Sunday, 28 July 2013

Moth and Stag Beetle photography

After finishing the design for my leaflets and adding to my PowerPoint ready for my talk in a few weeks I headed out to the green house for some photography as I had found a moth in out bathroom earlier in the morning, I believe it is a Straw Underwing (Thalpophila matura). Once I had all the flashes and the set put together I got the moth out of a containers I had been keeping it in and place it on some old wood.

Straw Underwing - Thalpophila matura

Straw Underwing - Thalpophila matura

I spent awhile photographing it before I was happy and placed him in the garage out of harms way but so it was still able to go free. While I was photographing to moth I looked outside the greenhouse door and saw a female stag beetle walking past, so I safely picked her up and put her into the containers the moth was in earlier, changed the set and flashguns and photographed her before setting her free safely under a log.

Female Stag Beetle - Lucanidae

Female Stag Beetle - Lucanidae

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Southwater Woods

Yesterday morning I was out with Dad photographing the Butterflies at Southwater woods, I have never seen so many different species in such a short amount of time we both reckon we saw around 14 different ones in the space of an hours. Although often flighty we were able to capture one or two, by that I mean hundreds!! Below are some of my favourite shots from the morning out.

Large Skipper - Ochlodes sylvanus

Large Skipper - Ochlodes sylvanus

Little Skipper - Thymelicus sylvestris 

Large White - Pieris brassicae 

Speckled Wood - Pararge aegeria 

White Admiral - Limenitis camilla 

Friday, 19 July 2013

Poppy Fields

Great morning out with Dad looking for Poppy Fields and finding one to photograph, then headed over to the South Downs in search of some butterflies. Both were successful and allowed me a chance to capture some interesting images.

Poppy Fields in Selective Colour

Poppy Field landscape

Large Skipper - Ochlodes sylvanus

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Warnham LNR

First time back at Warnham LNR since easter break!! Felt good to be back, after a quick walk around only up to the second hide, in the feeders station there was little to see only a few Great Tits (Parus major), Pheasants (Phasianinae), Grey Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) and goldfinch (Spinus tristis). In the second hide there was also little around 10 Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea), 2 kingfishers (Alcedo atthis), Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus), Little Egret (Egretta garzetta), Common Terns (Sterna hirundo), Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) (lots of young) and a few other common species. After a look in both locations on the reserve I headed back to the meadow and started to photograph the wildlife there, including Meadow Browns (Maniola jurtina) and Six-Spot Burnet moths (Zygaena filipendulae) over the next few weeks I hope to revisit the meadow in particular at Warnham LNR to improve my stock images of different insects.

Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus)

Six-Spot Burnet moths (Zygaena filipendulae) 

Six-Spot Burnet moths (Zygaena filipendulae) 

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Captive Moths

Every year me and Dad keep moths which we get from my uncle when he has too many and needs someone else to look after a few. This year we had a variety of species at the moment we have Emperor Moth (Pavonia pavonia) caterpillars which I will be photographing later in the week but back to today. I was photographing the moths that we have hatched at the moment, the Eyed Slikmoths (Antheraea polyphemus) which were sadly dead by now though this did allow me the chance to move them to where ever I want without the risk of harming them. The other was a Privet Hawk Moth (Sphinx ligustri), a UK species which hatched last weekend, these were still alive and slightly more difficult to photograph as after the first few photos he started to get agitated and started to fly around the greenhouse so i quickly put him back in his enclosure and he quickly calmed down.

Eyed Slikmoths (Antheraea polyphemus) 

Eyed Slikmoths (Antheraea polyphemus) 

Privet Hawk Moth (Sphinx ligustri)

Rainham RSPB Nature Reserve

On Saturday me and Dad travelled up to Rainham, Essexs in search for a new door for my car as I have recently been an idiot and put a dent in it, by going into a wooden fence. I still think it moved into my car!!

While we were there we stopped off at Rainham Nature Reserve, on such a hot day with temperature well over 25*C we weren't expecting to see too much, but once we arrived we were surprised to see loads of damselflies and dragonflies. Including Black-tipped Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum) and Emperor Dragonflies (Anax imperator) and in the main Common Blues (Enallagma cyathigerum) when it came to  damselflies but we also spotted a Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa) flying up and down a river.

While walking around we also spotted two little grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) families both with chicks, feeding just in front of us we both started snapping away trying to have the sun behind us which wasn't always possible.

Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)

Orchid Photography at Southwater Country Park

Last monday I went over to Southwater Country Park to photography the orchids that had appeared, we found two species a Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera) and a Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii). Below I have attached my two favourite photos from the season, by using three reflectors I was able to light the subject and also some added grass in the foreground to add depth to the image, simple but effective.

Bee Orchid - Ophrys apifera

Common Spotted Orchid - Dactylorhiza fuchsii

While looking for the orchids we came across a Clouded Yellow (Colias croceus) , having not seen one before and Dad having not seen one for a few days we were both excited to see it and chased it around the field trying to capture a photo, I cant imagine how mad we must have looked!!

Clouded Yellow Butterfly - Colias croceus

Monday, 8 July 2013

Wales the full story

A lot of you will know of my recent trip to Wales, where I was helping the RSPB run the Glaslyn Osprey project in Northern Wales, near Porthmadog.  While there I spent some time at the visitors centre explaining to visitors about the breeding pair and why they need our help and protection. I also spent a few days at the protection site where I kept an eye out for anyone who may disturb the nest.

Dipper - Cinclus

Located in a valley, beneath Snowdons peak, this amazing location is home to a spectacular array of wildlife as well as the Osprey’s.Although I never did a bird count I am sure it must have been well over 100 species. One bird I wanted to see but was unable to locate were the Honey Buzzards that were nesting on the hills surrounding the valley.

Female Pied Flycatcher - Ficedula hypoleuca

The ospreys project began 10 years ago, in 2003, when the nest was located. Unfortunately in 2004 due to severe winds the top section of the tree where the nest was originally fell down in a bad storm meaning both chicks sadly died. Later that year during the period the adults were away in Africa the RSPB went in and re-enforce the tree with a platform, still 80 feet above the ground but now less likely to be blown out the tree. They also added a camera to attract visitors to the site, where they could learn about the ospreys and their behaviour. It was at this time that the visitors centre was built and the team put together to look after and guard the nest.

Male on post and female on nest ospreys - Pandion haliaetus

Every year the same couple have returned to the nest site which becomes their home for 5/6 months of the year. After each season the RSPB go up to the tree and destroy the nest, only leaving a few twigs and the platform. This allows the birds to start fresh each year, if this wasn't done the birds would just build the new nest on top of the old one and each year it would get taller and taller and soon it would be too unstable and need to be destroyed. In Scotland there is a site in which the removal of the old nest wasn't done for a number of years and reached a height of around 16 feet! The average nest is around 6 feet across and only around a foot or two high this allows room for the chicks as they turn into adults and not too high as to make it unstable.

Over the past 5 years the pair have not only returned and made a nest but also been able to bring up an astonishing three chicks each year which have all fledged. Unfortunately this year one of the eggs didn't hatch, which although sad, is an advantage for the other two that did. The male who is the one that goes out fishing each day, while the female stays by the nest to protect them brings back enough fish to feed three each day and so the chicks have grown up quickly and in good health.  

Looking towards Snowdon

Ospreys are well known for being expert fisherman and having the longest wing to body ratio in all the birds of prey. Averaging around 2 metres in length they use them to help fish. When fishing they dive bomb into the water from great highs and speeds, just as they reach the waters surface they put their wings up into the sky. This allows them to submerge down to about a metre and then use that last metre of their wings that is still above the surface to push down and rise them back up and out, with their sharp talons gripping onto the fish they can carry large salmon, trout and other coastal fish species back to the nest. Although many birds of prey eat mammals ospreys are one of the few that will only eat live fish, not touching other meat and rarely eat already dead fish.

At the start of the year the male normally arrives early and prepares the nest and awakes the arrival of his partner, in an attempt to impress her. Once the female arrives he will go fishing and offer his catch to her. She will then decide if or not he is bringing in enough to fill her needs and those of the chicks. If she accepts they will mate, if not she will leave and he will be left waiting for the next passing female. After mating and the eggs being laid the female sits on them till they hatch. Once hatched the male needs to go to work bringing in 4-10 fish a day depending on the size of the fish and the size of the chicks as he needs to feed them and her. Often at the Glaslyn site the male will eat the head of the fish and then take rest to the nest, once in the nest the too it is no longer his and he won’t get a chance of having seconds. During the periods that the male is fishing the female will protect the chicks from any predators including crows, peregrine falcons, buzzards and any other savaging birds that comes over the nest. Over the period the eggs are there and the chicks are young, there is a 24/7 watch at the protection site. Which means someone is sitting watching the nest to check no one goes to try and steal the eggs.

View from visitors centre

Once the chicks are strong enough they will start to fly around within the area around the nest and then as they get the hang of it they will start to follow their male out on fishing trips and learn to fish. While I was there the male started to bring in live fish instead of killing them first he and the female stood by and let the chicks do it so they knew how to for later. Once the chick start to fly but still in the area of the nest the nest it self will become a dinning area and the chicks will watch as the male brings in a fish to the nest, they then come in to eat it. Once the chicks are strong enough they start to go off fishing they go straight away and start to learn. This is vital if they are to make it to Africa later in the year, they don’t have a local Tescos like us and male won’t be around to help them.

Female Osprey - Pandion haliaetus

At the visitors centre, located 1 ¼ miles away from the nest, there are telescopes set-up to allow visitors to see the nest. While there I met a number of different people all interested in the ospreys and many members of the RSPB. Not only were many interested in the Ospreys but other wildlife too and the behavioural facts of the species they were talking about. Within the visitors centre we had set-up a live view of the nest, to allow the visitors to see the two chicks (more like teenagers, one was bigger then its male) along with two other screens, one showing footage put together to show the chicks as they grew, taken from the live view screen over the past 10 years and the other showing a collection of Welsh wildlife that can be seen.

In the first week I was there I witnessed an important part in their development that is used to identify them in later years, the ringing. This involved a trained licenced volunteer to climb up the tree through the traps that are set for anyone trying to disturb the nest. Once at the top he places the chicks one by one into bags and lowers them down to a group of people below who ring, weigh and measure them, and taken a blood sample to allow them to identify the birds gender. The birds are then put back in the bags and lifted back up the tree before being gently placed back into the nest. All this time the female who was there protecting them flies above and watches the process take place. They believe that as this is done each year she is used to it and doesn’t worry as long as she can see them. Nearing the end of this process the male arrived with a fish and joined the female overhead. Once the chicks were safely back in the nest and the tree climber was back down the adults soon returned to the nest and the male dropped the fish in for the chicks to feed on and recover from the stress the ringing may have caused.

Osprey Ringing ( 

The rings will later be used to identify the birds in Africa and check they have made it and also to see if they come back to nest in the UK in two years’ time, if so where. By identifying each osprey as it gets to the UK, we can create a history about each one and add to the information we already have about where they were born, for instants we known that at least 7 of the chicks from this pair are now breeding in the UK on different sites and those sites know where they have come from due to their rings people identifying them from their rings.

Male Osprey with fish - Pandion haliaetus

As I have already mentioned the Osprey travel down to Africa each year. This happens around late August, beginning of September. The time they leave depends on the weather that we are having around that period, the better the weather the longer they are likely to stay. The female will always leave when the weather is right but the males are known to stay with the chicks for as long as they can trying to get them to a strength which would allow them to travel such a long distance. This can means the male is endangering his own life although there is still a point in which the male will leave without them and sadly then the chicks are left alone and their chance for survival reduces significantly.  

At the protection site I was closer to the nest but still around 700 feet away. It is located in a nearby field and consists of a small caravan, inside there is a live feed of the nest along with its own telescope so I could monitor what the adults were up to when they were out of view of the live feed. Also there is a small hide which looks out over the field which surrounds the ospreys nest. From here I am around 500 feet away from the nest and can see them without any binoculars or telescope, but still too far to capture the ospreys with my 400mm lens.

Female coming in with twig and male sitting on post

Throughout my time in Wales I went on a number of walks around the local area and also a hiked up Snowdonia one day. Parking my car in Llanberis, the other side of Snowdon I took a bus to Pen-Y-Pass, where I started my hike up to the peak, which I managed to complete in 1:30hr which wasn’t bad when you take into account the temperature of the day, 20˚C +, which meant I drank most my water on the way up. At the peak I had my lunch and I made my way back down with the knowledge of a nice pub at the bottom to keep me going.

View from Snowdonia

When on the other walks the main thing I was looking for was wildlife to photograph this meant not walking as far but spending my time as I made my way down each path to check I hadn’t missed anything. During the second week I noticed that a pied flycatcher had taken up residence in a nest box just down from where I was staying. This allowed me the perfect opportunity to photography the birds especially as it was by the main path leading through the site, meaning they were used to humans. I set-up my camera making sure that as I did so I wasn’t disturbing them and started to capture some photos, ending up setting up a flash to capture the blacks along with the whites of the male as he came in with flies for the young. By using video I was also able to capture the young as they stuck their heads out calling to the parents to hurry up with their food. Man did these parents have to work hard, bring in food every minute or so and every time the chicks calling for more.

Male Pied Flycatcher -  Ficedula hypoleuca

Along with the flycatcher, I saw during my stay red breasted mergansers, Blackcap (just behind the caravan nesting), Dippers, Buzzards, kites, willow warbler and many other species of wildlife. The Dippers I found at Glaslyn ravine when trying to capture some interesting landscapes of the area. After working out the area of the river in which he preferred. Once I had worked this out I visited the site again the nest day, it turned out that he was a young individual and this is properly why I was able to get to close to him and even capture a shot of a fish in his mouth.

Dipper - Cinclus

On Thursday evening of the second week my Dad arrived, unfortunately the weather had got worse as the week had gone on and Friday was now set for rain all day, but never the less we out in search for something to photograph. Apart from the trains there was little around, most animals seem to have the sense to stay in bed while the weather was bad. The day was a bit of a let-down to an amazing couple of weeks in wales, no red breasted mergansers on the river, no dipper at the ravine and only the trains to entertain needless to say the trains alone kept Dad happy.

Ffestinog Railway train

On Saturday the day of the long drive we set off again in search of the dipper, but sadly no luck so I packed my stuff and handed in my key before we set off back home. On the way we went south, towards Aberystwyth, to the Bwlch Nant yr Arian site where they feed the Red Kite every day at 2pm or 3pm. Here we had lunch and watched a verity of birds come down on a feeder including a Bullfinch!!

Red Kite - Milvus milvus

Then the time came for the Kites lunch, already well over 100 had started to cycle above and then a member of staff went out with a bag of meet and throw it on the grass, only around 30 feet away me and Dad watched and started to capture photos as the kite swooped in a grabbed the meat off the ground. Every now and then one would drop a piece into the lake and another would come in a pick it out the water. It latest around 30 minutes till everything was gone and the kite started to move off getting higher and higher.

Red Kite - Milvus milvus

After leaving the site we started to make our way east and towards home, as we did so we stopped off at one final location Gilfach Farm, a Wales Wildlife Trust reserve that Dad had found online, not expecting much as the weather had now gone overcast we couldn’t have been more wrong. Upon arriving we found a couple sitting outside the house located on the reserve and got talking the man then took out some mealworms and put them in a tray within next to no time a Redstart had come down right next to us and we were able to capture some great photos, seeing the male and the female was great. We then went down to the hide where we saw a pied flycatcher and I spotted a Dipper further up. After spending some time there we got back in the car and headed home.

Redstart - Phoenicurus phoenicurus

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Started work - Paul Johnson

Yesterday was my first day working for Paul Johnson Photography, a wedding and portrait photographer. He has employed me to help edit the images from his weddings. This involves getting the lighting and colour cast back to neutral lighting and make sure that detail can be seen throughout the image.

These images will then be added to a CD and given to the couple allowing them to have a high resolution copy of all the images taken. Later Paul will edit a select few further which will be added to a photo album of the couples day.

To give you a rough idea of how fast I have to work to get these images done, I was averaging a photo every 15 seconds but he wants me to half that and be able to edit over 2000 images during the day.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Uploaded images

Hi everyone,

to keep you all updated, I have uploaded some of my images from my recent trip to Wales to Flickr and 500px. Please feel free to view them and comment to let me know what you think.

Over the next few days I will do a full blog on the trip along with the video of my holiday volunteering for the RSPB.


(please vote for my images)