December 15, 2013

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Before the Christmas holidays start, here are few pictures of the male woodpecker. The pictures are taken from my hiding-place, which is nowdays almost a little too close even when the camera lens is fully zoomed out. Which means that I only get half of the woodpecker :)
Not complaining though, it's not easy to get that close to these birds :) and they are very nice to watch.
On one of the pictures below you can see its long thin tongue that it uses to get the larvae out once it has hacked its way to it.
Merry Christmas to You all, and see you in the Happy New Year :)

December 13, 2013

Small birds up close

Here are some photos taken from the hide i have in the woods, I have moved the perches even closer to the hide so I can take pictures and see the birds up close. Think it's a pretty nice relaxing to just sit there and try to get some good picture. The Christmas is approaching and on Monday I'm going to Stockholm to celebrate Christmas and New Year in Sweden, it will be nice to come home for a while. I'm not sure if I will be blogging anything from Sweden.

Coal tit

Blue tit

December 9, 2013

Starling murmuration at Leighton moss nature reserve

Couple of months ago I was watching Autumn Watch, a TV show on BBC, showing Leighton Moss a nature reserve just south of Lake District NP where starlings gather during winter. Nothing special about that maybe, except that its around 50,000 of them flying in every evening to roost in the tall reeds. While looking for an appropriate roosting place they gather in large flocks, sometimes actually all of the 50,000 and do all sorts of acrobatic air-formations.
So, late November we went to Morecamber Bay to actually see this.
I have seen it earlier on TV as well, but seeing it live is really awesome.
Unfortunately we were a bit unlucky the first evening with the weather, overcast, and bad weather means they fly directly into the reeds.
But the second evening it looked a bit more promising and as predicted at first they were coming in small groups but gathered into larger and larger flocks for about a 30min. During that time showing they flight skills in all sorts of formations.
Its not easy to capture as you might already know, especially as the reed is rather tall. Also, some days when in large flocks they get attacked by march harrier and other birds of prey and form even more shapes, but nothing like that happened this evening.
Hopefully we will be go back in January to get some better pictures before they fly back to the continent. As mentioned earlier, they gather here during winter and that due to more food and milder climate.
Not to complain, but there are better areas to go to where starlings gather in greater number. Sometimes up to 2million of them, but that is about 6h drive.


December 6, 2013

Lathkill dale

Last week a friend was off from work, so he wanted to go out and hike somewhere in the Peak District NP. He had found something in the White Peak area called Lathkill dale located near Bakewell that sounded interesting for some hiking.
Lathkill Dale has a history of lead mining and quite often you can see caves, mines and old buildings along the trail that goes through the beautiful valley that is of limestone.
It's very similar to Dove Dale that I blogged about a while ago, but a big difference is the clear water that has a lovely turquoise color. We saw nice trout in the river almost everywhere and even the dipper did join them in the river. We did not go all the way where the valley opens up and shows the limestone cliffs, that because we simply had so much to photograph along the way and it was getting darker so we headed to the car. All in all it was a trip of about 11km.
I can really recommend to go there you can also look for fossils along the trail where lime stone has fallen down from the cliffs.

Old Millstone

December 3, 2013

Great Spotted Woodpecker

By now I have had time to sit in my hideout few times and the birds have gone used to me and the camera noise.
The biggest success is that even the woodpecker dare to stay at the feeding place, at most 4 m away. I find myself sometimes just sitting there watching it, its amazing as I usually just hear it or see if from afar. Both male and female are there but it is only the male that has dared to sit 'still', but from a bit further away I can see them talk or sometimes even argue :)
Other birds are much closer, at 2m, as I have rigged a branch there with the nuts and other yummy stuff.
Beside the birds, there is a little field mouse who also is visiting, will try to get some pictures for next post. Also a pheasant is getting closer, but it is the most shy of them all. It is carefully sneaking up among the ferns and listens very closely for any odd sounds.Will see later in the winter what the feeding place will have to offer, but for now here are some pictures of the beautiful woodpecker.


November 30, 2013

A Walk at Limb Valley

Last week I visited Limb Valley, a rather large beech forest that I have planned to photograph for a while now but once again I was late.Just a week earlier it was too early to go there, I thought at least, as the colors were not really at their best. That said, at the end it all went fast, it also was windy so the leaves blew off :/ 
The valley is located just on the outskirts of Sheffield, on the border of the Peak District NP. I find it a pretty cozy little valley much because of the big beech forest.
An observation, throughout many walks I have taken I have seen that people have hang ropes from the trees over the streams. Sure it sounds/looks like a lot of funny but what if the rope breakes? or you can not manage to hold yourself up? (Am I getting old questioning this? :) ) 
On the last pic in this post, I have taken a pic of a really stupid place where somebody have placed a rope directly above a steep fall, 3 - 4m straight down on to a rock.

Here is the rope swinging place, would you dare?

November 27, 2013

Early Morning at Stanage Edge

 I took the 5:30am bus to the Lodge Moor one of the mornings last week, and from there walked to  Stanage Edge in darkness. A walk of about 5km. Why did I do this you may ask yourself? :) Well, the best light tends to be at sunrise or sunset, and that day I wanted to have sunrise. Was hoping also for the fog and autumn colors in the forest down in Hathersage valley. But once there, no autumn colors or fog! A bit dissapointed, as I was there only a week earlier and the colors were still there. Anyhow, while waiting for the sun to rise, some mist was created around the edges. Got a bit happier. 
This was still a bit of a challenge as I was using a graduated filter to get the exposure correct. Without it the sky would get over-exposed, but it kept foging up. Between each picture I needed to clean it. The battle continued for a while. 
As it was a bit windy, I needed to hold down the tripod while taking the pictures too :)) You can hear, this was one of my more exciting photo sessions :)

The best, it did NOT rain.

November 25, 2013

A Walk Through Sherwood Forest

Last Sunday, after spending the Saturday on the coast with the gray seals at Donna Nook, went to Sherwood Forest. Located less than an hour away, i'ts a surprise we have not been there before. The weather that day was not the best, heavy clouds and in general being very dark. Still, it's nice/good to get out.
Once at the visitor center you have to choose from three different routes, but as you know it would be not like us to take anything less than the longest ;) Which is about 6km long :))
It goes through parts of the forest that are more than 500 years old, and is thought to be one of the oldest in the whole of Europe. The oldest, as far as they can calculate, is an oak called the Major Oak with its 800 years.
The path as it's not only going through the forest, and the weather itself, made this walk and photo 'session' not particularly special. I do not really think I took good pictures this time, but its always a challange to try to capture something as a forest.

If you didn't know, Sherwood Forest is world famous as its the legendary home of Robin Hood :))

Major Oak

November 20, 2013

Grey Seal Colony at Donna Nook

Last weekend, we found our way to Donna Nook, approx. 2 hour drive straight to the east coast. The reason was that every year from Sept to Jan, the grey seals are on the beach to give birth and to feed their young. Because it is a popular destination during weekends we started off early. The wish was to be there before the sunrise. Once there at just before 7:00 (count 2 hours backwards to get our start time) we walked straight to the beach where the seals are. Already that early there was few people there, some other dedicated (read crazy) photographers but also some 'seal wardens'. While chatting with them, we found out that just until now 771 poppies had been born, very precise number. During that morning, we could see 5 newborn. At least along the fence, as they looked a bit sticky and yellow.
Along the beach, a fence (approx 1 km) was put up to both protect the seal but also humans. Seals are rather agressive, especially with puppies. Another issue with humans getting to close is that the puppies are that cute that you want to pet them, and because of that touch and the human smell the mother is most probable to abandon the pup.
Anyhow, rather soon while the sun was rising it got clear to us that it was a good move to get there early. Already around 9:00 it got crowded.
I'm all pro for pretecting wild animals, and putting up the fence was the best move they could have done. Its not the best for photography though. When taking pictures its always slightly from above and its rarely good.
The location of this beach is perfect for seals, it's sand dunes and tall grass. At high tide the sea is almost up to the fence while at low tide you can see sand as far as the eye can see. The area is also a military training ground for fighter planes and of course neither is bothered by the other.
Approximately 40% of gray seal population in the entire world can be found in the UK, and apart from this beach they can also be found in smaller populations in Wales and along Scotland's coast.

One of the pictures I wanted to take was of fighting bulls, but during that morning they were rather lazy. We could see some at far distance, but most usually it was just females growling at the male to keep him away from the puppy. They would protecting their young with their lives at stake and without hesitation engage in fights with a larger male that have come to close to the pup, sometimes they are even three times their size.
The males are keeping close, as the females abandon their puppies after 2-3 weeks, and they are ready for mating. The puppy are at that time sufficiently fat to make its way to the sea and start hunting themself, and believe me, they are FAT :)
Hope to go there again in mid-December when everything peaks and then I might get action pictures of fighting bulls.
This is really something I can recommend for families to do, it's easily accessible and it's awesome to see so many seals and their puppies in one place.
Cute puppy

Cows fighting

couple of weeks old pup

Newly born

Cow and bull fighting

A lot of people

The view from one point towards the sea

Keep out

Cow taking her puppy to security from a attacking Bull

Play time

They need to rest too :)