Steve Hatch photography CPAGB BPE*2: Blog en-us (C) Steve Hatch photography CPAGB BPE*2 (Steve Hatch photography CPAGB BPE*2) Mon, 11 Jun 2018 15:35:00 GMT Mon, 11 Jun 2018 15:35:00 GMT Steve Hatch photography CPAGB BPE*2: Blog 120 80 Scotland 2018 Just a brief description and will re-write in full when I get more time.......After almost a year of very little photography It was great to spend a week in Scotland this year. Travelling over to Norfolk to pick up my brother we made the trip North stopping of at Alan Mcfadyens place to photograph water rail and his now famous Sparrowhawks as my brother had never seen them, once again they didn't disappoint.

We spent the rest of the time based just outside of Carrbridge, the weather was cold as expected and it snowed most days which was a bonus, although it seemed as though, unusually the rest of Great Britain had more than we did in the Highlands.

During our week we saw some fabulous wildlife as expected and my brother finally got to see Capercaillie, Red squirrel, Crested tit and Mountain hares. 





]]> Mon, 05 Mar 2018 13:50:21 GMT
Isle of Mull Since Xmas I haven't really done an awful lot of wildlife photography, however a camera has never been too far from my side, I have tried a few non wildlife genres inc portrait and landscape and even went to a Pirate festival for a few shots. Despite not much in the way of wildlife I have had a trip to the Isle of Mull planned for quite some time. The trip would be for a week with my wife, brother and his girlfriend/partner, once again despite not a wildlife holiday as such the cameras were always going to take priority in the boot space in fact we even hired a 9 seater so we could take what ever we may or may not need.

We left at midnight on Thursday and arrived early for our ferry crossing at 11.00am the following morning, on route I did kindly offer to call in to Gretna green for my brother and Wendy but he pretended to not hear me.

As usual Mull did not disappoint and the usual suspects were all seen within a few days of being there. White-tailed eagles gave particularly good views on a few of our days out. Cuckoos were also easily spotted and we had a pair only 10m away from our car although unfortunately they saw us before we saw them. 

Plenty of nesting birds and we found Meadow pipit, Common gull, Oystercatcher and Ringed plover eggs quite easily as we made our way alongside some of the Lochs. The Otters were as elusive as ever for me but I did manage four sightings although on each occasion photography was out of the question as they were out in the water and far too distant and despite watching from the car they never came ashore.

Corncrake on Iona didn't disappoint and we had a bird that came out out of the undergrowth only a few metres from where we were sat, this time i was thwarted by the fact that `i had a wide angle lens on and my camera was facing away as I was taking a Landscape shot. The same bird did eventually let me take some photos of it after I had changed my lens so all was not lost.

Some of the other nice birds we saw included … Black guillemot, Iceland gull, Golden eagle, Close views of Snipe, Great northern divers, red breasted merganser to name just a few, all in all great trip and one I'm sure to make again soon!

CorncakeCorncakeIsle of Iona, Scotland


]]> Mon, 30 May 2016 21:19:47 GMT
Finally the weathers improved After what seems to be months of continuous rain and bad weather coupled with a very poorly dog that needed an operation my photography has been patchy to say the least so far this year. I have been trying a few different types of photography inc. Portrait which at least I could do indoors.

The field and woods where I photograph both barn and Tawny owls has been saturated for months and even walking down there has been at times treacherous. Finally we have had some frosty mornings and a week of dry weather so the fields are now beginning to finally dry out. With this dry spell I decided to try for Barn Owls again, only this time shots of them in flight. Two night ago I went down and within literally seconds of being in my hide one flew out of one of the buildings and perched on my flashgun, after a few minutes it flew off and landed on my camera lens, which was set up outside the hide as i had a wireless remote shutter attached. When the bird did fly up and the shutter pressed the flashgun never went off (stupidly I had set it wrong and it had gone to sleep)

Not to be deterred I returned both last night and again tonight and this time came away with an image from both nights. Wont be long before I leave them to it as Im sure they are about to raise another family as I heard the continuous shrieking and hissing sounds they made last year just prior to laying.



]]> Sat, 19 Mar 2016 21:31:07 GMT
Closer to home With all the recent wet and windy weather i have found it difficult to motivate myself and go out with the camera, luckily for me I have had a nice photography subject living in my garage for some time now and over the last three weeks have made it my mission to capture some images of him.

The animal in question is a Wood mouse and he has been helping himself to some of my bird food which was not in mice proof containers. As the weather has been so bad I have not had the heart to capture him and put him outside so have continued to leave him where he is before I eventually capture him and return him to the great outdoors.

Photographing him was more of a challenge than I had anticipated and I was amazed at how agile and fast they can be, thwarting my plans on many occasions.


Wood mouseWood mouse

]]> Sat, 30 Jan 2016 11:28:36 GMT
This years highlights Its almost Xmas and the weather has been terrible for weeks, with rain most days the ground is saturated and the rivers have all swollen. Wildlife photography is almost impossible here at the moment, with no subjects to photograph I decided to build a more permanent hide at the woodland edge where I photograph the Tawny owls. The landowner has kindly given me permission so hopefully I can spend some more time there and see what else there is to offer.

This year I have found myself mainly working on one site with the Owls rather than chasing all over the place for different birds, this has at times been just as hard work but the rewards are far greater and more satisfying knowing that its all your own work. Also by putting in this time you get the chance to change things when things are not quite right, of course this is not always possible at sites where there may be other birders/photographers etc and if was a day trip i would nearly always come home thinking "I wish I could have changed things slightly"

This year I intend to do more of the same and will concentrate on the same site and hopefully improve on the images I have already taken.


]]> Tue, 22 Dec 2015 11:10:37 GMT
Barn Owl project update Barn Owl (juvenile)Barn Owl (juvenile)Months of preparation finally paying off and the chicks have finally come out of the barn ]]> Thu, 16 Jul 2015 23:53:26 GMT Tawny and Barn owl latest Well after a long time baiting, watching and attempting to photograph Tawny owls I finally managed to get a few shots of the bird as it landed on a perch about 5m in front of me, this particular bird has been coming to the bait daily but more often than not the trail camera picks up nothing. After sitting in the hide a few weeks ago the bird appeared in good light and came in like a flash and grabbed the bait as it flew past, hence the lack of footage. Like the Barn owl I suspected these birds were also breeding, my suspicions were they would be in the lower end of the wood despite not knowing exactly where.

This last week or so my assumptions that they had bred were confirmed, the Adults were flying earlier in the evenings than normal and had also been spotted at 2pm flying on the woodland edges (probably trying to find enough food for chicks). During one evening sat in my hide I heard the familiar alarm call of the Blackbirds which always signal the arrival of the tawny, the blackbirds will chase the Owl as it flies trying to drive it away and as the owl flew 50m or so away from me I could hear a strange call that I have never heard before, the wheezy sounding call was coming from two directions and the blackbirds were going crazy! A few minutes later I saw an owl fly to my left and land on a spindly branch followed by another and then by a third. My initial thoughts were that there was 3 owlets but many times since I have only heard two so I am assuming one was an adult bird with the two owlets. A few days later I was fortunate enough to see two owls land on my perch, one was the adult and closely followed by one chick, the adult immeadeatly flew off leaving the chick in front of me, this was the moment I had been waiting for and I pressed the shutter, resisting the urge to fire multiple shots for fear of scaring it. The cute looking little chick turned its head to face the noise from the shutter each time it was pressed but stayed and allowed me to take 21 shots of it sat there before it flew to the tree besides me where the adult was calling.

probably one of my best wildlife encounters to date and a bird I have always wanted to photograph so to get the chance to photograph owlets at this stage of their development which I have rarely seen photos of was a real privilege.


The Barn owls have raised two chicks and although I have not been photographing them since they started breeding I have been carrying on with the baiting, hopefully very soon they will also find their way over to where the perch and bait is.

]]> Sun, 05 Jul 2015 10:50:24 GMT
Isle of Mull Last friday I made the trip over to Mull with my wife and some friends. Having visited briefly once before about 10 years ago I was really looking forward to returning. Although definitely not a photography holiday my cameras were as usual packed just in case.

We spent a week on the Island and although the weather was far from perfect it was once again a fantastic wildlife adventure watching some terrific species on this beautiful island despite hardly taking any photographs.

Otters were very elusive and difficult to spot due to the rough water but we did get very good views of two during the week with one eating a large eel 15m in front of me, unfortunately it was one of the rare moments that we had bright sunlight and it was mid afternoon so the sun was making it almost impossible to get the shot I wanted so rather than spook it with the shutter I just watched, another memory that will last forever as I watched my first Sea otter at close quarters.

Golden eagles sightings were plentiful on this day too as the weather was almost perfect for them and we watched 5 separate birds during the morning. We had also had distant views of the White-tailed sea eagles too when suddenly one dropped to the loch we were driving besides and was mobbed by hooded crows, the eagle was just about to land on the foreshore but was once again forced on and it flew close to us giving fantastic views.

Our accommodation also boasts Pine Marten in the grounds with a live video link to the feeding station and although I never stayed awake long enough after a few Ciders I did get to see the video footage the following morning and I believe this to be the only place on the island.

Eider ducks, Red-breasted merganser, Great northern divers and the usual wader species were to be found in many places.

Another highlight for me was pulling in to let a car past and seeing an Osprey sat on a post about 5 metres away before it took to the skies.

A trip to Iona gave me a chance to look for Corncrake whilst the women visited the Abbey, within a minute or so of reaching what looked like a likely spot I heard the unmistakeable call, sitting down quietly I scanned the flag Irises from where the sound came and soon spotted one, this time I had a bit of time and a break in the weather so out came the camera. These birds can disappear in front of your very eyes as you are watching them skulk around and can appear some metres from where you last saw it. I came away with a couple of acceptable shots considering the bird did not once break cover in the time I had.

For anyone that has never visited I would highly recommend it and I hope to return next year, this time with a lot more shots under my belt!



]]> Sat, 23 May 2015 12:26:02 GMT
Owl project update The barn Owls that I have been baiting, watching and occasionally managing a photograph or two of are now starting to raise a family. A few weeks ago the male and female were seen a few times whilst I was in my hide, their behaviour seemed to change and would sometimes be totally disinterested in the baited perch and would fly around the barn screeching to each over. The place where i go is a working farm and the barns are in use for storing machinery etc but despite the disturbance they have been breeding at this site for many years. Once again this year I believe they have chosen a galvanised water tank approx six feet from the ground to lay their eggs and may well be incubating eggs now. I have decided to carry on baiting the post for the Owls on a daily basis but have decided not to photograph them while they are breeding. The baited post is away from the barn so there is no disturbance when i replenish the bait daily although as I said its a working farm so the birds are accustomed to some disturbance anyway.

Tawny Owls occupy the woodland beside the Barn Owl site and I have now been baiting them for quite a few weeks now. After two weeks of baiting the bait was finally taken and a trail cam was put in place. The bait start to disappear daily but the camera was not picking anything up, it soon became apparent that the bird was swooping down and grabbing the bait without stopping. Day by day the perch was slowly moved up through the wood towards the open fields some 500m away, I wanted to get the perch in the open field before attempting to use a flashgun near the bird, my concern was that the bird may get startled and fly into a tree in the heavily wooded area. A week ago the perch was where I wanted it and the baiting was continued.

Yesterday I sat in the hide and watched the tawny land on the perch about 10m in front of me at 8.15pm just before it was dark it made three visits back to the perch within the hour.

Tonight for the first time I took my camera and flashguns and set up the baited perch. At 8.21 a Blackbird started to give a warning call (one I have heard many times before when cats are about) the agitated blackbird was constantly calling and at 8.23 the Tawny appeared from low down on the woodland edge and flew towards me in the field closely followed by the Blackbird which was obviously trying to drive it away from its nearby nest. The Tawny sat on a spindly branch on the edge of the wood totally un fazed by the Blackbird which was now sat a few metres above it and within a minute was gliding towards my perch, it somehow managed to knock the bait off the perch as it landed so then dropped to the ground where it sat for a few minutes giving me fantastic views of it in the fading daylight. The bird flew off with the bait but reappeared ten minutes later and agin flew to the perch, this time I pressed the shutter as it was about to land and the flashes lit up the area. I decided not to fire the flashes any more that night so just watched and the Tawny flew directly over the post just inches above it on more than 10 occasions in the next hour and a half but would not land.

I decided to rebait the perch and left and hopefully will try again on Friday or Saturday

Tawny owl juvenileTawny owl juvenileN.Devon


]]> Mon, 13 Apr 2015 23:18:31 GMT
Scotland re-visited Well that time of year had arrived again and a winter trip to Scotland was once again on the agenda, this time however Rob and I took pity on a Bristolian that had never ventured further North than Gloucestershire, so we decided to let Ian White tag along to allow him to see a bit more of Great Britain (and of course help with the fuel costs) :-)

We hired an estate car for the journey as we would be taking a lot of equipment with us. Rob and I considerately packed the car and left plenty of boot space for Ian and late Saturday afternoon we made our way to Bristol. On arrival we were met by Ian who obviously thougt we had hired a mini bus, the bag he was carrying was almost four feet high but then he went back for a full camera bag and two lens boxes, one for the 300mm2.8 and one for a 300-800 zoom!....I started to wonder if I had forgotten to let him know we were staying at a Premier Inn as I was sure he must have packed a tent in that bag, of course he hadn't but he did have a stove, kettle, 5 litres of water and a gallon of petrol. After a scale down of his equipment (I think he took a packet of fags and some tea bags out) we were on our way.

After driving through the night we arrived in Aviemore during the hours of darkness with a very clear run and very little traffic on the roads.

We decided to head for Loch Garten and try for a few Crested tit shots. As the light started to come up Ian offered us a cup of fresh tea and got out of the car to brew up. We waited while he set up the picnic table and eagerly awaited the sound of the boiling kettle, as the temperature was quite low and we were all tired we began to think he wasn't so daft after all, however our first thoughts were right as the cooker wouldn't work.

Still very thirsty from the empty promise and lack of tea we soldiered on and spent a few difficult hours trying to photograph the cresties in the car park. The light was not very good and the visits from the birds were few and far between so we headed to the Premier Inn feeling a little disappointed although this was probably due to tiredness and the lack of TEA!

Day 2

Today we headed to the mountains guided by Marcus Conway (ebirder) in an attempt to photograph Ptarmigan in the snow. Conditions were quite good with only a light wind and the cloud had lifted above the mountains by the time we reached the car park. This year we only walked for twenty minutes or so before we connected with a few birds. Marcus did a great job of putting us amongst the birds but he still hasn't managed to control the weather for us and the light was not particularly kind to us although we did all manage some shots, all in all a successful day!

Day 3

Rob and I wanted to photograph Red squirrels so we arranged a morning session with Neil McIntyre, Ian came along with us to test out the robustness of the Nikon converters.

We stood in a line waiting in the cold morning for the Squirrels to come in and Ian had gone almost 10 minutes without a cup of tea! as he fiddled around with the flask (fortunately the cooker still didn't work) he somehow managed to drop his 1.4tc. Now the slope we were stood on was very steep and about 10m below us a road was cut throughout he hillside before the hill continued down to the river Spey. Ian's converter rolled down gathering speed and dropped with force to the road below where it bounced and continued downhill, quite a comical if not a very professional sight with him in hot pursuit! The Nikon TC was retrieved and remarkably unscathed.

The squirrels did eventually come in (probably after they had finished laughing at this 6 feet plus guy trying to run after a runaway piece of metal and glass) and once again we had some very nice shots. Theses squirrels are easily found in the forests around Aviemore but as time is usually an issue Neil's site is well worth a visit. We spent the afternoon photographing the Crested tits which was a lifetimes ambition for Ian and surprisingly no dramas!

Red squirrelRed squirrelAviemore, Scotland

Day 4 

We set this day aside to see if we could photograph a Capercaillie but after 5 hours of walking and searching only one was spotted and that was as it flew from a tree away from Rob never to be seen again. We set of in the afternoon to check out a hillside for Mountain hares as that would be the following days target. Within 15 or so minutes we had located three so we were all feeling confident for the morning.

Day 5

An early start with the hares and all three of us soon had a Hare in front of us, they stood out like sore thumbs in their white coats against the heather now that all the snow had virtually gone. Lots of the hares were low down but as there was still some snow on the tops we made our way upwards to try for a few shots. As the hours past by we had a few snow flurries which was quite nice as these hardy mammals just hunkered down and waited for the snow to stop. Its an amazing feeling being so close to these animals knowing that they are completely at ease with your presence despite only being a couple of metres away.

Mountain hareMountain hareA climb to the top to catch them in the snow

Day 6

Our last full day was spent trying for Ptarmigan again. A check of the mountain forecast revealed 30-35mph gusts at over 800m with a wind chill factor of -17' C but clear visibility. This time, 4 days later the snow was very thin on the ground and unfortunately the birds had moved to a much higher altitude, this meant it was going to be colder, windier and more cloud than we had hoped for. We spent another gruelling day on the mountain this time concentrating on a pair of birds we had located rather than the flocks we had seen on our previous visit. The male chased away any other male that came anywhere near, they both made their way higher with us in pursuit. We managed quite a few shots but once again the light was not too good although we did get a few blue sky moments and some nice images were taken.

Day 7

Always the worst day although its always nice to get back home!  (until I saw the amount of snow the highlands were due to get).

]]> Mon, 23 Feb 2015 14:32:47 GMT
barn Owl project update I have now been baiting and working this site for 63 days and finally getting the bird to land on a more regular basis. The Barn owl usually makes an appearance between 5.00pm and 5.30pm although more often than not this time frame is between 5.20 and 5.25pm. The bird always seems to perch on some of the large farm machinery under a lean-to roof beside my hide. His presence is usually given away as he makes quite a bit of noise on the metal machinery and I have watched him looking down to the ground for mice and rats from this high vantage point. Even with very strong winds and heavy rain he can still hunt under the cover and out of the prevailing winds and together with the free offerings I have been giving him he should find it easier than many other Barn owls to get throughout he winter.

Barn owlBarn owlN.Devon

]]> Thu, 05 Feb 2015 00:04:21 GMT
2014 highlights  

2014 has been a good year for me photography wise. Since starting in 2011 I have seen and even managed to photograph species that I never thought I would ever come across.

My top 5 highlights of the year are as follows and are not necessarily picked on the shot but the whole day/experience.


5th place

Collared pratincole…..This bird appeared locally and attracted a lot of attention and proved very difficult to photograph, every time I had chance either before or after work I would go down and try again for a better chance, perseverance eventually paid off and I was only one of a few that had the bird come close enough to me for a reasonable shot.

Collared pratincoleCollared pratincoleNortham, Devon

4th place

little Owls…..This was another great encounter, whilst I have photographed these birds before I had never attempted them in flight, and in great company with Neil Neville another photography highlight for me.

Little OwlLittle OwlI cut off the wing tip on this shot so have used photoshop to make the image worth keeping

3rd place...

Barn Owl…..The reason for this is certainly not the shot as I have only just started to get any pictures and this was actually New years eve. This is based on the fact that this project has given me a real boost as I was at times starting to get bored with just taking the same old shots. Already i have put in a tremendous amount of time and effort to get this site working and I am really looking forward to the next 12 months working it.

2nd place…

Capercaillie….This bird is just fabulous to watch and is one I never thought I would encounter so to actually photograph it was a real thrill, fortunately I had someone with me (not a photographer ) to share this experience with.

1st place….

Kingfisher…Now this bird richly deserves my top spot. Myself and Rob Cross have been down by the river for more hours than I care to think trying to get some good shots of this bird. Perched shots were achieved, quickly followed by perched shots with fish. Each year these were improved upon and as always we were looking for something more, we managed this with a few landing shots which in turn inspired us to try for the diving and emerging shots. So much time, effort and planning has gone into getting these results it just has to be my 2014 highlight………hopefully this year it will again put in an appearance so we can try again!

KingfisherKingfisherPrivate site, River Torridge, Devon


]]> Mon, 05 Jan 2015 11:47:53 GMT
Barn Owl project update The last couple of days have been very frustrating but at the same time very enjoyable. I went for an hour on new years day but as i arrived the wind got stronger and the skies opened and it rained constantly so i left and made my way home.

Once again yesterday i got in my hide before darkness and the bird was on the perch in front of me shortly after dark, as i pressed the shutter only one flashgun fired and the bird was only lit from one side so once again I found myself returning early.

Saturday it rained all day but as i got to the site it had finally stopped but i moved the perch under a large lean-to roof just in case it decided to throw it down again and soak my flashguns, this meant the perch was a little closer than normal as I couldn't retreat any further back against the wall. After an hour the bird perched and i fired the remote, the pic on the back of the camera was very well lit and sharp as a tack but i was bitterly disappointed to see that one wing had been clipped due to the fact that both wings were outstretched when it landed and took the bait.

A return again to the site tonight and I moved the perch a little further out this time. An hour later the bird flew towards the perch and briefly touched down, a mouse that my sisters cat had bought into the house was bait on the perch. I'm afraid I pressed the shutter just a fraction to early, its extremely dark and I had not given the owl time to take the bait first…..another step in the right direction though.




]]> Sun, 04 Jan 2015 22:13:25 GMT
Barn Owl project Things have moved on a bit since my last blog post on this site. 28 days now i have been working this site and I finally tried for a photograph on New years eve before I went out to celebrate the new year coming in.

After setting up and sitting in silence for twenty minutes the Owl appeared and tried to land on my flashgun, the movement made the bird fly off towards a barn, through the window and out of the door behind me and then perched 2 metres from my hide. After a couple of minutes I saw him fly towards my setup and land again on my flashgun, at this point It was so dark I could not actually see the bird unless he was in flight. My finger was poised over the remote ready for the opportunity of a shot for what seemed an eternity but was in reality probably no more than 30 seconds. Suddenly i could see the birds white outstretched wings as it took off then immediately i could see nothing. It must have landed on the perch as I could no longer see anything so I decided to push the shutter. There on the perch was this fabulous looking owl, it took off and flew back the way it always does when it leaves the perch. My heart was racing and I was over the moon when I looked on the back of the camera and saw the image I had captured. Not the best image by a long shot and a lot of improvements needed  but it was a start!.

I sat silently in the hide watching and waiting as I wanted to make sure the bird would return to the perch after I had taken the shot and the first thing I did was to switch of the flashgun commander and my camera as I did not want the temptation of trying to take another shot if he landed. Within an hour he landed on the perch took the bait and flew off. This was my cue to leave so I re-baited and left with a big grin on my face.

]]> Thu, 01 Jan 2015 20:54:20 GMT
Devon speciality Devon is one of the few counties where you can see Cirl buntings and today i met up with Ian White to photograph them. Strangely although Ian lives in Bristol he had knowledge of a better location than i did so we arranged to meet at the site at 9.00am.

Shortly after setting up a few perches we settled in front of our cameras and waited as the birds began to come out of the hedges gradually gaining confidence as time passed. The weather was almost perfect with good light and the strong winter sun was filtered through the trees so not causing too many exposure problems. Good numbers of males and females came in although nearly all of them dropped from the blackthorn bushes straight onto the floor to feed so photo opportunities were few and far between for quite some time After about five hours the birds seemed to occasionally settle on some of our perches so we gradually managed to get some reasonably decent images, fortunately not a minute too soon as my legs are now 53 years old and I was starting to cease up after sitting on the floor for so long.

Cirl bunting (female)Cirl bunting (female)S.Devon

]]> Mon, 29 Dec 2014 22:20:52 GMT
New Barn Owl site With the run up to Xmas its been an extremely busy time, like most people I have been trying to get work finished in time so I can have some time off, coupled with the fact that I have been making daily trips to a new site for Barn Owl I have had no time recently to go out with the camera, mind you the weather has been dire so I don't suppose I have missed many opportunities.

Every day for the last 19 days now I have been baiting and observing the site and now have finally got the bird confident in taking the free offering every night now and has done so for the past 12 consecutive days. Last night I sat in my hide at 4.40pm and at 5.11pm the owl flew over the top of me and a minute later was on the perch. Hopefully very soon I should be in a position to attempt a few photos.

This is some of the footage captured early yesterday morning.



]]> Wed, 24 Dec 2014 14:29:17 GMT
Brean down, Somerset After what seemed like an eternity I finally managed to get out with the camera again on Sunday. Following a text message from Ian White on saturday evening inviting Rob and I to photograph a Black redstart in his neck of the woods. Arrangement were made and we made the 80 mile trip on Sunday morning. The sun was shining when we arrived and as we walked onto the beach we could see Ian's tripod and 800mm bazooka mounted on top before we actually saw Ian. After a very short wait I spotted the Black Redstart fly over the top of the sea wall and land only 20-30m away from us. We all edged slowly closer and the first shots were in the bag as the bird was busy catching flies around the rocks. After a little while the bird flew off down the beach and could be seen with binoculars flitting around at the base of the cliffs. We decided to wait for it to return as the spot we were in had been a previous favourite spot, twenty minutes or so later the bird was still in the same place the three of us made our way towards it and when close enough sat  on the rocks and watched as the bird was constantly chasing and catching the flies that seemed fairly plentiful, probably due to the unseasonably warm weather. We all managed some great photo's despite the fact that the bird rarely stayed still for more than a second or so.

Many thanks to Ian for making this possible and a new species for both Rob and I

black redstart (male)black redstart (male)Constantly on the move and caching flies, Brean down, Somerset

]]> Mon, 01 Dec 2014 22:25:28 GMT
Shrikes Galore!..well not for me After seeing the showy Steppe grey shrike showing so well in Norfolk I finally made the decision to go for it, this would involve a 6 hour drive for me and with no guarantee that it would still be there once I arrived. After looking through the internet and speaking to a few people it seemed as though there were 4 different shrike species in the county so I couldn't resist any longer.

Thursday evening just before midnight I was packing my van  and by midnight I was on my way. With no sleep at all I made the journey in 6 1/2 hours after a slight diversion. After getting some directions from fellow photographers (which were spot on) I was on the site for first light, I did however know that in the morning the light would be in the wrong direction for any photos. As it started to get light I spotted my first  two birds, a Marsh harrier and a Barn owl that perched on a fence post very close to me. As time passed more an more people turned up and hour by hour they left disappointed that the bird hadn't showed. After quite a few hours I had to admit defeat as the bird had clearly flown!

I left the site with another birder/photographer that I had met and we went to see the Isabelline shrike a few miles down the road. After a short drive and walk we were faced with a wall of birders and a few photographers all watching the active little shrike catching insects at a considerable distance. Another bird tick for me although anyone that knows me will know Im not a ticker or list maker but it was nice to see all the same. There was also a Great grey shrike locally but I knew that would be difficult to photograph and as I was only there for that day and part of the following day I didn't fancy wasting the precious little time I had left on it. We both decided to drive 2 hours to Lowestoft for the Red-backed shrike that had also been showing well.

On arrival we found the bird instantly but it also became apparent that getting a decent shot was going to be hard work, the bushes it was using were very thick and a massive factory behind were not going to give a pleasing bg. We both took a few shots of this superb little bird before we tried to position a perch to help us get the bird in the open. This little bird was having none of it and the light was fading fast so I decided I would return in the morning before setting off for home.

The following morning I returned with my brother and although the forecast was rubbish the weather was almost perfect. We placed a perch where we knew the shots would be as good as possible with what we had to work with and waited, the wait was only a few minutes and the bird was seen in the bushes again and during the next hour perched almost everywhere except our perch. We moved the perch in as close as possible without loosing our bg, once again the bird would not perch but would sometimes drop in out of sight amongst the grass and various plans growing everywhere. This time we picked up one of the many short fence posts littered around this bit of wasteland and propped it up below our perch, it was only standing a few inches higher than all the grass and weeds around it. Once again we waited and after almost four hours the bird flew into the grass and then popped up on the post, the shutters exploded with noise as we had our first opportunity of a shot with a half decent bg. After a minute or so of sitting on the post it flew right up onto the end of the perch I had placed above…..BINGO!!… patience had once again paid off and at least I managed some shots before I made the long journey home.

Red-backed shrikeRed-backed shrikeLowestoft, Suffolk

]]> Sun, 19 Oct 2014 15:38:22 GMT
Stags and silhouettes I was sat at home on Saturday not feeling 100% and looked at the weather forecast for Sunday, a clear cold night with a sunny day was forecast over London, these are the conditions I was hoping for last year when I went to photograph Red deer at Richmond park but unfortunately it never quite worked out like that.

I spoke to Rob Cross and we decided to make the trip in the early hours and see if we could get some silhouette shots of the deer at the sunrise. Rob spoke to Neil Neville and as he was also going the following day with a friend of his Dean Mason, we arranged to meet at his Buckinghamshire home and travel in together. 

At 6.45am we were in the car park of Richmond Park and were introduced to Dean, there was a thick mist and a frost on the ground, perfect conditions for what we were after. Within a few minutes we could see our first stag protecting his Hinds from any other males that may have felt brave enough to take over his harem. The sun was not quite up and focusing through the thick mist had to be done manually as we took our first shots of the day. We could see a faint orange glow on the horizon as the sun was rising and it would only be a matter of minutes before we could shoot towards the sun and get the Stag in silhouette, the light was almost perfect and the ISO was dropping quickly as I focused on the animal in front of us. Suddenly he was bellowing and started to move towards another stag which he felt threatened by. At this stage we could not see the the other stag but could clearly hear him, soon our Stag was out of sight as it disappeared deeper into the thick mist to chase off this intruder, we waited for his return but once his hinds started to follow him we quickly realised this was not going to be the opportunity we had hoped for. 

We listened out for more vocal stags and could see the silhouettes of a few other photographers in the distance so we rapidly made our way towards them hoping that they had one in view. As we got nearer we could see our quarry so we quickly got into a position where we could get the stag  clear of the trees that were in the background and use the orangey glow from the rapidly rising sun together with the mist to our advantage. This glorious light did not last too long but long enough for us all to manage some nice shots.

Another really enjoyable day in the company of three great photographers and friends, we even saw a bit of rutting which was a first for me which rounded the day off nicely.


Red deer stagRed deer stagRichmond park, London

]]> Mon, 06 Oct 2014 22:57:40 GMT
Little stints Little stint is a bird I tried to photograph here in Devon a few years ago with very little success so I was very pleased to see three had turned up on my local patch. The Skern (or inconsiderate dog owners beach) as it should be named quite often gets a few nice birds turn up, but because of the amount of human and canine activity it can at times be a frustrating place to try and get a photograph.

On arrival we could see a small group of waders through binoculars around a flooded pool but they were quickly flushed by someone throwing a frisby for their dog to catch along the waters edge, obviously they had no idea the tiny birds were there or that we were about to to try and slowly approach them.

After the walkers got to the over side of the pool and headed back towards the road we slowly made our way down. Camera 500mm and 2x tc attached we soon got in range and managed a few shots. After a short while we had spotted four birds and as they made there way towards us off came the 2x tc and on went the 1.4 shortly followed by no converter at all and finding the birds came that close to us focussing was at times impossible. We had and hour or so with the birds with no disturbance at all and some lovely evening light so a very enjoyable evening.


Little stintLittle stintSkern, N.Devon

]]> Sat, 20 Sep 2014 12:24:24 GMT