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.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Sunday Down The Vale

The sun was out this morning after a few days of what was at times torrential rain, so I decided a first visit for a couple of weeks to the Vale was in order.

I had a very pleasant morning photographing some of the more common, but none the less photogenic species.
There are certain species that a lot of photographers overlook because they feel that they are too common and therefor not very exciting.
I've never fully understood this logic because even the most numerous everyday species can be an excellent subject if you capture it doing something unusual.

A point in case maybe is this shot of a Black-Headed Gull from this mornings session.
He wasn't doing anything other than standing on a post overlooking the main Mill Pond, but I still fired a few shots at him anyway...He was fairly close and you never quite know what you will get.
After a few seconds the Gull opened his beak as wide as he could to yawn and I managed to capture this portrait which I'm sure you will agree is a lot more interesting than it would have been if he hadn't of yawned!
One nice thing about photographing the more common birds is a lot of them are used to humans and quite often are even curious of us.
This Blackbird seemed to be the curious type...

It's actually quite curious to why certain animals are curious of us and when you point a large lens at them ,some run in fear and some come for a closer look.
Like this Grey Squirrel...

It was a day of curiosities and this normally very shy Magpie was on the cautious side of curious and spent a full five minutes edging closer towards me, stopping every now and them to assess the situation...

Friday, 13 August 2010

What is Happening With The Red Grouse Study?

Quite a few people have asked me recently"What is happening with the Red Grouse Study?"
Well the simple answer is it's still ongoing!

Just to elaborate slightly...
I haven't stopped studying the Grouse of the Derbyshire Peak District, in fact I've made a good number of trips to the moors in the last few weeks and I have hundreds of shots of the birds.
The truth is I'm looking at the bigger picture and I've been compiling an article on the birds which will hopefully be published in the near future.

It wouldn't be wise to publish everything I find on this blog, but I will do a brief update soon.
In the meantime, here are a couple of recent shots of a male...

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Feeding Grey Squirrel

Because I have championed the plight of our native and fast disappearing Red Squirrels on many occasions, it may seem unusual that I also have a soft spot for their American Grey cousins.

Red Squirrels have sadly been vacant from my local area for 30 years or more and the Grey Squirrel in that time has been a regular and for me welcome sight.

The 'Tree Rat' as it is called by many of the local unbelievers is a truly wonderful, charismatic and very cheeky creature that is always a pleasure to watch.

I spent 5 minutes yesterday watching this Grey performing all manner of acrobatics while feeding on berries in a Hawthorne Tree...

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

What Have They Done To The Rain?

If anybody out there (and I know some do) still have their doubts about the validity of the hosepipe ban that was introduced to North West England last month, please read on...

Last week I posted a couple of shots I had taken last year at the Ladybower Reservoir in the Peak District and I apologies now for reposting them, but I feel they are relevant.
On Sunday, I visited my favorite spot on Ladybower for the first time in a couple of months and I was shocked at what I saw.

Here is the scene taken last year of Ladybower towards Castleton...

Here is the same viewpoint taken on Sunday...

A scene of Ladybower towards Howden Dam taken last year...

The same viewpoint taken on Sunday...

I've been visiting Ladybower for many years and I've never seen it so low.
The story is the same at the majority of the regions reservoirs and even after the rains we had last week, there seems to be little or no impact on water levels.
I suggest it may be many months before there are any real signs of recovery.

So if you meet any 'Doubting Thomas' (and I have met a few recently) who question United Utilities decision to introduce the ban, please direct them to this post, or better still tell them to visit their local reservoir...I'm sure they will find it an eye opener.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Surprise Mountain Hare

One of the most wonderful things about photographing wildlife is of course that you never know what you're going to find...
Over the last week, I've been conducting a number of Red Grouse Workshops in the Dark Peak area of Derbyshire and on yesterdays final trip we encountered one of England's rarest mammals...The Mountain Hare.

Having spent many hours last winter, trying to find and get close to these exceptionally shy creatures, it came as a huge surprise to be able to get fairly near to one on open moorland with a minimum of effort...

The Mountain Hare, although fairly common in the Highlands of Scotland is only found in this area of the Dark Peak in England and they are not at all easy to find.
They usually bolt as soon as they see you, but yesterday's Hare which was a youngster in summer coat seemed fearless.
I'm quite sure that we could have got even closer to this Hare, but after getting a few shots we decided to leave him be and carry on pursuing the Grouse, which were playing very hard to get.

The Mountain Hare is notably smaller than the much more common Brown Hare and is Britain's only true native Hare.
They are thought to have been around since the Ice Age, with the Brown Hare being a relative newcomer in comparison after being introduced by the Romans.

The Mountain Hare retains it's brown summer coat from May until October, before it transforms into it's white winter coat which is perfect camouflage against the snowy backdrop of the high Peak District habitat.

I photographed this Mountain Hare below, last April just as his winter coat was starting the change to the summer one...

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Daily Mail

The Daily Mail Newspaper are today giving away a free version of the book 'I-Spy On A Car Journey' which features 4 of my bird photographs.
Next Week the Daily Mail will be publishing tokens to collect other books from the series including 'I-Spy Birds' which contains 13 of my images.

The Daily Mail which has a circulation of just under 2 million copies sold daily, also ran a television advertisement last night on the ITV, Channel 4 and Sky Television networks featuring my photograph of a Magpie in the snow.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Postcards From The Peaks (2)

I've not been out much in the last few days, so if you don't mind I'd thought I'd share a few more shots of the Dark Peak area of Derbyshire.

First Light At Ladybower...
An early morning shot using a ND Filter of the Ladybower Reservoir from Derwent Valley.
Sunrise At Cave Dale...
Another early morning effort, this time the location is the spectacular Cave Dale near the village of Castleton.
I used a red Skylight Filter on this shot to give the scene an eerie feel...Which is the feeling I always get at this place when alone early in the morning!

A vista from the beautiful village of Castleton, featuring the lovely limestone cottages which are a feature of this part of Derbyshire.

Winnats Pass At Dawn...
The other day I posted a view of the Hope Valley from Winnats Pass, so I'd thought I'd show you a shot of Winnats itself.
After a climb to the top of one of the peaks, I set up my camera and took this shot just as the sun was beginning to creep over the hills...Providing some interesting light and shadow effects.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Brown Rat

They say you're never more than a few feet away from a Rat, although it's not often you actually see one, especially in the daylight hours.

The Brown Rat aka Common Rat, Norway Rat, Sewer Rat or Wharf Rat is widespread on every one of earths continents except Antarctica.
They are thought to have originated from China and have spread to the four corners of the earth over the centuries.
The first Brown Rats in Europe are thought to have arrived sometime in the middle ages.

The Brown Rat is a very good swimmer both above and underwater, but unlike it's cousin the Black Rat isn't much of a climber.
Brown Rats are burrowing animals and live a complex labyrinth of tunnels that are painstakingly excavated.

The Brown Rats diets consists of just about anything edible, but it's favourite and most natural food is cereal.
They really aren't fussy though and thrive on human waste, as well as less appetising products like paper, cardboard and electricity cables!

Like most people, I'm not a great lover of Rats and certainly wouldn't want them in my home, but over the years I've come to respect them a little bit more than I used to.

On my my photographic travels, I encounter Rats at a number of different locations and habitats.
By far the most common place I see these Rodents is around bird feeding stations at nature reserves...Especially the ones that are viewed from hides.

Rats are on the whole very shy creatures and will normally do anything to avoid human contact.
All they really want to do is eat, sleep, reproduce and be left alone to go about their business.
It's a shame really that they carry a arsenal of deadly diseases, because if you ever encounter one long enough to watch them close up, they really are quite fascinating little animals.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Postcards From The Peaks

Following on from yesterday and after some very nice comments, I'd thought I'd share a few more images from the Peak District.
I do count myself very lucky to live only a few short miles from what I regard as one of the most beautiful places on earth and while I wouldn't regard myself as a landscape photographer, I do like to try and capture the scenery from time to time.

The first two images are of the Ladybower Reservoir in the heart of Derwent Valley.
The interesting thing about these shots is the first was taken in April and the second in May...All be it April 2009 and May 2008.
What I think is interesting is the huge difference in colour as the last throws of winter transform into early summer...

A few miles from Derwent Valley is the village of Castleton and nearby is the spectacular Winnats Pass.
I climbed to the top of Winnats early one spring morning a few years back and captured the view overlooking the Hope Valley just as the sun was rising.
On the hill in the distance you might be able to make out the chimney of the cement works...

Although the heart of the Peak District is firmly in Derbyshire, it does touch the counties of Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cheshire.

This image is of that famous tree I told you about a while back and was taken one early winter morning in Lyme Park in Cheshire on the edge of the Peaks...

Monday, 2 August 2010

Colours Of The Moors

I spent a couple of hours in the Derbyshire Dales this afternoon, walking in the moors above Hathersage.
The village of Hathersage itself is a beautiful little place and legend has it that it is the the birth place of Robin Hood's right hand man Little John.
In fact the parish church has a elongated grave in the cemetery which is said to be the final resting place of the English folk hero.

The moorland itself is typical of the Dark Peak area and the landscape is dominated by large limestone outcrops...

The moors are at their most beautiful at this time of the year with the purple heather in full bloom...
Today was very typical of the Peak District and the early afternoon sunshine soon gave way to much more threatening conditions...
The Moorland habitat supports a diverse array of wildlife and today's highlights included this lovely female Stonechat and she was posing very nicely for me on a sprig of heather...

It's always worth scanning the hundreds of rocks that litter the landscape, because the birds of the moors like very much to secure good vantage points to oversee their territories and this Meadow Pipit was doing just that...

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Rainy Day Birds

Here are a few shots from a rather wet early Sunday morning shoot around Etherow Park in Stockport.
Because of the heavy rain, I didn't venture too far around the reserve, so I mainly encountered some of the more common residents...

Great Crested Grebe

Greylag Goose


House Sparrow Reflection