Entries Tagged ‘Craig Jones Wildlife Photography’:

Early Spring in Norfolk

Filed in Photography Tips, Workshops on Apr.24, 2011

Spring is my favourite time of year, an amazing array of colours, fresh life and wildlife, this season is truly amazing within the different season we have during the year.  Having just returned from my Early Spring in Norfolk photo tour which I run every spring and 3 days of one to ones added on, its been a busy week with a amazing weather.  Early Spring photo trip is a full 3 days exploring the beautiful countryside of Norfolk at the same time staying at one of the best Hotels serving stunning local food, the perfect base to come back to from a day in the field. I had a great group of clients and a real pleasure showing you around Norfolk, at the same time giving you real help to improve your photography, fieldcraft and general understanding of the subjects we encountered and photographed.

Catching the season moving from winter into spring is a beautiful time, the wildlife of the Norfolk coast comes alive.  It is a place that is blessed with a rich and varied wildlife heritage, famous for its wild north coast, the rivers, lakes and marshes of the Broads and the sandy heaths. There are also the fens, grasslands and ancient woods within the wider farmed countryside, all beautiful places where we encountered many photographic opportunities during this photo tour. My knowledge of the North Norfolk Coast helped the group in seeing some of the best places along this beautiful coastline ensuring that they all captured some lovely images.

These 2 x three day photo trips I run every year,one in Spring and the other one in Winter are designed to show you as much of the wildlife and their own habitats as i can during these two trips, whilst at the same time balancing that with the best opportunities to capture the wildlife here.  The weather throughout the week was as kind as it could possibly be, with morning light and evening light offering lovely photographs for the entire group. Every morning on the roof apex a lone male Blackbird would fill the air with what has to be for me the most beautiful call of the British countryside. Standing as proud as punch as we are packed for the days adventures below him.

On the first morning we visited the predicted Spring Tide which was forecast alone with the full moon. Upon arriving we are had some lovely mist and sun rise shots, where I pointed out different images, suggested different compositions etc, all in tern designed to make the group grow within their own photography.  At the same time showing them that the beauty of photography is what the person chooses to capture when they look through their own viewfinder, and never to be restricted to one or two shots, this is how I learned.  There were lots of Bar and Black tailed Godwits gathered and cleaning, and some sleeping with their deep summer plumage warming the slight chill in the air.  They are such a beautiful and striking bird at this time of year and a firm favourite with the group on the day.

We then headed to a great little gem of a site with Barn Owls, Hares and Marsh Harrier all living in close proximity to each other, a mixture of rough grazing, farmland and marshland.  This amazing little place really is a little sanctuary for wildlife.  There are a pair of Marsh harrier living and nesting there, some distance away and protected from the shoreline by a small pool of water.  We watched and saw some amazing behaviours between them both, flying in, dropping into their nest site.  For some it was the first time witnessing this beautiful bird.  Marsh Harriers are doing really well in the county of Norfolk with several nest sites littered along its coastline.

Each afternoon, taking us into the evening we’d settle at one of the groups favourite places and capture whatever would show.  Throughout the several days there the Barn Owl actively was really quiet, with little or no sightings at the several sites I know, plenty of white feathers, pellets and pooh markings though.  My conclusion was they maybe sitting on eggs.  During this time one bird sits on the eggs whilst the other sleeps so their combined actively is really small, only venturing out to feed so fingers crossed they are still around and not been disturbed at any of the sites.

At one of the sites while we waited for the Owls to show, there is a  good amount of Brown Hare, so we all voted as a group to try our luck at these while we waited for the main act to show.  When I go somewhere new I always have a look around , east and west for the respective light source, as light equals speed, speed equals sharp images.  I demonstrated to the group some tracking and fieldcraft skills that they can remember and maybe take home with themselves and apply in their own work, going through the behaviours I have learned on the said mentioned subjects.

Over the last few days we visited this site a few times and everyone came away with some great shots, where I demonstrated the different composition options and encouraged the group to push their own boundaries in regard to how they see an image. On one of the mornings the sun was coming up and the hares were chasing and playing almost underneath the suns rays, so some careful fieldcraft and slow approach got us into place for some nice and very different images I felt, capturing that beautiful and atmospheric morning we all encountered.

Lighting, mist,sun and subject all coming together on those rare moments when all photography key elements work together. I chose to compose small in the frame, a style I love and here I was able to show a little of the habitat and the rising sun which adds so much to an image.  The Hares were fun to watch, even chasing off a Pheasant that was among the field, during other visits we witnessed two Hares following each other, the male behind the female constantly sniffing the female waiting for her to come into heat so he can breed with her.  The poor fellow was really hanging onto this female with stiff competition from other males knocking around,such great behaviour to watch where you learn some much about the subject all benefiting your work.

This male Hare seemed to be top dog and had a few females in his harlream,the battle scars are clear to see with a half chewed ear reminding me of Bigwig from the film Watership Down.  The first film I saw at the pictures. I also had a lovely encounter with a Wheatear who seemed to check me out as I was lying on the ground.  Here I composed the bird in the morning light with the dew from the grass reflecting light making a lovely, soft appearance to this image.

Had some lovely feedback from clients and Andrew Hall wrote :

“I would like to say a massive thank you for the fantastic time I had on your spring waders workshop Your willingness to share your knowledge and techniques was extremely refreshing from the guarded nature of most other professional photographers. The technical tips you gave helped to improve my photography, however the highlight for me was the amount of fieldcraft knowledge that I was able to gain Our time spent crawling and lying around the field photographing the Hares was fantastic and incredibly rewarding when we walked away with the photographs we had in mind at the start Once again a huge thank you and I look forward to future workshops/trips that I hope to do with you soon! I will never hesitate in recommend you to anyone and everyone”

David Naylor who attended a day in Norfolk with me :

After recently purchasing a new camera and years of average bird snaps from my old camera I took the recommendation from a friend and booked a day out with Craig in Norfolk. I can honestly say that in the first hour with Craig, albeit at 5.30 am, in a damp field, I leaned more about how to take really excellent photos than I have in the last 10 years of reading books and magazines. Craig covered all the basics of the camera then moved on to composition, exposure and auto-focusing and gave me real confidence in both myself and the equipment. We spent the rest of the day consolidating the advice in a variety of lovely locations and I am truly grateful to Craig for his open and informative tuition. Nothing is kept back and Craig shows you exactly how he takes truly superb photos. I cannot recommend Craig highly enough if you want to learn how to take better photographs”.  

More testimonals can be viewed here

Thank you to all my guests on the Early Spring in Norfolk, great company, great food and great weather, many thanks also to the three clients who booked one to ones in Norfolk.  I wish you all well and very nice to meet and help you all in improving your photography, at the same time learning more about the countryside amd fieldcraft.  I have a few days off now until my next photo tour to Texel.  My Texel trip starts on Thursday evening, co-hosted by my friend and fellow wildlife photographer Jeroen Stel from Holland.  

This beautiful island of Texel is full of birdlife at this time of year and if lasts years trip is anything to go by then the whole group is in for a real treat, its home to one of the most stunning and beautiful waders, the Black Tailed Godwit which was photographed from last years trip. I will update my blog on my return before heading to India to photography the amazing Bengal Tiger with clients booked onto my Tigers of India trip.

Best Wishes and Happy Easter.

 




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Peak District Favourites

Filed in Workshops on Apr.10, 2011

Over the last week I have had a great time with clients on Watervoles and Dipper one to ones and workshops in an area I have visited and known for a great deal of time, the Peak District, in the county of Derbyshire.  Time severed knowledge and history of an area and the subject is key to successful wildlife photography, workshops and one to ones for me.  That emotional attachment I have with these subjects helps in learning people about their lives and behaviours, which greatly benefit the clients images and also having a better understanding of a subject lets you read key actions or behaviours in a subject that you could later use in tracking or locating them.

 

This area of the country has such a diverse array of wildlife and habitats and some of the best walking routes in the country, its a wildlife heaven and one I don’t live that far from and always enjoy each visit whether it be with clients or alone watching the same species of wildlife.  I’ve walked this area for many years, tracing the same paths for a long time.  Finding your own subjects, getting to know them and their characters and behaviours is something that is really important within wildlife photography, where each image you take will have a meaning and be real in turn developing key fieldcraft skills and subject knowledge.

Watervoles are the largest British vole and are often mistaken for a brown rat.  The watervole can easily be distinguished by their blunt, rounded nose and ears which are almost hidden in their fur.  Watervoles are legally protected in Britain and their numbers continue to plummet, the main causes for their decline include destruction of bank side vegetation, pollution, and the introduction of the American Mink, an aggressive predator. Watervoles are my favourite mammal with their enduring character and cuteness, making them a lovely subject to photograph.

The Dippers, Red Grouse and Watervoles workshops are very personal to me and I share that passion and love for these subjects during these trips with clients, where their popularity never stops amazing me.  And there can be no better feeling for a wildlife photographer when you show a client an area and the species shows up, that’s magic as they say in show business.

The Watervole population has taken a bit of a fall nationally and within some of the areas I visit in the Peak District numbers are down from previous years, experts all have their own reasons but I feel its a mixture of cold winters, water pollution and the dreaded Mink that’s the cause for the delcine in this most adorable subject.  We got into place as the sun was coming up and the place was really quiet at first, then the sounds of the birds singing in the morning is enough for me, such a wonderful and real spring time feel when you hear all the different bird calls first thing in the morning.

Then without warning a tiny ball of brown fur turns up, moves quickly then pauses, motionless on the riverbank sniffing the air for clues to whats around.  The Watervoles sense of smell and hearing is very good, their eye sight lets them down. While we watched one Watervole he went up the bank and started to sniff the air, remaining still at the same time to cut down on him giving away his position through movement, watching a wild animal can give you so much pleasure at the same time help you to understand and learn more about them which will help you in the future to local and photograph your chosen subject.

I filmed this Watervole to show how animals smell the air and smell your presence.  Here this little fellow was sniffing the air, their key behaviour, not to sure what he has smelt or heard but wonderful to witness and a great example why wind direction is so important in getting close to animals.  You can learn so much by simple encounters like this many people would just ignore or pass by as within mammals more so then birds smell and wind direction is so important to learn about otherwise the animal will have gone before you ever knew they were around.

On this amazing morning with the back drop of the beautiful dawn corus there was no wind so in turn the Watervole struggled to smell anything and local what it was he may have caught wind of.  He later dropped into the water another classic sign to listen out for when you walk the riverbank,their trademark “plop”.  The second short film below captured him having a good clean up and a scratch before heading up for his breakfast, really amazing and funny to watch, pure priceless humour.

Dipper’s forage for small prey in and around the fast-flowing streams and rivers of this area, walking down and beneath the water until partly or wholly submerged, this behaviour offers some brilliant opportunities to photograph and capture this unique moment and all over the years I have visited the several sites I know within the Peak District I never ever tyer of seeing these master’s of the river as I’ve always called them.  Bobbing or dipping constantly on rocks, which I’ve always viewed as the bird ‘Curtseying’ for you.  The Dippers I have been watching are feeding their first brood of chicks at the moment and they are doing well with a possible second brood on the cards as this is normally the case with Dippers as they are early nestor’s.

Its been a very busy week and thank you to my clients for your time and look forward to seeing you again.  Knowledge is key and the best advice I can give for improved photographs of wild animals is to watch, look and listen to wildlife when you are in the countryside and this will learn you so so much, then all you have to do is press the shutter button and capture that moment you witness.  Its an amazing time of year now to be among nature, with so much life and different behaviours to see that are only displayed at this time of year, with beautiful light and longer days its a magical season and one of my firm favourites within natures calender, good luck.


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Love Is In The Air

Filed in Wildlife, Workshops on Mar.27, 2011

With the start of British Summer time upon us, there is a feeling of love in the countryside, animals displaying and showing off and saying ‘look at me’.  This behaviour is mirrored in the human world also, in the hope to attract a female so their genes can continue upon breeding.  With the clock going forward, the light will come up earlier in the morning and set later in the evening making those beautiful summer days last ages.  Long gone now are those late starts as you wait for the sun to rise. I really look forward to the warmer months, the new life, animal behaviour and the many different and wonderful things you can witness within nature during our longest days of the year.

Here I took a wide angle of a lone male Marsh Harrier that was circling over our heads for some time, calling to the female who was hidden in the reeds. I wanted to convey the true beauty of that morning, with the low lying mist and Norfolk reed in the background. We then headed for cover where I show and teach clients how best to use what’s around you in order to disappear from view. The same male Marsh Harrier then dropped into the reeds in front of us all, where a mixture of watching the subject and following in camera resulted in us all capturing lovely images from that morning.

Camping out in the field, a small fire, favourite foods all packed away to maximise the space along with the many other items you carry as a wildlife photographer living in the field. I like to camp and be closer to the subject I am hoping to photograph, getting up for the light, spending those amazing first few hours of light engrossed in my work. After a long day I then like to head back to where I have made camp and start a small fire, get the little camping stove on, hot water,a strong sweet cup of tea, as I review the days events in camera. With so many things and subjects I am working on along with my one to ones and photo trips there is just not enough time in the day to get round to everything I wish to photograph, even with the extra light.

This week I have had a wonderful time with a lovely couple who travel the globe photographing wildlife. Sue & Rob from the UK. They booked me for two days to show them the beauty of Norfolk and all the places I know and have found during the many visits to this amazing county over many years. You always wish for the best weather for your clients in order for them to get the very best from the day(s) and the conditions during the two days, they could not have wished for better. A slight frost adding that little crunch under foot welcomed us on both days but the light and clear skies were what as a wildlife photographer you dream of.  Many thanks to you both and I hope to see you on my Greenland or Tigers Trip next year.

Along with my Fox work, Brown Hares, Barn Owls and Dippers, I am also working on Great Crested Grebes, a bird I have loved for ages, their elegant pose, their beautiful marking and stunning plumage makes them one of the most handsome water dwelling birds in the UK in my eyes. They are the largest of the European Grebes and during the spring and summer they are such a striking bird, with their spectacular head, ruff and spiky head tuffs when they greet each other or display during courtship. Last year I photographed these birds at the same site but was unable to go back at the start of the breeding season due to commitments, so this year I’d hoped to capture them as they build their bond between each other and go through their amazing courtship dance where they dive for weed, surfacing with this in their bills and offer it to one another while sharply turning their heads back and forth.

Having spent some time there now, the lives of these amazing birds are played out before me, where they show real love and care for each other, when one goes out of sight the other calls in an attempt to locate its mate, such a strong bond which was so lovely to witness. I am using a hide on the shore to photograph this pair of Grebes; just on the water’s edge and not in the water as this disturbs the birds and other species of animals around too much. Getting there before the sun comes up, with the dawn chorus as my companion, each bird jockeying for their own patch, staking their clam to that bit of land. It’s such an amazing time of day and one you greatly benefit from for being among its beauty and peace.

The morning starts cold and sometimes there’s that morning mist lying low on the water adding an air of mystery to the place as you wonder what will come, always praying your chosen subject may just make a short and brief appearance for your morning efforts in getting into place.

Then a bird appears an unmistakable appearance, their head plumes held or raised aloft as they swim proudly on their way. The same head plumes compressed when the bird is alarmed or alerted to something, making their whole face area very streamline. Hours can pass with nothing, each bird fishing far and wide from each other, with the odd highly vocal call echoing around the lake. It’s a strong, rolling like call ‘crrra-ahrr’ repeated often and appearing very nasal in sound as the beak doesn’t really open during calling.

To witness their courtship weed dance was amazing and from know where the two birds would come together, something unseen triggering the need to display with each other in a moments flash. Swimming towards each other with great intent, and then rising up inches apart sharply turning their heads from side to side, climaxing in their penguin dance in which both birds raise their whole bodies upright from the water, breast to breast, just amazing to see.

The weed dance only happens a few times during the day and is so beautiful to see, poetry in motion as you witness each bird working to please the other in a real act of affection and love which for me was very touching to witness this very private and powerful moment.

This display is over as quickly as he begins in most cases, this pair are in the early days of courtship and building their nest, gathering twigs, and small branches and bringing them back to increase the size and shape of their nest.  Occasionally they mate, only briefly at the moment but this will increase once the nest is finished. The male climbs onto the female, she flattens herself and a small call by the male advertises their brief period of mating before climbing off her.

In the coming weeks I do hope to capture those beautiful images you see with the Grebes chicks on the adults back, thumbing a lift around the lake while tucked under their wings.  On some days I have stayed there until dusk some 16 hours almost in the hide, but with love in the air the place is alive with action and calls from other birds and surrounding wildlife so there’s really never a dull moment during the relentless waiting for the Grebes.

Whatever you choose to do good luck and remember the wildlife should always come before any photograph, with careful and respectful fieldcraft, the key with wildlife photography your efforts will be rewarded with those priceless and private moments you get into a wild animals life, capturing them with the camera just lets you record those times, all the best


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Falkland Islands Photo Tour

Filed in Places Of Interest, Workshops on Mar.17, 2011

The Falkland Islands have a raw, unspoilt quality that provide one of the most unusual and spectacular wildlife destinations in the world, lying some 450 kilometres from the coast of South America  amid the rich fishing grounds of the South Atlantic.

Explore the wildlife-rich beaches of Sea Lion Island, discover Pebble Island and marvel at the King penguins and Elephant seal colonies at Volunteer Point alongside a huge choice of other amazing and unique wildlife the Falklands has.

The islands are inhabited by huge numbers of seabirds during the breeding season which extends from October to March, the spectacle of these great assemblies of penguins, albatrosses, cormorants and terns is reason enough to visit the Falkland’s but the islands are so much more than just a haven for seabirds.

The scenery is often reminiscent of the Scottish islands and there are many unique aspects to life in the Falklands, visitors are constantly charmed by this blend of familiar and unfamiliar and in many ways the islands are essentially British in character but a flavour of the South Atlantic exerts its own influence onto the islands. The site of huge Elephant Seals hauled out on the sandy beaches, or the giant Albatrosses gliding effortlessly over the sea, this place is pure magic in terms of its wildlife.

Sea Lion Island, Carcass Island, West Point and Saunders Island constitute the main centres for this photo tour each of which offers something different, we will be spending several days at each location to get the very best light conditions and best photographic opportunities for those amazing images. Once on the islands we will travel between them by a 9-seater ‘Islander’ aircraft which give superb views of the scenery.

January and February are the best months for wildlife watching, as the extended daylight hours provide up to 18 hours a day to photograph and capture the wonderful wildlife.  You will benefit from expert photographic and fieldcraft advice explained and demonstrated by me and tuition on photography skills and techniques, use of lighting and composition, slow shutter speeds, impending movement shots and much more.

A well planned full day’s excursion trip from Stanley to Volunteer Point is sure to rank among the tour highlights as we visit the Falkland’s colony of over 1000 breeding pairs of King Penguin, along with Gentoo and Magellanic.  This is a very remote spot and provides one of the best places to see all these species of penguin.

Seeing these beautiful birds with be amazing and the timing of this photo tour has been chosen to coincide with the birth of their chicks which will be very appealing, parading in front of you wearing their comical ‘fur’ coats of thick down.  A memory to take home with you from these extraordinary South Atlantic islands.

We travel to the islands with the RAF out of Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, stopping on Ascension Island to refuel. The flight time is 8 hours for each leg, with 1 ½ hours on the ground on Ascension to enjoy the warm tropical fresh air before continuing the journey to the Falklands. Our itinerary takes in all the main visitor sites, we’ll see many different aspects of island life as well as enjoying the birds, wildlife and flowers of this unique archipelago which, in spite of having become more popular and sophisticated over the years, has not lost that magic which visitors find so enchanting.

Come and join me on this amazing 14 day photo tour to this island, working with the best people making for a magical trip you’ll never forget. For more information or to book please visit my Falkland Islands page on my Photo Tours & Workshops page or send me an email here, many thanks.


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Springs Around The Corner

Filed in Wildlife on Mar.03, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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The Kingfisher and The Mink

Filed in Projects on Dec.11, 2010

I have really missed going down to the river of late where I have been watching and documenting the trails and tribulations of the Kingfishers that live in this private and untouched area.  This has been as a result of workshops and one to ones and other projects I am currently working on.  Over the last week or so along with the freezing cold days, I have made the dawn starts to go and see the Kingfishers on a stretch of the River Trent not to far from my Staffordshire home, wondering if they have left for the coast to feed, as this is a behaviour in Kingfishers when their food supply drys up or the rivers and inland streams that they live on freeze up.

When I get to the river in the darkness I set up my hide on the frozen ground, having to wade through a small piece of the river to reach where I place my hide.  On some days access isn’t possible due to the rising waterline and in the past the river has risen, only for me to arrive and my hide has been taken by the currents. This makes the whole project which I started some time ago now even more special and untouched.  If you respect a place it may give up its secrets to you.  I totally immerse myself in this little wilderness rarely visited by the outside world due to its private nature, almost like the wildlife it supports. 

I have dedicated as much of my time as possible to these Kingfishers, more so the young gorgeous female I have watched grow over the last several months, fighting back with her parents refusing to be pushed out by those who once loved and protected her, claiming a piece of this rich and diverse wilderness for herself.  I get over joyed when I first see her, chuffed shes making her mark, a broad smile lights up my face as deep down I am routing for her to succeed and have a family, continuing the ‘magic’ blue flashes you see when they fly low to the water.

In my experience working with these Kingfishers, you can wait almost all day for one passing glimpse as they fly up and down the river, you only real indication they are around sometimes is their piercing loud call which breaks through the ever present sound of the moving water. Briefly landing on the perches then vanish, on my last visit there I did briefly see a Mink and saw a few footprints around. The Mink is a medium-sized member of the weasel family, the first American Mink were brought to British fur farms in 1929 and all wild Mink in Britain today are descendants of escapees. Their natural wild colouring is a glossy dark brown, appearing almost black in some light.

My own sightings over the last few days have been amazing , where I have witnessed them feeding, swimming and actively seeking out prey, which is bad for the wildlife in and around rivers and this one in particular due to the Kingfishers. I have not seen any Watervoles, their prints or droppings, their declining numbers put down to this introduced species which is in a no win situation, a proven killer that can swim, climb and tackle prey much bigger than themselves just going about its business.  I have never been so close to these animals, and having rarely seen one before, I was lost for words, as this one fished and went about its life feet away from me allowing me a view into his very private life.

I watched in total amazement as this Mink heard something then carried on, at one point stalking a Moorhen he’d seen.  As you can see from one of the photographs where I have captured him with a front paw raised, a beautiful looking animal whose coat was in stunning condition.  I have the extreme weather conditions to thank and lady luck twinned with my own fieldcraft, at one point I had left my hide and stalked him through the icy cold water, kneeing in the swallow bit of the river, lowering my tripod legs very,very slowly as not to spook him.

He was only feet away from me, the wind blowing my scent away, all parts of my body were covered as light is reflected from skin and I stayed as low as possible for this incredible encounter that I chose to film, he was in a shaded area so it appears to be dark but I truly had no time to make the adjustments in camera as I filmed this incredible moment.

One of those truly beautiful moments where I was allowed to watch this shy and elusive creature for a few minutes.  I didn’t see him again that day but they are fairly active in this area as on previous visits I have seen track marks and kill sites, so I am hoping maybe to have these kind of sightings once more in the future.

As the minutes turned into hours and the shorter days resulted in less light I hadn’t seen the Kingfisher and I was thinking two things, firstly that they had left for the coast to find food, but the river wasn’t frozen, or secondly, something had happened to them and then my thoughts turned to the Mink.  Then in the distance I could just make her out, great; shes alive I said, she seemed to be fishing from the higher branches of the various different trees that litter the riverbank, from old to new trees, covering the banks with a natural fence line. 

I have captured a few images I love, backlit with slight contrasty light, but I loved the effect with the hue of the frosty blue forming a slight colour to these images, with the snow in parts adding a real atmosphere to the photographs.

I had waited hours before she briefly appeared in front of my hide, checking it out and watching me as she heard the shutter noise, the water was so cold the blueish colour can be seen behind the Kingfisher as she had a look below her before flying off.

A really beautiful looking bird who has grown up and seems really settled now on this stretch of the river.  I am going to try and capture her over the coming year , fingers crossed I hope, as I really love my time down by the river, watching, waiting for that moment of magic when she appears from nowhere, stays, looks around and goes as quick as she arrived alongside the other wonderful wildlife I have witnessed there too.


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