Sunday, March 30, 2008

Welcome Back

As the weather has improved in the mornings this weekend, some migrants are starting to arrive. Its always good to hear the first chif chaf or spot the first Northern Wheatear. Whilst out looking for skylarks yesterday, I cam across my first wheatear. As usual they were very difficult to get near as is usually the case when the first arrive. Laying in some long grass I was fortunate to have a female come hopping across towards me.
They often tend to stick around the boulders that form local sea defenses and groynes which I suppose gives them the comfort of being similar to the rocky upland habitat they are heading to.

and a male in its fine spring plumage.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Little Egret

10 years or so ago the sighting of a Little Egret would have caused hordes of 'twitchers' to come flocking across the country for a view. With continued expansion in numbers and range they have become a fairly regular sight, especially in my local area. A couple of weeks back I came across a bird at first light on the edge of the River Dee salt marshes. As with most completely white birds it provide some fun getting the photo exposure right.
Taking a wander
Looking for frogs and fish to eatand taking flight

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Flavour of the Orient

Mandarin ducks have always been a popular bird in waterfowl collections due to their decroative and brightly coloured plumage. Of the course of time some of these birds have escaped and formed wild populations in the UK. Many of these populations are found in the south of the UK but there appears to be a small stronghold of these wild birds around the north-west of England. There has been a pair of birds on a lake in a local country park which I recently visited. The birds were going through some courtship behaviour and so will no doubt be looking for a suitable tree nest site in the near future.

The less colourful female
and the drake

Friday, March 21, 2008

Bread and Camera

These are two essential items if you want to photograph sea gulls. I popped down to my local marine lake to try and get some flight shots of two Mediterranean gull that were reported there but found no sign of them on arrival. So I had a bit of fun with the black-headed gulls, herring gulls and lesser black-backed gulls as the late afternoon light was so nice.

Never ignore the beauty that can be found in the common is my motto and its always good to get some flight shot practice.
This bird had a ringed leg and on the high res file some of the information was visible, so I sent the details off to someone in the know who quickly reported back the bird had been ringed in Lithuania!!Herring gulland Lesser Black-backed gull

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Larking About

To me nothing gives me the feeling more that spring has arrived than the rapid ascending song flight of the skylark. A song that evokes memories of childhood holidays in the country. Unfortunately this is a species that has rapidly dropped in numbers in recent years in the UK but I am fortunate that quite a few birds still favour the coastal strip and dunes along the north end of the Wirral Penninsula. This is a popular area with walkers and horse riders and I am sure several nests must get unknowingly trampled under foot each year. My target for this spring is to try and get some decent flight shots of this bird, and I have a place in mind but just need to wait for the right weather conditions and wind direction. In the meantime I have been taking a few shots of birds that I have encounter over the last week or so.
The end that produces that wonderful song.
Their camouflage is superb and often the birds will sit still as you approach, hoping they haven't been seen and will crouch down like this until the last minute before taking flight to escape.

You have to constantly keep an eye on where they are as it is very easy to lose touch with their location or they just tend to blend into the grass.

and one amongst the dunes.
To finish off my only flight shot so far this year but not really the photo I have in mind but there is plenty of time :)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Shortened Session

I popped out last Saturday morning with the intention of going to photograph some skylark. I was not going to bother going out at first as there was thick cover of cloud and light was in short supply. The session started well with finding a male stonechat moving along some fence posts
The skylarks were not playing the game and so I decided to return to the car 30 minutes later and try elsewhere. Unfortunately when I returned to the car some idiot (thats the polite version !!) had put a brick through my passenger side window and had a good look through the contents of the glove compartment. It appears nothing was taken and they even left the CD's which is probably a reflection of my musical taste. So the session came to an abrupt end there and then and I had to spend the rest of the day sorting out and waiting for my window to be repaired.

I suppose it was bound to happen one day with the car being left in remote places and on its own in the early mornings but really its a sad reflection of the times we live in.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Just for a Change

Before I set out on my journey photographing wild birds and animals, I spent about a year visiting various zoos around the UK. I still enjoy a visit to a zoo with the camera and although the subject is captive there is still a fair degree of skill required in dealing with the challenges of mesh, reflective glass and awkward backgrounds. I have rounded up a very small selection of zoo shots into this compliation. I will start with a couple of black and white images.

Elephants enjoying a bath at Chester Zoo
From Tycross Zoo, the incredible Bonobos, the gentle chimpanze.
and LangurMoving on to some more colourful shots, also from Tycross a 'smiling' (or more likely threat posture) from a Langur.
Asiatic lion at Chester Zoo The elusive (its usually asleep in a holly bush) Pallas's Cat at Edinburgh Zoo

Also from Edinburgh, the steely stare of a Painted Hunting Dog. I have a whole series of shots of the pack feeding of a deer carcass but thought I wouldn't show them due to their graphic nature.
Edinburgh Zoo also holds the last captive Polar bear in the Uk, known as 'Mercedes'To finish off and my favourite Komodo Dragon photo with the dripping toxic saliva!!!
Reed Bunting

I really find myself drawn to photographing reed bunting as they are very attractive birds with all their shades of brown and black. I was looking back through my images from last year and realised I had very few shots of them in their reedbed habitat, and so decided to rectify the situation. Birds in reedbeds are always tricky and it can be difficult to get a clear shot. Here are a selection of the images.
and a couple of shots off the reeds.

I only managed one shot of a female on the reeds so will have to return and try and get some more, if I can fit it in now the spring migrants are starting to appear.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Low Down

A few post back I mentioned that I was putting togther a ground pod to take low level shots of birds. Bascially I was looking for a support to which I could attach my Wimberley head. One Tefal frying pan, a suitably sized stainless steel bolt, two tap washers and two furniture floor protector cups and it was made.
So armed with the 'Sand Pan' as it is affectionately now known and some very old clothes as I would be lying flat on the ground, I headed down to my local beach to try for some Sanderling. It performed very well and here are a selection of the resulting shots. The low angle creates a nice effect on both background and foreground and generally creates a pleasing composition with well isolated subject.

First a practice shot on a passing turnstoneand then on to some Sanderling

The 'pan' performed well and will make a useful and low cost addition to my kit.


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