Photography Blog

Nest Building -Dipper

Filed in Wildlife, Workshops on Apr.11, 2010

After a brilliant week camping in the Welsh countryside it was straight back home and out today on one of my Dippers Of The Dale workshops I had booked with a very nice man:Charlie Goddard from the North-East of the UK, Charlie had contacted me reference coming on one of my Dipper one day workshops as he’d never been able to get closer enough at his local site to photograph these Masters Of The River.These birds and the workshops are my favorite to do as I love to pass on my passion for these beautiful birds,telling the person(s) all about their behaviours etc as they are crafted from over 25 years of interest/experience of this bird dating back to when I was 10 years old,they have a personnel connection for me also.

Dipper

My aim on any trip I do is to get the very best images of the chosen subject the client has come to see and photograph,so it was fantastic that on Charlie’s chosen day the Dippers had started to build their nest,with the care and fieldcraft I teach in and around this bird on these workshops its possible to get some close up images without disturbing them,but it has been some time since I have been rewarded with such close up views as we’d had today,and I was over the moon for Charile.Because for me its the joy people get from what they see and photograph that makes me happy,by showing,teaching what I know and love.

Dipper In Habitat

 We saw three birds,one female and two males,with the numbers being really down on the previous years for this time of year.Natural England have ringed two of the birds from what I could see with the above bird not having any rings on yet.Phil Bowler,head warden for the area, had told me in an email of there attempt to provide nest boxes for the Dippers to nest in,far removed from the busy hotspot areas they have chosen before and deserted due to high levels of disturbance.So it was with great anxiety I witnessed these birds building a nest not so far away from one of these hotspots instead of the well hidden nest boxes.And as we sat and waited for the Dippers to reappear, two dogs where in the water and also two people decided to dip their feet in the water as the temperature was raising alongside my own.

This does prove that the Dipper,through memory will return to their place of birth alot of the time,with food source being the key,while some of the nest boxes provided by Natural England are placed/sited away from the fast-flowing water, I feel this is a key decision for the Dipper’s when it chooses a place in which to site its nest,close to or on top of a plentiful supply of food.As it stands I feel the disturbance will play a major role on this particularly site as was the case last year and I wish they’d have chosen a more secret location for their nest.

Grey wagtail

Not to far away from the Dippers nest their are a pair of Grey Wagtails that are building their nest too,so the area is a real hub of activity at present.Charlie got some brilliant close up images and he’s promised to send me one as he was using the 200-400 and with the Dippers collecting moss so close to us he was able to zoom out where I had ran out of focusing due to the Dipper being so close,amazing to watch though!.I am going back really soon to watch and monitor this pair and I hope and pray they have moved to a different site where their chances of raising a family will be greater,thus,increasing the population of Dippers on this stretch of river hopefully.

Dipper

A great day was had,with the customer’s wishes of seeing and photographing the Dipper coming true which is what its all about for me alongside me helping them to take better photos.I will update my blog on the situation at this spot but I say now that I am very nervous for this pair as they don’t seem to be using the nest boxes provided and if they carry on building where we both witnessed today then the future doesn’t look good.

With the new signs,ringing for information purposes and the introduction of nest boxes not stopping people/dogs entering the water who knows what the answer is apart from my solution,which was fencing off these sensitive areas I had mentioned in my previous article printed in the Birdwatching Magazine last October,which can be viewed here,fingers crossed though to a successful year as last year was the worst I can remember.with the Dippers really needing a break this year.

I have a really busy month ahead of me with my Norfolk workshop,then my trip to India to photograph the Tigers,then my trip with Jereon Stel to Texel,so really looking forward to all those trips,and thank you to all the people I’ve met for your support.

CJWP


Read full post

Wales

Filed in Articles, Places Of Interest, Wildlife on Apr.10, 2010

I have just spent the last 3-4 days in Mid-Wales photographing some of the beautiful wildlife this part of the UK has to offer.I was invited by my friend Ken along with a number of fellow wildlife photographers who have a annual week in this breathtakingly beautiful place.First on my wish list was a trip to Gigrin Farm to photograph the amazing population of Red Kites that live and feed here.

Red Kite

Red Kite

The Gigrin is a family run upland sheep farm of approximately 200 acres, owned and farmed by Chris Powell, and Mrs Lena Powell.The land is 700 feet rising to 1200 above sea level giving wonderful views of the Wye and Elan valleys in mid-Wales.Gigrin became the Official Red Kite Feeding Station in the winter 1992/93 following a request from the RSPB who had witnessed the late Mr Powell feeding the kites.Red kites being hungry when they awake, will hunt for food during the morning and early afternoon, so Gigrin is a top up or emergency ration for them and is not intended to replace their wild food source.

On the day we were there the weather was a mixture of  overcast and cloud with the odd ray of light piercing the cloud cover,this added a great atmosphere to the place and shows what ever the weather throws at you there will always be a photograph you can obtain from the day.Being my first visit there I wanted to try and capture a few different images from the normal portrait of this beautiful bird that at close quarters is massive.With the light and overcast conditions I was able to create some images from Gigrin that were a little different,encapsulating my trademark of strong composition,with the poor,overcast conditons turned around to help and aid my images.

Red Kite

Red Kites

While photographing the Red Kites this ‘Leucistic’ Kite turned up.It has started to visit the feeding station more and more after being born in 2003 and until recently had’nt been seen for some time I was told by the owners of Gigrin.Leucistic means that the colouration is mainly pure white and not the usual red or black of the normal kites and not to be confused with an ‘Albino’ as these lack colouring and have pink eyes unlike the yellow/blue eyes of this beautiful Leucistic Kite.

White Kite

'Leucistic' Kite

I also tryed out a few ‘Arty’ shots using a slow shutter speed which results in capturing the sense of movement within an image,giving the photo great impact like the two I have included below with the first one capturing the Red kites trademark of ‘Diving’ for the food which is placed out for them by Chris.There is also a small in the frame image I have converted over to ‘Black+White’ which has brought out the cloud patterns on the day.They have done a wonderful job at Gigrin over the years and its well worth visiting.

Diving Red Kite

Red Kite

B+W Red Kite

During my stay in Wales we all covered a vast distance,traveling to different location,from the Osprey Project at Cors Dyfi Nature Reserve,three miles south of Machynlleth.We were able to see the Osprey on the CCTV screen but a little to far for photography.We headed for the coast,where I photographed the returning Waders,I managed to capture this Oystercatcher feeding away,turning over Shell’s and breaking open mussels.

Oystercatcher

Wales really has so much to offer in the way of different habitats,and various wildlife,from coastal to reedbed/marshland we covered it all,with the weather being very kind,the odd night frost thrown in just for good measure as I was camping.I had brought the essentials through;Tea Bags,Bacon,Fresh Bread and HP sauce all so important when you are camping as a warm drink and food are the best tonic,in my case a bacon sandwich.

The trip was great and thanks to Ken for inviting me,thanks also Brian,Tom,Phil,and on the last day before my drive back home to Staffordshire I had my best shots of the stunning Willow Warbler within this habitat of ReedBeds,with the sun behind me setting it was a real treat to end a great trip.

Reed Warbler

CJWP


Read full post

Magical Mull-Update

Filed in Workshops on Apr.02, 2010

Misty Morning

Having just returned from the beautiful Isle of Mull where I’ve been working on a few of my favorite subjects ie.Otters,White-Tailed Sea Eagles, there and finalising the ‘Magical Mull’ trip/workshop planned to this beautiful island in early June,co-hosted by my friend and award winning dutch photographer Jeroen Stel.

The Isle of Mull lies on the west coast of Scotland and it has a breathtaking coastline of 300 miles, the climate is a mixture of rain and sunshine.From the moment you step onto this beautiful island the wildlife is everywhere and the scenery is stunning. Our accommodation during this workshop is overlooking the harbour of Tobermory,where each room we have booked has a sea view,with fine cuisine in the restaurant,prepared from the best locally sourced ingredients to make your stay even more memorable.

Heron At Dawn

Mull has a breathtaking landscape and offers you some brilliant chances for landscape photography,with beautiful morning light.My main targets when I come to this island and that of the trip are Otter’s, White-Tailed Sea Eagles and Golden Eagles,with the weather feeling like winter again while I was there,with pouring rain/snow it can be a bleak place to be.

rED dEER

Due to a lovely couple who had booked but now are unable to get the time off work a couple of places have come up,so if you are interested in coming then please drop me a line here  or see my website page under Workshops and I’ll answer any questions,queries you may have.

The meeting place is the Scottish port of Oban,where while we are waiting for our ferry there will be very good opportunities to photograph the healthy population of Black Guillemots that live in and around the port.You will meet myself and Jeroen here and board the Ferry,we have a mini-bus booked,so this with be our mode of transport around the island,driven around to the key sites on the island with the only thing you’ll have to worry about is composing your subject(s)A great trip is planned,where I/we look forward to passing on our passion as wildlife photographers, in helping you to take better images while learning more about nature and reconnecting with the natural world.

Red Deer

I was able to capture a few interesting photos that are going towards forming my collection of photographs called ‘The Beauty Of Nature’,which are beautiful,powerful images from the natural world chosen to connect with the general public,young and old to engage them with the beautiful wildlife we have all around us,creating an interest which will hopefully not only help their own lives but also have a positive response in helping the natural world in these troubled times of threatened extinction of both domestic and worldwide plants,animals.

I have teamed up with local Staffordshire wildlife artist Paul Horton who paints images of nature,landscapes and after a chance meeting recently we plan on bringing beautiful,emotive visions of wildlife,environment created by the lens and brush to people through our joint exhibition in Libraries,Schools,Town Halls,General places where the public frequent hopefully having their lives brightened by the ‘Beauty Of Nature’.I also plan on putting some sort of display(s) on for troubled youngster’s,those in care,Barnardos etc, that rarely see the countryside and what it has to offer in terms of beauty,where the power of nature may just help heal wounds,and show by getting back to nature there is always hope.

The future David Attenborough’s,Bill Oddie’s and alike need to be found,where the love of nature can develop amongst the urban jungles in which they live,where the future is in keeping alive the charities,projects that help keep alive many species of wildlife. So in bringing images from the natural world to people who’d never get the chance of witnessing the beauty nature has to offer is more important than we give it credit for.My aim is to tap into this forgotten generation with simple exhibitions of nature seen through a wildlife photographer’s eye and wildlife artist’s brush,at the same time bringing much joy to their lives

Artic Terns Displaying

Not a day goes by where we don’t read or see some politician on TV telling us that we must help nature before it’s to late,laying out their plans to save the world,drawn up for them by their adviser’s,using words many people don’t know or understand or are to frightened to ask, fragmenting the different classes,while failing to engage with ‘Broken Britain’ as we are told its called.The future is in educating all irrespective of your postcode or start in life,I have found those with the most passion are sometimes the ones with very little in terms of materialistic possession’s but an unmeasurable passion and knowledge for nature that needs to be put to good use in showing the importance of conservation and the need to preserve our national heritage.

Dates and venues are being planned as we speak and I’ll update my blog as to when and where these will be,our plan is to start local in the heart of Staffordshire,and maybe further afield.Any suitable venues within the Staffordshire area that my like to display Paul’s and my work that we haven’t already contacted then please drop me a line here or Paul Horton

Portrait Of A Shad Preening

CJWP


Read full post

Animal Behaviour

Filed in Animal Behaviour, Wildlife on Mar.20, 2010

From the beginning,before the first glimmerings of civilization man has studied animal behaviour.It has been an essential part of the struggle for survival,with our remote ancestors relying on hunting and gathering:hunting large animals and gathering insects and shellfish as well as berries,nuts and roots.The success of this way of life must have lain in acquiring a knowledge,often intimate,of the habits and behaviour’s of many animals.Primitive man had to know where he was most likely to find particular animals,and in what seasons.Watching and learning the more intimate and private lives of their prey to gain a better knowledge,their spears and arrows only effective over a range of about twenty meters so they had to get close to their prey that was aware that man was a predator.

To achieve this,the hunters had to make themselves familiar with the habits of their quarry,its tracks,its waterholes,its favourite foods and whether it would stand its ground to defend its young all key behaviours and where mans interest of animal behaviour began.I have always been fascinated in animal behaviour,getting close and just watching the different behaviour,and getting as close to the subject as I could,with fluid movement almost like a cat stalking a bird.as the eye is very good at detecting movement,with the slower you are the less the subject will see you.Capturing some interest through behaviour can transform an image in my eyes,giving the person an insight into the subjects private world

Last Light

Artic tern

The are so many forms of animal behaviours from eating and drinking,hunting,territorial to hierarchical among their societies,courtship,and displays.I plan over time to go through the various main behaviours in wildlife,where I will illustrate and explain the specific behaviour the subject goes through alongside the time of year when a lot of the animal world behaves differently dependant on what season we are in.

As Spring is upon us now the main animal behaviour you will witness at this time of the year all revolves around courtship;territory,mating etc,where nearly all animals have a place to live,a home,if you like.They do not wander at will and the expression ‘as free as a bird’ is misleading,each animal normally spends its life in a certain area where it feeds,sleeps and rears its young.The form of living space varies throughout the animal kingdom and,for each species is intimately related to its way of life.At this time of year where a good territory can be the successful key in attracting a mate,where the male can advertise to the world his willingness to mate with displays and song from the security of his territory,occasionally having to fight off other males in pursuit of keeping what he has.

Displaying Dipper

Fighting Puffins

The female makes a tour of the territory and accepts the advances of the male of her choice and the start of their courtship begins where the pair have formed a partnership,and go onto building a nest and rearing their young.The aim of every male animal is to find one or sometimes,several females with which to mate with.It can be said that the whole point in life,at least in biological terms,is to leave as many descendants as possible and,according to Darwin’s ‘Theory of Evolution’ by natural selection,the best and most vigorous animals beget the most offspring.In other words, the survival of the fittest individuals must breed well and pass on the characteristics that made them so fit to the next generation.

The methods employed by a species to ensure this happening are called the ‘Reprodctive Strategy’ As far as the females are concerned,this means laying as many eggs or bearing as many young as possible,and for the male it means ensuring that he fathers the maximum progeny.The result of an act of mating is a fertilized egg,this not only contains the germ of a new individual,but is furnished with a food store that supplies energy for development and eventually a young animal emerges.

Moorhen Chick

Parental care then takes over where the young are fed,protected,kept clean and warm,even helped to learn to fend for themselves.While mammals have evolved live birth and the feeding of the young with milk produced in the mothers body,birds have retained the egg-laying habit of their reptilian ancestors.In my next chapter on ‘Animal Behaviour’ I will go through ‘Raising The Family’-parental care,teaching young etc hopefully helping you to understand animal behaviour better.

Shag Portrait

CJWP


Read full post

Dippers Of The Dale-Update

Filed in Articles, Projects on Feb.24, 2010

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

Dipper

 

 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.

New Sign

 

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.


Read full post

Reservoir Birds-Article

Filed in Events, In the Press on Feb.23, 2010

In this months Birdwatching Magazine my images from a great day I’d previously mentioned on my blog called ‘Birdwatching For Beginner’s Walk’  have now been printed in the March issue of the magazine,I have printed the pages below aptly named‘Reservoir Birds’  I accompanied Matt Merritt/Features Editor as we visited Carsington Water in Derbyshire for this event which has been running now for 4 years on the first sunday morning of the month and run by volunteer ranger David Bennett,whose knowledge of the wildlife at this place is breathtaking.Each month enthusiastic groups of birdwatchers meet and are shown around this beautful setting hoping to learn more about birdwatching/birds while walking around Carsington Water, one of the largest reservoirs in the UK.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had perfect viewing conditions as the sun shined,with a thick blanket of snow on the ground adding to a real winter feel to the day.A good number of people turned up and I captured them using almost the same composition as I do when photographing wildlife,and I must say is a lot easier!.A good day was had by all,great to help beginners to see the beauty of birds and other wildlife around this mighty impressive site,so for the full story pick up a copy of the March issue.These walks run on the first Sunday of every month,they also do more advanced walks so for further information,or to book on the free Carsington Water Walk,call 01629 540696


Read full post

Barn Owl -Update

Filed in Articles, Wildlife on Feb.09, 2010

Having returned to my Barn Owl site over the last few days, where I’d previously watched and photographed this beautiful male Barn Owl hunt for food during the country’s really cold weather last month,I was delighted to see the male hunting but at the same time quite bemused as it was raining,with the rain falling as sleet,a behaviour I’ve never seen before in Barn Owls due to it’s hazardous nature.The structure of an adult Barn Owl’s feathers make them perfectly adapted for silent flight,but this makes them prone to waterlogging so consequently they are not 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.

Barn Owl

Hunting is certainly more difficult in these testing conditions, as sound as well as sight are hindered in locating small mammals due to the rain.I watched him hunt for about two hours with little success,the wind buffeting him around like a kite ,expelling loads of energy in the process.There was no sign of the female so I presume he’s alone and may probably move on shortly.I really hope not as I have become quite fond of this very resilient Owl.I also have received a lot of ‘Fan’ emails asking if he survived the recent cold snap which I covered in my first ‘Barn Owl’ post,so thank you to those people and here is the proof that he’s alive and kicking and his plumage is in stunning conditon with the onset of the breeding season around the corner.

Barn Owl

Barn Owl

Barn Owl

And what seems to becoming customary now when I go out photographing of late is the ever presence of Stonechats,whether it be male or female they seem to always find me,and keep me company.The image below is of a female who was really intrigued by me,capturing the mood of the day with the inclusion of the weather conditions in the background.

Stonechat

 

The following is a list of useful Tips, which will help to increase your chances of successful Owl watching:

Wear dark, quiet clothes

Get to know the area during daylight, and establish the most suitable areas of habitat for the species that you are hoping to observe (i.e. where they are most likely to hunt)

If you suspect that an area is being used as a roost or nest site you must not disturb it, but watch from a safe distance

When watching a nocturnal species, arrive at your observation position before dusk – this will allow for your eyes to become gradually accustomed to the gathering darkness, and will ensure that you are ready and settled before the owls emerge

Do not disturb the birds in any way – remain hidden at all times

If you accidentally stray close to a nest, move quickly and quietly away as Barn Owls have Schedule 1 protection status

I have really enjoyed my close encounters with this tough,hardy male Barn Owl and if he remains in this area I will look forward to photographing him,even better if he attracts a mate and breeds I’ll have another long term project to concentrate on with the images being displayed on future blogs-fingers crossed.I hope you’ve enjoyed the trails,tribulations of this owl documented in my blogs as much as I have on the ground.


Read full post

National Nestbox Week 14th -21st February 2010

Filed in Advice On Wildlife, Events on Feb.05, 2010

NNBW

National Nest Box week organised by The British Trust for Ornithology takes place this year from the 14th to 21stFebruary. Since its launch in 1998 over five million nest boxes have been made and hung in gardens and woodland areas across the UK.In an attempt to help birds ranging from the Blue Tit right up to Barn Owls to find somewhere else to nest and raise their young in the absence of more natural nest sites in our ever diminishing countryside.Early spring is the best time to site your nestbox,giving the birds a chance to see and get use to the box,if they don’t use your nestbox to nest in then don’t be saddened as there is a very high chance they will use the box as a roost site during the winter months.

bto

There will be events staged all around the UK by the BTO during that week and it’s a great way to get youngsters involved with nature.Click here for the BTO home page to see whats happening in your local area.Whether you’re a family with space for a box in your garden, a teacher, a member of a local wildlife group, or you belong to a bird club and could organise a work party, National Nest Box Week gives you the chance to contribute to the conservation effort in the UK whilst giving you the pleasure of observing any breeding birds that you attract to your garden.

Where you put your box is every bit as important as what it looks like.  The highest priority when siting a nest box must be to provide a safe and comfortable environment in which birds can nest successfully.Ensure your nest box is sheltered from prevailing wind, rain and strong sunlight,The front of the nest box should be angled vertically or slightly downwards to prevent rain from entering the nest box.And the most important point is to ensure that it is not easily accessible to predators (cats and squirrels) which can more difficult than you’d think.Ideally keeping the opportunities for these predators to get close to the boxes to a minimal.

For a free information pack please click here and fill in your details.If you’d like to purchase a nestbox then click here.Many thanks.

Robin


Read full post