Saturday, 18 December 2010

Winter Kestrel

Yesterday I went for a very frosty walk in my local park. I was surprised how much wildlife activity there was in the cold. Lots of small birds frantically feeding. I spotted a kestrel, fluffed up against the wind sitting in a tree, so moved in for a shot - and as I did so it flew. The light was pretty poor so the colour was not great - but I think it works very nicely as a black and white.


Saturday, 20 November 2010

Reed bunting

I think I might need help. Waiting for an appearance by some bearded tits today it occurred to me that this might be my first genuine 'twitch'. It has all the hallmarks. An alert by email that they might be at the reserve. A special visit to see. Asking people on the way in if they'd seen them. Standing with a group of birders waiting. That increasing sinking feeling that they weren't going to show. And then finally the cold got the better of me and I headed home for a hot chocolate. Is it too late to save me?

Reed bunting

Whilst waiting for the bearded tits someone put out a load of millet - and here is a reed bunting which cashed in on that. The light was really poor again today - but I guess that's part for the course at this time of year...

Monday, 15 November 2010

New forest pony

Another trip to the New Forest. Absolutely stunning light for a change (hurrah!) but no birds to speak of (boo!). Was nice to be out though.

New Forest pony

Sunday, 7 November 2010

New forest deer

This Friday I made my way down to the New Forest in search of Dartford warblers. I didn't find any. Actually it was a pretty good birding day, with lots to see including bramblings, black caps, field fares, red wings, a sparrowhawk and a buzzard amongst other things. Photography-wise it was a bit of a wash out though. Generally grey and dull with intermittent rain.

The only decent shot of the day was this chance encounter with a young stag near Rufus Stone. I think it is a fallow deer?

Young stag

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Autumn showers

The weather seems to be up to its old tricks again. Lovely while I'm at work or otherwise engaged. Overcast or raining when I get out with the camera. I had a fantastic walk in the Forest of Dean on Friday - the autumn leaves are looking spectacular - but the light was so dull it was pointless even getting the camera out.

And Saturday morning was glorious, but it rained as soon as I got to the park. On the plus side I managed a shot of a magpie in the car park. Okay, so a magpie is not that exciting really - I see them all the time. But surprisingly I think this is the first time I've actually managed to get a shot of one.


Sunday, 17 October 2010

Elmley Marshes RSPB - Lapwing

I think a need a manager. Or at the very least a navigator! I wasted a lot of time this weekend by being both disorganised and very lost. A sat-nav would not have helped much - as the location I was heading to was wrong in the first place. However, when I finally made it to Elmley Marshes RSPB reserve on the Isle of Sheppey I had a very good time. The replacement 400mm turned up on Thursday so I was eager to put it through its paces.

So far I am very pleased with it. I'm not sure I've quite got the 7D set up the way I had the previous one yet though. The morning was cold, dull and grey - but nevertheless afforded several shots of a lapwing (taken from the car on the drive in once I finally located the reserve!).

In the afternoon the wind got up and the sun came out. There were lots of waders on the mud flats. Most too far out for any decent shots, but it was great to see them and I enjoyed a happy afternoon watching them and the orbiting harriers. I got lost on the way home too, but that's a different story...

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Loan of a lens

Good news this week. The insurance company have paid out in full for my little accident in Pembrokeshire, so now I can start looking for my trusty EF400mm f5.6L. In the mean time a friend and I have swapped lenses. He's borrowed my 70-20mm and I've had use of his 100-400mm. This weekend I took it to the local park with me, and I must say that I'm impressed with the results. It is sharper than I would expect a zoom to be, and the IS is very nice. A shame I can't compare the two lenses side by side.

Grey Wagtail
On reflection, however, I think I may stick with my original decision and opt for a straight like for like replacement. The 100-400 has some advantages (closer minimum focusing distance, zoom, image stabilisation) which make it more versatile, but I had five good years out of the prime and it always delivered. It does the things I want it to extremely well. Its fast, reliable auto-focus is just what I need to shoot birds in flight. If I need the closer focusing distance for macro shots I can always use the 70-200.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Common Darter Dragonfly

It's been a bit of a mixed week. My replacement 7D turned up on Wednesday so I was looking forward to taking out for a spin on Friday. However, rain from dawn to dusk put paid to that. Today was a different story though. One of those almost painfully beautiful autumn days. The sun refracting through a hundred droplets left behind from yesterday's showers.

The dragonflies were out in force in the park. This one, a common darter, flirted with me for about ten minutes before finally settling long enough to afford me this shot.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Pembrokeshire birds of prey

I've just returned from a fabulous week at St David's in Wales. Even in September the Pembrokeshire coastline is alive with wildlife. The weather was pretty fantastic too although it was windy enough to blow over my tripod and damage the lens mount on my trusty 400mm lens. Fortunately the optics seem fine and the lens still focuses, but both it and the 7D will have to go in for repair at Fixation this week.

Also, fortunately that it happened the day after a close encounter with a peregrine, and not the day before! I'm loving the fact that I can just spin the dial to one of my custom modes and be all set up for flight shots!

St David's is well-placed for an exploration of the cliffs and the RSPB reserve on Ramsey Island. For anyone making the trek there I heartily recommend Amber Cottage as a base. I could not have asked for a better place from which to conduct operations!

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Speckled Wood Butterfly

I don't know if it just that I am more aware of them now, or if they are making a comeback - but a couple of years ago I hadn't even heard of speckled wood butterflies. Now I see them quite often.

Speckled wood Butterfly

This is one I found whilst exploring Sheepwalk Lake in Shepperton - one of my nearest Surrey Wildlife Trust reserves. It was a bit quiet on Friday. Lots of tufted ducks, a couple of grebes and cormorants, thousands of water striders and judging by the bites I picked a fair smattering of mosquitoes too!

Also this weekend gave the Wildlife Photography Blog site a bit of a face lift!

Saturday, 4 September 2010

The needy sparrowhawk

Yesterday as I was wandering round the woodland gardens I could hear a bird repeatedly making a keening sound. I was pretty sure that it was a young bird of prey, but the area it was coming from was quite dense woodland so I thought it unlikely I'd find it. After about half an hour, though I realised I was getting close so I had a good look up in the trees and spotted what was clearly a female sparrowhawk in the top. As a I watched another came in and the two flew off together. After a scuffle one of the two settled on a dead tree in full view of me and I managed a couple of shots.


I'm pretty sure that this bird is young one, and the other bird I saw was either an adult trying to move it on - or possibly a parent that it was mobbing for food. Either way it kept up its calling pretty continuously call for well over an hour.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Update on project kingfisher

In May I posted two photographs from project kingfisher. Since then I've have gone back to find the kingishers on multiple occassions. The good news is that I always see at least one. The bad news is when I take my camera they stay away. Two Sundays ago when I went without binoculars (it was a very grey day and threatening to rain) one settled about four metres from me and sat there for a good ten minutes despite me being joined by a dog-walker. Today with the first forecast weekend sunshine in weeks I set out early to try once again.


Once again I came away without any shots. One flew by early on and after that I saw no sign of it or its mate. I did, however, have a great time photographing a warbler in the reed bed. At first I thought it was probably a reed warbler given its location and behaviour. As I worked closer, however, I realised it was yellower than I would have expected. So then I thought it was probably a willow warbler. Looking at the photos now I'm wondering if it is in fact a chiff-chaff. It didn't sing, so no help there. But the darker legs seem to indicate it is not a willow warbler and the yellowish front and roundish head seems indicate it is not a reed warbler? One of these days I'll get the hang of warblers.


On the plus front this is the first set of wildlife shots in good light with the 7D and I am extremely pleased with the way the camera performed.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Self control.

It's official. I have none. Self-control that is.

Whilst I was up in Berwick there were several occasions when I wished I had the capability to shoot video. On my return I decided once again to check the 7D prices. I was surprised that they had not changed much - and then even more surprised to find an internet supplier which was significantly cheaper - but had very good reviews. Rather foolishly I ordered one. It arrived yesterday.

So far I am very impressed with the video capability, and even more impressed with the three user settings on the mode dial. I've loaded these with settings for wildlife, landscape and flight shots - and can recall the entire setup just by twisting the mode dial. Sweet.

Sadly, however, the light has been too poor to really put the camera through its paces today, so I can't really comment on image quality. It remains to be seen whether it will depose the 1D MkII as my primary wildlife body.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Water rail

A weekend of firsts for me. On Friday I visited Lakenheath RSPB reserve and saw my first ever crane. Today I visited Fowlmere and saw my first ever water rail. Actually I saw at least three water rails including two juveniles. They are very elusive birds, generally staying well back within the reed bed so I was pleased to manage any shots at all.

Water rail
Water Rail

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Gateway Butterfly

I'm always very pleased when I come away from a 'non-photography day' with a decent photo or two. Yesterday saw me "hunting bears" in the woods with my two-year-old godson (with me fill the roles of both hunter and bear). On our return, we found a patch of bracken which was alive with butterflies - including a couple I've never seen before.

The gateway butterflies rarely settled, and startled easily - but after a bit of patient stalking we managed to get a few shots.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

The one that got away

Well, I had a great few days up in Northumberland, and saw lots of interesting things - including my first ever Sandwich Terns. However, although the forecast rain mostly held off the light was seldom good enough for photography. To add insult to injury the day I was in Seahouses the boats to the Farnes were not sailing due to poor sea conditions. So most of my reasons for going that way will have to wait for another time.

Instead of heading out to The Farnes I spent the day meandering along Bamburgh beach, dodging the jellyfish (I have never seen so many in one place). When I got into Bamburgh itself there were a large number of swallows feeding on the wing a few inches above the grass. I positioned myself on one side of the green and watched their antics for nearly an hour. They are so fast I was rarely able to even take a shot - but by some miracle I did manage to get two in focus shots out of the encounter. Not the best - it was quite dark so I really pushed the ISO to get a decent shutter speed, but I was rather pleased to have managed it at all.

Flying Swallow

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Old photos, new hope...

Over the last couple of weeks I have been sorting though a backlog of photos from earlier in the year. Quite a number of shots I'm rather happy with - like this inquisative gannet at Bempton.

Looking round

And this week I'm hoping to make a trip across to the Farne Islands - although the weather forecast does not look promising. But I'd be happy with a few more like this!

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Wagtail at Dungeness

Yesterday I visited Dungeness RSPB Reserve. All in all it was a good day - very hot, but there was a lot going on. Several decent marsh harrier sightings and a brief glimpse of the purple heron. No photos of either of these though.

I did get a shot of this wagtail on the roof of the visitor centre. I'm assuming it's a juvenile pied wagtail from the coloration. I particularly liked the way that the orange lichen provides such an interesting back-drop.


Thursday, 8 July 2010

Black is the new black...

Today I felt inspired to give the Quantum Tiger blog a bit of a face-lift. Just a few tweaks to the layout and colours (or shades of black). And to celebrate that here is an image of a suitably black bird too - taking full advantage of the newly increased width!

This was taken a few weeks back. Various circumstances have curtailed outings with the camera on recent weeks.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Wetlands and woodpeckers

Yesterday I spent the afternoon at the Wildfowl and Wetlands trust centre at Arundel in West Sussex. It was a highly relaxing day, with a lot of action from the hides. Strangely though for a wetland centre the highlight of the day for me was a greater-spotted woodpecker. I see these birds frequently but have seldom managed to get close enough for a photograph.

The wetland centre, however, has a small bird feeding station and whilst I was there watching numerous finches and tits squabbling over the feeders, this greater spotted flew in to see what all the fuss was about. The area was quite dark - but after a while it moved round to the lighter side of the trees and afforded me a few decent shots.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Stonechats at St Aldhelm's

Stonechats are wonderfully curious birds. They seem to like to know what is going on. Other birds often sing from inside a bush, and are hard to spot. In contrast Stonechats will find the highest point and sing from there. Better yet, often as you walk to investigate they will fly to a perch nearer to take a good look at you.

Last week at St Aldhelm's head I met a couple who were very tame indeed allowing me to get closer than usual. An absolute delight to see.


Sunday, 30 May 2010

Terns on my doorstep...

This time last year I made the trek down to Weymouth to photograph the common terns at Lodmoor RSPB. Yesterday I went for a walk in the rain at Bedfont Lakes (about four miles from my house) and discovered that there is a group of common terns nesting there. This part of London never ceases to surprise me!

Today the weather was rather nicer so I returned with my camera and spent an hour or so in the presence of these graceful birds. I love the shapes that the make as they fly - but they are rather unpredictable which makes them a challenge to track! Now I know that they are there I expect I will return to see them again.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Firstfruits of project kingfisher

Lack of blog posts recently has not been due to a lack of photographs. I've been a bit busy! In fact I have a fair few new shots to post up from the last couple of weeks. However, I'll get the ball rolling with a couple of shots that are hot off the press.

In recent weeks I've found a rather friendly kingfisher in my local park. In fact I can reliably guarantee to see it every time I visit. On a couple of occasions it has sat for extended periods of time in full view. Never when I had a camera to hand of course. So today I set out to redress that. In the space of three hours it flew by no less than seven times and settled twice. On neither occasion was it quite as close as it has been in the past - but I still managed a few shots. These are both cropped fairly aggressively - but I'm pretty happy with the results!

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Fulmars at Bempton

Almost a year to the day since I was last at Bempton I returned for another look. This time I was hoping for some better light and the opportunity to get some photogarphs of Fulmars. I was not disappointed on either count. It was less windy than last time which meant the birds were not as active or as high - but I had a grand day, and was very pleased with the results. This was one of my favourite flight shots of the day.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Even a volcanic cloud has a silver lining

I do feel sorry for all the hundreds of people who are stranded with no planes, but this weekend has been so peaceful! Even better, the weather has been gorgeous, so I've spent a happy couple of days in the local park. The birds seem to be enjoying the quietness as well, with lots of singing and unprecedented flurries of activity. Yesterday I had nearly twenty minutes with my local kingfisher (foolishly I had no camera with me at that stage - although it was never really close enough for a decent shot)!

Today I'm pretty certain that I managed my first chiff-chaff. It didn't sing, so I'm not entirely sure - but there were a lot of them around and in appearance it fits the bill.

I was also entertained by a pair of yellow wagtails. Hopefully I can return to get a better shot of them later in the week now I know where they are.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Pochard Portraits

The last few days have finally been beautiful. Spring has truly arrived this week! Today I got up early and headed to Bushy Park. Always a wildlife hotspot, today it seemed extra specially busy, as if the birds were as excited about the sunshine as I was.

I took quite a lot of pictures today, but I was especially taken by this pair of pochard portraits. There were a small group of red crested pochards swimming out in one of the ponds. Once I sat down they became bolder and this male swam almost right up to me.