Entries Tagged ‘Birds’:

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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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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Spring Tide At Norfolk

Filed in Events, Photography Tips on Aug.12, 2010

There a few places in the UK where you can experience the sights and sounds of nature any better than the North Norfolk coast during the Spring Tides that start in earnest from this month onwards and for me herald the onset of the Autumn and Winter months,where the seasons change from the Spring/Summer into the Autumn and Winter.

Having just returned for a wonderful One To One day with Mike Breedon from South Yorkshire,where it was his wish to learn more about wildlife photography after contacting me through my website,the skills I use,expert fieldcraft,lens techniques,light,camera settings and so fourth, the venue Mike chose was one of the Spring Tide/Barn Owl days I run.

The weather was amazing throughout the day,with the morning light being one of the best I’ve seen in years of coming to this beautiful place Snettisham is,with its moon-like landscape,vast open spaces,where thousands of birds fly past you,feet away,its just an amazing place to be during these Spring Tides they are now beginning to happen on this beautiful stretch of the North Norfolk coastline.

During a Spring Tide most if not all of the estuary is consumed by the sea and submerged underwater.Out on the mud and sand flats you’ll see thousands of wading birds feeding at low tide,as the tides rises,the mud and sand flats disappear underwater and the birds are suddenly forced to move closer into shore by the incoming sea.They then take off,and fly in vast and awesome flocks towards you on the beech at Snettisham,a place that provides a safe refuge in which to rest until the falling tide allows them back onto the tidal flats.

Some of the birds from Geese,Redshanks,Oystercatchers and Grey Plovers are wonderful to watch in flight as the fly overhead escaping the oncoming tide,but for sheer size and show the smaller waders,such as Dunlin,Knots really steel the show for me.They perform for the gathering public that make the early start to witness one of natures most amazing spectacles.These smaller waders gather in great ,dense packs and lines,almost like bee swarms,rising,falling,twisting and turning all in perfect,rhythmic sweeps and stalls,before pouring into the roost site like falling hailstones.

Once they have landed they seem like they are not quite happy,un-decided its safe from birds of prey that circle the sky on the lookout for an easy breakfast.So up they come and do it all again,twisting and turning in the sky,until, once again they land almost in the same or close to where they were in the first place.When the birds are in the sky they are almost as one,one minute dark,the next silvery white,turning their backs to you,then their pale undersides in a show of coordination that’s second to none.I have never seen two birds make contact,making this site a truly magical event to witness in nature.

I have a few more dates free between now and December so should you wish to book or just found out a little more on these dates,my One To Ones,Workshops and how I run them then please send me an email here or call me on the number provided

Mike came away from the day with some great best practises I feel,where I was able to help him to understand the concept of capturing wild animals within their natural environments,in turn showing the general public where these birds,animals live,feed and breed and how they conduct their lives within the habitats around us.

Mike sent me his thoughts on the day-

Looking at my own images compared to other professional and amateur wildlife photographers I thought I needed a push to get to the next stage in order to improve in all areas of photography, field craft, and composition and general wildlife photography skills. I decided the best way would be to go to a total stranger who would hopefully recognise my faults and shortfalls and then not be afraid to show me where I was going wrong. I was fortunate to find Craig’s website which was easy to follow, looked clean, tidy and well organised and very professional as well as indicating that the type of One to One day he was offering matched all my requirements. I was not disappointed, I found Craig to match his website, easy to get on with, very informative, very professional and passionate about all aspects of wild life in its own environment, willing to offer advice and teach field craft skills in such a manner that made it all fit together to make the day good value for money. Professionalism was evident right the way through the long day even down to the standard of the packed lunch, a great day Craig and one which completely fit my requirements. Now all I have to do is try to put all that information and the practices into action. Now then, what did Craig say about composition.
Regards
,Mike Breedon, South Yorkshire

The importance of simple composition,giving the images room to ‘Breath’ and the most important tool in the box of being a wildlife photographer, which is fieldcraft,approaching subjects without causing them distress,using the cover available to break up your shape and silhouette where the wildlife will see you before you know it.

Using simply techniques to establish the wind direction,reading tracks,helping you to see whats around you and many more things I know and teach on these day(s) all major factors in getting close to wild animals.Which I have mastered in over 30 years of love and passion for wildlife alongside my expert fieldcraft skills from my military background,giving the client the very best in wildlife photography on all the events I run.

All my One To Ones,Photo-Tours,Workshops are run along the same lines,with my great passion for nature being one of the key elements in showing and teaching people how to have a contact with nature,which is all around them,by watching,listening,hearing nature,which in turns builds a picture of whats happening around you at that time.The camera skills I show are the same ones that I use and that have improved my own wildlife photography.

I do this in many ways,one of which is to show the client(s) how I use my own camera,illustrating the processes at first hand,giving an insite into which and what settings I use,showing techniques in camera,composing the image in different ways and showing the clients the ideas I have etc.I feel this is a very powerful learning tool for people that attend my workshops.

I hope that has helped you all to see how passionate I am about everything within nature, and what nature means to me,any questions then please don’t hesitate to contact me.A big thank you to all those of you that have emailed me wishing me luck in my first Birdfair next week.Those of you that are going please drop by Marquee 6 to say hello to my wife and I,where you will see a selection of some of my work in framed,mounted or canvas format for sale,alongside many other iteams.

Should you wish to ask for any advice on wildlife photography etc then  drop by and ask I’ll be more than happy to help you.Also please give as much money as you can in their Auction this year as this helps projects,Birdlife all around the world.I have a limited Edition Framed Tiger print I have given to help,and its lot number 83 so please bid as much as you can to help the great cause’s Birdfair help each year Many thanks.


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Just Press The Button

Filed in Articles on Jul.01, 2010

I’ve just returned from two wonderful One To One days in Norfolk that a client from Scotland:Bobby had booked with me.I’m always happy when people make the effort in booking onto one of my trips or One To Ones,where in Bobby’s case traveling some distance I took care of everything, the hotel booking,food,packed lunch the lot so no matter how far the client has to travel to attend one of my trips I pull all the stops out,enabling them to ‘Just Press The Button’ and enjoy and capture the chosen wildlife they have asked to photograph and learn more about.

I find the task of meeting a stranger in the early hours of a new day not a problem as I do really like helping people to take better images,where I teach it all from expert fieldcraft,crafted over many years of being at one with nature right through to the camera settings,pressing home all the time that wildlife photography is for everyone,where good images can be obtained with effort and patience.My passion for nature ever present and I show the beauty of whats around us all,where I share my skills and information  from the moment someone attends my trips/One To One days,so when they go home they do so in the knowledge they have learned in parts, the skills,setting,knowledge of nature that I know and use and over time with practise and patience their work will improve as mine has done.

Barn Owl

The key target when I am heading east from my Staffordshire home to Norfolk is the beautiful Barn Owl-‘The Ghost’ as call them as you can be waiting for some time,then from know where this white bird appears,almost like a ghost,perfectly silent in flight,going about its business,quartering the fields on the look out for rodents and small voles,briefly looking up at you with its ‘Disc-Like’ face,giving you a split second look at their beautiful faces.My preference has always been to get into place before the light comes up,using camouflaged clothing,and place yourself in nature, where by watching,listening and observing what is happening around you you can start buildling a picture of whats happening around and over time this for me is the best tool to learn with regard wildlife photography and one I always press home on any workshops/trips I run.

The weather in Norfolk was’nt great,but on the first night we where afforded a beautiful sunset,where I was dreaming the Barn Owl would fly past,but some dreams are just to big and will always remain just that,dreams.The colour from the sunset turned the whole place a red/orange colour,it was just amazing to watch with no wind you could here a pin drop,just the noise of the waves breaking the perfect silence.

Sunset

Bobby managed some great shots and also some wide-angled landscape image,where there is always an image to be had even in the absence of wildlife.The two days went to quick,with only the images on my hard drive now to remind me of my latest trip to Norfolk.I tired to capture the Barn Owl within the farmland habitat in which it share’s its life alongside humans,where there is the close contact between these two and where the Barn Owl seems to be thriving with good numbers of these birds all over Norfolk

Barn Owl

Barn Owl

Barn Owl

For me the Barn Owl never stops thrilling me with its presence,it is a really popular bird within the general public, when you catch one flying around on its quest for food it is just amazing to watch this master at work.This year I have witnessed them feeding in pouring rain,something I reported on in an early blog and behaviour I’ve never seen before.With the recent cold spell at the beginning of the year,one of the coldest in over 50 years, the Barn Owl struggled to feed itself and in some areas numbers have been down,but the real damage of this spell of weather won’t be truly known for some time yet.

I have released a Limited Edition Barn Owl image,with only 100 prints available.Where I had observed this male Barn Owl for sometime during our recent cold spell, I watched as he hunted over snow-covered ground. Here he is captured stopping and hovering over prey, just short of where I was laying down on the freezing ground. I could here his wings flapping during the brief time he hovered then moved on. To celebrate that beautiful moment in nature alongside my own love for Barn Owls I have brought out this Print.Where you can buy with or without a frame by clicking here and scroll down

Barn Owl

A lot of my work and prints can be viewed this weekend as I have a display at the Pavilion Gardens,Buxton,Derbyshire.and I’m just making the final adjustments to my stand and choosing the images I will display and sell to the public.Its great to see my work in print as to often its just left on the computer or used at a much reduced Jpeg size,where the detail cannot be truly seen.So if you are in the area this weekend please pop in to say hello and if I can be of any help,or questions on wildlife photography etc than please ask.

CJWP


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Tremendous Texel

Filed in Places Of Interest, Wildlife, Workshops on May.13, 2010

I have just returned from a great workshop to the island of Texel that I ran alongside Dutch wildlife photographer Jeroen Stel.The weather wasn’t on the groups side for the first few days,but there was still some much birdife around the weather conditions added to the images the group got,with my belief of ‘There’s always an Image’  to be had,ringing out throughout the workshop we all stayed extremely positive,with the clients being rewarded with some beautiful behaviour,courting Avocets,Common Terns,Black-Necked Grebes all going through their courting routines,love was certainly in the air.

Avocets

Common Terns

Black-Necked Grebes

The first few days with the weather being so unpredictably we drove around the island to the key spots,chancing our luck with what ever we could work with at the same time trying to dodge the rain clouds that seemed to be here to stay.I have always believed that weather can add some much to an image,capturing unseen and uncommon behaviour prior,during,or after the rain.I covered this very subject some time ago now in a previous topic called After The Rain .When possible try to sit out the rain or take cover with your personnel safety first and foremost,then you will be rewarded with some images that are a little different with the weather conditions adding to the image(s),as below with this simple Avocet feeding in overcast conditions and also while the rain came down,taken with my wide-angled lens to give you a sense and scale of the place, placing the subject within its natural habitat which I feel adds great impact to the image through the art of Photography.

Avocet feeding

Avocet Feeding

Avocet Feeding

As a group we spent quite a lot of time photographing the Common,Arctic,Little,Sandwich Tern colonies that Texel supports in good numbers,most if not all are inland,dotted around this small islands pools,with the ever present noise and smell’s these busy little communities give off.For me the Tern family is a beautiful bird,on one hand really hardy,tough, on the other so gentle and elegant with such a graceful appearance.I watched as one parent sat on the nest as the other flew in and passed over the sandeels they had just caught,all while hovering for a split second,so beautiful to watch,I was able to capture the sequence with the three images below.

Common Tern

Common Tern

Common Tern' Passing Food'

Our daily routine was an early morning start come rain or shine,back to our beautiful hotel on Texel,where the food was brilliant,lovely breakfast,3 course evening meal, it really made the trip for the guests.We covered the whole island during our 3 days on there,seeing so,so much bird life,the island is teaming with,where there is opportunity after opportunity to capture the wildlife Texel has to offer.At around 25 miles long and seven miles wide the island of Texel is the largest of the Wadden Islands. It’s a haven and paradise for thousands of waders and waterfowl during the spring/summer months where they choose this picturesque island to play out their courtship routines and breed.

Black-Tailed Godwit

Black-Tailed Godwit

One of the many species of birds I wanted to see was the beautiful Black-Tailed Godwit,where the Dutch call this bird ‘The King Of The Birds’ with its stunning colours and trade mark proud stance it certainly carries its self like a king.On this day we saw this male on an old fence post,with all the group getting great images from this bird it was a real treat indeed,where the over cast weather played in our favour again with little or no bright,contrasty sunlight the birds shone in the soft lighting.

At almost every turning,each place give up there secrets to us all,where we were able to capture in good numbers the stunning wildlife that lives on this small island.Spoonbills were also a first for me,I’d seen them in my many trips and workshops to Norfolk but never at this close range as on Texel,their bills and marking amazed me,such a handsome bird.With a careful approach,using proven fieldcraft skills that allowed us to get quite close as we watched and observed them feeding,using their massive ‘Spoon‘ shaped bill to great effect.

Spoonbill

Spoonbill Feeding

Spoonbill

Spoonbills

The group we had was a mixture of UK and Dutch people with one Belgium man who I nicked named ‘Dotty Man’ his real name is Benoit,as we saw a few Dotterel feeding in a large field,another first for me,but sadly it came to nothing as Benoit’s fieldcraft put pay to the groups chances as the birds flew off after they saw his advances,all in good fun though and there is always next years trip Benoit!!, which already I cannot wait for.I hope the group of people that joined Jeroen and myself enjoyed the trip,it was good to show and help them all with the simply techniques and principles I use as a wildlife photographer,and I enjoyed all your company,with a lovely, relaxed atmosphere throughout the trip.

On our last day on Texel before we headed for the mainland to photography Black-Necked Grebes and Purple Herons,the clouds broke,and the island was bathed in beautiful sunshine,where our continued run of good luck carried on,with lovely views of Marsh Harriers flying over their hunting grounds of farmland and reedbeds

Marsh Harrier

Marsh Harrier

With the sunshine came so many beautiful colours as the island grows Tulips and many other flowers,with vast fields of pure colour.Our cars stopped for a bref moment,with the presence of movement to our left in a field of yellow flowers,this for me was the moment of the trip.As we watched the flowers move,we couldn’t see what was making this movement,it went on for some time as I followed the line of flowers moving in my viewfinder.Then almost comical like this male Pleasant popped his head up for a few seconds,then carried on,with the moving flowers forming a trail upon where he had gone and was heading,I couldn’t stop laughing,as nature does afford you such funny times from time to time ,this being one of  them.

Pleasant

On the last day I thought the bird I most wanted to see during the trip would elude me,as the weather was not very favorably,with strong winds it seemed the beautiful Bluethroat would not be seen.During the days on Texel we heard their distinctive call several times among the habitat,but sightings never materialised until later on in the day,I managed a few images but they never came to close,so I composed them within their environment.Such an unusual bird,with the prominent blue patch on their throats where their name is derived from they are so beautiful looking.

Bluethroat

Bluethroat

Oystercatcher's

The evening finished with a late evening walk after our evening meal in search of one of my favourite Owls;the Short-Eared Owl at a site Jeroen knew of on the island.As with nature you can never count on the subject to turn up when you want,in this case the Shorty never did but we were treated to a beautiful sunset,were I saw a small dark speck on the horizon,on a hill,as I walked forward and composed the bird in line with the setting sun I could just make out it was a Buzzard,beautiful colours and patterns to the sky,for me it was a dream end to our time on Texel,with our departure first thing in the morning to photograph Black-Necked Grebes on the main land.

Sunset Buzzard

An early start to catch our ferry,where we got to the main land in good time,we traveled for about two hours until we reached a popular sight where you can get some beautiful close up’s of this striking bird.We found a small spot,where we lay down and watched the Grebes feed at some distance away,over time they came closer into land,all the time feeding and on some occasions displaying to each other.The weather had gone cloudy again,with the sun making the odd appearance,this made exposure a nightmare,so I chose to turn some of my images of this beautiful bird into Hi-Key images,which highlights the brightness and makes for a ‘Arty’ image,going along with my belief of there’s always an image to be had!

Black-Necked Grebe

Black-Necked Grebe

Holland

It was a brilliant trip,great clients,loved Holland,very flat and picturesque,with lots of windmills about.I hope that the clients got alot from the workshop/trip and I hope to have helped you in some regard with wildlife photography,what it means to me,how you can capture a subject within its environment etc.We will be running another Texel trip next April/May 2011,until then thanks again,big thanks to Jeroen for your time and effort in making the trip a complete success,and sorry for my snoring!!

CJWP


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RAW India

Filed in Places Of Interest, Wildlife on May.05, 2010

The days seemed to fly by with the routine of 05.00am start, finish at 10.00am, breakfast with my English teabags I brought to remind me of home, and then sleeping until 02.30pm, as it was just too hot to go anywhere, and then ready for my afternoon safari at 03.00pm finishing at 06.30pm.  The days were passing to quick for me, as I eat, sleep, and lived Tigers and the other amazing wildlife that live in this beautiful area of India all day and everyday. Seeing the local people recycling everything, life is tough,and lets you know just how lucky we are back home, yet the people with the least have the most to give, love, happiness, a clear lesson to us all, where everyone has a smile and warm welcome for you, from the man on the street to the guests sitting at your table.  I truly felt very welcome in India as the people are so friendly and courteous.

I and the ‘A team’, as I called Salim and Raj, had our photo taken with the scarf Salim had given to me to help with the dust and heat on the back of the neck,all in good spirits as we entered the park.

A Team

I was getting use to the intense heat now a little more, drinking litres of water some plain some mixed with a glucose/minerals to boost my own levels which were taking a battering due to sweating, heat etc and the physicality of holding on in an open-topped jeep whilst balancing a 600,with a 70-200 and 24-70mm lens with cameras attached, in the ready position should  my continued streak of good luck continue and we see another Tiger.

An hour into our safari we noticed a few jeeps on the small dirt track ahead, Salim spoke to them and  there was a female Tiger called T39 laying down cleaning herself, but at some distance away, so while the rest waited, hoping for her to come down close enough so we could all see her, I watched here through my viewfinder.  I had to use manual focus due to the dense vegetation, it seemed ages before she’d look up, but eventually she did as she heard us.  I captured the meanest of looks as she stopped licking her paws and looked up.  I used the out of focus tree trunk to my left to frame her within the image below.

Female Tiger

The sun pierced through the tree canopy with a few rays of light landing on her face.  This highlighted her beautiful eyes and facial features.  I watched her for some time as she cleaned her massive paws, after she stood up and started to walk away from us, to my left, Salim slowly drove the jeep along the only track their, a basic dirt track and we all looked back into the jungle to see if we could see her but the Tigers markings are some of the best camouflage I have witnessed in nature, she disappeared from view, yet we could here the alarm calls from monkeys and peacocks.  I named the Tiger ‘The Ghost Of The Forest’, as literally they just vanished as you can see from the images below.  As she sat down the markings blended so well with the habitat, how wonderful mother nature is!

Tiger In Habitat

Tiger In Habitat

She lay here for sometime then got to her feet with real purpose and started to stare at something that had caught her eye, it was Spotted Deer, one of the species of deer the Tiger hunts for here in Ranhanbhore.  I watched as she took on the characterises of the cats we see back home stalking a bird on the lawn, low, slow and intense stare.

Hunting Tiger

The Deer became jumpy and moved away quickly leaving this female Tiger a little deflated, so she continued to walk and we drove on the dirt track some 60 feet below here.

Tiger Hunting

Tiger

As she settled down she was joined by her brother T38  and for the very briefest of moments both Tigers sat alongside each other, to close for the 600 so I used the 24-70 lens and D300 to capture this moment.

Brother And Sister

After a few close ups of the male T38, he then decided to move off and was heading our way!!

Tiger

Tiger

My guide Salim had waited back a little and let the other jeeps head off as for a moment the Tigers seemed to have vanished again, we stayed put and waited as I changed cameras and lens to the 7-200 and wide angle, then with an almighty ringing of alarm calls from the Black face langur Monkeys we saw the male walking towards us, almost level to our jeep but some 20 feet higher up from the road we were on, I lay flat on my belly inside the jeep, held my camera and watched as the most beautiful of animals the natural world has,weighing in excess of 200KG walk towards us.

I used the wide -angle and captured him below just looking up at the Monkeys as the alarm calls rang out through the jungle, echoing for miles, my hairs were standing up on the back of my neck, my heart was beating so fast I not only felt the beats but could hear them in my head, as I captured the very moment he looked up, completely camouflaged in his habitat, with a few rays of sun light piercing down on him.  Oh my god! was I lucky this day,  and for me this has to be the best moment I have ever felt whilst watching/photographing nature, 20 feet away from a wild Tiger, who earlier had been hunting and was hungry, what a truly special moment I have on record now and also in my mind, just beautiful!!

Male Tiger

He carried on walking but we stayed still and let him be and go off onto his travels.  We headed back to our check point and again as they spoke and drove I was left in the back just in shock at what I’d seen,completely privileged and honoured with the experience of this day, which will be with me forever.  2010 The Year Of The Tiger, and I am 20-30 feet away from a wild, large male Tiger, it doesn’t get much better than that for me as a person who loves wildlife, and waited 30 years to get my chance to see one, Wow, wow!

As we headed back for my much needed cup of English tea,courtesy of my Yorkshire Teabags, I was still on the look out for images, as I’d seen the beautiful birds that live here.  I managed to capture a Bee-eater,and a Ring-Necked Parakeet feeding in some lovely light and dream back grounds,another beautiful day, god was I glad I came!

Bee-eater

Ring-Necked Parakeet

Well its all go, as I’m off to Texel tomorrow for my ‘Texel Workshop’ co-hosted with my friend and fellow wildlife photographer Jeroen Stel for 4 days photographing the beautiful wildlife that lives in and around this part of northern Holland.  I will continue with my RAW India when I am back as I carried on becoming luckier,bye for now!

CJWP


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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


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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


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