Thursday, 24 December 2009

Middlebere, Dorset, 20th December 2009

I had just about saved enough money to trade in and upgrade my camera, I decided I could allow my self to purchase it when I had achieved either of two work based objectives.
Unfortunately, I achieved this right before Christmas, which made me feel guilty spending so much money on my self!
Today was the first chance I got to go out with the new camera, I probably should have practiced on the local Ducks and Gulls first, but in the U.K if you get good light, sometimes you have to take a gamble. I had already read the manual for my new Canon 50D and set it to the same settings as my old Canon 400D, the Song Thrush shot was taken just before I got to the hide was the first picture taken with the new camera!. The male Hen Harrier had until a few days ago not previously not been seen in the area, since the windy, stormy weather we've had recently. just after I got there I had a quick glimpse before a closer flyby some 45 minuets later. The shots were OK, not as crisp as I would have liked, I could have used my auto focus a bit more, but didn't want to risk not getting a shot all together. My objective is to get the eye pin sharp, with a dot of light reflecting off it, then the subject and the picture comes alive! Maybe my standards are too high, but the great thing about wildlife photography is you can always take a better picture!

Friday, 20 November 2009

Blackbird, Goldfinch, Hen Harrier, End of October 2009.

The Blackbird was photographed at my parent's garden, as long as I moved slowly, it didn't mind me being there. The Goldfinch was at Middlebere and so was the OK picture of the male Hen Harrier which was taken from the hide and is the result of many hours on different days!

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Cape May Point September 29th 2009. Part 2.

When this mornings migration rush had slowed, (see words and pictures from last blog) usually just after midday, we thought we would have a short walk around the reserve, the first thing we came across was a tagged (or banded) Monarch Butterfly, pack at the point, whilst everyone was looking skywards for Raptors a Great Egret literally walked right in front of us. Then just before we completed our short lap, a small falcon landed very near by - a Merlin, it allowed me to get a few shots, before flying off. When I checked my photo, I also saw that it had caught lunch, an unlucky Dragonfly was in its talons, it was looking for a quiet place to eat lunch, instead there was a guy wielding a big camera, so the Merlin had lunch on the wing like a Eurasian Hobby would. We had seen a few Merlins at the point, flying extremely fast, sometimes skimming the heads of people on the viewing platform, which drew a gasp! As well as counting and pointing out Migrating Raptors, volunteers would also educate, my favourite quote was about prey designing the predator; "Vultures fly very lazily because what they are looking for is already dead, whilst the Merlin flies like its just been shot out of a canon". Back at the Point again, migration had finished its busiest time, but some Raptors were still coming past, even more Ospreys, they had become common! We had to leave to return our hire bikes, as we got back to the road, I heard what sounded like Geese about to fly past, instead a family of Bald Eagles flew over the road, too quick for me to get a photo, the photo opportunity that got away, good reason to come back again to America to try again!

Cape May Point September 29th 2009. Part 1.

Last day of the holiday (except the long journey home) the weather did not look good to start, but having already had a great holiday, my objective for today was to get pictures of the Vultures that sit on the house on the way to the point, although was not sure if they are young Turkey or Black Vultures or both! After getting the shots noticed a different looking Vulture perched on a roadside post, which definitely looks good for American Black Vulture. With my day's objective more than met, whatever I encounted at the point would be a bonus. But today at the point turned out good for Raptor Migration, winds were very light. Ospreys in abundance, Peregrines flying past at speed, American Kestrel, Sharp Shinned Hawk (never close enough for a decent photo!), Cooper's Hawk (same!) Bald Eagles (Distant, but amazing to see). In fact so good I will have to split the days photos and words into two blogs!

Friday, 23 October 2009

USA Holiday, Cape May, September 28th 2009

Not a good day for Raptor Migration, sunny day, but very windy and in the wrong direction! So I did what I would usually do if I'm struggling to find Raptors but in the mood to take pictures, turn my attention to whatever else interesting is around. Did a lap of the reserve after realising it was not going to be good conditions for Raptors. On my three recent sightseeing/raptor photography trips abroad, my mum has become my new (and quite willing!)
travel companion. Mum seemed particularly taken with the constant sprinkling of Monarch Butterflies, themselves migrating to Mexico from Canada. On our lap round the reserve also saw Forster's Tern, Pied Billed Grebe and a very fast Green Heron. On an unsuccessful detour somewhere else on our hired bikes (6 miles in very warm weather!) did manage a pleasing shot of another Turkey Vulture.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

September 27th 2009. Cape May, USA.

We were told on Saturday that the next day (Sunday 27th Sept) was not going to be a good day for Raptor Migration, the wind was heading in the wrong direction. The conditions have to be right, flying in to a head wind would make migration harder for the Raptors, so they would wait for better conditions. My heart sank a little bit as we were departing on Wednesday 30th and we had come a long way. Before we set off on holiday, I had researched (as always!) Cape May. Apart from Raptor Migration, Cape May is also a Whale Watching destination. As today was going to be quiet for Raptors and with quite light winds forecasted, this could be the ideal day for going on the Whale and Dolphin tour.
It rained most of the morning, so we hoped for good weather and enough people for the tour to take place, but we didn't need to worry. There were 3 tours to choose from, we went on the 3hour afternoon whale and dolphin tour. So we boarded the "Cape May Whale Watcher", we went out of the harbour to sea, we followed the coast, first thing we saw was a Brown Pelican, just off the beach. Then the first Bottle-Nosed Dolphins were sighted, but as they were fishing, they would come up for a few seconds and go back down for a minute and then pop up somewhere else, very hard to get a picture! More Dolphins popped up, but no Whales were seen, but definately an amazing experience! The boat took the quick way back through the Cape May Canal, which looked perfect territory for Ospreys, sure enough as we passed up the Canal, there sat an Osprey on a typical dead tree branch. Also by now the sun had come out!

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Cape May Point September 26th 2009

Raptor pictures on the first day at Cape May Point, see previous post for details.

USA New York and Cape May, New Jersey Holiday Sept 22nd - Sept 30th 2009

I was saving up for something, unnecessarily it turns out in the end. So instead I decided to try and for fill a Nature/ Travel ambition of mine and just had the exciting headache of deciding where to go! I am at my happiest trying to get shots of Birds of Prey, getting close enough to them is a huge challenge. Where do you go to get the best chance of seeing them up close or in big numbers? Most Birds of Prey are solitary creatures. I wanted to witness the autumn event of raptor migration and combine it with a sightseeing trip somewhere I have never been before, so after deliberation and research I chose North America combining the bright lights of New York for a couple of days and then on to the famous migration hot spot of Cape May, New Jersey for the trip of a lifetime!

The first day was sightseeing only, the second day in New York included a trip to Central Park, I knew a raptor watch that took place at Belvedere Castle, as the Raptors travelled south following the coastline. Amongst the tourists I was the only one with a big lens ed camera, but soon enough a local enthusiast asked asked if I was "hawk watching". So I had friendly local knowledge on my side someone who could tell me which species of raptor I was picking out of the sky!

Before I had even put my camera together, the local Red Tailed Hawks, were evident, not after I put it together though! Nothing came close enough for a decent shot, but in the next two hours I witnessed migrating raptors a plenty, Sharp Shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, a kettle of Broad Winged Hawks and the local Red Tailed Hawk and American Kestrel all this above a park in one of the largest cities in the world!

The next day was spent on two buses and finding our accommodation in Cape May, but after that the next day (September 26th) after hiring bikes we set off for Cape May Point bright and early.
The day before the conditions were apparently perfect for migration, today was only billed as OK. The first thing I noticed was that Turkey Vultures were very conspicuous, exciting for me - an urban vulture, we don't have a European equivalent, they must be common though, the locals don't really notice them! A lot of people were here on a raised platform looking skywards and each time a raptor was spotted we were alerted, after a few hours it all slowed down, not a busy day for migration, but exciting none the less. As we walked round the reserve a Red Tailed Hawk (a juvenile I was told as I showed my picture to one of the volunteering experts) was sharing the sky with the vultures. More Turkey Vultures were close by further up on the way back to our accommodation, which worried someone with a small dog!

Friday, 18 September 2009

Sika Deer at Arne, September 2009.

The Sika Deer at Arne RSPB and near by Middlebere are very tame and easy to photograph, especially if your main focus usually are Raptors!

Gulls, Fisherman's Bank, Christchurch Harbour August 2009

Had a few hours free, in between work, so thought I would get some practice in, to make use of the nice weather/ good light. My Auto focus has been not performing well on flying birds, so was trying my manual focus skills as I am going to an internationally important Raptor Migration spot next month and I want to be ready for all opportunities!

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Martin Down, June 25th 2009

I have not been to Martin Down for 3 years, I could not help noticing how similar this place is to were I stayed last year in Bovaria, Germany, hills with different coloured fields and something else both places had in common - Yellowhammers!
Just after I left, I got down the road and noticed a Buzzard perched directly above me, so I poked the camera through the sunroof of the car, definately an unusual view, if I had to title the picture it would be "Buzzard's backside", the Buzzard does not look too happy with the angle, maybe it should co-operate more when I'm taking photos!
Early in July, I was lucky enough to be at Christchurch Priory just as a family of Kestrels were fledging.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Peregrines at Chichester Cathedral

I had booked a day off work for something important that got cancelled last minute, best thing to do in this situation I thought is go out with the camera!
I had to choose between a couple of different places and in the end decieded to go to Chichester Cathedral, were there was an RSPB "Date with nature" event. To be honest I was expecting to get a static bird on a (an iconic) building, instead the whole Peregrine family treated me to an amazing flying display, the young Peregrines testing their skills, on each other mostly.
The RSPB staff there were very knowledgable and helpful.
All this took place in the cathedral court yard, timed this visit just right, felt privelleged to watch this, will visit same time next year!

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Andalucia Holiday 10th -15th June 2009

In the afternoon on June 13th after a bit of local sightseeing I wanted at some point to try and photograph Lesser Kestrel at Vajeer De la Frontera as I noticed them a few nights before when we went to a restuarant there. I noticed they had nest holes in a building just above the roadside I tried to time the shot just as they were flying out, but I could never time it right! The Lesser Kestrels spent most of their time on the wing catching insects. The next day we went to Tangier, Morocco, then the next day it was time to leave and too early to have anymore camera time, but I did quickly photograph a Crested Lark (I think thats what it is) at a service station car park near Marbella, then after getting lost one last time, we made our flight just in time, overall a busy, but enjoyable holiday!

Andalucia Holiday 10th -15th June 2009

June 13th 2009.

After the excitement of the night before, it became apparent the most action occured at the coolest times of the day and after a tip off from Stephen that the morning was a good time, off we set for La Janda again. As soon as we were in the main area Black Kite became apparent, a Marsh Harrier, whilst looking similar, identified itself by its series of low glides, and then when we reached the sparsely wooded hillside at the centre of the action I noticed Jackdaws were harassing a medium sized raptor, it took a while to get a positve I.D, in the UK medium sized raptors are quite easy to seperate,Buzzard was suggested, but I now have it on good authority that it is a Dark Variation Booted Eagle.