Sunday 12 November 2023

2023 Highlights

For various reasons it's been a busy year that has distracted me from photography. There have been still a few highlights including a second visit to the brilliant Knepp Estate and a chance to see the white storks nesting there.

There was also a day in a raptor hide in Wiltshire where I got amazing views of buzzard, raven and red kites.

Sunday 11 September 2022

200 birds in 2022?

This year I decided to set myself the challenge of seeing 200 of our British Birds. Twitching rarities wasn't the aim of the game but more getting to some of the best bits of the British Isles to track down the species that live there. From the Ptarmigan high up on Cairngorm Slopes to Puffins on the Isle of Skomer I have had a lot of fun so far! Not reached the magic number yet though so a little bit of luck may be required!

A puffin looks out of its Skomer island nest

As always I have been attempting to photograph many of the species I have seen aiming to stitch the diary into a new and hopefully entertaining talk.

One of the best birds for sure so far, this golden eagle displaying on the Outer Hebrides.

Friday 28 January 2022

Plans for the new year

Each year starts with some exciting plans for wildlife trips and this year is no different. After two years of cancellations hopefully 2022 will see three trips to Scotland to enjoy the Cairngorm winter, Orkney in the spring and Perthshire in the Autumn. More trips into Wales are in the diary too to add to the new talk and April includes a date in Wiltshire to photograph the worlds largest flying bird!

A wood warbler from one of last years mid Wales trips.

Watch this space to see how it all pans out!

Tuesday 11 August 2020

All about butterflies!

 I have spent the last few months like most folk staying local to home and exploring parks and woodlands near me. During this time I have done a bit of photography (but not as much as I would like of course!) and have particularly enjoyed working with butterflies. I have always had a passing interest in butterflies and have photographed them many times of course but until this spring not gone out of my way to find them.

migrant painted lady

peacock in the bluebells

I missed out on the biggest UK species despite two days looking for purple emperor in the woodlands of Warwickshire but did find the most diminutive in small blue on the chalk hills of Hampshire.

small blue at roost

Along the way though I had a lot of fun with many other ore common species and saw some interesting behaviour, whilst honing my technique in photographing these delicate little beauties!

Green veined white taking minerals from a fire site

I have missed a few species though so have ordered a new diary to make sure that 2021 sees me be in the right place at the right time!

chalkhill bee feeding on wild marjoram

Wednesday 22 January 2020

all things Wildlife

I have been very quiet on this blog recently as I work on a brand new website allthingswildlife which unsurprisingly has been taking up most of my desk time.

Launching soon it will be an ever growing collection of articles, reviews, guides and images all inspired by wildlife and the countryside.

I have though managed a couple of outings with my camera including to Donna Nook in Lincs for the grey seal breeding season.

It's a real wildlife spectacle and well worth a visit between October and December.

I also spent a day at Aberystwyth on the Welsh coast and was rewarded with some great bird life including a very obliging kingfisher,

a surprise dipper

and a pretty decent starling murmuration.

Wednesday 22 May 2019

Illustrated Talks

I am currently enjoying lots of interest in my illustrated talks and it looks like I am going to be very busy visiting lots of friendly groups all over the Midlands and beyond. As a boost I have invested in new equipment and so my wild boar, puffins or headless eagles (if you have seen my 'secrets of a wildlife photographer' you'll have enjoyed that one!) will be projected razor sharp and in beautiful colour.

I also have new talks in the pipeline including the wonderful wildlife of Sydney and the Blue Mountains, watch this space for more details.

If you want to find out more please click on the illustrated talks link to the right for all the information. I hope to see you soon.

Friday 29 March 2019

Getting to know the Forest of Dean part one

My 'Secret Wildlife of the Forest of Dean' talk has been really popular with groups ranging from wildlife groups, photography clubs and social clubs. People are always amazed with the diversity of wildlife there and I often get lots of questions about where to go to get the best wildlife experiences.

This is a very brief guide which includes the sites that I talk about in my talk and some of the species.  I often visit the forest in a day as I live within a couple of hours but to do it justice it is lovely to stay in one of the many B&Bs and Hotels locally. Click forest of dean accomodation to find a list that includes The Speech House and many others that have character and are ideally placed to explore the forest.

A young boar foraging opposite The Speech House hotel

During the talk we visit the feeders at Cyril Hart arboretum which is on the B4226 just East of the Speech House hotel. Here you can see many woodland birds including nuthatch, great spotted woodpecker and marsh tit. There is also a log where people feed the birds in the alternative car park at the other end of the arboretum on the B4234 and sometimes brambling can be seen in the winter.

New Fancy is at the other end of the B road running south from Speech House. the large free car park is on the left before the junction and is well signed. The viewpoint is found to the south of the car park and it accessed by a sweeping path, to the left of the path adders sometimes bask but they can be found in any sunny spots around the area. There are other woodland trails leading from here too and crossbills can be seen in the trees and sometimes coming down to puddles to drink. in the spring there is often a tree pipit on territory by the car park and also garden warbler in the scrub by the viewpoint. Many people go to New Fancy to see Goshawk and certainly the elevated views across the forest maximise chances of seeing them from February when they do their display flights over the canopy. On a warm clear day chances are good but they can be distant.

Hawfinches can be seen in various places around the forest where seed is available, they favour hornbeam so look out for the beech like leaves that are extra serrated around the edge. A reliable place is on the approach to Parkend Church. The church is on the Yorkley Road out of the village. Crossbills also sometimes come to drink from puddles in the church car park.

Cannop Pond is always worth a visit and can be found by parking opposite the pool on the B4234 or by accessing the main car park from the B4226. The main pool harbours the largest collection of the splendid Mandarin duck; plus kingfisher, raven and many other species can be seen here too. There is a bird table on the road to the free main car park at Cannop Ponds and many regular woodland birds can be seen here. Walking south along the Cannop brook can often be rewarded with views of dipper and grey wagtail.

Dipper are also found on the brook running north from the Wenchford car park at Organs Green. This path leads to one of the best areas of beech in the forest and hence a wonderful display of bluebells in the spring. This is a lovely walk and the car park has picnic areas and loos that open during the summer months. Parking is chargeable but I think I'm right in saying that the ticket can be reused in other FC car parks on the same day.

Dipper at Wenchford
Many of the key woodland birds including migrants pied flycatcher, wood warbler and redstart are found at RSPB Nagshead and a walk around the trails in the spring will usually be productive. The benefit of this site is that there are many eyes out looking so don’t be shy and others will always be happy to share location info.

One of the most popular places for tourists and regulars alike is Symonds Yat Rock. The viewpoint here is spectacular with views across seven counties and the river Wye circling around below. This has been the home of nesting peregrine falcons for over 30 years and a great place to see these dashing birds of prey. The views mean that other wildlife can be seen too including marsh tit by the viewpoint, kingfisher along the river and raven which nest nearby. Symonds Yat is always worth a visit for the views alone and the peregrines are usually nearby but best chances to see them is when they are nesting between April and July.

Part two will follow soon with details of other forest specialities including the great grey shrike and of course the elusive wild boar.