Sunday, 5 July 2015

Look for the hole, not the Puffin

The cliffs that stretch between Flamborough Head and Bempton are famous for their huge number of seabirds and, making up a small but important part of these is the enigmatic little Puffin. This is another photogenic seabird, another favourite of mine and, judging by the enquiries of people that we met along the cliffs, a favourite of a lot of others too.
The Puffin is smaller than all of the other residents of this cliff wall and unlike the rest, it rears its chicks away from aerial preditors in a hole or convenient crevice. Looking for them amongst the larger but similarly coloured Razorbills and Guillemots can be like looking for a needle in a pile of other needles. We quickly found that it was easier to look for holes in the cliff rather than the bird itself, there was a good chance that inside it would be a smart, portly little bird with bright orange feet and very curious beak.

Trying to get the iconic 'beak full of Sand Eels' is not easy! A close up would have been nice but even here at Bempton the only way would have been with climbing gear.

 Look for the hole, not the Puffin. There is a good chance that any crevice will contain a Puffin or two...or three...or four...or five...
 It is difficult enough to get a good Puffin shot, but getting a youngster to pose is even worse! The Puffling is bland compaired to mum and dad, with a small dark beak and dull grey legs. It almost looks like a different species.
 As the light starts to go and the cliffs change from white to grey the smart black and white plumage egts more difficult to pick out on a photograph.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

The Long Road to Bempton

A six hour drive to meet brother, followed by another couple of hours to get to the camp site, close to Bempton and its cliffs, that would be our home for the next couple of days. The next morning we were up at four o'clock and walked the short distance across the fields to the cliffs that run from Flamborough Head to Bempton on theYorkshire coast.
For anyone interested in wildlife, getting up and about before the sunrise is always a special time and this occasion didn't disappoint. As the Sun broke through a distant band of cloud its warmth was instantly apparent and the light (perfect for photographers) just gets better and better. It is not for nothing that we call this The Golden Hour.
 The first thing that struck us when we approached the near vertical cliffs was the silence! Considering this place is home to some 250,000 seabirds there was little or no sign of them until that is you reach the cliff edge and then the sound explodes. Even at a time when the sun had barely started to warm the chill from the nights air, birds spun and soared at every level making good use of the thermals. On the sea itself, hundreds if not thousands of Guillemots, Razorbills and Puffins sat bobbing and bathing seemingly enjoying the chance to get away from the constant battle of bringing up junior on the cliff wall.
For now though, I will concentrate on the bird that I had travelled so far to get closer too, the Gannet!
Ice-white, with jet black wing tips (that can often reach some two meters span) a strong slender neck of pale gold and a painted face that would make Cleopatra envious.

The Gannet is one of our most beautiful birds, combine this with the perfect light of the golden hour and the effect is magical. These birds seem to love the Sun and could often be seen stretching and holding their heads almost in reverence to the growing warmth.

 From the cliff edge, the sound and sight of so many birds is awe inspiring! There is a constant swirl of birds flying along the cliffs as well as too and from the cliffs out to sea. Squables between these birds seem to be constant and life on the cliff edge is far from peaceful.

 Photographs of the Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittiwakes and Puffins will follow on the next posts, there really is no end to the amount of shots that can be taken as the action changes all of the time. Watching inland is hardly boring either, as apart from the many Skylarks, Tree Sparrows and Reed Warblers that added their own soundtrack, we were joined by a couple of Barn Owls and a lone Marsh Harrier! Not a bad few of days by all accounts.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Bring on the cubs

It is that time of year again and although I am not getting out and about as often as I would like, it is time to find Fox cubs, sit back and watch.
I can't get enough of these incredible animals and the youngsters are very addictive, I find it easy to spend far too much time with them.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Hare Styles

As the Sun was setting a long low ridge of cloud that stretched from horizon to horizon, east to west moved slowly arcross the sky. It was time to move on.
I had already decided not to stay too long on the cliffs though because the brisk wind was making photography difficult and the chance of falling off, more real. On the way to the cliffs I had seen three Hares charging around a field with a further two not far away trying to keep out of the wind.
On the way back I decided to try to get close to one of the more relaxed looking Hares (although on reflection I am not sure what a relaxed Hare looks like) and, taking a long spiral path around the animal I got closer and closer. It is good fun doing this but I can't kid myself into thinking that I am some sort of master stalker, if the Hare wanted to run it would run! It was obvious that he knew exactly where I was.
I found a spot that I decided was close enough and settled down to watch. This is the part that I really enjoy, being close enough to enter the world of the animal but distant enough for it not to be too bothered at the tresspass. Taking the photographs is important of course, but putting the camera down and watching eye to eye instead of through the lens is important too. After all, the Hare is one of our more special animals and deserves that little bit of respect.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

It's That Time of Year Again

At this time of year, with a bit of luck, our local mammal population expands a little and evening walks take a change for the better with the chance to see youngsters taking their first steps. Foxes, Sika and Roe Deer are the most numerous but Badgers are around too. It is hard to choose a favourite but the Roe Deer is certainly up there and I take any opportunity to stay with them for as long as I can. When the fawns are very young however, I keep my distance. The bond between mother & child is fragile and easily broken.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Sunday Morning Gannets

Rain and very low cloud meant that I was cameraless on my walk this morning, this meant of course that there was bound to be something lovely to point my camera at!
At Peveril Point, one of my favourite places, Gannets were feeding very close to land and one of the great things about these beautiful birds is that they show up very well on even the dullest of days.
So, a quick detour to fetch the camera and then back to the cliffs, just in time for more rain...

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Roes, Blues and evening wanders

I have been neglecting my evening walks lately, it seems like I have only just got back to some sort of normality after my exhibition. I am not complaining though, being busy with framing and ordering prints is something that I really enjoy and I am taking it as a good sign.
Most of my walks are early morning these days and I'm not complaining about that either, this is a perfect time of day.
Apart from the ever-present Roe Deer, butterflies are starting to appear in numbers meaning that the macro lens gets the dust blown off of it. I can spend far too much time sat in the meadows snapping away at beasts and bugs.