Saturday, 19 July 2014

Pelagic Magic

A week ago it was my good fortune to be aboard Discovery for a pelagic trip out of Liverpool looking for seabirds in Liverpool Bay.I had joined a small group of like minded photographers and bird watchers for a ten hour trip with skipper Gary Flint.Previous trips had been cancelled owing to strong winds but this time we enjoyed flat calms seas with a little rain late on in the day.

It was to be a wonderful experience as we sailed out some thirty miles or so to where many wind turbines and a gas rig were to be found. We stopped to catch mackerel which were to be used to attract the main target bird of the day,the gannet.We all took turns to catch some fish and then we put out bread to bring in some gulls which in turn would attract other birds.A special mix of fish oil and pellets was also used to attract the birds.

Gradually the birds arrived including the gannets which gave some great opportunities for close up shots as they circled the boat before diving for the fish thrown behind the boat.We all enjoyed the action and the refreshments provided by the skipper.Later in the day dolphins were spotted cruising along not far from the boat.We abandoned the gannets and went in pursuit of the dolphins.This was to be a magical experience as the bottlenose dolphins came alongside the boat and kept us company and we rattled of as many shots as we could.I was positioned at the front of the boat and the dolphins were surfing along and riding the boat's bow wave.They briefly broke surface as they came up to breathe but it was not easy to get the shot as at times they were too close.

After this fantastic experience we returned to the gannets which again gave some great opportunities for action photography as they dived for the fish.Some rain arrived but it didn't spoil the day and eventually cleared and it was very pleasant as we returned to Liverpool.It had been a truly wonderful and memorable day out and I understand another pelagic trip may be arranged in a month or so.I can't wait!!

I have shown above a selection of images from the day which hopefully will convey the special time we all enjoyed at sea aboard Discovery.I will probably do another upload later as I have many images from this fantastic day. I would like to thank Richard for the arrangements,Gary the skipper for taking us out and providing refreshments and entertainment through the day.I hope to meet up again with the other photographers present when we venture forth for more pelagic magic.Thanks for looking in and enjoy the weekend. 

Friday, 4 July 2014

Yorkshire Reds

The "Reds " I am referring to is not a football or rugby ream but red squirrels.This last week I have made a couple of trips to Yorkshire.The main purpose of my visit was to visit parts of the Tour De France cycle race course which this year begins in Yorkshire. The first day it visits Wharfedale,Wensleydale and Swaledale.On the second day it passes through West Yorkshire passing through the high Pennines and finishes in Sheffield. This weekend I am going to watch the world's top cyclists visit the North of England before they return to France.

On the way back on Sunday I visited a remote forest up above Wensleydale where red squirrels can be seen.There were not as many present as on previous visits but the three individuals that were there gave many opportunities to capture some nice images. I had gone prepared with camera and a supply of hazlenuts which the squirrels came readily for and allowed a close approach with the camera.I have shown above a selection of images from the trip and hope my followers enjoy them as much as I certainly did in taking them. These beautiful little animals are a delight to be near and I was reluctant to leave but I had a long journey home after a wonderful day in the Yorkshire Dales. Thanks for looking in and if you are near a television this weekend you can enjoy the splendid scenery of Yorkshire as the Tour De France makes it's way through the county.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Evening Drive

This week I have been out on my usual round,that is driving the quiet lanes and back roads of Bowland.The weather has continued in a settled and warm mode with high pressure dominating.It has been a wonderful experience to drive on deserted roads and enjoy the splendid scenery and wonderful wildlife that Bowland has to offer.

I have not seen any brown hares or roe deer this week.The farmers have been very busy cutting their grass crops and the hares have nowhere to hide but I am sure they will be around on future trips.I have however had more sightings of tawny and barn owls.The barn owls have been busy hunting and taking advantage of what has been a bumper year for field voles.The field vole constitutes the major part of a barn owl's diet and this year the young owlets won't go hungry.The population of barn owls should also recover from last years decline in numbers.

I looked in on a tawny owl which has a regular roosting spot in a dilapidated barn on one of the backroads.It posed nicely for me to grab a few images before I left it in peace.A pair of curlews were enjoying the lovely evening sunshine as I drove out of Slaidburn and they also posed nicely for the camera on a stone wall.My final encounter of the evening was another splendid barn owl again posing on a moorland wall and on it's way back with a vole to it's waiting family.  I have also shown a  kestrel hunting and hovering over Longridge Fell as I set out on my evening drive. Thanks for looking in and hope you enjoy my selection of images from a super evening in Bowland.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Owl Watching

With  the continuing good weather I have been out and about early mornings and evenings.It has been very warm during the day and some very heavy rain fell Tuesday causing flash flooding in Preston.I have been visiting Bowland on a regular basis to observe and photograph a recently  discovered site for barn owl.This site is located in a remote part of Bowland and the barn owls are occupying a ruined farmhouse and barn.I have enjoyed some memorable visits with the barn owl returning frequently to feed his family.He hunted mainly over nearby meadows and was very successful in capturing field voles for his growing family.I photographed the barn owl concealed by stone walls and camouflage and minimal disturbance was caused by my presence.

The tawny owl whose portrait heads this blog was discovered by my friend Paul Foster nesting at his local nature reserve.I met up with Paul early one morning and we enjoyed photographing the tawny owl perched high up in the pine forest. Later we headed for Bowland and enjoyed an excellent day in a remote valley photographing ring ouzel.We found out during the course of the day that hen harriers had returned to nest in Bowland and were not very far away from where we were.As we returned on the long walk to the cars at the end of the day we were very lucky to catch sight of the female "ringtail " harrier hunting the nearby moorland.It was wonderful to hear that the hen harrier had returned to the Lancashire Fells and we all hope the harriers are left in peace by the landowners and grouse shooting interests.

On my regular visits recently into Bowland I have seen barn owls in a few locations and also discovered the whereabouts of a couple of tawny owls.A little owl has also been seen and an image is shown above. I hope you enjoy my selection of images from what has been a very busy time watching and photographing these wonderful and enigmatic birds. I would like to thank Paul for a great day out and I am looking forward to many more.  

Thursday, 29 May 2014

An Away Day

Most of my photography takes place in Lancashire and particularly this year in Bowland.So this week I decided on a change of venue and I traveled up to the Lake District to visit Hay Bridge Nature Reserve.Hay Bridge is situated in the heart of the Rusland Valley between Windermere and Coniston.I had visited previously but had not returned since I fell into a bog there a few years ago.This had been a bad experience and I was lucky to return unscathed but I did manage to write off a camera which never recovered from its soaking in mud and water.Thankfully it was insured and was replaced with a similar model.

So it was this week that I returned on a pleasant day which remained dry and warm during my stay. On arrival I chatted to Keith the warden to catch up on developments at Hay Bridge.I asked him where I could possibly see grass snakes which I knew where present on the reserve. He took me to show me where they lived in a sort of compost heap close to his house.He lifted up a tarpaulin covering the vegetation and there was my first grass snake. I was thrilled and took as many images as I could before he covered it up again. Also hiding there were a couple of slow worms,a legless lizard which I hadn't seen for many years.

This was a great start to my time at Hay Bridge and the rest of the afternoon was spent taking in the wonderful views and watching red and roe deer from the beautifully situated Coppice Wood  and Byron's Hides.All to soon it was time to head back from this remote and very special place but I will certainly return very soon for more wildlife encounters.

On the way back I visited Humphrey Head a limestone outcrop near Grange-over-Sands .This a well known spot to see peregrine falcons which have nested on the cliffs there for a number of years.I understand the falcons haven't nested this year but I managed to find one bird on the rocky headland and managed to grab some images in the lovely evening light.Again another place I will return to at a future date.So all in all I had enjoyed a wonderful day out away from my familiar haunts back home.Some images from the day are shown above .The grass snake,slow worm,red and roe deer and some of the wonderful scenery of the Rusland Valley and the peregrine at Humphrey Head. Thanks for looking in and I will be back soon with more of my travels.