Saturday, 8 December 2012


Buzzard by GriGGerZ
Buzzard, a photo by GriGGerZ on Flickr.
A shot of a Buzzard that I took on a stroll along the Itchen Navigation this morning..

Monday, 15 October 2012

Whiteley Woods Bimble

It's been a while since I went for a bimble over to Whiteley Woods so Sunday afternoon armed with the camera I off I went. Part of the woodland runs alongside the local golf course and although a bit thick in places I decided to follow a used wildlife trail just inside the woodland.
Along the way I found two Fox kill sites, one was a Wood Pigeon and the other a Duck that I assume originated from the golf course.
I stopped for a sit and a drink of water when a Squirrel popped out of the edge of the woodland and started foraging in the grass. As I took a few shots of him he acknowledged that I was there, posed for a few pictures and carried on about his business.

I sat there for 10 minutes taking in the surroundings when I heard a faint tap,tap,tap coming from just inside the tree line. Using the cover of the smaller trees I made my way to a large Ash tree where a Nuthatch was busy tapping away at the top of a branch. I stood and watched for a while and a soon as it moved off I carried on along the trail.

As I reached the end of the coppice the edge was so thick that it was nearly impossible to break out into the open. Using the same exit as the wildlife I came out onto an open space opposite a track. Once again I decided to have some water when in front of me a large Roe Buck appeared from the other side of the track and strolled across in front of me and off into the adjoining woodland. So it was time to put my tracking skills into practice. As I started off down the track to pick up the bucks trail another young buck appeared. I stood perfectly still and slowly raised the camera for a few shots. I could very clearly see that its right eye was damaged looking bulbous and white.

I let a few minutes pass and decided to try and pick up the trail of the buck that I had seen earlier. Now over Whiteley you don't often see many deer prints let alone some very defined prints with dew claws showing.. But due to the recent very wet weather I saw more Roe prints in that one visit than I have seen in all my time visiting Whiteley.

I slowly followed the trail untill it disappeared just into the woodland. Remembering back to the Woodlife tracking course that I had attended I engaged some speculative tracking which brought me to the end of a track. As I looked up the track, just around the corner there was the Buck. He was just sat there on the track chewing on some grass. I sat there for a good 10 minutes just watching and taking a few pictures. There wasn't really any way to approach him without being seen so I simply stayed low and made my way towards him. It was inevitable that he would see me at some point and when he did he stood up and checked me out. At this point I raise the camera to try and get a few shots.

Now I am no stranger to deer barking but what I was about to experience still makes me tingle now when I think of that moment. He gave off two almighty barks whilst staring straight at my face. Wow! It was loud and it sent a shiver down my spine, not in a scary way but in an awe type of way... It's hard to describe but a moment I will not forget!
He stood his ground for a little longer then took off up the track, even then he stopped once again and gave off another couple of barks before disappearing into the woodland.

I had seen Fox near this spot a couple of times before and after successfully calling in a Fox using the back of my hand to make a squealing sound I decided to try out a plastic Fox caller that I got for a couple of quid from the internet. I didn't see any Fox but it attracted a Magpie to me and a Green Woodpecker also seemed to take an interest sitting in a tree in front of me calling back.

So enough excitement for one afternoon, the sun was getting lower and the temperature was dropping so I decided to take a slow walk back to the car. Now normally at Whiteley your doing well if you see a couple of Roe but today was to be an exception. Yet another buck just off to the side of the track. I very slowly made my way pass him only really making direct eye contact with the camera, he watched me watching him as I passed him without incident and made my way back to the car and home.

One of the reasons for taking the camera was to practice shooting in low light. With the long lens it can be difficult to get good focused shots without the use of a tripod. So a lot of the shots I took were with an ISO of 1600 & 3200 all handheld. The issue with this is that the pictures are very noisy. I recently discovered a very good filter / plugin for Photoshop elements called Topaz Denoise that greatly reduces the noise but doesn't affect the sharpness of the picture. This opens up the light range in which I can use the lens. If your into wildlife photography bearing in mind that some of the prime time for wildlife is in low light conditions then this plugin is a must.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

River Hamble Hampshire

A few pictures from last weekend’s visit to the River Hamble.. 

Wood Mouse

Whilst out in the garden yesterday I noticed a Wood Mouse helping himself to the nuts from the bird feeder. I sat and watched him for a good half an hour, even had time to grab the camera and take some footage..   

Monday, 17 September 2012

A Stroll Along Titchfield Canal

After a nice roast dinner I decided to take a stroll along the Titchfield Canal. I made my way up the canal towards Titchfield Haven without seeing much at all due to the volume of walkers, dogs and cyclists. On the way back down the canal I sat for a while in the hope that the traffic would thin out a bit as the evening approached.
As I sat there taking a sip of water I could hear a nibbling sound followed by debris falling from the hawthorn bush above me. I looked up to see a beady eye staring back at me.

 The squirrel just sat there for the next ten minutes watching me watching it whilst have its Sunday tea..

The next sighting was Cormorant that had just taken off from the adjacent field..  

Near the car park, on the other side of the canal was a meadow. Here there were two Roe Deer grazing, a doe and her fawn. The fawn was a lot lighter than mum and still had a few white spots on its back.

I stayed here and watched them grazing for at least 20 minutes..

Friday, 14 September 2012

Feeding Sign - Live

A few weeks back I decided to watch a badger sett that I had recently discovered, in a nut shell I sat for two hours for about 30 seconds of Badger emerging from the sett and running off through the woodland. Still the main thing is I saw the badger... 

So after the 30 seconds of excitement was over (just joking, there’s nothing like a relaxing zone in) I went for a stroll along the river’s edge. Whilst watching the light fade and the birds finding roosting spots along the river I heard nibbling sound to one side of me. I could see a stem of grass moving around and every now and then it would drop a couple of centimetres.
Something, I’m guessing a mouse was having an evening snack. 

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Water Vole Watching

The past couple of weeks I have been visiting the Itchen Navigation watching and photographing Water Voles to gather information towards one of my Woodlife Diploma assignments

Each time I visit my eyes have become more tuned to the water voles and their habitat. I have had locals ask me what I’m photographing, when I tell them water voles they ask “do we still get them here?”
I then show them some photographs of the day or simply point out the burrows on the opposite side of the navigation with a water vole sat there munching on a nice juicy reed. The response is normally I thought that was a rat or they plainly just didn’t see it.
This makes me chuckle as this particular part of the Itchen is called “Water Vole way”

So apart from getting some nice photographs of the water voles I went in search of actual signs of their presence. Water voles will use latrines to mark out their territory so I really wanted to find some of these territorial markers. Now a lot of these latrines are in and along the banks in the reed and sedge and can be quite difficult to get to without wading through the water and although I found scat I didn’t find a latrine. Apart from also not wanting to disturb the water voles the level of the Itchen had risen a lot so any chance of recent latrines could have been under water, still something else for me to look for next time.

Water voles also use feeding stations. At these feeding stations you can find strips of reed or sedge where the water voles discarded the non succulent parts of the plant. I could also feeding signs all around in the vegetation, reeds cut off at a 45° angle made by the water voles bright orange incisors.

Where the water level hadn't raised above the mud I also found some water vole prints.

I have spent a lot of this time just watching and for the most they forage for food and sit around eating, waters voles will eat up to 80% of their body weight in food each day. But every now and then you get some excitement, water voles are territorial and when one strolls into another’s territory a rough and tumble normally ensues. 

The picture above is a little deceiving, it looks like the two are up on their back legs having a good look around when in reality they are in a full on rough and tumble with the water vole at the front about to retreat back into the water.

Another great day at the along the Itchen Navigation...

Now I need to get that assignment done......

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Woodlife Trails Diploma Weekend

I spent the weekend just gone at Hatfield Forest on a Woodlife Trails Diploma Weekend with some of my fellow students demonstrating verbally and practically some of the skills that we have already learnt. The skills that we successfully demonstrated were then awarded to us. The Diploma Weekends are always a relaxed affair unlike some courses that you attend that make you feel as if you are being crammed with lots of info in the shortest possible time.

Most turn up with their minds and movements running at around 90MPH, a busy week at work, rushing around getting things done, battling through the traffic to get to the course and then just as if someone has enabled the limiter you slow right down and start to immerse yourself in to the Forest. The calming effect of the Forest washes over you and your set for a weekend of good company and learning.

On the Sunday we were on our way back from the obligatory cuppa and bag of chips at the National Trust cafe when a Fallow Doe and her Fawn were spotted some way off the track into the trees.
I was carrying my camera with the 400mm lens attached and I could see mum muzzling the Fawn. Mum decided to go for a walk leaving the Fawn sat on its own. Not wanting to distress the Fawn we all stayed back on the track whilst Pablo very carefully went in for a closer look. He skilfully managed to get within metres of the fawn without disturbing or distressing it.

I don’t think he will mind me mentioning that when he returned back to the group he was emotionally affected by the experience. Pablo has been tracking for a long time and tracked many animals so it was great  to see that even your mentors still get affected by what they are teaching, this shows they still have a real passion for what they do..

I can only hope that one day I will have a similar experience.

Cheers Guys..  

Sunday, 13 May 2012

More Macro

Macro photography can get a bit addictive so first thing this morning I was up and out into the garden looking for some more macro subjects. I found a Broad-Bodied Chaser Dragonfly a Hawthorn Shieldbug with an Aphid (Greenfly) and a Damselfly.

Click on the images to see more detail...

Red Mason Bee with Mites

Yesterday evening I was watching a couple of Bees flying in and out of a screw hole in the pergola. As they started to settle in for the night I decided to try and get a few macro shots of them tucked up in bed, so to speak..

One of the Bees came out of its hole and appeared to be shaking. I switched the camera to video crop mode to take a closer look and to my surprise I could see lodgers on the Bees back with one crawling around its head.

I have to admit it was a surprised to see them, something as small as a Bee with its own lodgers.

After some research I identified the Bee as a Red Mason Bee and its lodgers are Pollen Mites or Krombeins Hairy-Footed Mite (Chaetodactylus Krombeini).

This Bee only had a few Mites but they can become so laden with these hitchhikers that they are unable to fly and then face certain death. If you See a Bee on the ground get your magnifying glass out and take a peek, you never know what you might see..

Monday, 23 April 2012

Woodlife Trails Diploma - Wilderness Immersion

This weekend as part of the Woodlife Diploma I attended the Wilderness Immersion Course. I attended the course back in April 2011 then helped out on the same course in the following October.
Although it was essentially the same course, due to the different time of year both yielded different experiences. So when I returned to take part this year I was pleasantly surprised to find that once again a whole new experience was gained.

As I open my journal to select some parts of the weekend to blog about the smell of the wood smoke fills my nostrils which invokes memories of some of the weekend’s experiences.

I set my alarm for 5am (not that I needed it) and set off for a dawn zone-in. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts this is my favourite zone-in time. From blacks and greys to pastel s and then a burst of full colour, the birds wake and start claiming their territory. Squirrels quarrel and play in the trees and then if you’re lucky a close encounter with one of the woodland residents.
Just down the track from the base camp I position myself up against a tree and began zoning-in and immersing myself into the surrounding woodland. There was a slight mist rolling around the track and I could hear Blue Tits, Great Tits, Blackbirds, Woodpecker and a Cuckoo. Then my first sighting of the morning was Muntjac Deer crossing the track in front of me..
After that I could hear a Cock Pheasant working its way across the woodland behind me. He emerged from the edge of the woodland and started to cross the track. Every now and then he would stop and give out a call whilst shaking his wings, have a quick scan around and onward with his patrol.
Then it’s back to camp for some breakfast.

After a day of tuition from JP and Pablo it was time for everyone to put their skills into practice and find a layup for the night, for me this would produce a first time encounter.  I was fortunate enough to be laid up within sight of a Badger Sett. I zoned-in and sat and waited in hope of seeing my first Badger in the wild emerging from a sett.  My first sighting was a Fox. I gave out a squealing sound that I have previously used to call in a Fox but instead of coming towards me it circled back on itself and then disappeared.  Later it was explained to me that the Fox was probably instigating a search pattern looking for what it thought was injured prey.
Some 30 minutes later and the light was dropping, I was beginning to ache and was starting to get cold when suddenly a Badger emerged from the sett .  At this point I had that warm fuzzy feeling inside and the discomfort just disappeared. The Badger scanned the area before making its way through a run to the other side of the sett. A little later it appeared on a high point of the sett, again had a good scan around and then disappeared.
I waited around for another 45 minutes or so and my final sighting of the evening was a Fallow Buck and three Does crossing just behind me. It was then back to camp for a hot brew, a social round the fire and then a lovely warm sleeping bag.

Thanks to JP & Pablo for another fantastic course.   A chilled, knowledge and experience gaining, social weekend with Friends....

Monday, 9 April 2012

Wasp Nest

Sometime back a friend gave me a small wasp nest that he had removed from his new house, I have been meaning to take some shots of it for ages but it had turned into a round tuit job...
So as I had the light tent out today for another project I decided to switch over to the macro lens and take some shots of the nest.

The nest was very delicate and each time it was moved it started to crumble. As I worked my way into the nest it revealed some dead wasps. Some of these had died whilst in the process of emerging from the comb whilst some can be seen still fully within the comb.

I would guess that the previous owners of my friend’s house had the nest exterminated and just left it in place. Looking at the nest it’s as if all the inhabitants were going about their daily life when suddenly they were frozen in time. You can see this reflected in some of the shots...  

Here are a few of the pictures; you can take a look at the full album here Wasp Nest Album

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Wood Spirit

After a hectic few days up North with the out-laws I decided to have some chill out time in the garden. Whilst preparing some wood for a fire tonight I came across some silver birch that I had rescued from the local woodland where some major coppicing is taking place. I decided to have a go at carving my first Wood Spirit. I  carved it using my Mora Erik Frost 120. It looks a bit blocky in places and I'm not sure that it looks too much like a Wood Spirit but I guess you gotta start somewhere.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

First Outing of the Year

As I sit here in the middle of Whiteley Woods, birds singing, a woodpecker tapping away in the tree, blackbirds alarming in the distance and of course a nice hot cup of coffee you forget how cold it is. Just a great feeling of peace and relaxation.

Today I have seen a Buzzard, Spotted Woodpecker, the solitary Roe Deer and my favourite encounter of the day a Fox.

I have had close encounters with Fox before whilst on a zone in but this was different. Today I called a Fox to within a couple of metres.

I spotted him crossing the track ahead and walking through the fence line onto the local golf course. He stopped and sat at the edge of the fairway as if to check the coast was clear to cross.

I manoeuvred myself to the edge of the fence line and gave my attempt of a squeal from a distressed rodent or was it rabbit..  Ok something else for me to learn.. I gave a squeal...

Much to my delight the fox turned and came running straight at me. He came within a couple of metres of me and sat there looking at me as I carried on making the call. Even when he spotted me and started to move off he had to stop each time I called to make sure he really wasn't missing out on anything.

Well coffee is finished and its time to move on.......


Here is a short video of my Fox encounter. I was a little disappointed to find that in all the excitement I managed to hit the stop recording button while he was sat checking me out...  But you get the idea..