Entries in the ‘Wildlife’

Dartford Warbler-Natures Beauty

Filed in Wildlife on Mar.19, 2011

The highly secretive and stunningly beautiful  Dartford Warbler  photographed here among its health land habitat further North from its more Southernmost stronghold in the UK.  A tiny, secretive bird, often only ever glimpsed darting between bushes on lowland heaths.  They emit a harsh rattling call before vanishing into cover, only to reappear somewhere else having worked their way through the thick cover they love to live in.  I have been really lucky to have seen this bird so close after travelling to many wonderful places in the UK on the lookout for this attractive bird with a hope of seeing and photographing its beauty.  The Dartford Warbler is rare in the UK and lives almost exclusively in the South.  It was first found in England in 1787.

To watch him was amazing, his lively and very nimble movements, hoping from one perch to another, twitching his wings and tail every so often. He spent long periods concealed in the vegetation offering only the briefest of glimpses, his bright red, angry looking eye peering at me from the thick, thorny thickets.  Every so often he’d appear and gain the highest vantage point in which to sing from, his song was very distinctive and harsh and high in pitch once heard you never forget this call and then he’d vanish for a while.  The first indicator he was around was his call, as it stood out among the other bird calls on the moors.

The challenge was to second guess where he’d appear allowing me a clean, full length photograph of him, using fieldcraft and blending in, as I was not using a hide making it hard to pin down a certain place he’d appear and come out from cover using the many natural perches open to him.  The colour of these birds set them apart from many UK birds for me, a dark grey head and back with a dark wine-red chest and underside with white fine spots on and the most beautiful eyes you’ve seen in a bird, bright red, almost angry looking in appearance, just a stunning bird standing as proud as punch singing away among the heathlands, an amazing time with this amazing bird.

What truely amazed me was how well the different colours of this bird blended into his environment, where the colours of mother nature worked together so well in letting this shy bird completely blend in and become totally unseen. The rich colours of the heathland lending their colours almost identically to those of the Dartford Warbler , a clear view to just how wonderful nature his.

In the past the bird has been vulnerable to changes in climate and two harsh winters left just 11 pairs of the bird in 1963, but Britain’s most colourful warbler is spreading its territorial wings having returned to Wales, the Midlands and East Anglia, there are now more than 3,000 pairs – the highest tally for more than 40 years. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds says the recent rise in numbers – to an estimated 3,208 pairs from 1,890 in 1994 – is due both to milder winters and improvements in the conservation of heathland habitats.

But the latest reports indicate after the two harsh winters the birds numbers may have dropped significantly, Cold weather in 2009, 2010 caused a 90% reduction in warbler numbers across the South of the UK . However, freezing weather and snow in the early parts of 2009 and 2010 and earlier this year have caused great concern that these small birds could die out, with a crash in numbers in their southern stronghold of the UK.

A truely stunning bird with a call you’ll never forget once you hear it, just amazing to see these birds within their natural habitat and I will be going back soon where hopefully he will have stayed and may have a mate around as during all the time there I never saw a female and his behaviour would indicate with his ever present singing he was looking for the female, marking his patch, defending his territory from other birds, more so Stonechats that share the same habitat.  I hope to photograph this amazing bird again during the year.

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Barn Owls

Filed in Wildlife, Workshops on Mar.12, 2011

When the sun shines everything around awakens and comes to life, warming the slight chilled March air, you can hear the countryside come to life.  Over the many years I have visited Norfolk whether it be alone or with clients on one to ones or workshops, the wildlife never disappoints.  It’s a place I feel at home in, a place that never truly gives up its secrets straight away, almost teasing you with the ever present sightings of different birds gracing this amazing place with their presence throughout the year.

Each month I meet clients on one to ones/workshops, during the Spring Tide days, helping them with their photography, giving real and helpful advice and at the same time showing how to approach and use what you have around you in order to get close to and photograph wild animals in their environment, at the same time watching for any behaviour you may be lucky enough to witness. In between these visits I work on my own projects, mainly focusing on the bird that got my love and interest going as a child with the YOC- Young Ornithologists’ Club, the Barn Owl or ‘Ghost’ as I call this amazing bird.

This nickname relates to when I wait and watch for these Owls to show up.  You wait and wait for a passing glimpse and a view into this bird’s life entrenched with mystery, then from no where and without warning the Barn Owls turns up in perfect silence, gliding, riding the winds currents, traveling effortlessly. Eyes glued to the ground beneath, on the lookout for small rodents that they feed on. They divide the field or area and hunt or quarter which refers to this practice these owls do so well on the lookout for movement, in turn prey.

They are amazing birds and one of my favourite British birds, watching them fly and hunt for a few minutes and then to make eye contact with you is a priceless moment to treasure.  When you see them in the wild you  witness their very distinctive appearance with a white heart-shaped face with no ear tufts and sharp black eyes all contributing to its striking appearance. Those large black eyes only let the Barn Owl look forward in a fixed position and cannot move to the side, so consequently the Barn Owl has to turn its head to see to the side or back. Their hearing is amazing and the ability to locate prey by sound alone is one of the best in the animal kingdom.

Barn Owl’s feathers make them perfectly adapted for silent flight, but this makes them prone to water logging so they are not well suited to hunting in wet weather. The key to an owl’s silent flight is in its feathers, the next time you find an owl feather, turn it on its side and look at the edge — the line of fibers is scalloped, like a stretched seam. The slight alteration in shape allows the feather to cut the air without making sound, making them perfectly aerodynamic.

I’ve been hoping that the ones I watch and photograph in Norfolk survived the recent two very harsh cold snaps we’ve had, which has really impacted hard on the numbers of these birds around the UK, where Norfolk has always been a stronghold for these birds.  The pair that hunt over farmland and marshland have done well so far and are looking their best with the breeding season just around the corner but I have been lucky enough to find another couple of places that have Barn Owls.

So this year I am hoping to document the different birds that live in different environments capturing my trademark images showing them within their natural habitat of rough grazing, marshland and Norfolk reeds.  With the onset of summer around the corner and longer days, the prospect of working with Barn Owls fills me with such joy.

Within my work, habitat, small in the frame and behaviour, form my foundation where I only photograph wild animals, letting people see how and where a certain subject lives and how it conducts its life, so with these images I wanted to show where they live in Norfolk. One site I have known of for many years has a mixture of rough grazing and reeds with small streams and dikes splitting the place into many little areas, perfect for small rodents and perfect for Barn Owls.  I photographed using high iso’s to give me enough speed to freeze the bird in flight, at the same time balancing that with the poor light.  I love small in the frame images, where there is a real innocence about the image, adding a sense of truth to the image and in turn learning people more about the subject.

My work on Barn Owls will last forever, capturing images for as long as I live.  They have such beauty and grace in my eyes, a bird that takes me right back and brings a massive smile across my face, visualizing the great joy that these birds have brought to my life over 3 decades. I hope to bring you more images of this iconic bird over the coming months and even years to come.

My Springtide & Waders Workshops are fully booked until July onwards.  My Barn Owl/Raptors One to Ones days can be booked at a time at your convenience now with the weather getting better and the longer days, these days last from dawn until dusk and include a homemade packed lunch made by my wife.  I will show you several different sites, go through key fieldcraft skills on how to approach and photograph these birds without disturbing them, as they are protected by law, so great care must always be given to these birds.

I give camera advice, settings, composition and exposing advice for these birds, show you the best flight settings, basically, everything I use myself.  Thanks to Nigel for traveling up from Ashford in Kent to Norfolk for a One to One yesterday for Barn Owls.  I look forward to seeing your images.

If you would like any advice on anything I have mentioned or touched on here in this blog post then please drop me a line here, alternatively please go to my One To One page.  For more than one person there is a discounted rate and I often get couples and friends all attending together.  To enquire about free dates please email me, many thanks.

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Springs Around The Corner

Filed in Wildlife on Mar.03, 2011

Over the last couple of weeks I have noticed a slight change in the weather, with brighter mornings and lighter evenings.  It would seem spring is on its way and maybe upon us very soon. After a long period of poor weather, resulting in low light, it will be most welcomed, with my recent trips to Norfolk and my wildlife workshops at the beautiful Trentham Estate and working on the several projects I am doing in my own time the working conditions have been testing to say the least, but ingrained in me along with a deep love for wildlife is that motto of mine ‘that there is always an image to be had’, however big or small.

However good or bad weather, working with this mindset always rewards you, bringing out your flare and passion in changing conditions at the same time learning you more about how you view an image, pushing your own creative images and boundaries. I have been lucky on a few occasions though where I have been working on several different subjects, when the clouds broke and the area was bathed in warm sunshine.  Warmth lifts the spirits and brings places to life and I really think spring now is almost upon us and its the best time of year for me, full of life, action and behaviour.  A complete paradise to be among its beauty at this special time of year, witnessing the countryside awaken from its dormant winter state.

The mornings are a wash with bird song at the moment, all competing to be the most musical, filling the air as each bird stakes their claim on a certain patch of ground, among the beautiful songs at dawn one song in particualr symbolizes the British countryside and springtime more than any other call and that belongs to the beautiful male Blackbird. The call travels far, cutting through all other bird songs and is a mixture of different notes and pitches that once you hear its distinctive sound you will never forget the sound.

Spring is one of the four seasons, the period between winter and summer, and for me the words Spring and Springtime bring thoughts of life, birth and regrowth to our countryside.  A special time for wildlife, where all species are looking their best, in tip top form hoping to attract the ladies and breed with.  Behaviour within the animal world starts in spring, handsome males showing off, displaying to each other in an act of supremacy over the other, using what ever they can to win over the attentions of the females securing a mate for that year.  With the lighter mornings and evenings wildlife becomes busy, more active giving greater opportunities to capture its beauty during springtime.

As our Winter visitors leave to go back home to breed the influx of our summer visitors start to slowly arrive to our shores making spring one of the best times in the calendar of nature.  I maybe a little early still but from the work I’ve been doing over the last two weeks a change is in the air, alas the odd frostly night and cold morning thrown in to confuse and disorient the wildlife is always on the cards but on the whole winter is behind us all I feel.

The countryside becomes a wash with colours and new growth, a mesmerizing number of birds fill the lands.  Flowers start to bloom, eventually carpeting the woodlands in a blue carpet of bluebells, one of the great sites of Britain.  Many other flowers suddenly start to appear, muti-coloured and hugely varied in form and shape.  A beautiful time of the year where that extra hour of light at either ends of dawn and dusk is very welcome and needed, making the days longer and warming the place for longer.  It really is my favourite time of the year.

I have been working on many different subjects, building trust and patience with each species involving many hours waiting.  I have two new Dipper sites and my workshops are as popular as ever, the Skomer workshops I do are being booked with the arrival of the “clowns of the sea” as I call them.  Any day now the Puffins will arrive now spending 8 months of the year at sea and only 4 months on land, an amazing feat.  I have always loved small in the frame images, showing the subjects habitat letting people see where the animal lives and how it conducts its life.  The following two image are a male Wren and a male Dipper on the same stretch of river looking in top condition.

While photographing the Dippers at this new site I spent some time watching this male, who had found these logs all gathered together at the side of the river and used them to defend his territory from and sing.  I saw him dive into the water and feed and he seemed to be acting differently so I turned on the video on my camera and began filming.  About thirty seconds into the film he turned around and in a flash regurgitating a pellet.  The contents of a bird’s pellet depend on its diet, but can include the exoskeletons of insects, indigestible plant matter, bones, fur etc, many birds do this to remove such pellets, I have rarely seen this though in Dippers and I was really lucky to have captured it with this short film.

Below I managed to photograph a male Kestrel hunting over marshland over the last few days which is among a large industrial estate, where I think they have started to make a nest, here I used the cover of the reeds to break my shape up at the same time hide my approach clearly showing the estate in the back ground. Something I plan on working on should these birds stay.

There is just so much going on now within the countryside so enjoy this magical time of year where for me there is just not enough time in the day to capture everything I plan working on, I am hoping to capture images from my time spent on the various different species over this beautiful time of year that spring is. This is not always possible though so for me just being there is enough, where I witness a window into a wild animals world.

For details on my workshops, one to ones and the photo trips I run  then please contact me here or alternatively view the workshops page for full listings. The Sumatran Orangutans trips itinerary can now be viewed and booked here

All of my photo trips from one to ones right up to the bigger trips are designed and lead from the front by myself, where each trip is designed  for wildlife photographers where I pride myself on working with the very best people on the ground and in the field giving that personal and private touch offering all clients the best service possible with smaller group sizes in most cases ensuring all my clients get my full expertise and guidance, learning more about the wildlife and the environment in which they live.  Many thanks and good luck with the weather.

And before I go on page 90 of the March issues of the BBC Wildlife magazine you’ll see an advert for a range of clothing called 511 Tactical series, they want me to trail some of their clothing and equipment while on my travels here and abroad. Ray Mears himself an ex-soldier has been using this brilliant clothing for years.

The name “511” represents a gruelling climbing grade as listed in the Yosemite Decimal Grading System, and as a skilled climber myself I’m looking forward to using this clothing and equipment.  I’ve spoken with their top UK guy and they are branching out from their American homeland and going for the ‘softer’ approach away from the guns and the body armour etc. They are looking to the outdoor market, walking, camping, survival market and climbing for which it was originally designed for and gets its name from.

I will be using their tactical pants –cotton, tactile Pro pants, tactical Pro long + short sleeved shirts all in green and browns,sand colours, their Rush 72 back pack complete with hydration pack idea for long walks with heavy kit which is the way I work while in the field.  A place where you have to rely on your kit to make it just that bit more comfortable, I will update my blog and do a full field test and review when I’ve received the items of clothing and equipment. Their website can be viewed here.

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Amazing Autumn

Filed in Events, Wildlife on Nov.02, 2010

The season of Autumn provides us with some of the most beautiful and intense colours within nature. Woodlands all over the UK are revealing their amazing colours of red, orange, yellow and gold.  This happens when the trees start to withdraw their chlorophyll from their leaves revealing these vibrant pigments in the leaves giving this amazing and distinctive appearance during the season of Autumn.

Autumn is a great time to get out with your camera as the ground is laden with fruits and nuts forming a carpet of food.  A very rich bounty in which all animal’s take advantage of this extra food source before the onset of Winter.  Capturing behaviour in some animals during Autumn makes for some beautiful encounters with wildlife. The most commonly known one is the Deer Rut , which was very late this year, I have been to several places around the UK over the last month and seen some brilliant behaviour and great moments.

This time of year is also one of the best times to see and witness one of the most secret and shy birds within the bird world, the Jay, part of the Crow family.  You only normally hear these birds in the tops of trees, but during the plentiful bounty on offer during Autumn you’ll see them on the ground feeding on the acorns and other nuts and fruits the trees shed at this time of year.

The changing seasons and the yearly life cycle of animals, plants and trees will enable you to photograph many different images throughout the year, which will tell the story of the changing weather and colours of the different habitats in which the wildlife live in.  The season of Autumn for me is arguably one of the finest times of year to enjoy and view wildlife with a backdrop of amazing colours, while most summer birds have now gone. Vast numbers of new arrivals make up for their departure, with the likes of Fieldfares, Redwings, and various Geese and Ducks that spend the winter months with us.

One of my favorite winter visitor’s is the beautiful Whooper Swan that have started to arrive from Iceland along with the slightly smaller but equally beautiful Bewick Swan.  When they have all arrived numbers can surpass more than 1,000 Whoopers in and around the various places I visit, one of the best is on the North West coast of the UK.  So graceful and elegant for a large bird they truly are beautiful and amazing to watch in flight.

I have also been photographing a real comical and funny bird, always on the move and constantly calling  as they climb and pose up and down trees with great finesse and ease, the Nuthatch.  I wanted to try and capture a few different view points of these charismatic, iconic woodland birds with their bold mannerism’s.  I waited out of site to where they were landing, hoping to capture their cheeky side within an image.  The following two photos I feel demonstrate this, with the amazing colours of the autumnal woodland as the back drop.  Very funny birds and just one of the many wonderful animals you can photograph now as they feed on this rich source of food nature provides them with during Autumn.

Autumn marks the transition from Summer into Winter and is a short season compared to the other three so make the most of it with the colourful foliage on offer, adding great impact to any photographs you take. With the cooler temperature’s you maybe lucky enough for some amazing sunsets as I was with this lone Kestrel hunting in the very last rays of light over marshland.

With so much happening now my best advice would be to just go out into nature and capture this amazing and visually beautiful time of year, your reward will be views of animals you may not be able to see during the other seasons of the year, at the same time witness these stunning colours. 

The migrants that these shores attract along with the special winter wildlife we have, finally show up in good numbers from now onwards giving you a unique insight into their lives, some of the best for me are Short-eared Owls that come down from the mountains to feed at sea level during our winter months, Mountain Hares that change colour to pure white to avoid predators and blend in with their snow capped landscapes along with Ptarmigan and many more species of wildlife where the only downside is that it becomes colder but you get to put more layers on!!.  Whatever you do you will not be disappointed with the beauty of mother nature.

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Barn Owl

Filed in Advice On Wildlife, Wildlife on Oct.21, 2010

Over the last couple of days the weather seems to have become a little colder which results in those frosty, sunny mornings I love, where the cold hits the back of your throat  while at the same time the sun comes up and bathes the countryside in a beautiful warm glow. Most of my wildlife photography is where I like to work the land, finding whats around me and the areas I visit, tracking through foot prints and waste food and droppings trying to build a picture in my head what has passed by or has visited recently.  So over the last few days I have had a break from the Deer Rut and have been walking in my local countryside not to far from my Staffordshire home.  A lot of the countryside at the moment has been harvested meaning sort, rough grazing and grass, crop etc ideal for one of my favorite UK birds, the Barn Owl.

While out walking over the last few days my attention was drawn to a few feathers, one a primary and the others being belly or flank feathers softer in appearance than the primary, white in appearance and in and around a prominent natural perch I had come across.  There was also white droppings at the base telling me this was a popular perch maybe for a Barn Owl,  I found a few small pellets or a mass of hair as they looked and upon separating them, something I loved to do as a child, tiring to rebuild the skeleton to found out what the prey was.  I found a small set of bones and a jaw bone from a tiny rodent and I knew then that this area and perch were being used by a Barn Owl.

And here he was, with primary/secondarie feathers missing in his wing, the sunrise was amazing with a small blanket of frost all over the ground, not a bad frost but just enough to give that crunch sound under foot when walking, which by the way is not great when you are stalking a wild animal. I have spent a few days there and have watched this male hunt, he seems to have appeared from knowhere, as often Barn Owls do outside of the breeding season as they can become quit nomadic, wondering the countryside on the lookout for prey.

Amazing birds that I call the Ghost due to the fact without warning and no clue they can just turn up, hunt for a few minutes make eye contact with you as you witness their very distinctive appearance with a white heart-shaped face with no ear tufts and sharp black eyes all contributing to its striking appearance. Those large black eyes only let the Barn Owl look forward in a fixed position and cannot move to the side so consequently the Barn Owl has to turn its head to see to the side or back. Their hearing is amazing and the ability to locate prey by sound alone is one of the best in the animal kingdom.

Barn Owls are fascinating creatures and anytime I spend with these amazing birds is priceless.  I have been back a couple of times and been able to capture him a few more times, I do feel with no sightings in the past here he may just be passing through so in the meantime its a very welcome treat for me among my other projects I am working on at present including;  Mountain Hares, Short-eared Owls and my little female Kingfisher on the river Trent. 

My advice would be to walk the land and watch and look for clues of whats around and you maybe surprised at what you find as this time of year so much wildlife is on the move in readiness for the oncoming winter.  This for me is the true meaning of fieldcraft a word I hear used alot within wildlife photography, but fieldcraft means to use whats around you, reading the clues and signals all animals leave behind where most if not all the clues are right there all you have to do is just look that bit closer. 

Your reward will be something you have seen and learned all about yourself and when the subject appears as did this Barn Owl its a great moment as you view a moment in their lives something I truly love.  Its one of the main things I teach and show on my One To Ones and Workshops in order for the client(s) to take this skill away with them.  So they can apply this in their own photography and get close to wildlife without impacting on the subjects life. If you would like any further advice or help on anything I have raised then please send me an email here many thanks.

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The Deer Rut -A Little Behind

Filed in Wildlife, Workshops on Oct.19, 2010

As the trees lose their leaves and the countryside is turned in to a mosaic of stunning colours, animals all around the country are feasting on the bounty of food that is plentiful now, from berries to horse chestnuts, the countryside is a wash with food.  Birds starting to migrate to and from the UK with lots going on.  My time has been completely absorbed with this beautiful season, autumn.  One of the most spectacular events in the natural world during the month of October is the rutting of Red, Fallow and other species of Deer in and around our country.  However, this year this event is behind within the timing of the seasons and well overdue where previously the rut would be in full swing now.

Over the last week I have been to several different places throughout the UK where there is a good population of both Red and Fallow Deer and the clear evidence was that among the posing and the gesturing things really hadn’t kicked off  or so to speak, with the air thick with the very strong smell of each deer, with the males posturing to the other males in a show of strength in order to control and hold onto their females who are never that far away during this time, such is the competition to mate with them the moment they come into season by the ever present and opportunistic males that roam the land during the rut.

During my time at Bradgate Park, Leicester, which is one of the places I visit, the deer have been really slow to start their rut this year, so while I was waiting I started to photograph the Black-headed Gulls as you could hear them from miles away with the loud, screening calls.  I composed this image in portrait mode and the shadow is formed by a large treeline to the left covering in parts this little brook that runs through Bradgate into darkness.

One of the places I visit in the UK has a really good woodland area and when you walk through these woods with their well established and majestic trees there is always a lot of actively around with youngsters and females darting all over the place, but then you can come across a male Red Deer, and upon first sighting, those few first seconds all things flash through your head as you are close to a large animal who is full of testosterone, eye contact cannot be averted as you watch him and he watches you.  I always stop and start to retrace my steps for a moment as not wanting to disturb the animal first and foremost but also to diffuse the situation as I feel my heart doubles in speed.

The image below was just one of those precarious moments that I found myself in during the last week, where this large male Red Deer just appeared from no where, approaching from around this tree he stood there with a clear look of menace upon his face, firmly standing his ground where his posture and stance told me he was to be left alone.  The moment you forget these animals are wild and highly aggressive during this rutting period is a moment you may live to regret should they attack.  My advice is try to stay at a safe distance away from the animal and a safe distance is one where you don’t intrude into its personal space, if you do, back off slowly and leave them in peace.

With the Autumnal colours the Fallow Deer blend in so well within these habitats and their coats are beautiful to see, with clear markings throughout, as the two photos below clearly show with this male who had a stunningly beautiful coat for the ladies.

I was lucky enough to see a little action at one of the locations from a group of female Red Deer that were following around the dominant male most of the time with a younger female becoming a little boisterous, as I watched them through the viewfinder I could see their behaviour change and in a flash they both rose up and started to kick out at each other but as soon as this started it finished and I count myself very lucky to have witnessed and captured this brilliant behaviour among Red Deer females.

The male Red Deer pictured early went onto challenge the dominant stag, calling to each other, their primeval sounding roars echoing all around the place, the air changed as each male roared with the females choosing to sit around the dominant stag as he called out, matching each and every call from his competition, brilliant behaviour to watch.

Then in a flash they started to fight, twisting and turning each others neck with their massive antlers until one submits and by doing so he loses his females which in this case happened, a cruel world where only the strong survive as the saying goes.

A big thank you to all the people I met and that came to say hello over the weekend during the Great Peak District Fair in Buxton, with thousands of people coming through the doors it really was a great event.  I was displaying my work and again it went down really well, so thanks for sales and workshops purchased.  My Gift Vouchers sold really well as presents for Christmas where they come in a really nice black envelope and are sent signed and dated by myself.  I have a place left on my Tigers trip and there are still some places left on my other Photo-Trips  for next year, should you wish for more info on them then send me an email on my contact page and I’ll be happy to go through anything you wish to know.

For 2012 I have secured a sailing yacht and I have chartered this for this amazing 14 day trip around the coastline of Iceland for two days before heading north to Greenland for Polar Bears and many other animals that live in this breathtaking place.  Living on broad this ex-racing yacht will enable us to see the amazing wildlife from the water, where we will then go ashore, exploring the different areas off the beaten track. Working with local expert guides in Greenland to photograph the Polar Bear, the trip is for 10 people and more information will be available very soon. Below is a few images taken on broad showing this breathtaking environment where Humpbacked Whales fish and will be high on our wish list.

This will be an exceptional and very unique trip that will capture nature from the sea and the land where the wildlife will be everywhere, more details very soon.

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Rutting Deer

Filed in Wildlife, Workshops on Oct.08, 2010

Had a day visiting Bradgate park yesterday hoping to capture the Red and Fallow Deer going through their annual rut, but all was quiet on that front, still had a great day meeting up with some friends while visiting this lovely landscape in deepest Leicester.  The day started great, with clear skies, stars shining bright the signs of a great sunrise were very promising but things changed as they often do with the great outdoors and a blanket of thick and heavy fog covered the whole area for some time, making the ideal environment for the Deer to disappear before your very eyes.

The rut hasn’t really started yet I feel due to the weather being so mild after such a cold start to the year, but as I was there the air was thick with not only fog but male testosterone filling the air as you could smell where the males where marking some of their spots in readiness for their annual rut that will start any day now.  Over the next three weeks I have several One To Ones booked in there and another place in Cheshire, I still have a few dates free should you wish to come on one of these days at Bradgate and in Cheshire contact me for more details

I love the effect weather has on an image in particular fog and mist as this adds a real and different feel to a photo which when changed to black and white it really takes on an appearance of its own, very reminiscent of the very old Victorian photographs you see from time to time. The image below was taken early last year as the sun was coming up it started to burn off the fog and mist revealing this male Brown Hare sitting motionless in this field where again the mist has added at great atmosphere to the photo.

In between waiting for the Rut to start I have spent a lot of my time waiting for the water level to drop on a local river. Over the last week or so we have had so much rain near my Staffordshire home, where the river Trent has flooded the area including the place where my hide is. I have been watching these Kingfishers now for some time, where their activities keep me smiling all day, it’s a site I have developed and worked on myself over the last 2 months.  I have returned several times over the last week or so and there was no sign of them including the young female I have become very fond of there as she tires to claim part of this river as her own with her ever present parents trying to move her on.  So it was with great relief I saw her for the first time in a week on Tuesday coming close to where my hide was,  perching on the reedmace that grows there.  A few snaps then she was gone but enough for me to see her and witness she’d survived the flood.

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Down By The River-Kingfisher

Filed in Wildlife on Oct.02, 2010

I count myself very lucky in life to have seen and still see the wonderful moments in the natural world over the last thirty years of being an observer, a young birdwatcher in the YOC and now a wildlife photographer.  So over the last two months on a private stretch of the river Trent near my Staffordshire home I have had a wonderful time just sitting, hidden from view under a camouflaged hide by the river, watching the river go by with the odd fleeting glimpse of the Kingfisher. Gracing me with their presence every so often and to be honest when you least expect it.

A perfect example was the other day while I was trying to make myself a cup of coffee in a tiny one man hide, that only just fits in my 6f 2 inch frame, with my long lens and camera plus bag and provisions filling the hide like the back of a removal van, there is little or no room ‘to swing a cat’ as the saying goes.  The Kingfisher showed up right in front of me!  It took almost 10 minutes of the slowest movement possible to put things down and reach for my camera to capture the female who had just landed on a reedmace I had positioned in front of my hide.  Her tell tail signs of  tiny claw marks showing in the reedmace giving me vital clues of her previous presence on this particular place, while watching the river go by.

She has taken over this part of the river at the moment and with her orange part of her under bill growing everyday, she is developing before my very eyes.  It is lovely to watch her put those incredible fishing skills taught by her parents to great use..  Over the last few weeks though her parents, further down the river, have tried several times to move her and a male on and at times its so sad to watch as the male fledgling still at times begging for food in the face of real force from their once loving parents to move them off this already taken stretch of the river Trent, nature is beautiful but at times very cruel.

I briefly managed to capture this to the right of my hide, as the fledgling was being chased by the adult bird, she took solice in thick, natural vegetation along the riverbank, stood her ground almost in an act of defiance and defended herself by having a go back at her mother.  Amazing behaviour to witness and one that I hope will stand her in good stead for the future trails and tribulations that will be in store for her.

This stretch of the river Trent at the moment is lined with a thick and dense tree line, reflecting its colour onto the surface of the water with a jade-green colouring at the same time not allowing much light to penetrate the base of the riverbed. There is lots of other activity alongside my hide, Mallards  and a family of Yellow Wagtails keep me on my toes in the absenceof the Kingfisher as their call does in some parts resemble that of the Kingfisher, with a high pitched call,  piecing through the ever present noise of the flowing freshwater.  Constantly on the move, feeding, cleaning themselves as they seem never to stop for a moment.

I have mentioned in a previous post of this unique place, where an old bridge has fallen into the river and forms the back drop to my images. I am hoping to try and photograph over the coming weeks the Kingfishers  and how they pass through this area, using the old blue bricks as perches and fish from them all the time as thousands of gallons of water pass by.  It really is a story within a story for me and one I hope lasts  for a good while because I have really become very fond of these Kingfishers, more so this fiery female who brightens up my day down by the river ever time I see her.

I plan on turning this into a local on going project where hopefully I will be able to capture the breeding adults behaviours and courtships throughout the year in this private and unvisited area of the river Trent where I have had so much joy working on this from scratch, watching and setting up my hide, only to have to move it to a different place several times a week at first, due to the Kingfisher’s having no set pattern.  I knew that these Kingfishers hadn’t even been seen before on this private piece of land let alone photographed.  I feel very privileged and grateful to have come across these amazing birds where I hope to capture them going about their lives as I have done over the last two months.  A real labour of love for me where I will update my blog on my future adventures down by the river, many thanks.

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