through my images. I hope to capture some amazing images and see the variety of wildlife that lives on the ‘Isle of Gold’ that Sumatra was once known as in ancient times. I hope I can do them proud!
Quartering over farmland, hovering with moth like silence, flying effortlessly on the wing in the half-light at dawn or dusk is the supreme hunter, the Barn Owl. A bird that has always created a sense of great excitement and fascination for me. In British folklore, a screeching Barn Owl is believed to predict that a storm or cold weather was imminent. During a storm, if a Barn Owl was heard, it indicated that the storm was nearly over.
The custom of nailing a Barn Owl to a barn door to warn off evil persisted into the 19th century, something you just wouldn’t believe people would do but back then strange things went on and happened to these amazing owls.
The Barn Owl had a sinister reputation, a bird of darkness, where people associated it with death. The Ancient Greeks and Romans saw owls as a symbol of wisdom. Athena the goddess of wisdom is often depicted in art with an owl perched on her shoulder. Sometimes owls were also viewed as messengers from the gods, full of wisdom and helpfulness.
Over the last several weeks I have been watching a family of Barn Owls live out their lives in an old disused building overlooking some beautiful countryside . In some of the most testing weather since records begin two adult owls have raised three healthy chicks that now are almost ready to take their places among our countryside. With the wettest June on record it’s been hard work watching the parent birds put their own lives on the line by hunting in this wet weather.
A lot of the time though the weather has broken and this has allowed the owls to hunt and build up their larders of food which is a key behaviour among Barn Owls. This stored food then helps during the long periods of wet weather.
With no sign of improvement it’s hard to believe its summertime in the UK. I like to study air pressures and weather fronts as it really helps within my work. The reasons for this wet weather are simple when you take a look at the weather charts, the jet stream.
During most summers the jet stream lies to the north of the UK, so rain-bearing weather fronts and depressions miss us and hit Scandinavia instead. This year however this jet stream has shifted southwards and is lying over France and southern Europe, this has left the UK wide open to these depressions and all this wet weather.
One possibility to what maybe moving this jet stream is warming temperatures between the Arctic and the tropics and the shrinkage of the north polar ice cap. These changing weather conditions and patterns may be around a lot more than we think in the future where alongside wildlife we’ll have to learn to live and change alongside this ever present climate change that are here to stay for sure.
My hide is some distance away, completely hidden from view and well camouflaged. The image above is the view I have from my hide and one of the perches they are using now, exercising their wings and doing their tester flights just before sunset each evening. I move my hide to a different place under the cover of darkness as not to disturb them and also once the dawn light comes up the wildlife will see the hide and accept it as part of the landscape. Again cutting down on any stress, and disturbance to the wildlife and in this case the Barn Owls.
With a mixture of different focal lengths, tele-convertors, crop modes in camera and time I’ve been able to photograph this family and capture them going about their lives at this location. Wild Barn Owls are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and so should never be disturbed in any way. I am using really high ISO’s on my camera in order to get some shutter speed, as they aren’t coming out until around 9-9.30pm. I never use any sort of flash with wildlife as I feel any form of bright light suddenly hitting an animals retina disturbs the subject.
When you work somewhere new like this site, you gradually build a picture of movements, favourite natural perches, flight patterns etc. This is a skill you have to learn in order to try and second guess where and when your images will come from. This takes time and is very time consuming but for me its the very essence of real wildlife photography. At the same time you learn so much about the subject, and the habitat in which they live. The image above is of the paler male Barn Owl perched on a stone lintel, he is so stunningly beautiful.
The Barn Owls use the main barn as well as some smaller buildings which often both the adult and young perch on. Hours pass by, with nothing, not a sound, then a white flash passes by my hide, a corus of loud hissing noises can be heard as the adult owls come in with prey. This image below is the male Barn Owl who likes to perch on the pitch of this old roof here and on this evening my hide was close and by pure luck he landed, stopped and looked straight through me.
I was too close really, so I went for a close up of his amazing and beautiful, heart-shaped face. I managed to take just one photo on silent mode before he flew off and carried on hunting, and this is that amazing moment captured here. The male has much lighter plumage around the breast and face and has a completely white chest nothing else, the female on the other hand is slightly bigger and has black spots on her chest.
The ability to see things that are hidden and hunt completely undetected are key to a Barn Owls life and survival. Often without warning they arrive and vanish before you have any chance to capture this. I always like to capture wildlife as seen on the ground, going about their lives with no disturbance by my presence at all, I like to compose my subjects on whatever they land on.
They are venturing out more and more now and it won’t be long before they completely leave the comfort of this building and start to live and roost among the many trees littering the surrounding landscape. When I leave the site in almost total darkness I often see one or both of the parent birds flying over the farmland with one of the younger ones in tow, their white bodies giving an almost floating appearance as they fly and dive.
Maybe they are having hunting lessons, learning their craft, who knows but it’s very enduring to see and both adult owls have been brilliant parents that have managed to feed and bring up their brood in some of the wettest weather since records begin.
I hope to continue to follow the progress of this Barn owl family over the next several months, where any day now the young will fully fledge and leave the place that’s been their home now for several months. Its been a special and privileged time for me to witness these amazing owls live their lives around me. Often I’ve just sat and marveled at their antiques, and behaviours, with each youngster having their own personality. They is one that’s just slightly smaller than the others and seems to need more attention from his parents which is so enduring to see and watch.
I will be releasing a few more Barn Owl limited edition prints soon which will be available framed or unframed and in canvas format to go along one of my favourite ones that can be seen and purchased here if you scroll down to the bottom of the page. Where 50% of the profits from each sale go to this trust I support with my work, because I love Barn owls and want to help them.
The Barn Owl Conservation Handbook is a comprehensive guide for ecologists, surveyors, land managers and ornithologists written by the Barn Owl Trust. I help this trust in any way I can in order to help this amazing owl keep safe and it’s survival. After the launch of this guide last week I received this from the Barn Owl trust, which was wonderful and I’m so glad my Barn Owl images can help. Dear Craig
I am very pleased to say that the Barn Owl Conservation Handbook we started writing in January 2010 has finally arrived and the first copies are being mailed out today. This publication represents a major milestone in the Trusts history.
On behalf of my co-authors and all the books future beneficiaries I would like to thank you for your unique contribution in providing your wonderful photograph of a Barn Owl hunting in flight during daylight that appears in colour on the back cover alongside Mike Toms testimonial.
Without your photos, the Handbook would not be as good as it is. Thank you very much indeed. David
David J Ramsden MBE
Click here to be taken to their website and to purchase this guide. Also this as many charities in today’s times is run on donations so if you can help them to carry on their wonderful work then please do so and visit their website by clicking here many thanks.
Spotlight Sumatra see’s me going to the island of Sumatra alone in mid September for two weeks, staying with the locals in something called home stay. A small but comfortably home within the jungle landscapes. Alongside my guides and helpers for this trip we will venture into the jungles for up to three, four days at a time even longer if we are lucky, to track and photograph these Orangutans. Jungle life will be basic but great, a sort of rough camping but off the floor as you never sleep on the jungle floor for your own safety.
I am hoping to capture some amazing images of Orangutans that SOS can use to sell promote and help raise the plight of this great ape that maybe the first great ape to become extinct should continued trends contuie in the destruction of their forest homes. There will be more news of this amazing expedition that will take me deep into the jungles of Sumatra in due cause.
I have donated a Limited edition Barn Owl print which can be seen above along with a one to one wildlife photography day with myself to help rise some money towards Sumatran Orangutan Societies Jungle VIP auction. Joining the list of celebrities taking part in the auction, hoping to raise as much money as possible to help this charity in saving this great ape.
Thank you to all that have helped so far and many thanks to the lucky winner who won my one to one and signed print which can be seen here on ebay. The auction carries on until March 31st with new stuff being added all the time. To keep up to date on the latest items please visit the website of SOS here many thanks.
I will be posting more news over the coming months on my blog as interest in this expedition grows. Where the sole aim of this trip is to highlight the plight of this most beautiful of apes and our closests living relative. I will be showing you the kit I’m taking, clothing and equipment. Doing live updates for SOS’s blog and my own, hopefully transporting you to this rarely visited part of the world which will be amazing, the trip cannot come quicker enough. I look forward to taking you all there on this amazing journey to Sumatra.
As the year draws to an end now and my favourite time of year is just around the corner; Christmas, I would just like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas. Many thanks to all the wonderful people I have met this year on my workshops and trips and I do really hope I have helped you all, inspired you all in seeing the wonderful and amazing world of wildlife around us at the same time getting the very best from your kit to use on the ground in the simplest of ways. I look forward to welcoming all my clients booked on my many trips for next year and one to ones.
With all my Christmas shopping done early this year I spent the least amount of time within the urban jungle I live in, fighting my way through this habitat in which I am least equipped for, I just have the last dash before Christmas to get the cream for my trifle, which I do each year, a family recipe from my late mum which I still make each Christmas as a form of comfort in more ways than one.
Having done this all early this has allowed me more time to carry on my work with the amazing and graceful Short eared Owls on the north west coast of the UK. Having spent many days and hours at these owl sites I have got use to alot of their patterns, their larders in which they store their catch while the going is good. They are beautiful birds and often I have this place to myself as I watch for the slightest movement on the ground. They are normally late risers and their liking for a lie in sometimes catches you off guard and one minute nothing.
Then once you make a cup of tea or do something else and look up there before you is the flapping of their wings and the faint call or hiss as they awaken and start gliding through the air with those large wings, a mixture of beats and flaps followed by a graceful soar then this routine is repeated as they hunt. I am always greatly touched upon seeing wildlife go about their lives around me and this spurs me on to hide away more, not wanting to break that trust you build up over time.
These images I have been processing took me back to my recent time spent with these owls, where I relived every moment as I was processing each special moment captured. Some I shot into the natural light, some I under-exposed and over-exposed creating a hi key effect which I love. I also used the blurring effect to create movement with some, this gives the image a sense of movement and when shot in portrait composition it gives a dramatic effect which brings my creative side to the surface. You pick up the subject as early as possible then with your camera and lens firmly attached to your tripod follow or pan keeping your focus on the subject the best you can.
Hidden away having watched these owls now for some time I got alot of information about their ways and patterns and I chose to hide away, low to the ground hidden and camouflaged with the wind in my face to take any noise away from the approaching owl, no fast movements, nothing that would make these owls jump or be scared in his pursuit of food.
I saw him coming towards me so here I waited, waited and then once he was so close he almost filled my viewfinder and I pressed my shutter capturing several amazing close ups, this is one I love with the sense of movement captured in the wings by the slow shutter speed while I nailed the focus on his face, giving that sense of impending movement to the image. Every moment I spend with nature is special to me and everyday my life is enriched with its beauty and time spent with these owls of late was no exception, a wonderful, close, special moment with this owl as he went about his business and I watched and marvelled at his skills in hunting and catching prey, his flight patterns, his calls, his ability to fly and turn without warning, just amazing!
For me wildlife photography is about using your skills and knowledge of wildlife together in the pursuit of capturing an image from the wild where nothing has been changed by man. As a professional I think I have a duty of care to not only the subject but also to the general public to show an image as seen on the ground. This approach is the whole foundation to my work. In an age when there are lovely images everywhere you look I think images should be judged today on the amount of effort and knowledge and fieldcraft used in order to capture an image as personally I don’t like anything that is to contrived or set up where the animal is made to do something in order to get an image almost like a master and servant, where if you do something you get a prize for that, it has to be unplanned, unscripted and true for me.
My passion for wildlife goes alot deeper than just an image, I watch, study, listen and spend time in watching their behaviour, trying to work with the animals and sometimes when I get an image I feel I have cheated the subject by using my skills in capturing that given image by laying in weight having studied them I hope that makes sense. When I watch an animal I have that connection and I shoot with my heart and eye and I build that trust and care for the subject and when I have taken the image and captured that priceless moment I worry if I have betrayed that trust built up through patience, fieldcraft and care.
I care about every image I take and what I do, I love wildlife and nature means the world to me, it has helped me in life and instilled a great peace from an early age, nature helps in many ways, its beauty brings joy in so many ways and its presence in people lives helps them to live and breathe and at this special time of year it’s even more important I feel to embrace what we have around us all. A few of my favorite images from the last twelve months are in the following slideshow, showing the true beauty of wildlife.
One of my Barn Owl images graces January’s issue of the much respected BBC Wildlife magazine which is on sale now, its always lovely to see your work in print. I spent two months watching and photographing this male Barn Owl during one of the countries coldest spells of weather for decades. At times it was hard to watch as he was hunting in all weathers and times of the day in a desperate attempt to feed in order to survive, how cruel nature can be to its own sometimes. he did survive though and all ending well for this fellow. Thank you to Wanda for requesting the image and Sophie Stafford, the editor, for having this image in your magazine.
And just before I go I wanted to just update you all as I go live in the new year as PhotoTraining4U’s Wildlife Master. I will be doing a series of short films following me through some of my work in the field, tips and advice when working with animals in the wild and much more. You will see how I work, get a chance to ask questions relating to my work or questions, advice and help in regard to your own work. If you wish to join then quote the following affiliate code: 7816 when joining. Click on the small icon above and this will take you to this site which is an online site for all your photography needs.
It just leaves me to say I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and new year and I wish you all the best for 2012, many thanks.
Winter announced its arrival recently bringing to an end one of the warmest autumns since records began with gales, icy winds and snow in parts of the UK. While the seasons change from autumn into winter there seems to have been an invasion of Short-eared Owls to various areas around the UK. These birds come down from the moorland and higher ground during our winter months to spend their time at sea level before departing back to the higher breeding grounds come February and March. The numbers of this most striking of owls has been up on last years and at this rate looks set to match the brilliant numbers of 2009.
Many of these birds are being seen across the whole country at present indicating a fantastic year for their main food source of voles and small rodents. One of the many things that is good about these beautiful birds is that they hunt in mainly daylight, particularly from mid-afternoon onwards and they can stay in an area through the winter months providing the voles and other small rodents in which they feed mainly on remain at a good level.
This year has been a bumper year for voles with the warming temperatures making it ideal conditions for these small mammals to breed. Birds are coming from the continent also to take advantage of the plentiful food source experts have recorded. Over the last couple of weeks I have visited several places of which I have photographed these owls in the past and as mentioned 2009 for me was one of the best years, but this year may just beat that as numbers and sightings continue to rise each week.
Bright yellow eyes that look at first glance as though they are frowning if they look at your directly. With their pale faces acting to enhance their most striking of features, those bright eyes. Hidden away I watch and scan the marshland and rough grazing grounds that these owls love to feed and live on and being a ground dwelling bird they blend in so well with their plumage colours.
Their feathers a mixture of bold bands and rings forming a wonderful pattern that renders them invisible once they are on the ground. Sometimes you hear them before you see them, a loud short “bark” like call echoes across the area. They are normally late risers, starting to hunt from lunchtime onwards but I have noticed after a period of wet weather they can come out from first light, as they need to feed and recover lost time and build up those supplies of food that will see them through the cold weather.
Once in the air you witness their broad, stiff wings flap with great purpose almost in a slow motion fashion, covering the ground well with each rise and fall of their wing beats. Once they leave the sky and come down low you almost lose them among the vegetation colours, until you see their white under wings as they pass by. The distinctive black bands and bold barred tail standing proudly as they glide in between their wing beats.
I have had mixed fortune with the weather so far, after one of the mildest autumns since records begin the weather has changed getting colder with windy and wet weather a lot of time, with the odd break in the cloud sometimes, warming the areas in which these owls are at present. In weather that all owls dislike and choose not to hunt in, survival is by feeding on their larder of food which they stock pile when the goings good and keeps they going until hopefully the weather breaks. If the weather doesn’t change I have known Short-eared Owls to leave an area, vanish to warmer climets way before the late February get away, back to their breeding grounds.
Their bright yellow eyes are surrounded by smudged black makeup, set in a large round, disc like shaped face which is stunning to the eye as they glare at you before flying past. They always seem so startled by the world around them as I watch them hunt or perhaps that’s defiance, but they are full of character and self belief and watching them hunting and comb an area for prey is a magical experience to witness.
They fly warily around each other, closing and drifting apart, rising and falling, slowly spiraling in wide circles, as they drift across the marshland. Notoriously during the breeding seasons they are very territorial and fiercely defensive of their area. But during the winter months as they glide around our countryside almost in a nomadic manner are very tolerant of each other.
I am hoping the cold weather of the last two winters doesn’t happen this year as along with the Barn Owl many Short eared Owls died due to being unable to feed and break through the frozen ground that at times was covered in snow for days even weeks at a time making the whole process of finding food a real contest of pure survival.
I will be concentrating my efforts in the sites I have known for many years over the next several months and I hope to capture a few more images and spend some time filming and watching these beautiful owls. I will update my blog on how I get on during that time and fingers crossed the weather doesn’t betray them, forcing them to move on to other areas.
WWT Photography Competition 2011-2012
I am delighted to have been asked for a second year to become one of the regional judges in this brilliant photography competition. Over the last week I have judged two categories which I was assigned from the Martin Mere wetland centre. Choosing my selection from the autumn heat which then goes onto the final. When the competition closes on 31 August 2012 all regional heat winners will go through to the grand national final to be held in autumn 2012. Then the Portfolio Photographer will be chosen and awarded the grand prize of a trip to Antarctica.
The winter heat is now open until the 29th February 2012 so click on the following link for more information and details of how to enter this brilliant competition. I visit Martin Mere quite a lot, and during the winter months they have the beautiful Whooper and Bewick Swans as visitors, as they spend their winter months with us before heading back north to their summer breeding grounds. The image above was taken at Martin Mere showing three Whooper Swans flying in against the cold winter sky on a frosty day.The very best of luck to everyone that enters.
I have really missed going down to the river of late where I have been watching and documenting the trails and tribulations of the Kingfishers that live in this private and untouched area. This has been as a result of workshops and one to ones and other projects I am currently working on. Over the last week or so along with the freezing cold days, I have made the dawn starts to go and see the Kingfishers on a stretch of the River Trent not to far from my Staffordshire home, wondering if they have left for the coast to feed, as this is a behaviour in Kingfishers when their food supply drys up or the rivers and inland streams that they live on freeze up.
When I get to the river in the darkness I set up my hide on the frozen ground, having to wade through a small piece of the river to reach where I place my hide. On some days access isn’t possible due to the rising waterline and in the past the river has risen, only for me to arrive and my hide has been taken by the currents. This makes the whole project which I started some time ago now even more special and untouched. If you respect a place it may give up its secrets to you. I totally immerse myself in this little wilderness rarely visited by the outside world due to its private nature, almost like the wildlife it supports.
I have dedicated as much of my time as possible to these Kingfishers, more so the young gorgeous female I have watched grow over the last several months, fighting back with her parents refusing to be pushed out by those who once loved and protected her, claiming a piece of this rich and diverse wilderness for herself. I get over joyed when I first see her, chuffed shes making her mark, a broad smile lights up my face as deep down I am routing for her to succeed and have a family, continuing the ‘magic’ blue flashes you see when they fly low to the water.
In my experience working with these Kingfishers, you can wait almost all day for one passing glimpse as they fly up and down the river, you only real indication they are around sometimes is their piercing loud call which breaks through the ever present sound of the moving water. Briefly landing on the perches then vanish, on my last visit there I did briefly see a Mink and saw a few footprints around. The Mink is a medium-sized member of the weasel family, the first American Mink were brought to British fur farms in 1929 and all wild Mink in Britain today are descendants of escapees. Their natural wild colouring is a glossy dark brown, appearing almost black in some light.
My own sightings over the last few days have been amazing , where I have witnessed them feeding, swimming and actively seeking out prey, which is bad for the wildlife in and around rivers and this one in particular due to the Kingfishers. I have not seen any Watervoles, their prints or droppings, their declining numbers put down to this introduced species which is in a no win situation, a proven killer that can swim, climb and tackle prey much bigger than themselves just going about its business. I have never been so close to these animals, and having rarely seen one before, I was lost for words, as this one fished and went about its life feet away from me allowing me a view into his very private life.
I watched in total amazement as this Mink heard something then carried on, at one point stalking a Moorhen he’d seen. As you can see from one of the photographs where I have captured him with a front paw raised, a beautiful looking animal whose coat was in stunning condition. I have the extreme weather conditions to thank and lady luck twinned with my own fieldcraft, at one point I had left my hide and stalked him through the icy cold water, kneeing in the swallow bit of the river, lowering my tripod legs very,very slowly as not to spook him.
He was only feet away from me, the wind blowing my scent away, all parts of my body were covered as light is reflected from skin and I stayed as low as possible for this incredible encounter that I chose to film, he was in a shaded area so it appears to be dark but I truly had no time to make the adjustments in camera as I filmed this incredible moment.
One of those truly beautiful moments where I was allowed to watch this shy and elusive creature for a few minutes. I didn’t see him again that day but they are fairly active in this area as on previous visits I have seen track marks and kill sites, so I am hoping maybe to have these kind of sightings once more in the future.
As the minutes turned into hours and the shorter days resulted in less light I hadn’t seen the Kingfisher and I was thinking two things, firstly that they had left for the coast to find food, but the river wasn’t frozen, or secondly, something had happened to them and then my thoughts turned to the Mink. Then in the distance I could just make her out, great; shes alive I said, she seemed to be fishing from the higher branches of the various different trees that litter the riverbank, from old to new trees, covering the banks with a natural fence line.
I have captured a few images I love, backlit with slight contrasty light, but I loved the effect with the hue of the frosty blue forming a slight colour to these images, with the snow in parts adding a real atmosphere to the photographs.
I had waited hours before she briefly appeared in front of my hide, checking it out and watching me as she heard the shutter noise, the water was so cold the blueish colour can be seen behind the Kingfisher as she had a look below her before flying off.
A really beautiful looking bird who has grown up and seems really settled now on this stretch of the river. I am going to try and capture her over the coming year , fingers crossed I hope, as I really love my time down by the river, watching, waiting for that moment of magic when she appears from nowhere, stays, looks around and goes as quick as she arrived alongside the other wonderful wildlife I have witnessed there too.
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.
I have been photographing Short-eared Owls over the last couple of weeks at one of my sites on the North-West Coast of the UK where they migrant to in the winter months, it’s pre-dominantly a stronghold for Short-eared Owls during the non-breeding season and this time of year.Most Short-eared Owls are upland,pasture and moorland hunters,but during the colder months in these areas their prey becomes scarce so the birds move to areas where their food of voles,rodents and other small mammals is more abundant, hence why they are said to migrate during this period when really its just about surviving the colder months.
They favour coastal,marshland,reedbeds and rough grazing habitat during the winter months,often coming down to lower altitudes from their upland/moorland summer habitats. With the weather being so wet over the last few weeks the opportunities to see them, let alone photograph these most beautiful of the owl family have been very slim on the ground but I managed to capture some images.But over the next 2 months I hope to get some beautiful shots of these owls hunting like I did last year with the image below.
I love their faces with their ‘Disc-Like’ shape to it and those ‘Fierce’ looking eyes that for me make these a beautiful looking bird.They are one of the few owls that regularly hunt and appear in broad daylight,often visible at long range,listen out for the males call, a deep, booming sound – ‘boo-boo-boo-boo’ when you are looking for them.During this time of year they are very tollerate of other birds/owls and most of the time can be seen hunting together over the marshland here where numbers of 15,20+ have been counted in the past in this area alone,with one communal roost with a maximum of 28 owls in it.
I will keep my blog updated on my progress in capturing these birds ,weather permitting,but in the meantime when you go and visit marshland,coastal reedbeds etc just look out for these birds especially at this time of year and listen out for their calls and remember their eye sight is amazing so wear muted,camoflaged clothing to ensure you give yourself the best chance of seeing these beautiful birds and try to stay as still as possible.Good luck and if you would like any futher help and advice on these birds please contact me and I’ll do my best.