Love at first sightings.

https://www.wwt.org.uk/wetland-centres/slimbridge/

https://www.redditchbc.gov.uk/things-to-do/parks-and-outdoors/arrow-valley-country-park.aspx

I love watching wildlife, whether it be blue tits visiting the feeders or bees pollinating flowers, I take great enjoyment and relaxation from it all. I may not have been a serious “watcher” until this blog but I have always appreciated the experiences I have had. This can mean my knowledge is sometimes lacking e.g. identification but part of the fun is learning new things.

I have a bucket list of the British wildlife that I would love to see and hopefully photograph; Otters, foxes, badgers, red squirrel, kingfishers, herons, adders, voles, harvest mice….etc. I could carry on naming copious amounts of wildlife but I’m sure you get the idea.

I was lucky enough to briefly see a wild otter at Croome, which took one off my list, fingers crossed I can get a shot of them next time! I didn’t really have a plan for the next animal I would be aiming to hopefully see.

That is, until one Instagram post from WWT Slimbridge peaked my interest. Kingfisher breeding season had begun. That was it, my mind was set.

I always enjoy visiting Slimbridge, over the years I have lost count of the amount of times I have visited. It was just the excuse I needed to make my first visit of the year.

Setting off early, I was very excited at the thought of potentially seeing a wild kingfisher in the flesh. Like the otter it is an animal I have seen in print but never with my own eyes.

As soon as I entered Slimbridge I headed straight to the kingfisher hide. Immediately, directly in front of the hide, across a pond there was the most striking blue and orange little bird. I was not expecting to see them so quickly. I was enchanted.

If you are to visit Slimbridge in hopes of catching a glimpse of them yourself, be mindful that the hide windows are currently screwed shut as not to disturb the breeding pairs. A volunteer had informed me this was due to people previously scaring the kingfishers, who in turn then abandoned the nest site.

I took a few shots through the window, but mostly I was happy to just sit and watch. I was lucky to see a male and female kingfisher who kindly demonstrated what the breeding season was. They stayed for about 40 mins before moving on.

I lingered a little longer with hopes they would return to which they did not. I did, however, manage to see a field vole emerge from their hole near the hide and grab a quick shot. Eventually I decided to visit the other hides dotted around the site.

One of these is named the Willow hide, which is placed in front of feeders. There were the usual tits, sparrows and pigeons who were making the most of the provided fayre.

At the time of visiting this particular hide, the volunteer I had previously mentioned was present and very kindly pointed my gaze past the feeders and towards a clearing in some thicket, a bird I had never seen before appeared. A water Rail I was informed.

Moving on to another hide more firsts; a curlew and a lapwing. You may be wondering “if you had visited Slimbridge so many times in the past, then why haven’t you seen these all before?” The answer is simple I have never took the time to utilise the hides properly.

I look forward to future visits where I can again make the most of the hides and try and spot more new (to me) wildlife.

The following day on a whim I took a trip to Redditch to visit Arrow Valley Country Park. The skies were mostly clear and bright, it would of been a shame to waste it indoors.

The park is beautiful with a huge lake and I can see myself revisiting regularly. I could of happily sat on the side of the lake and shot away all day. There is a great diversity on the lake, from the usual swans and ducks to canada geese, cormorants and grebe.

One of the highlights from that day was seeing a Heron on their nest. I have seen Herons in the wild before but always as a singularity never as a pair and never on a nest. I was ecstatic to find that the pictures I had taken were clear.

As you may imagine, this weekend has filled me with no end of joy, it has provided me with a boost in motivation to seek out other locations where I can observe more wildlife; either to make new discoveries or to just enjoy old favourites.

I hope you enjoy this weeks images, and I wish you a great week until next time.

Croome

Chasing Otters

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/croome

While I attended Camera Club last week, I learnt that a local National Trust property had wild otters living on their site.

One of the very talented club members had given a presentation of the photographs they had taken in the previous year. A couple of which held the invaluable information that has excited me all week.

As the presentation started I had no inkling to what I was about to learn, I have been to Croome on many occasions through the years, it is a very striking property. There are already so many photographic opportunities there, I was completely unaware of their special inhabitants.

It was an easy decision on where I would be heading this weekend. I had to try and see an otter, I have never seen one in the wild. The week was a long one, especially with me counting down to the day I could get to Croome.

With the news full of weather predictions for the weekend looking negative, storm Ciara was on her way. I was worried I would have to wait another week before I could get there, which I realise isn’t the biggest worry I should have but I was just so excited to think I could see otters.

Thankfully Saturday was blessed with sunny skies, I couldn’t have been luckier!

As soon as I had arrived at Croome, I hot footed it to the river that surrounds the grounds. Interesting fact; the river at Croome is not a natural one, it was dug out by hand in the 1760s as part of a water feature.

The location to which I had been informed the otters could be, was south from the court and over the Chinese bridge. I crossed excitedly and once across walked along the bank stopping the opposite side to a holt purpose built for the otters.

I turned my head left then right, checking my surroundings. Suddenly immediately in front of me was an otter! I was in shock I didn’t expect to see one that quickly. They were in the centre of the river, their head was the the only part visible.

I almost thought I was seeing things, as soon as it was noticed it had vanished beneath the water. I loitered for ages hoping for another glimpse and the chance to get a picture for myself.

Unfortunately I didn’t see them again, but I am just so grateful to have seen them in the first place. I know that they are defiantly there and I look forward to trying to spot them again over the year.

Making the most of the great weather and the beautiful surroundings, the rest of my day was spent shooting around the grounds.

The bright conditions offered the right lighting for monotone shots. I am really starting to appreciate monotone edits for some of my pictures, especially the architectural shots, I feel it can enrich texture and really add mood to a shot.

Following on from last weeks post, this week has been markedly more positive. It has helped that I have had something to focus on, a goal to look forward to. Not to say all the week has been easy, but any week where the anxiety/depression is secondary is a win.

I look forward to where the following week will take me, fingers crossed for more new discoveries.

Fungus, Ducks and a Dog.

Bodenham Arboretum ( http://www.bodenhamarboretum.co.uk/ )

This week I have been on my first photography outing with the camera club I recently joined (and have mentioned in previous blog posts).

We visited the beautiful Bodenham arboretum. A place I had never previously been. My aim was to try and capture the autumn colours and more landscape type shots, styles in which I need to practice.

What I returned with however, was lots of fungi shots! The woodland was brimming with fabulous fungus and I made the most of the abundance.

We were very lucky with the weather, the past week there has been persistent showers but we were graced with a sunny day. The wooded paths offered dappled light and I hope in a few of the photos (in particular the sulphur tuft) you get a sense of how I saw the light on the day.

I have tried my best to identify each variety I have posted, its definitely a skill to know which is what fungus. Researching through various web pages I hope I have labelled each correctly. If there are any that you think I may have misidentified please let me know. Feedback is always welcome.

I have to say google lens was not very helpful, each picture I showed to the app it labelled as mushroom!

I did manage to get one autumnal leaves/branch shot. I like the way the shot looks personally. I find these types of shots hard to gauge on how to shoot them. As I am taking the shot I know in my head what I would like to convey but most times I don’t hit the mark as I review the images on the laptop.

I did take some wider angle landscape shots as we walked around the grounds, but I do not feel confident enough with the outcome to share at this point.

I will keep trying at landscapes but it is definitely one of my weaker styles. I feel that I don’t have the eye for what makes a good landscape. Practise should hopefully help.

At Bodenham arboretum as you walk through the entrance there is a pool (think this is the correct term, it was bigger than a pond but smaller than a lake). I couldn’t resist taking a picture of the ducks. The water was so still at certain times during the day it looked like glass, the colours reflected were glorious.

Now I come to my new friend, the collie joined us on the second half of our walk through the arboretum. Looking for people to play with; this beautiful pup brought us a pine come it wanted us to play fetch with.

So as we snapped and chatted we had a new companion through the woodland and back to the cafe. We assume (as mentioned in the leaflet given to us at the start of the day) this doggy belonged to the farm within the arboretum.

Again who could resist taking a picture of such a lovely dog.

All in all a great day was had by all. I look forward to more dedicated photography day trips to mix up what I shoot and get advice from those shooting around me. To improve in photography, the more shots you can take the better.

I hope you enjoy this weeks offering.

Weekend Outings

For the last couple of weekends I have been determined to go out into the world to scratch my photography itch (so to speak).

Free time is just so rare, with work responsibilities, family /general life, I definitely don’t get out to shoot as much as I’d like to, I think many other hobby photographers feel that way to.

The first stop on my photography tour was Stow-on-the-wold, St Edwards Church to photograph a doorway. You may be thinking…”why? to just shoot a doorway?” Well; this particular doorway is supposedly the one that inspired Tolkien for his door to Moria in The Lord Of The Rings story.

Even if this isn’t true, you can certainly see why people would think so. Tucked behind the back of the Church, the doorway is very unassuming. To be honest, after shooting it, I felt like I didn’t really capture anything to depict the magic of architecture and nature mingled together.

Looking at my uploads back home and playing about slightly with the edits (I try not to mess about to much with what I shoot) the 2 I have chosen to post are to me my best representation. I am happy I did manage to get something! It all goes towards experience.

Next stop was Witley Court and Gardens, more architectural shooting although I did manage to find some nature shots.

I absolutely love the fountain at Witley, for those who haven’t seen it, the statue in the centre show the moment Perseus (atop of Pegasus) defeat the Kraken to rescue Andromeda (I adore Greek myths too, so shooting this was a delight).

Witley itself is a very grand house, gutted by a fire in 1937 the stone structure still alludes to the opulence that once was.

At the moment there is an art exhibition which is is intertwined within the property. One of the exhibits is shown below. Its well worth a viewing if you get the chance. (In Ruins- 12 July-3 November 2019)

As I was walking around one of the pathways, a flash of red caught my eyes. Tucked right under one of the trees, swamped by various foliage. I had found my first red mushroom!

Fly agaric I think it is known officially. I had to off road to get close, it was the only one I managed to find but this one was enough for me. Worth the muddy knees as I got right down to shoot. The things photographers do for a shot!

The final stop for this set of tours is the unmistakable Stonehenge. I had never been before. I had gone full of optimism that I wasn’t going to shoot the cliche shots, the ones you see all the time. The truth is the best ones I took that day were the standard ones.

The weather didn’t help, very flat grey skies and drizzly rain (I forgot to take a cover, which was poor planning really). A lot of my shots were scrapped as had rain on the lens, which could of been completely preventable if I had been more organised. Again more lessons learnt.

The stones themselves are quite intimidating, I was quite naive really. I didn’t know what to expect. I wanted to show this aura in my pictures and having played around with some of the shots to monotone I have hopefully given a sense of what I felt that day. Fingers crossed!