A Very Hungry Caterpillar

  • September 13, 2014 6:16 pm

Firstly, apologies again for the blog silence. A number of things have been holding me back recently, not least a bad shoulder injury. (Think: a dog, on lead, and a rabbit, with ‘Carry on dog walking’ style falling over due to the lead wrapped round my legs, all followed by a three hour visit to A & E, and you’ll get the idea.)

Much better now though, and as I was visiting the compost bin in the garden the other day, I realised there was something watching me… I did a double take in fact, as the creature perched on the plant next to the compost seemed to be watching me intently with large dark eyes. Only it wasn’t, it was quite happily munching away on the Great Willowherb, safe in the knowledge it’s olive green colouring and extraordinary markings would frighten me off. It did, but only for a few minutes as I went to grab the camera.

 

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This is an Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillar, a rather spectacularly large (about 8cm long) animal that will, next spring, turn into a beautiful bright pink hawkmoth that will sip nectar from the honeysuckle flowers in the hedge.

There were 5 caterpillars in all, and they have now gradually started to move away to find a safe place on or under the soil to wrap themselves in a cocoon to overwinter, before emerging as moths when the weather warms up next year.

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The King of the River

  • June 15, 2014 1:53 pm

The Norfolk Broads, a watery wonderland that has to be one of my favourite places. At dawn and dusk it’s a magical wild world, that huge Norfolk sky reflected in the mirror still surface of the river, giving you the impression of being held suspended in an infinite space, immersed in the bluest sky, surrounded with glowing clouds.

So still and peaceful on the surface, but busy with the flow of life. It’s a place so rich in wildlife, around every corner there is something new to watch. A Marsh Harrier drifts across on steady wings, a White Owl hunts the meadow beyond, a splash comes from a jumping fish chased by the sleek Otter, a perfect, delicate Swallowtail Butterfly flutters from thistle to thistle at the waters edge. Piercing through this all, the piping whistle of the King of the River, often seen only in a flash of extravagant blue, so difficult to spot when perched still, waiting for the next little fish to swim by, but here he is sitting in front of me, calming bobbing his head, as I breathlessly squeeze the shutter. The Kingfisher.

Kingfisher, Alcedo atthis, perched on mossy branch, Norfolk Broads, June

 

 

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A is for Avocet

  • June 4, 2014 6:39 pm

Had a wonderful weekend away in North Norfolk, great weather, great company, and a bit of photography too of course. To start my ‘Big 30′ project I concentrated on photographing the Avocets at RSPB Titchwell. I must admit do seem to have a lot of favourite birds, but the Avocet is definitely up there with my top choices. Such a delicate and elegant creature in perfectly patterned monochrome. With the light overcast but bright and the water still, I saw an opportunity to create a ‘high-key’ image, a photographic technique that creates a simple graphic portrait, which I hope does justice to this beautiful bird.

Avocet, Recurvirostra avosetta, ruffling feathers, Norfolk, May

 

 

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A Big Year

  • May 30, 2014 4:56 pm

This year is a big year for me. Not in the same sense as a bird watchers ‘Big Year’, where they try to see as many different species as possible, but because today I turned 30. So in a fit of ambitiousness I decided to set myself the challenge of photographing 30 different wildlife events and species. By this time next year, I hope to bring you a portfolio of 30 amazing images of British nature. I’ve a few things in mind, Kingfishers for example, but I’m open to suggestions!

If you want to follow my progress with this ‘Big 30’ project, please take a moment to ‘Follow’ my blog – click the link in the bottom right hand corner, enter your details, and you will receive an email every time I post here.

If you have any suggestions for what you’d like me to photograph, please post a comment below!

 

Kingfisher, Alcedo atthis, male perched on riverbank, Suffolk, May

 

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New kids on the block

  • May 21, 2014 9:09 pm

It’s that time of year when you might start seeing some strange new birds in your garden. Newly fledged youngsters often look very different from their parents. This baby Starling for example looks totally unrelated to the dark, glossy, iridescent adult birds. Yet they fly together in formation, adults leading their offspring to the feeder and showing them what to do, the youngsters chattering and squawking, eagerly awaiting a titbit offered by it’s parent.

Starling, Sturnus vulgaris, juvenile perched on bird feeder, Norfolk, May

 

 

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The Dawn Chorus

  • May 7, 2014 8:37 pm

I got up this Sunday morning early enough to hear the start of the dawn chorus. The Song Thrush began, backed by the local Blackbirds, then Robins and Wrens. A Blue tit joins in with a simple trill, and a Woodpigeon adds his two penny worth too. Their voices merge into a wall of beautiful sound. The effect from my elevated position was that of a crescendo of bird song drifting up to the sky.

Down on the fen, the Cuckoo was in full voice, in the still, cool morning air his song echoed across the reserve. A flurry of silvery notes come from one of my favourite songsters, the Blackcap, and a scratchy buzz followed by a fluty warble gives away a Sedge Warbler’s position in the reeds.

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 Whilst there, I also managed to film a Cuckoo singing, take a look here: Cuckoo Singing

 

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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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