Last Hurrah!

The past weekend brought with it a distinct drop in temperature. It’s the first time, in a long time, where I have felt cold while out shooting. Even with the sun shining the chill in the air was palpable.

My main focus for this shoot was a huge ivy bush which was absolutely teeming with life. Wasps, bees and a huge hornet were all bustling around the still in flower ivy.

It felt a little bit like a last hurrah for my macro. With the cooler temperatures setting in the macro season will be slowly drawing to a close.

Not many insects are active over winter, some lay dormant as adults throughout the winter to emerge again in the spring. An interesting word I learnt when reading into overwintering insects was diapause (insect hibernation).

This particular ivy bush provided an incredible bounty of pollen, still in flower, it offered a vital source for the insects that visited it.

There were plenty of wasps around, fighting over available flowers, between themselves and anything that dared to visit. One unfortunate honey bee was mobbed by a feisty wasp that appeared to sting the bee! It took me a while to realise what had I had seen. Some amazing behavior to witness, unfortunately I did not get a shot.

Honey bees were quite prevalent, as was a single, huge hornet. Its amazing how much bigger hornets are on relation to wasps and bees, seeing them side by side. They were flying too high for me to get a decent capture but were fascinating to observe, they appeared sluggish compared to the frantic to-ing and fro-ing of the wasps.

It was great to focus on my macro again, unfortunately my mental health still isn’t the best but its on the up. Positives for me to think upon were; I was motivated to be out with the camera, I enjoyed being out with the camera and I am pleased with what I captured.

Some of the snaps I managed to get over the past weekend are some of my best, in my opinion. Thinking of what I would like to achieve next with my macro photography, I would really like to learn how to stack images, this can take images to the next level in terms of image quality and how much detail can be seen in the image.

I think its important for me to keep learning on how to improve, I am not one to be complacent with my shots. If there are any tips for stacking, diffusing light, or general photography advice, I would love to hear them!

I hope your week has been a great one, until next time, take care.

July.

How are we already in July? The most surreal year; I think any of us have ever experienced, has definitely not rested on its laurels. In a way I am grateful for this speed as with each passing month hopefully means a month closer to getting back to some sort of normality.

An attempt to partake in some sort of pre-lockdown activity this week, I visited Croome Court. I knew that once the National trust had reopened Croome I would like to visit. You have to prebook tickets for a set timeslot, you are unable to enter the properties, but this did not phase me as the grounds of Croome court are exquisite,

The walk did not disappoint, I was even lucky enough to see a Heron in the lake hunting, unfortunately they did not manage to make a catch while I was there, although it did aid my photograph snapping; Herons stand so still while they are stalking potential prey.

Another day and another walk, this time on the Malvern hills. Views from the top, over Worcestershire and Herefordshire are breathtaking. Patchwork fields, glittering water sources and of course the hills themselves all offer their charm as you walk further up the hills.

Garden macro photography has continued to be a source of comfort when I am unable to go out. The flower beds are still providing beautiful blooms, this weeks offering being the bright orange of the Calendula.

There are still a good number of flowers yet to bloom and I cannot wait to see what has flourished from the seeds I had previously scattered (a wild flower mix). The wild mustard flowers are currently the main attraction for insects, with various hover flies and bees visiting the delicate yellow flowers.

I hope you have all had a great week, until next time, take care.

A New Place To Roam.

There aren’t many things that fill me with as much joy as finding new photography locations. This past week I have managed to find not one but two! The variety of wildlife at both of these locations will give me plenty to capture as the year goes on.

The first location was a relatively local set of ponds, covered with reeds, it housed plenty of ducks, moorhens and even the odd brown rat. Its a place I am more than certain I will return to regularly.

I love feeding the ducks. I would assume most peoples first encounter with wildlife would be feeding the ducks or swans as a youngster. It is something that I will never grow out of, the only difference these days is that I don’t feed them bread, I take seed which the ducks still guzzle down enthusiastically.

At the pond there were plenty of new life, baby ducklings, moorhen chicks and young rats. I really hope to see how these families progress as time moves on.

The second location was a circular walk along the River Avon. Along the river side there were plenty of dragon flies, damsel flies, butterflies and swallows, whizzing past to catch the midges over the water. I had hoped to potentially see kingfishers, so I had favored my longest lens, leaving my macro at home, a decision I would regret with the amount of mini beasts around. Again, as with the ponds, I am very eager to return.

The swallows were fascinating to watch, catching their query along the river, I tried numerous times to get in flight shots but they were just so quick. I did discover that there were a few nesting pairs beneath a railway bridge and managed to capture a shot of a single Swallow perched on one of the steels. They are beautiful birds when you can study them and are not just a blur.

I also saw my first Sedge Warbler, a flit of movement in the reed bed across the river caught my eye. It took a long while to locate the source and even then the picture isn’t the clearest. I am relativity new to birding really, apart from watching garden birds. There are many firsts to be had even with abundant varieties, I look forward to what I manage to capture in the future.

Since the lockdown restrictions have started to ease, I have been trying to look for walks that would not be too busy, for ease of social distancing. I need to be in green space, there is something about being out in nature that just calms my mind. I have struggled this week with extremes of highs and lows, but when I am out feeding ducks or walking along a field, I am level.

I really hope you are all keeping well, until next time take care.

Finding the words

I apologise for the lack of posts recently, in truth I just haven’t been able to find the words. There have been so much to process over the past couple of weeks, it felt frivolous for me to jump onto here to write as if everything was “normal”

This year from the get go has been one trauma to the next. In my recollection there hasn’t been another year like this before. I don’t really talk about news events in these posts, concentrating instead on the photography and even more recently mental health (in hopes of helping others).

So in that same vain of wanting to help others; I am going to add my voice to plead with those who haven’t yet to support Black Lives Matter. Sign the petitions for justice for those who are no longer able to speak, donate (if you are able to), for white people (myself included) to educate yourselves and to have those difficult conversations with those around you about our privilege and what ways we need to be more receptive to learn and move forward as allys, it is up to us to do better.

There are so many heartbreaking and anger inducing situations that should never have happened. From the murders by people who are paid to protect their citizens to birders being reported to the police and having their colour weaponised when politley asking for someone to put a lead on their dog in an area that dogs should be on lead.

I am not qualified to lecture on how these affected their communities, as a white woman I can never fully understand how it feels to be judged, discriminated against because my skin colour/religion/ethnicity is different. When will ignorant people learn that different is not dangerous.

This isn’t a trend, when the news dies down and the next big story break, I urge you to continue to seek out and learn from diverse voices, support diverse companies, look at how you can help to move forward and create an equal footing for all.

I’ve started by talking to my own children about these horrendous acts, it doesn’t matter what age they are, you are never too young/old to learn about (in)justice, equality and privilege.

I will leave links for a few of the petitions I hope you add your name to:

https://www.change.org/p/andy-beshear-justice-for-breonna-taylor

https://www.change.org/p/minneapolis-police-department-justice-for-george-floyd

https://www.change.org/p/suspend-uk-export-of-tear-gas-rubber-bullets-and-riot-shields-to-usa?source_location=petitions_browse

https://www.change.org/p/the-school-system-petition-for-changes-to-be-made-to-the-school-system-to-address-racial-issues-in-the-uk

Nature is a therapy for me, it should be inclusive for all. When I go out with the camera, yeah …I may worry my equipment might get damaged or stolen at worst. I’ve never had to explain to others about my nature watching, or worry others may discriminate while I am out because of the colour of my skin.

I hope we can move forward to a place where can never be the case again, its an uncomfortable journey for us white people, it should be. I am willing to learn and I hope other white people reading this too are to.

Below I have still provided my most recent pictures, I still chose to share them in this post as questioning and learning about racial inequality and how to change behaviors to aid those who most need it should be the new normal and is not separate from my everyday.

Until next time I wish you all the best, take care.

Variety Is The Spice Of Life

After a very brief break from blog writing, I’m back with what I hope you find a great variety of captures. The opportunities for photography in the garden recently has been fantastic.

The bird feeder has started to attract a great variety of birds and the mini beasts have been out in force during the warmer weather we have been lucky to have experienced recently.

I have been setting myself goals each day for what I would hope to snap each session. Of course nature is very unpredictable and I have to be flexible as to what is available to shoot.

Generally, I will start by choosing which lens I will be using for that day ( a choice between my 150-600mm or macro 105mm lens). This determines what I will be trying to shoot, e.g macro lens for mini beasts or flora.

I’ve really enjoyed being able to mix my photography up in this way. It has allowed me the focus on a particular subject each day rather than trying to capture absolutely everything, which could result with me missing photographic opportunities and more than likely leave me frustrated.

An update on the garden, another small flower bed had been dug over and more wildflowers have been sown. The flower bed I mentioned in my previous post has now sprung to life, small seedlings are beginning to poke their heads out through the soil. These are very exciting times.

I am unsure as to what project I will next kick start for the garden, a wildlife pond maybe? or more flower beds? I will keep you updated.

Spirits have continued to remain high during the brief writing break, I repeat myself often when I say this; but I am very grateful for times when this is the case for my mental well being. I have been keeping myself active with other small activities that have helped tremendously. Activities as simple as, baking a loaf of bread with a very established and active sourdough starter I started (RuRu), gives me a sense of achievement.

I hope you are all managing to remain positive as lock down continues, if not please, please reach out. We are in this together! Until next time, take care.

The Not So Secret Garden.

In all the years I have lived where I do, I don’t think I have ever spent as much time in the garden as I have recently. The garden even though very basic in design, has become a sanctuary for my well being, aided by the weather being so reasonable.

The garden, regrettably, has been neglected for years. With it being my only green space at present, lockdown has provided the perfect opportunity to try and rejuvenate this sparse bit of land.

I would be going against everything I love if I didn’t try to create a wildlife friendly garden. Ideally I would like lots of flowers for pollinating bugs, alongside habitat for them to make this garden their home e.g a log pile, a small wildlife pond and eventually some form of native tree to encourage more birds to the garden.

The first port of call was to create a flower bed. This was quite tough to dig out as the ground in the garden is made up of very hard clay. It was really hard work and eventually I managed to get it to a stage where I was able to sow some seeds. I chose a native wildflower mix, I am trying to keep the planting scheme loose as I am not a very experienced gardener, I would definitely struggle with thinking up structured planting schemes and knowing what plants grow well alongside each other.

I have to say having a new project has really kept my spirits high and my mind active. I am sure that this project will be ongoing for some time, there is no real need to rush. I can take my time to think of what the garden requires and allow me time to gather the resources, at present a lot of gardening supplies are quite hard to acquire.

Over the coming weeks I will document my garden transformation and may even provide some visual evidence.

The only flora currently growing within the garden would be labeled as weeds by some people. These plants especially in a garden lacking from any other flowers are vital to those pollinators who have awoken this springtime.

Each “weed” holds a certain charm and are often some of the first plants you learn the names to growing up. Early memories which include these plants are summers where I would make daisy chains or picking dandelions to blow the seed heads to make wishes. I am very keen for these to stay within the garden and for my own children to experience the same pleasures I had.

Another positive from the week, more birds have been visiting the feeder. Regardless of their type I am just so happy to be shooting birds again. This does not mean my macro photography has been forgotten, that spark is still ignited. I was extremely pleased with myself as I managed to capture a jumping spider catching their lunch.

My motivation appears to be full steam ahead at the moment and I am very keen for this to continue, especially as lock down continues to be enforced. I am always very grateful for these times when my mental health is in a stable position, I am feeling positive going into the new week.

I really hope that your week has been a good one and that you are all managing to keep safe. Until next time, take care.

Beauty And The Mini-Beasts.

So it would appear that this weekend, I have been bitten by the macro photography bug. I’ll apologise now to those that dislike insects/arachnids, as there are a few contained within this post, I have to admit I find them just as fascinating as any other wildlife.

The more bugs I snap, the more I’ve come to appreciate them and their world. I am aware that other people would not class them as conventionally beautiful but each mini beast, in their own way holds a charm.

To those who do not agree with the above sentiment, I have provided some more conventionally beautiful shots of flora.

Its been great and a slight relief to be excited about my photography again. I’ve loved being able to get my nature fix again, even if its not the wildlife I would of originally thought to rekindle my inspiration. It’s helped in keeping at bay, any more negativity I have recently been feeling.

This Easter weekend has not been without its hardship, as I am sure has been the case for many others. Another occasion where we are unable to visit family/friends at a time notorious for getting together. There is going to be a lot to make up for, when normality begins to resume.

I want to wish you all a very Happy Easter, I hope you are all able to make the best of a strange situation.

To remind those who may be interested, over on my Facebook page (search: Rucoby) I will be setting another photography challenge on Monday evening. The challenges are open to anyone, at any skill level. They are just a bit of fun to serve as a distraction for anyone who may be starting to feel despondent during lock-down, by getting you to think creatively and focus on something other than the current climate.

It was lovely seeing what others had made of last weeks theme (time). There were literal takes on the theme e.g pictures of watches, pictures for demonstrating what time has taken away and even a comical take with rosemary and thy(i)me. The photos are still on my Facebook page, so go and check them out. I hope they inspire more people to get involved.

Personally, I really enjoyed setting the previous challenge, it allows me an outlet to try and help others without putting anyone at risk. It has given me motivation to keep socially active, especially at a time where it would be quite easy to slink off and wallow in my low mood.

At present I am in a much better place emotionally than I was when I posted my last blog post. I really hope that this continues for the foreseeable future. I am desperately trying hard to stay positive and not put extra pressure on myself if I do have a low day. I really want to break the cycle of beating myself up for needing to recharge and making myself feel worse.

I again would like to wish you all a Happy Easter, until next time, take care.

Snap Happy

With all the bad weather we have been having lately, it would have been quite easy for me to want to hibernate and not venture out to shoot. In truth; the reality has been the complete opposite. The photography muses must have been with me this week.

In between the downpours and the worst of the blustery winds, I have been out in the garden with the camera. Displays of vivid greens and resilient blooms have inspired the majority of my pictures.

Around the feeders, the hedgerow has been a hive of activity. Like myself, the birds have been making the most of the breaks in the weather. Fights over territory and food have been commonplace. I have been quite surprised to see how bolshy Blue Tits can be, they are not phased in taking on the bigger birds.

Moving away from the garden, I took a trip to Kinver Edge and Rock houses at the weekend. I must admit I was completely unaware of this location beforehand, it’s an absolute gem.

Scrolling through the National Trust site I knew I wanted to stay local. Stumbling upon this location it looked very intriguing and offered something different to the standard stately homes or parks.

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/kinver-edge-and-the-rock-houses

There is plenty of interest as you walk around, from the striking red sandstone to the views from the Edge, the pretty gorse flowering on the hillside and of course the Rock houses themselves.

I feel bad for not knowing about this site sooner, it is a definite recommendation from me; not only for photography opportunities. The surrounding area offers lots of different walks and I look forward to returning and taking different routes.

As I write this post the bad weather, for the time being, has subsided and there are even sunny spells. I’m feeling positive moving into the new week and hopeful my photography motivation holds fast.

A Quiet Beginning

I hope you are all enjoying a great start to the new year and the return to normality after the festive season has not been too arduous. 2020 is now well and truly underway.

My new year has started quietly, which is in no way a negative thing. It is way too easy to get swept up in the wave of feeling like you have to change dramatically because of a new year.

I am very optimistic with the goals I set myself for the year ahead. I am taking my time to not rush through them, to do them properly. In turn, this should hopefully help negate feelings that I am not achieving enough, or feeling like a failure when more likely than not, a resolution is broken.

Following on from last week, I continued photographing the birds that had visited the garden.

House sparrows have always been a constant visiter, I do sometimes wonder how they feel, now that there is a lot more competition at the feeders.

One of the newest visitors, who I had mentioned in last weeks post; the Long Tailed Tit returned. Thankfully, I had my camera in hand to get more pictures of this cute, round fluff ball.

Moving on from the garden, this week saw me go to a local landmark. I don’t know if this happens to others, but I struggle to photograph landmarks/places I am very familiar with. I am always more comfortable with new destinations.

I wish I could offer a coherent explanation for this, but it has definitely gone onto my list of things to learn upon.

I have provided the only picture of the cathedral I was happy with from that shoot. Maybe later in the year I will try this location out again, to see if I have improved or have overcome the uncomfortableness of shooting locally.

The cathedral is located next to the River Severn, and it provided me with a subject I am more comfortable with. It wouldn’t of felt right if I had left the river without a swan shot.

The week finished as it had began with bird photography. I look forward to seeing what the next week has in store for me.

Back to Nature

It’s such a great feeling to be getting back to the norm after all the festivities of Christmas and the new year. Getting back to routine and being able to blog again is brilliant, the laptop is fixed and with a brand new year; it brings new hopes and new possibilities.

The first few days of this new year I have gone back to one of my joys and to how this blog began, nature photography.

The hedgerow has been a hive of activity; with lots of birds coming to the feeder; laden with mixed seeds and nuts, which at this time of year serves as a lifeline to our resident species.

The visiting Robins have been constantly singing, their song ringing out around the garden, making even the dullest grey day bearable. These brave little birds are always close when I am out shooting, probably waiting to see if I will provide them more food. As they perch in the hedgerow it appears like they are posing for me, and who wouldn’t blame them, they are very striking with their red breast, making them stand out in the bare hedges.

A new visitor to the garden has been the Coal Tit. At first I mistook it for a Great Tit variant, but the more I observed the more I realised this was a new visitor. There has been a lot of fierce competition around the feeder especially when groups of tits (Great Tit, Blue Tit, Long Tailed Tit and now the Coal Tit) and sparrows are around. The Coal Tits have had no trouble holding their own. I look forward to seeing them return to the garden in the coming year (fingers crossed).

Speaking of other Tit varieties, the Long Tailed Tit has been a regular visitor to the garden since last summer. They are very charismatic tiny birds, they come into the garden all of a sudden, in groups and as soon as they arrive, they leave. They tend to evade me when I have the camera out, until that is, this weekend where I managed to capture two photos with them about to fly.

I am so pleased with the outcome of those photos, going forward, with my nature photography in particular I would like to shoot more birds in flight.

The last picture for this week is the first quarter moon of the year. The sky was really clear and the moon was bright, it was not a hard decision to get the camera out to shoot.

It may be of interest to some to note, the first full moon of the year (wolf moon) will be the 10th January and is meant be a penumbral eclipse (meaning the moon doesn’t pass through the full shadow of the Earth which should hopefully give the moon a pinkish/red shade) so I am wishing the night sky will be just as clear then.