Viewing entries tagged
Birds

Bluebells, Froglets and more Mimics

Wifi has been down for a week so I’ve got lots go catch you up on. I’ll start with some beautiful woodland Frogs amongst the Bluebells which doesn’t seem significant but I look forward to finding them every year in this wood. Any excuse to use the macro lens and to include flora in my images. It looks like it’s going to be a good year for bluebells. I’ve even seeing them high on the moors, which seems unusual.. certainly not something I’ve ever noticed before. I just always associated them with woodland but I guess that’s because everything else is intensely farmed..

While I’m on the uplands, it was pretty special bumping into not 1 but 2 Ring Ouzel in an undisclosed location. We’re at the start of the breeding season for these birds now so it will be interesting to see whether they stick around or if they continue on their migration.

Ring Ouzel

Ring Ouzel

Other notable images from my weeks adventures were mostly bugs. Mating Green Tiger Beetles was a first but Hairy Shieldbug and a Common Crab Spider posed well. The shieldbug image is a 3 image stack, which enabled me to keep a soft background while using the 3 images to pull focus on various parts of the shield-bug in order to get it all in focus.

If you enjoy my mimicking recordings, this one might be a new one for you. It certainly was for me! Siskin have a complex song, but I've always found them pretty easy to identify, therefor didn’t really give them much attention. I don’t know whether it’s just this individual or whether they all do this, but this Siskin could mimic a Blackbird alarm call, a Magpie contact call and a Green Woodpecker call, all mixed into its own song.
It was a real windy day and recording thru numerous branches but you can still hear it if you listen carefully. I’ll revisit this bird on a clearer day to get some better quality recordings. What I love about mimicking birds is, it reminds me that all birds are total individuals, capable of making their own choices.

Mimicking Continues

Last week I introduced a Firecrest mimicking a Goldcrest song and this week I wanted to show you another example of a classic mimicking species, the Sedge Warbler! Now the recording isn’t very good with high winds and noisy planes that have been filtered out, that and the fact that the bird was only singing at quarter volume which is often called ‘sub-song’ but you can still make out the pitch perfect attempt at a Blue Tit song, eventually weaving back into it’s typical chattery mixture of notes. It also attempted to fit in a few phrases of Blackcap and Wren but the Blue Tit was by far the best I’ve heard for a while.

This Sedge Warbler was spotted at a new location along the Gwent Levels.

Sedge Warbler

Sedge Warbler

I also spotted a Water Vole in a rhyne. Testament to the hard work of the Wildlife Trust at Magor Marsh and NRW. It’s great that they’ve spread this far across the levels. Unfortunately this spot is directly threatened by the proposed M4 ‘Black Route’ so all this hard work could be lost. If you haven’t already, check out ‘CALM’ https://savethelevels.org.uk/ to learn more about what you can do to help protect the Gwent Levels from development.

Water Vole

Water Vole

Gwent Uplands

Another unbelievable sunny day today, perfect for Reptiles and it would seem Butterflies too with Brimstone, Peacock, Red-Admiral, Large White and Small Tortoiseshell all on the wing. I spent most of my time today in search for an Adder but still can’t find one. I think I need to change the method, try and approach it a little differently. Either that, or focus on a new sight instead, maybe somewhere that’s a little less vast.

I only got the camera out once after spotting what I first thought to be a Cuckoo, but luckily it landed on a post and it turned out to be a beautiful Male Merlin! My first adult Male bird and my first on my local moorland. I’ve only seen Merlin a hand full of times, but they’ve all been distant, hunting on the wing or perched a mile off, so it was nice to get one full frame in the scope in beautiful sunshine. A single Peregrine was hunting low to the moors too, flushing all the Skylarks but no catch this time.

In other news, I may have secured a deal with a new distributer for my photography prints. This company offers much better prices than my current dealer which means I can bring down my sale price to something a little more competitive. It also allows me to sell a lot more stuff, like Pillows, T-Shirts, Mugs, Hats, Beanbags, Prints, Canvas’, phone cases and much more. There is a catch however and I’m not sure whether I’ll get around it but the dealer is based in the US / EU. This wouldn’t be an issue but with Brexit coming up, this option may not work out for me as there’s no telling yet if we’ll continue to have free import charges from the EU to the UK. I very much doubt that will be the case, so this might all be a complete waste of time.

Either way the company offer great free mockups and I’ve updated my canvas’ in my store so you can see the difference. Check it out

Also, if you missed Sundays blog, I’m now offering some design services for new local businesses. Read more about it via my new Design Page

Back to the Basics

I don’t mean to use this blog as some kind of depressing therapeutic journal..but I’m not going to pretend that everything’s great for me right now. Times are tough at the moment and I hope that in writing this down it will not just give me a little relief but it might even be relatable to others, and therefor mutually encouraging.

In October last year I wrote my first blog about my own Mental Health issues. It was a massive leap for me to admit that I’m suffering and to ask my Doctor for help. The first lot of tablets didn’t agree with me so counselling seemed to be my only option. I’m now into my second session, and i’m realising now just how deep this issue goes. I’ll talk in more detail about this once my counselling has finished. Hopefully by then I’ll be in a better place to talk about it.

Social Anxiety has always been a massive barrier, Preventing me from reaching simple daily objectives, and recently preventing me from turning up to a public enquiry to save my local Canyon. It was extremely important to me to help save the Canyon and if it wasn’t for the knowledge that it’s being fought by equally passionate people, I’d feel pretty devastated about missing it. The Canyon is a place that I regularly turn to if I need a place to be alone, surrounded by pure serenity and beautiful scenery / wildlife. I hope that the enquiry is going well and wish everyone the best of luck. I have my fingers crossed that the right decision is made.


I haven’t ventured that far just yet but the woodland opposite my house has some great fungi opportunities with Winter Polypore, Jelly Ear, Scarlet Elf-Cups and with the warm temperatures, a 7-spot Ladybird emerged too. That is due to change for a short period with a slight sprinkling of snow today and plummeting temps. Ice can present some nice macro opportunities though so I’ll keep an eye out for that. I just need to get out of the house more.

On the Job front though, I’m still out of work and struggling to find something that isn’t going to make my health worse. I know many people stuck in Jobs that are quite frankly.. shortening their lives. Everyone has had to do a Job that they aren’t comfortable with or don’t like, but my health problems are no longer going to be pushed aside. Concentrating on my health though is coming at a financial cost so I can only hope that things pick up quickly or that I can find a way of selling my photographs.

Being self employed has never been more appealing to me than now. The value of being able to choose your own working hours, working around health and to not have the social pressure and stress that comes from Bosses & Colleagues.. this seems to be the logical step forward but it’s also the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. My self confidence has been knocked quite a bit, with a damaged wrist from working at Llandegfedd, which took away any chance of me falling back on my music career and also any chance of continuing my career in physical conservation work. Just when I seemed to find something that suited me well, in a production company, the social anxiety came back to haunt me. So I’m here now, stripping everything back to the basics, taking pictures that I enjoy and staying well away from people looking to use me to bump themselves up the ladder. It’s time to get myself there instead. There’s no room for selfish, unappreciative people in my life. Oosh that was a rant and a half. Please don’t feel too depressed after reading all that.. Here’s some pictures to make this look like a positive blog.

Re-edits and new Fungi

Seems standard to be ill over Christmas but I finally got out of the house today and had a short walk at Llandegfedd. Pintail and Jacksnipe were notable birds, though no pictures to show for them as they were too fast for me! I’d love to know what the first Mushroom is? If someone could let me know. There is a small patch growing on the clay mud banks possibly growing on the roots of the surrounding willows if that helps with the ID? Candlesnuff Fungus seems numerous this winter and hang on, is that Daffodils already?! They’re almost in flower! I wonder if our native Daffodil is coming out this early too.. I very much doubt it but it certainly made me feel better seeing them today, knowing that spring is just a couple months away! Won’t be long now before the Reptiles start emerging and spring migration begins. For some, it’s already began! that is a great feeling. Guaranteed to get another cold snap before spring though.. it’s always the same.
I’ve included some older pics of Rock Pipit, Fulmar and Tree Creeper just to add some birds into the mix.

Local Development

The Canyon Cut

The human 'race', ever seeking to exploit our natural resources and poor old Pontypool is no exception. We've fought for a lot over the years and the battle continues for the last bit of green space we have. A hidden gem of a location called 'The Canyon' has had profit seekers eyes twinkling for years to dig up and sell the remaining secondary aggregate, left over many years ago by former opencast. The industry left a huge scar on the land, thought to never heal again, but after many years, it finally started to heal up, but here they are again, banging at the door to destroy a beautiful nature haven. This site is unique. It's Torfaen's one and only, and to get something remotely similar, you'd have to travel abroad. It's not just some tourist attraction though! It's much much more! It's a place of solitude in a world filled with noise pollution. The Canyon, even on a windy day hits lows of just 28db's which is quiet by anyone's standards. It's the only place in Gwent, just 30 yards from the main road where you could experience near silence!. Many of you reading this wouldn't have experience silence in a very long time but it's a proven fact that these quiet conditions have massive mental health benefits. 

It's also a location where over 12 species of Dragonfly can be found in Summer, including Keeled Skimmer and Black Darter. It's home to many specialist invertebrates like Grayling Butterflies, Green Tiger Beetles and a great place for aquatic invertebrates, amphibians, and reptiles alike. The surrounding woodland is also home to an array of bird species. 

All this, however, is threatened by a 20+ year project that aims to literally flatten the site. Bringing up to 90 lorries a day across Hafodyrynys Road, of which leads to the second most polluted road in Britain! All the while, only opening up 12 Jobs... 12!!! Something doesn't add up here. Not only that, but the proposed access route to the Canyon is right thru the middle of an ancient woodland! Torfaen council did a great Job by turning down the application on the basis of the damage done to the ancient woodland as without that, Peakmans LTD would have probably already been working on the site. Peakmans did, however, challenge the objection, so while the council fight that corner, the rest is left in the hands of the public. I spoke with quite a few of the local supporters last week at one of the public meetings, and it was great to see so much enthusiasm shared to save The Canyon. Over 150 people turned up. While my part in this is limited, I hope to do all I can in supporting local enthusiasts that are leading this fight and just want to say, if you're one of them, you're doing a fantastic Job so far. Keep it up! 

Here are a few photographs taken in just a couple hours this week at the canyon. Seeing Keeled Skimmer is an annual highlight of mine here, what a beautiful Dragonfly. This week was my first time finding Common Lizard in the Canyon too, suspected to have been there for a while but I never actually managed to find one myself. This is because they have lots of places to hide and they will most certainly hear you coming in such a quiet spot as they rely on their hearing quite a bit. 

If you're interested in helping fight this planning application, it's getting late in the game now but if you're on Facebook, head over to This facebook group for more details. Hope is NOT lost.