I have had the Linnet jacket from Country Innovation now for several weeks after being chosen as one of their test pilots. The following review is from the time I have spent in the field with this jacket so far. I hadn’t worn this make before due to having other brands that once you sort of buy into one brand you tend to stick with it. I’ve always knew of its quality through friends that go into the outdoors regularly with their binoculars and cameras and some ex army friends.
I have just spent the last two days attending the Hen Harrier Weekend and as I write I’m still slightly overhauled by all the passion and sheer bloody mindedness to save these truly stunning birds I encountered over these two days. This is the second year this event has run now set up by a man I have followed and read his blog and words for many years, Mark Avery. If you end up on his blog without an invite then you’re in trouble as he holds nothing back in his pursuit to see the right thing done for wildlife.
Over the last several weeks I have had many projects on the go, one such project has been watching a pair of beautiful Pied Flycatchers. These birds visit our shores during the spring and summer months from their wintering home of West Africa and live manly in woodland habitat. Their numbers are quite low and they are on the “amber” list of species by the RSPB meaning they aren’t rare but not common too.
I have wanted to photograph this species of bird in their woodland habitat for many years but I haven’t been lucky enough to find them. This year I had found a pair and they were nesting in a small nest box in a beautiful deciduous wood. These birds are beautiful and I was very lucky to have found a pair. They landed on a number of naturally occurring branches around this nestbox and I have composed them showing their home and these branches they are using with the following images.
Up until this point they were doing really well, both parents feeding and everything looked good. Then around lunch time the following day I was watching another part of the wood where they are hunting the flies when I heard a hissing kind of noise from where the nest box was.
I rushed over and saw the male bird hovering in front of the box and making a noise that I can only describe as an alarm call. Then in a flash something came from the nest box and ran down the front of the box. It was a Weasel with one of the chicks. It happened so quick that I didn’t really have time to do anything or to even think. I did manage to capture a few images of him making off with the chick as the male was hovering to see off the Weasel.
What happened over the next hour and a half after this first attack was that the same Weasel came back several times to get the rest of the chicks. But as soon as I saw him I made a loud hissing noise myself and other noises to warn him off. Sometimes he stopped at the base of the tree, others he was up and on top of the box. Each time he left with nothing and this went on for a while. After the first attack the parent birds returned but were jumpy when going to the box, they seemed to know what had happened and stayed back and didn’t return with any food for those hours after the attack.
I wanted to know what had happened inside the box but I had to stop myself from going to see and investigate because I didn’t want to disturb anything or leave my scent on the box and its not right to interfere with nature. I had done my best making sure that the Weasel didn’t get any more chicks during those many attempts. When I left there had been no sighting of the Weasel for several hours and I really hoped when I returned the following day that the chicks survived and the Weasel had moved on.
Nature is beautiful but at times very cruel I know this well but when you witness it for yourself it is upsetting and I can’t blame the Weasel for wanting to feed his family but as I say when you witness animals being killed by others its not nice and I had watched this pair of Flycatchers for a while now and then this happens.
The following day I returned just after dawn, I waited several hours and no return by any adult. Before opening the box I made the noise of the adult bird and gently tapped the outside of the box and there was no noise or calls from inside. At that point I lifted the lid wearing gloves. The Weasel had gone back when I left by the looks of things and had all of them, very sad. Nature is cruel but that’s the circle of life and I learned that very early in my life but it was a real shame.
I spent most of the morning searching the same wood for another pair as there are nest boxes put up for them. As I was looking I always listen to bird calls, they will always let you know what is around. I know the Pied Flycatchers well and I saw a lone male bird that kept coming to another box. Once at the entrance hole he’d paused and then flew off. I didn’t know if he was preparing his nest for inspection for a female or just looking for another nest box or there was already another female inside.
Then I heard ” Have you seen much?” and I turned around and a bloke was standing there, after a few words I recognized him and he me and we got talking as I had last seen him some five years back. I told him about the box that had lost its chicks and that I was watching this new box.
He informed me that a female was sitting on eggs in the box I was watching and that he was here to ring her. Keith is a member of British Trust for Ornithology and is a ringer in the Staffordshire moorlands area for them and has been for many years. He knew me and my work and passion and so he trusted me with this information and I watched him with great care place a small bag over the roof of the nestbox while blocking the entrance hole. Carefully then he removed the bag from the top of the box and inside was this beautiful female Pied Flycatcher.
I asked if I could take a few photos and it was no problem as Keith put the ring on, checked over the bird and once done he let her go. Soon after she was back in the nest. Amazing to be so close and what luck I’ve had at this site I said to myself. From losing a whole family of chicks to then being so close to one and knowing the BTO ringer for the area.
Another truly beautiful bird the Redstart, a pair are sharing the same deciduous wood as these Pied Flycatchers which is wonderful. They are nesting in a nearby old oak tree not far from the new flycatchers nest. I have watched them too over the last few weeks and now the chicks have fledged and I counted around eight in and around the tree tops.
I’m hoping to get a few images of these but they are providing a difficult little subject to get near because their parents have hidden them away and I don’t want to impact on their lives or their parents. The following images are of that Redstart family.
When you go out taking photos of a project or something you love please just stop, sit down and look around you. You will see some many living beings, so many different images all around you. I love to capture this within my work and all you have to do is think outside of the species you are there for and look further afield and you will see natures beauty all around you.
The following images show some of the other birds that share this amazing deciduous wood alongside these Pied Flycatchers.- Blackcap, Song Thrush, Wren, Great Tit. Also there are a few images of the insects that provide food for these birds, an arty photo of ferns.
Also there is an image of a Harvestman which are beautiful little creatures. Harvestmen don’t have a waist or separate abdomen like spiders as they are often mistaken for them. They are part of the Opiliones family which are fascinating. There are some close up images of Long-tailed Mayfly that are very common in this wood too that just looked stunning. The floor of the wood is littered with the Red Campion flower too the place is so beautiful and full of wildlife once you look around you.
I’m hoping to get some images of the Pied Flycatchers feeding their young as I think they have another week or so inside the nextbox. The Redstart chicks are all around the place, and getting a few images of these are harder as they are hidden away so I will not impact on their lives just for a photograph. Fingers crossed this new pair of Pied Flycatchers manage to rear their young successfully and I will be there to capture it I hope.
If I get lucky I will post the photographs in a future blog post just updating this wonderful project I have been doing. Finding your own subjects and photographing them over time is one of the best things as a wildlife photographer you can do. You learn so much more and you never truly know what you will encounter or see where you have to use your own skills and fieldcraft.
Working like this and taking images “as seen” on the ground and alongside nature is the truest form of wildlife photography in an industry full of set ups and pay as you go sites all producing the same images. I would really recommend working like you see here to anyone that whats to learn more about their own wildlife photography and their subjects, good luck and many thanks.
It’s been a busy few weeks for me with One to One bookings and Workshops. Its always really nice for me to go to places that I have had an historical connection with, and alot of the one day workshops I offer visit some of those places that I went to from my early teens. Looking back at times it was a form of coping with my late mums battle with cancer from the age of 12. Where I’d draw what I saw in the absence of a camera, learning so much about nature and those subjects that fascinated me and still do. .
I have a lot to thank nature for and I hope thats reflected in my work today. I’d often take a pencil and paper and just sit and watch Dippers, Water voles along the rivers of the Peak District. I’d get a bus pass and my mum would allow me to catch several buses at the same time packing me up with enough food to last me a week rather than the day. It was an amazing adventure I can always remember and I was very lucky.
With the onset of autumn arriving daily its a wonderful time to be out with your camera and I have really enjoyed meeting several clients over the last few weeks where I have taken them to those same spots I talk about and have very fond memories of.
Knowledge of places and more so animals is key for me and elements that have made my photography really what it is today in the absence of any formal photography lessons or course and help really. A great sense of passion and knowledge and you can’t go wrong as a wildlife photographer.
When I started as a professional wildlife photographer in October 2009 I built my business around some of these places where I take clients now. Nothing is ever promised as I don’t do baited, bird on perch workshops or change an animals behavior by my presence in order to get a certain image. I offer an experience and show what I use employing many different skills learnt from those younger days.
Fieldcraft is key and something I’ve seen talked about alot in recently years. Ive had a few different articles published on the subject which is one if not the strongest tool in any wildlife photographers box when dealing with wild animals in front of your camera.
For me it’s what made me who I am and shaped me and still does as a wildlife photographer. All the images on this post are from those One to Ones over the last several weeks . It was lovely to meet you all and I hope you learned more about your subjects at the same time improved your wildlife photography.
I’m often asked what bit of camera gear is the best.? What do you think of this make and model..? How did you get into wildlife photography..? How can I take images like you..?? Every time if they are in front of me, I touch my heart and point at my eye, meaning your image is created in your heart and projected through your eye. I often get a puzzled look, a look of confusion and awkwardness but them the reassuring smile replaces that puzzled look and people get me then and understand my point.
Passion, time-served knowledge, fieldcraft, love and respect for your subjects come way before any make and model of camera and this is something I always say and have done. Put this with my historical connections with wildlife and places I’m then able to see those image that I later capture with my camera. The best advice I can give to anyone in this time of I want it now and overnight is to spend time with nature, watch, look and learn then introduce your camera and slowly it should all come together.
Anything I have touched on here if you require more information on then please contact me here. Many thanks to all my clients again over the last month or so and I wish you all well with your photography.
As the year draws to an end now and my favorite 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 photo tours and trips. I really hope I’ve helped and inspired you all into seeing the wonderful and amazing world of wildlife that’s all around us.
Thank you all for your support during the last year, and I look forward to welcoming all my clients booked on my many trips for next year and one to ones.
This slideshow I hope inspires you to not only love nature but to spend as much time as you can among her beauty. Nature is and always will be a massive healer of the mind and body for me, my images capture what I saw my work and slideshows take each person on a journey of beauty I was privileged to see.
A major sign for me that the onset of Autumn and Winter is around the corner are the Spring Tides that happen around our coastline at this time of year symbolising the changing seasons, as we leave the Summer and enter into the lovely, warming colours of Autumn where the trees lose their coat of leaves, left exposed and bare to the elements, to the frosty Winter mornings, with the winter sunset proceeding over frozen landscapes where things take just that bit longer to awaken.
No where does this amazing spectacle happen better than on the North Norfolk coastline, an area that supports thousands of Waders, Geese, and other birds during our Autumn and Winter months.
A brief explanation of these Spring Tides is when the gravitational effects of the Sun and the Moon combine, resulting in these Spring Tides which have nothing to do with the season of spring. The term refers to the action of the seas springing out and then springing back. These are times of high high tides and low low tides. A spring tide occurs when the moon is in its second and fourth quarters, more commonly known as the new and full moon phases respectively.
You get them all year but their numbers are greater during our Autumn and Winter months resulting in this amazing experience, accompanied with the sights and sounds of nature you’ll never forget. I have spent the last three days there with clients who booked these Spring Tide/Barn Owl days I run.
Birds start to take off as the others wait on the ground for their turn to join their group and return to the sea. Peeling off , perfectly timed formations take to the air back to where they belong, the power and force can be felt as you sit in the hides. With the photograph above I wanted to convey this moment, a truly amazing site within our wonderful wildlife in this country.
Knot, Dunlin and other waders were arriving each day, their numbers increasing all the time forming their customary aerial flocks where they fly inches from each other, twisting and turning, a breathtaking site to witness. My clients captured some great images and have taken away valuable advice and tips, and techniques that I use and apply to my own photography, where I show and teach not only these but concentrate on fieldcraft, the habitat and the environment of the subject, reading what is happening around you.
All of these skills can be taken home by the client and applied to their own photography where hopefully over time they will help to increase and improve their overall photography skills, techniques and images, as this is the main aim of all the one to one/workshops that I do.
The weather during this time would be best described as a mixed bag, the sun broke through and rose in the east lighting up this beautiful yet bleak place on a couple of the mornings. We had a amazing sunset on some of the evenings, alot of the time though it was overcast but the clouds did clear after a few light showers. The light is amazing just after rain, where the atmosphere is cleansed and there is a clearer light perfect for taking photographs. The numbers of Oystercatchers were high where they like to form large flocks on the land, constantly calling with their piercing call.
I always say to clients that there is always a shot to be had so while we were waiting for the larger flocks I wanted to show and demonstrate the effect of using aslow shutter speed and what it can produce, where a sense of movement in the subject is frozen and captured giving the image a sense of impending movement. Adding a little drama to a photograph, as shown below with a flock of Knot altogether on the sandbanks. Freezing that movement, and adding movement to the image as well as making the most of the overcast conditions where the photographs look like they are taken in black and white.
There are so many different subjects to photograph on the Norfolk coastline that its a wildlife photographers dream in my eyes, and a great place to learn about these subjects and these amazing events by watching and capturing their behaviors, flight patterns and so fourth. Where all the birds are being pushed closer to the shoreline by the incoming spring tide, forcing them closer to the shore, landing, taking flight until the very last piece of land is submerged by the sea, all the time the birds fly around in vast numbers mostly for protection avoiding the raptors that work this stretch of coastline in large numbers looking for an easy meal.
It was a great few days for all my clients and I was really happy that they got some if not all of the shots that they wanted. We finished off each day at one of the many different Barn Owl sites I know in Norfolk. They weren’t disappointed with views of the female and male quartering and hunting for food. We also had a viewing of their young which was brilliant to see.
With the changing seasons, come changing wildlife, and throughout the Autumn/Winter period I will be running many different days capturing the stunning wildlife the UK has to offer during our shorter months. Mountain Hares in the Peak District, the only place outside of Scotland you can see them, Fallow and Red Deer rutting at two different sites, Whooper Swans start arriving to spend their Winters with us, these days are on the North-West Coast of the UK. Short-Eared Owls and Raptors on this coastline also. All these days and many more can be booked either through my one to ones or the workshops page seen here.
One of my clients, Steve Tucker has wrote a wonderful review I wanted to share with you. Hes a well schooled photographer in his own rights. I have had the pleasure of his company now twice and he’s had some wonderful images and encounters on both days. To read his review please click here.
I’d like to thank all my clients for your company over the last three days, its been great to show you the amazing wildlife and events that happen in this part of the UK. I will be running these Spring Tides/ Barn Owl days throughout the year so should you wish to find out more information on these amazing days or any other the other brilliant days I have mentioned here then please send me an email many thanks.
I have had a wonderful response to my talks since I added this recently to my website making it easier to book me for a talk. Have a look at the link if you wish to book me and I travel to anywhere throughout the UK to present my work. I go through how I work and my slideshows will inspire and show you the true beauty of the natural world around us.
One of my recent talks at the Natural History Museum in London can be seen below just giving you some idea what I show and go through hope you enjoy.
I’m available for talks covering a wide range of topics showing his beautiful images along with some moving music that is all geared to take you on a beautiful journey into the natural world. I have also been approached to talk aboard in Europe and further afield so if you live outside of the UK and wish to book me then check out the following link many thanks.