17 Mar 2012 Houghton Green Flash
17th March 2012 - 0 comments
Frequently the Black-necked Grebe that breed at Woolston Eyes spend some time at Houghton flash before moving on to Woolston Eyes so I just thought I'd have a look there just in case.

I wasn't the only one that turned up thinking there may be some there but no luck today.

However there were quite a few Great Crested Grebe, probably around ten, quite a few Wigeon (10+), Coot, four Oyster Catcher, many Mallard and quite a few Gulls.

Great Crested Grebe


Oyster Catcher

The light wasn't brilliant and it rained at one stage but only for a few minutes.

I found interesting to watch the Great Crested Grebe dive for fish and then be dive bombed by the gulls in an attempt to get an easy meal!

Great Crested Grebe/Gull

Due to the poor light I had to use a fairly high ISO to get a reasonable shutter speed and I had to resort to using the teleconverter as most of the birds were a fair distance from the edge of the flash.

Great Crested Grebe

Even so I did manage to get a few reasonable shots.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday 11th March - Woolston Eyes
13th March 2012 - 0 comments
Th weather and light on Sunday Morning was reasonable so a trip to "The Eyes" seemed appropriate.

As I was driving along the canal bank there were a few Great-crested Grebes making their way along the canal along with plenty of Tufted ducks and the obligatory Black headed gulls.

I couldn't see anything on the bund as I crossed the footbridge to the reserve, there's usually something to see; I could however hear the Black-headed Gulls in the distance. I made my way to the first screen and there were plenty of Black Headed Gulls and a few Tufted Duck on the South Pool.

After that I made my way to the Centre Hide, it is a lovely hide and quite close to the waters edge at the moment while there is plenty of water in the pool.However most of the birds were on the far side of the pool.

On the water there were three pairs of Great-crested Grebe displaying intermittently. Black-headed gulls a plenty along with coots. There were also plenty of Mallard, a group of five Cormorant, Teal, Shovelers, Tufted Duck and a few Pochard.

I was hoping that a wader might have dropped in but no such luck and everything stayed put on the far side of the pool. Even the Grey Heron that flew in landed in the reeds on the far side of the pool not to be seen again!

Even the finches that regularly visit the feeders seemed few and far between.

Another of the regular Woolston watchers came into the hide and told me that there was a Toad on the path outside so I went out and grabbed a few photos before it disappeared into the undergrowth.

After that I had a wander around the bed and other than seeing a few Dunnock, Wood Pigeon, Crows, Magpies and a Buzzard circling over No4 bed, I didn't see much else.

There was however plenty of blossom and buds on the various trees and bushes heralding the onset of spring and hopefully warmer days, not to mention the return of the Black-necked Grebes.

The last two photos are in HDR and are generated from 3 shots. HDR is something I've been playing around with for a while but whether they work or not I don't know.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday 4th March - Portrait Session
13th March 2012 - 0 comments
Sunday morning was spent preparing to take some photos of two of our grandchild and mum and dad.

It takes a bit of effort to move the furniture around so the background and lights can be set up but the results were well worth the effort.

Certainly mum and dad were happy with the results.

And even the dog got in on the act.

Saturday 3rd March Morning at Redesmere
13th March 2012 - 0 comments
Finding time for wildlife photography seems to be increasingly difficult these days usually managing only a few hours on a Saturday or Sunday morning. This coupled with poor weather doesn’t help at all, especially when you’ve spent a lot of money on equipment that is just sitting in a cupboard somewhere.

On the Friday Neill Carden phoned to see if I wanted to go out and get some photography in on Saturday as we have both been struggling for photography time recently.
Neill didn’t know what he wanted to do and as he currently hasn’t got anything longer than a 300mm lens we decided we would try some landscape photography somewhere, anywhere.

We set off on Saturday morning with nowhere in particular in mind but we decided we would head off towards Macclesfield as there are some nice areas out that way.
The weather wasn’t helping and it was pretty grey and miserable so as we passed through Chelford, I suggested we take a look at Redesmere. As Neill hadn’t been there he thought it was a good idea.

It’s a good place to go to when you haven’t got a long lens as the waterfowl come in pretty close to the road as they’re used to being fed.

We thought we would spend our time trying to photograph birds in flight and perhaps capture some splash landings.

Birds on show where the common ones, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Canada Goose, Greylag Goose, Mute Swan, Coot, Grey Heron, Great-crested Grebe and a Pink footed Goose put in an appearance.

The time passed very quickly and although we didn’t manage any landscape photography we had an enjoyable time and the sun did come out from time to time.
Charlies' Hide
20th February 2012 - 0 comments
Even though it was raining for the early part of the day I had an excellent day on Saturday in the company of Neill Carden and Charlie Owen at Charlies’ hide on the outskirts of Warrington.

The hide itself isn’t large but big enough for two people and Charlie, it is quite comfortable with chairs and some carpet on the floor.

Charlie is very pleasant and easy to get on with. He has a wealth of birding knowledge, some amusing anecdotes and gives talks at various events in the area. He is also an excellent photographer in his own right but is yet to take advantage of the digital age and he is still using film!!

If you want to get up close and personal with some of the common woodland birds with some natural looking perches this is the place to go.

I think this is my 3rd visit and I’ve not been disappointed yet.

On Saturday there were Robins a plenty, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Dunnock, Tree Sparrow, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long-tail Tit, Nuthatch, Jay, Pheasant, Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Sparrowhawk swooped in a couple of times but unfortunately didn’t land.

In the trees along the lane to the hide Yellowhammer could be seen but I wasn’t lucky enough to get any photos of those. I should have stopped and tried to get a photo as it is one of my bogey birds. I think I’ve only seen Yellowhammer twice before and the photos I managed to take should be in the bin.

If you want any further information regarding Charlie and his hide send me an email.


Sunday Morning at "The Eyes"
13th February 2012 - 0 comments
Sunday was a pretty grey and miserable day and about par with most of the weekends we've had so far this year. At least it wasn't raining and I wasn't shopping for wallpaper, lighting and what have you to decorate or visiting the hospital. So an opportunity to nip down to the eyes and and get some photography in.

After crossing the footbridge over the bund I spotted some Long-tailed tits in the trees, probably a little too far away but I did manage to get a few shots in before they disappeared.

A look over the first screen revealed a frozen south pool without a bird in sight!!

I'd met Brian Martin by one of the gates and he had told me that there were a number of Shovelers on an unfrozen patch of water on the centre pool. So I didn't waste any more time and moved on quickly to the warmth of the new centre hide.

As I was told, a large area of the the centre pool was frozen but not too far out there was some open water with about twenty Shovelers on it. More or less on the other side of the pool there were more Shoveler, Teal, Coot and Gadwall.

There were also plenty of finches, tits and Dunnock around the feeders, no Brambling though. A single White Wagtail also flew in for a short time.

I'd spotted some Snowdrops on the way in so I stopped to take a few photos of them and I'm pretty sure there was a strong smell of wild garlic in the air so perhaps spring isn't too far away.


Visit to "The Eyes"
05th February 2012 - 0 comments
It's been ages since I visited "The Eyes", it's long overdue but other demands on my time have reduced the amount of photography time I've had and unfortunately I can't see it getting much better for a while.

Anyway I visited "The Eyes" on Saturday morning, poor light, icy cold, hail/sleet and ice on the water but I felt great getting out with the camera again.

As the light wasn't great I set the camera at ISO1000 which was a poor start and the only birds were congregated in a small patch of water on the far side of centre pool.

The birds were mainly Teal and Shovelers plus two or three Wigeon. So really the best I could hope for was getting a few photos of any birds that landed in the trees by the hide, on the feeders or just to get some general shots of the pool and try cropping them.

There were a few Greenfinch & Chaffinch in the trees and around the feeders but as usual they tend to sit behind a strategically placed branch but one or two did expose themselves.

Is it my imagination or do Greenfinches look grumpy, they never seem to look happy.

The feeders are just that bit too far away in my opinion but there were quite a few Pheasant around feeding on the seed around the feeders.

A few photos of the comings and goings on the small pool of open water!

Hopefully it won't be as long between visits this time.


Rixton Clay Pits
07th November 2011 - 0 comments
I was just getting ready to go to “The Eyes” and Neill Carden rang to see what I was doing as he had some free time.
After a bit of discussion we decided to have a look at Rixton Claypits which is only a short drive up the road. It’s probably closer to home than “The Eyes” but I don’t go that often and I probably should. Previous visits haven’t been that successful from the bird photography point of view and I’ve usually ended up photographing butterflies, dragonflies and plants but it is quite a large area and anything could drop in any time.

Anyway Neill had a plan and he had brought along an MP3 player with bird calls and a speaker that he promptly set up and started playing a Wrens’ song/call. It certainly did the trick and within a few minutes a Wren had appeared from the undergrowth and was even in a photographable position.

There were also another three moving around the undergrowth close by but didn’t fully reveal themselves and those efforts have been deleted.

A Buzzard landed in a tree a few hundred yards away and Neill changed the call on the MP3 player to that of a Buzzard but even though I could see it was interested, unfortunately it didn’t venture any closer.

After that we went for a bit of a wander and found some obliging Common Darters that didn’t mind being photographed in possibly the last of the summer sun.

We also had a look for some of the fungii that Neill had photographed not long ago but it had disappeared.

We eventually made our way back to our starting place and manged to get a photo of a Kestrel in flight, a Jay and some of the black sheep that have been introduced to the reserve.

A very pleasent morning.

Later on in the day I thought the moon looked pretty impressive and had a go at photographing it. It’s something I’ve done on quite a few occasions but I’ve never been that impressed with my previous efforts. I’ve got to say the resulting photographs are the best to date and the uncompressed photos look almost 3d. Whether the uploaded photos will look as good I don’t know.


New Arrival
02nd November 2011 - 0 comments
Born this morning 2 weeks early a lovely new grandaughter(5th.) Charlotte Rose weighing in at 71b 7oz.

Mum & Daughter

Brother & Sister
A Morning at Dunham Massey
16th October 2011 - 0 comments
I had a very pleasant morning on Saturday with my friend Neill Carden trying to photograph the Fallow Deer at Dunham Massey National Trust Estate. Perhaps an earlier start may have been appropriate to capture the deers breath in the air but I'm still happy with the shots I took, I even managed to get a couple of shots of the deer leaping over a small ditch.
Apart from the deer we also saw Green Woodpecker, Jackdaw, Crow, Tree creeper, Wren and Buzzard to name just a few.


An Excellent Week in Scotland
06th October 2011 - 0 comments
We’ve just returned from a well-earned holiday in Scotland, visiting Inverness to see family and then driving east and south to the Deeside area.

I'm pleased to say I did manage to take a few decent images and also saw my first Snow Bunting, Black Grouse and Goshawk, not together I hasten to add.

We also had a great day out with Craig Westlake of Deeside Nature Activities, seeing Roe Deer, Red Deer, Peregrine, Buzzard, Goshawk, Red Grouse, Black Grouse, Dipper, Red Squirrel and most of the commoner species of bird. Unfortunately not many of the things that we seen were within a photographable distance but the highlights were at least two Buzzards, two Peregrines and a Goshawk all viewed through the scope/bins at the same time. The other was seeing around eight Black Grouse on a known lekking ground. Unfortunately Golden Eagle didn’t put in an appearance and Crossbills eluded us but they could be heard up in the tree canopy.
Thanks Craig for a great day out.

I also managed to get a few landscape shots including some of Bow Fiddle Rock at Portknockie. I also caught a few glimpses of the Autumnal colours that I was hoping for but I think I was about 7 – 10days too early. I don’t need much of an excuse to return to Scotland but it’s just that bit too far to make the journey again, unless someone else pays for the petrol. I can feel a trip to the Lake District coming on instead though!!


A Morning at Moore NR
28th August 2011 - 0 comments
I decided I would take a holiday on Friday which going by the weather of the last two days was a good move. I didn't really know what I was going to do on my day off other than try and photograph some birds. I didn't fancy going to "The Eyes", so I drove down to Moore Nature Reserve, which covers quite a sizeable area and has a number of pools. After parking up I made my way to Lapwing Lake that has three hides/screens. At the first hide there were a few Coots and Mallards that were quite close but I could see a Little Egret on one of the islands a bit further out, too far away for a good shot. So after a few minutes I made my way to one of the other view points that I thought may give a clearer view of the Egret. I did get a clearer view but still too far away for a great shot but as a general scene it's not bad.

Little Grebe and chicks were on view along with Coots and Mallards. But nothing was coming close enough to get a decent shot so after a short while I decided to move on to the feeding station area.

I'd only just arrived there and in glided a Common Buzzard and landed in a tree just above me but could I see it could I heck. As in most reserves the feeders aren't in use during the summer months and I didn't see anything in about 30 mins so I decided my time would be better spent at Birchwood Pool.

Looking out across the pool the level of water was the lowest I'd ever seen it. I was hoping to see some Little Grebe and there was one around but it didn't come anywhere near the screen and neither did anything else. I think the image of the feather reflects the scene nicely.

There's usually loads of gulls on show but I could hear and see them circling in the distance over the landfill site. The only bird of interest that I could see a bit further up the pool was a Black Swan so I made my way round to one of the other hides. By the time I'd got there it had come out of the water and it was standing on one of the little islets and just about within photographing range. The light was very contrasty but I got a few shots of it and that was my morning over.


Not a Lot Around at Woolston.
21st August 2011 - 0 comments
I've not managed to get out for the two previous weekends but I did make a visit to "The Eyes" this weekend.

Always full of anticipation and filled with the hope of finding some exotic/rare bird I opened the gate to the footbridge that crosses the bund to "The Eyes". Look right and left and nothing much on the bund other than a few tufted duck. Up to the first screen which looks across the south pool, Teal, Coot, Tufted Duck and a few Black-Headed Gulls flying around but nothing else on show.

However it was quite bright and a cooling breeze blowing so even if I wasn't going to see any birds it would still be a pleasant nature walk.
I normally walk anti-clockwise around the bed as it gets you to the hides quicker. Anyway I decided to take the clockwise route through the meadows I saw a couple of small birds probably Dunnock diving into the undergrowth but that was it. I could hear birds singing but that was probably a tape being played by the ringers to attract the birds to the nets. No butterflies around the wildflower meadows and still no birds and not even any Pheasants calling. So onto the Rotary Hide that looks over the North Pool. Tufted Ducks, Gadwall, Black-headed Gulls, and possibly a Black-necked Grebe could be seen but all too distant to photograph.
On the way back to the main footpath I did spot some fungus that I did take some photos of but I should have used the tripod or beanbag to make sure they were sharp but I did get one useful shot.

I walked past the Frank Lindley Hide as it is difficult to get into with the all the equipment so on to the John Morgan Hide.

Quite a few common birds on the water including Water Rail, Sand Martin, Cormorant, Black-headed Gulls, Gadwall, Teal, Moorhen, Coot, Tufted Duck. Unfortunately no waders on the scrape and nothing in photographing distance. A few Peacock Butterflies floating around and quite a few Brown Hawker Dragonflies zipping about looking for their next meal.I tried getting a few shots of them but I couldn't get a focus on them.

The next thing I stumbled across was a tiny ladybird like insect but it was greeny/yellow with black spots and not the usual red and black ladybird. I did take a photo not brilliant but good enough for anyone to identify it if there are any insect experts out there.

I'd now got to the stage where I just wanted to take photos of anything regardless of whether it was flying, static, animal, flora or insect. So I spent some time photographing Hoverflies and anything that came within shooting distance.

At the Sybil Hogg hide I did spot a Black-tailed Godwit just losing its summer plumage and it was just about within range. The shots where ok but no better than anything already on the website so I've not uploaded them.

So that was the end of my trip to "The Eyes", a bit frustrating in some respects but it was really nice to get out with the camera. In the three hours I was there I saw two people so it really is like having your own nature reserve when you visit "The Eyes".

Best wishes

Ratty And The 7D
02nd August 2011 - 0 comments
Sunday gave us the opportunity to travel the short distance to the Wirral and do our normal tour, Wallasey, Leasowe, Hoylake, West Kirby but with time constraints as we have had to do some hospital visiting over the last week.

As we were walking round the Marine Lake at West Kirby along came a Brown Rat and it stopped more or less right in front of us. An ideal photo opportunity, so I raised the camera to my eye, pressed the shutter button and fired. In the process of pressing the shutter button I noticed that the auto focus point wasn’t the centre point. Rats, one shot and it had gone. I’ve viewed the photo and the ground just to the left of the rat is nice sharp and in focus, the rat is not!!

The program control switch on the top of the camera (Canon7D) had been knocked from its usual AV setting. This is one of the problems I’ve had with all my Canon cameras, the program control switch can’t be locked and I’ve lost loads of shots due to this issue. In my opinion it is definitely a major design fault and it can be a real pain in the behind. However I have been told that a modification can be made to the camera to stop this issue but I don’t know anyone who has had it done and if it works.
The moral of the story keep checking the settings on the camera!!

All Things Bright and Beautiful....
02nd August 2011 - 0 comments
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.

Well that’s what the hymn says anyway and Saturday certainly was bright and beautiful.

As the crow flies I probably only live a mile away from “The Eyes” but I tend not to walk there these days, as I take too much stuff with me. So I loaded up the car and after a short drive I soon reached the first locked gate at Latchford Lock. From there it probably another mile driving along the bumpy unmade road alongside the Manchester Ship Canal. There’s always the chance of seeing something on this short drive, rabbit, fox, birds so with the camera primed and ready for action, off I set. Unfortunately I reached the parking area at the reserve entrance without seeing anything other than a couple of Great Crested Grebes and they were on the other side of the canal so too far away for a good photograph.

I quickly unloaded my gear and walked around to the footbridge over the bund that separates the reserve from the rest of “The Eyes”. Opening the gate I’m always filled with anticipation and the hope that I may see/photograph something unusual or scarce. I walked across the footbridge and couldn’t see anything on the bund a poor start as there’s usually something on the water. Up the bank and along the footpath to the first screen and hide and I couldn’t see anything on the water other than a solitary Coot and some gulls flying in the distance, not a good omen. No point in staying there then although there is always a good chance of seeing Water Rail from the hide.

Onto the meadows and still no birds and pretty silent apart from a Pheasant calling. I thought the colours of the flowers on the vegetation looked nice and there were plenty of butterflies to be seen flitting from flower to flower. Out came the other camera and I got really low down to try and exaggerate the size of the vegetation. I think I did that quite well and the purple flowers look good against the blue sky.

I took a few other photographs including the Thistles and some of the Butterflies.

The next thing that caught my eye was the number of insects flying around so I got the 100mm macro lens out to see if I could get any of these I had some success and captured one or two in flight, they aren’t super sharp but not bad. Trying to identify them is quite a challenge with various bees, wasps and hover fly to choose from. Apparently there are 270 or so types of hover fly recorded in the British Isles so photographing them might be a whole new challenge. Anyway I think I have managed to identify what I did photograph but I’m not confident and if any experts read this let me know if I identified them correctly.

On to the Rotary Hide that overlooks the north pool but nothing came close enough to photograph in the time that I was there. Next stop the John Morgan Hide, there is always something to be seen from this hide either on the scrape, the water, the feeding station or just flying over. Gadwall, Coots, Cormorants, Great Crested Grebe, Moorhen, Tufted Duck were the birds of the day. Then a solitary Common Snipe appeared from nowhere and just about within shooting distance. The photos required heavy cropping but they don’t look too bad so I’ve uploaded some of them to the latest photo gallery. I also took some photos of a Peacock Butterfly with the 500mm lens that aren’t bad. I then had to leave the tranquillity of “The Eyes” and move back into the real world. Visiting Woolston Eyes most of the time is like having your own private nature reserve and you may only see a handful of people, if that many.

A Better Weekend
24th July 2011 - 0 comments
I couldn't get out and about on Saturday again hence the shots of insects in the garden in the Latest Photos Gallery. There was some reasonable light in the garden so I decided to go out and see if there was anything worth photographing. The first thing I spotted was the Holly Blue Butterfly that was floating around the Elaeangus. Unfortunately the shrub was in shadow and it wasn't easy to get a clear shot but I just about managed it. I was particularly pleased with some of the other shots of insects, reasonable backgrounds, clear, sharp and in focus, excellent stuff.

brought another lovely day and we could get out, the idea was just to go for a drive but I generally take the camera and lens with me wherever we go. With no particular place in mind we ended up in the Trough of Bowland, somewhere we haven't been for at least twelve months. It can be good for breeding waders but it is getting a bit late now and most of them have returned back to the coast. Anyhow we did spot a Curlew on a wall however it was a fair distance away but I did manage a decent photo before it disappeared.

The next bird to appear was a Little Owl, I had seen one before in the same area and this one could only have been 50ft away from the previous sighting. It was very close probably around 20ft away but behind a wire mesh fence. To make a decent photograph there has been some judicious use of Photoshop and I am pleased with my efforts.

The next bird that came into sight was two Kestrels that appeared to be displaying. We watched them for about 20mins but they never came close enough for a decent shot, although I did have a go.

I was hoping to see some chats and pipits but none were apparent, which was a bit disappointing. However seeing the Little Owl and the Kestrels made my day so well worth the trip. What a great day!
cheers Andy
A poor weekend
17th July 2011 - 0 comments
I never thought I'd use this feature of the website as I'm the original "quiet man".

However much to my surprise there appears to be some people that make returns to my website so I just thought I'd use the news feature to say thank you for looking at my website and returning regularly.

I've been unable to get out with the camera this weekend due to family problems and the weather. So I've spent the time uploading some old photographs. I've created a new portfolio for Buildings and associated things and added a photograph of the Royal Crescent Bath and a few of various aspects of Wells Cathedral. I've also added photographs to the Mammals portfolio of Water Vole, the Birds portfolio and to the Dragonfly & Damselfly portfolio. I've recently added some older photos of Black-necked Grebes & their chicks to the Woolston Eyes Gallery. They aren't fantastically good photos but I thought it was worth drawing them to your attention as displaying grebes and grebes feeding their chicks isn't something that is seen every day. So if you do take the trouble to look at them I hope you enjoy them.

cheers, Andy