Tag Archives: photography

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 Also 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 Also tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Chilly day at Rye Harbour

It’s Tuesday early evening and I’ve just realised that tomorrow is going to be a perfect day for photography. A quick check on the tide tables and weather websites and a phone call to the boss and I’m set for an early start (thanks boss!)

I have a plan but I’m always in two minds about what to do. I’ve decided to start at the harbour end as the sun rises, mainly to try for wildfowl and the kingfishers, then off to Pett Pools for lunchtime to see if the Glossy Ibis is still about and finally back to Rye for Castle Water hide and try at the Barn Owl as the sun drops.

It’s a freezing morning – the second in a row at about -4 degrees. Even with my 2 pairs of gloves (one thin pair so I can still operate the camera) my hands are frozen as I walk towards the hide. Theres a bit of a commotion on the other side of the reserve and I can see a huge flock of plovers as they wheel in the glowing pre-dawn sky. This image is a small part of the flock. There must have been several thousand birds in the sky.

Golden Plover flock at dawn

Golden Plover flock at dawn

Dawn flock

Dawn flock

 

I can see that large areas of water have frozen over which may make for some interesting images. Sure enough, as I slowly peep through the hide window as I open it I can see a large amount of wildfowl right in front of the hide. A good start! The birds have been concentrated into the left side of the pool due to a sheet of ice covering the right half. There are hundreds of Widgeon, their whistling calls an integral part of the winter soundscape. They are joined by Teal, Gadwall, Mallard, Coots, Little Grebes and a few geese, the most notable being a Brent goose that’s resting close by.

The birds are moving in and out of the area close to the hide and it’s actually the Gadwall that present the best chances for images.

 

Gadwall at sunrise

Gadwall at sunrise

Gadwall head on

Gadwall head on

Many of the other ducks just seemed to be glad the night was over and were warming up in the dawn sun…

Widgeon at dawn on frosty morning

Widgeon at dawn on frosty morning

Mallard takeoff

Mallard takeoff

To give you an idea of the view outside the hide and the numbers of birds I took a couple of images….

Wildfowl at Rye

Wildfowl at Rye

Wildfowl at Rye taken with wider view

Wildfowl at Rye taken with wider view

As with my last visit there were good numbers of Little Grebe amongst the other birds and again showing their skill at catching fish –

Little Grebe with fish

Little Grebe with fish

So how did I get on with the Kingfishers? When I arrived the perches in front of the hide were covered in frost and looking perfect. I just needed the bird to turn up before the sun melted it. It did turn up….and sat there for all of 2 seconds before zipping off down towards the cottage. I think the number of ducks around the perches put it off but …I’ll never know.

What I did see over on the lake next to the narrow pit path was a pair of kingfishers zipping back and forth. They were a long way off and I couldn’t quite see what they were up to. I took a couple of shots just to see when I got home and I believe they were two males having some kind of dispute. They got into a little bit of a spat so it may have been a territorial thing. This next image shows that they were getting aggressive – it’s a poor image and a huge crop but I thought it of interest…

Kingfisher Fight (large crop)

Kingfisher Fight (large crop)

A quick check out from the other hide showed it was quite quiet (within lens range) apart from a small group of roosting Lapwing. Beautfiul birds with a very distinctive call.

Lapwings on ice

Lapwings on ice

Having checked the tides I knew that high tide had been around 6am and that the water would be dropping enough that there may be some waders feeding over near the harbour mouth. As it was mid week I thought I’d give this a try – at weekends and later in the day it’s just too busy and these days it seems a high percentage of people have their dogs running all over the place so waiting for waders to come to you is just an exercise in frustration. It’s the main reason you don’t find me at the harbour end very often.

That said, there were quite a few Turnstones, Redshank, Ringed Plover and the odd feeding Oystercatcher to try and photograph. They didn’t seem bothered by the huge lorries that were back and forth as part of the sea defence works so I walked close to the wall on the channel side, found a dry flat rock, sat down and wrapped the bag hide around the tripod to hide my shape. This is a tip that pays dividends. Not being seen is half the battle in getting decent images and just being behind a non descript shape and hiding the human form can mean you are ignored by the birds.

It took a while but eventually a few came close enough to photograph –

Redshank looking for food

Redshank looking for food

Oystercatcher pulling worm

Oystercatcher pulling worm

Oystercatcher calling

Oystercatcher calling

There were also a small flock of Ringed Plover slowly making their way towards me as they picked tidbits from the weed and sand. I had the camera trained on them and was about 2 minutes away from them being close enough to start taking images when one of the workmen above slammed his car boot shut – every bird gone. Arrrrggggggggggh!. Not his fault, doubt he even had a clue I was even there but frustrating none the less. What I would give for places to go where other people can’t spook the birds. Oh well time to move.

I stuck to my plan and headed down to Pett Pools to see if the long staying Glossy Ibis was there. Unfortunately it was really quiet so I took the opportunity to just rest and have some lunch for 20 minutes. A week or so ago I did head there with my friend Mali and had some ok views of the bird. Not as good as he had achieved on some visits before but there was something in common – total idiots driving past and giving loud blasts on their car horns. Another example of the selfishness that makes my blood boil. No reason to do that other than bloody mindedness. Maybe I’ll get a chance to stand in front of their view when they are trying to watch their team in the FA cup final. I’m sure they would find that funny. What was refreshing though was meeting two families that were also looking for the bird, really pleasant people with a genuine interest for wildlife. Helped to restore my faith in humanity a little bit.

Part 3 of the plan was to head back out to Castle Water. The walk out wasn’t very productive for images although there were notable numbers of geese feeding in the sheep fields along the way. I reached the hide and very slowly opened the door…..only to find that someone had left every single window open and the birds saw a large flash of light from the sun behind suddenly light everything up….cue hundreds of birds that were right outside the hide scarpering across the water. Thanks…

A large area of the water was frozen (to the right) and again large numbers of widgeon and teal made up the bulk of the birds. Plenty of movement but, as is often with this hide, they tend to fly just a little too far away from the hide for decent flight shots. Some of the coots were having a few issues with the ice though..

Skating Coot

Skating Coot

I have to say that following the work that’s been done to improve the landscaping out from this hide it certainly feels like it’s going to be an even greater place for images / birdwatching. There are kingfisher perches quite close (no views this day but it did visit last time) and with the water being alot closer, the birds will come in that little bit more (if not disturbed!) which may offer some decent chances. Really appreciate the efforts of the Sussex Wildlife Trust to make the reserve the best it can be.

One bird you can pretty much guarantee to show up at some point is the Marsh Harrier and sure enough the scattering of birds was the telltale sign that one was incoming….

Wildfowl flock takes flight as a Marsh Harrier approaches

Wildfowl flock takes flight as a Marsh Harrier approaches

These are mainly Teal with the odd Mallard and Gadwall. What I did notice when processing the image was the Tufted Duck at the bottom left of the image. It occured to me that of course they tend not to fly away when an aerial predator approaches as they are a diving duck – they can just dip under the water!

Marsh Harrier on the hunt

Marsh Harrier on the hunt

Marsh Harriers are notoriously difficult to get good images of. They have such keen eyesight that the slightest movement will have them veering away so unless you are hidden your chances of getting a “keeper” photograph are slim. Even the hide is sometimes not enough as they seem to spot you long before they are in range for a good shot. When you do get a good opportunity you’ll want to try and make the most of it…..which is exactly what i didn’t do this time. When the bird came close and veered a little I managed to clip the wings…..even with lots of practice I still don’t get it right everytime, I guess that’s part of the attraction, you just never know if it’s going to be your day!. This is the “close but no cigar” shot. I know some may look at this and think “what’s wrong with that?” but I can’t help see the missed chance….next time!-

Marsh Harrier in flight

Marsh Harrier in flight

Another bird I hoped to see but wasn’t sure I would was the Water Rail. A secretive and skulking bird, often the only views will be as it dashes between the reeds. Due to area still being a bit bare out front I didn’t think they would be using it. A movement from the corner of my eye alerted me to a rail dashing from the gorse (first time i’ve seen that) into the largest clump of reeds. Being an incredibly still day with not even a breath of wind, I expected to see the reeds moving to give away the birds location and was surprised that it didn’t move a single stem and suddenly appeared at the edge and did a quick half flight into the next clump. This time I had a good idea where it would exit so trained the lens ready…

Water Rail amongst reeds

Water Rail amongst reeds

Water Rail dashing through reeds

Water Rail dashing through reeds

One final bird worth a mention before I move away from the hide is the Pintail Duck, a smart looking bird that decided to have a bit of a wash out from the hide….

Pintail washing

Pintail washing

The sun is finally starting to drop and I need to get in place for a chance to see the Barn Owl. I never get tired of photographing these amazing birds, there’s something about the way they fly, the way they just seem to appear and glide silently across the fields which makes every encounter quite special.

While waiting I couldn’t help grabbing a shot of the reeds glowing gold –

Reedbed at sunset

Reedbed at sunset

…and as I turn back to the field the owl has suddenly appeared. Unbelievable! once more I have no idea which direction it arrived from. Perfect light and a fantastic bird made for some lovely images –

Barn Owl at sunset

Barn Owl at sunset

Barn Owl diving after prey

Barn Owl diving after prey

Barn Owl incoming!

Barn Owl incoming!

Barn Owl eye contact

Barn Owl eye contact

Whilst Barn Owls can sometimes be accommodating, to get these shots I’m hidden under my bag hide, sat low to hide my shape. The Owl has heard the shutter in the lower shots and is glancing over to see what the noise is. It’s a fraction of a second before it continues that beautiful ghostly flight as it quarters the field.

The owl then disappeared  – after waiting some time I looked out to scan the area but there was no further sign. Another chance to grab the dying sun in the reeds –

As the sun sets

As the sun sets

There was to be one final surprise. I did get a far glimpse of the owl again so back under the hide I went. This time I didn’t take any images as it flew close, I waited, barely daring to breath as it got closer and closer then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw it spin mid air and come down to land. Moving so slowly it was barely visible I looked above the lens and could see the owl perched just 30 yards away. I brought the lens round so so slowly while I muttered “please don’t fly, please don’t fly” under my breath. The reward was a shot I’ve been after for years. I’ll let them speak for themselves. Apologies this post has been so long, I feel I’ve hardly had a chance to get out and a decent update was well overdue. Hope you enjoyed….

Barn Owl on perch

Barn Owl on perch

Barn Owl in perfect pose

Barn Owl in perfect pose

 

 

 

Posted in Birds, Nikon D7200, Photography, Rye Harbour, Wildlife Photography Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Minsmere wildlife photography – part 2

After an encouraging first “day” at Minsmere ( I tend to be there at the crack of dawn and leaving when most are just arriving) I was looking forward to getting back to try my luck again and the next day the weather was a little more favourable in the evening. Once again the amount of rabbits on every available piece of grassy area really struck me and with a few of the wildlfowers in bloom, made quite an attractive image –

Rabbit Portrait, Minsmere

Rabbit Portrait, Minsmere

I headed back round to the East hide and was rewarded for my patience when a Spotted Redshank, a bird I’ve not photographed before, eventually made it’s way closer after feeding tantalisingly out of reach of a good shot. Even better it decided to sit not too far in front and preen for a few minutes and gave plenty of opportunity for reflection shots whilst doing so. It also had a quick bath.

Spotted Redshank preening, Minsmere

Spotted Redshank preening, Minsmere

Spotted Redshank bathing, Minsmere

Spotted Redshank bathing, Minsmere

Spotted Redshank reflection, Minsmere

Spotted Redshank reflection, Minsmere

As before there was certainly not a shortage of subjects as the scrape especially was a hive of activity. The Little Egrets were again fishing right in front of the hide but just down behind the reeds. Every so often one would come a little further out and allow for some great views. This seems to be my summer for them! I took an image here that was successful in the Bird Watching “Bird Photo of the year” and was runner up for the cover star part of the competition. So far there has only been a small image in the latest (October 2015) Bird Watching magazine. I’m really hoping they will make a bit more of the images that were shortlisted or commended and maybe have more images next month or in an extra pullout. I’d love to see some of the other entries. Anyway – here’s the one from me – I just loved the pose and the display.

Posing Little Egret, Minsmere

Posing Little Egret, Minsmere

Staying with the scrape, and as anyone with an interest in wildlife will know, nature can be harsh. It’s inevitable with so many young birds around that a predator will attempt to grab one, they have young to feed also, it’s just part of the circle of life. Whilst I can’t describe it as “pleasant”, you need to be rather matter of fact about it. As a photographer it of course offers an opportunity to grab some great (if slightly morbid) action shots. I witnessed a few smash and grabs during my week but the one closest that I managed to get the camera on was of a Lesser Black Backed Gull grabbing a Common Tern chick. The Gull was persued in vain by one of the parents and then by the other Gulls in an attempt to steal the prize –

The chase is on - a chick has been taken

The chase is on – a chick has been taken

In pursuit of the prize

In pursuit of the prize

Mid air tussle for a Tern chick

Mid air tussle for a Tern chick

 

There are so many different areas and habitats at Minsmere it’s hard to decided where to go next! I recommend the viewpoint for the Sand Martin nesting bank though. I struggled to get any worthwhile flight shots of these birds, not too easy with a 500mm so I always appreciate the effort when I see a decent shot, however just standing and watching the bustle of the birds as they came to nests to feed the chicks was wonderful.

Sand Martins at nest bank, Minsmere

Sand Martins at nest bank, Minsmere

Recently fledged Sand Martins, Minsmere

Recently fledged Sand Martins, Minsmere

The following day once again saw us up before the sun and quietly stalking across Whin Hill as the sun rose. I really wanted a chance at the Stoats – if you watched Springwatch this year, this area is where they were filming the parents with food, moving kits etc. I don’t know the normal layout for this area but for our week there was still a temporary path across the hill. With shortish grassland and plenty of wildflowers along with lots of rabbits and burrows it looked like a perfect day to catch some action. Things don’t always go as planned though and the first subject that I took some images of was a Muntjac Deer. This isn’t something I see down in Sussex at all so was quite pleased to get not only great views but some decent photos too. As the sun was rising behind us and the tiny amount of breeze was in my face, a small amount of stealth meant I could get frame filling shots.

Muntjac in morning sun, Minsmere

Muntjac in morning sun, Minsmere

Muntjac grooming, Minsmere

Muntjac grooming, Minsmere

Finally the Muntjac must have got an idea I was there and decided to head for the trees –

Muntjac running in morning sun, Minsmere

Muntjac running in morning sun, Minsmere

Finally for this post – just a quick example of how things don’t always go as planned. We walked down to the Island Mere Hide and found 2 people were already ahead of us in the hide. We stopped on the walkway, mainly because Maria wanted to see if she could see “Spineless Si” – those who watched Springwatch will understand as this was where he was filmed. There were a few noises from the reeds closeby, not suprising as there are coots and moorhens aplenty so we didn’t take much notice other than a cursory glance that way. Unless the noisemaker is at the egde it’s impossible to see anyway the reeds are so dense. All of a sudden there was a loud crash and a Bittern flew up just yards away, we were treated to the closest views of a bittern exploding from the reeds you can get, it made us both jump, and although instincts kicked in and I got the camera on it, these birds have a great habit of just showing you their rear end – which is all i got as a photo! So close yet so far….

The lady that was in the hide came out shortly after and said “you must have got some great photos!” to which I had to explain a bird’s backside doesn’t really count. They had known the bird was there but didn’t think to signal to us to move inside.Oops.

Bittern missed shot, Minsmere

Bittern missed shot, Minsmere

Bleh – next time! This place is great for Bittern opportunities and I did have several sightings through the week, just wished I’d know it was there!

More info about my week and where I stayed coming in the next update, hopefully not such a gap between posts this time. Thanks for looking.

 

 

 

Posted in Birds, Mammals, Minsmere, Nikon D7200, Photography, Wildlife Photography Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , |