Saturday, September 27, 2008

BBC Countryfile Photographic Competition

I decided to enter the BBC Countryfile Photographic Competition this year which had the theme of 'animals in action'. This is a very popular competition which has the prize of the 12 finalists being used to create a calender to raise money for Children in Need. You could enter 4 photographs and I was going to enter four hare shots but at the last minute decided to enter 3 hares and a puffin. A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by the BBC and informed that the puffin photo had been selected by the judges as one of the final 12. The puffin shot entered is below.

Having announced the final 12 there was then a week of public telephone voting to decide the overall winner. As I heard nothing for a couple of days after the phone lines had closed, I assumed that someone else had won. However, unbeknown to me there was all kinds of secret plotting going on in the background, the first of which I knew about it was when a film crew burst into a meeting I was having at work. The surprise was further compounded by having my parents, my better half and some family waiting outside the door. I was then whisked away by the film crew to the local area of coast to record some further footage. The programme went out last Sunday and can be viewed for the next seven days on BBC iplayer.

The bit of the programme with my appearance starts at 44 minutes and 20 seconds into the programme.

So I would like to finish this post by thanking all the people who made the BBC visit such a surprise and pleasant day, to the judges for selecting the photo, to the public for voting for it, to my parents for making the long trip north but most of all to my better half , Dawn, for putting up with all those early mornings when I creep out of the house.

The calender can be purchased online from the following:

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Chewing Caterpillars

Having spent some time with the cuckoo it was interesting to watch it feeding which seemed to be exclusively on caterpillars. Apparently it is one of the few birds that will happily feed on those large hairy technicolour caterpillars that most others find inedible. It would stay perched for long periods watching the surrounding vegetation. Any perch was suitable be it a stick in the marsh.
A barbed wire fence or a bush
Before it would launch itself towards the next caterpillar and appeared very hawk like in flight.
On occasions this would be 30 - 40ft away which shows what great vision these birds have to spot a green caterpillar amongst dense marsh vegetation.With the green catepillars it would shake them violently to empty their contents before swallowing. It was also eating cream coloured caterpillars which is was just swallowing in one. The bird left at the end of last week after its extended stop over and I wish it all the best on its long, difficult and first journey down to Africa.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Once in a Lifetime

If you asked people if they have ever heard a cuckoo, the sound that spring has arrived, many will answer yes. If you then ask the same people if they have ever seen one the the usual answer is no as they are very elusive birds. I can included myself amongst the 'heard but not seen category' until a couple of weeks ago. A young bird was consistently being reported sighted over a number of days on the edge of a local saltmarsh and so I decided to investigate.

You always have nagging doubts when your traveling to find a particular reported bird of whether it still be there? will I be able to find it when I arrive? will I be able to get close enough to get decent photographs? Fortunately all these questions were answered with a yes for this cuckoo. An unusually very confiding bird for this species. I will post a selection of photos I managed to accumulate of this young bird over a couple of posts as the opportunity may never arise again.
In the next post I will give some details of it interesting feeding habits.

Visit where this post is now showing along with other birds photos from around the world.

Friday, September 19, 2008


I intend to spend a good deal of time with waders over this winter. The numbers of birds are starting to build locally, although it is still a bit early for the huge flocks of Knot to arrive from the north. Winter is such a great time for photography, if the weather is kind, and I can start to feel its arrival as the days grow shorter. The first photograph is one of the early Knot arrivals still showing remnants of its summer red plumage.
The Dunlin numbers are improving but the birds also are still not in their full winter 'outfit'.
I now have to tell the story of a gull. While out the other day with my friend, I spotted a Mediterranean Gull go overhead. I was quite surprised to have been able to actually spot it amongst the hordes of similar looking Black-headed gulls. The bird had a large green ring on its leg with the code clearly visible in the photographs.
This is the first time I have managed to get some flight photos of one these birds and it was good to share the moment with my friend Steve. On getting home Steve realised it was the same bird he had photographed in the same spot two years earlier. The chances of that must be very slim.

There is no denying they are a very beautiful gull. I would like to thank Richard Smith at Dee Estuary Website for finding some information out about the bird travels based on the ring information. It was ringed in Belgium in 2002, was subsequently reported in the Netherlands in 2004 and 2006 and then arrived up in Liverpool in 2006. It hung around until early 2007 before taking a trip back to Holland and then arriving back here now in 2008. It seldom you appreciate what wanders some sea gulls are!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Flying Jackdaws

On leaving Bushy Park I noticed there were a large number of Jackdaws hanging around the car park. These birds along with Jays are one of my favourite members of the crow family and I always stop to take some photographs of them when the opportunity arises. Generally black crow like birds are not very popular and tend to be associated with the sinister, thanks to a certain film by Mr Hitchcock and their carrion feeding habits, but their beauty in certain light and apparent 'intelligence' has to be admired.
I started off taking a couple of potrait photos.

However, it quickly dawned on me that given that the late afternoon light and wind were in the same direction that there was some opportunity for some flight photographs.
This photograph was my favourite of the set with the bird forming a great shape as it was coming in to land.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bushy Park's Exotic Wild Birds

A visit to Bushy Park in London puts me among birds that I do not regularly encounter on the home patch. These are namely Ring-necked Parakeets and Egyptian Geese. Both introduced bird species are mainly confined at present to the south and east of the country but their numbers are swelling and they are spreading. Some welcome the 'intruders' but others worry about their ecological impact but the bottom line is they are most likely here to stay.
An Egyptian Goose preening
The parakeets present more of a challenge as they like to stay high in the trees but are easily found from their calls and can be frequently seen flying very rapidly between trees.
or just lurking The best opportunities for photography are when they land on a trunk.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Bushy Deer

I always enjoy the occasional visit to Bushy Park in London as there is always a good number of photo opportunities present for both birds and mammals. The herds of deer that roam this extensive parkland are an obvious choice. I hope to be returning there in a few weeks time to see if I can get some shots of the autumn rut.

Fallow Deer
You never know what might be lurking in the head high expansive areas of bracken.
and the Red Deer which I did not spend much time with as I was preoccupied with some of the bird life.This stag had huge numbers of flies buzzing around him.A fine looking stag whose antlers looked ready for the rut in the near future.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

King of Fishers

There are some bird species that just stand out as having appeal to all. I think for some its their upright stance, such as penguines, that makes it easy to apply human emotions. I am sure meerkats would be less appealing if they didn't adopt an upright sentry stance. For other birds it may be cuteness or a 'comical' appeal with ducklings and puffins appealing immediately to mind. For other birds it is just because they are just plain beautiful which is usually due to their amazing colours. The kingfisher falls into this latter category.
I keep an eye out on the web for sites that are producing good quality images of certain birds. One email later had me pointing in the right direction for some kingfisher photos. As I entered the hide the kingfisher was sitting on a perch in front but disappeared before I could get the camera in position. However, fortune shiones on the patient and two returned later on.
A young bird landed on a post in front of the hide giving a great back view of its electric blue 'stripe'It subsequently dived in the water and came up with what I at first thought was a fish but it was actually a stone and then proceeded to juggle it around as if it was trying to position it for swallowing as it would do with a fish.A bit more practice for that bird before it becomes the King of Fishers.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Gigrin Raptors

I was passing close by to the Red Kite feeding station at Gigrin Farm around feeding time the other day, and so thought I would drop in to see if there was any action to be had with the camera. There were quite good numbers of birds coming into the free food hand out along with buzzards and ravens. A number of the birds were looking quite tatty as they were still going through the moulting process. Unfortunately the light was poor, as has been typical recently, which ruled out achieving any decent sky flight photos so I decided to try and get photos of the birds as they dropped in to grab some of the scattered beef pieces. Its always difficult photographing birds against a 'busy' background as it tends to drive the focus systems on most camera bodies into overdrive but was made even more difficult by the lack of light and the tendency for the kites to swoop down very rapidly without much in the way of warning. For those who have not seen red kites feeding they very rarely land and Gigrin Farm is a superb place to watch these acrobatic birds in action.
Starting with some buzzards
Much as I would have liked to pjotograph some ravens it seemed pointless trying to photograph a black bird in such low light conditions and so to some of the Red Kites. They are such photogenic birds.

This certainly will not be my last visit to Gigrin and I intend to return later in the year when they have finished moulting and hopefully the sun is shining.


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