As the season almost comes to an end on the beautiful welsh island of Skomer, it has been a wonderful year with some great encounters and images of the funny and very comical Puffins. Shortly they depart for the ocean and wont come ashore again until late March early April next year as they spend all that time outside of the breeding season at sea, which is truly remarkable.
Being so trusting you can have really wonderful views of these stunning birds but you always have to remember to put them first and to move out of their way should they wish to cross some of the paths where we are allowed to walk on. The following images have been taken over the session and its a stunning place.
Next years one day workshop dates are up now if you’d like to join me. Also next year I am running a 4 day, 3 night trip for up to 8 people to Skomer while we will still on the island and photograph when everyone’s gone home. For the information on this carry on down the page and please contact me if you’d like to join me in 2016.
Skomer Spectacular 3 night Photo Tour.
Join me in summer 2016 for an amazing experience, living on the island of Skomer alongside its wonderful wildlife. A magical wildlife haven located just off the beautiful Pembrokeshire coast, 3 miles from Martin’s Haven, and covering 750 acres of habitat. Skomer is the perfect place to see and photograph Razorbills, Guillemots, Seals, Short Eared and Little Owls, Manx Shearwater and the star of the island, the Puffins.
DATES & COSTS
Cost for this three night trip is £480
Due to the Welsh Wildlife Trust not announcing island accommodation availability until October of each year, exact dates are not yet known but your 3 night stay will be during the height of the puffin season in May, June or July.
Everyone is welcome on this amazing trip from birdwatchers to photographers why all levels are catered for by myself. Skomer’s wildlife is very accommodating and everyone will have the chances to make the most of their time on this wonderful island
Please register your interest by contacting me on firstname.lastname@example.org I will then send out a booking form and let you know all the details, and answer any questions you may have.
GROUP SIZE AND ACCOMMODATION
this workshop is limited to 8 guests, staying in the islands only accommodation, a beautiful farmhouse set right in the heart of the island.
Catch the first boat from Martins Haven to Skomer at 9am
After a brief boat ride we arrive on the island and then we have a briefing from the wardens on the island. Then we head to our accommodation, unpack and make ourselves at home and have a warm drink and then head out after lunch to start exploring the island.
DAY 2 & 3
The pattern of event for the next two days will be very similarly maximising your time n the island. From sunrise to sunset and all through the night if you wish as it’s amazing on the island once it goes dark, we are free to come and go on the island and I will be showing you and guiding you to some of the best places on the island at both ends of the day and during the day.
We catch the first boat back to the mainland at 9am.
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.
Nature is a wonderful thing, her beauty, the innocence of the subject, and once you are among her you just don’t know what you’ll see or what will turn up as you walk the countryside. Over the last several weeks I have been visiting some of my popular sites within the Peak District, at the same time running my successful Spectacular Skomer one day workshops, where I show the beauty of nature whilst at the same time learning clients many things they take home with them to improve their own work and seeing the beautiful Puffin up close.
With British Summer time now well and truly here, those early starts for that dream light that all wildlife photographers wish for, start really early and sometimes when working late the night before it has paid to just sleep for a few hours as the new dawn is never far away. I normal meet the client(s) before dark and then we head out on the chosen day they have picked. In this case it was the amazing and beautiful landscape of the Peak District. A place I have visited for many years, building up a unique knowledge of the wildlife here but each visit I still get surprised at witnessing something new, such is nature, you just never know what will happen and you have to be among her beauty to get those amazing encounters.
Here the sun broke the horizon as we walked onto the moorland, nothing prepares you for that moment, the light, the freshness of the morning air and the orchestral of birdsong is magical, just pure heaven. We headed up as the sun was breaking through the clouds, fighting for a clear path in which to warm the moors below. We both set up and captured a few images of the Curlew, a large bird so at home on these landscapes, such is their wonderful camouflage. Your only real indicator they are around is their piercing loud, a single note call, which cuts through the morning air. Here he was flying past in the morning light, I managed a nice image of this wonderful bird as he was calling.
After that first few moments of beautiful light the clouds started to consume the beautiful light we had seen rise that morning, the temperature also drops a touch at that time of morning. The landscape of the Peak District is full of different and very diverse wildlife, from beetles to birds, it really has something for everyone. Our aim was to see the moorland birds- Curlews, Golden Plovers, Dunlins, Red Grouse and fingers crossed the Short eared Owls that nest on these moors.
We were greeted by a pair of Golden Plovers, a typical moorland bird, nesting among the thickets and heather of this habitat. They had young nearby so we just sat at a distance and watched ,staying low presenting them with little or no disturbance by our presence, they were calling each other as the female was in one part and the male in another part. Their call really stands out and it was an amazing moment as my client, Ian, on a one to one wanted to see this iconic moorland bird and here we were among them.
When the male Golden Plover had finally broken cover to gain a high vantage point to survey his territory the cloud had filled the sky and hid that beautiful sunlight as seen with the first image. The background is one of the high peaks covered in mist and low lying cloud. We had some wonderful encounters with this pair of charismatic birds as we blending into their habitat and using fieldcraft as the key element. The highlight of the day was an amazing 45 mintues with a pair Mountain Hare in their summer coats, going about their lives and feeding among the fresh shoots of vegetation.
Outside of Scotland, the Peak District is the only place to have a good population of these beautiful mammals, normally seen in their pure white coats. Seeing them in their fluffy Summer coats was a real bonus as they fed on the fresh young shoots after some of this area had been carefully burnt.
Very shy and elusive the Mountain Hare blends so well into their habitat, the prevailing wind was our best friend here as it was blowing our scent away allowing us to both slowly and carefully advance to where this pair where feeding. Even with the strong wind they where very alert, with this image above I tried to captured just how hard it was to see them at the same time capture a little of their character. They settled a little and carried on feeding and moving among the burnt heather treating us both with a window into their lives as we hugged the ground for what little cover we could use to hide behind and use to blend in as we watched this amazing mammal.
The background added a real different element to our images, very different to snow or heather as the different colours contrasting with the stark blacks of the burnt heather.
Heather is kept young and vigorous by controlled burning, if left unburned it eventually grows long and reduces in its nutritional value. During this process of burning the heather roots are left undamaged and the whole process ‘shocks’ the heather seed lying in the ground into germinating quickly. The burning cycle creates a pattern of different aged heather, the oldest provides cover for the Grouse and other birds, and the new shoots provide succulent food for birds, mammals and sheep. A skillfully burnt moor will have a mosaic of heather and other moorland plants of differing ages offering a rich variety of wildlife to this special habitat.
We were treated to one of those beautiful moments, spending this long with such a shy animal. I have seen and photographed them in Winter, when I run one to ones here in the same location, but it was a real bonus to see them in their wonderful Summer coats. We had a great day so thanks to my client, Ian, who was amazed also at what the whole day delivered for him and I wish you well.
The next day it was onward to Skomer where I was meeting other clients for my Spectacular Skomer one day workshops, on this amazing island off the beautiful Welsh coast, a stunning part of the UK. The weather can change without warning off this coastline, I have been caught on Skomer as the heavens opened and the cloud base dropped, it can be very testing. Thankfully for my clients it was sunny and very warm as we met early and waited for the first crossing to the island on that sunny morning.
We were the first boat onto the island, the BBC Springwatch team were there all week broadcasting live each evening from the island, so there seemed alot more people around. After the briefing you get from staff on the island, going through information to help your short stay on the island, we then headed to a favourite spot for Puffins. Before the main crowds come you can have a good hour or so here among these “clowns of the sea” as I have always called them, a name that’s becoming quite popular now.
It was a real warm day with bright sunshine making the job of exposing for the Puffins plumage a little difficult. I always try to show and tell people to work with what ever light you have or haven’t got and use it to your own advantage. We arrived at one of the most popular spots for the Puffins and settled down to watch at first, looking for flight patterns, their different ways in which they land and quickly dive down their burrows before the ever present danger of the Gulls who mob them of their catch, as the image below clearly shows. This gives you a good idea of the general movements in a given area and helps with your photography.
In this area there is a large cliff with many different birds nesting on its ledges and I was watching a pair of Fulmars, one bird kept flying off and around in circles, soaring on the air thermals, coming out from the darken area of the cliffs and flying into the direct sunlight, right over my head and then diving down towards the sea then back up onto the nest, amazing behaviour to watch and capture.
Effortless flying at its very best with these beautiful birds that are part of the same family as Albatross, Shearwaters and Petrels. These birds nest and breed in colonies on ledges and steep coastal cliffs, sometimes in burrows on inaccessible slopes. They are masters at exploiting the air currents to travel miles on and hunt all the time conserving their own fuel reserves. Sharing the same cliff ledges are Guillemots, Gulls and the most handsome member for me of the Crow family: the Chough, jet black with bright red beak and legs, its a strking looking bird that gave us a little fly past just enough for us to see this handsome bird at close quarters.
There is so much wildlife on this small island of Skomer, in each direction you look you’ll see something different, from Puffins,Gulls, to Rabbits. The different Gulls, all ranging from the small Herring Gull to the governor of them all, the large Black backed Gull all nesting in the own places, higher up on the island and away from the coast cliffs.
In the centre of the island their is a good population of Short eared Owls but during our visit we didn’t see them, but this little chap turned up and became quite a star during the week, posing really well as people walked past this section of rock this Little Owl had made home. So enduring to see and watch a lovely looking Owl, with real character for its size.
The island, the sea around it all teaming with wildlife giving this island its special status as a crucial island for breeding birds within the UK. The sea is rich with life and having dived this area myself before I know of the riches under its surface. This image I took shows the frailness of the whole area as Skomer and the surrounding islands are on one of the major shipping lanes around our coastline, carrying vital oil/fuel to the nearby refineries up and down this stunningly beautiful coastline.
Thank you to all my clients who have attended my Spectacular Skomer trips, I look forward to meeting those that have booked for the trips in the next month.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.