Perspective

The last two months I've experienced so much change, what with the start of my new Job in Cardiff with Aden Productions, and also losing my beautiful Grandmother last week. It's times like these that remind us just how fragile life really is. It doesn't take much to throw you off-balance, even at times where things appear to be falling into place. I'm very lucky I have a strong, loving and supporting family that are always there to listen. My Nan Violet was certainly one of those, and despite having an endless list of health problems, she'd still listen to you moan about what really were, insignificant things in the grand scheme of life. Cherish your loved ones, they are irreplaceable. 

Below, just a small selection of images I've taken recently. I've not had much time outdoors, but the time I have had with the camera has been pretty productive. It's not quite spring yet for some of our migrants but they are turning up one by one. I do love Yellowhammers in spring and despite them being back on territory, they aren't singing just yet. We need a bit of warmer weather, which I believe is just around the corner. Keep your eyes open! 

Forest of Dean Firsts

Back-tracking a little here, as Craig and I also went to the Forest of Dean on Thursday last week in search of a few of forest mammals. Ideally we would have loved to have seen Wild Boar, and all seemed on target! as we were just about to give up when Craig spotted a Boar 'Sleeping'... Getting all excited we approached slowly as it was a sub-adult male, tusks and all! but the closer we got, the soon realised that it wasn't sleeping, and it was actually dead :'(. Not sure the cause of death, but it wasn't that far from a main road, so likely hit by a car and stumbled into the woodland injured. I won't post the pictures, it was quite graphic. 

The day was saved however! As another first for both of us came soon after, in the form of a Muntjac Deer :D

I've only ever had 1 other brief sighting of a Muntjac but I've never got to photograph one before. If you haven't seen one before, it's not that they're not common, it's just they are so small, as so easy to miss. (About the size of a small-medium sized Dog). They aren't native to the Uk, but they're well established, and personally, a welcomed addition to the Uk Deer population. 

 Muntjac Deer

Muntjac Deer

Arriving home, I spent an hour along the Avon Llwyd to see how our Dippers are getting on, as they're usually quite early breeders, so most will be sitting on eggs already. 
This looked promising with territories well established, males singing around the nesting sites and even the Grey Wagtails are getting broody and won't be far behind I'm sure. 

A 'Twitchy' Day

Those who know me well, know that I'm not your typical birder, attending twitches around the country, clambering over people to get a look in at a rarity. It's not that I wouldn't love to see these birds, but it's the people part that I'm not overly fond of. Yes, it's great to share your passion with others, and it's certainly no bad reflection on those who do like to twitch, but it's just not for me. That said, it was a day of local twitching yesterday, with a very rare visitor at Twmbarlwm mountain in the form of a Snowy Owl!. It was picked up by a local Dog walker, who managed to photograph and video the bird on the peak of the mountain. Quite a few birders turned up once the news got out to search for the bird, but having searched every upland in my local area, we failed to relocate it. That's the way it goes sometimes!. You'd think a big white owl would be easy to find, but with patches of snow still on the uplands and thick moorland reed beds, they are harder to spot than we thought. 

Failing that, I made the effort to look at Craig Constance's rare find at Llandegfedd called a Black-necked Grebe. When he found it in the morning it was showing near the Fish Cages out in the middle of the reservoir, so not many people came out to see it as Llandegfedd can be quite a difficult place to bird, especially when it's a bird as small as a Black-necked Grebe, which is about the same size as a Little Grebe. 

Upon arrival, Craig and I both scanned and I just about managed to pick out a black dot in the choppy waves on the opposite side. We walked all the way to the north end from the visitors centre, both with inappropriate footwear on a very muddy path but it was well worth it as the bird was feeding 10-20 metres out from Green Pool entrance. Hiding behind a hedge low to the ground was enough to get it within reaching distance of a 600mm (300 with 2x). Still a cropping to fill the frame a bit but check this beaut out! Almost in full breeding plumage! Have to thank Craig again for the effort he puts into birding Llandegfedd. Without him, we'd loose a lot of truly great birds there.

An opportunity I cannot miss!

My time as a Seasonal Ranger has come to an end, with my last official day with them just yesterday. But why you say? You love it at Llandegfedd! This is very true, I do love Llandegfedd, and thankfully, my connection to Llandeg goes much deeper than a Job with Welsh Water, and that connection will never end. 

So what's next? Well, I've been offered a Job as a Specialist Wildlife Researcher for Aden Productions to help produce Iolo Williams' next wildlife documentary for the BBC. It's a great opportunity that I simply cannot turn down, and I can't wait to start with them on the 28th of this month. It will mean some extra travelling but it's well worth it, working alongside like-minded people, all of which share my passion for wildlife. I appreciate all the support from friends and family, as though this change is a good change, I still struggle at times like this as my anxiety can sometimes get the better of me. 

Below are four of my favourite pics from Llandeg last year. I'm sure I'll continue to have many more memorable moments at what is such a fabulous place for wildlife.  

Redwing & Fieldfare

There's no better time to put food out for the Birds and thanks to the kindness of many people, a lot of people have been getting extra additions to their bird table since the snowfall, with Fieldfare, Redwing, Brambling and some even graced with Hawfinch! (Jealousy kicks in). Frankly, I would be happy with a Fieldfare! and I was feeling rather missed out, till today that is, when my small Garden was visited by two Fieldfare. Before I geek over these fantastic birds, heres a story about the poor Redwing that flew into my neighbours window yesterday. 

Just out of luck that I open my front door just seconds after this beautiful Redwing flew into nextdoors window. While it's a good thing that they're visiting peoples gardens for food, windows, cats and predators await them and they're not always cut out for the Urban life. It's a risk they have to take however, as their preferred food is berries, most of which are currently on the ground under a foot of snow. 

I caught the bird fairly easy, which wasn't a good sign at first but 30 minutes in the warm with both food and water, is soon recovered and was ready to fight another day. The bird flew out of the box so quickly, I couldn't even get a photo in time, so this phone pic will have to do. 

Redwing Gavin Vella

My first sign that Fieldfare were in the area, came really early in the morning where I managed to just about catch one singing in the dawn chorus. We don't often hear this song due to them being winter visitors to the Uk, so to catch a recording of it singing was really special. Doesn't last long here, and it's right at the start of the recording, but it's a Fieldfare either way. 

It took a full day of watching intently and finally just as the light was dropping, in they came to eat the berries of my neighbours bush and feast on the apples I've put out on my make shift snow bird table. 

Fieldfare Bush Gavin Vella
Fieldfare Snow

Feed The Birds

Wasn't long ago I was talking about Spring! With spring flowers in full bloom and lots of birds singing. Some pretty cold temperatures have been replaced with that however, followed by a Red Warning for wind and snow. Gusty cold conditions like this make it really tough for birds to survive. While some are extremely good at surviving in harsh conditions, others aren't, and they do perish as a result. Small birds like Coal Tits need to consume at-least 30% of their body weight per day in order to survive, some may need up to 100%!. Theres no better time to put high fat seeds, fat balls and meal worms out for your Garden Birds, as without it, they may struggle. 
The images below were taken yesterday at Ian Howell's Woodland Bird Hide. A fabulous hide with a great selection of species. The cold snap even brought in a Greenfinch which was a new species for the feeders. I wish I had a setup like this at home but I'll still continue to feed the birds, even if it's only Jackdaws and Black-headed Gulls that make the most of it. 

Forest Farm

Last week I made a visit to Forest Farm on what ended up being a beautiful sunny (but cold) day. Most of the day was spent in the first hide with a perfectly lit perch!.. but no Kingfishers. My patience in this case was working against me, as a later trip along the canal brought about some great opportunity with the Kingfishers along the canal, where they are so used to people, you can stand 10ft away from them without them flying away. I wished it was always that easy! A brief day time visit of a Red Fox was a highlight, that and sharing the hide with some great like minded people who share my love for wildlife. 

Is spring here already? Snowdrops and Daff's seem to think so, and I'm happy with that. 

Cinemagraph Photography

Cinemagraph Photography

To keep my sanity at yet another bad period of health, I've found myself spending the last couple days expanding my knowledge and finding new ways to display my photography to you. 
This is a 3 minute introductory to a new style of photography, called 'Cinemagraph Photography'. In my last business meeting it was discussed that it would be beneficial for me to start doing more video content, and for a photographer, primarily capturing still imagery, this seemed like an odd thing to do, after-all, if I wanted to take videos, I'd buy a video camera right? Maybe one day..
For now, I think adding a little movement to my images may just make photography within video a little more interesting to watch. 

Cinemagraphing is the combination of video and still imagery in the same sequence. Let me know what you think? 

All of the images / videos used in the video below were taken at Llandegfedd Reservoir 

Finally!

In all the years I've been wildlife watching, I've not had in my possession, a Scope! Well, not anymore! Big thanks to Gillian Jones for making this happen for me. I'll certainly look after it and make full use of it. This might not mean much to some people but it's a big deal for me, especially considering I'm well associated with Llandegfedd and you simply can't make the most of what Llandegfedd has to offer, without the use of a scope. It's such a large body of water and that extra magnification makes a huge difference in identifying what would otherwise be a spec in the distance thru binoculars. 

Pressure is on now however as my birding friends expect me to find something good with it.. 

Below, a backlit picture of a Water Rail on an icy pond from my trip to WWT Slimbridge. 

 Water Rail 

Water Rail 

WWT Slimbridge Winter Special

Theres nothing quite more thrilling than a stunning sunny winters day at Slimbridge WWT nature reserve. What an incredible place, not just for wildlife, but for people of all kinds. Families having a fun filled day observing, playing and learning, all the while, serious birders getting some fantastic views of truly massive numbers of wintering wildfowl & waders with their predators in the mix. Every now and again you're reminded of the amount of conservation work that has taken place their also, with plenty of ringed / satellite tagged birds out on the reserves. It's by far the best place for photography out of all of the WWT reserves I've been to, as the hides are setup with photographers in mind, with the sun at your back and the wildlife up close and personal. How they've achieved all this is beyond me, but it proves it can be done! I know you have to pay to get in, or pay membership fees, but in my opinion, it's worth every penny because you get so much back from it. You only need look at my photographs below to see that and these are only a hand-full of photo's that I took yesterday. Two views of hunting Peregrines in a place that I last saw a hunting Goshawk over the meadows on my last visit. I hope you enjoy my images below. The Water Rail has to be my favourite as it needed to cross the ice to get to the other side of the pond where the water had thawed in the sun. That said, there were lots of incredible moments, perhaps I'll post the images separately and talk about them individually on a later date. For now, enjoy.