Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Seasons Greetings

It's been a while and after a fairly prolific start to 2010 with the camera, the last few months have seen my photographic outings become less frequent.

I hope to get out a bit more in the new year, so until then may I take this opportunity to thank everyone that has visited this blog as well as my website and wish you all the best for 2011.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Waxwing Invasion

My local area and many parts of the UK for that matter has seen a large invasion of one of the most welcome of winter visitors, the Waxwing in the last couple of weeks...

I spotted a group of five of these stunningly beautiful birds, last Tuesday and after being seen off by the local Magpies, they returned in greater numbers (around 30) over the next few days.

Reports of Waxwings in Greater Manchester are growing daily and with what appears to be decent berry crops in the area, hopefully the birds will be around for many weeks to come.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Misty Sunrise

Wildfowl pictured last Sunday down the Vale...

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Ready For The Rut

Red Deer at Lyme Park in Cheshire are readying themselves for the Rutting Season.
The bellowing has started and there is evidence of the 'digging' behaviour, so it's only a matter of time before the Rut really gets going...

Sunday, 3 October 2010

The Famous Grouse

The usual mixture of four seasons in one day in the High Peak yesterday morning and a first visit in over a month to see the Red Grouse.

The golden rule when walking in this region is to be prepared for anything, but nothing could have prepared me for the sight of a Weasel drinking from a small pool only yards from where I had parked my car...Needless to say, he didn't have the manners to wait as I hurriedly unpacked my camera equipment!

This was my first trip out with the camera for several weeks, due to a combination of family commitments and ill-health and I must admit that I felt a little rusty...
I had forgotten the golden rule about being prepared for anything...Forgetting my wellington boots meant I was limited mainly to the crude paths that wind through the region because the moors were at their most boggiest!

Despite being a little disappointed about missing a few shots of smaller birds, I did alright with the target species for the morning, the Red Grouse.
There were very good numbers of the birds about, but they did seem even more jumpy than normal.
I had no luck with the females yesterday, but there were one or two males that allowed me to get close...

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Winter Photography Workshops

I'm please to announce a couple of new Workshops for this upcoming winter...

Following on from the popular August Red Grouse Workshop, I'll be conducting a number of Winter Red Grouse Workshops where I'll be sharing my fieldcraft knowledge and techniques on getting close to these very shy birds.
The Workshops will take place in the stunning surroundings of the Derbyshire Peak District at what I regard to be a very reasonable £45 for a minimum 4 hour session.
The second Workshop will take place in Cheshire and the focus will be on another shy creature...The Red Deer.
Price again for this one will be £45.

Both Workshops will be taking place between October 2010 and April 2011.

For more information please contact me via the main website...

Full details of these and other Workshops are also available on the site.

Sunday, 19 September 2010


I was asked a while back if I would monitor the water birds at Reddish Vale as part the 2010 WeBS survey.

WeBS is The Wetland Bird Survey and collects important information on the population, breeding and environment of UK water birds.
In their own words..." The principle aims of WeBS is to identify population sizes, determine trends in numbers and distribution and to identify important sites for water birds."

The WeBS survey covers almost every area of the UK and data is collected by hundreds of volunteers from across the nation.
My allocated area of Reddish Vale isn't exactly the most glamorous, but is still none the less important amongst the grand scheme of things.

My first count was taken this morning during very heavy rain and despite the unpleasant conditions it was still rather enjoyable.
One thing I personally like about WeBS is the emphasis isn't just on rarer species such as Avocet and Bittern but recognizes the importance of our more common water birds such as Mallard and Coot.

No images from today's count because of the heavy rain, but I'll leave you with a selection of water birds taken from around the UK in better weather...

Friday, 17 September 2010

The End Of Summer

As much as I love the spring and summer months, there is always a part of me that yearns for the colder months of autumn and winter because of the rich bounty of wildlife that they bring.

Although there are many joys to behold in the warmer months with new life and migrant birds a plenty, the business time of the year for my photography has always been the period from late September to May and I'm starting to get a buzz of anticipation already.

I spend a great deal of time in the winter visiting coastal locations and one of my favourite areas is the Wirral and Dee Estuary.
For me, there is no better time to spot birds in this part of the world than the colder months, so I thought I'd share with you a taster of some of the areas birdlife with a few shots taken last winter...




Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Common Blue Damselfly

Following on from yesterday and another member of the Dragonfly family is the Common Blue Damselfly.
These electric blue beauties are like their name suggests a common sight on Britain's waterways, but they never fail to catch your eye.

After reading up a little on this species, I found that they like to perch on plant stems and leaves, often in numbers and always facing the same way. A fact illustrated in the image below...

On the day I took these shots, there were good numbers of Damselflies at fairly close quarters so I decided to have a go at trying to capture them in flight....Not by any means an easy task and after several attempts I concluded that this shot was likely to be the best I was going to get!

Monday, 13 September 2010


Over my years of watching nature, my attention has rarely strayed from birds and mammals, with the exception of Butterflies which I've always had a fondness for.

It comes as much as a surprise to myself, as well I'm sure as it does to certain people who know me, that recently my Insect interest has broadened and I've developed quite a strong liking for Dragonflies.

Up until this summer, I have never really given these wonderful creatures the attention they deserve, but I feel by overlooking these marvels of the lake, I have spent a good number of years missing out.

I'm not sure what sparked this new found appreciation of the Dragonfly...I must say that this summer has been a good one for spotting them and I've never seen so many as I have done this year.
There have been lots of times over the last few months, when waiting for birds to photograph my attention has been drawn to these huge Insects.

On last weeks visit to South Yorkshire, I couldn't believe the numbers of Dragons that were flying about...Hundreds of the things!

I'm certainly not by any stretch of the imagination an expert on these Insects, but after narrowing the search down I've decided that this particular species of Dragonfly is likely to be the Ruddy Darter.
Of course I could be wrong and the Ruddy is very similar looking to the Common Darter, but I just feel that the deep red colouration makes the Ruddy the more likely...I would of course welcome any information from anybody that knows a little bit more than my very basic knowledge on the subject.

I was quite pleased to witness a pair of these beautiful creatures mating...A truly fascinating experience watching them contort producing some incredible geometric shapes...

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Old Moor

On Sunday, I drove over into Yorkshire and to the superb Old Moor RSPB reserve.
The original plan was to visit the Ribble Estuary, but after reports of Bittern and Water Rail at the Yorkshire site I decided to try my luck.

Unfortunately Bittern and Water Rail are probably 2 of the shyest birds that can be found in the UK and almost inevitably the search was fruitless!

Still a very pleasant afternoon, although perhaps a little quiet on the bird front.
Highlights were good numbers of Little Grebe, Ruff, Redshank, Lapwing, Teal and Greenshank...

Saturday, 4 September 2010

All Quiet On The Local Front!

Everything still seems to be a little quiet on the local front, so tomorrow I'll probably head to the coast to try and capture some Sea Birds and Waders.
Over the last few days, I've ventured out a couple of times locally, but there has been a distinct lack of photo opportunities.

My old friends the House Sparrows are always a welcome sight especially when there aren't a lot of other species about...

I came across this solitary Greylag Goose on a quick visit to the Vale last night...

At another location this morning, birdlife was scarce, but at least there were plenty of Rabbits about...

Thursday, 2 September 2010

The Elusive Kingfisher

One of the most popular UK birds without any doubt is the beautiful Kingfisher.
I have spent a number of years following the fortunes of the resident Kingfishers at the Vale throughout the seasons and after a scare earlier in the year, following the harsh winter, I'm very pleased to say that they appear to be doing pretty well again.

The thing about the Kingfishers of the Vale is that they are extremely difficult to photograph.
Don't get me wrong, Kingfishers are never easy to photograph, but the favourite perches of the Vale birds are all in very camera unfriendly locations and spread over a vast area of varying habitat.

To top it off, quite frankly I've never had a great deal of luck with these birds either...I could talk all day about the countless hard luck stories I have about the Fisher King and the 'shot that got away', but I'm sure that everybody that has ever attempted to photograph these stunning birds has countless tales they could tell, so I won't bore you with mine.
:) Well at least not today!

On Sunday I had a very close 10 minute encounter with a young male Kingfisher. but frustratingly he spent most of the time ducking and diving behind branches and leaves.
It was as ever a wonderful experience none the less, despite not being able to get a clean shot at him...

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Geese In The Mist

A mist rose from the Mill Ponds and spread across the Vale on Sunday morning, producing a rather beautiful scene...

I love these misty mornings and the light produced by the combination of mist and the hazy rising sunshine can be breathtaking sometimes.
I was a little disappointed not to be able to capture anything exciting swimming through the mist and I had to settle for the Canada Geese...
The light wasn't too shabby after the mist had lifted and the calm water allowed for some nice reflections...

Monday, 30 August 2010

The Cruelty Of Nature

The little Cygnet that I've been following throughout the summer is sadly no more.
Something happened between Saturday night and Sunday morning and the poor little fellow has not been seen since.
It's almost certain that a predator such as a Fox or Mink has made off with the youngster, perhaps catching the parents off guard because of a twist of fate...
On Friday another Mute Swan arrived and our very aggressive and territorial Cob spent all day chasing the newcomer off and then the next two days defending an area away from the Pen and Cygnet...Leaving the youngster vulnerable to attack.

It's a real shame because I had high hopes of our little Cygnet making it to adulthood and he really was getting on so well...Nature can be very cruel sometimes.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Keeping A Low Profile...

August is perhaps the most frustrating month of the year for photographing wildlife on my local patch.
Food is plentiful so birds don't feel they have to come anywhere near us humans in search of a meal and the spoils are so rich in the summer that many can pick and choose when to feed and remain out of human sight altogether.

To make things worse for the wildlife photographer, vegetation is at it's peak and finding anything to photograph can prove difficult in the lush greenery which covers the English countryside and woodlands.

During these months, the best option is to concentrate on water birds, both the wildfowl and sea varieties.
Woodland birds are a nightmare in the summer because the leaf canopy usually makes even the strongest summer light poor, so I usually choose bright leafless winter days for these birds.

One bird however, isn't a stranger to hiding in thick vegetation whatever the season and when visiting sites with reed beds, it's always worth having a good look for them.
The Grey Heron, like it's close relative the Bittern is never happier when patrolling a reed bed, but unlike the very shy Bittern, thankfully they do like to spend time in the open as well...

Saturday, 21 August 2010

In A Flap

A few common Waterfowl species giving their wings a workout...

Canada Goose

Mute Swan


Monday, 16 August 2010

Still Cute!

He's now 2 months old and still exploring his world...
Although he still doesn't like to stray too far away from Mum & Dad...

May I present to you our little Cygnet...

Still looking very cute when I popped in to see him yesterday.