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Bird & Wildlife Photographs


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By the middle of May, the swans nesting on the bank of the canal who had been sitting patiently on their eggs, finally had something to proudly share with those of us passsing along the towpath. It appeared that the first cygnet had hatched...


...and then there were 3.


We later discovered that there were actually 4 cygnets in this nest.

It was also around this time that I purchased my new camera and the picture quality just seemed so much better. I became so engrossed in getting out and about walking and taking photos that model railways would take a back seat for a few months. This was one of the first photos taken using the new camera.


I don't mind if the subjects are common garden birds either, it's just nice to be able to watch and photograph them.


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I've taken hundreds of photos since those above and getting out and about enables you to see birds you wouldn't normally notice or even recognise. I'm not entirely sure about this one but looking though bird ID guides I think it could be a Hen Harrier


The next was at a distance across the canal and another bird I hadn't previously noticed. Apparently it's a Blackcap, a summer visitor from North East Europe.


I enjoy taking photos with a bit of action in them and Black-headed gulls certainly allow you plenty of practice. This one was just about to pick an insect from the water surface.


And here's another just taking offf rom the canal. They always look to me like they've had their heads dipped in chocolate.


I'll give it a break for now.

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One day in May while we were out walking near Long Preston we were passing a small wooded area when we heard what sounded like the familiar alarm call of a Blackbird. Taking a closer look we were surprised to discover it was in fact a Great Spotted Woodpecker.


We stood there for some time watching and taking photos, and then noticed there were two adult woodpeckers and the alarm call was because they had noticed us and were guarding their nest hole. The nest was in a thin tree trunk that didn't appear wide enough to house more than a single woodpecker. After a while the adults calmed down and began bringing food to the nest to feed their young. Looking over the photos and video we managed to take, it appeared there were at least 2 and possibly 3 young inside that nest judging by the facial markings.


As if that wasn't enough excitement to take in, as we were watching the woodpeckers, down at the far end of this wooded area I noticed something move and to our amazement this deer emerged from behind a tree. It was hard to decide where to look first! The deer remained visible for a few minutes before eventually making it's escape.


It is just so satisfying to be able to photograph wildlife that you come across unexpectedlyand these are just a few of the many photos we managed to take on that day.

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Walking over the same ground you come to notice where certain birds hang out and where they can often be seen. One such case is this Little Owl which is almost always sitting on a particular stretch of wall. I take no credit at all for the following photo because this one was taken by Pam and turned out better than the ones I managed to take myself.


I did however manage to capture this Curlew sitting on a dry stone wall with a wildflower meadow in the background


A few moments later it took flight across the meadow


And finally for the time being, this one is a Common Sandpiper captured along the River Ribble near Settle.


Edited by mick
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  • 2 weeks later...

Lockdown taught me there's much to be admired even in your own back yard though it took me some time to get the following two photos



The bee photos required a lot of patience, especially capturing them in flight, but the next ones were quite a bit easier.


Even in flight, hoverflies were a doddle compared to bees.




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Again, here's just a small selection of some of the photos I've managed to take while out and about walking, and in some cases while at home. Many of these things we would normally just pass by without noticing but if you take your time to look there's an endless amount of subjects to photograph.

A wild orchid. Found along a pathway we regularly walk along, and there were lots of them, but we've never stopped to look closely before. Since we started noticing, there are literally hundreds of them, especially along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal towpath.


Taken in the back garden. So small you wouldn't have even noticed it but this little fly is, I think, a member of the Sapromyza family.


I hadn't found it easy to get a really good photo of these at the time. There always seemed to be part of it out of focus, but this is a Common Blue Damselfly.


And this was back-breaking work, much like building a garden railway. but I did manage to get this nice photo of a Grasshopper


Edited by mick
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When you're forced to stay at home what is there of interest to phoptograph? Not everyone has a large garden that attracts birds and other wildlife so is it possible to take interesting photos in a limited space?

Well during 'lockdown', as I was tidying up round that garden, I just happened to move a small ornamental planter that was surrounded by a mound of some type of moss. At first I didn't think much about it but then began wondering if it might make an interesting photo.

Below is the moss in question, on top of a concrete building block with the outline of where the square planter had been lifted from.


After several attempts I finally worked out that by getting down close to the moss and using some of the fallen leaves seen in the above photo to colour in the background it was possible to get some really colourful images.

Now after having taken seveal hundred photos of this mound of moss choosing which ones to post here isn't easy so I'll post these three for now as they are easy to access and if I feel there's more to be said I'll pop some more up later.

These were taken with a 100mm Macro Lens so I was able to get in close and blur the background.




I doubt they'd look good on the wall but it just shows that there are subjects to photograph all around.



Edited by mick
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When I'm outdoors I'm always on the lookout for Buzzards. At home they pass over our garden regularly and their distinctive call can be heard long before they come into view. I must have deleted several hundred Buzzard photos over the past year or so because I've found it so difficult to capture that image with the face in perfect focus. Most of the time they are simply too far away or too high in the sky to get a decent photo but just occasionally they come that bit closer.

Here are a few Buzzard photos that gave me what I was hoping for. They could probably do with some post processing to lighten them and bring out the detail a bit more.




This final one was taken recently with an older 'bridge' type camera, resting it on Pam's shoulder to keep it steady as the (young?) buzzard was perched on a tree some distance away



Edited by mick
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I'm skipping quickly through many images in an effort to catch up with the present day. During this period I've tried my hand at all kinds of photography from macro through to abstract but I'll concentrate on birds and wildlife.


I've probably seen these many times before and been completely unaware, but this is the first time I've captured any Snipe with the camera. One minute they were there and the next they had vanished and this is the only photo I was able to take.


I was watching this Heron by the side of the water, took my eyes off it for a moment and when I looked again it had taken this large fish. It turned with the fish and walked away from the waters edge before spearing the fish just behind its gills using that long beak. It then turned back towards the water and proceeded to swallow the fish whole which it quickly managed to do. I actually managed to capture that part on video.

We were sitting by the side of the river Ribble watching another Heron when this Nuthatch landed on the branch of a tree alongside us. It had been a long time since my last sighting of one of these birds and on that previous occasion my efforts weren't too good so I was pleased that these two turned out much better.



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  • 2 weeks later...

We had read online that there had been sightings of Mandarin ducks along the river Ribble between Langcliffe and Stainforth but never really expected to come across any ourselves until we were walking along the river near Langcliffe in late September and came across this male Mandarin.



Two months previously we had photographed this bird on the water which we now believe to be a female Mandarin.


We frequently walk along the river between Stainforth and Settle and there's one particular spot where we can almost guarantee seeing Dippers - it rarely fails, though they do generally like to keep to the shaded areas of the river, usually close to the riverbank and beneath overhanging branches where there's not that much light to photograph them by.


And this last one is another photo of a Goldcrest perched on a branch near Stainforth. We were standing only a few feet away when all of a sudden a Sparrowhawk darted past between us and the Goldcrest in a failed attempt to catch its prey. The Sparrowhawk was so close we could feel the draught as it flew by.



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I take a lot of photos along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal as it's one of our favourite places to walk. Close to Bank Newton Locks we came across this Mink, the second time we've seen mink recently.


A little further along the canal near East Marton I managed to capture this dragonfly in flight.


The views along the Leeds & Liverpool canal can be stunning at times. This last photo was taken in the middle of October with my phone camera and it's difficult to make out the dividing line between the bushes and their reflections in the canal water.


And then on our return home, and from our back garden, I took my first acceptable photo of a Jay in flight


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  • 4 weeks later...

The day after taking the photo of the Jay in flight, seen in my previous post, I captured a Magpie as it took off from the top of a nearby lamppost.


The months of October/November are the usual time for seeing Salmon as they make their way up the rivers to their breeding grounds. A popular spot on the river Ribble is at Stainforth where there's usually a gathering of people hoping to capture a photo as the adult Salmon negotiate the falls. We've stood there ourselves on a couple of occasions in the past but never managed to see anything, however, this year we happened to come across some Salmon at Langclife weir. Not a brilliant photo but an event that was nice to witness.


Winter is the time for an influx of visiting birds and for the past 3 or 4 weeks I've been attempting to get a photo of a Fieldfare as they feed on Hawthorn berries. The trouble is that they're usually in flocks and as soon as one bird notices you approching they all take flight making it impossible to get close enough to them for that really special shot so these were taken from a distance and in the freezing cold!




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  • 4 weeks later...

One bird that I'm always on the lookout for are Jays and much like Kingfishers we've gone months on end without seeing any and then all of a sudden they're here. They are a shy, colourful member of the crow family, prefrring the cover of woodland which is probably the reason they are so difficult to see until trees begin to lose their foliage.

I tend to grab photos as and when I can until a better opportunity presents itself. At the rear of our caravan we've erected a bird feeder which usually attracts members of the Tit family with the odd Siskin, Redpoll and Greenfinch. A couple of weeks ago I noticed a Jay hanging round and so I began placing peanuts on the ground and eventually it came close enough for a photo. Jays actually prefer Acorns but I was completely out of them!

After feeding on the peanuts, during which time I took several photos, it eventually took off and landed close by on a short branch where I was able to get the following photo.


I've added seveal photos of Kestrels already but there's always room for more, especially when you manage to get the face/eyes in sharp focus. Once again this photo goes to show that you don't have to travel far in order to take some special photos as this was taken from our back garden. My neighbours probably think I've gone mad when they see me stood out there in the freezing cold pointing a camera up into the sky but never mind.


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Much like Jays mentioned above, Kingfishers appear to be absent from where we frequent for most of the Summer and only once Autumn arrives do we start to see them. The loss of foliage means not only are they more easily seen but the loss of cover also makes them extremely difficult to get close to in their natural surroundings which is how I gain most enjoyment from being able to photograph them. There are bird hides close by me on a small reserve where there's a good chance of seeing Kingfisher's up close but I always feel that's not quite the same.

The Kingfisher seen in the following photographs was found alongside the Leeds & Liverpol canal at East Marton near to the famous double-arch road bridge. I noticed it flying along the canal and followed it until I was close enough to get these photos which are greatly cropped and enlarged but will suffice until a better opportunity comes along.

In this first image you can see that there are obtrusive twigs either side of the bird which was unavoidable at the time and no matter how carefully I edged sideways I just couldn't get a better shot.


The next image is from exactly the same location but when the bird turned its head the right hand twig fell directly over the birds beak but I've been able to carefuly paint both offending twigs out - which is cheating I know but it does save the photo.


This final image was actually one of the first taken with the Kingfisher facing the opposite way but looking back over itself. This shows that lovely iridescent stripe down the middle of the birds back.


A rather jumbled background for all of these but sometimes you just have to accept what you're presented with.

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I don't know what it is, maybe they are more visible at this time of year or maybe once your eye is in, you see them more when they were there all along and you just didn't see them. I've only seen one kingfisher before. I know lots of people report seeing them along the River Dove near here but I never do. My local canal seems bereft of much wildlife: a pair of mallard ducks, several swans and a pair of moorhens is all we saw last time. I don't know if it is too busy, too open or too near to the A38 for anything, or perhaps I get distracted too much as it runs alongside the railway.
I'll take my bridge (thats my best camera) along next time I go to the Dove and see if anything makes an appearance.

There has been, I think, a buzzard circling overhead recently. Too high up to tell though.

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I'm not sure what they do or where they are at any other time of year but we'd been walking up and down the Leeds & Liverpool canal all Summer long and never saw any Kingfishers whatsoever. Then all of a sudden they appeared along the canal between Gargrave and Barnoldswick as well as the river Aire near Gargrave and we even saw one on a stream at Otterburn. Perhaps it's partly as you say, that you don't see them until you actively start looking.

Closer to home we've seen them at Sprotbrough Flashes and along the river Don while our first sighting was early in the year on the river Dearne near Denaby Ings.

It's always a good idea to have a camera with you if you have any interest at all in wildlife. I've taken some great photos with my bridge camera but the DSLR is much better for moving subjects and especially birds in flight. The latest mirroless cameras with 'eye auto-focusing' are amazing, enabling you to capture photos that would have proved very difficult before.

Buzzards (and Kestrels) are great subjects to photograph because they're a decent size and generally fly slowly, with Kestrels often hovering above, giving you time to get a photo and they regularly come quite close.

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  • 3 weeks later...

It's been rather quiet on the wildlife front this past couple of weeks and the few photos I have taken have yet to be sorted out but these are some I have already attended to.

The first is of a Pied Wagtail sitting on a length of wire fencing just outside East Marton on the Leeds & Liverpool canal. It was totally unconcerned by our presence but the sad things is that on our return journey there was the remains of a similar bird on the towpath that had clearly been captured by a predator. The same bird? We'll never know.


Another image of a Kingfisher but still not that perfect photograph. This photo was taken on the Leeds & Liverpool canal opposite Newton Grange holiday cottages between Gargrave and East Marton.


And I really do enjoy taking photos of these little Stonechats below. This one was taken close to Long Preston and it's a spot where I've seen them before so while out walking it's a place I frequently stop to look for them. This dark faced bird is the male and they do tend to oblige by perching on top of the long grasses so that you can get a nice uncluttered view of them.



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We had a lovely walk along the river to the nature reserve this morning but if you were to stand around for too long it soon became bitterly cold. The water on the reserve was partly frozen over so there wasn't a great deal of activity which given the conditions was okay as those hides aren't the best place to be sitting when the temperature is hovering just above freezing.

We came across a female Bullfinch and managed to get a photo but sadly there was no sign of the male. We also saw a number of Goldcrest and Nuthatches. At a turning on the way back home we had the choice of turning left and going one way or going straight on to take another route and we decided to continue straight ahead and it was lucky we did. After about 100 yards I glanced to my right and there was this beautiful deer just 20 yards or so away from us. We stopped and took a few photos as it eyed us up before it slowly departed. I'm not sure what species it was so that's something I'll have to look up but it had some wonderful small velvety antlers. Once I sort the photos out I'll post one here.

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Just a couple of photos from yesterday's walk.

Firstly the female Bullfinch. It's a pity there was no sign of the more colourful male. I've always seen them in pairs before.


And then the deer which I believe is a Roe Deer though if anyone knows different then do let me know as I know nothing about deer. Lovely velvety antlers.


I'll add this one too because it was good to watch the deer sniffing the air trying to work out what we were.


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