Springing into 2017

Half way through April and spring is well and truly underway. I guess the best way to start this post is with the most obvious sign of spring from the garden and one that many people probably take for granted – a frog chorus. Now frogs are hardly rare but you would be forgiven for thinking that in my garden. Despite having two reasonably sized wildlife ponds, it has been the newts that rule the water (newts eat frogspawn and vice versa)….maybe that’s all about to change?

After finding quite a few adult frogs at night and hearing them sing from our bedroom window, I knew that maybe this year would be a little different. My hopes were realised when one morning on my way to feed the birds I saw the first frog spawn of the year, and the first time in abundance for my pond(s).

Frogspawn clump

Frogspawn clump

Over the next couple of weeks there was a steady addition of spawn, the result being a large semi-floating mass with what must number into the thousands of eggs.

I’ve not had many chances to photograph Common Frogs so firstly out came the macro lens and my waterproof mat and I spent a session or two laid out at the side of the pond –

Common Frog close up

Common Frog close up

Common Frog Reflection

Common Frog Reflection

Despite some reasonable success they were still quite shy. What about trying to photograph them at night I wondered? A couple of remotely triggered flash units placed at 45 degress from each side and I was ready to go. This time the frogs were amazingly approachable with a little care and sat nicely for their portraits –

Smiley frog portrait

Smiley frog portrait

Floating in the dark

Floating in the dark

Common Frog reflected at night

Common Frog reflected at night

Whenever walking the garden at night around this time of year I have to be really careful of the travelling newts as they move around on damp nights –

Newt crossing lawn at night

Newt crossing lawn at night

It’s now a few weeks since the spawn was laid and my pond (the bulk was laid into a single pond) is now a writhing mass of life – everywhere you look there is a tadpole darting about, I could watch it for hours!

When the spawn first hatches the tadpoles tend to stay together and eat the rest of the jelly from the eggs, I tried to get a few images of this but any image taken into water is really difficult. Hopefully these convey what I was seeing –

Mass of tadpoles

Mass of tadpoles

Finally for the frog theme, i’m trying out a little aquarium photography. Although it’s a reasonable start, I’ll need to work out how to clear the water as the following image shows (oh and notice the hoglice in the bottom right photobombing!)

Tadpole underwater shot

Tadpole underwater shot

Bird wise the garden has been quite busy with the smaller birds being most active it seems. This Goldcrest was a welcome visitor and has been seen around regularly and not alone. Hopefully they will be nesting nearby –

Goldcrest side portrait

Goldcrest side portrait

Another lovely little bird that is definitely nesting nearby is the Long Tailed Tit. They have been picking up tiny bits from my fat feeders before zipping around finding spiders webs with which to construct their nest –

Long Tailed Tit gathering nesting material

Long Tailed Tit gathering nesting material

Long Tailed Tit with moss

Long Tailed Tit with moss

Not the best images but something I don’t often see so worth inclusion here.

They even have enough energy to manage a few chin-ups…

Long Tailed Tit chin up

Long Tailed Tit chin up

Moving away from the garden, I was treated to my first singing Sedge Warbler at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve at the beginning of April. This is a welcome sound as it heralds the reedbeds coming alive with warblers for the next few months. A small amount of time stood still and the bird was happily belting out his song close enough for some lovely portraits.

Sedge Warbler portrait

Sedge Warbler portrait

Singing Sedge Warbler

Singing Sedge Warbler

Finally, I’ve been giving access to private farmland, something I’ve been longing for to get some new space where it’s less likely i’ll be disturbed. It’s noticeable that all the wildlife I’ve spotted so far is really shy so it’ll be fun trying to get some good images.

One bird there is no shortage of is the Pheasant – this shot was early morning, low light and high ISO so fairly pleased with how it came out –

Pheasant in flight

Pheasant in flight

I also managed to find a pair of Treecreepers making a nest in some rotted wood. I’ll be keeping an eye on them over the coming weeks. I’d love to see the youngsters fledge into a huddle! –

Treecreeper with nesting material

Treecreeper with nesting material

That’s it for this instalment. Hope you enjoyed the images.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Garden, Photography, Wildlife Photography Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

Looking back on 2016….

Firstly, a happy new year to my followers.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of my photography highlights of the year….

Despite feeling like I’ve managed to get out nowhere near as much as I’ve wanted to this year (I wonder if all wildlife photographers feel this way?) I’ve still had a really good year and managed to meet some of my personal goals.

I thought I’d share a few of my favourite moments and images with you all.

January was successful for my Barn Owl images. A bird I never tire of trying to photograph and have spent so many hours looking at an empty field of tufty grass but, when it does all come to fruition, it’s worth every moment –

Barn Owl diving after prey

Barn Owl diving after prey

Barn Owl incoming!

Barn Owl incoming!

Whenever I attempt to photograph these lovely birds I always hope that one will perch close enough to get a decent “classic” shot. They certainly won’t do this if you are visible so I’m inevitably hidden from view under a bag hide and behind my tripod. I can’t tell you how fast my heart was beating when this owl flew right towards me then veered off and, from the corner of my eye, I saw it land on a post around 30 feet away. As it was now around 90 degrees from where the lens was pointed I had to move so agonisingly slowly to bring the lens round whilst daring not to breathe. Luckily I drew no attention and was able to get the type of image I had hoped for in the dusk of the dying day.

Barn Owl on perch

Barn Owl on perch

Barn Owl in perfect pose

Barn Owl in perfect pose

February saw a personal goal realised when one of my images was chosen to grace the front cover of Bird Watching magazine for their 30th anniversary edition. This was one of my favorite images of the previous year and was taken at Minsmere in Suffolk and was my first (and only so far!) front cover on a national magazine.

my first front cover on a national magazine

Those who follow my blog will know that I enjoy submitting images to competitions and this year managed to have an image included in the inaugural Bird Photographer of the year competition with my image of a feisty goldfinch in the garden birds category. Very humbling to be included in a book with some of the best photographers on the planet! What I like even more is that this shot was taken from my back door!

Included in Bird Photographer of the year book

Included in Bird Photographer of the year book

Whilst I am on the subject of competitions, I did enter a couple of others in 2016. I tried some of my badger reflection images in Wildlife Photographer of the year (the major global competition) and had two images shortlisted but didn’t make the final cut. Still really pleased considering this competition receives over 40,000 entries! I haven’t entered in this years but have my eye and brain on some images for next year.

Early spring saw the visit from our neighbourhood foxes and badgers increasing and each evening I am treated to very close experiences with them now that I’m part of the clan. Sometimes it was just too much effort to pose!

Tired Fox Cub

Tired Fox Cub

May finally saw the release of the Nikon D500, a camera that so many wildlife shooters have been waiting for, literally for years. 10 frames per second and an almost unlimited buffer when seriously shooting RAW, along with a flip up/down screen (no more framing images with my face on the floor!) and 4k video made this a foregone conclusion for me.

May also gave me a small surprise in the shape of a Black Adder. My wife, Maria, spotted it whilst walking in woodlands near Eastbourne –

Black Adder

Black Adder

June was my first visit to the Ardnamurchan peninsula on the west coast of Scotland. Breathtaking scenery, peaceful and wildlife everywhere (see my previous posts for images including Pine Marten). I really am smitten with Scotland. I can put up with the midges (he says bravely) and the renowned harsh weather and would love to live in this part of  the world. Also part of the same trip, we dropped down to Northumberland to visit the Farne Isles for the first time.

If you haven’t been to the Farnes then you really are missing a treat. It’s an assault on all senses and as a photographer you will be spoilt for choice and opportunities regardless of kit and ability. You can literally sit down a few feet from a Puffin if you so wish (remaining on the boardwalks of course).  Everywhere you look there are birds wheeling in the air, whizzing past with nesting material or fish in their beaks or engaged in all kinds of interesting behaviour. Just make sure you wear old clothes and a hat if landing on Inner Farne as the Terns are feisty in their defence of your perceived threat to their nests. As with any wildlife, a little thought about where you do or don’t stand makes all the difference, keep your eyes open and have some respect for their space. They will reward you with more natural images! One thing is for sure, I totally overdid the puffins in flight shots. Hard not to 😉

Puffin in flight with sandeels - Farne Isles

Puffin in flight with sandeels – Farne Isles

Also great chances to photograph lots of other different seabirds…

Shag courtship - Farne Isles

Shag courtship – Farne Isles

Razorbill with sandeels - Farne Isles

Razorbill with sandeels – Farne Isles

Razorbill resting - Farne Isles

Razorbill resting – Farne Isles

Arctic tern portrait - Farne Isles

Arctic tern portrait – Farne Isles

July saw fox activity in the garden at a peak. With at least 3 youngsters our visiting mum had quite a job keeping them in check and they were always full of mischief. By this time they have learned that if mum won’t give you any food, sit back a little way, watch her bury it, then go grab it when she moves away! Get caught and get told off…

Scolding for young fox

Scolding for young fox

I always try to fit in some macro work during the summer when there are plenty of subjects, even better if you can get a hot day with the temperature dropping overnight to add a little dew on the resting insects. These normally mean a very early start to get plenty of time before they are warmed by the sun.

Little Skipper and dew

Little Skipper butterfly and dew

Skipper covered in morning dew

Skipper covered in morning dew

I also tried to spend as much time as possible with the badger clan that visit the garden. Sitting on the lawn feeding badgers just a few feet away has to be one of the most relaxing ways (for me) to spend an evening. I have some ideas on how to improve upon my images that were shortlisted for both the British Wildlife photography Awards (BWPA) and the Wildlife Photographer of the Year (WPOTY) – they both came close but didn’t get chosen at the final stage. An improvement to my lighting technique will help I think. Here’s what it looks like from ground level with a bundle of badgers in front of you –

Young badgers feeding in garden

Young badgers feeding in garden

Badger Cub close up

Badger Cub close up

What I’ve really been hoping to improve upon is my reflection shots. Although the images I took this year were quite pleasing, they just don’t quite cut it for the serious competitions. Next year!

Badger reflection

Badger reflection

Talking of Badgers and BWPA (British Wildlife Photography Awards), I had pretty much given up on achieving another of my goals this year. Even though I had 6 images shortlisted in the competition (5 of my badger images and a macro Damselfly image), September rolled round and I hadn’t heard that any had been successful. I had resigned myself to another “not quite” year when out of the blue I had a strange E-mail telling me that as I was included in the BWPA book this year (YAY!) I could collect my free copy “at the BWPA book table in the gallery on Monday 5th September”.  This E-Mail arrived on the 4th Sep at 17.13 and I quickly realised perhaps I had been invited to the award ceremony but hadn’t been told! Thankfully my understanding boss allowed me to take the afternoon of the 5th off and I nipped up to London to the Mall Galleries where the ceremony was that evening.

Seeing all the final images professionally printed and mounted was excellent, it really made them look their best. I made my way round the room trying to find my badger image(s) and was really confused when I couldn’t find any. Had they made a mistake and actually I wasn’t mean to be there after all? Another time round and still couldn’t find any so took my time on the 3rd attempt to look properly and there, amongst the hidden britain display was my shortlisted Damselfly image. So pleased at finally making it into the book but admittedly a slight pang of disappointment that it wasn’t one of my badger images. I clearly have too much emotional attachment to them! Anyway, here is the image that was chosen and which also popped in as a full page in the Nikon magazine NPhoto –

BWPA shortlisted image "Peeking over"

BWPA shortlisted image “Peeking over”

Autumn and winter have been particularly mild this year. I really enjoy really cold snaps as the addition of frost and snow add another dimension to any images but they have been in short supply. Although it doesn’t help the wildlife, I always make sure I have plenty of food available in the garden. This year I had collected lots of acorns that had dropped in areas unlikely to be collected by any animals or birds and popped them on my garden menu. The local Jays were soon visiting regularly and snaffling the offerings. They are extremely timid birds that visit me and I have to remain totally hidden to have a chance at shots like these –

Jay with peanuts

Jay with peanuts

Jay swallowing acorn

Jay swallowing acorn

Finally, around christmas I always try to get out for a final trip of the year. No chance of snow but a lovely (but very cold) day with virtually no wind made it perfect conditions to try and pay a final visit to the Bearded Tits at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve. They are so much easier to find in calm conditions but there is never a guarantee. I was actually walking back on my way home when I finally connected with these stunning little birds –

Male Bearded Tit on reed head

Male Bearded Tit on reed head

Bearded Tit feeding

Bearded Tit feeding

Female Bearded Tit in flight

Bearded Tit feeding on seeds

Bearded Tit feeding on seeds

Totally worth getting up and out into the freezing dark before the sun has risen to share some time with this family of six as they fed across the reserve.

So what does 2017 bring? The only plan so far is my first public talk about my photography which will be held at Winchelsea Community Centre on March 18th and is organised by the Sussex Wildlife Trust.

Really looking forward to the new experiences the year will bring and hopefully will have some to share with you through the year.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Badger, Birds, Cameras, D500, Mammals, Photography, Rye Harbour, Scotland, Wildlife Photography Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Wildlife photography, Ardnamurchan, June 2016 (Part 2)

Our third full day in Ardnamurchan looked to be stunning so we decided not to miss the morning and got up at 3.15am to drive out to the lighthouse, the most westerly point in mainland Britain. The drive was amazing. Incredible views along single track roads with passing places through some beautiful scenery. I have to admit to being a little anxious about the roads. It’s not the fact they are single track, more that if I had an issue with the car we have zero phone signal and hadn’t seen a soul in an hour of driving. It seemed so remote but overall i guess as it’s the only road through that area, we’d just have to wait for another car if we needed help. We saw Red Deer as we drove, especially in the grazed / farmed areas where vegetation seemed sparse but actually saw little in the way of birdlife or other animals.

Arriving at the lighthouse there was a bizarre moment where we came across a set of traffic lights. It was around 5.30am and there isn’t anyone around and we are sat at a red light just before the lighthouse. When it eventually let us through to get to the car park you soon realise it’s too narrow for 2 vehicles so the lights are necessary.

We had a wander round and despite the great views across the water (this is a top place for sea watching if that’s your thing), came to the conclusion that there was much more to see (wildlife wise) where we were staying and so headed back. We were back at The Folly by 8am! This may seem a bit strange to some readers but I wanted to make the most of the photo opportunities at the Folly, sometimes you just have to see what you might be missing to appreciate it!

 

As I unloaded my gear from the car I popped the camera on the tripod and was wondering just how accommodating the birds around the table would be with me actually standing outside and not particularly hidden. The sun was well positioned over my shoulder even if the light was a little bright by this time. As I was just checking out my settings I caught a movement in the corner of my eye and couldn’t believe when I looked up slowly to see the Pine Marten running around in broad daylight. It’s moments like these where experience pays off and I quickly changed my camera settings whilst keeping track of the amazing creature that had now hopped onto the log where food had been left the night before. I switched to Qc mode (continuous quiet) to reduce the shutter noise (10 frames a second on continuous high speed sounds like a machine gun still) and began to take images. I was scared to move a muscle and any time I looked up was in slo-mo so as not to scare off my subject.

 

It’s moments like this that you dream of as a wildlife photographer and I had no idea how long he (I’ve assumed!) would stay. It may only be a few seconds so despite there being a bit of an obstacle in the image I still took quite a few shots – it’s actually the end of a hand rail that was ruining my perfect moment as you can see in the image below –

 

 

Pine Marten (with annoying white blur!)

Pine Marten (with annoying white blur!)

A beautiful image but (to me) ruined by the white blur of the out of focus obstacle.

Although he was checking on me every so often, he really didn’t seem particularly concerned by my presence. I was partially hidden behind the camera (he couldn’t see my face) and the tripod. I decided I had to take the risk and very slowly lifted my whole rig a few feet off the ground and took some slow steps to my left to eliminate the obstruction. I was walking on gravel but thankfully he stayed put. I was then able to take lots of images unobstructed and just appreciate what a stunning animal this is –

 

 

 

Pine Marten, Ardnamurchan

Pine Marten, Ardnamurchan

Oh and all those little white specks in the air in the image above – midges! I’ll come to those later…..

Pine Marten portrait, Ardnamurchan

Pine Marten portrait, Ardnamurchan

I shared a few minutes with this stunning animal as it sniffed around and found a few scraps of food from the night before and still couldn’t believe my luck. What surprised me even more was what happened next – he’d clearly had enough of whatever was around the log and so came to investigate me a little closer. He hopped off the log and slunk round the flower pots to see what I was up to –

Pine Marten coming to investigate

Pine Marten coming to investigate

Pine Marten face close up

Pine Marten face close up

He came so close I was not able to fit him in the frame so took some close ups instead. What a moment, doubt I’ll ever forget it and this really was the icing on the cake for our Ardnamurchan experience. By the way, the white spittle above the eye is Cuckoo Spit from when he came through the undergrowth. This wasn’t to be our last sighting either……….

As I’d had such a good chance to get images it meant that I could later experiment with my flash setup if he returned at night. I decided I’d try putting one behind the log and one in front to try and get some “rim lighting” or backlit shots.

A few more of the birds that were our constant company –

Siskin male, Ardnamurchan

Siskin male, Ardnamurchan

Redpoll feeding on ground, Ardnamurchan

Redpoll feeding on ground, Ardnamurchan

Siskin in flight

Siskin in flight

Yellowhammer feeding, Ardnamurchan

Yellowhammer feeding, Ardnamurchan

Yellowhammer feeding, Ardnamurchan

Yellowhammer feeding, Ardnamurchan

For those that may be interested, to get the ground level shots I’m sat in a dome hide with the camera at my feet poking through what would be the hole for the tripod leg. With the Nikon D500 I can use the flip up screen to view whats going on and to focus where required without having to lay on the ground myself. I haven’t really used the live view feature before but I’m starting to find more and more situations that it comes in handy.

Back to my night time attempts. I realise that ideally I should have 3 flash units for this as it would be better to keep two at the front and 1 behind….never mind! next time (i hope).

These first images were really close to what I was hoping for. Unfortunately my pre focusing was a little out so when viewed full size these images arent quite as sharp as i’d like. As a smaller image they work well though –

Backlit Pine Marten, Ardnamurchan

Backlit Pine Marten, Ardnamurchan

Backlit Pine Marten, Ardnamurchan

Backlit Pine Marten, Ardnamurchan

So with these images in mind, here’s a tip. Don’t think you can wander out in shorts and T shirt when the midges are in these kind of numbers. I stupidly did this a few times early in the week to either put out or collect my gear and got eaten alive. I was itching so bad! Even in the day it was sometimes necessary to cover skin areas with a deet based repellant (Skin so soft didn’t work for me!) and also we wore head nets when sitting around. Often that’s the key – if you are still they would be on you. My experience taught me to treat this like going out in blazing sun with no protection – you will suffer so make sure you are prepared. By the end of the week I had finally worked out the best ways to stop them getting at me. Has it put me off wanting to move to Scotland? Absolutely not.

Every night we also spotted a couple of Hedgehogs running around, an animal I haven’t seen alive in years down here in Hastings. Grabbing my gear and nipping out quickly to grab a shot was often what got me bitten…..

Hedgehog, Ardnamurchan

Hedgehog, Ardnamurchan

So our final night rolled round and I had one further chance at getting the backlit shots of the Pine Marten that I had in my mind. I made sure everything was correctly set up well in time and waited inside, hoping he would show. He certainly did but turned up when the light was only just dropping and the swallows were still on the wing…..and they really did not appreciate the visitor. They proceeded to dive bomb him as he sat down to eat. I tried to get this situation in a photo but knew that the ambient light would mean I could not possibly get the swallows sharp when shooting at 1/160s with the flash. If it was pitch black they would be but the ambient light would blur them in the images. I took plenty, trying to time the shots with the swallows dives and was looking forward to seeing just how they turned out. The flash behind certainly made the Swallow quite interesting.

Swallow attacking Pine Marten, Ardnamurchan

Swallow attacking Pine Marten, Ardnamurchan

I didn’t get quite what I was after but following his meal he then went to see if he could get to the swallows nest and we were treated to seeing him jumping through the rafters of the car port as he investigated a possible route. The swallows had chosen wisely and there was no chance of a meal from them and we had our last view of this incredible animal as he slunk back into the grass after leaving the swallows behind.

I enjoyed Ardnamurchan so much I really didn’t want to leave. It really did meet my expectations and then some. The top quality accomodation certainly helped but the variety of the wildlife and the photo opportunities have me hooked. I’ll certainly be heading back here again.

Although our short week here was over, we were heading down to Northumberland especially to visit the Farne Islands, which will be the topic for my next update. All I can say is make sure you have plenty of memory card space, it was incredible!

So i’ll leave you with a stunning panoramic view from one of the rocky outcrops in the bay of the fabulous Lochside Follies –

Ardnamurchan panoramic

Ardnamurchan panoramic

Hope you enjoyed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Ardnamurchan, Birds, D500, Photography, Scotland, Wildlife Photography Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

Wildlife photography, Ardnamurchan, June 2016 (Part 1)

It’s been a dream of mine to visit this area on the west coast of Scotland and this year I finally organised a week in Ardnamurchan followed by a week in Northumberland. I have been up to the Isle of Mull before but flew, and the restrictive nature of flying on the gear I can take saw us agreeing to drive all the way. I live on the south coast (Hastings) so it’s a pretty long trip so an overnight stay was organised for Gretna Green to break the journey.

Now what sums up the days drive from Hastings to Gretna? AAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. Ok that’s about it.

Leaving Gretna we had a relaxing drive as we skirted Glasgow, then through stunning scenery around Loch Lomond and through Glen Coe, finally arriving at the car ferry at Corran for the short hop across the water. Once across the water we followed the road to Salen (and grabbed some food shopping) and on to where we would be staying for the week. The drive along single track roads (quite safe with passing places) and the amazing scenery was a sign of things to come. With pristine woodland, mountains and lochside I could quickly see this was a nature lovers paradise. Another 30 minutes drive from Salen to just before Ardslignish saw us arrive at our accommodation at Lochside Follies.

There’s always a moment just as you arrive when you hope that where you’ve chosen lives up to your expectations and wow, did it! 4 unique self catering properties, along with the owners house dot the hillside in some of the most beautiful scenery you could hope for. We had chosen “The Folly” which sits alongside a byrne at the bottom of a wooded slope and faces Loch Sunart and the far hills. In front were well kept gardens, then the (very quiet road), across which was a large area of ferns, low trees and marshy areas through which well cut paths led to the water’s edge of the loch.

The Folly, Ardnamurchan

The Folly, Ardnamurchan

The Folly, Ardnamurchan

The Folly, Ardnamurchan

There is a steep walk up behind the Folly – this is the view, well worth it… You can just make out the Ruin (another choice of accommodation but don’t let the name put you off!) towards the bottom of the image.

Ardnamurchan view

Ardnamurchan view

The great thing about this location was the very friendly welcome and that we were free to wander anywhere on the extensive grounds. I’d already checked it was ok to put up camera traps and a hide just in case I wanted to use them.

Wildlife photography was the main reason for visiting and I was really encouraged by reports of Pine Marten in the visitors book. Our first walk down to the shore line (all within the grounds of the property) revealed Common Seals lounging in the bay just offshore and a shoreline that we were told holds Otters. We also spotted Red Deer just outside the perimeter. Birds were calling from all around, some I was very familiar with such as Whitethroat, Yellowhammer, Chaffinch, Pipits and Song Thrush and others took a little investigation to find out what they were, such as Siskins and Redpolls. After a long day there was just time to set up the camera trap and bait an area with peanuts and peanut butter to see what might be tempted during the night.

I couldn’t help but get up early and wander with the camera. I walked slowly down to the shore line listening to the birds and watching for larger animals. I walked quietly along the shore line and onto one of the small peninsulas just in time to see an otter heading inshore with it’s catch and so hastily grabbed a few shots –

Otter with fish

Otter with fish

Otter with meal on the rocks

Otter with meal on the rocks

I think my inexperience with these animals meant that the otter was well aware that I was there and headed straight over the rocks without even having a look back. Not the otter images I had hoped for but a great sighting even so.

I didn’t take many more images that morning but I did grab my trail cam on the way back in and had a quick check to see if it had been triggered. I was delighted to see that there was indeed some clips, and, even more exciting was that when played back there was no doubt of a Pine Marten in the area. Game on! I now knew that I would be setting up my remote camera and flashes that evening to try to get some shots. I’ve included one of the clips below. The quality isn’t great but there’s no doubt about the animal that triggered it. One tip though…If you are going to put out a trap with a view to finding out what visits when, it helps if you actually set the date and time ….DOH!

https://www.flickr.com/photos/126511863@N06/28029005406/in/dateposted-public/

The light wasn’t the best later in the day but I took some time to photograph birds that were visiting the bird table. There were so many Siskin around, a bird that I tend to only see in winter, and not every year, that I jumped at a chance to get some decent close up shots. It’s surprising just how yellow these little birds are –

Male Siskin on lichen, Ardnamurchan

Male Siskin on lichen, Ardnamurchan

Male Siskin, Ardnamurchan

Male Siskin, Ardnamurchan

There were plenty of the more common birds that I would expect to see such as Chaffinch, Blue, Coal and Great Tits, the odd visit from the Blackbirds and Robins and also the Great Spotted Woodpecker. One other visitor that I definitely don’t get to see in my garden (in fact have ony seen a couple of times at all) was the Redpoll. Another small finch that wasn’t shy.

Redpoll, Ardnamurchan

Redpoll, Ardnamurchan

Redpoll feeding on ground, Ardnamurchan

Redpoll feeding on ground, Ardnamurchan

Later in the day I again walked down to the shore line to see if I could get any otter images. No luck but a bird call from a small tree close by had me pointing the lens and waiting to see who the culprit was. Eventually I spotted a Yellowhammer making a constant single call and moving about every so often. I stood and watched and eventually it flew into the open and perched perfectly on a flowering floxglove flower. I couldn’t have asked for a better perch….

Yellowhammer perched on Foxglove, Ardnamurchan

Yellowhammer perched on Foxglove, Ardnamurchan

Yellowhammer singing from foxglove, Ardnmurchan

Yellowhammer singing from foxglove, Ardnmurchan

I really struggled to get any good images as the light was pretty poor and for once I hadn’t taken my tripod with me so was handholding the 500mm lens. Even with VR on I only just got these couple of useable images from 10 or so that I managed in the short time he perched perfectly on the foxglove.

Having confirmed via the trail camera that the Pine Marten was about, the next couple of nights I baited an area and set up my camera with a couple of remote flashes and waited to see if it would once again show. I don’t have any experience with these animals but I do know they are mainly nocturnal so made sure all was in place at dusk. I fire my remote setup manually using Pocket Wizard Plus X units. One in the camera hotshoe, and one each attached to the flash units, normally placed away from the camera and facing 45 degrees to where I hope the subject will stop. This should stop any red eye issues. Our second night and once again the Pine Marten showed up at around 10.40pm. I took maybe 30 or so images using the remote in my hand and once the visit was over, retrieved my kit and checked the images. Not so good – subject was too small in the image and the images were fairly dark…I’d set up too far away and had the flash unit power set a little low.

The next evening I moved the setup closer and boosted the flash power. This time the images were better but could still use some work. Distance wise the kit was about right but the images were still a little dark. A few tweaks still needed but I did manage one or two images I was reasonable happy with….

 

Pine Marten eating - Ardnamurchan

Pine Marten eating – Ardnamurchan

Pine Marten - Ardnamurchan

Pine Marten – Ardnamurchan

Next update (soon) – more Marten action, Hedgehog, redpoll and more siskins. And Midges…..

 

 

 

 

 

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