Saturday, 5 December 2009

I'll Be Back With A Post Soon

A couple of images to be going on with from a trip to the Wirral

Monday, 16 November 2009

Off Air

The new seat-belt law as explained in the caption bellow comes into force on the 1st December 2009, it will save many lives. Don't forget BELT UP!!!!!

This computer is on lease, and unfortunately the lease expires on Wednesday 18th of November so it has to go back. It was one of those moments of madness four years ago when a smooth talking salesman from PC World persuaded me to lease instead of handing over £750 cash to buy it outright there and then. He told me it would be tax advantageous (NOT TRUE) he told me if anything went wrong it would be replaced instantly (NOT TRUE) the monitor conked out and it took six weeks of wrangling to get a new one, even though I was paying almost £9 a month insurance (Oh, he omitted to tell me that was on top of the lease). I pause for breath. I would get a free upgrade two years into the lease (DEFINITELY NOT TRUE). What happens at the end of the lease? I asked at the time. If you want to keep it it will cost you a 30 quid transfer fee (NOT TRUE). After forking out £1600 over the last four years PC World now want £125 + £25 handling fee + VAT. After I argued they dropped it down to £80 + VAT. They can have the bloody thing back, I think they've made enough out of me. Knowing the PC was going back I purchased a new one a few months back, but guess what ITS BROKEN DOWN AND IS AWAY FOR REPAIR. (I must have run over a priest)

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Shore Lark Sorrow

An picture taken earlier in the year of a wild buzzard on a baited log.

Well I have seen it, the shore lark at Southport that is, and I have even photographed it, but ho at what distance. The end result was a dot in the center of the frame, so I won't be publishing it, but I will try again just one more time before moving on to other things. However, I did manage a half decent buzzard in flight as well as a pied wagtail in a waterlogged midden. Closer to home, well at home in fact I was creeping around trying to snap a wren when a goldcrest put in cameo appearance - "which was nice"

Monday, 9 November 2009

Seeing Red

I made a visit to Southport in the hope of photographing a visiting Shorelark and although it had shown earlier in the day it didn't put in an appearance for yours truly. That said I was never going to have a bad day after I had made a point of passing through Altcar on my way there. I slowly patrolled around the narrow lanes in my usual manner in the hope of finding a Barn Owl, this however, was also not to be. I stopped at several points to scan the panorama, and at one of these points a Heron came into view silhouetted against the light. Or so I though, as it came closer I could make out some reddish markings, I was in fact looking at a Red Kite. I couldn't believe my eyes as I had never heard of them in these parts. It came close enough for me to get a decent shot not as good as Gigrin, but what the hell this was a local wild bird and is worth more than all my Gigrin shots put together.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Starling Rush (Part One)

I decided a little while back to try and shoot with smaller focal point lenses as much as I possibly could, with one of my themed shoots being the Starlings Roost. I had heard of one at Blackpool's North Pier and have already made one abortive trip to the resort, however, last week I received a call from Brian Rafferty who told me of a fantastic roost of 60,000 plus at Marton Mere. You will, by the way, find some absolutely stunning images taken by Brian on his Flicker-Blog sites and he has also posted them on Birdguides, if you haven't yet seen them I urge you to take a look.
Brian's pics were taken on a stunning evening, I however had no such luck as I visited Matron the following afternoon, it was grey and quite dark by the time the Starlings started to gather. This didn't concern me too much as I intended to to use very slow shutter speeds in the attempt to capture flow of the spectacle. It's all very well knowing the theory, but this kind of photography is very hit and miss and I have never purposefully attempted it before. The Starlings performed well and as this was my first experience of such a spectacle I must say that I was absolutely gobsmacked. After some gyroscopic movements they eventually funnelled into the reeds at the far end of the mere. It was very dark indeed at this point and the spectators reckoned that it was all over for the night. They all drifted away apart from one gent who I had met previously while photographing Short-eared Owls, we chatted as we made our way to the car, as I started to pack away my gear the dark sky went even darker as a few thousand birds decided to roost in the reeds right beside us. It was an earth shattering moment, I can't begin to describe the noise as the flock poured in, I grabbed my camera and started to shoot the best I could, a 10th of a second hand held, god knows how they would come out. In the end I will settle for my first results, one of them even came close to what I had in my mind, however the real test will come when the roost moves on to the North Pier as I have a definite shot in mind, I've even sketched it out. Will I get it? Who knows watch this space in a few weeks time.

Friday, 30 October 2009

The Elusive Bird and a Nice Surprise.

This is a rare sight for me a Bearded Tit not at the gritting trays at Leighton Moss.
I was perched in the Lower Hide photographing a Bittern and could hear the Bearded Tits call in the quivering reed-mace suddenly this male appeared for all of five seconds, thankfully giving me enough time to get a snap.
Unfortunately, it is as they all are at LM heavily manacled. As far as I know these birds don’t leave the site, so why this barbaric practice (in my opinion) exists here is quite beyond me. I did manage see one without rings last year and was overjoyed, as was one of the staff as he exclaimed “We’ll have him netted and ringed by tomorrow”! Sad.
As I have already stated I bobbed down to the Lower Hide with the intention of photographing the Bittern, I always make this pilgrimage in hope rather than expectancy, but this time my luck was in. With an empty hide at my disposal I paraded up and down on sentry duty inspecting both ends at regular intervals. Suddenly there she was appearing out of the reeds, of course my camera gear was at the wrong window. I retrieved my gear and hurriedly took some images thinking the Bittern would fly off at any moment, but no she stood bolt upright for about five minuets before spearing her head down into the shallows and spiking a pike. She then ran off with it gave it a bashing Kingfisher style and swallowed it. Then unbelievably she sat in front of the reed-bed for over one and a half hours. So much for the elusive bittern, mind will it ever happen again?

Friday, 23 October 2009

The Boys are Back in Town

Hey baby do these Swans have "Attitude"? I'm so looking forward to this winter season at Martin Mere.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

The Light Fantastic

It was one of those days when all my best made plans went down the drain. My original intention was to finish up at Blackpool's North Pier to investigate the Starling roost after having a look around the Fylde. Things started to go wrong soon after leaving the motorway when I encountered one traffic incident hold up after another, three in total with one hefty detour that eventually found me at Fluke Hall lane at a quarter past one, that after setting out at just gone ten in the morning.
I had my lunch overlooking the mud flats at low water and although it was good to be out of the car there was no reason to disturb the camera resting on the passenger seat.
Then I set off for Blackpool but as I entered the resort I was again engulfed in horrendous traffic, a sense of foreboding came over me and I couldn't wait to get out of the place, this feeling was encouraged by the astronomical parking fees on display. Soon I was on the M56 heading for home, but at the junction to the M6 I had a brainstorm - "Why not go to Leighton Moss" after all I was half way there.
So eventually I entered the Eric Morecambe hide in late afternoon. Things can only get better I thought and they did.
The hide was surprisingly full, but I bumped into Paul Foster a friend of Brian Rafferty, we had a good chin-wag in between taking shots of a Little Egret that was showing well right outside the hide. Paul went off to photograph the deer, and one by one people left the hide to head for home. I was in no hurry to leave as sunset was looming fast, and this was going to be a good-un.
I took some shots in wonderful golden light, but the most stunning light came after the sun dipped over the horizon, illuminating the birds in all kinds of extraordinary hues. As darkness approached the waders gathered into groups and quietened down with just the occasional call that echoed and reverberated around in the stillness. It was in a word magical - I think I tripped The Light Fantastic.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Bird Watching

The best place in the world to eat your fish and chips overlooking the harbour at Seahouses, but be warned, you will have plenty of company.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Second Home

Back from my third trip to Northumberland this year. The place is like a good malt whisky it gets better with age.

Coquetdale was as expected pretty much on the quiet side, but boy did I need a rest, that said I had a few trips to the seaside Cresswell was good for Sanderling in particular, nothing much on the pond, although I believe a Glossy Ibis turned up on Saturday, missed that one, there are plenty in the country though so maybe one will return to Lancashire.

I have rented a cottage at North Brewick situated right on the harbour next April, so I nipped up to have a gander at it, while I was there took the opportunity to photograph the Gannets off the cliffs at the back of the Seabird center. The birds were dive bombing all around, although never close enough for a top shot, but food for thought next time there.

Then there was good old Seahouses the run of mill waders were scattered on the rocks, but what took my eye was four Bar-tailed Godwits feeding opposite the entrance to the beach. I was frustrated on the Sunday, it was a gorgeous day and as you would expect the beach was packed resulting in the birds constantly being unsettled. I gave up in the end but returned for a couple of hours late on Friday, the light was fantastic and with only a few dog walker around I had another crack at them. I approached slowly, five steps, stop for a minute, five steps stop for a minute, they never stopped feeding which is always a good sign, it meant the Godwits were contented and not bothered by my approach, eventually I was in a position to get almost full frame exposures. I knelt in the wet sand hand holding the camera and was transported to heaven as I clicked away.

Getting close to nature like this gives me a great deal of pleasure, far more than shooting from a hide and the slowly slowly approach seems to work a treat.

On my way to Seahouses I passed a Kestrel feeding on a fence post, I turned round at the first opportunity and returned, it was still there, but on my drivers side, I once again turned the car round and after setting the camera up returned once more driving ever so slowly and at a distance where I could get a shot and hopefully not disturb the Kestrel I switched off the engine and turned the car at right angles to the road. Perfect, the only thing was cars were approaching from in front and behind, quickly I picked up the camera and managed only two shots before the on coming car blasted his horn at me to get out of the road, The Kestrel flew off prey in talon as I switched on my engine and righted the car in accordance with the Highway Code. I waved at the gent as we passed, he waved back with two fingers. Strange!!! Now where's that malt whisky.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

A Web of Intrigue

Speckled Wood

Painted Lady

Small Tortoiseshell

Garden Spider

I have been committed to work over the past week, and wouldn't you know it summer makes a glorious return. DRAT!!! Not to worry Saturday dawned well and I desperately needed some fresh air, but before I left home I had to try and photograph a garden spider that had built a fabulous web in my patio. I played about with a macro lens I seldom use, as I manually focused and hand held I wasn't expecting anything good to come from the shoot, but I have to say that I am quite pleased with the results.
Then I set off to Martin Mere. Nothing of interest to photograph, I was hoping for some pink-foots, and although a few did land they were too far away to get anything decent, so I turned my attention to the butterflies in the vicinity.
Then I went Mere Sands Wood and immediately bumped into Jackie and David Moreton both photographers and ended up putting the world to rights without taking another shot.
But it was so good to be out.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

A "Reedie" Meal

I briefly called into a spot were lots of reed warblers had been around during the summer months. It was late August and was surprised to find a pair still feeding young. The hunting habits of the parents held me captive for more than three hours, and it was a challenge trying to capture the scene as they flitted at a rate of knots amongst the vegetation. One interesting observation - the reed warbler would attack the hover-flies knocking them into the water, after a brief struggle they would surccumb, then the warbler would collect them in twos and threes before taking the lunch basket back to its young.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

A Fruitful Day

I was invited up to a farm by Steve Dolan, that belongs to his mate ( I never new he had two .......ha ha ha). Anyhow he reckoned that Little Owls were breading in the orchard by the farm house, so eventually I got myself round there.
My first visit produced only fleeting glimpses of the owls but a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker put in a brief appearance as did a Whitethroat. However, a second visit proved more fruitful ( excuse the pun ) as both parents and juveniles were quite active. From a photographic point of view the dappled light although good proved to be problematic, but after a four hour stint I got what are to date my best images of these delightful creatures.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

The Farnes (Better Late than Never)

A few belated shots from the Farne Islands, I'm working between two computers at the moment transferring files, so I have to unplug one and plug in the other to get connected, complicated but I'll get there in the end.
The images are of the peoples favorite the Puffin and the incredible Guillemot who lay their eggs on bare rock in extremely exposed positions it beggars belief how they survive.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Meanwhile, Back in the Valley



Willow Warbler

Looking down to Alwinton

Meanwhile back in Coquetdale it was time to have another tour to see what was where. I hadn’t spent much time with one of my favourites of the valley, the whinchat, so that and wheatear would be my targets for a morning, as well as checking out the willow warbler’s nest, conveniently sited by the side of a newly opened cafe at Barrow Burn, this was nothing if not civilized wildlife photography. Whinchat I know wouldn’t be a problem, for this is the best place in England for the species, a walk down any stretch of the valley road will reveal their presence, contentedly singing it seems from every frond of new fern. Wheatear had been a little more difficult this year, although there were plenty males with juveniles in tow about, unfortunately they were flitting about all over the place on their feeding rampage. Although this was great to watch it made it difficult to photograph these terrific birds, as for the lack of females, well I figured they were back on the nest with second broods.
All in all it tuned out to be not a bad mornings work with successful shots of all three birds, although I doubt I will ever emulate my image of a whinchat of a couple of years back when one regularly perched on a foxglove for me, and so close we could have been on speaking terms. But then I did get a bonus shot, that of a linnet feeding in the ferns, it was very skittish, but settled briefly giving me enough time to get my image.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Sula Bassana

Another beautiful day with wall to wall sunshine saw Margaret and I heading for Scotland once again, our destination was North Berwick in Lothian, a place we have visited many times in the past. Every time I have been there previously it had been my intention to take a boat trip out to Bass Rock, but although I have had many a blue sky days in the resort the wind had been blowing briskly from the west making the short voyage in a small open boat a hazardous undertaking. So I journeyed there in hope rather than expectation, but this time my luck was in, the sea was like a mill-pond and not enough wind to blow a feather.
The reason for visiting the Rock is that it is populated by 80,000 pairs of Gannet during the breading season. Bass Rock is the closest sea bird sanctuary to the mainland and was the first to be studied by ornithologists during the 19th century, when they gave the Gannet the scientific name Sula Bassana, incorporating the name of this rocky stack. This colony is the largest on the east coast of Britain and holds approximately 10% of the world population of North Atlantic Gannets.
After a leisurely coffee at the Seabird Centre, an outdoor cafe built on a rock outcrop leading to the North Sea I set off for the “Rock” with the services of Sula 11 Seabird Boat Trips. The one and a half hour trip was magical and passed much to quickly, look up, look down, to either side, it was all action packed as the gannets performed an aerial ballet fit for a West End theatre production. I spent most of my time mesmerised by the spectacle that surrounded me instead of photographing it, but it will remain in the memory bank, until alzheimer's takes hold.