January....this month was fairly quiet, looking back at my images i didn't seem to get out much and didn't take many decent images. Adam Hough, a friend who lives in Shefford found a large flock of Waxwings in his village and an extremely short sessions photographing them after his tip off produced my best ever Waxwing photos and my best images of the month....
February....Again not much going on photographically in the UK, a trip to Worlaby Carrs to see the Short Eared Owls with Adam only to spend 6 hours seeing nothing was a real lowlight but the month was more than saved with an absolutely amazing trip to Morocco with Daniel Trim and Ed Taylor. We clocked up a large number of new species, took thousands of images, drove from snowy Atlas Mountain to hot Sahara Desert and had a laugh on the way. Images of Desert Sparrow (probably the rarest bird i have ever seen!) and mating White Storks from out final night back in Marakesh stand out for me...
March....the month was a bit of a slow starter and the come down from Morocco was hard to take, however as the month ended i found a pair of Great Crested Grebes on a small fishing lake in Arlesey, they wouldn't go on to breed but went through the entire courtship process and were very photographable. The site was misty and sunlit in the mornings and golden and backlit in the evenings and proved to be a very productive site for me to visit before and after work (1 minute drive from work!)...i hope they return and breed on it in 2012!
April....the springtime had begun and the next few months would prove to be some of my busiest with lots of daylight and some good local sites. April saw myself, Matt Newman and Martin Bevan take in our "usual" Dorset trip to find reptile species, it yielded my best ever Sand Lizard image and my first ever sighting of a Smooth Snake..
April was also dominated by the local dung heaps, these sites attract good numbers of birds searching for food, water, nesting material and places to breed. Unfortunately these sites are on the decline and although we are blessed locally with some great places this year you wonder how long they will last. A few disagreements at the sites amongst photographers unfortunately spoilt some of my visits there, this seems to be a common occurence these days at busy sites and all i can say is i will always strive to put the birds first, i do not aim to cause arguments with others and respect the land and land owners. Yellow Wagtails are particulary good at these sites and can be encouraged to perch on a number of things for photos but this more natural image of a Yellow Wag in green grass was my favourite!
May...May was also productive and i also managed to find another site that would prove great for photography. A small back road with fields and farms either side proved amazing to photograph Corn Buntings sitting on fenceposts and calling their distinctive call. This site allowed close views and shooting from the car window and once again was very close to my work so i spent many mornings driving it, unfortunately over winter the fence posts have been removed...for what reason i am not sure but now the Corn Buntings dont have as many places to sing from and photographically the site wont be as good next year....shame.
May also saw the Dung Heaps still very busy and with such a warm and dry Spring more birds were visiting to find water. A local pro photographer was invaluable in helping this site remain productive topping up a drinking pool and the providing wet mud for Swallows to pick up for nesting material, a big thank you to him and this image wouldn't have been possible if not for him.
June -As spring became summer i was still very much active, a trip up Pegsdon Hills near where i live was quite productive photographically with baby Long Tailed Tits (pictured), Red Kites and Lapwing all in fine fettle in the evening sunshine but the trip was more memorable for me as i was chased down a hill by a really agressive bull! I am not sure why the bull decided to chase me as i was leaving the site but it did, i tripped on a rabbit burrow and fell down the hill and my Nikon D700 rolled down too....strangely i was more damaged than the camera and lens and lived to tell the tale!
June also saw myself and Matt Newman make a trip up to Bempton Cliffs. After a night watching Glastonbury on the TV i slept on the sofa, i fell alseep around midnight, woke at 3.30am, drove myself and Matt up the east coast and we were photographing the Tree Sparrows on the visitor centre roof by 8am! The day was scorchingly hot and sunny and although we didn't get loads of amazing shots our patience paid off as a Gannet landed exactly where we hoped it would on the cliff edge very near to the path and that important "head shot" was achieved!
July - Summer was now in full swing and photographic subjects of the bird variety soon became trickier, my Grebes had failed to nest and departed and the dung heap was far less active. A grey Sunday out with Erin in St Albans did however produce a moment of magic as i caught the moment a Grey Heron flung itself into the river and emerged with a massive Brown Trout, i couldnt believe it and was so glad to have caught this on camera, the image later went on to win an award for photo of year in the Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trusts 2011 competition and was made into the front cover of their 2012 calender which makes me very proud indeed!
July also saw our local Spotted Flycatchers becoming very busy with feeding young, 3 pairs inhabited a churchyard near where i live and proved to be excellent photographic subjects! A big thank you to Daniel Trim and Richard Bowler for letting me know about these beauties!
August - traditionally a bit of a quiet month photography wise, but for my birthday in May i was very lucky to get the Nikon 105mm F2.8 Macro Lens which allowed me to concentrate on some interesting subjects of the insect variety. My favourite macro image is a strange one, it isn't necessrily a real detailed close up but shows a Banded Demoiselle within it's natural environment perching on some vegetation over a river, i like the shot and reall enjoyed getting it as it was a beautiful summers day, erin was sunbathing beside the river and i was pretty much submerged up to my shoulders in the water allowing me a real intimate view of the life of a Demoiselle...
September - This month was pretty much dominated by mine and Erin's big holiday to California. It was a really great holiday, we saw L.A and San Francisco, went to our friends wedding in Las Vegas and visited the natural beauty that is Yosemite National Park. I saw over 70 species of new birds and plenty of other wildlife, this picture of a Roadrunner is just 1 of many photos that i took but one of my favourite birds of the trip...
October - Back to the UK and once again a bit of coming home depression, I found it hard to get motivated and really didn't know where to go for photography until good friend Richard Bowler showed me a great place to photograph Red Deer. Unfortunately i had missed most of the main rut but still, it gave me ideas for next year and i did manage so nice images!
November - November was again fairly quiet, winter hadn't really kicked in and with money tight i didn't want to do many big trips away from home, staying local seemed the best idea and whilst out photographing some woodland birds a great moment with a mammal occured. This Bank Vole was spotted by Erin as she sat on a bench and after dropping a bit of seed on the ground the Vole was tempted out, i like the shot with the leaves in the foreground and it's a subject that normally i dont think i would get the opportunity to photograph, in fact i have been back since many times to the same site and haven't even seen a Bank Vole!
December - Well the year draws to an end and i decided to treat myself to a special day. I picked Mark Hancox's Kingfisher hide to visit for the day as it is well known as one of the best places in the country to photograph Kingfishers and they are definitely a species i struggle to get decent images of. It was definitely a great day, well worth doing and yieled me with some great images to end the year on, cheers Mark!
So that's it, a really enjoyable year and some magic wildlife moments. I'd like to thank Erin for putting up with me so much and my fellow photography friends - Adam, Dan, Ed, Matt, Martin, Richard,, Tony Duckett, Perry Fairman, Paul Riddle and Mark Hancox for helping me with obtaining better images. In 2012 i already have a trip to Scotland planned and really hope to improve of my images, work out my local spots even more and be a bit more focused on certain species and getting a decent range of images. Lets hope its a good year and good luck to all those doing the same, thanks for reading the blog and i will see you all soon!