Wednesday, 29 June 2011

More Gannets

Just posting a few more gannet shots from Bempton. These ones are showing the birds at their nest sites on the cliffs rather than flight shots. I couldn't get close to the sitting birds and for the most part they were in the shadow of the cliffs so images are not brilliant !! Also posting one or two more of the general scenery of this dramatic part of the Yorkshire coastline. More images will follow later of the other inhabitants of Bempton Cliffs.

Bempton Cliffs

On Sunday Kath and I made the long journey to the east coast to visit the RSPB reserve at Bempton Cliffs near Flamborough Head. After a three hour journey we were pleased to find a parking place and have lunch before venturing down to the cliffs. Bempton is part of England's largest seabird colony with eight species nesting on the 400 ft high cliff faces. Bempton is famous as the only English gannet colony and the only one on the British mainland. The gannet is the most obvious bird you will see at Bempton and you cannot fail to be impressed as these large birds cruise along the clifftops and crowd onto their nesting ledges and provide spectacular viewing.
It is a dream destination for a bird photographer and provides endless opportunities to capture the constant action on and around the cliffs. So it was that I set out on my mission to bring back some memorable images on what was to be the hottest day so far this year. I joined the many visitors at the cliff top viewing areas and for the next four hours or so filled up the memory cards with hundreds of images.
In this first posting I have concentrated on the star bird, the gannet, but a further posting will feature the other residents such as kittiwakes, fulmars , guillemots , razorbills, etc..etc. It was not easy to capture the gannets on camera as they flew by ..sometimes at eye level.. and you had to be ready , focus , and fire the shutter and hopefully the results would be in focus and pleasing to the eye. Of course this is never the case and a lot of the shots have to be discarded but I did have a few decent images to show for my day's work. I have shown a selection above together with a couple showing the impressive scenery at Bempton and hopefully my readers will enjoy them as much as I did in trying to capture the action from this spectacular coastline. I will post more from the day out at a later date and show more of the residents of Bempton Cliffs.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Tern Return

This week has once again produced very mixed and unsettled weather. It has at times been more like April than June with frequent heavy showers. There have however been brighter interludes and Tuesday was one such day. The afternoon promised some sun so I thought I would return to Preston Docks to catch up on the progress of the tern colony which is thriving at this location. On arrival there was yet another beefy shower but then the promised sunshine and blue skies eventually arrived.
Fellow photographers Martin and Geoff were already there and were enjoying the sights and sounds of the tern colony and were busy capturing the action. I set up the big lens and tripod and was soon into action trying to capture these elegant fast flying birds as they were kept busy attending to their families. Since my last visit a month ago quite a number of the terns have successfully reared their chicks some of which had left the security of their tyre homes. Other tern families have nested on the gravel and shingle which has been put down on the pontoons. All in all they are having a very good season and a good number of chicks and fledglings are doing well.
A very enjoyable couple of hours was spent capturing the action in and around the various nests and the images above show the comings and goings of the various tern families as they attented to their hungry chicks. One pair of common terns are still incubating their eggs and can be seen above exchanging nest duties and the three eggs can be seen beneath the parent. Most of the fish being provided for the young terns are presumably being caught from the nearby River River Ribble and appear to be small roach. Hope my readers enjoy looking at life in and around this tern colony and I will return soon to follow the progress and capture more of the action.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011


Yesterday afternoon summer briefly returned with very warm sunshine and settled conditions. I fancied a change from the birds and I visited a local nature reserve where I had not been before and found a couple of delightful little ponds. The ponds were well vegetated and looked ideal habitats for dragon and damselflies. At first only damselflies were seen and then their larger relatives appeared on the scene.
It was fascinating watching the behaviour of the dragonflies as they patrolled the ponds looking for mates and defending their territories from other dragonflies. The main species present was a Broad Bodied Chaser dragonfly..a handsome beast which posed very nicely for the camera on the pondside vegetation. The common blue and large red damselfly were also present in good numbers.
I have shown a few images above of the Broad Bodied Chasers, the blue bodied male and one of the female which can be distinguished from the male by her brown and yellow abdomen rather than the pale blue of the male. I have also shown images of a mating pair of common blue damselflies and a large skipper butterfly feeding on bramble. Also shown above are the delicate pink flowers of a flowering rush which was abundant around the ponds.
I must return to this delightful local nature reserve, not more than ten minutes from home, when summer returns and the dragons and damsels are on the wing again. It is currently raining again and the forecast is not good for the next few days.

Friday, 10 June 2011

More Peregrines

Following on from my previous account here are a few more images from this week's visit to see a family of peregrines nesting on a church in a nearby town centre. It was a great privilege to see these magnificent birds at close quarters and to be able to record the event for us all to enjoy.
Hope you do enjoy looking at these wonderful raptors and I look forward to a visit next year when maybe they will be back to hopefully rear another town centre family.

Peregrine Evening

Earlier this week I had planned to meet up with Paul to look for Long Eared Owls but poor weather in the East of the County meant a change of plan. I decided to visit a peregrine falcon site I had been made aware of not far from home. The falcons had made their home on a church in the town centre and from what I had heard were giving excellent views. I duly arrived at the church and could immediately hear the loud calls of the birds and could also see one or two long lenses trained on the building.
Unbeknown to me a few days earlier two falcon fledglings had fallen from the church and been taken into care and were to be returned that very evening. My timing couldn't have been better as there was much activity in and around the nest site as the anxious parent birds seemed to know that two of their young were about to be returned to their home. A number of onlookers including a few photographers were also present to record the proceedings.
I had not previously had an opportunity such as this to get up close to peregrines and for the next couple of hours or so I was in my element and managed to obtain some excellent results. I was particularly pleased with the flight shots as these fast fliers are not easy to capture in flight. It was a very interesting evening and the results are shown above with shots of the young birds and adults posing on the church building and some showing these magnificent raptors in flight.
I took around five hundred images but have edited that down to around one hundred which I think are good enough for publication. So there will have to be an additional posting to show some more from the evening. In the meantime I hope my followers enjoy the images shown above and I will post some more in due course.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Two Reds and a Moth

The last few days have been a little frustrating with unsettled weather and trips that didn't quite go to plan. My first trip was with Kath to a site near Hawes in North Yorkshire where Red Squirrels can still be found. The weather was however against us with some very heavy rain as we crossed The Pennines. We decided to head back home but eventually it cleared up and we went to see if we could find some squirrels. Our luck was in and a couple of reds were around the feeding station deep in the forest. I managed a few images before the midges arrived and we decided to head home on what had been more like a Winter's day at times with temps down to seven degrees...quite cold for a summer's day !!
My next trip out was with Mike and we were to meet up with Paul at a site up on the Lancashire Moors where Paul had recently had excellent views of an hunting long eared owl. Before we left my next door neighbour called to say he had found an unknown creature in his garden. I went to investigate and found myself looking at a beautiful eyed hawk moth. I had never seen one of these before and brought Mike for a look before we departed on our owl safari.
We met up with Paul and went to the site where the owl had been giving good views as it hunted it's moorland home. On this visit we were unlucky ...we did see the owl but only briefly as it swooped down the road and away over the moorland not to be seen again....that is until our next visit when hopefully we may be lucky. The only sighting of note was a very distant red fox watching us from a moorland wall about six hundred yards away in rapidly failing light...hence the very poor record images above.
So all in all a little frustrating at times but that's how it goes sometimes. Still very enjoyable to be about and about in our wonderful English Countryside and we all look forward to more encounters with our special and varied wildlife. Hope you enjoy the images above..mostly record shots but hopefully next time I may have some quality owl shots to post !!

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Seeing Double

It has been a much better week weatherwise with more sunshine and warmer temperatures. Tuesday afternoon promised sunshine and blue skies so I headed out to the coast again to the RSPB reserve at Marshside, Southport. The afternoon did indeed turn out to be beautiful with warm and very welcome sunshine.
The pool in front of Sandgrounders Hide at Marshside on an afternoon such as this turns out to be a wonderful place to be with the big lens as there are usually a number of birds present very close to the hide and the light in the late afternoon and early evening gives perfect conditions for some wonderful images to be obtained. As expected there were some nice birds present mainly avocets, godwits and dunlin.
The still and sunny conditions gave some great opportunities for mirror images of the birds reflected in the water and I have shown this effect above with my images of the dunlin and shelduck. Black Headed Gulls and avocets were also paired up and the gulls were caught in the act of mating. I have rounded of the selection above with a portrait of a swallow which obligingly perched on a fence post close to the hide. It was a super session with excellent conditions and birds and I may post more from the day at a later date.