Friday, 14 June 2013


East Coast 

I just spent a week on the East Coast, a few miles south of Hornsea, East Yorkshire.
For several years now I've been trying to get close enough to a Common Whitethroat to get a decent image, but as soon as they pop up from their cover they duck straight back down again, so I was surprised when a pair of them stayed around long enough for me to get some shots.

It soon became obvious that they were a nesting pair and I was stood too close for their comfort which is I suppose why they were hanging around, so I got a few pictures and then retreated.
It wasn't until I viewed the shots later that I noticed that they weren't Common Whitethroats but Lesser Whitethroats - a first for me.
Thornwick Bay (between the North Landing of Flamborough and Bempton Cliffs) is a good place to visit if you can't be bothered with the crowds at RSPB Bempton. There aren't as many birds and the cliffs aren't as high but there are no fences, meaning that you can get as close to the edge as you dare!
Common Ketrel


Sunday, 2 June 2013

Bretton Lakes

Since the 'restoration' work at Bretton Lakes nature reserve I've become a very infrequent visitor. However, I spent a couple or hours down there last night after the day visitors had left and I didn't come across a single human being - a bit like the good old days!

There wasn't too much going on at the front of the hide - a solitary Cormorant, a few Mallards, Grey Heron and Canada Geese. It was nice hear the chattering of a Grey Heron chick from the nests above the island. I thought the Heronry had gone for good but it seems that there is at least one live nest there.

The Great Crested Grebes are nesting at the side of the island and the resident pair of Mute Swans are still there but this year have only managed to raise a single Cygnet.

When I turned around and looked outside of the back of the hide that I noticed there was a pair of Treecreepers taking it in turns to land on a narrow tree and presumably feed some recently fledged chicks. I say presumably because I didn't see the young ones but the adults always had a beak full of insects so I assume that is what they were doing.

These shots were taken with my new Canon 5d mk III at ISO 2500. This is a setting I wouldn't have even bothered using with my 1d IIn but after a bit of NR in Lightroom I'm more than satisfied with the results.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

New Toys....

I'd been getting tired of lugging my Canon 1dmkIIn/500mm/gimbal/big tripod around for quite a while so after checking the prices on Ebay, I decided to take the plunge and sell the 500mm lens and use the proceeds to buy some new camera gear.

With the money (including a tidy profit) that I got for the lens and after much consideration, I decided to buy the following -

EOS 5d mk III
Canon 400mm f/5.6
Canon MP-E65mm Macro
Canon MT-24EX Macro Twin Lite Flash
Velbon Ultra Rexi L.

I haven't really had chance to test the macro stuff yet so will post some results when I get them. 

Its hardly been ideal weather to experiment with the other stuff either but I had a go with the new body and 400mm yesterday to see what it was like for bird-in-flight shots. I'd often read that it is one of the best lenses around for this type of photography so I was cautiously optimistic.

There wasn't anything interesting around so I had to make do with a duck and some pigeons. I was well pleased with the results though.

To see the full-size images hold down the shift-key as you click on the image and then click again on the picture.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Donna Nook Seals

I've been meaning to a have drive over to see the breeding Grey Seals at Donna Nook for several years now, but have never got around to going.

A couple of weeks ago I finally managed it and was quite surprised at just how close the seals are. There's a just a small fence to separate you from the pups and their parents. They don't seem at all bothered by the presence of the nosy humans though.

Even though I got there on a working, mid-Monday morning, the place was rapidly becoming packed with people. It must be murder on a weekend!

I took my long lens (500mm) but soon regretted this as most of the seals were well within range of a 300mm. In fact you could get away with a 100mm if you stick to the seals that are very close to the fence.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

European Roller

If someone had mentioned this bird's name to me prior to last Saturday I would have thought they were on about a Common Market version of the venerable tarmac flattening machine! I'm no twitcher either, so when I was told that there was one up the road from where I was staying in Cowden, East Yorkshire I did a quick internet search for some pictures. Satisfied that it wasn't going to turn out to be a tiny, brown blob in the distance I set out on Sunday morning to have a look.

Thankfully it was still there. Sadly it wasn't near enough to get any decent shots and I didn't fancy my chances with the ever-present twitchers if I tried to get any closer than the hedge that bordered the farmers field. So I just had to stand there and make do.

The bird was sat pretty motionless for a good 10 minutes but luckily I was paying attention when it decided to take off and I managed to get some in-flight shots.

Here's the best of what I could manage...

Sunday, 15 April 2012

East Coast Weekend

Cold, rain and strong winds. Seems to be typical weather on the Yorkshire coast at the moment. Dodging the rain, I visited Bempton Cliffs on Saturday and went for a walk along a deserted Cowden Beach on Sunday morning.

I've visited Bempton quite a few times now and there's usually a bit of a breeze but today it was blowing  a gale. The sky/sea were a shade of slate grey which put me off staying around for very long to take photos, but having looked at the ones that I did get I actually quite like the monochrome background.

I didn't even bother trying to capture anything smaller than a Gannet as the wind meant they were flying far too quickly for my birds-in-flight technique!


I think this one shows the effect the strong wind was having on the Gannets.

I quite like the background on this shot...

Maybe this one trying to reduce the lift that it's wings are providing in an effort to slow down and land on the cliff face?


The weather was so poor on Sunday morning that I left the camera in the car and went for a walk along Cowden beach instead of looking for birdlife. It wasn't long before I came across this young(?)  Grey Seal. It was laid motionless with it's eyes closed as I approached so initially I thought it was dead. Only for it to spring back to life as I got within a few feet.

I'm not sure if it was well though. It made a few noises towards me but didn't attempt to move away. I thought about using my mobile to contact someone for advice but I didn't have a signal and the tide was moving in fast. So it would almost certainly be gone by the time they arrived.

I only had my mobile phone on me so the picture is of poor quality.

 I did take a video before moving away and watching from a distance for a while but it didn't move from this spot.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

River Calder Wagtails

At least one pair of Grey Wagtails can be regularly seen feeding at the bottom of the weir, near Island View in Dewsbury. Getting close enough to photograph them meant a struggle through the undergrowth before setting up my tripod on the water's edge. Now all I had to do was wait for them to turn up!

My luck was in though and no sooner had sat down than one of a pair appeared right in front of me. It was  further away than I would have liked but I can't really complain.

It was feeding on the small creatures which were hidden in the nooks and crannies of the rock and was soon joined by its partner. Not that I've any idea how to tell male from female.

The second one to arrive had to be content with the more precarious side of the rock.

On the way back I saw a couple of Reed Buntings - or are they Sparrows?

This shot of a nesting Dunnock demonstrates the value of a good, sturdy tripod. It was taken with a 500mm lens + 1.4x tele-converter at a mere 1/80th second - (I think the general rule-of-thumb for hand-held shots is that you should have a shutter speed of at least the focal length of the lens, which would mean around 1/700th sec in this case). The tripod is a pain to carry around but there's no way I could have captured anything other than a blur without it.