Wednesday, 10 April 2013

A small visitor to the garden

The other night while eating dinner my girlfriend happened to notice something moving out by the shed. I went to the back door to take a closer look and there was indeed a very small animal whizzing backwards and forwards between the shed and a thick clump of grass. This behaviour went on for around 10 minutes and I was able to film some of it.

Field Vole (Microtus agrestis) Video  

It appeared to be a Field Vole (Microtus agrestis). Looking closer at some of the footage it seemed to be running out to the thick clumps of grass and quickly snatching a long blade and running back to underneath the shed. I can only assume that it is building a nest under there. Will keep an eye out for it over the coming days and weeks.  

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Carr Vale Flash

For the first relatively warm day of the year I went to Carr Vale Flash Nature Reserve. I have visited this reserve a number of times over the last 5 months and have been really impressed by it. There are a variety of habitats present and some very good viewing platforms. Within seconds of setting up my tripod a wading bird came into view. I instantly thought it was a Moorhen but quickly realised that it was in fact a Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus). I have only seen this bird on a couple of occasions before and it was surprising to see it out in the open. After pausing for a couple of minutes it quickly made its way across the reed bed infront of me.

Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus) at Carr Vale Flash.

I followed the Water Rails progress through the viewfinder of my camera. Suddenly it stopped, out of the reeds came a Weasel (Mustela nivalis)  Initially I thought it was a Stoat but this animal seemed too small, it also didn't have the characteristic long tail with a black bushy tip. The Weasel briefly looked at the Water Rail for a second or two before diving into the mound of vegetation to it's left in the photo below. This is certainly not my best shot but it was one of those moments that I will never see again.

Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus) and a surprise visit from a Weasel (Mustela nivalis) at Carr Vale Flash.

I was being watched: a female Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) at Carr Vale Flash.

My First Visit to Poolbrooks Country Park

The other day I payed a visit to Poolbrooks Country Park. Like so many other country parks and nature reserves in the area it was once a colliery, Ireland Colliery.

It extends for a couple of miles from the South East corner of Staveley to the South West corner of Mastin Moor. It consists of patches of woodland, open grassy fields and numerous lakes. The largest of these lakes have been managed to cater for leisure activities like fishing while the smaller more numerous lakes have been manged in a way to attract wildlife with reed beds.

One of the smaller, quieter lakes near Mastin Moor.

Due to the prolonged winter weather in Derbyshire this year there have been very few signs of spring until now. Colt's Foot (Tussilago farfara) seems to grow in abundance especially in the North Eastern corner of Poolbrooks. This is one of the earliest flowering plants to be seen in spring and although common throughout the UK I don't think I have seen it as abundant as it is here anywhere else. It's name is derived from the shape of the leaves that are held close to the stem under the flower which resemble animal hoofs.

Colt's Foot (Tussilago farfara) growing at Poolbrooks

I certainly look forward to visiting Poolbrooks later on in spring and at the beginning of the summer. I suspect that the edges of some of the smaller quieter lakes will be ideal places to photography and film dragonflies and damselflies.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Wollaton Deer Park

After a week of bad weather I was itching to get out into the open with my camera so on Monday I visited Wollaton Deer Park in Nottingham. As the Fallow Deer (Dama dama) were near the car park I decided to pay them a visit first as I have rarely had the chance to photograph them before. 

The dominant Fallow Deer (Dama dama) Stag at Wollaton.

At this point the weather and the light were relatively good. However as predicted this was going to change. There was suddenly a blast of very cold wind, the light faded and then the snow came.

A female Fallow Deer preparing for the snow shower.

I was keen to wait it out to see what the herd of Fallow Deer would do. I quickly realised that this was a bit more of a fleeting snow flurry. Within a couple of minutes the visibility had quickly dropped to around 20 metres, everything had gone white, including me, my camera gear and the deer themselves. The wind which still hadn't let up was now hurling fine snow flakes which had begun forming drifts. It was really quite uncomfortable to be in. The deer had by now huddled together under a tree.

The herd was now on it's feet and began huddling under the nearby trees.

The visibility dropped to around 20 metres. I almost lost sight of the deer.

As quickly as the snow had started, it stopped, the sun would come out and melt away the snow. After half an hour another snow shower would turn up and the whole process would begin again. This happened six times while I was at Wollaton.

Eventually I decided to leave the deer to see what was going on at the lake. I wasn't to be disappointed. A small group of Whooper Swans (Cygnus cygnus) consisting of seven individuals had arrived and were milling around the far side of the island in the middle of the lake. I had never seen so many together at the same time. I wasn't the only one to notice them either. A number of people came up to me to ask whether I knew what type of swan they were. Others had been speaking to the wardens who had said that they had never seen Whooper swans on the lake before.

A group of Whooper Swans (Cygnus cygnus) on the lake in Wollaton Park, Nottingham.

All in all it was a good day out and despite it being bitterly cold the snow showers had added some drama to the scenery.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

New Videos on Vimeo!

I have recently Uploaded three new videos to my Vimeo page including the little spiders found at Kiveton Community Woodland. Check it out at

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Roundhay Park, Leeds

On Thursday I went to Leeds to visit a friend of mine, Paul Gorny, who is also a keen photographer and has been working with me on a video project for the last 3 months. We managed to finish our video and began the export which can take quite a long time. To pass this time Paul showed me around Roundhay Park. It seems to have a bit of everything; woodland with some massive trees, lakes, streams and even a gorge. It reminded me a bit of Mote Park in Maidstone. There was certainly plenty of bird life around but they were difficult to spot as the trees were so tall. There was also plenty of snowdrops in places and even some early wild primroses. I expect Roundhay to be an excellent place to visit in a couple of months time once spring gets going especially for wild flower and insect photography. If you are visiting Leeds and you want to stroll around a good park then Roundhay is worth considering.

Snow drops (Galanthus nivalis) on the edge of some woodland in Roundhay Park, Leeds.
In the next few days I will be uploading the video Paul and I were working on entitled "In between Wood & Water". I will also be uploading a couple of other video projects that I have been working on as well. I will post the links on this Blog.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Exploring Kiveton Community Woodland

I went to explore Kiveton Community Woodland yesterday, in South Yorkshire as it maybe a filming location for me in the Spring. So I went along photographing and geo-tagging potential filming spots. I had been told that it was a good place to film Skylarks and that appears to be very true. After walking around for an hour or so I began to hear them in the distance. I made my way up a hill covered in thick grasses and found myself surrounded by them. It appears that the males are sorting out who goes where at the moment as there was a lot of fighting going on.

Unfortunately 200mm was the best I could do with the lenses I had with me.

It wasn't just the Skylarks settling disputes. I found a stone feature which had a few dozen spiders climbing to the very top. Once at the top they would spin out a long thread and then do something which I can only describe as stand on tipy-toes and let go of the stone. The wind caught the tread and the spiders would take off. I have never seen this behaviour in person just on TV. Once at the top the spiders would wrestle for what I assume were the best take off points.

Spiders wrestling at Kiveton Community Woodland.

I managed to get some footage of this behaviour which I think will demonstrate it better. I will edit it and get it online as soon as possible. I will also try and get them identified as I am no expert on spiders.

All in all it was a successful scouting trip and I definitely will be going to film Skylarks there in the spring.