Welcome to my Blog. Here you can read about my visits to various places in search of photographs of the many and varied subjects I try to capture on camera, not always successfully I might add. Rather than just a text blog I will also add a few photographs of various species photographed.
For a few reasons, the main one being lack of time I will no longer write any blog posts. Much of my photography at this time of year is done at Messingham nature reserve in North Lincolnshire. I'm sure you would much rather just look at any photographs I take rather than wade through my ramblings from Messingham two or three times a week anyway.
Although I'm retired I'm finding it increasingly difficult to find the time to write the blog. If I don't get it written within a couple of days of actually visiting anywhere I tend to forget what happened. I'm also a family man with grand children and other commitments that are taking up a good deal of my time. I only seem to get time to write the blog if the weather happens to be too bad to get out with the camera. Anyway enough said.
My sincere thanks to all of you who have been regular readers of my blog posts, and my apologies for having to curtail it at least for the time being. I could write shorter posts I suppose but I am passionate about what I do and a half hearted description for want of a better phrase is not my style. Maybe come the winter months when things are not so active on the photography side I will be able to write the blog posts again.
I finish with a few photographs from my recent outings. Once again many thanks to you all for your support.
Gannet Bempton cliffs East Yorkshire
Common Frog Messingham nature reserve North Lincolnshire
Green hairstreak butterfly Donna Nook Lincolnshire
On Monday 15th April 2013 Dave, Mike and myself made a trip to Bempton cliffs RSPB site in East Yorkshire. The aim of the trip was to photograph the sea birds that come into Bempton to breed at this time of year. We were hoping for Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake, Razorbill and Guillemot and anything else that we might encounter.
Leaving home at 07:00 in reasonable light we were very hopeful of some good images from Bempton. We arrived at Bempton around 08:30. I decided to use both the Canon 500mm lens and the Canon 400mm lens, having one on each camera. It was rather windy but clear with good sunny spells. As we walked down to the cliff top paths it was very apparent how quiet it was. Normally the raucus calls of the sea birds can be heard before you actually see them. Didn't take too much notice of this as there was a very strong wind blowing out to sea so I assumed this was the reason nothing much could be heard. On reaching the cliff tops we soon discovered the reason for the lack of bird calls, a lack of birds. There were reasonable numbers of gannets and fulmars on the wing but a distinct lack of the noisiest bird the Kittiwake. There were odd ones around but very few and far between.
Slightly dissapointed but undeterred by the small number of birds we made out way to the main vantage point for photographing the gannets in flight. There were gannets flying around but the by now very strong wind was keeping them much lower down near the sea and farther out from the cliffs than they normally can be seen.This made photographing them difficult as most of the time we were having to shoot at a downwards angle to them. On a better day the gannets would have been much higher up and nearer. It was a case of persevering and trying to get a good shot when one actually did come high and near enough. The 500mm lens was the main lens used.
Gannet with nesting material
Compared to the gannets the fulmars are much more difficult to photograph in flight. Their flight path is not as predictable as a gannet and they fly much faster as well. With the changing lighting conditions and the gale force wind it made it very challenging getting any photographs of the birds in flight at all.
We stayed at Bempton until around 11:00 and then decided that due to the lack of birds and the windy conditions we would take a ride to Scarborough in North Yorkshire. We knew the pair of resident Peregrine falcons should hopefully be showing so there would be at least a chance of a few photographs. The harbour at Scarborough is usually pretty good for photo opportunities of gulls and a few waders. Arriving at Scarborough around midday we soon located the Peregrine pair and although we waited around a while got no real photographic opportunities. We then moved on to the harbour. Turnstones are a bird that seem to frequent the harbour but today as par for our luck they were in very short supply. If my memory serves me correctly we only saw three, but at least one of them was a little poser.
There were quite a few gulls in the harbour, herring gulls in particular, which are one of my favourite gulls to photograph. Being used to human being activity in the harbour the gulls are quite approachable and allowed me some nice close up head shots. I was using the 400mm lens now and although I had no tripod it's quite an easy lens to hand hold and they came out well.
It was now well past lunch time so we made the decision to visit an excellent fish and chip restaurant just outside Scarborough and then make our way back to Bempton. We thought the wind might drop towards tea time and the gannets and fulmars at Bempton would fly a little higher and closer to the cliff top. Anyway, after an excellent meal of fish chips and peas we arrived back at Bempton around 15:30. The wind hadn't dropped much if at all, but the birds were a little more obliging than the morning session. In fact with the less harsh light as the sun was much lower in the sky I achieved some of my best images of the day. The next couple of hours were spent trying to get decent fulmar and gannet shots in flight.
We left Bempton about 17:45 for the hour and a half journey home. Although Bempton hadn't been as good as anticipated and we also travelled a good few more miles than intended it was still an excellent day out in excellent company. The fish and chips were second to none, and Scarborough made up somewhat for Bempton. Dont forget you can view all the images from this trip via this link http://lincsbirder.zenfolio.com/p401481016
On Tuesday the 2nd April 2013 my good Friend David and I decided to pay a visit to Laughton Forest near Gainsborough to try and photograph adders. We also decided that we would have time to take a trip to Chambers Farm Wood near Wragby to see if we could get photographs of Siskin and Redpoll and anything else that was about.
I picked David up at 08:00 and we made the forty minute journey to Laughton forest. Laughton is forestry commission run and there is ample parking. The weather forecast was for good sunny spells but low temperatures. However, David knew the area where we were likely to see the adders and it is a fairly well sheltered spot that also allows sunshine on it for most of the day. The sunshine should hopefully tempt the adders to come out and bask in it to warm up. It was a fairly bright morning when we left home but as we neared the forest the sunlight was replaced by cloud.
I decided to use the Canon 100mm macro lens hand held as I wanted to get some low level shots of the adders and this would be difficult to achieve using a tripod. We searched the area that the adders are known to frequent but could not find any. It was however very cold without the sunshine and was obviously too cold for the adders to come out. We waited for a couple of hours hoping the sun would show and tempt the adders out but it wasn't to be. At around 11:00 we decided to give up and make our way to Chambers Farm Wood, another forestry commission site.
On arrival at Chambers Farm Wood we soon set up our gear and there were plenty of birds visiting the feeding station but alas no Siskin or Redpoll. Not a good day so far. Nevertheless I did get some decent shots of the Blue, Great, Coal and Long-tailed tits that were visiting the feeding station. The sun was shining nicely now and we did wonder if we had given up on the adders at Laughton too soon.
We had about an hours shooting and also had our dinner then decided it was worth going back to Laughton as it was so much brighter. We arrived back at Laughton around 13:45 and although it was brighter than in the morning the sun was very intermittent. We were soon at the spot where the adders are known to frequent and as it happened a very nice guy (I never thought to get his name) was doing an adder survey and he was actually photographing one. He very kindly allowed us to photograph this adder alongside him and I soon had a good number of shots on the card including some nice close ups. This particular adder was a male and a very dark coloured one as well. Over the next hour this snake showed itself very well, not being at all concerned by our presence.
I have never been as close to an adder before. I have seen them several times in the summer months on Crowle moor but usually a fleeting glimpse as they slithered off into the undergrowth. It was a great experience to be able to observe and photograph this beautiful snake at close quarters.
We found another male snake, a lighter coloured one but it was nothing like as obliging as the darker coloured one. We spent time chatting to the guy doing the survey, and when the Adder presented itself in photogenic poses taking a few more photographs. It was very soon 16:20 hours and it was obvious it wasn't warm enough for any more adders to be showing themselves so we packed up and made our way home. What seemed like at one stage was going to be one of those days when you go out and come home without the photographs you were hoping for turned out to be an excellent day. I was more than pleased with the Adder images I got.
On Thursday the 21st March 2013 my good friend David and I took a trip to Rufford Park in Nottinghamshire. The main purpose was to try and get photographs of the Great crested grebes that are usually present in the park. We were hoping for shots of the Grebes displaying to each other in their courtship rituals. The weather forecast was for good sunny periods for the Rufford Park area. What a joke that was. We left home at 06:30 in clear skies with the sun just rising. It stayed this way until we reached Retford, then you guessed, the sun was replaced by cloud and murk never to be seen again until we hit Retford on the return journey. How weather forecasters can get it so wrong is beyond me.
About five miles before we reached Rufford we came upon a road closure. The main road we would normally have travelled on was shut. There were warnings before we reached the closure but no real diversion signs pointing which way to go, just bollards and a barrier across the road. We took the route that we thought would bring us back on track and it eventually did after a longish detour through a couple of villages. On arrival at Rufford we soon had the gear out and set off in search of the grebes on the lakes. We did see a couple but they were fairly distant and definitely not in the mood for courtship displays. Mind you, can't say as I blamed them as it was very cold and overcast.
We soon decided we would have to settle for taking photographs of the Nuthatches and other small birds. We had come prepared for this if the grebes weren't showing. Very soon we had the Nuthatches and tits coming to take our seed. We were using the Canon 500mm F4 lenses but we still had to use a higher ISO setting than we would have preferred to get any sort of a shutter speed in the poor lighting conditions.
Nuthatch in a typical nuthatch pose
As the morning went by it got duller rather than brighter and we got colder, and it was very tempting at times to call it a day. If it wasn't for the fact that we had travelled forty odd miles to get there we most likely would have called it a day. When the conditions are as dull as it was today you don't get the catch light in the birds eye and the photos always look a little on the flat side. The resident Grey squirrel's were only too keen to get a share of the food and were a nuisance at times as they were forever in the frame pinching the seed rather than the birds getting it. However they are pretty photogenic creatures and I'm not one to turn down an opportunity of a decent photograph of one.
By 12:00 we were more than ready for a hot meal. We had decided before we set off that we would eat at the Big fish restaurant which is only a couple of miles down the road from Rufford. An excellent fish and chip meal is served here at a reasonable price. It was good to get inside in the warm and get some hot food and drink. After a great lunch the sky was still overcast and it didn't look like clearing at all so we made our way home. It was pointless going back to Rufford as we had as many dull weather shots as we needed. The detour around the road closure was rather better sign posted for the return journey although it still took us a long way out of our way to get back on track for home.
An earlier finish than we had anticipated but despite the lack of sunshine and no grebe photographs I still enjoyed the day. We contacted our wives before we set off for home and were informed the sun had shone just about all day at home which was fairly typical of the luck we had today. As said earlier, on reaching Retford on the return journey the sun broke through. I finish this post with another Nuthatch shot, this time one with a nut in the beak.
Nuthatch with peanut
On Tuesday the 5th March 2013 I decided to pay a visit to Chambers Farm Wood in Lincolnshire. This was mainly due to a heads up from a fellow bird photographer Matt Latham who had informed me that the Siskin's and Redpoll's were showing pretty well at the feeding station at the wood. Thanks for that Matt.
The weather forecast for Tuesday was for it to be foggy and clear slowly throughout the day. Should I take a chance and hope it cleared earlier than forecast or leave it until another day. I decided to take a chance and go for it. Was I pleased I did. I set off just after 09:00 in thick fog, four miles up the road I ran out of the fog into brilliant sunshine. It stayed sunny for the rest of my journey and I arrived at the wood around 10:00 with the sun still shining
Matt had told me that the lighting on the feeding station wouldn't be much good until around lunch time when the sun had got a bit higher in the sky. However, as I had never attempted any bird photography at this spot before I had no idea of which lens I would need or what position I would need to be in to get the photographs. So, my early arrival was to give me chance to suss the situation out and decide what equipment I was going to use. I had taken both the 400mm and 500mm lenses with me. I decided that the 500mm would be the best bet under the lighting conditions, although I would have to be careful with the depth of field as I would be pretty close to the birds. I also took a feeder with me for niger seed. The Siskin and Redpoll are very partial to niger seed.
I also took peanuts and mixed seed for the other birds. The feeders at the wood are hung on a wire stretched between two trees. Fine for the birds but not a good photography setting. I had to rearrange things a little and set up my own perches for the birds using branches that were readily available from other people doing the same thing. As it happened one of the volunteers who normally tops the feeders up was about, so I explained to him what I was doing and assured him I would put things back as they were when I had finished. He was more than happy with this as It meant all the feeders would be topped up by me saving them the cost of the seed and nuts. A pleasant attitude, manners and respect for others goes a long way in a situation like this. By the time I had finished chatting to the volunteer and got my perches set up it was around 11:15 and I could see the light on the feeding station was getting better all the time.
Within a few minutes of me setting up a female Redpoll put in an appearance, however she landed directly on the feeder I had taken rather than on one of my perches. A slight adjustment to my perches and the next time she came in it was onto my chosen perch. Not quite the side view I wanted but good enough.
There were Great, Blue and Coal tits coming back and forth in good numbers. I took a few photographs of them but was more keen to get the Siskin and Redpoll.
Just before lunch time a couple of Siskin's came in. I managed a good photograph of the female but the male eluded my efforts. By the time I had got a photograph of the female the male was already on the feeder.
It was lunch time already. A quick sandwich and a cup of soup was consumed where I was rather than go back to the car. Luckily it wasn't too cold where I was as it was sheltered from any wind by the building immediately behind me. I made a quick telephone call home to my wife, more out of curiosity than anything to find out if the fog had cleared at home. Sue informed me it was still thick fog at home. I had definitely made the right decision. If I hadn't gone to Chambers Wood I had planned to do some local in flight ducks and geese. That would have been a no go in the fog. The light on the feeding station was excellent now. Next to come in was a male Redpoll. What a fine looking specimen as well with his red cap and streaked red breast. He landed not on one of my perches but on the tree itself even nearer to me. I fired a burst of shots off just hoping that I had managed to get him all in focus with him being so near. I checked them on the camera LCD screen and was happy with them.
The Long-tialed tits kept popping in now and again but were more inclined to land on the ground and then fly up to the feeders or the table. After many attempts I finally managed a decent photograph of one in a tree rather than on the ground.
The next hour was rather frustrating as a Sparrowhawk decided it would fly through. Obviously all the birds took cover when it came through. It was great to see this male Sparrowhawk coming through at great speed. Over the next hour he came through four times, the last time nearly taking my head off he was that close. Although I was at the ready for him there was no way on earth I was going to get a photograph of him. The shutter speed was too slow as were my reactions Lol.
After what seemed a long wait the small birds began to return and the male Siskin was one of them. He perched more or less in a perfect position for me and a burst of shots ensured a lovely photograph of him.
Throughout the rest of the time I was there the Siskin's and Redpoll's returned several times and more photographs were taken. By 15:15 I decided I had as many photographs as I needed and I put the feeding station back as I found it. I also topped up the feeders with the surplus nuts and seed I had left. The light had been a bit challenging at times. Sometimes my perches were in full sun, sometimes in shade which meant I was altering the exposure compensation quite often.
A great days photography though and my first decent photograph of a Redpoll. The journey home was good and I didn't run into any fog until I approached the same spot as it cleared on my morning journey. Not as thick a fog as in the morning but enough to blot out any sunshine.