Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Merry Xmas

Hi everyone, no pictures today, but there are a few new ones on the smugmug site.

I just wanted to wish you all a Merry Xmas and a snap happy prosperous New Year.

See you all in January

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Down and Dirty

Hi all, as autumn moves into winter there's a bit of a lull for me usually. Herefordshire does not have so many birding opportunities as other counties, at least not photographically speaking, and at a time when the summer migrants have gone and the passing winter migrants just are not passing very often as yet I like to turn my attention to Fungi.

I have been mostly out and about for the last month or so trying to add shots to my catalogue of fungi. I've mentioned in the past that finding them and identifying them are two completely different things. Finding them has always been reasonably easy. Photographing them occasionally a bit harder. Identifying them can be darn impossible sometimes. This year I have been very lucky in having the help of Jo Weightman from Herefordshires fungi group. Jo has proved invaluable on a number of occasions, helping me with identifications and pointing me in the right direction for how those identifications can sometimes be made easier.

My efforts and Jo's help have pushed my list of identified fungi to over 40. You can see images of all of them on my Smugmug site (see new gallery in my links). However even with Jo's help sometimes I can only get it down to a family group.

This is one such example:

A tiny, tiny, little fungus. I looked and could not identify it, so I sent Jo a copy and bless her she came back to me and said that without a closer examination she too could not positively ID it. The best she could offer was that it was a Mycena.

Half the fun though is finding them in the first place, then getting as low as possible and obtaining a shot. Getting low often means belly to the ground something which is not easy when your over 20st and suffer with back problems. The getting down is often the easy bit it's the getting back up which causes concern. Lighting things that are at ground level isn't always easy either, shadows are sometimes impossible to avoid. but I am becoming better at it now, I think. Off camera flash work can help.

I have done other things. I spent a day in the Forest of Dean earlier this week during which I had a lengthy stint up Crabtree Hill looking for the Great Grey Shrike. It was there briefly, but distant. This is a huge crop shot. probably 10% or less of the original.


I also spent a little time at Cannop Pond feeder station.

But as I said this last month has mostly been about fungi. Please check out the Mycology section of the Smugmug site. Or at least the recent additions for better views of all the fungi I have at this time.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Canon Day.

I am deliberately slow with this post as I've been waiting until Chris G and I had our day out at the invitation of Canon CPS+. Chris kindly invited me to partner him to a day's workshop with Canon at the British Wildlife Centre in Surrey.

Over 340 miles driven on the day and a very long day, but all in all I am still extremely pleased to have attended with Chris. The day could have been slightly better weather wise although we didn't get it half as bad as some of the country. We had wind, we had a tad of rain but we also had some nice periods of sun which made for some ace photography opportunities. The talks by Danny Green and Mark Sissons were both informative and thought provoking, interesting to see similarities between the two but also enough different ideas and approach to keep the interest levels up. It was also nice to see the new kit that Canon have brought out recently and although I didn't try any of it myself there were enough people who did to get a reasonably balanced opinion on things like the 200-400 lens. It appears to have been well received by most.

The photography was good, I think it could perhaps have been better, with a little more cooperation from the animals and birds themselves, but the most obliging were, by far, the two otters we got to photograph up close and personal. A pity that at the time we were with them the weather wasn't the best so very challenging, wet animals grey skies and a lot of movement. Those things do not like being still for the camera :-)

I have only just finished uploading the 550 plus images I took and have quickly grabbed a few examples to show you, I don't doubt they aren't the best from the day but they are ok.

They are, Barn Owl, Eagle Owl, Little Owl, Tawny Owl, Otter, Fox, and Scottish Wild Cat. 

As I said, a very interesting and entertaining day. In a day or two I will be adding other, hopefully better,  shots to my Smugmug gallery so please have a look.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Off and On

As my private life has taken a bit of a dive recently I have struggled to find the enthusiasm for photography, couple that with some terrible weather and thats the reason for such a long spell between Bloggings.

I do have a first though for you to see, I'll come to it shortly. I have been doing a bit of dragonfly spotting.

Southern Hawker Male.

Migrant Hawker Male

Migrant Female

and a Common Darter,

I also managed a bit of feeder photography in the forest whilst waiting for Roxy to have her hair cut.

and whilst in the forest I also got a lizard or two.

A trip down to Devon to help Chris G do a bit of work around his place after his operation gave us the chance to do a moth trap stint, and whilst we didn't get anything exceedingly sexy we got a couple of nice things, this Angle Shades was my favourite.

The star of this posting though has to be the following, I've never seen one knowlingly before so to see it and photograph it was amazing, this was back up in Hereford yesterday, (Mon 8th Sept)

It's the beautiful Brown Argus. It's a bit of a crop but I'm very pleased with it.

Since my last posting I have become a Grandad again, Little Eric Alexander Hodges-Davis arrived.

Here he is with his dad. So Proud.

That's it for this time dont forget to check out the Smugmug gallery, in my links, or at www.briandavis.smugmug.com

Sunday, 27 July 2014

In the Summertime.

Wicked weather we've been having, gloriously hot and sunny. Makes photography hard work though doesn't it? Realistically if you haven't got what you want by lunchtime you are going to struggle with very harsh light. It doesn't stop me going out and about all day though, because even if I'm not shooting something it is always a pleasure to be out and amongst it.

One example was this Muntjac deer I came across in Haugh Woods on the outskirts of Hereford. I say, I came across, what actually happened was it crossed my path some distance ahead of me. I managed 4 frames and it was gone.
Not the best shot but as it's only the third Muntjac I've seen in Herefordshire I was more than pleased. The last one I saw was in the same woods a couple of months ago if I recall.

I was in Haugh Woods looking for Club Tailed Dragonfly, Someone had posted shots of one in the woods earlier on Birdguides. I have never seen one, I don't think, and certainly never photographed one so it was a challenge to be met head on. Unfortunately a couple of hours, some sore feet and a change of tee shirt later I still hadn't seen or photo'd one. However the time spent in the woods was not wasted entirely. I saw lots of Peacock, Silver washed Fritillary, Green Veined White, Gatekeeper, and Speckled Wood butterflies and this rather nice Broad Bodied Chaser dragonfly.

Earlier in the week I had been up to Shropshire again, mostly to visit Whixall Moss in the hope of getting some nice Black Darter and maybe a White Faced Darter if there were any still around. I managed the Black Darter and a really nice pair of Emerald Damselflies.

female Emerald,



Black Darter male.

I try to find something different to photograph each time I go out. It doesn't have to be something new that I haven't done before but perhaps something that is a first for this year. I get a lot of satisfaction from the hunt. I mentioned in an earlier posting that I hadn't been seeing many butterflies in Herefordshire this year, well there has certainly been an influx of them in the last week or so. I hadn't managed even a shot of a Comma yet this year as I had only seen a couple and both of them had manky wings, well I finally managed to get one this last week. Its not the best but I finally got one, I also got a cracking shot of a Small Copper and a rather unusual shot of a male Banded Demoiselle.

I love nature, It is amazing, I love finding things lying around, Owl pellets are one thing I enjoy finding, but this snake skin was great too. It was about 2 feet in length, maybe a tad longer. The photo was taken on my phone so its pretty bad.

But still amazing to see it.

Finding this Buff tip Moth was probably my highlight in the last couple of weeks. Such a fabulous looking thing.

Anyways That'll do for this posting. Don't forget to click on an image for a larger version and to check out the new Smugmug galleries.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Two Lifers and a few other things to show.

Hello again. Well we've had some beautiful weather haven't we, but this coming weekend looks a little grey and miserable. I'm not gonna let it get me down as I've had some fabulous photography opportunities and have obtained some fab shots.

Firstly "Tree Heron" finally got himself into a position where I could get clear shots of him.

A little distant and a bit of crop but not too much, he's about 4 feet over the water here, but he seemed quite content to stand there for a long while.
The Mallards are losing a lot of ducklings and the locals are wondering if, along with the Pike and the male Swan,  he might be responsible for some of them disappearing.
We know the Pike are having some as the bailiff and residents have seen them disappear off the water. We also know that the Swan has killed a couple. He also has driven off one of his own youngsters, treating it very harshly. I know they are not sentimental but is this normal? One of the chicks was not right, it had a deformed neck and a limp, that one disappeared very soon after hatching, but the second one seemed physically ok. But the male really hounded the second youngster, pulling it by its neck and pecking at it.

Anyway, moving on. There seems to be very few butterflies around at the moment, at least in Herefordshire. With the exception of Small Tortoiseshell and Large Skipper, numbers seem right down. 5 Spot Burnet moths are also being seen in very large numbers. A trip up to Whitchurch in Shropshire to spend the day with my brother Alan was a bit of a disappointment, we did get the Silver Studded Blue that we went for. Only males though, no females to be seen.

We then went to Whixall Moss for the dragonflies, in particular Black Darter and White Faced Darter, unfortunately the weather took a turn with high wind and it was really a wash out. All we got was this Emerald

We did get buzzed by something though.

This Helo took great delight in buzzing over our heads, very low. This is full frame taken with the 70-200 lens. I think they are out of Shawbury where there is a training school. He was around for quite a few minutes buzzing back and too, and hovering some distance away from us, in all fairness it was the best thing that happened all day. We did see Large Heath butterfly too, but the conditions and their love for staying low in the grass meant I didn't get a decent shot.

A trip to Gloucestershire to spend the best part of a day with Mike Smith was arranged and very much enjoyed. Two life time firsts were seen and photographed. White Admiral are butterflies I have never seen before, but Mike took me to a spot where not only would we hope to see them but also possibly get a shot or two. They were around, I think we probably saw over a half dozen, but they came to rest on only one or two occasions and then only briefly. I did manage 5 frames of the underside of one.

Stunning just doesn't seem to do it justice.
As if that wasn't enough, after treating me to lunch Mike took me to a spot near his home which we hoped would produce some Blues, again there were a few about, but only Small Blue. I didn't mind as I've never seen or photographed them either. Surprisingly the ones we got to photograph, were covered in Ticks or some kind of parasite.

Photographing them wasn't easy either, steep sided hill, habit of either hitting them or the surrounding grass with my tripod and their desire to fly off everytime I got near soon had me frustrated and Mike laughing at my pathetic efforts. I could not believe how tiny they are, Britains smallest Butterfly apparently. Andy Carey once correctly identified a Common Blue picture I sent to him thinking it was a Small blue, he said at the time that when I saw a Small Blue I would know it. You were dead right Andy.   

The Marbled White, of which there were plenty were also suffering with Ticks.

After a brew and sandwich back at Mikes it was off to see the Little Owls which Mike has worked hard to get to accept his vehicle in close proximity. Mike promised me close up stuff and he didn't fail to deliver, with a little patience and a fair few mealworms we were soon treated to visits from what Mike believes was the male bird, and close didn't even cover it.

Using my 70-200 lens this is without doubt one of the best shots of a Little Owl I've got. I also eventually managed to get the timing right to get the owl in flight, something Mike has down to a tee. I've put a shot or two more on the Smugmug site. (see my links).

Thank you Mr Smith for your hospitality and company, it was a great, fun, day with laughs a plenty and some fab photo opportunities. We must do it again soon, although some improvement with the catapult is required.

Finally I've spent a little while doing Dragonflies nearer to home. Here are a couple, The Black Tailed Skimmer and the Golden Ringed.

Come back soon, don't forget to check out the Smugmug gallery.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

So much for the good weather!

What a change in the weather we've had these last few days. Very few opportunities to get out and about. Fortunately when the opportunity has presented itself I haven't had to go too far in search of stuff to photograph.

Mostly little stuff to be honest but a trip to Wellington gave me a nice view of a Whitethroat.

I've cropped it in a bit as it was surrounded by foliage, nice to see it busy feeding its young. In exactly the same area as the year before last. Everything is busy with young now, if we get a few nice days together I will definately spend more time trying to photo other stuff there.
The 4 spotted Chasers are about in huge numbers now, I caught this one with the 600 lens.

I also caught a freshly emerged Black Tailed Skimmer, check out Smugmug for that.

Nearer to home I saw something I've never seen before, a swarm of Honey Bees, they were in a hedge on the country park

The quality isn't brilliant as it was taken with the macro lens at a distance. There must have been several thousands of bees in the swarm with lots also flying around.

Quite a few bits of small stuff have kept me glued to the computer and books trying to confirm identities, some of the easier ones are here.

Harlequinn Ladybirds,

This Flesh fly, why is it that these give me the creeps? Is it purely because the name conjures up all manner of images?

This beautiful micro moth, Nemophora Degeerella.

and a final stage Oak Eggar moth caterpillar

Absolutely stunning in my opinion.

Things in my garden have been hectic too, I've had the Blue tits fledge from the nest box, I was a little worried about this chap as it seemed very tiny and hung around my patio for over 24 hrs.

But its parents made sure it didn't go without its fair share of food.Roxy, my Westie, was extremely gentle around it. I was concerned that she would try and kill it but she didn't. she merely had a sniff once or twice. At one point I lifted it off the patio onto a low branch of a big climber plant I have up one part of the garden fence. I was concerned that if Roxy didn't get it the magpies would. Its parent found it no problem and it sat on the branch very contentedly until after tea when I stopped checking.

Poor old parents are looking extremely ragged as usual after raising the young.

I've had Goldfinch and Greenfinch in the garden regularly, the Greenies are extremely flighty so only a Goldie to show you I'm afraid.

I've also had Great spotted woodpecker and a plethora of Squirrels, with four in the garden at once on a few occasions.

I saw my first Large Skipper of the year, I think, yesterday. I don't think it was a Large Skipper, it definately was, but I think it was the first I've seen this year so far, I also am reasonably confident that I saw a Painted Lady on Sunday but it didn't stop and my eyesight isn't brilliant so I couldn't swear on it.

I went for a walk with the children around Cannop Ponds in the FOD on Sunday too and a lovely evening we had, I got pics of a Green Tiger Beetle and a Dor Beetle which can both be seen on the Smugmug gallery in my links.

Springwatch is back and I think its been better this year, so far, than the last few years, I was particularly interested to see the piece about Cuckoo's. There seems to have been a lot more photos on Birdguides this year of Cuckoos, I wonder if it's because there are more around this year or maybe it's just because there are shed loads more people out there with cameras. What do you think?

Anyways, sun is predicted for tomorrow (thurs) so I will be up early with the camera.

Oh yes just one more story to tell you. A nearby friend who lives on the side of the Belmont pool claims he'd seen what he believed to have been an otter, two nights on the trot, on the roadside by the lake, during the night between 1.30 and 3.30. He suffers with his feet too and is often unable to sleep so he sits looking out at the road infront of his house, He was convinced it was too big to be a mink.

Well, I thought about it and decided I would give up a few hours last night (Tues/weds) and go and sit and see what turned up. So at 12.30 I drove my car up there and parked far enough back from where he'd seen it, but still close enough to have a good view, and waited. I had my camera with me, with the 300mm lens thereon. At 01.15 a juvenile Fox trotted passed, and didn't stop, and during my 2hr 45 mins vigil two cats came by. No sign of an otter. However at 01.40 the ducks on the lake started to make a racket, something was clearly disturbing them, there was a lot of splashing and quacking, this went on for almost an hour and at one point it was so loud I thought something must be chasing the birds. I didn't see anything though and after an hour it calmed down to quietness again. I was intrigued.
Whilst sitting and waiting, and this is the point of my tale, I decided to test the 5D and see if it would work in very low light. I played about with it and tried lots of different ISO settings etc, and I was amazed at how good the pictures of the cats and the fox were that I took. Don't get me wrong there was shed loads of noise evident even in camera, but with no flash I couldn't believe I was getting clear shots of my subject matter at all, just by the street lighting. Unfotunately, and this is the depressing bit, I can't show you because in my half addled sleepy state when I got back in I erased them.
But should I be tempted to go and have another go one night soon I will keep a few shots. Suffice to say, I was mega impressed.