Entries Tagged ‘Animal Behaviour’:

Beautiful Barn Owls

Filed in Articles, Projects, Wildlife on Jul.11, 2012

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

Senior Conservation
Officer

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.


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Bird Watching Magazine-Front Cover

Filed in Articles, In the Press on Jun.30, 2012

My photograph of the highly secretive and stunningly beautiful Dartford Warbler has made the front cover of the July issue of Bird Watching magazine, which I’m overjoyed with. With another Dartford Warbler covering a double page spread inside this favorite magazine of mine.

This 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. These images were taken in Wales and north of their southern stronghold in the UK.

Their feathers, calls and behavior were a total pleasure to watch and photograph and there is a wonderful article on them in this issue.  You can see the larger version of the front cover here and also the double paged image by clicking here, hope you enjoy the article and images many thanks.


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Practical Photography-Fieldcraft Tips

Filed in Articles, Photography Tips on Jun.19, 2012

One of the most important tools in wildlife photography is fieldcraft. Getting to know the subject, spending time watching, listening and looking, learning its behavior, its habits and calls. In turn all of this will reward you with a far better chance of capturing images that show the subjects natural behavior.

Regardless of the level of photographic skill your at you will need to learn fieldcraft to capture those images you see while among Mother Nature. With this though comes a great responsibility and integrity to your own work and your own foot print you’ll leave behind you when you leave the wildlife and go home.

Wildlife photography’s power rests on the belief that it represents an event that occurred naturally in the wild, something witnessed and recorded by the photographer with his camera at that given time. Clever use of friendly animals, hot spots, bait and the per-arranged perches or props along with digital technology has forced everyone to re-evaluate and question the validity of images they see now.

Living animals have feelings, emotions not to dissimilar to our own, tap into that whatever the subject maybe and you will see the real and true beauty of wildlife unfold in front of you. Apply your passion and respect on top of fieldcraft and the images will come.

Many species of mammals and birds will allow you to approach them closely if you are careful and take your time, no fast movements and using the correct techniques. Read the land for yourself, see what’s in front of you, in between you and the subject, use natural gulley’s and shapes to break up your approach. Never make the mistake of walking directly towards your subject as the chances are the animal will have long gone.

All wild animals that have no or very little contact with humans are scared and fear man. They see and smell us the moment we enter their world of which they are designed for and we aren’t. They have an in built fear of man and see us as a threat to their lives to put it bluntly. For me its how the person deals with that level of fear and stress using their fieldcraft that’s important.

Animal tracks tell you so much about what’s happening around you. It’s their highway, the way animals navigate their chosen habitat. Look for darkened earth a clear sign there’s life around. Just standing still for several minutes and look to see any natural lines, faltered grasses or earth moved or piled up. This then will give you a bigger picture of the main routes in and out of a forest say or farmland track leading to a wood and so forth.

Look towards the sun when studying tracks, you will see the shadows better. Footprints in soft ground will begin to deteriorate around the edges within 2 hours depending on the humidity, sunlight, and breeze giving you vital clues to what and how long ago an animal passed by that spot. The depth of the tracks and length of the stride can indicate the weight of the subject and the physical strength of the animal that made them.

Find out which way the wind is blowing making your approach better as most animals have a great sense of smell and it’s the first thing to give you away. The wind always wants to be blowing into your face, this will blow your scent away and remember to forget the aftershave or perfume along with soaps that are high in perfume as these will be picked up from great distances away. It is also important to recognize and learn the signs of stress within the animal so you know when to stop and leave the animal well alone. The last thing you ever want to do is cause undue stress and disturbance through your actions in order to get the shot.

Clothing, wind direction, covering the ground, shape, shine, staying low, can all help in capturing those moments in nature where you have to work harder with some animals than others. Some species will accept human presence quicker, taking only hours, where as other more sensitive subjects will take weeks if not months.

It’s the way I work while capturing wild animals in their their natural habitats while working very ethically alongside nature. Composing the wildlife to show others how they go about their lives,where they live and conduct their lives. So correct fieldcraft is an integral part to the way I work as a wildlife photographer. Being at one with nature is amazing and with time and effort and applying good fieldcraft everyone is capable of capturing those beautiful moments I am blessed with seeing each time I enter the natural world.

In July’s issue of Practical Photography I give my top ten tips and advice in order to help you, whether you’re just starting out or more accomplished in regard to fieldcraft the article is written passing on my many years of experience in this field over the years. Fieldcraft is the foundation to my work and style as a wildlife photographer today and has been since the moment I picked up a camera.

Look at the Foxes ears below, he couldn’t see me, but he could just make out the faint noise of my shutter noise from my camera. Each ear is facing in a different direction, one facing forward and the other facing towards where he heard the noise. He’s doing this to locate the sound in a bid to locate me, wonderful animal behaviour you can learn to read by using your fieldcraft skills.

Today people really want to see how you got the image and as a wildlife photographer you not only have a duty of care to your subject’s welfare but also to the general public who buy your work or follow you I feel. Showing and explaining how that image was taken, the skills you employed to achieve the image are paramount today.

The most important tip and piece of advice I can give in improving your fieldcraft is respect your subject, let wildlife live their lives without fear or stress from your presence. Apply all my tips from the article and the animal will benefit first and foremost and be able to carry on with their lives. Applying these tips will also allow you to capture images with a real story. Leaving little or no disturbance from the photographer is the best piece of fieldcraft you can learn and apply.

People then can see your fieldcraft and subject knowledge behind that particularly image. Learn the basics of fieldcraft and you can implment these to any real time situation within the amazing world of nature you will come across. I hope you enjoy the article which you can see by clicking here, many thanks.


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Water Vole-A Picture Paints a Thousand Words

Filed in Animal Behaviour on Apr.23, 2012

Water voles are one of my favourite mammals in the UK, with their plump bodies and enduring mannerisms.  Water voles are often mistaken for rats and the character called Ratty, in Kenneth Grahame’s ‘The Wind in the Willows’, was actually a Water vole. There has been many remakes of this wonderful children’s book which was a firm favourite of mine.

While waiting to see one of these animals show up you can often feel you are among a real life set of the wind in the willows, with the many insects and small creatures all going about their lives around you, with the continuous flow of moving water.

I’m always very vigilant when I’m around rivers and streams, just in case you see any sign of these fellows around. They leave characteristic tracks in mud, close to the water, their forefoot has four toes which leaves a distinctive star shaped pattern, while the hind foot has five toes. A great way to tell if water voles are about is to look for the tell tale signs they leave, such as footprints, burrows and droppings. They are active during the daytime and particularly in the early evening.

If you sit quietly and patiently you may hear the characteristic ‘plop’ of a diving water vole and then be rewarded by seeing it make its way, doggy-paddle, across the river as it patrols the banks searching for food. Water voles are affected by poor water quality another major clue in locating them, if the water isn’t clean and healthy then you won’t find them there.

Over the last several weeks I have spent alot of time watching a couple of pairs at different locations within the rivers of the Peak District and witnessed some amazing and unseen behaviour. Last year I was amazed to see one vole climbing small trees to reach and feed on fresh leaves, sitting suspended above the water casally eating without a care in the world.

Water voles love to eat a wide range of vegetation, small fresh leaves and roots are their favourite but they will eat basically anything they can find. Recently I witnessed one vole eating holly leaves, nibbling around the sharp points consuming the juice centre parts then discarding the sharp bits aside.

Once the lower leaves on this tree had been eaten I then witnessed him climbing up, sometimes falling off to continue eating these holly leaves. At times it was so comical, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry with laughter as this was behaviour I had never witnessed within Water voles before.

He would slowly climb up, in between the sharp points of the leaves to reach them, bite and begin chewing. A couple of times he’d get to where he was trying to reach a leaf, only to fall off, make a massive plop, swim a shore and continue on.

“Nearly there” I was saying while pinned to my cameras viewfinder capturing this sequence, with his eye just peeking through. At this stage I was glued to him just not knowing what would happen next. I’ve never laughed so much while watching wildlife before. And as I watched through my viewfinder I really hoped he understood I was laughing with him not at him.

Streamlining his body shape and fur in order to squeeze around the sharp edges of the holly leaves, as seen in the photo below. Almost halving his size in order to get up and past these sharp obstacles.

For every climb that he succeeded there were many that failed, where he fell and plunged into the water beneath him.

He would come to the surface and swim to the shore and carry on, occasionally having a quick look around to see if anyone had witnessed his fall. Almost like when you see a person fall over or if you trip or fall yourself, you bounce straight back up and carry on red faced , just checking around to see if anyone witnessed your fall. If they did, it just made the whole experience just that bit harder to bear. But such was the determination of this enduring fellow and the pull of these leaves he carried on for several minutes.

They say a picture paints a thousand words, so I do hope these photos really convey what might have taken me many more words to express. Where the power of visualization is key for me.  I still cannot believe what I witnessed and it clearly goes to show that no matter how long or how much you know about a subject, there will be always more to learn.

This is the beauty of wildlife photography, the fact I can show now what I witnessed rather than just trying to explain what magical wonders I saw that day.  By just watching and listening and taking in whats around you can often result in these wonderful moments I get chance to see whilst among nature.  This is the key to my work,  many thanks.


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Capturing An Animals Spirit

Filed in Animal Behaviour, Wildlife, Workshops on Nov.30, 2011

Over the last week I have revisited my Red Squirrel site in the North west coastal region of the UK. I managed to capture these most adorable mammals in better light, having got use to their behaviour a little which in turn makes for a better image. This whole area is managed by the wildlife trust who keep an eye on the population of Red Squirrels that were almost wiped out 3 years ago. Numbers are slowly increasing with the hard work and dedication of the local trust and volunteers. Every living animal for me has their own spirit, their own character and I really try to capture that within my work. Unplanned, unscripted in its truest form, watching wildlife and capturing those briefest of moments when you witness their unique behaviour.  This is priceless.

The story with these guys is that they are really shy here among this pine forest habitat and not as bold as their grey counterparts, this though is the red’s undoing as the introduced greys are a more formidable forager of food and adapt to their environment far easier than the indigenous reds. Also the pox virus brought to these shores by the greys is wiping these little cute fellows out and experts warn that in as little as 20 years Red Squirrels could become extinct which would be a very sad day indeed.

A little supplementary food is put out by the trust but mostly these red’s forage for food on the forest floors, your first indication they are around is the sudden claw sounds as they chase each other around the tree trunks. Once on the ground though they are quick, real quick, darting all over the place and  you have to follow and focus almost at the same time which was a little challenging to say the least as you just don’t know where they will turn up.

I love to just watch wildlife, build a picture of what’s happening as all living animals have routines and patterns they stick to, creatures of habit, the way they move, walk or feed and congregate with others etc. So by watching these squirrels’ patterns when ascending from the trees to the forest floor to feed I learned a great deal from them. I’d focus in one given area keeping down on my own movements and noise that may just spook these fellows enough for them to disappear which is never my intention when working in the field with any living creature.

Once I’d heard the rustle of leaves that littered the ground I stayed still and lay flat on the ground to get that important and intermit view point with them.  No rain had fallen so they were dry and light which worked well for my hearing as you’d hear them coming, but bad for the squirrels as each movement from them was an open invitation to view them straight away as the rustle give their position away instantly.  I became aware the squirrels knew this and after a few paces they seemed to momentarily pause, dead still, then move again.

At first I tried to follow them through my viewfinder but found that they were just too quick and expert at giving me the brush off. Then I changed tact, focused in on an area I kept seeing them come to, it seemed a cross way veering off to many different paths they had to various areas where they stashed their bounty for another day. I also saw them rubbing their bodies along the fallen log in this area which the trust had left to rot and give back its riches to the soil.

The problem was if I moved my lens or camera as they approached they’d go before I could say hello, so I listened, looked left and right once the first rustle was picked up by myself. A light and not as heavy noise meant they were some distance away, louder and firmly noises meant they were close as my eye was pinned to my view finder with no time to swing a long lens around. I put all my eggs in one basket as they say and I had several wonderful close experiences with these beautiful mammals that crossed over an area to my front where they were picking and feeding on fungi and other food bits in and around this old fallen tree that was slowly being claimed back by nature.

I pre focused in this area and when he came close, I slowly used the large manual focus ring on my lens, which gave away no noise, shooting in quiet mode in camera, this reduces the noise as much as possible each time the shutter is pressed. Slowly I began, 1 shot, 2 shot, pause, as I watched for an indication he’s disturbed by me, if so I stop, if he wasn’t disturbed I continue with the same slow pace.  This approach works for me always remembering that these are wild animals with a healthy dislike for man. You have to work with them and in their environment and as a wildlife photographer I have a duty of care to the subject not to scare him into next week just for an image.

He routed around and fed on whatever he could find then went as quick as he’d come, it was wonderful to see these adorable animals so close and trusting towards me,  where he let me into his life briefly and where I was able to capture his spirit and sole as a living creature with these images. I mention this such alot on my blog but at a time when wildlife is really under pressure you have to put the welfare of the subject first before any photograph is taken.

Due care and thought for the animals well being should be one of if not the most important consideration before you head out anywhere to photograph whichever subject you are taking. With camera equipment and the need to capture images of wildlife there comes a great responsibility with it, so please be mindful of this when trying to get an image of a wild animal and watch for signs of stress and disturbance.  All wild animals have an inherent fear of man, place yourself in their circle of fear and you will be adding to that animals stress.

In this month’s Birdwatching magazine one of my wader images can been seen in their December edition. The image shows thousands of waders taking off while others waiting on the ground before joining them taken on a Spring tide in Norfolk. A bigger version can be seen on the 500px site by clicking on this link. It’s a wonderful place to display your images and somewhere I’d recommend having just joined.

The Spring tides for this year have now finished after this weekends brilliant showing, the next ones I have free are from February 2012 onwards so if you wish to know more information about these Spring tide days I run or to book one then just send me an email here The image above was taken on one of the last few Spring tides this weekend with clients, showing a Sanderling feeding with the tide coming in, replenishing the beach he was feeding on. Thank you to all those who have booked onto my Spring tide days and I look forward to the next ones in 2012.

And just a quick reminder Practical Photography magazine will be displaying a portfolio of my Spring tide images in their issue out on the 29th December 2011 so look out for that, many thanks.


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Amazing Watervole

Filed in Animal Behaviour, Wildlife on Sep.06, 2011

I have often said on previous blog pages covering many different subjects and places, you just never know what you’ll see when working with wildlife. And this one sentence couldn’t be further from the truth on a recent outing photographing Watervoles at a site within the beautiful Peak District, Derbyshire. This little creature lives a peaceful life on our riverbanks up and down the UK, often going unnoticed by passersby, but should you go to close or spook this animal you’ll be greeted in most parts by a loud “PLOP” as the vole makes a quick dash for safety by diving straight into the water and away to safety.

I am very fortunate to have found over the years several good sites in which these animals live and breed in. Watervoles are one of my favourite mammals, with their enduring character and cuteness, making them a lovely subject to watch and also photograph. They are legally protected in Britain and sadly their numbers continue to plummet. Due to its small size and the fact that it lives both on land and in the water, Watervoles are prey to numerous predators wherever they appear to live.

Mink, Weasels, Foxes along with Adders are the most common predators on dry land, with Owls and other birds Of prey hunting them from the air. Large fish such as Pike are known to hunt these mammals also. Their vast reduction in numbers in recent years however is not just caused by this high level of predation, the loss of much of their natural habitats has had a much more drastic effect along with the destruction of bank side vegetation, and pollution playing a vital part of their declining number on our shores.

I have been very lucky over the years in finding sites when I’m out and about, often there looking for another subject, when suddenly I’ll see gnawed nuts, shredded bark and cut grass leaves, all clear indicators of their presence around me at these new sites. One such site I have been watching for some time now, in-between my one to ones/workshops and other projects, I have captured them going about their lives along this very healthy river system in a beautiful and secluded part of the UK.

They share this space with a family of Little Grebes and I managed to captured the fully grown fledgling floating effortless on the dead calm water here, learning the skills his parents had taught him over the last several weeks.

On this day in question I got into place at dawn, settling into place, there was little wind, as Watervoles have an incredible sense of smell. I stay as low as is possible and become part of the riverbank, hiding away using the natural cover afforded to me from the reeds and bank side vegetation always mindful not to disturb these animals with my presence. I never enter the water around where they live or breed as I personally feel that this is a step to close, the welfare of any animal comes before any photograph, something you must be aware of with every living animal you photograph.

Much of the time when you are waiting for a wild animal to turn up you never know where, how or if your chosen subject will turn up so during this period I always become tuned into my environment, listening and watching for anything that indicates life, movement and the possibility of a different image or a new site or subject appearing. This approach is time consuming but greatly rewarding when you witness or see something for the first time, or even learn a bit more about your subject or that of any other living creature that may show up during your time at a certain place.

Without warning though I heard a slight rushling noise coming from deep inside the reeds as I witnessed the tops of the broad reeds moving, like someone was passing through underneath them if that makes sense. The next thing I saw was a Watervole climbing out on a very narrow branch and trying to reach some leaves at the end.  I just could’nt believe what I was seeing here.

Using his tail and hand as he balanced himself at the same time slowly and carefully moving along the branch, a few times pausing in an act to just steady himself. I didn’t know what to do first, laugh or stop and ask myself was I really seeing this, a wild animal doing a behaviour I’d never seen or even heard of before.

As the Watervole neared the leaves he would gather one and just casually sit there, suspended above the water beneath him and eat a few more before climbing back down to firm ground and a place you are normally accustom to seeing Watervoles live and feed in and around.

I feel privileged to have seen this behaviour on this day, really underlining you just never know what will happen as you watch wildlife and by being ready with your camera, constantly watching your subject you will, with luck be able to capture such events that would be hard to explain outside of a set-up image.  Not long after this he carried on feeding on the ground, a little out of shot, then disappearing into the dense undergrowth, where I didn’t see him again that day.

I’ll be going back soon hoping to see this pair and over the summer months my Watervole workshops have helped many of my clients not only to see this wonderful mammal in the wild but they have been able to take some wonderful images also. If you would like more information on these days then please click here and scroll down to the bottom of my workshops/photo tours page.

I had a lovely surprise over the weekend with one of my favourite Spring Tides at Norfolk images published in the Daily Telegraph newspaper, the image can be seen above and the link here. It was taken on one of the Spring Tides that really start in earnest on the lead up to Christmas now. I focused inside the flock as half of the birds, which are called Knot, started to take off, leaving a queuing system on the ground as the other Knots waited to join them by taking off and returning to the mudflats of the wash in Norfolk.

If you would like to witness this amazing event, I run one to ones/workshops there concentrating on these spectacular days in the morning, then throughout the rest of the day we visit many other amazing sites around the North Norfolk coastline, finishing at one of my Barn Owl site there capping off a wonderful day of wildlife photography, for more details please see my link here many thanks.


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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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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


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