Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Two more from the nest

A couple more from yesterday. Spot the misery guts!

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Three times lucky

Having discovered the swallow nestlings I put a plan I had hatched when I first found the nest into action this evening.

The idea was to set up the camera, with flashgun, on a tripod under the bridge and use a wireless remote to fire the shutter. I knew the adults wouldn't come to the nest while I was under the bridge and I hoped they wouldn't be put off by the presence of tripod or the flash firing.

 Technology in action

While setting up a kestrel landed on a fence post on the other side of the river. My best chance of a kestrel pic yet. But by the time I'd got the camera off the tripod and changed the settings on the camera it had flown away...

It didn't take long for the swallows to prove neither tripod nor flashes phased the swallows and they were coming in with food at five minute intervals. After starting off too far away for the remote to work reliably I moved closer and snapped away. It's pot luck this kind of thing so after half an hour I went to look at the pics and found that where the adult perched to feed the youngsters it was obscured.

 The stake-out!

During this time I had seen a kestrel hovering and heard it, or different one, calling. I then saw there was one perched on a phone mast with another appearing to be feeding it when a third came into the fray. It was obviously a family group. I was cursing the camera being stuck under the bridge! After some activity they all disappeared.

I moved the camera round a bit to get a better view and spent another fifteen minutes before taking another peek at the results, fully intending to then go look for the kestrels. There were some shots that would have been good, if only the camera hadn't tilted back after I'd locked the ball head.

 Chopped off...

One more try. This time I made sure the framing was right before sloping off to lie on the grassy bank watching the swallows and martins hawking over the water and a couple of pied wagtails perching on the bridge railings. One of the kestrels returned to the mast, only to be chased off by a jackdaw. The swallows were coming in more frequently now and after another fifteen minutes I decided to leave them be.

It turns out there are five nestlings, one is a miserable looking git, and I had one shot that I was really quite pleased with. The lighting is a bit harsh from the single flash unit, but I know the set up works.

Not too shabby

I'd parked up in a sneaky spot and chose a circular route back to the car. Turning down the track I spotted loads of tiny toadlets (or froglets?) fleeing from my approach. No doubt the much needed rain of last night which had created a few puddles in the ruts had drawn them out into the open. Still having the flash bracket attached to the camera I knelt down and took some close ups. So small were the cute little rascals that a macro lens would have been preferable! Coincidentally I'd stumbled across, literally, some tiny froadlets the other day while out and about and was planning to go photograph them early one morning this week. Now I didn't have to bother, well the urgency was gone at any rate.

 Froglet or toadlet?

Tripod over my shoulder and off I go past the pumping station, my mind wandering and me looking down to try and avoid tiny amphibians when there's a flurry of wings and a kestrel flies up off the railings and away across the compound. Damn!!! I drop the tripod and fumble with the flash bracket. Camera freed I wonder why it won't bloody well focus. In a tizzy it took me a while to remember I'd set up back-button focus-lock to take the close ups! I reckoned the kestrels - there had been two young looking birds - wouldn't have gone far and that I might be able to stalk them.

Sure enough I spotted one perched on the rails at the far side of the compound. I removed the lens hood and poked the lens through the rails. It was just a bit to fat and the focus jammed, I backed off and grabbed a shot or three. Then I saw the second bird a few uprights away from the first. I zoomed out, took a shot and one of them flew towards me. I thought I'd blown it, but no. The naive youngster perched feet away and eye-balled me while I fired off as many frames as I could.

 Sometimes you get lucky!

Thinking ahead I'd set the ISO to auto and the shutter speed high as I knew wobbly-hand syndrome would be likely if I got too excited. Then the bird flew back a few feet and perched again while I took some more shots before the pair of them flew off. I carried on round the compound but there was no sign of them. I reviewed the pics and felt rather chuffed. Luckily the track isn't heavily used and my tripod and flash unit were still where I'd dropped them. I thought that was enough excitement for one day and called it quits!

Monday, 21 June 2010

Damsels here, damsels there

Yesterday I went for a drive around the Forest of Bowland, partly hoping to spot a flycatcher of the pied variety and maybe a dipper or grey wagtail on one of the streams for future reference and a return with the big lens when (if) it gets sorted out. It was unusually dry up there, the upper becks being little more than rocky gullies with a light trickle of water running down them. None of the target species were seen, and few birds of any sort to be honest. Plenty of young rabbits around, and two squashed stoats on the narrow lanes coming down from the fells.

In the evening I went for a wander by the canal looking for interesting insects and found some. A blue-tailed damselfly obliged, as did (what I now know to be) a Grypocoris stysi feeding on a fly. My proper macro technique is still wanting, but I'm not too bad on the close-up stuff.

Blue-tailed damselfly

Grypocoris stysi

With less wind than yesterday it felt even hotter as I ventured fellwards again, this time more locally. Parking up by a small mill lodge I walked round a rough field below the dam wall and followed the outflow stream back up, where I spotted a dipper perched on a rock under the culvert. I missed a shot of it with the camera. Mind you, it was dark under there and a photo would have been rubbish anyway.

One side of the lodge is boggy and rushlined, worth a look for damsels and other insects. So it proved and I managed a reasonable shot of a common blue, then it caught its supper and perched obligingly while it started devouring it, allowing me to get in close and take enough shots to ensure a keeper or two.

Common blue damselfly

Leaving the lodge I headed past a known spotted flycatcher haunt, failing to see one for the second time, and up to the start of the moors. I followed a path that stayed on a level and followed a stream at a distance. There were meadow pipits to be seen, feeding young judging by the beakfuls of insects. A couple of jays flew along the ridgeline, and as I approached a lightly wooded area a flock of great tits broke cover from the bracken and into the trees.

On my wanderings with the 70-300 I've started taking along the 35 in case anything appears which would benefit from a wider view. Heading along a bilberry covered section there was a lone tree set against the bright blue sky. I also happened to have a polariser with me, so I tried a few shots. This was a case of working towards teh best one by eliminating things and getting in closer. I think an even wider lens would have made a better pic, but I'm happy enough with the one below.

Moorland tree

Coming down the hill I followed the stream back to civilisation, the light being poor under the tree canopy that shades the path and with the sun dropping below the hills the camera was now redundant.

Some bird photos while fishing

During the quiet times on my latest three-night tench session there was lots to watch, some of which I caught on camera - not always at the highest quality.

Something I've seen at this venue before were long tailed birds flying out from the willows taking flies above the water, and even off the surface. This time I identified them as pied wagtails. Not a bird usually associated with perching, but at least one was using a dead branch as a lookout post.

In the willows and hawthorns around the swim there was a lot of bird activity. Young long tailed tits made a prolonged appearance twittering away, and allowing me to get reasonably close with the 70-300.

A blackcap paid a short visit - so the photo was a hasty one.

The longest photo-shoot was of a common tern that decided to feed in my swim early on the final morning. Given better light stunning shots of this bird would have been a cinch.

The tench turned up too. I'll try and blog about the fishing over at Lumbland.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Early doors

The sun was shining when my eyes opened at five, so I got up and took a stroll round the playing field with my camera after a quick breakfast. It was breakfast time for the birds too, young blackbirds and thrushes were hopping about on the recently mown grass, fending for themselves while their parents no doubt go about raising second broods. A robin family wasn't quite so advanced, with two juveniles being seen following an adult along a hedge.

Juvenile robin in the morning shade

There's a sort of mini-plantation in a part of the playing field and I'm pretty sure I saw willow tits there. I certainly saw long tailed tits along the edge of the wood. The wood itself was fairly quiet. Apart from blackbirds there wasn't much to see or hear. I did see a hare in the field at the far side of the wood, and even though I thought I was concealed, and it was good way off, it soon made itself scarce.

By the time I left the wood the early dog walkers were about and my return along the field edge proved very quiet. Most everything had been disturbed by the hounds. I whiled a few minutes away trying to catch a swallow skimming low over the grass. They are tricky beggars to snap. I managed one half decent pic of a swallow against a clear blue sky though. It would have been nicer had it been closer and better defined. Beggars can't be choosers.


Back home and there's a trusting young blackbird about. It had better learn fast about cats. Fingers crossed.

Young blackbird

It can be quite assertive!

Monday, 14 June 2010

Streamside damsels

Back in July 2007 I took a picture of a damselfly eating another insect. It wasn't a great shot. yesterday Mark Houghton blogged a picture of a banded demoiselle - the same speices of damsel. As I knew there were plenty to be found along a stream near the dragonfly pond I nipped out after boxing off what work I had to do by lunch time.

The lure of the pond was hard to resist and I took up the challenge of shooting a dragonfly on the wing. I left defeated - for now. It's a task that requires a concerted effort. On reaching the stream I was wondering where to start my search for the iridescent beasts when two males flew up before me. Starting the theme for the afternoon they steadfastly refused to settle anywhere where they were unobscured, or if they did they were at an inconvenient angle. Rather than hang around waiting for a good opportunity I went in search of more demoiselles.

Although country parks and local nature reserves are a public amenity, and often habituated by errant canines and children, they do have the advantage over more 'serious' nature reserves in that you can wander off the hard paths and are not restricted to looking at the wildlife through hide windows. So it was that I followed a lightly trampled path along the stream's grassy bank.

More damsels flew up and I soon learned to tread more carefully. In some spots there were many damsels to be seen. One was sure to land and pose nicely. It didn't. I managed a few half decent pics, but in most the damsels were partly out of focus because of the angle of their bodies, or there was a leaf partially hiding them. The sun had also disappeared, although the light was still good. Not that that mattered as I was shooting using flash. After a brief bee interlude I wended my way back along the stream.

Female banded demoiselle

On reaching the bridge where the path back to the car leaves the stream I took one last look at the spot I'd started in, but from the opposite bank. Two male banded demoiselles appeared and one landed in a perfect pose. I took a few shots from afar then moved in closer. It stayed put and I was able to get in as close as the lens would allow. Knowing I had at least one good shot I bid the poser a fond farewell and called it a day after a last look at the pond. The chippy beckoned.

 Male banded demoiselle

A walk in the park

After an early tea I set off to a country park because the rain had eased up and the sun was looking like it might appear for the first time yesterday. When I got there the rain had beaten me to it. Not wet enough to put me off I sheltered the camera under my jacket to keep the drizzle off it.

The first top spot of the day was another Lost Ball! A lucky one because it had been washed downstream by the time I returned. The rainfall hadn't been much, but these upland streams don't need much to pick up pace and colour.

Lost ball 19

The dampness was keeping the smaller birds under cover, which was fine as my big lens is at the lens hospital, the waterfowl were mostly laying on the bank with their heads tucked under their wings. That made them easy to approach and photograph, particularly the bedraggled cygnets.

Ugly ducklings

I haven't visited the park for a lot of years, and it's more manicured than I remembered it, but still wild in places. Parts of it reveal it's industrial heritage, although nature is reclaiming it in the less visited areas. Of course dog walkers abound. Which can be fun when the dog is a lively five month old bearded collie!


The rain had stopped by the time I'd completed my circuit so I headed for the hills of the Land that Time Forgot. Of course it's micro-climate was in operation and the world was misty and wet there. After climbing up the side of a stream that had been almost dry a week ago I descended and tried some arty shots of water droplets on bracken fronds. Nice idea. Poor execution.

Looking down the formerly-industrialised upland stream


Saturday, 12 June 2010

Famous for three seconds

Blink and you'll miss it. Somewhere around 07.04

Monday, 7 June 2010

It's been a while

The bird photography took over for a long time, but the close-ups have been getting more attention lately. No diopter used, just the 70-300, sometimes in 'macro' mode, sometimes not.