Monday, 31 January 2011

Back to Buntings

This week i finally reclaimed my 300mm F4 lens and needed to get out and have a good session with the camera. At this time of year there are a few tried and tested places where wintering birds are becoming tamer and as food sources diminish they rely more and more on the food we hand out to them. Looking at the weater Norfolk seemed to be a decent bet, when i say decent it basically looked like part of the country that could potentially have some sunshine rather than another grey day! So myself and Matt headed off with the aim of spending some quality time with Salthouse's 50 or so Snow Bunting flock.

As we entered Norfolk the talk of Barn Owls began and it wasn't long before we saw our first and within 30 minutes of driving we had seen 6 of them including 1 that flew alongside the car for a whole minute before finally perching in a tree and then crossing the road and dive bombing into a ditch! Of course we didn't capture any of this on camera as they were firmly in our bags, stupid mistake! We arrived in Salthouse, parked up and place some seed down....and waited! It was grey and cloudy and even raining a bit but after the Turnstones began feeding the Snow Buntings soon arrived...





Soon the clouds began to move and we could see an opportunity for some sunshine which was remarkable as sun was never predicted at all! Soon enough dog walkers, fishermen, birdwatchers and other photographers began to turn up and still in the car we were still snapping away, however the sun was now right behind the birds and all were were getting were silouette's so it was time to move. We laid down with the sun behind us and the birds began to attempt to fly down to feed, they were a bit nervous at first but once 1 landed the rest did and for the next couple of hours we had the birds almost feeding from our hands allowing unbelieveable close views and in pure sunshine, a really brilliant session...



























Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Life Without a Lens

January has certainly been an awkward month for photography and not really the ideal start to the year, a year in which i really aim to improve the images i take. I really want to spend this year getting past record shots and focusing on quality simple portraits and also start photographing more behaviour, i also really fancy trying to take my photography to another level and take photos that paint a picture...almost like a piece of art, but that may not happen!

Anyways, what with the lack of time and the awful grey days January has been tricky and to add to that i have had to give up my 300mm F4 lens, my only lens of any real quality! It's had a horrible grinding noise for the past few months and recently has been struggling to focus so clearly it needs repairing and with a birding trip to Morrocco in February it had to be sent back to Nikon asap thus leaving me with my kit lens and my old 70-300mm lens. On Wednesday Erin and myself decided to go to the Natural History Museum to see the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition which is always fantastic and makes me insanely jealous! To get there it's always nice to stroll through Hyde Park as it's a great place for urban wildlife, so we did just that!

Using my 70-300mm zoom lens was interesting and good to remember what i did and did not like about it. After using the fixed F4 for almost 2 years i can safely say it was a justified purchase over the zoom. During the time spent at Hyde Park i took a fair amount of photo's but soon realised some of the faults with my zoom, it's main problem is it takes alot of blurry or slightly blurry photos, that may be down to me shaking a bit but consistently it doesnt match up to the fixed focal, and this was all in good light....in really bad light i think it would struggle further and that is when the fixed really comes into it's own. I also found the zoom slow to focus which wasn't too much of a problem but it definitely could be. However, on returning home and going through my photos i am pleased with what i took yesterday, the great light and closeness of the birds coupled with the awesome D700 still gave me enough photos that i consider "keepers" and the zoom lens definitely makes a good back up and for someone starting out taking photos is a decent affordable option. Here are the images from the day....enjoy!

Jay


Grey Squirrel, always very confiding!


An old chap was hand feeding Great Tits and this Robin also took advantage, a nice thing to do and for tourists to see and a good chance to see these birds up close!


Tufted Ducks were numerous and always curious


Probably the best place to get close to Great Crested Grebes i have ever been to, theyare loads more confiding here than anywhere else! Nice to see them moulted back into summer plumage too!



Moorhen

The Great Crested Grebes were even displaying to each other! Love is in the air!

And finally, a Herring Gull....look at that gorgeous blue water, what a cracking sunny day!

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Sun + Waxwings = Happiness!

Enjoyed superb views of the large (ish) flock of Waxwings currently in Shefford today. These birds seemed alot more calm and confiding than other flocks i have seen this winter, maybe it's the diminishing berries or simply they've become so accustomed to us idiots pointing our lenses, bins and scopes at them. Either way it was a fantastic hour spent with them and provided me with my best ever images of such cool birds! If you still haven't had enough of Waxwing please go ahead and take a look....























Sunday, 2 January 2011

Favourite Images of 2010



Just thought i'd end the year and welcome 2011 with a "Best of" collection. These aren't necessarily all my best photos of 2010 but some of them bring back fond memories and some i am just really pleased with! Enjoy and hope everyone has a great new year, plenty more photo's to come i'm sure!

January

Fox, Lemsford Springs, great morning before work spent with Adam and Martin.



Siskin and Redpoll, Blashford Lakes. First time for me seing both these species and Brambling, great hide for photography and great little birds!



February

Waxwing, Stretham, Cambridgeshire. On a whim i decided to see if i could see 2 birds that had been on this tree for a few days, turned up and nothing was around but within a few a minutes 1 landed...my first ever Waxwing, really special!



Saw and photographed plenty of Nuthatches during the year, just like this one alot!



I had a rare Monday off work and had an absolute stonker starting with this Slavonian Grebe in Worcestershire....



....and then this Sparrowhawk from the hide at the Lodge, we spent 1 hour in the hide and apart from this chap i also saw my first ever Crossbills as well as Siskin and Brambling!



March

Great Crested Grebe - Hyde Park, London. Love this species and never been so close to it, the comical hair do just made it a great photo for me!



April

Bittern with fish, Minsmere RSPB. Not the clearest photo in the world but after4 hours waiting in a hide this bird finally flew in and walked towards the hide giving my best ever views of it. Also heard them booming for the first time ever....patience paid off!



Woodlark, The Lodge RSPB. I was working voluntarily and walked the reserve before i began, this was probably my best 'self found' bird of the year, a first for me and a rare bird for the reserve but one they are keen to entice! Also i was the only one viewing it which made it special.



Coots Fighting, not much to say about this one....just really pleased it came out and caught some real action!





May

Yellow Wagtail - Spent nearly a whole week every night after work at the local dung heap photographing Wheatear and Yellow Wagtail, 2 species i have never been so close to! Was really enjoyable local photography.


Pied Flycatcher, Gilfach Farm, Wales. Had a really top day with Dan Trim in Wales, we saw over 400 Red Kites at Gigrin and before we visited there we spent a few hours watching a pair of Pied Fly's visiting their nest and feeding their young, such close views of these awesome birds and also saw my first Redstart too.



June
Spent 3 weeks in Scotland with Erin, a really great holiday. Took so many photos and had some great experiences especially with the sea bird colonies but as i took so many images i only wanted to select 1 (apart from the Puffin pic at the beginning!). In the end i could not resist a photo of an Osprey, i got up a 4am and sat in a small hide by the side of a lake waiting to photograph Ospreys fishing. Around 7am the light finally became decent enough for photography and an Osprey finally decided to begin fishing in front of me, was truly one of my most favourite wildlife encounters, such amazing birds and seeing them in action was breathtaking!



June ended with Spotted Flycatchers the main aim. I spent a decent amount of time in graveyards (sounds fun!) trying to get a decent image of a bird with food in it's mouth to no avail, one day at The Lodge I finally found a pair feeding young and finally got the shot i was after.



July

Common Tern - Biggleswade Common. July is always a bit of a quiet month and alot of it was spent locally. I made use of the long daylight hours by visiting the local river many evenings, the river has fishing Common Terns frequenting it and my main aim was a "fishing" shot with the bird either diving into the river or emerging out of the river with a fish. Unfortunately i never quite managed the shot but had real fun trying and was eventually pleased with my images, this one in particular...



August

Red Grouse, Stannage Edge, Derbyshire. After a friends wedding reception in Nottingham i rather hungover decided to re-visit the Red Grouse in the Peak District i had seen earlier in the year. I was really keen to see the birds with their young but was also focused on getting a shot of a male bird surrounded by the purple heather that was now in bloom, i nailed it and after the night i'd had previously was pleasantly suprised!



September

Not much to choose from in September as it was a bit quiet, although i did see my first ever Wryneck and had a great day at Snettisham RSPB. The day in Norfolk was amazing as it was my first experience of massive swirling flocks of waders and in contrast i also had an amazing quality encounter with a Knot that even bumped into my foot, he couldn't care less that i was sitting right next to him!



October
Glossy Ibis - Stanpit Marsh, Dorset. Another new bird for me and a real confiding one, however it almost wasn't to be as i'd spent all morning trying to get a decent image of it but with no luck. I actually got in the car and drove off to another nature reserve resigned to the fact that i wasn't going to get any images. However something in me made me turn back and keep trying, persistance paid off as the bird landed directly in front of me and this flight shot was not a common one seen on Birdguides and yielded me with my most 'thumbs up' on the site!




November

Things began to quieten down before winter but November was dominated by 1 bird for me, a Green Heron all the way in Cornwall. Not my best ever photos but another new bird and probably the biggest 'rarity' i have ever seen in the UK and definitely my biggest 'twitch'. Most memorable was spending the 24 hours with Martin and the laughs we had as it involved 10 hours of driving, a night in a hotel and a few hours of near depression when i didn't think we were going to see the bird. Upon seeing it i can remember the sheer joy and the next few hours were spent watching this quality bird doing what it does best!



December

Lots of snow in December and with winter birds settling in for the next few months it's going to be a great period with plenty more photo opportunities. The year ended with a classic trip out with some of my good pals in Hampshire, good memories of the day with plenty of laughs and plenty of quality birds and photographs. I was most pleased with this 'different' shot of a Little Egret fishing, never been able to get so close to this species so was chuffed with the shots.



Has been a really enjoyable 2010, have seen plenty of new species of birds, witnessed some great natural behaviour, enhanced my camera equiptment and taken my best ever natural history photographs. Hope to improve in 2011 and advance my hobby but most of all keep enjoying getting out there! Thanks for taking the time to read my blog and hope you keep re-visiting!
Ben