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.

Recovery

It is no secret on this blog how much I struggle with my self esteem, in nearly all of my blogs there is the thread of self doubt about what I am displaying. So i’m assuming if I were to write about my anxiety and depression it wouldn’t really be a surprise for anybody to read.

I’ve ummed and arred for ages about whether to include my mental health on previous blog posts, I am scared that it may put people off reading my posts in the future but leaving out that side of myself makes me a bit of a fraud, I want these blogs to be authentic, a genuine expression of my life, how can I truly manage that if I am hiding a huge section of myself?

I have seriously struggled with anxiety and depression for the past 3 years. At its worse I will have frequent panic attacks, be unable to leave the house, I will withdraw from myself and from those around me, I worry constantly over nothing in particular, it causes me to be forgetful, I am constantly filled with guilt, and on more than one occasion I have come extremely close to feeling like I shouldn’t be around at all.

I am so very lucky to have a great support network around me, they have been there through my worst and I will be eternally grateful that they feel I am worth helping. From the close family that have to put up with my bad days, to the friends that check in, just to see how I am doing, these things can make such a difference when you are feeling detached from everything.

From my own experience; I would honestly recommend if you have anyone in your life that struggles with their mental health, a simple message just to say Hi or a phone call to check in could help enormously.

You may now be wandering what does this have to do with a photography journal?

Photography, for me, alongside my support network is one of my saviours, it’s part of my recovery. Photography gives me a reason/ purpose to get out of the house, when in reality all I want to do is hide.

It allows me a creative outlet, being able to try and share how I’ve seen a scene or the atmosphere from what/where I’d been shooting. I enjoy trying to think of new ways of shooting subjects and it pushes me to experiment.

I love how photography gets me to look at the world, it helps me focus on something other than the anxiety/depression (this is more so when I am in recovery, unfortunately not when I am at my lowest ebb, at that point I am unable to focus on anything).

I took a week off from the blog last week because of my anxiety/depression. Self care is so important and I am getting better at allowing myself time to recuperate, to hopefully negate full breakdowns.

I am realistic; I am always going to struggle with my mental health but I want to try and avoid the worst because I’ve been there before and it’s horrendous getting out of it. Like my self esteem, my mental health is going to be something I am constantly working to improve.

Feeling brighter this past weekend, I visited the Weir Garden, Hereford (https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/the-weir-garden). A beautiful stretch alongside the river Wye, this garden/walkway was laden with snowdrops. Thankfully on the day I visited, we were blessed with winter sunshine and bright blue skies. I did have a few issues with getting my exposures right but overall I am happy with the photos I captured.

There is a bird hide at the weir garden, with feeders set out in front of it. The shot I managed to capture of the squirrel from the hide was my favourite from the day. The squirrel was aware I was in the hide but it didn’t scare them off, they were a very accommodating model, for which I am very grateful for.

I recently became a member of the National trust and look forward to visiting more properties similar to the Weir garden.

Winter Sun

Since the year began I have had this yearning to go somewhere for a proper good walk, the sort that you could say “it blows the cobwebs out” about. With each new year this has become a sort of tradition (weather permitting).

This past weekend the weather was perfect, a clear frosty morning, with bright blue skies inspired the thought and offered hope of being able to get some beautiful sunset pictures.

The Malvern hills was the chosen location for this, somewhere I have been to on many occasions growing up and could never get bored of, as the views are tremendous. I had never been at sunset, so this offered a new experience to an old location.

With the help of Google, I researched the time the sun would go down that day, I set off very optimistic, excited for what I was about to shoot.

The winter sunsets (and sunrises too) recently have been stunning, full of pinks, purples, oranges and blue hues.

In the photographs I’ve provided I hope they give a sense on how stunning the sky was at that time and how the view looked that evening.

The walk definitely blew the cobwebs out! The fresh air filled my lungs and frost from the morning still clung to the hills. I had brought with me, my tripod (I am getting better at being prepared for shoots) and set it up along different pathways offering different viewpoints.

The problem with sunsets is they don’t ever last as long as you want them too. I made the most of the time available and kept shooting as the light changed with the setting sun.

Something different for this blog too, I have provided some phone snaps, I generally use my phone for photos when I am out on a shoot but they don’t usually measure up to the dslr ones. However; this time with the light being so good, these snaps were just as effective.

I really like the way these photos have turned out. I’ve mentioned numerous times landscapes isn’t a particularly strong photography genre of mine, but I am definitely gaining more confidence and learning from each shoot.

The next day, along with the frost came a light mist, hard to resist I set out again to get more landscape shots. As before I took the pictures with my phone, and same again, I was quite happy with the outcome.

I really hope this winter sun continues for the coming weeks, offering more picturesque skies. I am currently unsure on where the next week will take me, but I looking forward to it.