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.
Thursday the 28th of February 2013, a visit to Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire. Much the same circumstances for making this visit to Sherwood Forest as the last trip I made, not deciding to go until the Wednesday evening. The weather has been so unreliable along with the unreliable forecasts that it's been near on impossible to plan anything in advance.
My companion for this outing was my good friend David who managed to be able to go at short notice. I picked Dave up at 06:30 and we made good time, arriving at the forest at around 07:45 The weather was as promised a little early mist then sunny spells. In fact it turned out better than expected as we had a clear blue sky all day. Always good when you are working in the forest as the more light you can get on the subjects the better.
We soon made our way into the forest and set up a temporary feeding station. I had decided to use the Canon 500mm F4 lens. it's always a dilemma as to which lens to use for this type of photography. The 400mm F5.6 that I have is fine, you can get close enough to the birds but being F5.6 the shutter speeds can be a little slow even on a tripod. On the other hand while the 500mm F4 is better for shutter speeds being an F4 lens, there is the question of depth of field. Using the 500mm F4 obviously means the birds are a little closer and you get that bit more detail but on the other hand it's very easy to finish up with parts of the bird out of focus if you go below F6.3 to get the shutter speed up. As it happened I made the right choice as the light was excellent as far as forest work goes and although I had to use ISO speeds of between 400 and 800 I was able to shoot at F7.1 most of the time to get a decent depth of field.
Once we had set up it was only a matter of minutes before the birds began to come in to feed. The Nuthatches are so fast, grab and run merchants. They drop down to a perch momentarily before grabbing a nut or seed and making off with it. You have to be very quick to catch them before they get a seed or nut in the beak. I do prefer them without a nut or seed in the beak. I had many photographs of a branch with no bird in the frame because I wasn't fast enough on the shutter Lol. However, as with many things persistence is the name of the game.
We had Coal, Marsh, Blue, Great, Willow and Long-tailed tits coming to our set up as well as Dunnock, Robin and Blackbird. The Blue and Great tits are the easiest to catch as they aren't quite as wary or as fast as the Nuhatch. The Coal, Willow, Marsh and Long-tailed tits are also pretty quick. It was very cold in the forest and I was thankful that I had dressed accordingly. The morning flew by and lunch was consumed where we were as it would have meant losing well over an hour to go and buy lunch anywhere and we would also have had to dismantle our set up and reassemble it on our return.
The Dunnock is in my opinion a very underrated bird. I love the spring song, and seen close up it has a lovely eye colour and the varying shades of grey and brown make it a very attractive bird.
The Long-talied tits paid several visits but never stopping for any length of time. They are such energetic little bundles constantly on the move in family parties searching for their next meal. We were interrupted quite often by members of the public walking, some with dogs others without. However most of them were mindful of what we were doing and were courteous towards us and we had quite a few pleasant chats, with some of them being very interested in seeing our photographs. It's probably worth saying that Sherwood Forest is a public forest and dog walkers and ramblers etc have just as much right to be in the forest as us photographers have. If everyone behaves in a polite and courteous manner toward each other there are no conflicts.
Like the morning the afternoon flew by and by 15:00 hours I had over 1500 images on the card. Although reasonably early the light was just beginning to fade in the forest and the last half hour had seen me upping the ISO speed to get a fast enough shutter speed. We decided to call it a day. We packed up making sure we left things as we found them. The journey home was a little slower than than the morning drive, due mainly to hitting Retford at peak traffic time ( school leaving time) However we were still home by 17:00. A great day out in great company. The weather had exceeded all our expectations. it's always nice when everything comes together as it did today. I leave you with a photograph of a Marsh tit. Don't forget you can view all the images from this trip here
Over the last couple of weeks I have spent many hours at Worlaby carrs with the odd visit for a few hours to Waters Edge Country Park at Barton-upon-Humber.The aim at Worlaby carr's was to get some decent in flight images of the Short-eared owls before they vacate to their summer breeding grounds. It will most likely be the last owl photographs from the carr's, as it most definitely looks like the carr land is going to be ploughed up this autumn and put back to farm land. Already they, (the land owner or tennant) I'm not sure which have started to cut the grass on the carr's which can only mean disturbance for the owls and the voles they feed on. Worlaby carr's is probably one of the most important and certainly holds one of the largest populations of wintering Short-eared owls in the United Kingdom. Despite the efforts of local birders it now seems certain that this carr land will be returned to agricultural use this autumn.
On the odd day when we have seen any prolonged spells of sunshine I have been to Waters Edge at Barton-upon-Humber to try for in flight shots of the ducks and geese. This winter though there seems to be much less activity on the lakes at Barton than in previous years and photographic opportunities have been very few. Probably due to the windy conditions that seem to have prevailed when the sun has shone. On my last visit I did manage a few shots of Canada geese coming in to land.
Anyway back to Worlaby carr's. It can be a bit soul destroying sitting in the car on the carr's no pun intended for up to six hours at a time waiting for the owls to show, and then going home with no photographs at all because they either didn't show or were too far away for the camera. It could be very cold as well. There were odd days when they showed close enough and I did manage a few decent images. It's sod's law that if the sun managed to shine the owls managed to either keep their distance from the camera or not show at all and there were quite a few days when I went home with no photographs at all. Sometimes they would be out in the morning and sometimes it would be late afternoon when the best of the light had gone. It was always a dilemma knowing what time to visit the carr's. I generally arrived around eleven to eleven thirty in a morning and stayed until the light had gone, between four thirty and five o'clock in the evening.
They never seemed to hunt for any prolonged periods, they would get up and hunt for maybe twenty to thirty minutes and then they would go down again and it would sometimes be another hour or two before they got up again and sometimes not at all.
I was fortunate on one of my visits to have an owl land on one of the fence posts within camera range. This owl had a vole in it's mouth that it had caught and I was over the moon to get a few shots of it before it flew off to consume the vole elsewhere out of sight.
Short-eared owl with vole
On another of my visits I hadn't taken a photograph all the time I had been there, then a kestrel was seen to land on a bush just a little further down the road to where I was parked. I managed to drive down the road very slowly and get a lovely photograph of it. I didn't go home with an empty CF card this time.
One day there were a couple of Stonechat's flitting up and down the road in the bushes and sometimes on the fence posts but they never sat still long enough for me to get any photographs. Anyway to sum up. I am quite happy with the photographs I managed over this last couple of weeks. I would have liked the owls to have been a little closer and to have shown a bit more when the weather conditions were more favourable, but you can't have everything handed on a plate to you. I had to work to get the photographs by putting a lot of time in.
Just a short blog to let you all know that I am still alive and kicking Lol. The weather has been very poor lately in my part of the world. The main problem has been the high winds we have been experiencing. It hasn't stopped me getting out, but it's mainly been a few hours here and there over the last couple of weeks sooner than a full day anywhere. If it hasn't been blowing a gale it's been raining or snowing. I could go sit in a hide and wait for something to turn up but that bores me and I'm not good at sitting for long. I soon get backache and the urge to move around kicks in. Saying that I do spend quite a bit of time sat in the car using it as a mobile hide, but the difference in this to a static hide that is open to the public is I can get out and stretch my legs without disturbing other people.
Anyway to carry on. I have made several visits to Waters Edge Country Park at Barton-upon-Humber over the last couple of weeks. Generally during the morning period when we have managed a few rare hours of sunshine. The problem being as said earlier the high winds. Birds don't fly in high winds any more than they are forced, so getting in flight photographs of the ducks has been nearly impossible. Most days they have been hunkered down at one end of the ponds and staying put out of the wind as much as possible. The geese have been a little more willing to fly but not as much as usual. I did manage a few photographs of some Greylag geese as they came into land on one of my visits but that's been about it for in flight shots at Barton.
On one of my visits to Waters Edge I did manage to locate a small mixed flock of Siskin and Repoll. Again the wind was a nuisance as the birds fed on Alder cones. The trees were swaying wildly and keeping a bird in the camera view finder was difficult let alone getting a blur free shot. Took me over two hours to get any photographs I was happy with.
Female Siskin feeding on Alder cones
If it has managed to keep fine I have often called at Worlaby carrs in the afternoons to try for the Short-eared owls. My luck with these has not been great. If I managed an afternoon with any decent light the birds either didn't show at all or showed at a distance too great for any decent shots. On the dull wet and often windy days when I have been there they have sometimes shown a little closer but then I have had to use a very high ISO setting on the 7D to get any sort of a shutter speed to catch them in flight. High ISO with the 7D doesn't bode well for a great photograph. Sounds like all I'm doing is moaning, well I guess I am, but I am a bit of a perfectionist where my photographs are concerned, and I don't like showing you images that are not up to my usual standards when I know given slightly better conditions I could do much better.
Well that's about all for this post. It's blowing a gale and snowing yet again as I write this. Weather forecast for tomorrow, Thursday 7th February 2013 is a little better with hopefully some sunshine so with a bit of luck I will be out and about again.
Wednesday the 9th of January saw me making a visit to Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire. It was a very spur of the moment decision to make this trip. I had seen the weather forecast on the Tuesday night and it looked promising for a change. I had thought I would probably go somewhere local like Barton or Worlaby. However, I awoke early unable to sleep. I checked the weather forecast and it was an excellent forecast with a good chance of full sunshine for the best part of the day. I decided, as said on the spur of the moment to visit Sherwood Forest. I would normally have contacted some of my photography friends to see if they fancied the trip, but at such short notice and at such an early hour I didn't think they would appreciate my calling them.
I soon had all the camera gear in the car and a packed lunch ready. I left home at 06:45 and made good time, arriving at Sherwood Forest around 08:00. I decided to use the Canon 7D and the Canon 500mm F4 lens as I knew the lighting conditions in the forest wouldn't be particularly good even in sunny weather, as although I would be in a fairly open area of the forest the trees would keep putting shade on my chosen spot. I decided to use the Canon 7D and the 500mm F4 lens as this would be a better option than the Canon 400mm F5.6 lens as far as shutter speeds were concerned.
I made my way into the forest to a spot that I have previously photographed at. As it happened a new bird feeding table had been erected at this spot. This was fine, but it didn't look very natural, so I found a rotting piece of log from the forest floor and some moss. I wrapped the moss around the log and placed it on the table. I put seed and nuts on the table in the hope that the birds would land on the log before dropping onto the table to feed.
Within minutes I had a steady stream of birds visiting. They did land on my moss covered log, but boy I had to be quick on the shutter button to catch them before they hopped off onto the table. Some of the first birds to arrive were the Nuthatches and they are also some of the quickest as well, Lol.
It wasn't long before the tits and chaffinches appeared. The Marsh tits like the Nuthatches are also very fast. The light was very challenging. One minute my moss covered log would be sunlit, the next in shade as the sun filtered through the trees. Exposure was a bit of a nightmare with the changing lighting conditions and the differing plumage colours of the various birds and I did finish up with quite a few very over or under exposed images as I was constantly altering the exposure settings on the camera to try and compensate.
A Dunnock and a Chaffinch were a little more cooperative being slower movers than the tit's and nuthatches. I was at the side of one of the many public paths that run through the forest and as such I had many people and dogs pass by that temporarily disturbed the birds. However they would soon return once the people and dogs had passed by. There were some other logs nearby that hadn't moss on them and a few of the birds chose one of these logs to alight on before coming to the table. I managed to catch a very nice shot of a Blue tit on one of these logs whilst the light was good as well.
The morning flew by and a quick sandwich and a drink were consumed in situ. By around 14:00 hours the light was gradually fading, the sun now being too low in the sky to reach my position. I decided to call it a day. I had taken just over a thousand photographs and although as said a lot would be unusable due to incorrect exposure or motion blur I knew I had some decent shots as well. No day at Sherwood Forest would be complete without a photograph of a Robin.
The journey home was a little slower due to the traffic being heavier but I had really enjoyed my day. It had been a little on the chilly side but I was never what I would call very cold. Although a spur of the moment decision to go to Sherwood it was definitely one of my better photography days. Don't forget you can view all the shots from this Sherwood forest visit via this link. http://lincsbirder.zenfolio.com/p90496710
Firstly my apologies for it being so long since my last blog post. My wife Sue had a minor accident, to cut a long story short Sue broke her wrist. For the last six or seven weeks I have been very much a house husband as there were many everyday jobs that Sue couldn't do one handed. Anyway Sue is well on the way to a full recovery and able to drive again so I can now find time to get out with the camera.
Saturday the 5th of January 2013 saw me making a visit to Waters Edge Country Park at Barton-upon-Humber and Worlaby carrs. The forecast was for a cloudy overcast start to the day with sunny periods later. With the overcast conditions I wasn't concerned about an early start and didn't leave home until 09:15 for the twenty minute drive to Waters Edge. I took both the 7D cameras with me. One to use with the Canon 400mm F5.6 L lens and the other for the 500mm F4 L Lens. I was hoping to use the 400mm f5.6 lens at Waters Edge for some bird in flight shots. However, I decided to use the 500mm F4 lens as this lens would allow me a bit faster shutter speeds in the overcast conditions.
There were quite a few birds on the ponds at Waters Edge, Mallard, Coot, Moorhen, Teal, Mute Swan, Tufted Duck and Canada Geese plus the usual gathering of Black-headed gulls. I positioned myself on the board walk over the pond near the visitor centre as this pond always seems have the most activity in terms of birds coming in and departing. The first hour passed without me taking a single shot. I wasn't particularly concerned though as although it was beginning to brighten up, it was still far from good for in flight shots and I was just enjoying watching the birds and being out in the fresh air. By 11:00 the sun had made an appearance and I managed some decent in flight shots of the Black-headed gulls.
I was hoping the Canada geese would take flight, but they were pretty static today as was most other things. There were a couple of half chances with a Mallard and Tufted duck coming in but I was too slow and missed them both. I was about to move on to Worlaby carrs to see if I could get photographs of the Short-eard owls when I bumped into a couple of photography friends, Darren and Mandy. After chatting to them we decided to move on to Worlaby together. We arrived at Worlaby at around 13:00 and it wasn't long before a Short-eared owl was spotted hunting, although it was fairly distant. Patience is the name of the game at Worlaby and over the next two and a half hours several owls were seen although none of them came quite as close as we would have liked. I also caught up with a few more old friends at Worlaby and it was good to have a chat and be out in the fresh air after being indoors for so long.
The light was challenging for photography with the sun being hazy at best and non existent at times and as the afternoon wore on it became increasingly difficult to get the camera to lock onto the flying owls. Just before 16:00 we decided to call it a day as the light had just about gone and a distinct chill was in the air. Although I didn't take many photographs it was a great day in great company.