Devon’s Winter Wildlife Break

Bowling Green

I’ve just returned from a couple of days in Devon, revisiting some of the sites which will be on the itinerary for my Winter Birdwatching Break based from TLH Victoria hotel, Torquay.

The break itself, of 5 nights half board accommodation between February 25th & March 2nd 2018, includes one full day and two half days birdwatching, so leaving plenty of opportunity to take advantage of the hotels many facilities. Transport by coach/minibus is provided throughout.

As you can see from the picture above of the RSPB’s Bowling Green Marsh reserve, I was lucky with the weather for my first full day, visiting here and Dawlish Warren. A slightly colder and duller day followed when I checked out Exminster Marshes and Stover country park, but there were plenty of birds on both days.

I had two very good views of Peregrine Falcon, one at Bowling Green and one at Exminster, they always stir up the rest of the bird life. It’s quite a spectacle to witness as hundreds of waders swirl around on mass, hoping to confuse and evade capture.

Over the two days I clocked up around 80 species with little effort, so we should be in for a fulfilling break come next February.

My stay at the hotel was very comfortable, with friendly staff and great food. The hotel has a fabulous indoor pool, spa, sauna, umpteen games facilities including indoor bowls, 10 pin bowling, snooker, pool, table tennis, even archery on offer. So around the birdwatching, there is plenty to do, including live entertainment most evenings.

I will be providing a bit of the entertainment myself, with two talks across the break, each illustrated with images from my wildlife portfolio. One of which will be giving extra tips on how to identify some of those birds we will be seeing during our stay.

I’m glad to say, places are filling up for the break, so contact the hotel early to guarantee your place. And at just £300 per person, with no single supplement, it might be just the thing kickstart those thoughts of Spring.

Here’s a link to the TLH website to book a place, or do contact me if you need more information. Or call them on 01803 400500

TLH Victoria Hotel.

 

Snow Specialists

My primary objective for my recent trip to Scotland was to get some images of certain species in the snow for my new talk, Wonderful Winter Wildlife.

With just one snowy day luckily falling on a day off, we headed up to Cairngorm in search of Ptarmigan and Snow Bunting.

It was hard work at times, with snow past knee height in parts, but overall I was happy with the collection of images I got. Below are some examples, while others I’ve held back for now for exclusive use in the talk.

If you’d like to book my new talk, or one of my others for your local group or club, please do get in touch.

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Landscapes from the Highlands

I just returned from a week in Scotland where I managed to get some photography in thankfully.

Most of my photography time was spent on birds, but I did get a little landscape photography done in between, so I hope you like my efforts below. I’ll post some birds images soon no doubt.

First up a view of Cairngorm across Loch Morlich

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Next is a nice rainbow over Lochindorb

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Finally a waterfall near Nairn

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The Nuthatch

One of my favourite woodland birds is the Nuthatch. Although I do get one visit the garden now and again, I’m guaranteed good views if I take a walk around my local lakes at Earlswood.

Many walkers take a some seed with them, so the local robins, tits and nuthatches have grown accustomed to an easy meal now and again.

Here are a few shots I managed this morning.

Country Innovation Offer

As many of you know, I’ve had a link with Country Innovation for many years and have been an ambassador for Maria’s great selection of clothing and helped out at Rutland Birdfair on many occasions.

The range is ideally suited to both birders and photographers alike, being low rustle, highly waterproof, comfortable and practical.

I thought you might be interested to note, that they have a great offer on currently which expires at the end of February, so take advantage now.

Just go to  https://www.countryinnovation.com and use the promotional code TWITCH.

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Spare a thought for The Gambia

I’m sure most of you will have seen the developments in The Gambia on the news over the last couple of days, with Thomas Cook bringing back holiday makers early due to the countries political unrest.

Yaya Jammeh, who had been in post for 22 years was voted out in Decembers Presidential elections and has refused to step aside for the peoples choice, Adama Barrow.

What a shame that the greed and ego of one man is single handedly killing off tourism in The Gambia, just as Ebola did a couple of years back, even though the country was not effected.

Yes we have to go on the UK government advise to stay away from the country at the moment, but spare a thought please for the poor Gambian people who rely on tourism, almost totally to put food on the table.

Having led tours in The Gambia twice a year for the last 6 years, I was there during the “Ebola Epidemic” which effected some West African Countries. The group  witnessed what an impact media hype and general geographic ignorance can have on a country and it’s people. Baring in mind that The Gambia has never had a case of Ebola in it’s history and only one case was reported in Senegal, which borders The Gambia on all sides, tourism all but disappeared.

So if you have been thinking about visiting this incredible country, to experience it’s fabulous wildlife, friendly people and guaranteed sunshine etc, please don’t be put off and dismiss The Gambia as a future holiday destination, the country will need our support to get back on it’s feet when things settle down, which I hope will be very soon.

I was due to take a group over for two weeks on January 24th, but have been forced to put it on hold of course, but I look forward to going back to see my friends over there and see more of these wonderful birds.

 

You have to take whats in front of you.

Had a great day today catching up with my old friend and fellow wildlife photographer Oliver Smart.

We decided to head up to Derbyshire to see the Dusky Thrush, which we saw easily enough thanks to the birders already on site with telescopes, but it wasn’t even worth us getting the camera gear out of the bags, way to far off.

Having then searched unsuccessfully for a local Great Grey Shrike, we headed to Carsington Water and got again distant views of a Great Northern Diver.

There was plenty of other wildfowl on the water, but just out of reach, so sometimes you just have to take whats in front of you and with the light being so lovely it was a shame to photograph nothing.

So some images below of the birds that did come close enough, Mallards and Canada Geese. Common birds, but very beautiful just the same.

Nice start to 2017

Luckily as yesterdays weather was atrocious, I normally count January 2nd as my “New Years Day” due to being pretty worse for wear from the previous evening frivolities, so todays glorious sunny day was a great start for my photographic year.

I’d been pretty busy in the months leading up to year end, so had missed a lot of the amazing birds that had turned up during Autumn migration and lingered, so I was determined to make a good start to to 2017.

I headed down to Stow-on-the-Wold, about an hours drive, hoping to see the Blue Rock Thrush that had been there for a week or so. I was on it within 20 minutes of being there and got a few shots, although it was pretty impossible to get a picture of the bird where it was not obviously on a roof top.

However, I was pretty pleased with the record shots I got of a very rare bird for the UK indeed.

Some samples below.

A slight detour on the way home took me to Evesham to catch up with a bird I’ve not seen for a few years, the Waxwing.

Just one solitary bird, but it showed well enough for a few shots, non of which will win any awards, but a cracking bird all the same.

We’ve not had whats known as a Waxwing winter for some time, when birds get pushed South by cold weather in Northern Europe, so I wasn’t going to let a relatively local bird go unseen.

Lets hope for more of the same weather and plenty more fabulous birds for the rest of the year.

Autumn 2016 Wildlife Matters Article

I’ve had the below article published in a few local magazines, namely, Connections Magazine (Bidford and Alcester area) and The Local Directory Magazines which cover Wythall, Earlswood, Solihull, Shirley and Alvechurch areas. If you are not in the delivery area for these, then here it is below for everyone to read.

Enjoy.

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My Latest Published image

Just got news that my image below of Bempton Cliffs in Yorkshire got published in this months issue of Birdwatch magazine.

I’m only just beginning to take my Landscape photography seriously, so pretty pleased about getting this one out there I can tell you.

Actually I’ll be up to Bempton again in a few weeks to photograph Gannets, Puffins and other seabirds, really looking forward to it, hope we get the same weather as last time.

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