Over the last few day's of nice weather I've been spending a few early mornings up in the Berwyn's photographing Wheatear. I had found a spot containing a lot of standing rocks that I was able to park next to to use my car as a mobile hide. Regular baiting the site with mealworm brought in a lovely conditioned male and over the course of a few mornings I was able to get some nice shots.
It's been another busy month and also a month since I last updated this blog. A lot has gone on lately, this month has seen us finally start to have paying guest at our holiday cottage in the heart of Snowdonia and on initial reports from guests it looks like they are enjoying staying there.
I've managed to photograph two more species of reptile this spring, first up some Adders at my old site back in Bedfordshire and then a Slow worm back at our small holding in the Berwyn mountains North Wales. The species I'm really looking forward to photographing this year is the Grass snake, last year I found a few up here at our place but so far despite looking I've yet to find one this year.
With the weather warming up Siskin's have started to arrive to breed. They over winter in the south of the country and return each spring, this year I've had plenty of niger seed and a reflection pool waiting for them.
Another update in a couple of day's time.
A couple of days ago I spotted our third species of reptile up at our small holding, a common lizard, we already have slow-worms and grass snakes. What made this sighting more unusual was the fact that we still have a large amount of snow left on the ground. Yesterday the sun came out and I headed out with my camera hoping to photograph a lizard in the snow. After a careful piece of stalking I managed to get the pictures I wanted as an individual crossed the snow to get to a basking spot.
Can't believe it's been a month since my last post, so thought I'd do a bit of a catch up.
First off knowing I was going to be away for a fortnight I wanted to start work on a reflection pool up at my woodland hide. I want the pool to look as natural as possible and so collected lots of moss covered rocks from around the property to form a natural back drop, the liner has been covered with pebbles collected from our stream and it has been planted with foxglove, bracken and ferns collected from our woodland. The actual pool has been constructed from a sheet of shuttering ply placed on legs to level it out. Hopefully the following pictures will show what I've been trying to achieve.
Looking from my hide platform, all along the left hand side will be planted with various sunflower, wild teasels and corn flowers, hopefully to attract Siskin and Goldfinches. The back of the pool will be a mass of foxgloves as I'd like a few shots of various birds fairly small in frame perched on these flowers.
As we speak the platforms are still covered in about 4" of snow. While I was away in Bedfordshire for a fortnight North Wales got hit with a massive amount of snow, Helen was snowed in for almost a fortnight, in fact our track was only cleared by the councils JCB the day before I returned. I was worried about missing the snow but a week since I returned a lot of the snow is still here. I took a few shots of various birds and squirrels in the snow on Easter Sunday and Monday and managed to get a couple in the Mail online.
While I was away I managed to get out a couple of times with the camera. First off I went with my good friend Dan Trim to photograph some wild otters he'd been spending some time with. Although we had a few nice encounters with them the gloom and falling snow spoilt many chances of action shots due to not having a fast enough shutter speed, in fact I only kept one record shot from the day, will have to try again at this venue in better weather.
The following day I headed out to an old stomping ground of mine, Woburn deer park to get a few shots of the deer in the snow. The hardest part was trying to isolate individuals from the herd, but I managed it a few times. Soon though the ranger turned up to feed them and the herd followed him into an out of bounds area so that was the end of that.
Continuing on from the previous posts I thought I'd share a few Red grouse shots from our trip to the Cairngorms. Neil McIntrye gave us the location of a loch that had a lot of Red grouse inhabiting it's heather covered banks. The plan was to drive along the single track road that runs around the loch, stopping to photograph any grouse showing out of the car window. I loved hearing the sound of the calling male grouse, a sound that seemed at home in such a lovely location. We spent a couple of mornings during the trip photographing these birds and it made a nice change from lugging all of our camera gear around on our backs. Below are a few images that I took.
The one bird I really hoped to see on our trip to the Cairngorms was the Capercaillie. Last year Dan had been lucky enough to see one and the photo's that he took made my mouth water. Reports that the bird had been killed by a dog had filtered down to us, but also we had noticed some recent pictures hitting the internet. During our stay we made two early morning visits to the site and the following pictures are from these. Nothing can prepare you for your first sight of a male caper strutting around his territory, the noise and size of the bird is just magic. Before we went we were aware of some bad press about photographers pushing this bird too far with lenses right in his face all the time. Myself, Ben and Dan always put our subjects first and shot using either the 200-400 or 500mm lens, I much prefer the diffused background these lenses give. We also took time to just enjoy watching such a special bird, he was often relaxed enough to polish off a load of pine needles in front of us.
Below are a few shots I took.
The afternoon of our first full day up in the Cairngorms was spent at Neil McIntyre's Crested tit feeding station. This was another first for me as I'd never seen a Crested tit before. Among the hoards of Coal tit's 3 or 4 Cresties came to the peanut feeders put out by Neil, the feeders are attached to long poles and can be moved around the site to allow the Cresties to be photographed on various branches. Below are a few shots I managed that afternoon.
Sorry for being quiet on the blogging front lately, I've just returned from a lovely trip to the Cairngorms in Scotland. Along with my good friends Ben Andrew and Dan Trim we enjoyed a week of fine weather and some amazing wildlife encounters.
We drove up from Bedfordshire with the journey taking 12 hours, on the drive up we stopped at a ski resort and managed to bag our first Scottish wildlife photo, a lone Snow bunting ( I'll post a picture in a future blog). Our first full day was last Saturday with the morning taken up at Neil McIntyre's Red squirrel site. Having never seen a Red squirrel before it was a morning that I was looking forward to, although the sun went in just as the squirrels arrived I was pleased to get a few nice shots and really enjoyed the encounter.
Over the next few day's I'll be updating the blog with more species from our visit north.
The early part of last week we had some more snow up here in the Berwyn mountains North Wales. Our small holding is very remote and as such it's easy to get cut off, the good thing is though is that we have an abundance of birdlife and most species tolerate my photographing them a close quarters. In snow my two favourite common species to photograph is the robin and blue tit, I feel their colours stand out well against the snow also from a commercial point of view robin's and snow make sense. Below is a few pictures I took, the first one was used in the Telegraph online as well as a small cut out in the Star, I also had some of my latest starling shots used last week, most notably the double page Eyewitness page in the Guardian, the images of these can be seen in the blogpost below this one.
At the weekend my good friend and fellow wildlife photographer, Dan Trim came up to North Wales to stay. Our main target was the Starling murmuration at Aberystwth pier. Saturday afternoon we headed west to be set up in plenty of time for the arrival of the starlings. As the sun began to drop small flock's arrived flying high above the sea front houses waiting for reinforcements to arrive, while this was happening the light was really starting to kick off. Black clouds were rolling in from the sea, bringing rain and hail showers but the sun still managed to shine through.
Although I'd visited the murmuration once before the numbers of starlings that arrived on saturday evening blew me away. Below are a selection of photo's from saturday evening but to really appreciate the murmuration I suggest you visit. The murmuration happens every winter and I highly recommend it.