A few birds

  • February 22, 2014 10:41 pm

A quick round up of this weeks photography, I’ve been trying out a new lens combination and I’m thoroughly impressed. What do you think?

Blackbird, Turdus merula, male perched on garden fence, Norfolk, UK

Black headed gull, Chroicocephalus ridibundus, close up, coast, Norfolk, UK

Jackdaw, Corvus monedula, perched on wooden fence, coast, Norfolk, UK

Starling, Sturnus vulgaris, perched on wire fence, Norfolk, Winter plumage, UK

All of these were taken using Nikon’s 300mm f/2.8 G IF-ED VR and TC-17E II Teleconverter. It’s an extremely well balanced set up, much more manageable than my current Sigma 500mm f4.5 lens which I find rather ‘top heavy’. The sharpness and quality are excellent and it focuses quickly and quietly. The other benefit of course, of using arguably Nikon’s sharpest ever lens with a converter is that the minimum focussing distance is maintained, meaning it effectively becomes a 500mm lens that focuses down to just 2.3 meters, compared with the 4 meters of the Sigma 500mm, great for little birds, and great for getting creative.

I’m really pleased with the results from this very flexible combination, I just wish I had longer than one week to play with it!

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Footprints in the mud

  • February 2, 2014 5:17 pm

Winter is a great time for searching for tracks and signs of animals. These prints appeared in the garden recently, and setting up the remote camera showed they belonged to a rather handsome Muntjac deer. He’s a regular night time visitor now, finishing up the apple I put out for the Blackbirds.

Muntjac deer, Muntiacus reevesi, foot print, slot, track,  in mud, Norfolk,

Muntjac deer, Muntiacus reevesi, foot print, slot, track,  in mud, Norfolk,

Take a look at the video here:

Muntjac in the garden

 

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Dove Step

  • January 3, 2014 7:33 pm

Happy New Year to you all!

I just wanted to make you aware of a fantastic group of people, who will be walking 300 miles to raise money and awareness to save the Turtle Dove. A subject very close to my heart as regular readers will know. Turtle Doves had a terrible year last year, and we need to do all that we can to save this incredible bird.

So take a look at the Dove Step website here: http://dovestep.wordpress.com/

And finally a bit of Turtle Dove eye candy for you all:

Turtle dove, Streptopelia turtur, on garden lawn

 

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Fieldfare

  • December 28, 2013 7:48 pm

Back in the orchard again today…

Fieldfare, Turdus pilaris, in apple orchard, Norfolk, Winter

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An apple a day…

  • December 22, 2013 10:06 pm

One from a nearby orchard this afternoon…

Grey squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis, eating apple, Norfolk, Winter

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When is a weed…

  • October 12, 2013 9:31 am

…Not a weed?

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First you have to define what a weed is – my mother always told me a weed was just a plant in the wrong place. So here’s a pretty little plant, with interesting pink flowers and delicate grey green foliage, considered by many a weed, but well worth a place in my herbaceous border. This is Common Fumitory, an arable weed that produces seeds enjoyed by Turtle doves. It thrives in the light soil in my new garden so I’ve let it stay, and it’s proved itself to be an attractive garden plant. It scrambles happily through the thick fleshy leaves of the Iceplant (Sedum), contrasting form and texture. It’s unusual dip dyed flowers look like sugar sprinkles in the early morning dew, so this little weed is welcome in my garden, and has me hoping that it might attract my favourite bird next spring.

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On Safari

  • September 30, 2013 9:26 pm

The 4×4 bounces along the rough rutted track, rounding a corner we spot the herd. 150 animals strong, they move through the pale dry grass and dust drifts in the air as one individual shakes out its coat. Ear’s flick away flies, a mother calls gently to it’s calf, there’s a roar in the distance. Where am I?

Not where you’d expect, I’m on safari with the RSPB, in deepest, darkest… Suffolk.

A Red deer safari in fact, a short bumpy ride away from the wonderful Minsmere reserve, in an area as close to ‘re-wilded’ as we’re prepared to go in this country. The Red deer here are wild, a feral population with it’s origins linked to the Thetford Forest animals, they are left to their own devices. At this time of year, all across the country the rut is taking place with the stags gathering harems of hinds, and defending them aggressively. As our largest native land mammal, this is an impressive sight.

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In one group, two young stags spar, carefully testing each others strength, locking antlers and pushing and shoving.

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The alpha male is an impressive beast, his red coat darkened by wallowing in mud. He sticks out his tongue, tasting the air for the scent of any females in season.

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He throws his head back and roars, a deep reverberating bellow that can only truly be appreciated in person, no recording can fully capture the depth and resonance of this primaeval sound. Silence as he waits for the distant reply.

We visit the watering hole and wallow, and watch the hinds drinking and the younger stags wallowing and coating their antlers with mud. Suddenly a large stag strides though and trots purposefully up the bank towards us, there’s a moment of tension in the air as he stares at us, he’s a powerful looking beast and we wonder about his intention. He hesitates, and moves away towards the treeline. It’s only when I look at the photo afterwards I realise he’s missing an eye, a horrific injury, presumably from a previous rutting battle.

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If you want to go on a deer safari with the RSPB, you can find more details here: http://www.rspb.org.uk/events/details.aspx?id=tcm:9-350001

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British Wildlife Photography Awards

  • September 2, 2013 5:58 pm

Today the results of the British Wildlife Photography Awards have been announced, you can see the winners here: http://www.bwpawards.org/

I’m chuffed to say that the image I entered made it through to the final 170 photos and features in the book! It’s the first time I’ve entered so I’m really honoured that my image, taken just up the road on my local patch, did so well.

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You can purchase a copy of the book by clicking on the image below:

 

Congratulations to all the winners, a stunning collection of British wildlife photography – well done all!

 

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Where are they?

  • August 4, 2013 1:28 pm

I was hoping for a Summer full of Turtle doves, but sightings have been few and far between. They are in real trouble, last years wet Summer meant a disastrous breeding season for them, and numbers are very low this year. Conservationists are concerned that this year could see the lowest numbers of Turtle doves ever. Read more HERE.

So is this the beginning of the end for this bird in the UK? Well, hopefully not. This years hot, sunny Summer couldn’t be more different than last year, so with any luck they’ll have more success raising their young. But this is a bird on the brink, and we need to take action now to help it.

My Turtle dove border is looking, well, weedy, but that’s how it should be. The warm weather has encouraged the plants to go to seed, and that’s exactly what the birds want. The Common Vetch has been a fascinating plant, in May the foliage unfurled like miniature palm leaves.

Common Vetch, Vicia sativa, emerging leaf, Norfolk, May, close up

The flowers proved attractive to ants as well as bees.

Ant on Common Vetch, Vicia sativa, close up of flower, Norfolk, May

Now, the plants have produced long black seedpods, which slowly twist open revealing the fresh, speckled seed inside.

Common Vetch, Vicia sativa, seedpod, Norfolk, August

Common Vetch, Vicia sativa, seedpod, Norfolk, August, close up

If you want to help save this iconic farmland bird there are things you can do. If you own a garden in a rural area, then why not set aside a patch for a wildflower meadow, being sure to include seed rich plants like vetch, red and white clover and the Turtle dove’s favourite – Fumitory. For more information on what we can do in our gardens and farmland, you can download an advisory sheet HERE. There are plenty of other ways to help too, you can donate to the project, or buy Nature Friendly Products by following these links.
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Bee Kind

  • July 28, 2013 4:15 pm

Usual Sunday morning chores interrupted today when I noticed a queen Buff-tailed Bumblebee sitting on the kitchen windowsill, she must have got stuck indoors the previous evening. She dived into the offered teaspoon of honey, allowing me a photo opportunity.

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Many people regard bees rather warily, but they are fascinating and important creatures. Bumblebee’s are normally very docile, interested only in buzzing from flower to flower. This bee clearly needed to refuel as she greedily lapped up nearly half a teaspoon of honey with her incredibly long tongue. As she drank I gently stroked her back with my fingertip, her fur was so soft and silky, like a moles velvety coat, but softer still.

Once she’d had enough, she went for a test flight around the living room, looping around in a large lazy circle to get her bearings and hovering back over the honey. Though they look rather unsteady in flight, they are actually quite agile and accurate in the air. Taking her to the window on the spoon I released her, and she completed a circuit of the garden before buzzing purposefully off down the hedgerow.

To find out more about Bumblebees and what you can do to help them, visit: http://bumblebeeconservation.org/

And why not take the Bee Kind quiz to see how bee friendly your garden is, and get handy tips on how to make it even better for them.

 

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