London Wetland Centre 11th April 2015

Where do I start oh yea my weather app on the iphone says cloudy up until 11am then sunny for the rest of the day.

So I picked up my camera gear and off I trot, its very grey and overcast, I get to the Wetland centre grabbed my large tea and looked outside and it was pouring down with rain, so made my way to the Dulverton hide (closest) and sat in there until the rain stopped

Dulverton hide
Dulverton hide

The gulls were having a blast as they always do despite the weather

Black headed gull
Black headed gull

There were 2 little grebes in the distance getting ready to have a family I would imagine

mr & mrs little grebe
mr & mrs little grebe

well the rain eased and it was time to make my way around the reserve I walked up towards the peacock tower where this is a small channel off the lagoon lake where the Great crested grebes fish but they were not there instead I had the company of a Green woodpecker for a few seconds so made the most of it

Green woodpecker
Green woodpecker

The birds have frustrated me over the years as they normally see me before I see them and screech and laugh as all you see is there behind as they fly away

After that encounter I decided to have a look from the peacock tower hide there are no peacocks to be seen by the way

Peacock Tower
Peacock Tower

I only went to the 1st level in case the Kingfisher turned up which meant I would be closer to him but alas that didn’t happen, I had some nice flyby’s of Peewits, Gadwalls and  Canada geese

canada airways
Canada airways
Gadwalls
Gadwalls

it’s started to get really bright now so I thought I would make my way across to the other side of the reserve called “Wildside” one of my favourite areas for the afternoon light its just magnificent as soon as I pass through the closed gates I could see and hear the marsh frogs in full voice its incredibly loud and watching those airbags on the side of the face reminds me of bagpipes.

Marsh frog
Marsh frog

I moved further inside and popped along to a favourite place of mine called Ratty’s stand as below

Rattys stand
Rattys stand

where you see the Birch tree this is where I lay down flat on the belly I love this POV for the Coot’s

coot
coot

and the moorhens which always frequent this lake throughout the year this is their backyard

moorhen
Moorhen

Then you have infrequent visitors like the Mallards

Mallard drake
Mallard drake

and the Canada Geese sometimes drop in like they did on Saturday

Mr & Mrs Canada
Mr & Mrs Canada

I picked up my black bin liner which I mentioned in an earlier blog 

and grabbed a sarnie from my bag and a packet of crips (yes I know I spelt crisp crips I always do)

had lunch. I then popped to another lake not far away that I heard had a family of mallard ducklings

awwww always has a cute factor that I cant resist and as usual took more photos that I needed

mallard chick
mallard chick
mallard chick
mallard chick

this was the highlight of my day and I was quite happy to get home in time for the boat race which I could have easily gone and seen as the start of the race is just a few mins from home I used to photograph this event frequently at one time, anyways I hope you enjoyed the blog until next time.

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A visit to the London Wetland Centre (Easter weekend)

There is nothing better than checking your weather app only to find it couldn’t be more wrong, mine said heavy damp clouds so I hadn’t banked on going out for the day but a look out the window changed all that, blue skies a drop of sun what more incentive does one need.

A short walk along the towpath and ten minutes later found myself at the London Wetland Centre it really is amazing to have this wetlands right on my doorstep.

I normally grab a large tea from the café and set up my camera gear but as I looked down the path I could see some birding friends pointing/ looking so I decided to pop along and forfeit my cuppa, well I’m glad I did as we had a visitor pop into the reserve on his way back from Africa to Siberia it was the Siberian Chiffchaff.

Siberian Chiffchaff
Siberian Chiffchaff chasing Alder fly

It’s nice to be the only person with a camera for a change as everyone was carrying their scopes and bino’s so its great to have a visual record.

It was very flighty and seemed undeterred as we watched it for more than 40mins flying from tree to tree chasing bugs

Siberian Chiffchaff
Siberian Chiffchaff

Most of the time it picked a tree with the most twigs/branches on which was obscuring it so it was nice when finally it settled on a branch which was clutter free and a nice background, thanks goodness as my arms were starting to ache with the weight of the camera/lens

Siberian Chiffchaff
Siberian Chiffchaff

So feeling rather happy at this time and was more than happy to go home after seeing this rarity I stayed as the day could only get better and the sun was having a blast even though it was very contrasting light which is a battle when taking photos most of the time.

I walked along in the direction of the peacock tower hide which has a channel just by it from the lagoon lake and I know the Great Crested Grebes like to fish there early before most the public arrive and I got lucky one of the pair was fishing and catching some nice Perch

Great Crested Grebe with Perch
Great Crested Grebe with Perch

They always seem to find the big fish a much more accomplished angler than I ever was, ok down the hatch it goes

Great Crested Grebe with Perch down the hatch
Great Crested Grebe with Perch down the hatch

From here I popped along to the scrape hide which has been refurbished with fantastic new windows its going to be a favourite for sure, I love it here at this time in the morning when the sun is out, the light on this particular lake is awesome and I always make sure I pop in, I was hoping for some waders but to be honest I love the coots, moorhens, Canada geese, Heron and Teal when the light is like this

canada airways 1
Canada airways
Canada airways
Canada airways

The water in this light is always just so clean and blue it gives the most amazing reflections

reflected coot
reflected coot
reflected Heron
reflected Heron

I could hear the calling (Pee-wit) of the Lapwing as they were showing off their aerial displays against the crows there really is no contest the lapwing win every time and they need to get this spot onto deter the crow from snatching the chicks.

Lapwing on patrol
Lapwing on patrol
Lapwing reflected
Lapwing reflected

As I was about to leave the hide and move on through the reserve a beautiful Redshank flew in and done his thing for the next 30 mins which I was truly grateful

redshank
redshank

These really are such a tiny wader but have gorgeous orange legs and bill, I love the tiny droplet of water falling from his bill.

I finally left the scape hide and made my way across to what’s known as the  “Wild side” part of the reserve one of my favourite areas for frogs/dragons/damsels/darters but its a little too early for them.

the first thing I found was a gorgeous Common lizard sitting on the wooden bridge basking in the sunlight numerous people walking right past it not even knowing of his existence I always stop them and point them out especially the new visitors to the reserve, most are amazed that such creature even exist on the reserve.

Basking lizard
Basking lizard

so after all the ooooooo’s and awwwwwww’s I move off through one of the back paths I know where the small birds gather and came across this Long tailed tit look to be soaking up the sun a lot of these perish during hard winters but lucky enough are good breeders and replenish most years.

Long tailed tit
Long tailed tit

Some drake Mallards were still chasing females maybe they were youngsters and wasn’t sure when to start the family or just wanted to have fun before stating a family.

male mallards chasing female
male mallards chasing female

Others clearly had already done the deed and were well into family life lets hope these little ducklings have a wonderful life

mallard with ducklings
mallard with ducklings

well it was a very interesting and joyous day as always and today is the last day of my Easter holiday and its back to work on Wednesday hope you enjoy the blog.

Great Crested Grebes courtship display and weed dance

This has to go down as one of the greatest spectacles in the natural world, I have been lucky enough to witness this act a few times and to capture the event on camera.

I felt like I was invited to capture the engagement of these 2 beautiful Grebes as normally they are in the middle of the lake but they were close enough to capture them with my 400mm lens

The weed dance 1
The weed dance 1
The weed dance 2
The weed dance 2
The weed dance 3
The weed dance 3
The weed dance 4
The weed dance 4
The weed dance 5
The weed dance 5
The weed dance 6
The weed dance 6
The weed dance 7
The weed dance 7
The weed dance 8
The weed dance 8
The weed dance 9
The weed dance 9
The weed dance 10
The weed dance 10

When I see spectacular events like this I want to capture every single frame I want to capture the subtle differences as each shot passed by.

I spent pretty much half a day with these wonderful Grebes watching them nest build and the male doing his errrrrr! man duties I guess you call it.

nest building 1
nest building 1
nest building 2
nest building 2
nest building 3
nest building 3
nest building 4
nest building 4
nest building 5 - a warning to others
nest building 5 – a warning to others

Once the building of the nest was complete it was time to take to the lake to look pretty with a variety of poses for all to see.

Looking pretty 1
Looking pretty 1
Looking pretty 2
Looking pretty 2
Looking pretty 3
Looking pretty 3
Looking pretty 4
Looking pretty 4
Looking pretty 5
Looking pretty 5

I went back at a later date to find mum and dad looking fit and well and some new additions to the family

New additions to the family
New additions to the family

unfortunately not many chicks survive, Herons, Gulls are normally the main culprits but these two did manage to get one to grow up and out of danger

New addition to the family
New addition to the family

well I hope you enjoyed this blog and I get to tell you all about the little Grebe’s exploits next time around.

Intentional Camera Movement (part 2) London Wetland Centre

Another grey damp day so much for a lovely Easter weekend, well to be honest I didn’t really need the light today as I was going to be shooting more ICM photo’s which meant I wouldn’t be needing fast shutter speeds.

Remember to click on the images to enlarge them.

Tools for the day was a Canon 5D mkIII with a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM, aperture was set to f22 for most of the day as this allowed me to have shutter speeds between 1-4secs this allows for great movement and to paint the scene when doing horizontal movements from L to R and from R to L as in the image below which creates a lookalike swirling reedbed

swirling Reedbed
swirling Reedbed

and verticals up down and down as in the image below, the Narcissus looks like wet paint falling down the canvas

Narcissus
Narcissus

Zooming the camera in and out and vice versa can also create some amazing effects as in the Canada goose shot below, thank you Mr Goose for being the perfect model today.

Canada goose
Canada goose

Birch trees are a fantastic subject for this type of photography great contrast with the white barks as in the images below.

Silver birch - Betula pendula
Silver birch – Betula pendula

another good subject is bamboo this photo happens to be black bamboo – Phyllostachys nigra

black bamboo - Phyllostachys nigra
black bamboo – Phyllostachys nigra

I liked this particular image below it reminded me of a scene of a mystical wood with golden mayflies dancing all around.

mystical woods
mystical woods

Well I hope you enjoyed this blog I have many more photos but will keep them for another day, I will leave you with this black swan

black swan
black swan

enjoy your Easter holidays.

Intentional Camera Movement (part 1)

Well it’s been a miserable start to the Easter the weather has not been kind today my intentions were to pop along to the River Thames which is just a 5 minute walk away, I was going to don chest waders and walk into the river and do some riverscapes on very long exposures to get that creamy water but that will have to wait until another day.

River Thames
River Thames

So I sat here thinking what can I do, I have been toying with the idea of doing some ICM photography (Intentional Camera Movement) but I wanted to try something different rather than photograph real scenes like Woods, Seascapes, Landscapes, Trees etc I wanted to try and create those scenes with household items or indeed just items i found around the house without having the need to go outside in the bad weather.

Although you do not need good light as your shutter speeds are going to be real slow, mine today were between 1 and 4 secs and if you have seen my wildlife photo’s then you may have noticed i adore colour the brighter the better for me, if I am going to show our wonderful wildlife then i want to photograph them in the best possible light this will hopefully stop people calling our wonderful garden birds “little brown jobs”.

Ok so the first image i wanted to create was a sunset sea, so what did I do, well I grabbed 3 oranges from the bowl and laid them against the sofa, the aperture was selected to give me a shutter speed of 2.5secs and here is the result.

sunset sea
sunset sea

The next scene i wanted to create was an abstract autumn trees so i focused on the wooden floor, panned for 2 seconds and this was the result

autumn trees
autumn trees

The next photo i wanted to create was a waterfall but not just your normal type waterfall i wanted mine to ooze colour, I created this with the help of the cats tree in the living room it has these soft coloured snake like things hanging off the tree for them to play with so i tried with these with an exposure of 1.3 seconds and here is the result.

waterfall of colour
waterfall of colour

The last photo i wanted to create was trees again but this time in colour as opposed to the autumn one i did earlier i looked around and saw the DVD holder which was an array of colours so i thought this might work i used an exposure of 2 secs i also added fibre to this, here is the result.

trees of colour
trees of colour

Well i hope this might encourage others to give it a go if you cannot get outside just look around the house and have a play you never know how creative you can get.

The black bin liner and its many uses in wildlife/macro photography

black bin liner
black bin liner

First of all this highly versatile plastic bag weighs absolutely nothing and fold flat

I carry 2 of these bags without fail throughout the year.

ok so what uses do they have:

  1. Protects camera & lens from rain when on the tripod, tear a hole in the bottom and put an elastic band around the lens hood to hold it on, this will enable you to carry on shooting when all other photographers have legged it to shelter in the hides or their car.
  2. If the ground is wet or muddy/snowy use it as a groundsheet.

3. If it starts to rain heavy especially in the summer where you’re not likely to be carrying a coat  put it on like a smock tear a hole in the bottom of the bag and slip it over your head then make a hole in the side for your arms, I have done this so many times its a life saver once the rain is over give it a shake and good to go again.

4. Partially blow it up and tie and use it to rest the camera on and to give some cover from the wildlife when on the floor.

5. Why not take a spare one in case you come across any rubbish thats been dumped.

Hyde park wildlife

Hyde park is one of London’s largest parks and is also a Royal park. It plays host to an abundance of wildlife throughout the year it’s situated right next door to the famous Royal Albert Hall

The Royal Albert Hall
The Royal Albert Hall

Hyde park attracts many photographers to its wildlife  and its easy to see why, they all appear very tame especially the many species of garden bird

The Nuthatch

Nuthatch
Nuthatch

Where to see them

Best looked for in mature woods and established parkland in central and southern England and Wales, on the sides of tree trunks and underside of branches. Occasional sightings in Scotland.

Exotic species of wildlife

Egyptian geese - Alopochen aegyptiacus
Egyptian geese – Alopochen aegyptiacus

You will see all year round some rather exotic species of wildlife that have taken up residence in Hyde park like the Egyptian geese in the photo above and the rather beautiful Mandarin duck in the photo below

Mandarin duck
Mandarin duck

Great crested grebes

These beautiful ducks are normally out in the middle of the lake and best viewed with binoculars but here at Hyde park they can only be metres away from you fishing by the bridge that passes between the long water (Kensington gardens) and the Serpentine (Hyde park)

Grebe Podiceps cristatus - Great Crested Grebe
Grebe Podiceps cristatus – Great Crested Grebe

Mute swan

The mute swan is just about everyone’s favourite such a big beautiful bold bird who will defend its territory to the death if need be not a pretty sight to witness but does happen

Cygnus olor - Mute Swan
Cygnus olor – Mute Swan

The Easter baby bunny

I’m not sure how long the bunnies have been at Hyde park it was only by accident one day walking around looking for some plants to photograph with the macro lens that I came across about 30 of them grazing and one particular little bunny was screaming to have his photo taken

The Easter baby bunny
The Easter baby bunny

There is an awful lot of wildlife in Hyde park try and make an all day  visit plenty to eat and drink there and public toilets you won’t be disappointed.

Dragons, Damsels and Darters

These 3 species of amazing flying insects are among our most colourful inhabitants of UK wildlife

I personally could sit and watch them for hours, I love to capture their beauty on camera

Migrant Hawker looking at the camera lens
Migrant Hawker looking at the camera lens

Dragonflies

This image above was a Migrant Hawker I think he became obsessed with seeing his reflection in the front of the glass lens this enabled me to get some quite spectacular shots. I use this skill on most of my flying Dragon images, I always make sure the front element of the lens is gleaming. The trick also is not to chase the Dragonfly, watch them, learn where they like to hover and wait, have patience it will pay off.

all four wings are visible
all four wings are visible

Camera settings I use to capture these in flight are:

Manual focus do not use auto focus more often than not you will find the lens hunting backwards and forwards trying to latch on to the subject and you will become extremely frustrated instead of enjoying the experience, yes you will still get shots that you cant use but 1 or 2 will be more than acceptable that’s all we wish for.

Continuous shooting my camera shoots at 8 frames a second which is more than enough to compensate for the tiny in and out of focus shots your hit ratio will be higher than if you used Single shot and by the time you got ready for your 2nd shot the Dragonfly would have gone.

Manual exposure the subject is so small you do not want everything outside of the subject influencing the camera meter within the frame.

Shutter speed and Aperture I try not to use a shutter speed of less than 1/1000sec and always try for an aperture of f8 (I use a 400mm canon L lens) I find this is perfect for my set up.

Damsels

I just love the variants of these amazing delicate little flyers, the colours from male, female, juveniles never cease to amaze me.

mating damselflies
mating damselflies

When the damsels are copulating this is a great chance to get really close to them.

I always approach them crouched down so as I am not above them and I always have my face behind the camera, this does sometimes take a while to get close especially as I am using a macro lens (Sigma 150mm HSM Macro) I always try to photograph them so from the head to the base of the tail are on the same plane, I use the smallest aperture I can get away with as depth of field is extremely minimal with a macro lens.

Large red Damselfly
Large red Damselfly

Always look out for unusual poses as in the shot below with his beautiful bendy tail, they are normally straight as an arrow.

Resting Damselfly
Resting Damselfly

Banded demoiselle

These are simply stunning they belong to the Damselfly family, they have the most amazing shiny blue/green body and dark wings one of my all time favourites as I only see one or two throughout the season.

Banded Demoiselle
Banded Demoiselle

Darters

I find the Darters the easiest to photograph, they are very similar to the Robin and appear extremely sociable if you do manage to spook them they will more often than not come back to where they were roosting so don’t get too worried if they fly off

Common Darter - Sympetrum striolatum
Common Darter – Sympetrum striolatum

See how close you can get this spring/summer/autumn and remember have patience and you will be rewarded.

London Wetland Centre

What better place to start my wildlife blogging adventures than the place you would find me most weekends The London Wetland Centre.

I have been coming to this amazing magical reserve since it first opened way back in 2000 it was four disused Victorian reservoirs which i used to fish for trout.

The entrance to the centre has a statue of Sir Peter Scott by Nicola Godden.

Sir Peter Scott statue
Sir Peter Scott statue

The first place i visit when the doors are open is the cafe for my large take away cup of tea.