Blog

Big Spawn Count 2013
18th January 2013 - 0 comments
Pond conservation are asking for the public's help to participate in their annual survey of frog and toad spawn in garden ponds.

For more information visit http://www.pondconservation.org.uk/bigponddip/BigSpawncount
RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2013
11th January 2013 - 0 comments
In: Nature
Last year seems to have flown by, unfortunately I haven't been able to update the site as regularly as I would have liked.

I have just received an e-mail reminder from the RSPB that the time has come around again for the Big Garden Birdwatch.

This is an opportunity to participate in a nationwide wildlife survey by watching and recording the birds you see in one hour.

The event takes place over the weekend of the 26th-27th of January and more details can be found here:

http://www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch/
Free water saving gadgets from Thames Water
01st July 2012 - 0 comments
Many areas in the south of England were subject to a hosepipe ban this year showing how important it is to conserve water.
Thames Water is offering some water saving gadgets to their customers. Visit the Water Wisely site for more details, the site also has tips on saving water.
Big Butterfly Count 2012
09th June 2012 - 0 comments
The time is approaching for the Butterfly conservation's 'Big Butterfly Count', all they are asking is that you spend 15 minutes counting butterflies between the 14th July and 5th August.

You can do your count anywhere in your garden or while out walking in your local park or countryside.

For more information including an identification sheet you can download please visit http://www.bigbutterflycount.org/
Make your nature count this weekend!
01st June 2012 - 0 comments
The Make Your Nature Count Survey starts this weekend, the RSPB would like you to count your garden birds for one hour duing the perios of the 2nd to tht 10th June 2012. Then while submitting the results answer a few questions about the other wildlife that visits.

For more details please refer to the Make Your Nature Count Website
Make your Nature Count 2-10 June
29th April 2012 - 0 comments
The RSPB are arranging a garden wildlife survey in June. Between the 2-10 June they would like you to record the birds that visit in one hour and also let them know any other wildlife that visits.
For more information visit the RSPB Website.
Spring Flowers
10th April 2012 - 0 comments
Spring is finally here! The bees are about and the early spring flowers are in bloom.
The snake's head fritillary was a surprise as I planted a few bulbs two years ago and this is the first time I have seen them.


Snake's head fritillary - Fritillaria meleagris
Canon 1D MKIV with 180mm macro lens
1/250s @ f5 ISO 200


Woodland Tulip -Tulipa sylvestris
Canon 1D MKIV with 180mm macro lens
1/800s @ f8 ISO 200


Marsh Marigold - Caltha palustris
Canon 1D MKIV with 180mm macro lens
1/50s @ f13 ISO 200


More images from this collection can be found in the flowers gallery.
Being nice to Bees
03rd April 2012 - 0 comments
In: Nature
I am trying to my bit for the local wildlife by creating a wildlife friendly garden. One project was the digging of a garden pond which has become a home to newts and damselflies.
We have also planted a hedge with a mixture of Beech, Hawthorn, Yew and Pyracanthas to help the birds.
We also try and do our bit for the bees too and this year I have increased the number of bee houses!
The photo below shows a couple of Red Mason Bee nests which are attached about a metre off the ground on a roughly south facing fence.

The tubes that aren't showing white are ones from last year that had residents that have overwintered, the large tube is a purchased bee cocoon collection to boost the local population.
We often see queen bumblebees in the garden I have placed a bumble bee skep at the back of the garden on the off chnace someone may take up residence.

I have also boosted the number of early flowering species in the garden with some Winter Flowering Honeysuckle, White Dead Nettle and Red Dead Nettle (pictured below).

If you would like to learn more about gardening for bees please visit the BBCT website which has some great information.

BBCT: Gardening for bumblebees
BBCT - Walk for Bees 2012 Bumblebee Survey
08th March 2012 - 0 comments
In: Nature
I received an e-mail today from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust requesting volunteers for their population survey initiative 'Bee Walk' so I thought I would share the details.

From the e-mail:

Why Walk for Bees?

While previous bumblebee surveys have focused on collating individual records in order to accurately map bumblebee distributions, BeeWalk will be the first scheme to enable us to collect bumblebee abundance data.

This information is integral to monitoring bumblebee population changes and will allow us to detect early warning signs of population declines.

All data collected will contribute to important long-term monitoring of bumblebee populations in response to climate and land-use change.

BeeWalk will be invaluable in helping us to conserve this dramatically declining and much-loved group of buzzing insects.

Methodology: not only is it useful, it's also good fun!

Volunteers will walk a 1-2km route of their own choosing once a month between March and October recording all of the bumblebee species and the number of each species they see.

If you are interested in joining this survey, please read carefully through the BeeWalk starter pack (attached) which includes recording sheets and detailed instructions.

You could choose to upgrade to BeeWalk Pro (info also attached), a more detailed survey in which the flowers that the bees are foraging on are also recorded.

If you feel that you can fully commit to this important survey, email us with your name and address at beewalk@bumblebeeconservation.org

With your help, we'll gather enough information on bumblebee populations to steer conservation efforts in the right direction


I have included the attachments they provided in the links below:

Beewalkpack.pdf
Beewalkpro.pdf
Sigma 500mm F4.5 EX DG APO HSM - First Impressions
16th February 2012 - 1 comment


I will caveat this review in saying I am no expert when it comes to cameras and lenses and haven't the opportunity to try out every lens there is. This is just my personal opinion on this lens and I am in no way affiliated to Sigma.

A recent addition to my lens collection is the Sigma 500mm super telephoto lens. It took me a while to make a decision mainly because it is a significant investment and also I was considering the Canon 500mm F4 IS.
In the end I decided on the Sigma based on a few criteria:

  • Price at the time of purchasing the Sigma was around ¬£2,000 cheaper than the the Canon (even more now the second generation 500mm is the only one in production).

  • Weight - The Sigma is around 700g lighter than the Canon


The Canon has Image Stabilisation which I find extremely useful in my other lenses but in the end I decided as I would be using the lens mostly on a tripod I could do without.

The first thing that struck me on oepning the box was the size of this lens the dimensions (12x35cm) don't do it justice it's a big lens and at 3.1Kg, heavy too. Even with an Optech strap it takes it's toll on your neck if you carry it for a while.

The lens comes with a case, drop in polarising filter and lens hood. The finish on the lens is excellent although I have covered it in a lenscoat cover mostly to protect it from scuffs and scratches.

The first problem I came across was supporting the new set-up I was borderline on the weight limit for my Manfrotto 190 XProB and it showed with some vibration and the lens just wasn't steady enough. I decided a new tripod was in order and purchased a Giottos MTL 8360B Carbon Fibre Tripod, I also bought a Wimberly sidekick to go with it, the head I use is a Giottos MH1300. This combination is doing an admirable job of supporting everything and I have had no problems so far.

I took some test shots in the back garden and I was very impressed with the quality even wide open as I hope hte shots below demonstrate, I also found the bokeh very pleasing to the eye.


1/500s f4.5 ISO 400


1/250s f6.3 ISO 400


The lens works ok with a Kenko teleconverter although the pin taping trick is need to maintain autofocus.

Using a big telephoto like this is a whole new experience the logistics alone are difficult my rucksack is now fairly heavy so I cannot slip a few more lenses in anymore! I do miss the lack of spontaneity, no quick snapshots with this lens at least not yet.
I am still getting the hang of using this lens properly but I am happy with my decision to buy this lens and my first impressions have been good ones. I haven't had many opportunities to take the lens out but shown below are a couple of recent photographs I have taken with this lens.



Wigeon - Anas penelope
Canon EOS 7D with 500mm lens
1/640s @ f8 ISO 200


Ring-Necked Parakeet - Psittacula krameri
Canon EOS 7D with 500mm lens
1/800s @ f8 ISO 200


Redshank - Tringa totanus
Canon EOS 7D with 500mm lens
1/320s @ f6.3 ISO 200


Goldfinch - Carduelis carduelis
Canon EOS 7D with 500mm lens
1/320s @ f6.3 ISO 200


I will update this blog later in the year with further impressions of the lens as I get to use it more.
Kent Wildlife Trust - Oare Marshes
08th December 2011 - 0 comments
I paid a visit to the Oare Marshes nature reserve yesterday, the site is managed by the Kent Wildlife Trust and is found on the Kent Coast near to Faversham.

It is a great site with a variety of habitats including grazing marsh, salt marsh and mud flats.
A number of waders were evident icluding Avocet, Redshank, Ruff, Black tailed Godwit and Curlew.
Also many duck species such as Widgeon and Teal. The reserve has three hides and a nature trail, for more information please visit the Kent Wildlife Trust.
Unfortunately I was yet again blessed with a blustery day which made photography extremely difficult and as I am still learning to use my new 500mm lens not all that successful, I did manage a few I liked though.



Redshank - Tringa totanus
Canon EOS 7D with 500mm lens
1/320s @ f6.3 ISO 200


Lapwing - Vanellus vanellus
Canon EOS 7D with 500mm lens
1/500s @ f8 ISO 200


Avocet - Recurvirostra avosetta
Canon EOS 7D with 500mm lens
1/1000s @ f8 ISO 400
A windy day in Essex
06th December 2011 - 0 comments
I took a trip out to the RSPB Reserve in Rainham yesterday. It is a great reserve and definitely a good place to visit.

It was a very windy day which made photographing with my new lens (a Sigma 500mm lens) a bit difficult as it caught the wind like a sail.
A number of species were present but not many were in range of my camera however it was an enjoyable day and they do good cake!

Highlight of the day was a sighting of a Godwit, unfortunately I didn't have time to set up my tripod as I had just arrived in the hide so shot handheld.



Black Tailed Godwit - Limosa limosa
Canon EOS 7D with 500mm lens
1/250s @ f5 ISO 400


Lapwing - Vanellus vanellus
Canon EOS 7D with 500mm lens
1/250s @ f5.6 ISO 200


Goldfinch - Carduelis carduelis
Canon EOS 7D with 500mm lens
1/320s @ f6.3 ISO 200


Collared Dove - Streptopelia decaocto
Canon EOS 7D with 500mm lens and 1.4x Converter
1/500s @ f8 ISO 400


Greylag Goose - Anser Anser
Canon EOS 7D with 500mm lens
1/800s @ f7.1 ISO 400
Black and White Birds
04th December 2011 - 0 comments
Some more photographs from my Isle of Wight trip, these were taken on the beach in Ryde.
After checking a tide timetable I aimed to get to the beach just before high tide so that the birds would be moved towards me rather than me having to chase them.

I was in luck and was able to set myself up and wait, the Sanderlings were always on the move so often it mostly just a case of settling in and waiting and they would walk past you.

They never really stopped moving so I used AI Servo and the central focussing point. I have the AF-On button on the 7D configured to stop AF so I can control the focussing when a subject stops.



Pied Wagtail - Motacilla alba
Canon EOS 7D with 100-400 lens @ 400mm
1/400s @ f7.1 ISO 200


Sanderling - Calidris alba
Canon EOS 7D with 100-400 lens @ 400mm
1/400s @ f7.1 ISO 200


Sanderling - Calidris alba
Canon EOS 7D with 100-400 lens @ 400mm
1/640s @ f6.3 ISO 400


Sanderling - Calidris alba
Canon EOS 7D with 100-400 lens @ 400mm
1/400s @ f6.3 ISO 200
More Red Squirrels
01st December 2011 - 0 comments
I paid another visit to the Isle of Wight last week part holiday and part photography. No visit to the Isle of Wight is complete unless I visit the nature reserve at Alverstone Mead and try and photograph the squirrels.

On the first visit I was not able to get any decent shots they always seemed to be too quick for me!
On the last day of the holiday I had one more go, I cheated a bit and put some walnuts out on a fallen tree in the hope of getting a likely candidate to sit still. And after about two hours my patience was rewarded!
Light levels were low so a high ISO and wide aperture were used.


Red Squirrel - Sciurus vulgaris
Canon EOS 7D with 100-400 lens @ 275mm
1/160s @ f5.6 ISO 800

This one gives away the bribery!


Red Squirrel - Sciurus vulgaris
Canon EOS 7D with 100-400 lens @ 275mm
1/160s @ f5.6 ISO 800


Red Squirrel - Sciurus vulgaris
Canon EOS 7D with 100-400 lens @ 400mm
1/160s @ f5.6 ISO 800


It's not just squirrels at Alverstone though I did manage one bird photo!

Chaff inch - Fringilla coelebs
Canon EOS 7D with 100-400 lens @ 400mm
1/160s @ f5.6 ISO 800
Canon 40D and more for sale
16th October 2011 - 0 comments
I have just listed a Canon 40D and other items for sale on eBay, the Auctions end Sunday 23rd October 2011.

Canon EOS 40D - SOLD


Canon BG-E2N Battery Grip - SOLD


Manfrotto 391 RC2 Tripod Head - SOLD


Manfrotto 685B Neotec Monopod - SOLD
Lenses and Tripod Head for sale on eBay
10th October 2011 - 0 comments
I have just uploaded some lenses and a tripod head for sale onto eBay, the lens auctions end on the 20th October and the tripod head on the 23rd October .

Canon EF-S 10-22mm - SOLD


Canon EF 50mm f1.8 MKII - SOLD


Canon EF 28mm f2.8 - SOLD


Manfrotto 410 Junior Geared Tripod Head
Long overdue update
02nd October 2011 - 0 comments
Just a quick visit to upload some photos, there can be found in the 'Latest Additions'.
First Damselflies of the season
04th May 2011 - 0 comments
For me at least! I returned home from holiday to find a damselfly exuvia on one of the reeds in the pond.
I then spotted this little lady perched at the side of the pond:



Large Red Damselfly - Pyrrhosoma nymphula
Canon EOS 7D, Sigma 180mm Macro
1/160s @ f11 ISO 200


She seemed to be settled in for the night so I checked this morning and was able to get a shot I have been always wanting to get of an insect covered in morning dew.


Large Red Damselfly - Pyrrhosoma nymphula
Canon EOS 7D, Sigma 180mm Macro
1/4s @ f16 ISO 400


Then later in the day some males arrived and the process of creating next year's generation began.


Large Red Damselflies ovipositing
Canon EOS 7D, Sigma 180mm Macro
1/125s @ f11 ISO 200
I'm on show!
23rd April 2011 - 0 comments
A while ago I put forward some images for consideration by the Royal Photographic Society's Nature Group for inclusion in their annual exhibition.
I have just heard that one of my images will indeed be on display, the photo is of a singing Wren and was taken in South Norwood Country Park, South East London.


Crab Spider - Misumena vaita
19th April 2011 - 0 comments
Normally when I see a Crab Spider they are cleverly camouflaged against a similarly coloured flower.
I was surprised to see this little lady providing a great contrast against a bluebell.



Crab Spider - Misumena vaita
Canon EOS 7D with 100mm Macro
1/200s @ f13 ISO 400


Crab Spider - Misumena vaita
Canon EOS 7D with 100mm Macro
1/100s @ f16 ISO 400