Saturday, 9 July 2016

Shoot out

I have been watching some Spotted Flycatchers and decided to try and get some pictures of them. I have experienced conditions from raining, dull and overcast, to brief bright sunshine. I felt that they would provide a good opportunity to test my photography equipment out and see which gave me the best results. I'm pretty sure all the equipment is capable of better pictures than I can get out of them, but my ineptitude as a photographer is a constant variable thoughout these tests.

I started with my iPhone 6S connected to my scope with the Novagrade adapter.

 These were from a batch of the best ones from my iPhone through the scope.

I revisited a few days later with my Canon G3X bridge camera. As the light was poor I mounted the camera on a lightweight tripod so I could get away with slower shutter speeds and lower ISO's. These were all taken into the digital zoom region of the bridge camera. What Canon terms "fine digital.” These pictures turned out better than I expected considering poor light under the tree canopy and the distance involved.
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However, the real star of this particular shoot out was the little Nikon P300 compact camera mounted to my scope. This little Digiscoping camera has long been discontinued by Nikon, but I may look for a second hand one as a spare. 
All these methods of capturing a picture of a distant bird have their pros and cons. However, for sheer versatility, the Canon G3X still wins hands down.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Hares, Foxes and Badgers

It’s been over a month since I last posted anything on this blog. During that time, I have been putting any free moments into catching up with the local larger mammals on the patches I regularly walk. I have thought long and hard before posting these pictures as it inevitably leads to requests of “Where did you see these? I would like to see them myself.”

I decided I would share the pictures, I will not however share the whereabouts of any of the animals pictured. I hope you enjoy the photos and ask that you don’t put me in the position of refusing to share locations with you, as the way I refuse will almost certainly offend!

Hares are a real passion of mine. It always makes my day to encounter them when I’m out on my wanders and I am getting better at creeping up on them. I was worried at the beginning of the year that I had not seen many Hares on the land I walk. This is still true of areas that had a few last year but I have seen none this year. However, a couple of areas have produced the goods and I enjoy looking for the Hares in these areas. One spot has already seen the attention of two guys with running dogs, but they have now twice vacated the area quickly on my approach. They didn’t enjoy having the camera pointed at them and I have not seen them for a while. I would like to see these amazing creatures carry on and thrive in these areas.




The Foxes have been a little more difficult to track down. The first is a dog fox and one of a pair I have been watching. At first, he was hunting very frequently, obviously providing for the vixen while she was denning with cubs. Recently, I have found him occasionally laid out sunning himself, as it seems he in no longer the sole provider of food to his brood. What I believe to be his mate can now be relied upon to make an appearance if I am willing to be patient and wait for her. This regular vixen is in quite good condition and has obviously been suckling cubs. I have recently seen her hunting rabbits. Twice I have watched her successfully catch and carry off a rabbit I expect to her cubs. The cubs will be old enough now to be left for short periods and she will also now be hunting as she starts the process of weaning the cubs off her milk. Fresh caught prey will become rapidly more significant in the cubs diet now, so both parents hunting should provide for their needs in this rabbit rich environment. My view point for two of these foxes doesn’t allow for decent pictures. I’m facing the setting sun, there is too much undergrowth and bramble and they are a little distant. It’s not all about photographs though, that’s just I bonus if and when conditions allow.

The third fox looks quite young, probably one of last years cubs. This yearling on the face of it looked in very good condition initially, but I suspect it may have a problem. Foxes do go through a heavy summer moult and some can look pretty tatty at this time of year. This youngster is almost moulted out, but i’m a little concerned by the condition of its tail. It looks like it may be suffering from the early stages of mange. I will keep a look out for this individual and see how things progress.

• I have seen this yearling again and the tail is not looking any worse. It does have a covering of fur along its whole length, so i’m hoping this is just a moult. Mange symptoms do tend to start at the tail base, but there tends to be complete hair loss in the affected area. If it hangs around, I will keep an eye on its process.





Most of my free time though has been spent hoping to see some badger cubs above ground. They just cannot resist being above ground playing once they are about 12 - 14 weeks old. I have been watching a few Setts I am aware of, and eventually my patience paid off. I was pleased to get some decent daytime pictures of three cubs occasionally accompanied by mom playing in the late afternoon sun.





 To be in the close proximity of badgers as they go about their business is a real privilege and only makes my adoration of theses fascinating creatures stronger. I’m sure no-one  is under any illusion about the black cloud hanging over our nations badger population in the form of the governments badger cull. This ill thought out policy has failed on every level, including failing dismally to meet their own already low standards of what constitutes a humane death for the shooting of a free roaming badger. With absolutely no solid scientific evidence to prove badgers spread Bovine TB to cattle, and cases of Bovine TB actually rising in some cull areas, the government still seem hell bent own pursuing this abhorrent scheme.

The Badger Trust is fighting hard to change the mind of this government and bring this failing policy to an end. Any support that can be given to the Badger Trust is money being put to good use to save our badgers. 

I listened to Dominic Dyer, the CEO of the Badger Trust speak recently at a Badger Cull protest rally I attended in Leicester city centre. Of all the things he said, this one quote struck a chord with me, as it must have done with others as it appeared a lot on social media.




Check out the Badger Trust’s website for yourself and make your own mind up. If you agree with what they stand for, try and make a donation.

Click the banner to check out the Badger Trust Website.




Saturday, 30 April 2016

Mixing it up

 It's been a week of messing about with different techniques to capture a few record shots of the local wildlife that I've been lucky enough to point a camera at.

It all started after work on Monday with a report of a Ring Ouzel! I rushed home from work for a change of clothes and to grab my binoculars and scope and was off. I located the Ring Ouzel, and the farmer upon whose land it was feeding gave me permission to cross his land to get a better view.

It remained distant and I didn't want to move it on by chasing it about so decided on using my scope and phone to capture a record shot.


Phonescoping again proving its value as a tool to keep in your armory for capturing pictures of a distant subject.

After enjoying the Phonescoping it encouraged me to set up my old Nikon P300 point and shoot camera and "Digidapter" made by Paul Sayegh. I decided to have a go capturing some images with my dedicated Digiscoping kit. I have been taking my scope out with me more often to scan the fields and hedgerows and thought it would make a change to use the little camera. If you are taking your scope, it’s nice to have an easy method of capturing what you are viewing if required.


 My Sunday morning wander about offered a few opportunities to put this set up through its paces. As with all my captures, I aim to get a record shot, but occasionally, if distances and conditions allow, I try for a "better" quality picture.

The Tree Sparrows and the Wheatear fall into the, just get a record shot category, the Corn Bunting is what I consider a better quality shot




Also, one evening after work I took my Canon G3X bridge camera for a spin. Pete had told me he had seen a Fox hunting an area we sometimes check out and I decided to head that way. I couldn’t believe my luck when I also witnessed a well conditioned fox also hunting the very same area. It eventually realized it had an audience and disappeared. It was in too much cover to try for a picture but I found out what it was so interested in. The area has quite a healthy rat population and it obviously fancied one for supper.



A Pair of Grebe on the river also made for an interesting evening.


I also managed to capture a local Hare on…….. film! That is still the word that springs to my mind, but what is the current accepted terminology? Captured on, photosensitive diodes, sensor, CCD, digitally? Film still sounds better to me. 


On top of that lot, I had a trail camera back in the area I picked the Otter up in last week, hoping it would again put in an appearance. No such luck though. However, Pete and I were again surprised at just how productive this clearing is when we checked the pictures to find another couple of surprises. 

We found the usual suspects we've been keeping an eye on.



The surprise visitors, a pair of Muntjac deer! 

DeerPete and I enjoyed going through all the pictures on the trail camera, all 1680 of them. We even found the ideal location to carry this task out. This could become a regular thing!


Monday, 18 April 2016

Another one for the collection

I have recently just discovered my 5th local Badger sett and checked out the surrounding area to establish routes I felt were well used and were suitable to place a trail camera. As this was a new area I decided to leave the camera for a week to see what kind of activity is occurring in the area. I am getting more and more interested in setting up camera traps, it really is interesting to collect the SD card and find what’s been happening on your patch under the cover of darkness.

I have recently purchased a new trail camera which I am very pleased with but tend to use on shorter overnight situations where I know what I am trying to capture and already know the best locations to set it up. As this was a new area and I was just leaving the camera for a week, I decided to set my old battered trail camera up, it’s held together with insulation tape, its picture quality isn’t great, but it still works.

I picked an interesting looking area, positioned the camera and hoped it would still be there a week later. The good news is, it was still there a week later. My concerns were how successful the whole exercise would have been after a week of quite heavy rain.

The first thing I noticed on placing the SD card into the card reader of my computer was that there were nearly 600 pictures. The stars of over 500 of these are shown below. The Jays and the Squirrels were easily the most photographed.



I had a few fox pictures and from what I can make out, two different foxes were passing through the area but they both managed to avoid getting a full framed capture.


I was very pleased to see that the new sett I had found has indeed got some inhabitants. Even the torrential rain didn’t stop them visiting the area which surprised me as the surrounding fields must have been good for worming in these wet conditions, Perhaps they were out worming and this was just the route to and from their favoured feeding grounds. The initial results show that the sett has at least two inhabitants.




Some very wet badgers.





However, as I was sorting through the 600 pictures, I came across a bit of a surprise. The area where the trail camera was set does look like a bit of an animal highway, shared by various creatures on route to their destinations, but I wasn’t expecting this. This is the best picture and it isn’t great, but as soon as I saw it I thought Otter!

I took the pictures to Pete and we poured over them, using landmarks and branches in other photos with foxes or badgers stood by them to judge scale and size of the animal. We both agreed it was an Otter.


I do like to get as much confirmation as possible when issues such as this arise, so I sent the picture to The UK Wild Otter Trust:


I received a very prompt reply from Dave Webb

Founder - UK Wild Otter Trust

IUCN - Otter Specialist Group Member

OWAG - Otter Welfare Advisory Group Board Member


Who is of the opinion that "it certainly looks like an Otter."


Check out their very informative website - UK Wild Otter Trust


I am very pleased to see that Otters are making a comeback in the area and intend trying to get further evidence and hopefully, better pictures. As the saying goes, watch this space!

Friday, 1 April 2016

Around the locality

I have been hammering the local fields around my patch in the hope of an early Wheatear, but so far have drawn a blank. I was however pleased to see that last years breeding Tree Sparrows are back in residence. I had taken the spotting scope on this walk as I was also scanning hedgerow tops for Corn Bunting. 

Plenty of Yellowhammers, which I'm always pleased to see, but the small Corn Bunting flock I observed on occasions through the winter has now dispersed. I expected to see some individuals calling from favored perches proclaiming their territory in the early sunshine. Maybe it's still a little too cold? I expect to see them soon. 

I put the scope to use and attached my camera to try and get some pictures of the Tree Sparrows without getting to close and spooking them. 

Later in the week while out enjoying some sunshine, even though temperatures struggled to rise I was lucky enough to get close enough to a feeding Muntjac deer. I held my breath and hoped the shutter sounds from my camera wouldn't spook it. It hung around and I managed a few shots I am pleased with. 


Saturday mornings walk was cut short due to rain. Pete and I were checking an area we occasionally visit to see if Tree Sparrows are also breeding there. There are a few about, but not as many as in our other colony. I would like to think they may also breed here. Will have another look in better weather conditions. As a bonus, we saw our first local Hare of the year as it put some distance between us across the fields.

At some ungodly hour in the early hours of Sunday morning, I went to see if any badgers were about. I arrived in the dark and quietly made my way towards one of their favored areas. As soon as I entered the first field I heard some chattering coming from directly in front of me and only about 80 yards out. I slowly raised my binoculars (it’s amazing just how much more you can see in the dark using them) and there, still chattering away were two badgers rolling around play fighting in the field. They took turns chasing each other, like a game of badger tig, one would catch the other, they would roll about loudly chattering and then one would take off at full flight with the other in pursuit. I watched this until they got bored or too exhausted to carry on and they wandered off. I headed to another area I thought they may visit on their travels and set up the camera. I then took up a comfortable viewpoint downwind and waited to see what unfolded.

— The outcome was pretty poor. Nothing captured on camera and visibility down to a few feet in the darkness due to rain and low lying mist. I had another brief badger sighting, but it soon disappeared into the mist and gloom.  I gave it up as a bad job and headed back home for a much needed nap.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

A Few Pictures from the Canon G3X

On Tuesday a friend and I visited Leighton Moss RSPB. Soon after arrival we had a couple of very heavy downpours that looked like they could set in for the day. I took my Canon G3X along with the intention of putting it through its paces with some shots at full zoom. All these pictures are at least full optical zoom (x25) and some go to the far end of the “fine” digital zoom. (x50)



Then fortune smiled and around lunch time the skies brightened and it remained dry for the rest of the day. It was a little quieter bird wise than in previous visits, but still a very enjoyable day.

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At times, the Sun shone through and we enjoyed views of Marsh Harrier hunting over the reedbeds. 



Since I last visited the Skytower has opened. It was still under construction last time I was there. It’s an impressive structure offering great view over the roadbeds.

Click on picture below for link to Skytower information.


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A picture from the top of the Skytower handheld, into the maximum “Fine” digital zoom range. (x50)


The day ended with a Spotted Redshank in front of Lillian’s Hide and we headed back to the Midlands. I always look forward to a Leighton Moss visit and no doubt will be back there in the not too distant future.