Monthly Archives: May 2011

A day of beauty and death… I was only looking out of my office window!

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I heard an unusual birdsong outside my home office window while trying to complete some accounts. A quick peak out showed that a Goldfinch was singing away on top of one of my neighbours shrubs. I had seen one a day or two before collecting nesting material from the ball of cotton fibres that I hang in the garden from February onwards. I hadn’t expected it to hang around, but it looks like it may be nesting in one of the garden bushes. As I haven’t seen one in the garden before, all thoughts of the accounts were gone and I went into overdrive to get my camera and sound recording gear set up before it flew away.

I needn’t have worried as it stayed around for the next four hours, moving from perch to perch, occasionally leaving the garden to roam further afield, but always returning. Eventually both male and female birds perched together, but not in a good enough position to make any photographs. I managed to assemble my new Amberwood reflector together to help with the sound recording. It had only arrived that morning, but I’m quite happy with my first efforts with it. I did get quite a lot of video footage as well, but at the moment my computer has decided not to recognise any file in the AVI format!?! I really hate computers!!! Hopefully I can update the post later with some footage.

The Herring gull above features in the audio file, so I thought I would get an image of it. I am always intrigued has to how gulls stay so white and how they find the food I put out in my garden so quickly. While looking out of the window I noticed a disturbance in my neighbours garden. Two crows were jumping into a fir tree. When they came out I could see that they had a chick in their beaks. As they had both grabbed it and fought over it slightly, they ended up with a piece each. They dropped down onto the grass to carry on feeding. I can’t be for sure, but I think it is a wood pigeon chick they found, as it is quite a large chick even though the feathers are not fully developed. Have a look at the photo below and see what you think.

Later that evening when putting some rubbish into the dustbin, I noticed a more developed wood pigeon chick hiding on the ground by my neighbours side gate. I think that it may have been disturbed by the crows as well. A check a few hours later showed no sign of it, so hopefully it had found some where safe to roost, if not, I’m sure the local fox would find it fairly quickly.

UPDATE 1st June 2011 – Video posted to blog

Garden Goldfinch from Gower Photography on Vimeo.

This week I will mainly be photographing green…(plus a bit of white)

With all the new foliage growth at the moment, the most dominant colour in the natural world is green. The green varies from plant to plant and changes with the age of the growth as well. Later on in the summer the brilliance of the green will have gone and it will all start looking the same and a bit tired.

On my Ilston Valley Day course, as all the wild garlic and Bluebells had been and gone, we had to concentrate on the green foliage. I think the participants found this quite hard as the final image is not easy to see and some extra thought is needed to see the possibilities. Green foliage always looks good back-lit and it helps bring out the detail of the leaf structure, so it pays to look up!

There is some colour with the Hawthorn flowers and bushes scattered amongst the green at the moment, but this will start to fade soon. New colours will appear once the other summer flowers start to bloom and introduce a new feel to the countryside.

This is what I was hoping the participants on the day course would see. In a period of 3 days the garlic flowers were gone and other lower foliage growth had started to dominate the woodland floor. This is a bit of a nightmare when trying to plan the day courses; the first year the garlic flowers hadn’t come out, the second year it was spot on and this year was too late even though the course was always scheduled for the first week of May.

Not a bad way to spend Dawn Chorus Day 1st May 2011

(Photo © Piers Warren/Wildeye)

Luckily for me I managed a few days in Norfolk last weekend, mainly to attend the Wildeye  Advanced Wildlife Sound recording Course with Chris Watson, but I also sneak in a bit of photography the day before the course started at RSPB Titchwell.

The sound recording course was excellent and Chris is very approachable and very generous with his knowledge, time and equipment. As more clients ask me for some video footage these days for the web etc. sound has become very important, especially as I’m not a great fan of the soundtrack being mainly music. When you hear some of the soundtracks that Chris has put together for BBC programmes such as Life in the Undergrowth and the up and coming Arctic and Antarctic series, you do wander why music is used at all. Nature will provide all the sounds that you need.

The first track below was taken on May 1st Dawn Chorus Day at a Foxley Wood Norfolk Wildlife trust reserve. The chorus here was not as intense as the one we recorded in the grounds of the field centre where we stayed the day before.

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Field centre dawn chorus:

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A Whitethroat recording from a local wood:

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My visit to RSPB Titchwell was quite productive as well, but no award winning images as the weather was quite dull one minute going to bright high contrast with blue sky the next. I did manage a few firsts though with Ruff and Avocet coming close to the hide I was in. The male Ruff hadn’t developed is magnificent mating plumage yet, but will start to in the next few weeks. It would be nice to see the males displaying, but I won’t have time to travel back to see this.

While hanging about the reeds trying to find a Bearded Tit to photograph, this Sedge Warbler appeared and allowed a few frames. It didn’t hang around long enough for me to improve the composition though.

The Avocet was having a bit of a shake to tidy its feathers after grooming and then stretched it’s wings allowing a more interesting image. Unfortunately the light isn’t that good though.

This is one of the two Ruff that came close to the hide. Unfortunately the waters edge had a cream, yellow foam along it which I find distracting. Once again, not the greatest of light for the image as it is back-lit and quite a high contrast scene.

This is a very alert male Greylag goose that came very close to the hide with his family of nine goslings. While the female fed with the goslings, the male stayed very alert, especially as he was only one and a half metres from the hide window. 

On my way out of the reserve, this male Wren started singing by the edge of the path, giving quite good views. Unfortunately he was facing away from me for most of his song, but did turn around long enough to allow a few frames with the motor drive on full.

After leaving RSPB Titchwell, I popped into Norfolk Wildlife Trust Cley Reserve for cake and a drink, which was made even more enjoyable by having two pairs of Marsh Harriers fly around over the reed beds. The pair at Titchwell didn’t come as close, so this was a great chance to observe them more. If only the ones seen at Llanrhidian Marsh would come as close!